Michelle Dispels CO2 Hysteria

 

Thanks to a post at Friends of Science, I was alerted to an important declaration by Michelle. On March 17, 2017, Michelle Stirling presented “The Myth of the 97% Consensus” to the FreedomTalk.ca Annual Conference in Calgary, Alberta.

Because it’s not Michelle Obama speaking out, no one knows about it and few even care. Which tells you all you need to know about global warming/climate change.  It’s a social phenomenon, now completely detached from reason and science. It is not what you know, it’s how many friends know you that gives you impact regarding the climate. Celebrity and popularity are convincing, detailed facts and knowledge not so much.

At the end of this post is a synopsis and link showing how thoroughly Stirling debunks the “97% consensus”. Much of that will be familiar to readers, so the excerpts here will emphasize the way Michelle puts the whole climatism movement into socio-economic context.

Why Claim 97%? – Ultimate Social Proof

One feature that stands out in most of the claimed consensus studies, no matter how small the relevant sample, is the repeated figure of 97%. Many of the 97% consensus studies are co-authored or supported by social psychologists

The groundbreaking work of Cialdini (2007) demonstrated that humans are significantly motivated to comply according to ‘social proof’ – in other words, “if everyone agrees, that is proof enough so get on the bandwagon.” Just as social media ‘trending’ leads to more people following the story, social proofs work on the inherently gregarious nature of humans and our herd mentality. The 97% figure delivers two powerful psychological messages in one – i) ‘everyone’ agrees, and ii) you will be left out.

To compound the psychological impact upon the dissenting 3% of the population, climate bullying terms like ‘denier,’ and more recently various high-profile ‘witch hunts,’ even at the Presidential level, have been employed by activists. These actions activate physical and emotional pain centers in the victims, as found by Williams (2001), Kross et al (2011) on ostracism, making most people reluctant to speak up with any questions regarding the science, policy, cost or impact on industry. In practical terms, many dissidents have lost their jobs for daring to challenge ‘the consensus.’ Williams (2007) found that being ostracized was the ‘kiss of social death.’

A more nuanced study with clear definitions done by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency reveals that out of 1,868 respondents, only 43% agreed with the IPCC definition: “It is extremely likely {95%+ certainty} that more than half of [global warming] from 1951 to 2010 was caused by [human activity].”

Clearly, van der Linden et al (2015), Ding et al (2011) Dunlap & McCright (2011) are correct in stating that consensus is an important tool and a gateway belief for acceptance of public policy on climate change. However, the question is, should we be making policy based on statistically manipulated consensus studies that lack clearly defined empirical parameters, or should public policy be based on actual scientific evidence?

The Cost of Delusion

Despite several surveys claiming that ‘consensus’ is a valuable driver of public acceptance of climate change, and expressions of dismay that a large percent of the public continue to reject the alleged ‘consensus’ and to question human-caused climate change claims in general, the foregoing demonstrates that ‘belief’ and ‘consensus’ are not grounds for action on climate change. If anything, such thinking is more likely to lead to extraordinary mass delusions, such as the Mississippi Scheme, the South-Sea Bubble, and Tulipomania, all three of which nearly bankrupted national economies of France, England and the Netherlands, respectively (Mackay 2008).

There has been a concerted effort to push the climate catastrophe perspective by well-funded foundations, philanthropies and institutional investors which are bound by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment to invest in renewables and clean-tech, despite clean-tech having been found to be a ‘noble way to lose money’ after several patient years of investment, according to past CIO of CalPERS in a Wall Street Journal interview of 2013. (my bold)

Indeed, a review of the performance of renewable energy companies is concerning – particularly the level of expectation and investment versus scope of real or possible failure. The electric vehicle company “A Better Place” cars was valued at some $2 billion in the fall of 2012, by the spring of 2013 it had gone bankrupt, valued only at $12 million, despite having had a raft of experienced Wall Street investors. More recently, Spain’s Abengoa began spectacular bankruptcy proceedings, also putting some 27,000 employees world-wide at risk of unemployment. (my bold)

Unusual new market instruments like the ‘yieldco’ has led to catastrophic financial outcomes, as in the case of SunEdison’s $16.1 billion bankruptcy filing.  Devonshire Research (Part II-May 2016)41 is claiming that the much-vaunted Tesla is reliant on subsidies: “Tesla is not a car, battery, or tech company; it is an experimental financial services company and should be regulated as such” and that “Tesla has engaged in aggressive accounting that calls to mind the experiences of Enron and WorldCom; its future is highly uncertain.” (my bold)

Recent research by Cambridge engineering professor Michael J. Kelly (2016) shows that wind and solar do not provide sufficient Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) to maintain even basic society, and that: “all the actions taken together until now to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide will not achieve a serious reduction, and in some cases, they will actually make matters worse.”

Thus, there is an evident divide between evidence and ideologies when the concepts of ‘renewable’ and ‘sustainable’ are applied in the field, as well.

The Ethics of CO2 Hysteria

Climate change is often framed as a moral and ethical concern, thus one must question the ethics of those participating in peer-reviewed research who are psychology professionals but who employ such tactics, especially when the scientific evidence of global temperature rise does not support the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming theory. This discrepancy between the surveyed ‘beliefs’ and the physical evidence demonstrates that opinion-based ‘consensus’ surveys are scientifically worthless and are an improper and potentially dangerous basis for making climate change policy.

To date, much of the world’s diverse climate policy has been predicated upon public acceptance that there is an urgent crisis of human-caused global warming, but this claim is not supported by the temperature records. As noted by Tol in a response to the Grantham Research Institute: “The twenty-two studies cited above all agree that the impact of climate change is small relative to economic growth. This was found in studies by Professor William Nordhaus and Professor Samuel Fankhauser. It was confirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from its Second Assessment Report, in a chapter led by the late Professor David Pearce, to its Fifth Assessment Report, in a chapter led by me. Even the highest estimate, the 20% upper bound by Lord Professor Nicholas Stern of Brentford, has that a century of climate change is not worse than losing a decade of economic growth.” [bold emphasis added]

Thus, even economic evidence does not support the ‘belief’ in human caused global warming; actual temperature data certainly does not support the claims of impending catastrophic climate change.

