Climate Risky Business

A new theme emerging out of the IPCC Fifth Report was the emphasis on selling the risk of man-made climate change. The idea is that scientists should not advocate policy, but do have a responsibility to convince the public of the risks resulting from burning fossil fuels.

An article illustrates how this approach shapes recent public communications in support of actions on global warming/climate change.  Treading the Fine Line Between Climate Talk and Alarmism (Op-Ed)  By Sarah E. Myhre, Ph.D. | June 23, 2017.  Excerpts:

What is our role in public leadership as scientists? I would suggest a few action items: Work to reduce risk and cost for the public; steward the public’s interest in evidence; and be steady and committed to the scientific process of dissent, revision and discovery. This means communicating risk when necessary. We would never fault an oncologist for informing patients about the cancer risks that come with smoking. Why would we expect Earth scientists to be any different, when we’re just as certain?

As a public scholar with expertise in paleoclimate science, I communicate alarming, difficult information about the consequences to Earth and ocean systems that have come with past events of abrupt climate warming. As the saying goes, the past is the key to the future. 

We are living through a crisis of trust between the American public and climate scientists, and we must extend ourselves, as scientists and public servants, to rebuild transparency and trust with the public. I will start: I want the global community to mitigate the extreme risk of the warmest future climate scenarios. And, I want my kid to eat salmon and ski with his grandkids in the future. I am invested in that cooler, safer, more sustainable future — for your kids and for mine. Just don’t call me an alarmist.

This provides a teachable moment concerning the rhetorical maneuver to present climate as a risky business. The technique typically starts with a particular instance of actual risk and then makes a gross generalization so that the risk is exaggerated beyond reason.  From the article above:

Climate scientists are just as certain as oncologists are.

Herein lies the moral of this tale. The particular risk is the convincing epidemiological evidence linking lung cancer to smokers. The leap was claiming second-hand smoke puts non-smokers at risk of cancer. The statistical case was never conclusive, but the public was scared into enacting all kinds of smoke-free spaces.

Very few passive smoking/lung cancer studies are published these days compared to the glut of the 1980s and 1990s, but the handful that have appeared in recent years continue to support the null hypothesis. For all the campaigners’ talk of “overwhelming evidence”, the link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer has always been very shaky. It tends to be the smaller, case-control studies which find the associations while the larger, cohort studies do not (and, as the JNCI report notes, case-control studies “can suffer from recall bias: People who develop a disease that might be related to passive smoking are more likely to recall being exposed to passive smoking.”)

Gerard Silvestri, MD, of the Medical University of South Carolina, a member of NCI’s PDQ Screening and Prevention Editorial Board said (here):

“We’ve gotten smoking out of bars and restaurants on the basis of the fact that you and I and other nonsmokers don’t want to die,” said Silvestri. “The reality is, we probably won’t.”

To be clear, I don’t want smokers fouling my space in restaurants, and the policies are beneficial to me esthetically. But there was never any certainty about my risk of cancer, just the spoiling of clean air around me.  What was a matter of opinion and personal preference was settled politically by asserting scientific certainty of my health risk.

To draw the point finely, secondhand smoke shows how science is used by one group (anti-smoking activists) against another group (smokers) by mobilizing support for regulations on the basis of a generalized risk, raising concerns among the silent majority who otherwise were not particularly interested in the issue.

Climate as a Risky Business

Environmentalists have often employed risk exaggeration, beginning with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring full of innuendo about DDT without any actual epidemiological proof. Currently Junk Science provides a list of EPA exaggerations about environmental pollution, for example The scientific fraud that claims air pollution is killing people

In the climate field, any flat Polynesian island is of course at risk of flooding, and thus by extension they produce images of Manhattan under water. Global risk is trumpeted, ignoring all the local particularities of land subsidence, tidal gauge records, terrain drainage features, infrastructure, precipitation patterns, etc.

Any storm, drought, flood, or unusual weather likewise presents a particular risk in the locale where it occurs. The gross exaggeration is to claim that we are increasing the risk of all these events, and by stopping burning fossil fuels we can prevent them from happening.

Sarah Myhre’s research focuses on ocean dead zones (oxygen-depleted waters), which is a real and long-studied risk. Then comes her leap into the fearful future:

The surface and deep ocean will continue to absorb heat and CO2 from the atmosphere. The heating of the ocean will increase the stratification of water (i.e. ocean mixing will be reduced, as will the strength of thermohaline circulation). Ocean heating will also drive the thermal expansion of the interior of the ocean – this is one of the primary contributors to sea level rise.

The absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere will drive changes in the chemistry of surface and deep waters – there are significant biological consequences to acidifying the global surface ocean. Basically, we are looking at the fundamental reorganization of biological communities and ecological provinces in the ocean. These physical drivers (warming, stratification, acidification) all area associated with significant biological consequences.

This is a continuation of a scare called Climate Change Is Suffocating The Oceans.  Once again climate alarmists/activists have seized upon an actual environmental issue, but misdirect the public toward their CO2 obsession, and away from practical efforts to address a real concern. Some excerpts from scientific studies serve to put things in perspective.  See Ocean Oxygen Misdirection

As a paleoclimate expert the author knows the climate and sea levels have changed many times in the past, and often shifted quickly in geological terms.

And yet the evidence shows clearly that CO2 follows as an effect of changing temperatures, not the cause.

Summary

Warmists are of the opinion that because of burning fossil fuels, our modern climate no longer compares to paleoclimates, a claim in fact that humans are overriding natural forces. But the message from the ice cores is clear: Through the ages, CO2 responds to temperatures and not the other way around.

The other message is also clear: Climates change between warm and cool, and warm has always been good for humans and the biosphere. We should concern ourselves with Adaptation, preparing for the cold times with robust infrastructure and reliable, affordable energy.

See also CO2 and Climate Change for the Ages

See also Claim: Fossil Fuels Cause Global Warming
Updated 2017  Fossil Fuels ≠ Global Warming

Footnote:

Actuaries are accountants specialized in risk statistics like morbidity and mortality, usually working in the insurance industry.

Question:  What is the difference between an Actuary and an Auditor?
Answer:  The Auditor is the one with a sense of humor.
(Old joke from days working at KPMG)

Pledging Climate Fidelity

Climate change/global warmers believers are swearing oaths and taking pledges to show fidelity to the UN IPCC and Paris accord.  The ceremony goes by the name We Are Still In.  Adherents sign this document:

Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders (Full text here)

The creed asserts the following:

Fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits, but
No mention of trillions of someone’s dollars to be spent
Ignores research showing warming saves lives.

Paris accord will avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change, but
If all nations comply, it could mean only 0.2C less warming by 2100.

The U.S. will remain a global leader in reducing emissions, but
Presumes killing the economy as in last recession
Fails to credit fracking revolution
Exported energy emissions are charged to others.

The global effort will hold warming to well below 2℃, but
Up to 2℃ is net beneficial
Achieving NDCs, especially China’s and India’s won’t bend the curve.

The transition to a clean energy economy will accelerate, but
Renewables are not low-carbon, are costly and unreliable.

The following statement was released today by the presidents of 12 major U.S. research universities, commonly referred to as the “Ivy-Plus” group. (Full text here)

Affirmation of leading research universities’ commitment to progress on climate change 

The climate is changing largely due to human activity, but
No one has yet proven how much warming humans cause.

The imperative of a low carbon future is increasingly urgent, but
All metrics show climate variations are within normal ranges.

The consequences of climate change are accelerating, but
Statistical measures of changes to natural conditions are not accelerating.

Research will advance evidence-based understanding of the causes and effects of climate change on the environment, the economy and public health, and develop solutions, but
Presently our knowledge of the climate system does not allow us to predict its behavior.

Summary

The last point is the only difference between the “Wearestillin” crowd and the “Ivy-Plus”.  The latter leaves the door open to actually study how the climate changes naturally, that is, to gain knowledge how internal natural processes cause multi-decadal effects upon temperature and precipitation.  So far the IPCC has willfully stayed ignorant of that need to know.

 

How Climate Law Relies on Paris

 

Climate Activists storm the bastion of Exxon Mobil, here seen without their shareholder disguises.

On the same day POTUS announced US withdrawal from Paris accord, a majority of Exxon Mobil shareholders approved a resolution asking management to assess the value of corporate assets considering a global move toward a low-carbon future. Here is the resolution, filed by the New York State Comptroller:

RESOLVED: Shareholders request that, beginning in 2018, ExxonMobil publish an annual assessment of the long-term portfolio impacts of technological advances and global climate change policies, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information. The assessment can be incorporated into existing reporting and should analyze the impacts on ExxonMobil’s oil and gas reserves and resources under a scenario in which reduction in demand results from carbon restrictions and related rules or commitments adopted by governments consistent with the globally agreed upon 2 degree target. This reporting should assess the resilience of the company’s full portfolio of reserves and resources through 2040 and beyond, and address the financial risks associated with such a scenario.

Background:

This century climatists woke up to their losing the battle for public opinion for onerous and costly reductions to fossil fuel usage. They turned toward the legal system to achieve their agenda, and the field of Climate Law has become another profession corrupted by climate cash, along side of Climate Medicine.

