USCS Warnings of Coastal Floodings

Be not Confused. USCS is not the US Coastal Service, but rather stands for the Union of Super Concerned Scientists, or UCS for short. Using their considerable PR skills and budgets, they have plastered warnings in the media targeting major coastal cities, designed to strike terror in anyone holding real estate in those places. Example headlines include:

Sea level rise could put thousands of homes in this SC county at risk, study says The State, South Carolina

Taxpayers in the Hamptons among the most exposed to rising seas Crain’s New York Business

Adapting to Climate Change Will Take More Than Just Seawalls and Levees Scientific American

The Biggest Threat Facing the City of Miami Smithsonian Magazine

What Does Maryland’s Gubernatorial Race Mean For Flood Management? The Real News Network

Study: Thousands of Palm Beach County homes impacted by sea-level rise WPTV, Florida

Sinking Land and Climate Change Are Worsening Tidal Floods on the Texas Coast Texas Observer

Sea Level Rise Will Threaten Thousands of California Homes Scientific American

300,000 coastal homes in US, worth $120 billion, at risk of chronic floods from rising seas USA Today

That last gets the thrust of the UCS study Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate (2018)

Sea levels are rising. Tides are inching higher. High-tide floods are becoming more frequent and reaching farther inland. And hundreds of US coastal communities will soon face chronic, disruptive flooding that directly affects people’s homes, lives, and properties.

Yet property values in most coastal real estate markets do not currently reflect this risk. And most homeowners, communities, and investors are not aware of the financial losses they may soon face.

This analysis looks at what’s at risk for US coastal real estate from sea level rise—and the challenges and choices we face now and in the decades to come.

The report and supporting documents give detailed dire warnings state by state, and even down to counties and townships. As example of the damage projections is this table estimating 2030 impacts:

State  Homes at Risk  Value at Risk Property Tax at Risk  Population in 
at-risk homes 
AL  3,542 $1,230,676,217 $5,918,124  4,367
CA  13,554 $10,312,366,952 $128,270,417  33,430
CT  2,540 $1,921,428,017 $29,273,072  5,690
DC  – $0 $0  –
DE  2,539 $127,620,700 $2,180,222  3,328
FL  20,999 $7,861,230,791 $101,267,251  32,341
GA  4,028 $1,379,638,946 $13,736,791  7,563
LA  26,336 $2,528,283,022 $20,251,201  63,773
MA  3,303 $2,018,914,670 $17,887,931  6,500
MD  8,381 $1,965,882,200 $16,808,488  13,808
ME  788 $330,580,830 $3,933,806  1,047
MS  918 $100,859,844 $1,392,059  1,932
NC  6,376 $1,449,186,258 $9,531,481  10,234
NH  1,034 $376,087,216 $5,129,494  1,659
NJ  26,651 $10,440,814,375 $162,755,196  35,773
NY  6,175 $3,646,706,494 $74,353,809  16,881
OR  677 $110,461,140 $990,850  1,277
PA  138 $18,199,572 $204,111  310
RI  419 $299,462,350 $3,842,996  793
SC  5,779 $2,882,357,415 $22,921,550  8,715
TX  5,505 $1,172,865,533 $19,453,940  9,802
VA  3,849 $838,437,710 $8,296,637  6,086
WA  3,691 $1,392,047,121 $13,440,420  7,320

The methodology, of course is climate models all the way down. They explain:

Three sea level rise scenarios, developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and localized for this analysis, are included:

  • A high scenario that assumes a continued rise in global carbon emissions and an increasing loss of land ice; global average sea level is projected to rise about 2 feet by 2045 and about 6.5 feet by 2100.
  • An intermediate scenario that assumes global carbon emissions rise through the middle of the century then begin to decline, and ice sheets melt at rates in line with historical observations; global average sea level is projected to rise about 1 foot by 2035 and about 4 feet by 2100.
  • A low scenario that assumes nations successfully limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (the goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement) and ice loss is limited; global average sea level is projected to rise about 1.6 feet by 2100.