 

The evidence shows that the world runs on three cubic miles of oil equivalent energy every year, of which one cubic mile is oil. All renewable devices such as wind turbines and solar panels are manufactured using vast amounts of oil, natural gas and coal. As Vaclav Smil notes, ‘to get wind you need oil.’

Conclusion

Science is not a democratic undertaking. It is unfortunate that respected scientific journals continue to publish such papers without critical vetting as to whether the ‘consensus’ claims equate to the empirical evidence. Public policy on climate change should be evidence-based and carefully thought through in the context of longer time-scales, historical evidence and paleoclimatology.

There is no consideration that the study of 4 billion years of climate change, written in the strata of the earth, might make those scientists working with fossil fuel industries question the claims of Anthropogenic Global Warming proponents whose evidence relies on spotty temperature records of some 100 years, climate models and unproven theories.

While much good came of the original impetus of the “Law of the Atmosphere” in terms of reducing noxious pollutants, much economic and social harm is being done by the current hysteria focussed solely on carbon dioxide. France has learned that lesson the hard way, having incentivized diesel cars and trucks in order to reduce carbon dioxide, only to find its gem – the City of Lights – Paris – blackened with the worst air quality in the world thanks to a significant rise in soot and nitrogen oxide.

Consensus = nonsensus. We must look at the evidence over ideology.

 

Climate Lemmings

The excerpts above come from Michelle Stirling’s paper Consensus Nonsensus on 97%: Science is not a Democracy

Stirling’s presentation dissects the 97% consensus, powerpoint slides are here: The Myth of the 97% consensus

Fear Not for Permafrosty

 

The Permafrost Bogeyman is Back!

The Climate Scare of this Week is apparently melting permafrost.The Met Office warning on April 10:

Increased climate change risk to permafrost. Global warming will thaw about 20% more permafrost than previously thought, scientists have warned – potentially releasing significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The researchers, from Sweden and Norway as well as the UK, suggest that the huge permafrost losses could be averted if ambitious global climate targets are met.

Lead-author Dr Sarah Chadburn of the University of Leeds said: “A lower stabilisation target of 1.5ºC would save approximately two million square kilometres of permafrost.

“Achieving the ambitious Paris Agreement climate targets could limit permafrost loss. For the first time we have calculated how much could be saved.”

The permafrost bogeyman has been reported before, been debunked, but will likely return again like a zombie that never dies. I have likened the climate false alarm system to a Climate Whack-A-Mole game because the scary notions keep popping up no matter how often you beat them down with reason and facts. So once again into the breach, this time on the subject of Permafrost.

Permafrost basics

I Travelled to the Arctic to Plunge a Probe Into the Melting Permafrost is a Motherboard article that aims to alarm but also provides some useful information.

The ground above the permafrost that freezes and thaws on an annual cycle is called the active layer. The uppermost segment is organic soil, because it contains all the roots and decomposing vegetation from the surface. Beneath the organic layer is the moist, clay-like mineral soil, which sits directly on top of the permafrost. The types of vegetation will influence the contents of the soil—but in return, the soil determines what can grow there.

Kholodov inserted probes into the layers of soil and the permafrost to measure its temperature, moisture content, and thermal conductivity. The air-filled organic layer is a much better insulator than the waterlogged mineral soil. So an ecosystem with a thicker organic layer, where there’s more vegetation, should provide better protection for the permafrost below.

On a warm morning in the boreal forests around Fairbanks, Loranty squeezed between two black spruce trees and motioned to all the woody debris scattered on the ground. “Here, where we have more trees and denser forests, we have shallower permafrost thaw depths.”

He grabbed a T-shaped depth probe and shoved it into the ground. It only sank about a handspan before it struck permafrost. “When you have trees, they provide shade,” he said, “and that prevents the ground from getting too warm in the summer.” So here, the permafrost is shallow, right beneath the surface.

Other vegetation, like moss, can also protect permafrost. “It’s fluffy, with lots of airspace, like a down coat,” Loranty explained, “and heat can’t move through it well, so it’s a good insulator.”

But 800km north on the tundra, close to the Arctic Ocean, there are no trees. It’s a less productive ecosystem than the forest and provides little insulation to the frozen ground. Here, low-lying shrubs, grasses, and lichens dominate underfoot. When I grabbed the depth probe and pushed it in, it sunk down a meter before it bottomed out because the permafrost was much deeper.

Permafrost Nittty Gritty

To really understand permafrost, it helps to listen to people dealing with Arctic infrastructure like roads. A thorough discussion and analysis is presented in Impacts of permafrost degradation on a road embankment at Umiujaq in Nunavik (Quebec), Canada By Richard Fortier, Anne-Marie LeBlanc, and Wenbing Yu

Fig. 1. Permafrost distribution and marine transgression in Nunavik (modified after Allard and Seguin 1987). Location of the 14 Inuit communities in Nunavik.

Following the retreat of the Wisconsin Ice Sheet about 7600–7300 years B.P. on the east coast of Hudson Bay (Hillaire–Marcel 1976; Allard and Seguin 1985) and about 7500– 7000 years B.P. in Ungava (Gray et al. 1980; Allard et al. 1989), the sea flooded a large band of coastline in Nunavik (Fig. 1). Glaciomarine sediments were then deposited in deep water in the Tyrrell and D’Iberville Seas (Fig. 1). Due to the isostatic rebound, once exposed to the cold atmosphere, the raised marine deposits were subsequently eroded and colonized by vegetation, and permafrost aggraded from sporadic permafrost to continuous permafrost with increasing latitude (Fig. 1).