In addition to numerous court lawsuits, and also civil disobedience cases, there has been a concerted, well-funded and organized divestment move against companies supplying fossil fuels to consumers. The intention is to at least tie up in red tape Big Oil, indeed Small Oil as well. The real hope is to weaken energy producers by depriving them of investors to the point that reserves are left in the ground, as desired by such activists as 350.org.

In 2016 virtually the same resolution was dismissed by shareholders with only 38% approving. The difference this year was the switch by BlackRock Inc. and Vanguard Group, two of the world’s largest asset managers. As reported by Fox News (here):

Investment products such as exchange-traded funds that track the performance of indexes often come at a lower cost than traditional mutual funds and have gathered assets at a clip in recent years. That growth has given firms like BlackRock and Vanguard increasing sway on shareholder votes. But the firms in turn have come under activist pressure to take stances on issues such as climate disclosure.

When BlackRock sided with Exxon and against a similar proposal at the company’s annual meeting a year ago, it faced backlash from investors and environmental activists. This year BlackRock said the disclosure of climate risks would be among its key engagement priorities with senior executives.

Exxon Mobil board must now show they are taking this proposal seriously, and activists will be looking for company assets to be “stress tested” with the hope that the shares become more risky. At the very least, management will have to put more time and energy into opining on various scenarios of uncertain content and probabilities relating to the wish dreams of climatists.

Balancing on a cascade of suppositions.

We can look into the climate activist mental frame thanks to documents supporting the current strategy using the legal system to implement actions against fossil fuel consumption.

For example, there is this recent text explaining the shareholder proposal tabled at ExxonMobil annual meeting. From Attorney Sanford Lewis:

The Proposal states:

“RESOLVED: Shareholders request that by 2017 ExxonMobil publish an annual assessment of long term portfolio impacts of public climate change policies, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information. The assessment can be incorporated into existing reporting and should analyze the impacts on ExxonMobil’s oil and gas reserves and resources under a scenario in which reduction in demand results from carbon restrictions and related rules or commitments adopted by governments consistent with the globally agreed upon 2 degree target. The reporting should assess the resilience of the company’s full portfolio of reserves and resources through 2040 and beyond and address the financial risks associated with such a scenario.

Now let’s unbundle the chain of suppositions that comprise this proposal.

  • Supposition 1: A 2C global warming target is internationally agreed.
  • Supposition 2: Carbon Restrictions are enacted by governments to comply with the target.
  • Supposition 3: Demand for oil and gas products is reduced due to restrictions
  • Supposition 4: Oil and gas assets become uneconomic for lack of demand.
  • Supposition 5: Company net worth declines by depressed assets and investors lose value.

1.Suppose an International Agreement to limit global warming to 2C.

From the supporting statement to the above proposal, Sanford Lewis provides these assertions:

Recognizing the severe and pervasive economic and societal risks associated with a warming climate, global governments have agreed that increases in global temperature should be held below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels (Cancun Agreement).

Failing to meet the 2 degree goal means, according to scientists, that the world will face massive coastal flooding, increasingly severe weather events, and deepening climate disruption. It will impose billions of dollars in damage on the global economy, and generate an increasing number of climate refugees worldwide.

Climate change and the risks it is generating for companies have become major concerns for investors. These concerns have been magnified by the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris, where 195 global governments agreed to restrict greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to no more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and submitted plans to begin achieving the necessary GHG emission reductions. In the agreement, signatories also acknowledged the need to strive to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees, recognizing current and projected harms to low lying islands.

Yet a careful reading of UN agreements shows commitment is exaggerated:
David Campbell (here):

Neither 2°C nor any other specific target has ever been agreed at the UN climate change negotiations.

Article 2 of the Paris Agreement in fact provides only that it ‘aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change … including by the holding the increase to well below 2°C’. This is an expression, not of setting a concrete limit, but merely of an aspiration to set such a limit. It is true that Article 2 is expressed in a deplorably equivocatory and convoluted language which fails to convey this vital point, indeed it obscures it. But nevertheless that is what Article 2 means.

Dieter Helm (here):

Nothing of substance has been achieved in the last quarter of a century despite all the efforts and political capital that has been applied. The Paris Agreement follows on from Kyoto. The pledges – in the unlikely event they are met – will not meet the 2C target, shipping and aviation are excluded, and the key developing countries (China and India) are not committed to capping their emission for at least another decade and a half (or longer in India’s case)

None of the pledges is, in any event, legally binding. For this reason, the Paris Agreement can be regarded as the point at which the UN negotiating approach turned effectively away from a top down approach, and instead started to rely on a more country driven and hence bottom up one.

Paul Spedding:

The international community is unlikely to agree any time soon on a global mechanism for putting a price on carbon emissions.

2: Suppose Governments enact restrictions that limit use of fossil fuels.

Despite the wishful thinking in the first supposition, the activists proceed on the basis of aspirations and reporting accountability. Sanford Lewis:

Although the reduction goals are not set forth in an enforceable agreement, the parties put mechanisms in place for transparent reporting by countries and a ratcheting mechanism every five years to create accountability for achieving these goals. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon summarized the Paris Agreement as follows: “The once Unthinkable [global action on climate change] has become the Unstoppable.”

Now we come to an interesting bait and switch. Since Cancun, IPCC is asserting that global warming is capped at 2C by keeping CO2 concentration below 450 ppm. From Summary for Policymakers (SPM) AR5

Emissions scenarios leading to CO2-equivalent concentrations in 2100 of about 450 ppm or lower are likely to maintain warming below 2°C over the 21st century relative to pre-industrial levels. These scenarios are characterized by 40 to 70% global anthropogenic GHG emissions reductions by 2050 compared to 2010, and emissions levels near zero or below in 2100.

Thus is born the “450 Scenario” by which governments can be focused upon reducing emissions without any reference to temperature measurements, which are troublesome and inconvenient.

Sanford Lewis:

Within the international expert community, “2 degree” is generally used as shorthand for a low carbon scenario under which CO2 concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere are stabilized at a level of 450 parts per million (ppm) or lower, representing approximately an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from current levels, which according to certain computer simulations would be likely to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and is considered by some to reduce the likelihood of significant adverse impacts based on analyses of historical climate variability. Company Letter, page 4.

Clever as it is to substitute a 450 ppm target for 2C, the mathematics are daunting. Joe Romm:

We’re at 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year — rising 3.3% per year — and we have to average below 18 billion tons a year for the entire century if we’re going to stabilize at 450 ppm. We need to peak around 2015 to 2020 at the latest, then drop at least 60% by 2050 to 15 billion tons (4 billion tons of carbon), and then go to near zero net carbon emissions by 2100.

And the presumed climate sensitivity to CO2 is hypothetical and unsupported by observations:

3.Suppose that demand for oil and gas products is reduced by the high costs imposed on such fuels.

Sanford Lewis:

ExxonMobil recognized in its 2014 10-K that “a number of countries have adopted, or are considering adoption of, regulatory frameworks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” and that such policies, regulations, and actions could make its “products more expensive, lengthen project implementation timelines and reduce demand for hydrocarbons,” but ExxonMobil has not presented any analysis of how its portfolio performs under a 2 degree scenario.

Moreover, the Company’s current use of a carbon proxy price, which it asserts as its means of calculating climate policy impacts, merely amplifies and reflects its optimistic assessments of national and global climate policies. The Company Letter notes that ExxonMobil is setting an internal price as high as $80 per ton; in contrast, the 2014 Report notes a carbon price of $1000 per ton to achieve the 450 ppm (2 degree scenario) and the Company reportedly stated during the recent Paris climate talks that a 1.5 degree scenario would require a carbon price as high as $2000 per ton within the next hundred years.

Peter Trelenberg, manager of environmental policy and planning at Exxon Mobil reportedly told the Houston Chronicle editorial board: Trimming carbon emissions to the point that average temperatures would rise roughly 1.6 degrees Celsius – enabling the planet to avoid dangerous symptoms of carbon pollution – would bring costs up to $2,000 a ton of CO2. That translates to a $20 a gallon boost to pump prices by the end of this century… .

Even those who think emissions should be capped somehow see through the wishful thinking in these numbers. Dieter Helm:

The combination of the shale revolution and the ending of the commodity super cycle probably point to a period of low prices for sometime to come. This is unfortunate timing for current decarbonisation policies, many of which are predicated on precisely the opposite happening – high and rising prices, rendering current renewables economic. Low oil prices, cheap coal, and falling gas prices, and their impacts on driving down wholesale electricity prices, are the new baseline against which to consider policy interventions.

With existing technologies, it is a matter of political will, and the ability to bring the main polluters on board, as to whether the envelope will be breached. There are good reasons to doubt that any top down agreement will work sufficiently well to achieve it.

The end of fossil fuels is not about to happen anytime soon, and will not be caused by running out of any of them. There is more than enough to fry the planet several times over, and technological progress in the extraction of fossil fuels has recently been at least as fast as for renewables. We live in an age of fossil fuel abundance.

We also live in a world where fossil fuel prices have fallen, and where the common assumption that prices will bounce back, and that the cycle of fossil fuel prices will not only reassert itself but also continue on a rising trend, may be seriously misguided. It is plausible to at least argue that the oil price may never regain its peaks in 1979 and 2008 again.