Oh, and they did not forget the disclaimer:

Disclaimer
This research is intended to help individuals and communities appreciate when sea level rise may place existing coastal properties (aggregated by community) at risk of tidal flooding. It captures the current value and tax base contribution of those properties (also aggregated by community) and is not intended to project changes in those values, nor in the value of any specific property.

The projections herein are made to the best of our scientific knowledge and comport with our scientific and peer review standards. They are limited by a range of factors, including but not limited to the quality of property-level data, the resolution of coastal elevation models, the potential installment of defensive measures not captured by those models, and uncertainty around the future pace of sea level rise. More information on caveats and limitations can be found at http://www.ucsusa.org/underwater.

Neither the authors nor the Union of Concerned Scientists are responsible or liable for financial or reputational implications or damages to homeowners, insurers, investors, mortgage holders, municipalities, or other any entities. The content of this analysis should not be relied on to make business, real estate or other real world decisions without independent consultation with professional experts with relevant experience. The views expressed by individuals in the quoted text of this report do not represent an endorsement of the analysis or its results.

The need for a disclaimer becomes evident when looking into the details. The NOAA reference is GLOBAL AND REGIONAL SEA LEVEL RISE SCENARIOS FOR THE UNITED STATES NOAA Technical Report NOS CO-OPS 083

Since the text emphasizes four examples of their scenarios, let’s consider them here. First there is San Francisco, a city currently suing oil companies over sea level rise. From tidesandcurrents comes this tidal gauge record
It’s a solid, long-term record providing a century of measurements from 1900 through 2017.  The graph below compares the present observed trend with climate models projections out to 2100.

Since the record is set at zero in 2000, the difference in 21st century expectation is stark. Instead of  the existing trend out to around 20 cm, models project 2.5 meters rise by 2100.

New York City is represented by the Battery tidal gauge:
Again, a respectable record with a good 20th century coverage.  And the models say:
The red line projects 2500 mm rise vs. 284 mm, almost a factor of 10 more.  The divergence is evident even in the first 17 years.

Florida comes in for a lot of attention, especially the keys, so here is Key West:
A similar pattern to NYC Battery gauge, and here is the projection:
The pattern is established: Instead of a rise of about 30 cm, the models project 250 cm.

Finally, probably the worst case, and well-known to all already is Galveston, Texas:
The water has been rising there for a long time, so maybe the models got this one close.
The gap is less than the others since the rising trend is much higher, but the projection is still four times the past.  Galveston is at risk, all right, but we didn’t need this analysis to tell us that.

A previous post Unbelievable Climate Models goes into why they are running so hot and so extreme, and why they can not be trusted.

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Unbelievable Climate Models

It is not just you thinking the world is not warming the way climate models predicted. The models are flawed, and their estimates of the climate’s future response to rising CO2 are way too hot. Yet these overcooked forecasts are the basis for policy makers to consider all kinds of climate impacts, from sea level rise to food production and outbreaks of Acne.

The models’ outputs are contradicted by the instrumental temperature records. So a choice must be made: Shall we rely on measurements of our past climate experience, or embrace the much warmer future envisioned by these models?

Ross McKitrick takes us through this fundamental issue in his Financial Post article All those warming-climate predictions suddenly have a big, new problem Excerpts below with my bolds, headers and images

Why ECS is Important

One of the most important numbers in the world goes by the catchy title of Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity, or ECS. It is a measure of how much the climate responds to greenhouse gases. More formally, it is defined as the increase, in degrees Celsius, of average temperatures around the world, after doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and allowing the atmosphere and the oceans to adjust fully to the change. The reason it’s important is that it is the ultimate justification for governmental policies to fight climate change.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says ECS is likely between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius, but it can’t be more precise than that. Which is too bad, because an enormous amount of public policy depends on its value. People who study the impacts of global warming have found that if ECS is low — say, less than two — then the impacts of global warming on the economy will be mostly small and, in many places, mildly beneficial. If it is very low, for instance around one, it means greenhouse gas emissions are simply not worth doing anything about. But if ECS is high — say, around four degrees or more — then climate change is probably a big problem. We may not be able to stop it, but we’d better get ready to adapt to it.