A case study is presented herein on recent thaw subsidence observed along the access road to the Umiujaq Airport in Nunavik (Quebec). In addition to the measurement of the subsidence, a geotechnical and geophysical investigation including a piezocone test, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) profiling, and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) was carried out to characterize the underlying stratigraphy and permafrost conditions. In the absence of available ground temperature data for assessing the causes of permafrost degradation, numerical modeling of the thermal regime of the road embankment and subgrade was also undertaken to simulate the impacts of (i) an increase in air temperature observed recently in Nunavik and (ii) the thermal insulation effect of snow accumulating on the embankment shoulders and toes. The causes and effects of permafrost degradation on the road embankment are also discussed.

Fig. 11. (a) GPR reflection profile carried out on 14 July 2006 in the field with the 100 MHz antennas at a fixed offset of 1 m. (b) Major reflectors identified on the GPR reflection profile. (c) Cross section of the ground based on the combined interpretation of the GPR reflection profile and model of electrical resistivity (Fig. 12c). Note the vertical exaggeration (1:5).

Values of thawing and freezing n-factors according to the surface conditions (Figs. 4 and 13) are given in Table 1. The gray road surface absorbs solar radiation in summer, inducing a higher surface temperature than air temperature and a higher thawing n-factor than the ones for the natural ground surface. The thawing n-factor is close to unity and the surface temperature is close to the air temperature in summer for the natural ground surface (ground surface boundaries Nos. 2, 3, and 4). Due to the absence of snow cover on the road surface, the freezing n-factor is close to unity. However, an increase in snow thickness leads to a decrease in the freezing n-factor (Fig. 13 and Table 1). We make the assumption that from one year to another there is no change in surface conditions due to climate variability and the thawing and freezing n-factors are constant.

Fig. 13. Cross section of the road embankment and subgrade showing the stratigraphy and boundary conditions used for the numerical modeling. The numbers between arrows refer to the ground surface boundaries (Table 1)

Only the governing equation of heat transfer by conduction taking into account the phase change problem was considered to simulate the permafrost warming and thawing underneath the road embankment. However, complex processes of heat transfer, groundwater flow, and thaw consolidation can take place in degrading permafrost. The development of a two dimensional numerical model of these coupled processes is needed to accurately predict the thaw subsidence based on the thaw consolidation properties of permafrost and to compare this prediction with the performance of the access road to Umiujaq Airport.

As expected from the design of thick road embankments in cold regions,the permafrost table has moved upward 0.9 m underneath the road embankment, preventing permafrost degradation (Fig. 14a). However, the permafrost is slightly warmer by a few tenths of degree Celsius underneath the road embankment than away from the road (Fig. 15). This increase in permafrost temperature due to the thermal effect of the road embankment makes the permafrost more vulnerable to any potential climate warming. The permafrost base in the bedrock has also moved upward 3.9 m for a permafrost thinning of 3 m (Fig. 15). This thawing taking place at the permafrost base does not induce any thaw settlement because the bedrock is thaw stable.

The subsidence is due to thaw consolidation taking place in a layer of ice-rich silt underneath a superficial sand layer. While the seasonal freeze–thaw cycles were initially restricted to the sand layer, the thawing front has now reached the thaw-unstable ice-rich silt layer. According to our numerical modeling, the increase in air temperature recently observed in Nunavik cannot be the sole cause of the observed subsidence affecting this engineering structure. The thick embankment also acts as a snow fence favoring the accumulation of snow on the embankment shoulders. The permafrost degradation is also due to the thermal insulation of the snow cover reducing heat loss in the embankment shoulders and toes.

Permafrost in Russia

Yakutsk Permafrost Institute Underground Lab

The Russians are seasoned permafrost scientists with Siberia as their preserve, and their observations are balanced by their long experience. The latest Russia report is from 2010.

We conclude the following based on initial analysis and interpretation of the data obtained in this project:

  • Most of the permafrost observatories in Russia show substantial warming of permafrost during the last 20 to 30 years. The magnitude of warming varied with location, but was typically from 0.5C to 2C at the depth of zero annual amplitude. This warming occurred predominantly between the 1970s and 1990s. There was no significant observed warming in permafrost temperatures in the 2000s in most of the research areas; some sites even show a slight cooling during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Warming has resumed during the last two to three years at many locations predominantly near the coasts of the Arctic Ocean. Much less or no warming was observed during the 1980s and 1990s in the north of East Siberia. However, the last three years show significant permafrost warming in the eastern part of this region.
  • Permafrost is thawing in specific landscape settings within the southern part of the permafrost domain in the European North and in northwest Siberia. Formation of new closed taliks and an increase in the depth of preexisting taliks have been observed in this area during the last 20 to 30 years.

Methane Realism

An article in Scientific American raises several concerns about permafrost, but does add some realism:

First, while most of the methane is believed to be buried roughly 200 meters below the sea bed, only the top 25 meters or so of sea-bed are currently thawed, and thawing seems to have only progressed by about one meter in the last 25 years – a pace that suggests that the large bulk of the buried methane will stay in place for centuries to come.

Second, several thousand years ago, when orbital mechanics maximized Arctic warmth, the area around the North Pole is believed to have been roughly 4 degrees Celsius warmer than it is today and covered in less sea ice than today. Yet there’s no evidence of a massive amount of methane release in this time.

Third, the last time methane was released in vast quantities into the atmosphere – during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 56 million years ago – the process didn’t happen overnight. It took thousands of years.

Put those facts together, and we are probably not in danger of a methane time bomb going off any time soon.