A world with stable or falling fossil fuel prices turns the policy assumptions of the last decade or so on their heads. Instead of assuming that rising prices would ease the transition to low carbon alternatives, many of the existing technologies will probably need permanent subsidies. Once the full system costs are incorporated, current generation wind (especially offshore) and current generation solar may be out of the market except in special locations for the foreseeable future. In any event, neither can do much to address the sheer scale of global emissions.

Primary Energy Demand Projection

4.Suppose oil and gas reserves are stranded for lack of demand.

Sanford Lewis:

Achievement of even a 2 degree goal requires net zero global emissions to be attained by 2100. Achieving net zero emissions this century means that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned. As noted by Mark Carney, the President of the Bank of England, the carbon budget associated with meeting the 2 degree goal will “render the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’ – oil, gas, and coal that will be literally unburnable without expensive carbon capture technology, which itself alters fossil fuel economics.”

A concern expressed by some of our stakeholders is whether such a “low carbon scenario” could impact ExxonMobil’s reserves and operations – i.e., whether this would result in unburnable proved reserves of oil and natural gas.

Decisions to abandon reserves are not as simple or have the effects as desired by activists.

Financial Post (here):

The 450 Scenario is not the IEA’s central scenario. At this point, government policies to limit GHG emissions are not stringent enough to stimulate this level of change. However, for discussion purposes let’s use the IEA’s 450 Scenario to examine the question of stranded assets in crude oil investing. Would some oil reserves be “stranded” under the IEA’s scenario of demand reversal?

A considerable amount of new oil projects must be developed to offset the almost 80 per cent loss in legacy production by 2040. This continued need for new oil projects for the next few decades and beyond means that the majority of the value of oil reserves on the books of public companies must be realized, and will not be “stranded”.

While most of these reserves will be developed, could any portion be stranded in this scenario? The answer is surely “yes.” In any industry a subset of the inventory that is comprised of inferior products will be susceptible to being marginalized when there is declining demand for goods. In a 450 ppm world, inferior products in the oil business will be defined by higher cost and higher carbon intensity.

5.Suppose shareholders fear declining company net worth.

Now we come to the underlying rationale for this initiative.

Paul Spedding:

Commodity markets have repeatedly proved vulnerable to expectations that prices will fall. Given the political pressure to mitigate the impact of climate change, smart investors will be watching closely for indications of policies that will lead to a drop in demand and the possibility that their assets will become financially stranded.

Equity markets are famously irrational, and if energy company shareholders can be spooked into selling off, a death spiral can be instigated. So far though, investors are smarter than they are given credit.

Bloomberg:

Fossil-fuel divestment has been a popular issue in recent years among college students, who have protested at campuses around the country. Yet even with the movement spreading to more than 1,000 campuses, only a few dozen schools have placed some restrictions on their commitments to the energy sector. Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University are among the largest endowments to reject demands to divest.

Stanford Board of Trustees even said:

As trustees, we are convinced that the global community must develop effective alternatives to fossil fuels at sufficient scale, so that fossil fuels will not continue to be extracted and used at the present rate. Stanford is deeply engaged in finding alternatives through its research. However, despite the progress being made, at the present moment oil and gas remain integral components of the global economy, essential to the daily lives of billions of people in both developed and emerging economies. Moreover, some oil and gas companies are themselves working to advance alternative energy sources and develop other solutions to climate change. The complexity of this picture does not allow us to conclude that the conditions for divestment outlined in the Statement on Investment Responsibility have been met.

Update:  Universities are not the exception in finding the alarmist case unconvincing, according to a survey:

Almost half of the world’s top 500 investors are failing to act on climate change — an increase of 6 percent from 236 in 2014, according to a report Monday by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, which surveys global companies on their climate change risk and management.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Japan Post Insurance Co Ltd., Kuwait Investment Authority and China’s SAFE Investment Company, are the four biggest funds that scored zero in the survey. The 246 “laggards” identified as not acting hold $14 trillion in assets, the report said.

Summary

Alarmists have failed to achieve their goals through political persuasion and elections. So they are turning to legal and financial tactics. Their wishful thinking appears as an improbable chain of events built upon a Paris agreement without substance.

Last word to David Campbell:

International policy has so far been based on the premise that mitigation is the wisest course, but it is time for those committed to environmental intervention to abandon the idea of mitigation in favour of adaptation to climate change’s effects.

For more on adapting vs. mitigating, see Adapting Works, Mitigating Fails

EventChain

Trump Did the Right Thing in the Right Way

So yesterday President Trump announced that the US will withdraw from the Paris crusade against fossil fuels.  Effective immediately his administration will cease implementation of any aspects of the Accord and suspend compliance with any of its regulations or obligations.

His speech did not take issue with the scientific claims of global warming.  Rather Trump’s position is based on the small projected benefits from the hugely expensive program, and the unfair burden placed on the US compared with other nations.  As noted here before, the climatist case is a three-legged stool:

  • Humans are warming the climate.
  • The warming is dangerous.
  • Government can stop it.

The third point is about climate policy and is even weaker than the science beneath the first two.  The programs currently advocated are woefully inadequate even if you believe the scientific house of cards.  After the US announcement yesterday, Mike Hulme weighed in (here) with a balanced reaction from his POV as one who thinks global warming could become a future problem.

Overstating the significance of Trump’s announcement also mis-reads the nature of the Paris Agreement and its efficacy in ‘governing’ the world’s climate. The Paris Agreement is already a voluntary arrangement of self-determined and self-policed intentions to reduce greenhouses gas emissions from different national jurisdictions. There are no penalties, no sanctions for states which fail to meet their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).

Even if, following Trump’s announcement, the USA now fails to secure its own INDC – and this if far from certain for reasons below – the projections of how this might alter the average global temperature by 2100 reveal the sleight of hand. Projections suggest a warming of about 3.6°C (without the USA in Paris) rather than 3.3°C (with the USA in Paris), a reduction of just 0.3°C and well-within the random noise in the system. The fact is, all the INDCs declared by nations leave the world well short of the declared goal of 2 degrees of warming, let alone the aspirational target of 1.5°C.

We should not fall for the hype of defenders of the Paris Agreement and its own self-pronounced historic status. Neither therefore should we despairingly denounce Trump for declaring he will remove the USA from the Agreement. Such reactions give too much weight to the actions of one man to shape the world and they place too much faith in the Paris Agreement to effect change in societies around the world.

This is not a defeatist position to hold. And I am certainly no defender of Donald Trump. It is rather a position that recognises the limited powers that Trump holds over his own economy and the limited effectiveness of any single global treaty to “govern” the world’s climate. What matters far more are the thousand and one sites around the world where change is taking place, the thousands of different political actors, social movements and loci of innovation and change which are shaping the trajectory of future world development.

Footnote:
Building the climate science house of cards is described in the post  Climate Reductionism

Background from Yesterday’s Post:

The rational for rejecting the UNFCCC and the Paris Accord is expressed clearly and concisely by the French Mathematical Modelling Company following their exhaustive study.  Title is link to their document, the executive summary is presented below.

The battle against global warming is an absurd, costly and pointless crusade.

The crusade is absurd

There is not a single fact, figure or observation that leads us to conclude that the world‘s climate is in any way “disturbed”. It is variable, as it has always been, but rather less so now than during certain periods or geological eras. Modern methods are far from being able to accurately measure the planet‘s global temperature even today, so measurements made 50 or 100 years ago are even less reliable.

Concentrations of CO2 vary, as they always have done; the figures that are being released are biased and dishonest. Rising sea levels are a normal phenomenon linked to upthrust buoyancy; they are nothing to do with so-called global warming. As for extreme weather events – they are no more frequent now than they have been in the past. We ourselves have processed the raw data on hurricanes.

We are being told that “a temperature increase of more than 2ºC by comparison with the beginning of the industrial age would have dramatic consequences, and absolutely has to be prevented”. When they hear this, people worry: hasn‘t there already been an increase of 1.9ºC? Actually, no: the figures for the period 1995-2015 show an upward trend of about 1ºC every hundred years! Of course, these figures, which contradict public policies, are never brought to public attention.

The crusade is costly

Direct aid for industries that are completely unviable (such as photovoltaics and wind turbines) but presented as “virtuous” runs into billions of euros, according to recent reports published by the Cour des Comptes (French Audit Office) in 2013. But the highest cost lies in the principle of “energy saving”, which is presented as especially virtuous. Since no civilization can develop when it is saving energy, ours has stopped developing: France now has more than three million people unemployed – it is the price we have to pay for our virtue.

We want to cut our CO2 emissions at any cost: it is a way of displaying our virtue for all to see. To achieve these reductions, we have significantly cut industrial activity and lost jobs. But at least we have achieved our aim of cutting CO2 emissions, haven‘t we? The answer is laughable: apparently not. Global emissions of CO2 have continued to rise, including those generated by France in designing and manufacturing its own products, as the Cour des Comptes clearly states. Quite simply, manufacturing that is held to be environmentally damaging has been relocated. So the same products are now being manufactured in countries that are far less respectful of the environment, and we have lost all the associated jobs. As Baudelaire says, “Nature‘s irony combines with our insanity”.