So, somebody, somewhere, ought to measure ECS. As it turns out, a lot of people have been trying, and what they have found has enormous policy implications.

The violins span 5–95% ranges; their widths indicate how PDF values vary with ECS. Black lines show medians, red lines span 17–83% ‘likely’ ranges. Published estimates based directly on observed warming are shown in blue. Unpublished estimates of mine based on warming attributable to greenhouse gases inferred by two recent detection and attribution studies are shown in green. CMIP5 models are shown in salmon. The observational ECS estimates have broadly similar medians and ‘likely’ ranges, all of which are far below the corresponding values for the CMIP5 models. Source: Nic Lewis at Climate Audit https://climateaudit.org/2015/04/13/pitfalls-in-climate-sensitivity-estimation-part-2/

Methods Matter

To understand why, we first need to delve into the methodology a bit. There are two ways scientists try to estimate ECS. The first is to use a climate model, double the modeled CO2 concentration from the pre-industrial level, and let it run until temperatures stabilize a few hundred years into the future. This approach, called the model-based method, depends for its accuracy on the validity of the climate model, and since models differ quite a bit from one another, it yields a wide range of possible answers. A well-known statistical distribution derived from modeling studies summarizes the uncertainties in this method. It shows that ECS is probably between two and 4.5 degrees, possibly as low as 1.5 but not lower, and possibly as high as nine degrees. This range of potential warming is very influential on economic analyses of the costs of climate change.***

The second method is to use long-term historical data on temperatures, solar activity, carbon-dioxide emissions and atmospheric chemistry to estimate ECS using a simple statistical model derived by applying the law of conservation of energy to the planetary atmosphere. This is called the Energy Balance method. It relies on some extrapolation to satisfy the definition of ECS but has the advantage of taking account of the available data showing how the actual atmosphere has behaved over the past 150 years.

The surprising thing is that the Energy Balance estimates are very low compared to model-based estimates. The accompanying chart compares the model-based range to ECS estimates from a dozen Energy Balance studies over the past decade. Clearly these two methods give differing answers, and the question of which one is more accurate is important.

Weak Defenses for Models Discrepancies

Climate modelers have put forward two explanations for the discrepancy. One is called the “emergent constraint” approach. The idea is that models yield a range of ECS values, and while we can’t measure ECS directly, the models also yield estimates of a lot of other things that we can measure (such as the reflectivity of cloud tops), so we could compare those other measures to the data, and when we do, sometimes the models with high ECS values also yield measures of secondary things that fit the data better than models with low ECS values.

This argument has been a bit of a tough sell, since the correlations involved are often weak, and it doesn’t explain why the Energy Balance results are so low.

The second approach is based on so-called “forcing efficacies,” which is the concept that climate forcings, such as greenhouse gases and aerosol pollutants, differ in their effectiveness over time and space, and if these variations are taken into account the Energy Balance sensitivity estimates may come out higher. This, too, has been a controversial suggestion.

Challenges to Oversensitive Models

A recent Energy Balance ECS estimate was just published in the Journal of Climate by Nicholas Lewis and Judith Curry. There are several features that make their study especially valuable. First, they rely on IPCC estimates of greenhouse gases, solar changes and other climate forcings, so they can’t be accused of putting a finger on the scale by their choice of data. Second, they take into account the efficacy issue and discuss it at length. They also take into account recent debates about how surface temperatures should or shouldn’t be measured, and how to deal with areas like the Arctic where data are sparse. Third, they compute their estimates over a variety of start and end dates to check that their ECS estimate is not dependent on the relative warming hiatus of the past two decades.

Their ECS estimate is 1.5 degrees, with a probability range between 1.05 and 2.45 degrees. If the study was a one-time outlier we might be able to ignore it. But it is part of a long list of studies from independent teams (as this interactive graphic shows), using a variety of methods that take account of critical challenges, all of which conclude that climate models exhibit too much sensitivity to greenhouse gases.

Change the Sensitivity, Change the Future

Policy-makers need to pay attention, because this debate directly impacts the carbon-tax discussion.