Summary

The active layer of permafrost does vary from time to time and place to place. There was warming and some permafrost melting end of last century, but lately not so much. Any specific permafrost layer is influenced by many factors, including air temperatures, snow cover and vegetation, as well as the structure of the land, combining fill, sand, silt, ice and salinity mixtures on top of bedrock.

And nature includes negative feedbacks to permafrost melt. Any vegetation, even moss, growing in unfrozen soil provides insulation limiting further melting, as well as absorbing additional CO2. Reduced snowcover aids freezing and constrains later melting.

Rather than a permafrost bogeyman, we need a more people-friendly mascot. Consider our traditional nature friends loved by children and adults.

For example, Smokey the Bear

Rudolph the Reindeer

And the ever-popular Cola Bear

Introducing Permafrosty



Permafrosty is here!  Love him tender, and he’ll never let you down.

Additional Background on Permafrost in an earlier post The Permafrost Bogeyman

 

Fossil Fuels ≠ Global Warming

Previous posts addressed the claim that fossil fuels are driving global warming. This post updates that analysis with the latest numbers from BP Statistics and compares World Fossil Fuel Consumption (WFFC) with three estimates of Global Mean Temperature (GMT). More on both these variables below.

WFFC

2015 statistics are now available from BP for international consumption of Primary Energy sources. Statistical Review of World Energy.  H/T  Euan Mearns

The reporting categories are:
Oil
Natural Gas
Coal
Nuclear
Hydro
Renewables (other than hydro)

This analysis combines the first three, Oil, Gas, and Coal for total fossil fuel consumption world wide. The chart below shows the patterns for WFFC compared to world consumption of Primary Energy from 1965 through 2015.

The graph shows that Primary Energy consumption has grown continuously for 5 decades. Over that period oil, gas and coal (sometimes termed “Thermal”) averaged 90% of PE consumed, ranging from 94% in 1965 to 86% in 2015.  MToe is millions of tons of oil equivalents.

Global Mean Temperatures

Everyone acknowledges that GMT is a fiction since temperature is an intrinsic property of objects, and varies dramatically over time and over the surface of the earth. No place on earth determines “average” temperature for the globe. Yet for the purpose of detecting change in temperature, major climate data sets estimate GMT and report anomalies from it.

UAH record consists of satellite era global temperature estimates for the lower troposphere, a layer of air from 0 to 4km above the surface. HadSST estimates sea surface temperatures from oceans covering 71% of the planet. HADCRUT combines HadSST estimates with records from land stations whose elevations range up to 6km above sea level.

Both GISS LOTI (land and ocean) and HADCRUT4 (land and ocean) use 14.0 Celsius as the climate normal, so I will add that number back into the anomalies. This is done not claiming any validity other than to achieve a reasonable measure of magnitude regarding the observed fluctuations.

No doubt global sea surface temperatures are typically higher than 14C, more like 17 or 18C, and of course warmer in the tropics and colder at higher latitudes. Likewise, the lapse rate in the atmosphere means that air temperatures both from satellites and elevated land stations will range colder than 14C. Still, that climate normal is a generally accepted indicator of GMT.

Correlations of GMT and WFFC

The first graph compares to GMT estimates over the five decades from 1965 to 2015 from HADCRUT4, which includes HadSST3.

Over the last five decades the increase in fossil fuel consumption is dramatic and monotonic, steadily increasing by 220% from 3.5B to 11.3 B oil equivalent tons.  Meanwhile the GMT record from Hadcrut shows multiple ups and downs with an accumulated rise of 0.9C over 50 years, 6% of the starting value.

The second graph compares to GMT estimates from UAH6, and HadSST3 for the satellite era from 1979 to 2015, a period of 36 years.

In the satellite era WFFC has increased at a compounded rate of nearly 2% per year, for a total increase of 84% since 1979. At the same time, SSTs and  lower troposphere warming amounted to 0.5C, or 3.4% of the starting value.  The temperature rate of change is 0.1% per year, an order of magnitude less.  Even more obvious is the 1998 El Nino peak and flat GMT since.

Summary

The climate alarmist/activist claim is straight forward: Burning fossil fuels makes measured temperatures warmer. The Paris Accord further asserts that by reducing human use of fossil fuels, further warming can be prevented.  Those claims do not bear up under scrutiny.

It is enough for simple minds to see that two time series are both rising and to think that one must be causing the other. But both scientific and legal methods assert causation only when the two variables are both strongly and consistently aligned. The above shows a weak and inconsistent linkage between WFFC and GMT.

In legal terms, as long as there is another equally or more likely explanation for the set of facts, the claimed causation is unproven. The more likely explanation is that global temperatures vary due to oceanic and solar cycles. The proof is clearly and thoroughly set forward in the post Quantifying Natural Climate Change.

Background context for today’s post is at Claim: Fossil Fuels Cause Global Warming.

March Air and Sea Temps

The Pause that Refreshes!

The recent El Nino is cooling down as shown clearly in both sea surface temperatures and lower troposphere air temperatures. The two relevant data sets are UAH v.6 and HadSST v3.1, both now providing averages for the month of March 2017.

The cooling pattern continues in the tropical seas while ocean temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) are  flat.  Southern Hemisphere (SH) oceans appear to be peaking and pulled the Global SST up a bit, but both are slightly below last March.

Air temperatures in the lower troposphere tell much the same story.  The greater volatility of air temperatures is evident, and we also see that the tropics (20N to 20S) and the NH (0 to 90N) are more closely aligned than are the comparable SSTs.  The downward trajectory of air temps is clear after an upward blip in the NH in February.

Enjoy the pause in warmer temperatures while we watch to see how cool it will get.