The crusade is pointless

Human beings cannot, in any event, change the climate. If we in France were to stop all industrial activity (let‘s not talk about our intellectual activity, which ceased long ago), if we were to eradicate all trace of animal life, the composition of the atmosphere would not alter in any measurable, perceptible way. To explain this, let us make a comparison with the rotation of the planet: it is slowing down. To address that, we might be tempted to ask the entire population of China to run in an easterly direction. But, no matter how big China and its population are, this would have no measurable impact on the Earth‘s rotation.

French policy on CO2 emissions is particularly stupid, since we are one of the countries with the cleanest industrial sector.

This just goes to show the truth of the matter: we are fighting for a cause (reducing CO2 emissions) that serves absolutely no purpose, in which we alone believe, and which we can do nothing about. You would probably have to go quite a long way back in human history to find such a mad obsession.

Gouda tulip bulb prices in guilders. In the background- The Viceroy- one of the most expensive specimens depicted in a Dutch catalogue from 1637. A single bulb reached 3.000-4.200 guilders. A yearly salary of a skilled craftsman equalled approximately 300 guilders.

 

 

 

Will Trump Do the Right Thing?

The rational for rejecting the UNFCCC and the Paris Accord is expressed clearly and concisely by the French Mathematical Modelling Company following their exhaustive study.  Title is link to their document, the executive summary is presented below.

The battle against global warming is an absurd, costly and pointless crusade.

The crusade is absurd

There is not a single fact, figure or observation that leads us to conclude that the world‘s climate is in any way “disturbed”. It is variable, as it has always been, but rather less so now than during certain periods or geological eras. Modern methods are far from being able to accurately measure the planet‘s global temperature even today, so measurements made 50 or 100 years ago are even less reliable.

Concentrations of CO2 vary, as they always have done; the figures that are being released are biased and dishonest. Rising sea levels are a normal phenomenon linked to upthrust buoyancy; they are nothing to do with so-called global warming. As for extreme weather events – they are no more frequent now than they have been in the past. We ourselves have processed the raw data on hurricanes.

We are being told that “a temperature increase of more than 2ºC by comparison with the beginning of the industrial age would have dramatic consequences, and absolutely has to be prevented”. When they hear this, people worry: hasn‘t there already been an increase of 1.9ºC? Actually, no: the figures for the period 1995-2015 show an upward trend of about 1ºC every hundred years! Of course, these figures, which contradict public policies, are never brought to public attention.

The crusade is costly

Direct aid for industries that are completely unviable (such as photovoltaics and wind turbines) but presented as “virtuous” runs into billions of euros, according to recent reports published by the Cour des Comptes (French Audit Office) in 2013. But the highest cost lies in the principle of “energy saving”, which is presented as especially virtuous. Since no civilization can develop when it is saving energy, ours has stopped developing: France now has more than three million people unemployed – it is the price we have to pay for our virtue.

We want to cut our CO2 emissions at any cost: it is a way of displaying our virtue for all to see. To achieve these reductions, we have significantly cut industrial activity and lost jobs. But at least we have achieved our aim of cutting CO2 emissions, haven‘t we? The answer is laughable: apparently not. Global emissions of CO2 have continued to rise, including those generated by France in designing and manufacturing its own products, as the Cour des Comptes clearly states. Quite simply, manufacturing that is held to be environmentally damaging has been relocated. So the same products are now being manufactured in countries that are far less respectful of the environment, and we have lost all the associated jobs. As Baudelaire says, “Nature‘s irony combines with our insanity”.

The crusade is pointless

Human beings cannot, in any event, change the climate. If we in France were to stop all industrial activity (let‘s not talk about our intellectual activity, which ceased long ago), if we were to eradicate all trace of animal life, the composition of the atmosphere would not alter in any measurable, perceptible way. To explain this, let us make a comparison with the rotation of the planet: it is slowing down. To address that, we might be tempted to ask the entire population of China to run in an easterly direction. But, no matter how big China and its population are, this would have no measurable impact on the Earth‘s rotation.

French policy on CO2 emissions is particularly stupid, since we are one of the countries with the cleanest industrial sector.

This just goes to show the truth of the matter: we are fighting for a cause (reducing CO2 emissions) that serves absolutely no purpose, in which we alone believe, and which we can do nothing about. You would probably have to go quite a long way back in human history to find such a mad obsession.

Gouda tulip bulb prices in guilders. In the background- The Viceroy- one of the most expensive specimens depicted in a Dutch catalogue from 1637. A single bulb reached 3.000-4.200 guilders. A yearly salary of a skilled craftsman equalled approximately 300 guilders.

 

 

 

Not Worried About CO2

 

Update May 25 below.

We should all know what Alfred E. Neuman knows, namely: Where does all that CO2 come from? Here is the answer from engineer Ronald Voisin.

Excerpts below are from An Engineer’s Take On Major Climate Change

Figure 3 outlines the primary sources of natural CO2 release in decreasing order of quantity of carbon emitted: oceanic release, microbial decay, insect activity, frozen terrestrial release; volcanic release; forest fire and then mammalia exhalations and emissions – summing to a total of ~325-485 petagrams (PgC). Then there is our ~2.0% anthropogenic release at ~8-9 petagrams. (Based on terrestrial sources alone, without oceans, anthropogenic release is ~3-4% of the natural flux. Some argue that the oceans are net absorbers and ignore the oceanic release estimate below. However, according to the hypothesis presented herein the oceans are net emitters as indicated below when warmed by ~0.5C per century).

These natural sources all correlate to global temperature (including, at the least, terrestrial volcanism, as recently verified). When the Earth gets warm, for whatever reason, these natural sources all kick-in together to contribute vast quantities of CO2; and to produce the observed habitual atmospheric CO2 spikes upward. Conversely, when the Earth gets cold, for whatever reason, they all go into remission together; naturally and (generally) coherently to produce a consequential reduction in atmospheric CO2. Each spike or dip in CO2 follows temperature with a lag time averaging 800 years, but proportional to the level and magnitude at which the temperature swings take place.

It is extraordinarily difficult to imagine that these natural sources are not at play during this current period of warming. They most likely are the primary cause of the currently observed CO2 spike. And yes, we humans, as co-inhabitants of this Earth, are emitting CO2. But so are microbes and insects emitting. And each of them is emitting with ~10 times our current anthropogenic emission. In both cases (microbes and insects) there is every reason to believe that their populations are geometrically exploding in this current highly favorable environment to their existence. The recently warming oceans are most likely the largest emitter of all.

Atmospheric CO2 is spiking just now. And we have good reason to believe that it is largely, essentially entirely doing so for all the same reasons it has done so within each and every prior warming period of the past. All natural sources of CO2 emission are currently revved-up and in high gear during this extended interglacial. Approximately 98% of the current spike is natural while we add our anthropogenic 2%.

We also have reason to believe that the current spike would be as large, or larger, than now observed, if we humans were never here at all. Why? Because those organisms that would otherwise be here in our stead would most likely emit much more CO2 than we are. i.e. We humans have chosen to systematically limit the proliferation of micro-organisms and insects in the land we use for cultivation and occupation – which represents about 1/3rd of all land. And in the other 2/3rds of all land, microbes and insects are each estimated to emit ~10 times our anthropogenic emission (insects alone outnumber humans >>10,000,000,000:1 – enough to fill several large dumpsters per person).

The relative contribution from microbe and insect emissions would have gone up significantly if we were never here (by a very rough factor of up to 1.5*). They would have filled our void geometrically; unlike our anthropogenic contribution. When we humans get rich, we uniquely self-limit our proliferation, by deciding to have fewer children. And our human emission pales in comparison to the emission from these astronomically vast numbers of other organisms. So if we were never here, greatly enhanced populations of microbes and insects would be emitting many times our anthropogenic emission from the very land that we systematically exclude them from. This situation most likely characterizes the events within prior interglacials.

Summary

1. Climate science is very complicated and very far from being settled.

2. Earth’s climate is overwhelmingly dominated by negative-feedbacks that are currently poorly represented in our Modeling efforts and not sufficiently part of ongoing investigations.

3. Climate warming drives atmospheric CO2 upward as it stimulates all natural sources of CO2 emission. Climate cooling drives atmospheric CO2 downward.

4. Massive yet delayed thermal modulations to the dissolved CO2 content of the oceans is what ultimately drives and dominates the modulations to atmospheric CO2.

5. The current spike in atmospheric CO2 is largely natural (~98%). i.e. Of the 100ppm increase we have seen recently (going from 280 to 380ppm), the move from 280 to 378ppm is natural while the last bit from 378 to 380ppm is rightfully anthropogenic.

6. The current spike in atmospheric CO2 would most likely be larger than now observed if human beings had never evolved. The additional CO2 contribution from insects and microbes (and mammalia for that matter) would most likely have produced a greater current spike in atmospheric CO2.

7. Atmospheric CO2 has a tertiary to non-existent impact on the instigation and amplification of climate change. CO2 is not pivotal. Modulations to atmospheric CO2 are the effect of climate change and not the cause.