The Environmental Protection Agency uses social cost of carbon models that rely on the model-based ECS estimates. Last year, two colleagues and I published a study in which we took an earlier Lewis and Curry ECS estimate and plugged it into two of those models. The result was that the estimated economic damages of greenhouse gas emissions fell by between 40 and 80 per cent, and in the case of one model the damages had a 40 per cent probability of being negative for the next few decades — that is, they would be beneficial changes. The new Lewis and Curry ECS estimate is even lower than their old one, so if we re-did the same study we would find even lower social costs of carbon.

Conclusion

If ECS is as low as the Energy Balance literature suggests, it means that the climate models we have been using for decades run too hot and need to be revised. It also means that greenhouse gas emissions do not have as big an impact on the climate as has been claimed, and the case for costly policy measures to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions is much weaker than governments have told us. For a science that was supposedly “settled” back in the early 1990s, we sure have a lot left to learn.

Ross McKitrick is professor of economics at the University of Guelph and senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.

UK Farmers Foot Climate Bill

The Farmer’s Weekly advises UK farmers: Don’t miss out on climate change tax discounts Excerpts below with my bolds.

 

 

The NFU has warned farmers they face rises in climate change taxes unless they register for a discount scheme before the 31 July deadline.

The Climate Change Levy (CCL) is a tax charged on gas, electricity, LPG, coal and coke used by UK businesses.

In April 2019, CCL rates levied on energy bills will increase by about 3% for electricity and 7% for gas for any businesses that do not register for a discounted rate under an NFU scheme.

Under the CCL scheme, eligible businesses can receive a discount in return for meeting energy-efficiency or carbon-saving targets. Achieving these targets will enable the business to receive a discount until March 2023, the NFU says.

The NFU CCL scheme gives up to 93% levy reductions on electricity and 78% on gas to qualifying businesses in the pig, poultry and protected horticulture sectors. It is therefore imperative to sign up to the scheme before the deadline of 31 July, the union warns.

Example of annual CCL savings for poultry farm using 350,000 kWh of import electricity and 45,000 litres of LPG

Year Non-member pays CCL member pays Member saving
2012-13 £3,615.50 £1,265.43 £2,350.08
2017-18 £4,608.10 £605.71 £4,002.39
2019-20 £6,907.75 £630.36 £6,277.40

More Good News: Ontario Reversing Carbon Tokenism

The story comes from Bloomberg, where they regard the event as lamentable: Ontario Scraps Carbon-Reduction Plan as It Expands Elsewhere.  Excerpts below with my bolds.

Ontario will scrap the province’s cap-and-trade program and pull out of the carbon-trading market with Quebec and California even as pollution pricing expands in other regions of the world.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives will follow through on a campaign promise to withdraw from the environmental program that required companies to buy credits to offset pollution blamed for global warming. Premier-designate Doug Ford also said he will challenge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s authority to make local governments put a price on greenhouse-gas emissions.

The move comes as carbon-pricing programs are expanding in the U.S. even as President Donald Trump seeks to ease restrictions on coal companies. Europe already has a large regional cap-and-trade system while China, the world’s biggest polluter, has committed to a national pollution program that could open by 2020.

Ontario’s election results were largely priced into California’s carbon market. Despite Friday’s announcement, emitters in Ontario remain obligated to manage their carbon pollution until the province formally withdraws from the system, said John Battaglia, head of carbon markets at BGC Environmental Brokerage Services LP.

“The market is stable here,” Battaglia said in an interview. “We expect a bit of short-term volatility, but long term, the show will go on.” (Comment:  It is all about the show, isn’t it?)

Ontario’s PCs will be sworn in June 29 after defeating the Liberals in an election earlier this month. Ending what Ford called a job-killing carbon tax was one of his major commitments during the campaign. Ontario will also quit the Western Climate Initiative, Ford said Friday from Toronto.

Trudeau Plan

Eliminating the carbon tax and cap-and-trade is the right thing to do and is a key component in our plan to bring your gas prices down by 10 cents per liter,” Ford said in a statement.