Climate Undamaged

The fake news outrage over POTUS Executive Order this week obscured the fact that the wrecking ball is applied to a wall of regulations, not the climate or the planet, which are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Overlooked entirely is the fact that all government actions enacted or under consideration are projected to have a negligible effect on the climate.  So undoing them will hardly be noticed by the climate.  For example, some excerpts from a recent Wall Street Journal article:

The oddest criticism of Donald Trump’s climate action this week was the claim, mentioned almost triumphantly by every news source, that it would save few coal jobs. The economic and technological forces, especially the flood of low-carbon natural gas from fracking, are just too powerful.

Of course the news reports are right: “The regulatory changes are entirely outweighed by these technological changes, not to mention the price of natural gas or renewables,” Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution was quoted telling the New York Times .

So potent and large are these global forces that repealing the Obama rules, costly as they are, not only won’t affect coal jobs, it won’t affect climate.

Gina McCarthy, Mr. Obama’s EPA administrator, admitted as much when confronted, during a 2015 House hearing, with the fact that, by the agency’s own climate models, the effect would be only 1/100th of a degree Celsius. Instead, she said success should be measured in terms of “positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.”

Pile up all the government policies enacted or seriously on the table, and their net effect is zilch. A new McKinsey study, that would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad, points out that Germany’s switch to renewables has been a success by almost every metric except CO2 output—which is up instead of down. (my bold)

Rising energy prices to support this energy transition have had one measurable effect—more than 330,000 German households have had their electricity shut off in the past year from nonpayment of bills almost three times as high as those paid by U.S. households.

Germany, needless to add, is many greens’ idea of a country “positioned for leadership in international discussions.” (my bold)

No rational consideration, however, will abate the torrent of priestly imprecations hurled by green activists this week at Mr. Trump. The New York Times insists that Trumpian action “risks the planet”—plainly false since nothing either Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama did will make a difference to the planet. (my bold)

Tempest in a teapot (American English), or storm in a teacup (British English), is an idiom meaning a small event that has been exaggerated out of proportion.

The article is The Climate Yawns
Donald Trump is no more a planet wrecker than Barack Obama (as measured to the third decimal). By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. At Wall Street Journal.  Full text below (with an image I added at the end.)

The oddest criticism of Donald Trump’s climate action this week was the claim, mentioned almost triumphantly by every news source, that it would save few coal jobs. The economic and technological forces, especially the flood of low-carbon natural gas from fracking, are just too powerful.

Then why, if you’re a Democrat, put yourself in that position in the first place to take blame for killing coal jobs? Why enact a costly regulation to do what the market was doing for free? When everybody else wanted to blame the Florida recount for his 2000 defeat, Al Gore was smart enough privately to blame gun control. When you lose your home state as presidential candidate, something is wrong. The same blundering ineptitude explains how the Obama alliance with the greens threw away first Congress and then a presidency.

Of course the news reports are right: “The regulatory changes are entirely outweighed by these technological changes, not to mention the price of natural gas or renewables,” Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution was quoted telling the New York Times .

So potent and large are these global forces that repealing the Obama rules, costly as they are, not only won’t affect coal jobs, it won’t affect climate.

Gina McCarthy, Mr. Obama’s EPA administrator, admitted as much when confronted, during a 2015 House hearing, with the fact that, by the agency’s own climate models, the effect would be only 1/100th of a degree Celsius. Instead, she said success should be measured in terms of “positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.”

Even so, many climate activists felt the need to walk back Ms. McCarthy’s concession by insisting Obama policies would have a measurable effect—on the amount of CO 2 released. Yes, the relative decrease would be tiny but measurable, though the climate effect would be zip. This is akin to medical researchers claiming a drug a success because it’s detectable in the bloodstream, not because it improves health.

And don’t get us started on the “social cost of carbon,” a mechanism of policy justification created by the Obama EPA to assign a dollar-value benefit to carbon abatement rules that, in total, will produce zero impact on climate.

Pile up all the government policies enacted or seriously on the table, and their net effect is zilch. A new McKinsey study, that would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad, points out that Germany’s switch to renewables has been a success by almost every metric except CO 2 output—which is up instead of down.

Rising energy prices to support this energy transition have had one measurable effect—more than 330,000 German households have had their electricity shut off in the past year from nonpayment of bills almost three times as high as those paid by U.S. households.

Germany, needless to add, is many greens’ idea of a country “positioned for leadership in international discussions.”

No rational consideration, however, will abate the torrent of priestly imprecations hurled by green activists this week at Mr. Trump. The New York Times insists that Trumpian action “risks the planet”—plainly false since nothing either Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama did will make a difference to the planet.

Literally no amount of money dissipated on climate policy is excessive to such people, because their shamanistic status is directly proportional to the social waste they can conjure. In the realm of religion are we called upon to perform symbolic actions whose purpose (and cost) is aimed at testifying to our membership in the elect.

The most poignant question, however, is what happened to Democrats? They were once a party whose members cared whether policy was efficient and produced benefits for the American people.

Democrats deserve a large share of the credit for the rescue of the failing U.S. economy of the 1970s by throwing out a host of perverse regulatory policies, not that they embrace or even acknowledge this legacy today—which is the problem.

Airline deregulation was born in Ted Kennedy’s administrative practice subcommittee. His aide, Stephen Breyer, now a Supreme Court justice, recalled a working-class Boston constituent asking why the senator was focused on airline issues when this voter could never afford to fly. “That is why,” said Kennedy.

The Democratic Party once had a brain where regulation was concerned, understanding that the ultimate purpose was a net public good, not an in-gathering of power to Washington for the benefit of lobbyists and influence peddlers.

It was not yet today’s Democratic Party of Chuck Schumer, who isn’t stupid and yet is associated with no body of policy thought or analysis. If he even has anybody on his staff deputized to think about the results of policy, it probably is the lowliest intern.