Ronald D Voisin is a retired engineer. He spent 27 years in the Semiconductor Lithography Equipment industry mostly in California’s Silicon Valley. Since retiring, he has made a hobby of studying climate change for the last 7 years. Ron received a BSEE degree from the Univ. of Michigan – Ann Arbor in 1978 and has held various management positions at both established equipment companies and start-ups he helped initiate. Ron has authored/co-authored 55 patent applications, 24 of which have issued.

Footnote:  Voisin’s article was published in 2013, the facts still overlooked and ignored.

Update May 25

Robert Kernodle provided this chart recently in a separate comment thread.

Those patterns indicate that over millennial time scales, atmospheric CO2 appears as a natural negative feedback to planetary warmer periods.  As warming stimulates natural sources, CO2 rises, and after many centuries of delay, temperatures cool down.  Ironically, scientists in the 1950s and 60s who raised concerns about a coming ice age maybe had a truer sense of how CO2 is related to climate.  Of course, even then they exaggerated the effect of humanity’s 2% contribution, overemphasized decadal fluctuations and mistook CO2 as the cause rather than the effect of warming periods.

The Curious Case of Dr. Miskolczi

Update May 18 below

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button relates the story of a fictional character who is estranged from the rest of humanity because of a unique personal quality. He alone was born an old man, grew younger as he aged, before dying as an infant. Living in contradiction to all others, he existed as an alien whose relations were always temporary and strained.

Recently I had an interchange with a climatist obsessed with radiation and CO2 as the drivers of climate change. For me it occasioned a look back in time to rediscover how I came to some conclusions about how the atmosphere warms the planet. That process brought up an influencial scientist whose name comes up rarely these days in discussions of global warming/climate change. So I thought a tribute post to be timely.

Dr. Ferenc Mark Miskolczi (feh-rent mish-kol-tsi) was not born estranged, but alienation was forced upon him at the peak of his career as a brilliant astrophysicist. Part of his NASA job was to analyze radiosonde data, and his curiosity led him to find a surprising empirical observation. He published it and continues to hold to it, but his findings happen to cause indigestion among the climate establishment, and also to many skeptics. His writings are dense and filled with math, another reason for some to set him aside.

“I was warned that for every equation in the book, the readership would be halved,
hence it includes only a single equation: E = mc2.”
–Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

The Back Story

In 2004 Dr Ferenc Miskolczi published a paper ’The greenhouse effect and the spectral decomposition of the clear-sky terrestrial radiation’, in the Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service (Vol. 108, No. 4, October–December 2004, pp. 209–251.).

Various wavelengths of solar EM radiation penetrate Earth’s atmosphere to various depths. Fortunately for us, all of the high energy X-rays and most UV is filtered out long before it reaches the ground. Much of the infrared radiation is also absorbed by our atmosphere far above our heads. Most radio waves do make it to the ground, along with a narrow “window” of IR, UV, and visible light frequencies. Credit: Image courtesy STCI/JHU/NASA.

The co-author of the article was his boss at NASA Langley Research Center (Martin Mlynczak). Mlynczak put his name to the paper but did no work on it. He thought that it was an important paper, but only in a technical way.

When Miskolczi later informed the group at NASA there that he had more important results, they finally understood the whole story, and tried to withhold Miskolczi’s further material from publication. His boss for example, sat at Ferenc’s computer, logged in with Ferenc`s password, and canceled a recently submitted paper from a high-reputation journal as if Ferenc had withdrawn it himself. That was the reason that Ferenc finally resigned from his ($US 90,000 /year) job.

At the bottom of this post will be links to Miskolczi’s papers, including the latest one in 2014. Perhaps the most accessible introduction to his understanding comes from his interview with Kirk Myers published at Climate Truth.

Climate Truth: Has there been global warming?
Dr. Miskolczi: No one is denying that global warming has taken place, but it has nothing to do with the greenhouse effect or the burning of fossil fuels.

Climate Truth: According to the conventional anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory, as human-induced CO2 emissions increase, more surface radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere, with part of it re-radiated to the earth’s surface, resulting in global warming. Is that an accurate description of the prevailing theory?
Dr. Miskolczi: Yes, this is the classic concept of the greenhouse effect.

ClimateTruth: Are man-made CO2 emissions the cause of global warming?
Dr. Miskolczi: Apparently not. According to my research, increases in CO2 levels have not increased the global-average absorbing power of the atmosphere.

ClimateTruth: Where does the traditional greenhouse theory make its fundamental mistake?
Dr. Miskolczi: The conventional greenhouse theory does not consider the newly discovered physical relationships involving infrared radiative fluxes. These relationships pose strong energetic constraints on an equilibrium system.

ClimateTruth: Why has this error escaped notice until now?
Dr. Miskolczi: Nobody thought that a 100-year-old theory could be wrong. The original greenhouse formula, developed by an astrophysicist, applies only to the stars, not to finite, semi-transparent planetary atmospheres. New equations had to be formulated.

ClimateTruth: According your theory, the greenhouse effect is self-regulating and stabilizes itself in response to rising CO2 levels. You identified (perhaps discovered) a “greenhouse constant” that keeps the greenhouse effect in equilibrium. Is that a fair assessment of your theory?
Dr. Miskolczi: Yes. Our atmosphere, with its infinite degree of freedom, is able to maintain its global average infrared absorption at an optimal level. In technical terms, this “greenhouse constant” is the total infrared optical thickness of the atmosphere, and its theoretical value is 1.87. Despite the 30 per cent increase of CO2 in the last 61 years, this value has not changed. The atmosphere is not increasing its absorption power as was predicted by the IPCC.

ClimateTruth: You used empirical data, rather than models, to arrive at your conclusion. How was that done?
Dr. Miskolczi: The computations are relatively simple. I collected a large number of radiosonde observations from around the globe and computed the global average infrared absorption. I performed these computations using observations from two large, publicly available datasets known as the TIGR2 and NOAA. The computations involved the processing of 300 radiosonde observations, using a state-of-the-art, line-by-line radiative transfer code. In both datasets, the global average infrared optical thickness turned out to be 1.87, agreeing with theoretical expectations.

Fig. 15 the actual and expected atmospheric absorption trends are compared for the full time period. No change in the IR absorption is detected.

ClimateTruth: Have your mathematical equations been challenged or disproved?
Dr. Miskolczi: No.

ClimateTruth: If your theory stands up to scientific scrutiny, it would collapse the CO2 global warming doctrine and render meaningless its predictions of climate catastrophe. Given its significance, why has your theory been met with silence and, in some instances, dismissal and derision?
Dr. Miskolczi: I can only guess. First of all, nobody likes to admit mistakes. Second, somebody has to explain to the taxpayers why millions of dollars were spent on AGW research. Third, some people are making a lot of money from the carbon trade and energy taxes.

ClimateTruth: A huge industry has arisen out of the study and prevention of man-made global warming. Has the world been fooled?
Dr. Miskolczi: Thanks to censored science and the complicity of the mainstream media, yes, totally.

The Implications

Others have referred to Miskolczi’s work as finding a saturated greenhouse effect (not his terminology). Most people agree that gases have a logarithmic relation to IR absorption. Thus the effect of adding CO2, or H2O to the atmosphere has diminishing impact, like putting on another coat of paint.


Miskolczi’s analysis shows that at present CO2 concentrations, the radiative warming effect is saturated, because the atmospheric heat engine is always striving to maximize the dissipation of surface heat into space. In the present circumstance, any additional input of heat produces a reaction of additional evaporation or convection to restore the energy balance. Radiative equilibrium is not disturbed, as shown by the stability of the optical depth in the upper troposphere.

This graph shows that the relative humidity has been dropping, especially at higher elevations allowing more heat to escape to space. The curve labelled 300 mb is at about 9 km altitude, which is in the middle of the predicted (but missing) tropical troposphere hot-spot. This is the critical elevation as this is where radiation can start to escape without being recaptured. The average annual relative humidity at this altitude has declined by 21.5% from 1948 to 2007.

If Miskolczi is right, then presently the land-sea surface heats the atmosphere only by evaporation, conduction, and subsequent convection, not by radiation. The layer of air in contact with the surface is in radiative equilibrium, so that warming and cooling of the surface is matched by the immediate air. The land-sea surface does not cool by radiation to the atmosphere, nor is it warmed by “back-radiation.”

Above the surface-air boundary, heat exchanges between layers of air do include radiative activity, and at the TOA it is all radiation into space. The climate system makes regulatory adjustment to compensate for changes in CO2 with changes in humidity and clouds, in order to most efficiently convert short wave incoming solar energy, into long wave outgoing energy. With warming and cooling periods, the proportions of H20 and CO2 at the TOA have fluctuated, but the combined optical depth has been stable over the last 60 years.

Credit: Image courtesy NASA’s ERBE (Earth Radiation Budget Experiment) program.

No wonder so much effort is going into a better understanding of cloud effects on climate.  Note in the above estimated energy budget diagram that convection and latent heat combined are twice the estimated surface radiation absorbed in the air.   Note also that the air absorbs more energy directly from the sun than it absorbs from the surface.

Bear in mind that water vapor does more than 90% of all IR activity by gases.  And note that clouds are composed of water droplets (liquid state), and IR activity by clouds (likely underestimated here) is on top of water’s thermal effect as a gas.