But the move may not spare Ontario from a carbon price. Trudeau’s government is bringing in carbon pricing rules to cover all provinces and a “backstop” for local governments that don’t come up with their own plans this year.

“Ontario is going to still have an obligation under the federal architecture and the cost of meeting that obligation could be higher,” said Dallas Burtraw, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future. “The costs of the cap-and-trade program are small on retail gasoline rates.”

Another wheel comes off the Ontario Green Energy bus.

Frackingphobia: Facts vs. Fears

Hydraulic fracturing (AKA “fracking”) is in the news every day, and often in a disparaging way, despite the great benefits bestowed on nations applying the process, especially the US.

On a recent river cruise I found myself at a table with a couple from California, and the woman began spouting about the dangers and horribleness of fracking. My civility censor was suppressed by the wine I’d consumed, and I interrupted to say she was talking Bullshit. She halted, then asked her husband, a retired geologist, to comment, and he stated that fracking is a risky business. The geologist husband did not present any evidence for his view, IMO he was only speaking to support his spouse. I said I respected his opinion but still disagreed. The next day I apologized for my rudeness but said I still think she has been misled. We shared a congenial dinner later on, but avoided the subject.

The experience revealed I had been unprepared to engage on the details of the fracking issue. So this post is to summarize some research to assemble persuasive facts and resources to counter the fear mongering on this subject.

1.Obama’s EPA Found Fracking Has Not Contaminated Drinking Water

(Source: EPA Has Not Actually Changed Its Conclusion On Risks Of Fracking To Drinking Water by Robert Rapier for Forbes) Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

First, let me provide a bit of background on hydraulic fracturing. I find that most people who are against fracking don’t actually know what it is. The EPA report goes out of its way to blur the lines as well by lumping it all into “activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.” By doing this, if a guy driving a truck filled with fracking chemicals has a wreck, it’s a “fracking issue.” So let’s define some terms.

Hydraulic fracturing has been around since the late 1940s, and has now been used in the U.S. more than a million times to increase production from oil and gas wells. Fracking involves pumping water, chemicals and a proppant down an oil or gas well under high pressure to break open channels (fractures) in the reservoir rock trapping the deposit. Oil and gas do not travel easily through these some formations, which is why they need to be fractured. The proppant is a granular material (usually sand) designed to hold those channels open, allowing the oil (or natural gas) to flow to the well bore.
While fracking has been around for decades, two developments in recent years are responsible for thrusting the technique into the public eye. The first is the fairly recent development in which fracking was combined with horizontal drilling, another common technique used in the oil and gas industry.

Like fracking, horizontal drilling was invented decades ago, and has been widely used in the oil and gas industry since the 1980s. As its name implies, horizontal drilling involves drilling down to an oil or gas deposit and then turning the drill horizontal to the formation to access a greater fraction of the deposit.

The marriage of these two techniques of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling enabled the shale oil and gas boom in the U.S.

But the second development is what primarily thrust the technique(s) into the public spotlight. Some of the shale oil and gas formations are in areas that had never experienced significant fossil fuel development. Many locals resented this intrusion into their lives, and anti-fracking sentiments fed into a great deal of misinformation around the technique.

The movie Gasland is a perfect example. Director Josh Fox, whose family farm lies atop the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, relied on misinformation and appeals to emotion instead of scientific data. Nevertheless, it was embraced by anti-fracking activists, and many who had never heard of fracking became convinced the technique was regularly polluting water supplies.

The concern among anti-fracking activists was that the fractures that allowed oil and gas to reach the well bore could also allow oil, gas, and chemicals to seep into the water supplies. But the reason this is a remote possibility is that a mile or more of rock will separate an oil and gas formation that is being fractured and an underground water resource. The fractures themselves extend for a few hundred feet, thus unsurprisingly there has never been a proven case where chemicals migrated from a fracked zone into water supplies.

That hasn’t stopped some from claiming that fracking has contaminated water supplies. However, those cases have always been a result of some activity peripheral to fracking. For example, if a well is improperly cemented it can leak. That in fact has happened, leading to the charge that “fracking contaminated the water.” There is an important distinction, however, and that is that this is not a result of the fracking process. A well may leak regardless of whether it was fracked. But activists (and now the EPA) seem bent on blurring the lines to the greatest extent possible by lumping lots of peripheral activities into the “fracking process.”