A wrecking ball of a president was the Trump electorate’s answer to this problem. It’s hard even now to say they were wrong. If he delivers nothing in the next four years, it is alarming to suspect that this likely would still be a better result than we would have gotten under Hillary Clinton.

Arctic Ice Marches On

MASIE ice extents reported March 8 through 31, 2017.

This time of year the heart of the Arctic is frozen solid, and the only changes occur in the marginal seas.  Above shows the Atlantic basins, especially Kara, Barents, Greenland Sea and Baffin Bay.  All of them seesawed during the month, with some fall off at the end, especially noticeable in Gulf of St. Lawrence (counted with Baffin Bay).

Meanwhile on the Pacific side, Bering fluctuated, while Okhotsk lost extent steadily toward month end.

Context

The monthly ice extent average for March provides indication of any year’s annual maximum, prior to melting down to the September annual minimum. Sometimes a lower March extent yields a lower September extent, but not always: 2012 had both the highest maximum and lowest minimum in the last 11 years. That was the year of the Great Arctic Cyclone, and an outlier in the record.

Looking at the 11-year averages in the MASIE data set, the pattern in round numbers is:
Maximum: 15.0 M km2
Minimum: 4.8 M km2
Loss: 10.2 M km2
Loss: 68.0 % of maximum

So about 2/3 of the maximum extent is lost, varying from 66 to 70%. Obviously, all the factors affecting ice extents are in play: (Water, Wind and Weather) with the September outcome uncertain, but likely to be in the range observed.

March 2017 in Comparison

As has been reported, ice formation this year has been sluggish compared to other years. The graph below shows March 2017 compared with the 11 year average, and with 2006 and 2016, as well as SII (Sea Ice Index).

This March started below average, lost sllghtly until the third week, then recovered some before dropping off at the end. 2006 dropped off more rapidly than 2017, while 2016 ended near average. SII showed lower extents all month but drew close at the end.

The Table below shows Day 90 extents across the Arctic Seas compared to averages and 2006, the lowest recent year.

Region 2017090 Day 090
Average
2017-Ave. 2006090 2017-2006
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 14228992 14791162 -562170 13913402 315590
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070445 1070018 427 1068683 1762
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 966006 965297 709 959091 6915
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1086168 1085794 374 1084627 1541
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 896573 1272 897773 71
 (5) Kara_Sea 831189 924617 -93428 922164 -90974
 (6) Barents_Sea 525362 656247 -130885 623912 -98550
 (7) Greenland_Sea 705581 661500 44081 604935 100645
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1467334 1426694 40641 1026934 440401
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853214 852652 562 851691 1523
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260903 1251383 9521 1240389 20514
 (11) Central_Arctic 3247995 3235035 12960 3241074 6921
 (12) Bering_Sea 702504 847340 -144836 662863 39640
 (13) Baltic_Sea 29767 75051 -45284 129348 -99580
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 575084 830273 -255189 588167 -13083
 (15) Yellow_Sea 0 99 -99 1067 -1067
 (16) Cook_Inlet 7318 5460 1858 5462 1856

The marginal seas in the Atlantic and Pacific make the 2017 deficits to average: especially Barents, Kara, Bering and Okhotsk. Those seas usually lose all their ice by September. 2017 Surpluses in Greenland Sea and Baffin Bay are smaller, but make most of the difference with 2006.

2017 Outlook

March this year averaged 14.509 M Km2 compared to the 11 year average of 14.986 M km2, a deficit of 478k km2 or 3.2% down. That suggests that a typical melt later this year would result in a minimum of about 4.5 or 4.6 M km2, slightly down from the 11 year average of 4.8M km2.

Sea Ice Index (SII) typically shows less ice than MASIE, and SII reports a 2017 March average ice extent of 14.273 M km2 compared to SII 11 year March average of 14.842, a drop of 569k km2 or 3.8%.  Folks relying on SII may be expecting a lower September minimum, perhaps even breaking the present plateau of ice extents since 2007.  That remains to be seen.

CO2 ≠ Pollutant

My university degree is a Bachelors in Organic Chemistry from Stanford. For that and other reasons, it always annoyed me that some lawyers decided CO2 can be called a “pollutant”, all the while exhaling the toxic gas themselves.

This nonsense forms the root of all the ridiculous regulations that POTUS ordered reviewed and rescinded yesterday. Thus I agree completely with this Wall Street Journal article by Paul Tice Trump’s Next Step on Climate Change. Full text below.

Reconsider the EPA’s labeling of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, based on now-outdated science.

By PAUL H. TICE
March 28, 2017 6:41 p.m. ET

The executive orders on climate change President Trump signed this week represent a step in the right direction for U.S. energy policy and, importantly, deliver on Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to roll back burdensome regulations affecting American companies. But it will take more than the stroke of a pen to make lasting progress and reverse the momentum of the climate-change movement.

On Tuesday, in a series of orders, Mr. Trump instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to rework its Clean Power Plan, which would restrict carbon emissions from existing power plants, mainly coal-fired ones. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the CPP pending judicial review.

Mr. Trump also directed the Interior Department to lift its current moratorium on federal coal leasing and loosen restrictions on oil and gas development (including methane flaring) on federal lands. And he instructed all government agencies to stop factoring climate change into the environmental-review process for federal projects. The federal government will recalculate the “social cost of carbon.”

These actions are a good start, but all they do is reverse many of the executive orders President Obama signed late in his second term. While easy to implement and theatrical to stage, such measures are largely superficial and may prove as temporary as the decrees they rescind.

Because they don’t attack the climate-change regulatory problem at its root, Mr. Trump’s orders will not provide enough clarity to U.S. energy companies—particularly electric utilities and coal-mining companies—for their long-term business forecasting or short-term capital investment and head-count planning.

To accomplish that, the Trump administration, led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, needs to target the EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding,” which labeled carbon dioxide as a pollutant. That foundational ruling provided the legal underpinnings for all of the EPA’s follow-on carbon regulations, including the CPP.