Summary: Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi’s  Strange Journey

Miskolczi’s story reads like a book. Looking at a series of differential equations for the greenhouse effect, he noticed the solution — originally done in 1922 by Arthur Milne, but still used by climate researchers today — ignored boundary conditions by assuming an “infinitely thick” atmosphere. Similar assumptions are common when solving differential equations; they simplify the calculations and often result in a result that still very closely matches reality. But not always.

So Miskolczi re-derived the solution, this time using the proper boundary conditions for an atmosphere that is not infinite. His result included a new term, which acts as a negative feedback to counter the positive forcing. At low levels, the new term means a small difference … but as greenhouse gases rise, the negative feedback predominates, forcing values back down.

NASA refused to release the results. Miskolczi believes their motivation is simple. “Money”, he tells DailyTech. Research that contradicts the view of an impending crisis jeopardizes funding, not only for his own atmosphere-monitoring project, but all climate-change research.

Miskolczi resigned in protest, stating in his October 28, 2005 resignation letter, “Unfortunately my working relationship with my NASA supervisors eroded to a level that I am not able to tolerate. My idea of the freedom of science cannot coexist with the recent NASA practice of handling new climate change related scientific results.”

“More than three years ago, I presented to NASA a new view of greenhouse theory and pointed out serious errors in the classical approach to assessing climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas perturbations. Since then my results were not released for publication. Since my new results have far reaching consequences in the general atmospheric radiative transfer, I wish to have no part in withholding the above scientific information from the wider community of scientists and policymakers.”
More at Cornwall Alliance Peer-Reviewed Research Suggests Very Little Warming from CO2

His theory was eventually published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in his home country of Hungary.
The greenhouse effect and the spectral decomposition of the clear-sky terrestrial radiation

Miskolczi’s latest paper is The Greenhouse Effect and the Infrared Radiative Structure of the Earth’s Atmosphere 2014

Previously in 2010 he published in Energy & Environment The Stable Stationary Value of the Earth’s Global Average Atmospheric Planck-Weighted Greenhouse-Gas Optical Thickness

Dr. Ferenc Mark Miskolczi

Update May 18

Robin Pittwood has done an analysis confirming that recent global warming has been matched by increasing outgoing longwave radiation, such that the equilibrium point has remained stable.  His money graph is this one:

This finding is consistent with Miskolczi’s finding that the atmospheric heat engine adjusts to changes so that energy balance is maintained.  There is more at KiwiThinker: An Empirical Look at Recent Trends in the Greenhouse Effect

Climate Reductionism


Reductionists are those who take one theory or phenomenon to be reducible to some other theory or phenomenon. For example, a reductionist regarding mathematics might take any given mathematical theory to be reducible to logic or set theory. Or, a reductionist about biological entities like cells might take such entities to be reducible to collections of physico-chemical entities like atoms and molecules.
Definition from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Some of you may have seen this recent article: Divided Colorado: A Sister And Brother Disagree On Climate Change

The reporter describes a familiar story to many of us.  A single skeptic (the brother) is holding out against his sister and rest of the family who accept global warming/climate change. And of course, after putting some of their interchanges into the text, the reporter then sides against the brother by taking the word of a climate expert. From the article:

“CO2 absorbs infrared heat in certain wavelengths and those measurements were made first time — published — when Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States,” says Scott Denning, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University. “Since that time, those measurements have been repeated by better and better instruments around the world.”

CO2, or carbon dioxide, has increased over time, scientists say, because of human activity. It’s a greenhouse gas that’s contributing to global warming.

“We know precisely how the molecule wiggles and waggles, and what the quantum interactions between the electrons are that cause everyone one of these little absorption lines,” he says. “And there’s just no wiggle room around it — CO2 absorbs heat, heat warms things up, so adding CO2 to the atmosphere will warm the climate.”

Denning says that most of the CO2 we see added to the atmosphere comes from humans — mostly through burning coal, oil and gas, which, as he puts it, is “indirectly caused by us.”

When looking at the scientific community, Denning says it’s united, as far as he knows.

A Case Study of Climate Reductionism

Denning’s comments, supported by several presentations at his website demonstrate how some scientists (all those known to Denning) engage in a classic form of reductionism.

The full complexity of earth’s climate includes many processes, some poorly understood, but known to have effects orders of magnitude greater than the potential of CO2 warming. The case for global warming alarm rests on simplifying away everything but the predetermined notion that humans are warming the planet. It goes like this:

Our Complex Climate

Earth’s climate is probably the most complicated natural phenomenon ever studied. Not only are there many processes, but they also interact and influence each other over various timescales, causing lagged effects and multiple cycling. This diagram illustrates some of the climate elements and interactions between them.

Flows and Feedbacks for Climate Models

The Many Climate Dimensions

Further, measuring changes in the climate goes far beyond temperature as a metric. Global climate indices, like the European dataset include 12 climate dimensions with 74 tracking measures. The set of climate dimensions include:

  • Sunshine
  • Pressure
  • Humidity
  • Cloudiness
  • Wind
  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Drought
  • Temperature
  • Heat
  • Cold

And in addition there are compound measures combining temperature and precipitation. While temperature is important, climate is much more than that.  With this reduction, all other dimensions are swept aside, and climate change is simplified down to global warming as seen in temperature measurements.

Climate Thermodynamics: Weather is the Climate System at work.

Another distortion is the notion that weather is bad or good, depending on humans finding it favorable. In fact, all that we call weather are the ocean and atmosphere acting to resolve differences in temperatures, humidities and pressures. It is the natural result of a rotating, irregular planetary surface mostly covered with water and illuminated mostly at its equator.

The sun warms the surface, but the heat escapes very quickly by convection so the build-up of heat near the surface is limited. In an incompressible atmosphere, it would *all* escape, and you’d get no surface warming. But because air is compressible, and because gases warm up when they’re compressed and cool down when allowed to expand, air circulating vertically by convection will warm and cool at a certain rate due to the changing atmospheric pressure.

Climate science has been obsessed with only a part of the system, namely the atmosphere and radiation, in order to focus attention on the non-condensing IR active gases. The climate is framed as a 3D atmosphere above a 2D surface. That narrow scope leaves out the powerful non-radiative heat transfer mechanisms that dominate the lower troposphere, and the vast reservoir of thermal energy deep in the oceans.

As Dr. Robert E Stevenson writes, it could have been different:

“As an oceanographer, I’d been around the world, once or twice, and I was rather convinced that I knew the factors that influenced the Earth’s climate. The oceans, by virtue of their enormous density and heat-storage capacity, are the dominant influence on our climate. It is the heat budget and the energy that flows into and out of the oceans that basically determines the mean temperature of the global atmosphere. These interactions, plus evaporation, are quite capable of canceling the slight effect of man-produced CO2.”

The troposphere is dominated by powerful heat transfer mechanisms: conduction, convection and evaporation, as well as physical kinetic movements.  All this is ignored in order to focus on radiative heat transfer, a bit player except at the top of the atmosphere.

There’s More than the Atmosphere

Once the world of climate is greatly reduced down to radiation of infrared frequencies, yet another set of blinders is applied. The most important source of radiation is of course the sun. Solar radiation in the short wave (SW) range is what we see and what heats up the earth’s surface, particularly the oceans. In addition solar radiation includes infrared, some absorbed in the atmosphere and some at the surface. The ocean is also a major source of heat into the atmosphere since its thermal capacity is 1000 times what the air can hold. The heat transfer from ocean to air is both by way of evaporation (latent heat) and also by direct contact at the sea surface (conduction).

Yet conventional climate science dismisses the sun as a climate factor saying that its climate input is unvarying. That ignores significant fluctuations in parts of the light range, for example ultraviolet, and also solar effects such as magnetic fields and cosmic rays. Also disregarded is solar energy varying due to cloud fluctuations. The ocean is also dismissed as a source of climate change despite obvious ocean warming and cooling cycles ranging from weeks to centuries. The problem is such oscillations are not well understood or predictable, so can not be easily modeled.

With the sun and the earth’s surface and ocean dismissed, the only consideration left is the atmosphere.

The Gorilla Greenhouse Gas

Thus climate has been reduced down to heat radiation passing through the atmosphere comprised of gases. One of the biggest reductions then comes from focusing on CO2 rather than H20. Of all the gases that are IR-active, water is the most prevalent and covers more of the spectrum.

The diagram below gives you the sense of proportion.

The Role of CO2

We come now to the role of CO2 in “trapping heat” and making the world warmer. The theory is that CO2 acts like a blanket by absorbing and re-radiating heat that would otherwise escape into space. By delaying the cooling while solar energy comes in constantly, CO2 is presumed to cause a buildup of heat resulting in warmer temperatures.

How the Atmosphere Processes Heat

There are 3 ways that heat (Infrared or IR radiation) passes from the surface to space.

1) A small amount of the radiation leaves directly, because all gases in our air are transparent to IR of 10-14 microns (sometimes called the “atmospheric window.” This pathway moves at the speed of light, so no delay of cooling occurs.