In 2010, Congress asked the EPA to investigate the safety of fracking. In 2015, the EPA issued a draft report. The bombshell statement from that report was that there was no evidence that fracking had “led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” This report was cheered by the fossil fuel industry, but caused a backlash with environmentalists, and spawned many counterclaims that the “fracking process” had led to contaminated water.

In December 2016 the EPA released its final report on the topic: Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States. Environmentalists were quick to note that the EPA had deleted its previous claim of no evidence of widespread water contamination, and were now reporting that “hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances.” This story from The New York Times, for instance, was pretty typical of the reporting on the issue: Reversing Course, E.P.A. Says Fracking Can Contaminate Drinking Water.

But did the EPA actually reverse course? No. They gave examples where fracking could contaminate water. For instance they state that “Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources” can cause contamination. Yeah, no joke. Likewise, filling your car with gasoline can contaminate drinking water, because if you spill the gasoline all over the ground, it can get into the drinking water.

The EPA’s final report on hydraulic fracturing wasn’t that much different from the draft report. As in the previous report, the EPA noted that activities related to — but not exclusive to — fracking, have contaminated water supplies. Chemical spills happen all the time, but if the chemicals in question are for fracking, it becomes a “fracking issue.” Note that if the chemicals in question are to be used for fighting fires, we don’t say “firefighting contaminates water.” We should properly identify and address the actual problem, which in this instance would be the cause of the chemical spill.

Ultimately, the final report deleted a phrase from the draft report that there was no evidence of widespread impact on water supplies, and selectively used hypotheticals to show how fracking “could” contaminate water supplies. This is the Obama Administration laying down one more speed bump for the oil and gas industry while it still can.

Shale gas drilling rig in Ohio.

2. Discredited Fracking Studies are used to Target School Children
(Source: New Activist Report Rehashes Discredited Fracking Studies to Target School Children by Seth Whitehead for EnergyinDepth

A new Environment America “report” uses a couple old anti-fracking tactics — exploitation of children and blatant misinformation from activist studies — to try to stoke fears and rally support for its extremist call to ban fracking nationwide.

The ominously-titled “Dangerous and Close: Fracking Puts the Nation’s Most Vulnerable People at Risk” finds there are nearly 2,000 child care facilities, better than 1,300 schools, nearly 250 nursing care providers and more than 100 hospitals within a one-mile radius of fracked wells in the nine states examined, stating:

“Given the scale and severity of fracking’s impacts, fracking should be prohibited wherever possible and existing wells should be shut down beginning with those near institutions that serve our most vulnerable populations.”

Here are the report’s most egregious claims, followed by the facts.

Environment America Claim: “Fracking creates a range of threats to our health, including creating toxic air pollution that can reduce lung function even among healthy people, trigger asthma attacks, and has been linked to premature death. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to fracking’s health risks.”

A pumpjack works in the Bakken shale of North Dakota.

REALITY: There is actually ample evidence that fracking is improving overall air quality and health by reducing major pollutants such as fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Furthermore, all three studies EA singles out as “evidence” close proximity to fracking sites can lead to the myriad of adverse health effects have been thoroughly debunked.

EA even cites an Earthworks study that claims “A series of 2012 measurements by officials of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) found VOCs levels so high at one fracking location that the officials themselves were forced to stop taking measurements and leave the site because it was too dangerous for them to remain.”

EA fails to mention TCEQ responded to Earthworks’ report by saying the agency has collected “several millions of data points for volatile organic compounds” in the Barnett Shale and Eagle Ford Shale and “Overall, the monitoring data provide evidence that shale play activity does not significantly impact air quality or pose a threat to human health.”

EA also conveniently ignores that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPH) have conducted air monitoring near well sites as well and found no credible risk to public health.

Environment America Claim: “Currently, oil and gas companies are exempt from key provisions in the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.”