It also provided the rationale for the previous administration’s anti-fossil-fuel agenda and its various climate-change initiatives and programs, which spanned more than a dozen federal agencies and cost the American taxpayer roughly $20 billion to $25 billion a year during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

The endangerment finding was the product of a rush to judgment. Much of the scientific data upon which it was predicated—chiefly, the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—was already dated by the time of its publication and arguably not properly peer-reviewed as federal law requires.

With the benefit of hindsight—including more than a decade of actual-versus-modeled data, plus the insights into the insular climate-science community gleaned from the University of East Anglia Climategate email disclosures—there would seem to be strong grounds now to reconsider the EPA’s 2009 decision and issue a new finding.

In 2013, the IPCC issued a more circumspect Fifth Assessment Report, which noted a hiatus in global warming since 1998 and a breakdown in correlation between the world’s average surface temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, causing the U.N. body to revise down its 2007 projections for the rate of planetary warming over the first half of the 21st century.

Although this initially reported “pause” was subsequently eliminated through the downward manipulation of historical temperature data, this latest IPCC assessment calls into question both the predictive power and input data quality of most global climate models, and further highlights the scientific uncertainty surrounding the basic premise of anthropogenic climate change.

An updated EPA endangerment finding based on an objective review of the latest available scientific data is warranted, along with a more sober discussion of the threat posed by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the “public health and welfare of current and future generations,” in the words of the original endangerment finding.

As long as the 2009 finding remains on the books, it will provide legal ammunition for environmentalists, academics and state government officials seeking to sue the administration for any actions related to climate change, including this week’s executive orders.

Issuing a new endangerment finding would be a bold move requiring thorough work, but the Trump EPA would be well within its legal rights to undertake such an updated review process. In Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority, but not the obligation, to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The EPA needs to “ground its reasons for action or inaction” with “reasoned judgment” and scientific analysis.

Addressing the 2009 endangerment finding head-on would show that Mr. Trump is serious about challenging climate-change orthodoxy. Thus far he has sent a mixed message, as demonstrated by this week’s ambivalence on CPP (reworking rather than repealing) and his administration’s silence on U.S. participation in the U.N.’s 2015 Paris Agreement.

Simply standing down on regulatory enforcement, cutting government funding for climate-change research and stopping data collection for the next four years will not suffice. Ignoring the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding would mean that it is only a matter of time before another liberal-minded occupant of the White House reasserts this regulatory power, bringing the country and the domestic energy sector back where Mr. Obama left them.

Mr. Tice is an executive-in-residence at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a former Wall Street energy research analyst.

Purely Energy

 

Higgs boson event as seen in the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at the Large Hadron Collider. This one high-energy collision illustrates the power of energy conversion, which always exists in the form of particles.

Ethan Siegel provides an informative primer on energy physics:  Is There Any Such Thing As Pure Energy?  It is useful background for anyone interested in energy and climate science. Some excerpts below.

What is the nature of Energy?

Energy plays a tremendous role, not only in our technology-rich daily lives, but in fundamental physics as well. The chemical energy stored in gasoline gets converted into kinetic energy that propels our vehicles, while the electrical energy from our power plants gets converted into light, heat and other forms of energy at our homes. But this energy always seems to exist as merely one property of an otherwise independently-existing system. Must it always be so? Alex from Moscow writes in with a question about energy itself:

“Does pure energy [exist], maybe very shortly before turning into a particle or a photon? Or is it just a useful mathematical abstraction, an equivalent that we use in physics?”

At a fundamental level, energy can take on many forms.

Mass = Energy

The simplest, most familiar form of energy of all is in terms of mass. You don’t normally think in terms of Einstein’s E = mc2, but every physical object that’s ever existed in this Universe is made of massive particles, and simply by having mass, these particles have energy.

E. Siegel The known particles in the Standard Model. These are all the fundamental particles that have been directly discovered; with the exception of a few of the bosons, all particles have mass.

Mass in Motion = Kinetic Energy

If these particles are moving, they have an additional form of energy as well: kinetic energy, or the energy of motion.

Particles Linked Together = Binding Energy

Finally, these particles can link together in a variety of ways, forming more complex structures like nuclei, atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, planets and more. This form of energy is known as binding energy, and is actually negative in its effect. It reduces the rest mass of the overall system, which is why nuclear fusion, taking place in the cores of stars, can emit so much light and heat: by converting mass into energy via that same E = mc2. Over the 4.5 billion year history of the Sun, it’s lost approximately the mass of Saturn from simply fusing hydrogen into helium.

The theory of asymptotic freedom, describing the strength of the quark interactions inside a nucleus, was worth a Nobel Prize for Wilczek, Politzer and Gross. Wikimedia Commons user Qashqaiilove

Massless Particles in Motion = Restless Kinetic Energy

The Sun itself gives another example of energy: light and heat, which comes in the form of photons, which are different from the forms of energy we’ve considered so far. There exist massless particles as well — particles with no rest energy — and these particles, like photons, gluons and (hypothetically) gravitons, all move at the speed of light. However, they do carry energy in the form of kinetic energy, and, in the case of gluons, are responsible for the binding energy inside atomic nuclei and protons themselves.

NASA / Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) The Sun, shown here, generates its energy by fusing hydrogen into helium in its core, losing small amounts of mass in the process. Over its lifetime, it’s lost approximately the mass of Saturn by this process.

Energy is Always Conserved

Energy comes in a variety of forms, and some of those forms are fundamental. A particle’s rest mass energy doesn’t change over time, and in fact doesn’t change from particle to particle. It’s a type of energy that is inherent to everything in the Universe itself. But all the other forms of energy that exist are relative. An atom in an excited state has more energy than an atom in a ground state, and that’s due to the difference in binding energy. And if you want to make that transition to the lower-energy state? You have to emit a photon to get there; you cannot make that transition without conserving energy, and that energy needs to be carried by a particle — even a massless one — in order to make that happen.