2) Some radiation is absorbed and re-emitted by IR active gases up to the tropopause. Calculations of the free mean path for CO2 show that energy passes from surface to tropopause in less than 5 milliseconds. This is almost speed of light, so delay is negligible. H2O is so variable across the globe that its total effects are not measurable. In arid places, like deserts, we see that CO2 by itself does not prevent the loss of the day’s heat after sundown.

3) The bulk gases of the atmosphere, O2 and N2, are warmed by conduction and convection from the surface. They also gain energy by collisions with IR active gases, some of that IR coming from the surface, and some absorbed directly from the sun. Latent heat from water is also added to the bulk gases. O2 and N2 are slow to shed this heat, and indeed must pass it back to IR active gases at the top of the troposphere for radiation into space.

In a parcel of air each molecule of CO2 is surrounded by 2500 other molecules, mostly O2 and N2. In the lower atmosphere, the air is dense and CO2 molecules energized by IR lose it to surrounding gases, slightly warming the entire parcel. Higher in the atmosphere, the air is thinner, and CO2 molecules can emit IR into space. Surrounding gases resupply CO2 with the energy it lost, which leads to further heat loss into space.

This third pathway has a significant delay of cooling, and is the reason for our mild surface temperature, averaging about 15C. Yes, earth’s atmosphere produces a buildup of heat at the surface. The bulk gases, O2 and N2, trap heat near the surface, while IR active gases, mainly H20 and CO2, provide the radiative cooling at the top of the atmosphere. Near the top of the atmosphere you will find the -18C temperature.

Sources of CO2

Note the size of the human emissions next to the red arrow.

A final reduction comes down to how much of the CO2 in the atmosphere is there because of us. Alarmists/activists say any increase in CO2 is 100% man-made, and would be more were it not for natural CO2 sinks, namely the ocean and biosphere. The claim overlooks the fact that those sinks are also sources of CO2 and the flux from the land and sea is an order of magnitude higher than estimates of human emissions. In fact, our few Gigatons of carbon are lost within the error range of estimating natural emissions. Insects produce far more CO2 than humans do by all our activity, including domestic animals.

Why Climate Reductionism is Dangerous

Reducing the climate in this fashion reaches its logical conclusion in the Activist notion of the “450 Scenario.”  Since Cancun, IPCC is asserting that global warming is capped at 2C by keeping CO2 concentration below 450 ppm. From Summary for Policymakers (SPM) AR5

Emissions scenarios leading to CO2-equivalent concentrations in 2100 of about 450 ppm or lower are likely to maintain warming below 2°C over the 21st century relative to pre-industrial levels. These scenarios are characterized by 40 to 70% global anthropogenic GHG emissions reductions by 2050 compared to 2010, and emissions levels near zero or below in 2100.

Thus is born the “450 Scenario” by which governments can be focused upon reducing human emissions without any reference to temperature measurements, which are troublesome and inconvenient. Almost everything in the climate world has been erased, and “Fighting Climate Change” is now code to mean accounting for fossil fuel emissions.

Conclusion

All propagandists begin with a kernel of truth, in this case the fact everything acting in the world has an effect on everything else. Edward Lorenz brought this insight to bear on the climate system in a ground breaking paper he presented in 1972 entitled: “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?”  Everything does matter and has an effect. Obviously humans impact on the climate in places where we build cities and dams, clear forests and operate farms. And obviously we add some CO2 when we burn fossil fuels.

But it is wrong to ignore the major dominant climate realities in order to exaggerate a small peripheral factor for the sake of an agenda. It is wrong to claim that IR active gases somehow “trap” heat in the air when they immediately emit any energy absorbed, if not already lost colliding with another molecule. No, it is the bulk gases, N2 and O2, making up the mass of the atmosphere, together with the ocean delaying the cooling and giving us the mild and remarkably stable temperatures that we enjoy. And CO2 does its job by radiating the heat into space.

Since we do little to cause it, we can’t fix it by changing what we do. The climate will not stop changing because we put a price on carbon. And the sun will rise despite the cock going on strike to protest global warming.

Footnote: For a deeper understanding of the atmospheric physics relating to CO2 and climate, I have done a guide and synopsis of Murry Salby’s latest textbook on the subject:  Fearless Physics from Dr. Salby

Climate Confusion and Clarity

Christelle Lagace-Babim, left, and Elise Lagace walk along Rue Jacques-Cartier Friday, after checking out their home in Gatineau, Que., as significant rainfall continues to cause flooding. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

A lot of verbage about global warming/climate change is worse than useless because the parties are using terms whose meaning is vague or equivocal, and thus no meaningful interaction occurs. Alarmists/activists claim climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous (Obama tweet). Skeptics/doubters respond that climate is always changing, has been both warmer and cooler in the past, long before humans did anything.

In addition, climate confusion causes statements like this one recently in the CBC: Gatineau flooding ‘tip of the iceberg,’ climate scientist warns

Swollen rivers and streams have threatened hundreds of homes in the Outaouais thanks to recent heavy rainfall — three times the normal amount since April 1.

University of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith says that’s due to a changing climate, and says we’re seeing its effects “on a day-to-day basis” in weather patterns.

Beckwith points to an increase in extreme weather events across North America as proof. “We’ve changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans with our greenhouse gases, so we’re seeing the consequences of this now,” he added. “It’s only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.”

Such reports mislead people to think of the climate acting like some kind of agent causing the weather to change in ways unfavorable to us. That confuses the relation between climate and weather, as we shall see below.

What is “Weather”?

Fortunately in science things get defined not theoretically but by observations and measurements. In science, weather is defined as the behavior we measure on a daily basis. In fact today’s automated weather equipment monitors the weather constantly. Let us consider an operational definition of weather to be the variables for which data is reported into global databases.

Each National Weather Service has its own additional particulars they track, but the common global definition of weather can be seen in the defined elements from the ECA&D weather data dictionary (European Climate Assessment & Dataset)

Weather Measurement Elements

What is weather: Eight variables are measured globally–Sunshine, Sea Level Pressure, Humidity, Cloud cover, Wind, Precipitation, Snow Depth, Temperature. With multiple measures of some variables, weather datasets consist of 13 common elements.

Sunshine (SS) in units of 0.1 hour. Total daily SS plus measures of hours for intervals during the day.

Sea Level Pressure (PP) in units of 0.1hPa Daily average PP plus measures for specific times and parts of the day.

Humidity (HU) in units of 1% of relative humidity. Daily average HU plus measures for specific times and parts of the day.

Cloud Cover (CC) in oktas (0 being clear sky, 8 being completely overcast). Daily average CC plus measures for specific times and parts of the day.

Wind Direction (DD) in degrees azimuth for the wind source (that is, a southerly wind comes from 180 degrees.) Daily average DD plus measures for different times of day, and the direction of maximum gust.

Wind Speed (FG) in units of 0.1 m/s. Daily average FG plus measures for speeds at different times and parts of the day.

Wind Gust (FX) in units of 0.1m/s.  Daily average FX (24 hourly gusts) plus measures for maximums of different durations. (2 to 15 minutes).

Precipitation Amount (RR) in units of 0.1 mm. Daily total RR plus measures of amounts for intervals during the day.

Maximum Hourly Precipitation (MXR) in units of 0.1 mm. MXR for the day plus measures of amounts for intervals during the day.

Snow Depth (SD) in units of 1 cm. Mean daily SD plus measures of depths for intervals during the day.

Mean Temperature (TG) in units of 0.1C. Daily TG plus measures of various ways of calculating TG.

Minimum Temperature (TN) in units of 0.1C. Daily TN plus measures for different times and parts of the day.

Maximum Temperature (TX) in units of 0.1C. Daily TX plus measures for different times and parts of the day.

What is “Climate”?

Change in Frequency of Frost Days in Europe in the Period 1976-2006

To sort out the confusion between “weather” and “climate”, we can also look at how climate is measured and thereby defined. From the same ECA&D source is a climate indices database which is termed Indices of Extremes.

There is one datafile for each index. Each datafile gives information for all available stations in the ECA&D database. The indices are aggregated over the year, the winter-half (ONDJFM), the summer-half (AMJJAS), winter (DJF), spring (MAM), summer (JJA), autumn (SON) and each of the calendar months.

There are 74 indices grouped into twelve categories corresponding with different aspects of climate change. Some categories come directly from weather elements, while others are derivations.

The 74 indices are statistics built upon weather data, adding patterns of interest to humans. For example, temperature is greatly emphasized by adding various concerns with heat and cold on top of temperature records. Also, a compound category focuses on temperature and precipitation combinations and their favorability to humans.

What is Climate: Categories and Indices

 

Note that climate is operationally defined as statistical patterns of weather data. Some indices are simply averages of daily weather over long term periods. By convention, a 30-year average is used to define a climate baseline for a location.

Other climate indices are based on value judgments according to human interests. For example, heat and cold include many examples like growing days, good tourism days, heating degree days. In fact, a feature of climate is the imposition of human expectations upon nature, other examples being the sunshine indices Mostly Sunny and Mostly Cloudy days.

Andrew John Herbertson, a British geographer and Professor at Oxford, wrote in a textbook from 1901:

By climate we mean the average weather as ascertained by many years’ observations. Climate also takes into account the extreme weather experienced during that period. Climate is what on an average we may expect, weather is what we actually get.