REALITY: The notion that the oil and natural gas industry is under-regulated is absolutely absurd narrative activists such as EA continue to push. Oil and gas production activities are subject to eight federal laws: including all relevant provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA); Clean Water Act (CWA); Clean Air Act (CAA); Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); the EPCRA; Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA); and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Additionally, the oil and gas production sector is also heavily regulated at the state level.

A drilling rig works  in the Eagle Ford shale, South Texas region.

Environment America Claim: “Exposure to low levels of many of the chemicals used in or generated by oil and gas extraction activities can contribute to a variety of health effects, including asthma, cancer, birth defects, damage to the reproductive system and impaired brain development. For example, children’s long-term exposure to low levels of benzene, generally classified as a carcinogen, also harms respiratory health.”

REALITY: It is essential to understand that toxicity is completely dependent on dose level and exposure. The mere presence of benzene, for example, does not mean that it is present in toxic levels, as the numerous studies air monitoring studies referred to earlier illustrate. EA insinuates that even low-level benzene exposure is harmful. But benzene is actually present in countless everyday products such as shampoo, tooth paste, paint, PVC pipes and countless plastic products.

Environment America Claim: “Fracking targets the oil and gas trapped in shale formations… Sometimes that means wells are drilled in rural areas, such as portions of Colorado or North Dakota, and sometimes that wells are in densely populated areas, such as Los Angeles…”

REALITY: There are no fracking or unconventional oil production operations in the city of Los Angeles — none. EA attempts to justify this claim by employing the common activist tactic of expanding the definition of fracking to encompass all oil and gas related activity:

“Throughout this report, we refer to “fracking” as including all of the activities needed to bring a well into production using high-volume hydraulic fracturing. This includes drilling the well, operating that well, processing the gas or oil produced from that well, and delivering the gas or oil to market. The oil and gas industry often uses a more restrictive definition of “fracking” that includes only the actual moment in the extraction process when rock is fractured – a definition that obscures the broad changes to environmental, health and community conditions that result from the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas extraction.”

Fracking is not used as a completion technique at any of the urban drill sites in the city. All of the facilities recover oil through traditional water flood operations. The report’s attempt to shoehorn fracking and unconventional production into its report proves that it is not engaged in an honest attempt to inform the public.

Environment America Claim: “Because of the health hazard created by radon, Pennsylvania has a long record of radon measurements in homes. An analysis of those radon measurements by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that radon levels have increased in counties with extensive fracking since 2004, and also found elevated radon levels on the first floor of houses located within 12.5 miles of a fracked well.”

REALITY: The Johns Hopkins study EA is referring to actually found the highest concentrations of radon were in areas with no shale development and direct sampling found radon not linked to fracking. As is the case with so many of the studies EA uses as evidence, the authors merely speculated fracking was the cause.

Environment America Claim: “Oil and gas production at fracked wells releases volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides that contribute to the formation of smog.”

REALITY: Oil and gas production is not a major contributor to ground-level ozone.

As EID has emphasized before, publicly available information demonstrates oil and gas production is not the significant contributor to ozone levels. Vehicle exhaust adds far more non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) — both precursors to ground-level ozone — to the atmosphere than oil and gas production, as data from the EPA’s 2016 Greenhouse Gas Inventory clearly demonstrates.

Not only do oil and gas activities account for just six percent of total NOx emissions, which play more of a role in ground-level formation than VOCs, another recent NOAA report found that “The increased use of natural gas has…led to emissions reductions of NOx (40%) and SO2 (44%).”

Environment America Claim: “Contaminants can reach water supplies through faulty well construction, through surface spills, through improper wastewater disposal, or potentially through migration from the shale layer itself.”

REALITY: The EPA’s landmark five-year study confirmed, “hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources,” and at least 15 other studies say the fracking process, specifically, have not contaminated groundwater.

Conclusion

EA’s claims in this report — aimed at generating headlines — are quite profound.

“Schools and day care centers should be safe places for kids to play and learn,” said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s Stop Drilling program and co-author of the report. “Unfortunately our research shows far too many kids may be exposed to dirty air and toxic chemicals from fracking right next door.”