In this illustration, one photon (purple) carries a million times the energy of another (yellow). Fermi data on two photons from a gamma-ray burst fail to show any travel delay, showing the speed of light’s constancy across energy.

Energy is Relative to the Observer

Perhaps an oddity of this is that photon energy, or any form of kinetic energy (i.e., the energy of motion), is that its value is not fundamental, but rather is dependent on the motion of the observer. If you move towards a photon, you’ll find its energy appears greater (as its wavelength is blueshifted), and if you move away from it, its energy will be lesser, and it will appear redshifted. Energy is relative, but what’s interesting that for any observer, it’s always conserved. No matter what the interactions are, energy is never seen to exist on its own, but only as part of a system of particles, whether massive or massless.

Dark Energy

There is one form of energy, however, that may not need a particle at all: dark energy. The form of energy that causes the expansion of the Universe to accelerate may very well be energy inherent to the fabric of the Universe itself! This interpretation of dark energy is self-consistent and matches the observations of distant, receding galaxies and quasars that we see exactly. The only problem? This form of energy, as far as we can tell, can neither be used to create or destroy particles, nor can it be inter-converted to and from other forms of energy. It seems to be its own entity, disconnected from interacting with the other forms of energy present within the Universe.

Without dark energy, the Universe wouldn’t be accelerating. But there’s no way to access that energy via any other particles in the Universe.

Conclusion

So the full answer to the question of whether pure energy exists is:

  • For all of the particles that exist, massive and massless, energy is only one property of them, and cannot exist independently.
  • For all of the situations where energy appears to be lost in a system, such as through gravitational decay, there exists some form of radiation carrying off that energy, leaving it conserved.
  • And that dark energy itself may be the purest form of energy, existing independent of particles, but as far as any effect other than the expansion of the Universe, that energy is inaccessible to everything else in the Universe.

As far as we can tell, energy is not something we can isolate in a laboratory, but only one of many properties that matter, antimatter and radiation all possess. Creating energy independent of particles? It might be something the Universe itself does, but until we learn how to create (or destroy) spacetime itself, we find ourselves unable to make it so.

Trump’s EO on Energy Independence

Coal miners watch as Trump signs EO on Energy Independence.

What’s in it?  The text is hard to find.

First and most prominently, the executive order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, one of Obama’s key regulatory actions to drive down greenhouse gas emissions in the electric power sector. Because an executive order cannot directly overturn a regulation, the EPA will have to come to a finding about whether the CPP should be revised or repealed.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 7-to-2 decision in June 2014 that the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is free to regulate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as long as the source of emissions in question is a traditional polluter, like a factory or a power plant, rather than a school or a shopping mall. The decision was largely written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. However, the Court also chastised the EPA for acting without a clear directive from Congress.

Some claim that the Supreme Court requires EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, but that is not correct. The Court ruled that CO2 can be considered a “pollutant” under the Clear Air Act, but EPA decides what, if anything to do about it. Expect lots of legal activity around this, including EPA seeking congressional legislation before regulating.

While determining the fate of the CPP could end up being a complex multi-year undertaking, the order also includes the following actions that can be carried out quickly:

  • Reversing Obama’s moratorium on new coal mining leases on federal lands;
  • Removing the consideration of greenhouse gases from permit reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act;
  • Formally abandoning Obama’s roadmap on how to achieve U.S. emissions reductions
  • Eliminating a tool for cost-benefit analysis in regulatory review called the “Social Cost of Carbon”

Finally, although Trump’s directive does not directly address American engagement in the Paris Agreement or other international climate agreements, it does have some implications for broader U.S. engagement in international climate policy. Rolling back the CPP would remove an important component of the American climate strategy and make it more difficult to achieve Obama’s U.S. climate targets. Other players, including big emitters like China, the European Union, and India, are aware of Trump’s stance on climate and will not be surprised by this action: most countries have committed to continuing to pursue their own goals in development as well as climate actions.

Thanks to Junk Science for putting up the full text (here)

Update March 29

Lots of freaking out by true believers.  Here is a balanced review of this EO.

Trump’s Executive Order On Energy: This Time, He Listened To The Lawyers

President Donald Trump’s executive order dismantling large chunks of Barrack Obama’s environmental legacy is a cleverly written document that avoids the pitfalls of Trump’s controversial orders on immigration. Unlike those orders, which have been suspended by federal courts, this one bears the clear stamp of experienced government lawyers and leaves the administration with a rich variety of tactical choices on how to eliminarte Obama-era regulations on fossil fuels.

Eliminating the previous administration’s legal memorandum could be a speedier way to get rid of the CPP, although it would still have to go through a notice and comment period as well as the inevitable legal challenges. The government wouldn’t have to delve as deeply into the scientific record, however, which the Obama administration provided in ample detail to justify its plan. Instead, the Trump administration would argue the CPP, which takes a systemwide approach toward reducing CO2 emissions, is based on an incorrect reading of federal law.

The order also calls for the elimination of the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, as well as its findings on the cost of global warming, which it pegged at $42 a ton by 2020. Effective immediately, the administration will use Bush-era standards to judge the cost of carbon emissions.

Environmentalists and states can and will sue to try and force the administration to stick to the Obama-era goals for reducing CO2 emissions. But the EPA can only work with the tools Congress gave it, and Chevron deference allows the agency to determine how powerful those tools are. So it can simply say that federal statutes don’t give it the power to reorder the electric grid to cut emissions by 30%; perhaps the limit, by ordering existing plants to the highest levels of efficiency achievable with current technology, is a few percent. The agency can then argue further cuts have to come from Congress.