Mark Twain, who is often credited with that last sentence, actually said:

Climate lasts all the time and weather only a few days.

The point is, weather consists of events occurring in real time, while climate is a statistical artifact. Weather is like a baseball player swinging in the batter’s box, climate is his batting average, RBIs, bases on balls, etc.

What is “Climate Change”?

The usefulness of climate indices is suggested by the last category called compound, where temperature and precipitation patterns are combined. In fact those two factors are sufficient to define distinctive local climate zones..

Based on empirical observations, Köppen (1900) established a climate classification system which uses monthly temperature and precipitation to define boundaries of different climate types around the world. Since its inception, this system has been further developed (e.g. Köppen and Geiger, 1930; Stern et al., 2000) and widely used by geographers and climatologists around the world.

 

Köppen climate zones as they appear in the 21st Century.

As an example, consider how the island of Hawaii looks with its climate zones indicated:

Note: This image comes from an interactive tool and uses a different color scheme than the global map above.  The table below shows the thresholds by which zones are defined.

Zones Zones Description Thresholds
A Tropical climates Tmin ≥ +18 °C
Af Tropical rain forest Pmin ≥ 60 mm
Am Tropical monsoon Pann ≥ 25(100 – Pmin) mm
As Tropical savannah with dry summer Pmin < 60 mm in summer
Aw Tropical savannah with dry winter Pmin < 60 mm in winter
B Dry climates Pann < 10 Pth
BW Desert (arid) Pann ≤ 5 Pth
BS Steppe (semi-arid) Pann > 5 Pth
C Mild temperate -3 °C < Tmin < +18 °C
Cs Mild temperate with dry summer Psmin < Pwmin, Pwmax > 3 Psmin, Psmin < 40 mm
Cw Mild temperate with dry winter Psmax > 10 Pwmin, Pwmin < Psmin
Cf Mild temperate, fully humid Not Cs or Cw
D Snow Tmin ≤ -3 °C
Ds Snow with dry summer Psmin < Pwmin, Pwmax > 3 Psmin, Psmin < 40 mm
Dw Snow with dry winter Psmax > 10 Pwmin, Pwmin < Psmin
Df Snow, fully humid Not Ds or Dw
E Polar Tmax < +10 °C
ET Tundra Tmax ≥ 0 °C
EF Frost Tmax < 0 °C

Köppen and Climate Change

The focus is on differentiating vegetation regimes, which result primarily from variations in temperature and precipitation over the seasons of the year. Now we have an interesting study that considers shifts in Köppen climate zones over time in order to identify changes in climate as practical and local/regional realities.  The paper is: Using the Köppen classification to quantify climate variation and change: An example for 1901–2010 By Deliang Chen and Hans Weiteng Chen Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Hans Chen has built an excellent interactive website (here): The purpose of this website is to share information about the Köppen climate classification, and provide data and high-resolution figures from the paper Chen and Chen, 2013:  For more details on Chen and Chen see the post: Data vs. Models 4: Climates Changing

Summary:  Climate Change Defined

Chen and Chen provide a data-based definition of “climate change”. Climate zones are defined by past temperature and precipitation ranges observed by humans. The weather datasets and climate indices inform us whether or not the patterns in a place are moving outside the norm for that location. Climate change appears as a shift in zonal boundaries so that one place starts to resemble a neighboring zone with a different classification.  The table above shows the defined zones and thresholds.

The Chen and Chen analysis shows that almost half of climates around the world will get a year of weather outside of their normal ranges. Getting a decade of abnormal weather is much rarer. True climate change would be a shift enduring over a 30 year period which has been observed in less than 10% of all climate zones.

Summary: The Myth of “Global” Climate Change

Climate is a term to describe a local or regional pattern of weather. There is a widely accepted system of classifying climates, based largely on distinctive seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation. Depending on how precisely you apply the criteria, there can be from 6 to 13 distinct zones just in South Africa, or 8 to 11 zones only in Hawaii.

Each climate over time experiences shifts toward warming or cooling, and wetter or drier periods. One example: Fully a third of US stations showed cooling since 1950 while the others warmed. It is nonsense to average all of that and call it “Global Warming” because the net is slightly positive. Only in the fevered imaginations of CO2 activists do all of these diverse places move together in a single march toward global warming.

For more on measurements and science see Data, Facts and Information

Footnote:

This post was focused on the distinction between weather and climate, so extreme weather events were not discussed, since by definition such events are weather. Still the quote at the beginning shows that activists are working hard to attribute attention-grabbing events as proof of global warming/climate change.

Mike Hulme wrote a series of articles describing the unsuccessful effort to link extreme weather to climate change and said this:
In recent decades the meaning of climate change in popular western discourse has changed from being a descriptive index of a change in climate (as in ‘evidence that a climatic change has occurred’) to becoming an independent causative agent (as in ‘climate change caused this event to happen’). Rather than being a descriptive outcome of a chain of causal events affecting how weather is generated, climate change has been granted power to change worlds: political and social worlds as much as physical and ecological ones.

More at X-Weathermen are Back 

Climate Chaos

 

Foucault’s pendulum in the Panthéon, Paris

h/t tom0mason for inspiring this post, including his comment below

The Pendulum is Settled Science

I attended North Phoenix High School (Go Mustangs!) where students took their required physics class from a wild and crazy guy. Decades later alumni who don’t remember his name still reminisce about “the crazy science teacher with the bowling ball.”

To demonstrate the law of conservation of energy, he required each and every student to stand on a ladder in one corner of the classroom. Attached to a hook in the center of the rather high ceiling was a rope with a bowling ball on the other end. The student held the ball to his/her nose and then released it, being careful to hold still afterwards.

The 16 pound ball traveled majestically diagonally across the room and equally impressively returned along the same path. The proof of concept was established when the ball stopped before hitting your nose (though not by much).  In those days we learned to trust science and didn’t need to go out marching to signal some abstract virtue.

The equations for pendulums are centuries old and can predict the position of the ball at any point in time based on the mass of the object, length of the rope and starting position.

Pictured above is the currently operating Foucault pendulum that exactly follows these equations. While it had long been known that the Earth rotates, the introduction of the Foucault pendulum in 1851 was the first simple proof of the rotation in an easy-to-see experiment. Today, Foucault pendulums are popular displays in science museums and universities.

What About the Double Pendulum?

Trajectories of a double pendulum

Just today a comment by tom0mason at alerted me to the science demonstrated by the double compound pendulum, that is, a second pendulum attached to the ball of the first one. It consists entirely of two simple objects functioning as pendulums, only now each is influenced by the behavior of the other.

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

Long exposure of double pendulum exhibiting chaotic motion (tracked with an LED)

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

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

And What about the Climate?

This is a simple example of chaotic motion and its unpredictability. How predictable is our climate with so many variables and feedbacks, some known some unknown? Consider that this planet’s weather/climate system is chaotic in nature with many thousands (millions?) of loosely coupled variables and dependencies, and many of these variables have very complex feedback features within them.

Hurricane Gladys, photographed from orbit by Apollo 7 in 1968 (Photo: NASA)

Summary

To quote the IPCC:

The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible. Rather the focus must be upon the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions.

A recent National Review article draws the implications:
The range of predicted future warming is enormous — apocalyptism is unwarranted.

But as the IPCC emphasizes, the range for future projections remains enormous. The central question is “climate sensitivity” — the amount of warming that accompanies a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As of its Fifth Assessment Report in 2013, the IPCC could estimate only that this sensitivity is somewhere between 1.5 and 4.5°C. Nor is science narrowing that range. The 2013 assessment actually widened it on the low end, from a 2.0–4.5°C range in the prior assessment. And remember, for any specific level of warming, forecasts vary widely on the subsequent environmental and economic implications.

For now, though, navigating the climate debate will require translating the phrase “climate denier” to mean “anyone unsympathetic to the most aggressive activists’ claims.” This apparently includes anyone who acknowledges meaningful uncertainty in climate models, adopts a less-than-catastrophic outlook about the consequences of future warming, or opposes any facet of the activist policy agenda. The activists will be identifiable as the small group continuing to shout “Denier!” The “deniers” will be identifiable as everyone else.

Update May 2

Esteemed climate scientist Richard Lindzen ends a very fine recent presentation (here) with this description of the climate system:

I haven’t spent much time on the details of the science, but there is one thing that should spark skepticism in any intelligent reader. The system we are looking at consists in two turbulent fluids interacting with each other. They are on a rotating planet that is differentially heated by the sun. A vital constituent of the atmospheric component is water in the liquid, solid and vapor phases, and the changes in phase have vast energetic ramifications. The energy budget of this system involves the absorption and reemission of about 200 watts per square meter. Doubling CO2 involves a 2% perturbation to this budget. So do minor changes in clouds and other features, and such changes are common. In this complex multifactor system, what is the likelihood of the climate (which, itself, consists in many variables and not just globally averaged temperature anomaly) is controlled by this 2% perturbation in a single variable? Believing this is pretty close to believing in magic. Instead, you are told that it is believing in ‘science.’ Such a claim should be a tip-off that something is amiss. After all, science is a mode of inquiry rather than a belief structure.

Flow Diagram for Climate Modeling, Showing Feedback Loops