The problem is EA’s “research” merely found that there are some schools, nursing homes and hospitals near oil and natural gas development. It made no effort to collect its own data to support their claim that this is leading to adverse health effects.

Instead, it relied on long-debunked studies and tired fear tactics. Maybe that’s why the report’s hyperbolic claim that it “serves as a reminder of the unacceptable dangers of fracking, its potential to harm, and the need to bring this risky form of drilling to an end” was virtually ignored by the media.

3. Extensive research Study Found No link between groundwater pollution and fracking.
(Source: National Science Foundation and Duke University study summarized by Jeffrey Folks for American Thinker The science is settled, fracking is safe.)

Among the 130 wells studied, the researchers found only a subset of cases, including seven in Pennsylvania and one in Texas, in which faulty well construction or cementing was to blame for the seepage of gases into groundwater. According to Professor Avner Bengosh of Duke University, “[t]hese results appear to rule out the migration of methane up into drinking water aquifers from depth because of horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing.” That is to say, in the rare cases where it occurs, gases are entering the water supply from outside the borehead as a result of faulty well construction or poor cementing, both of which are manageable problems.

While the new report answers the most important question, proving beyond doubt that fracking itself does not cause gas to seep into the water supply, it does not address several other important questions. One of these is the frequency of contamination of water supplies by naturally occurring petroleum, methane, and other gases.

Natural pollution of this kind would seem to be extremely common, and in fact this natural process has been known for millennia. At sites where petroleum seeped to the surface, as in the vicinity of the 19th-century Drake oil field in Pennsylvania, Native Americans had made use of the oily substance as a lubricant for hundreds if not thousands of years. That oil, flowing naturally to the surface, was “contaminating” nearby streams and groundwater.

What humans add to natural emisions as a result of drilling is so minor as to be of little consequence. If some future study confirmed this fact, it would help to counter the myth that oil and gas drilling is polluting an otherwise pure land and sea environment. The reality is that wherever shale and other carbon-rich formations occur, natural leakage of petroleum and/or methane is inevitable. Oil and gas are naturally occurring features that are constantly interacting with the environment and entering the water supply through natural processes. As is so often the case, the idea that there once existed an environment free of all that modern intellectuals might consider unpleasant is simply a fantasy.

The NSF/Duke report is crucial to the debate over the safety of hydraulic fracturing. The oil and gas industry has already achieved a near perfect safety record, given the handful of failed wells in proportion to more than one million that have been fracked. The industry needs to continue working to achieve certainty that wells do not fail. It also needs to do a better job of communicating its intention to do so to a skeptical public.

4. Is Fracking Safe? The 10 Most Controversial Claims About Natural Gas Drilling by Seamus McGraw Popular Mechanics 2016

Members of Congress, gas companies, news organization, drilling opponents: They’ve all made bold claims about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the U.S. supply of underground natural gas. We take on 10 controversial quotes about natural gas and set the record straight.

WE ARE THE SAUDI ARABIA OF NATURAL GAS.” SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS., MAY 2010

Less than a decade ago, industry analysts and government officials fretted that the United States was in danger of running out of gas. No more. Over the past several years, vast caches of natural gas trapped in deeply buried rock have been made accessible by advances in two key technologies: horizontal drilling, which allows vertical wells to turn and snake more than a mile sideways through the earth, and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Developed more than 60 years ago, fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of chemically treated water into deep shale formations at pressures of 9000 pounds per square inch or more. This fluid cracks the shale or widens existing cracks, freeing hydrocarbons to flow toward the well.

These advances have led to an eightfold increase in shale gas production over the past decade. According to the Energy Information Administration, shale gas will account for nearly half of the natural gas produced in the U.S. by 2035. But the bonanza is not without controversy, and nowhere, perhaps, has the dispute over fracking grown more heated than in the vicinity of the Marcellus Shale. According to Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Penn State, the vast formation sprawling primarily beneath West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York could produce an estimated 493 trillion cubic feet of gas over its 50- to 100-year life span. That’s nowhere close to Saudi Arabia’s total energy reserves, but it is enough to power every natural gas—burning device in the country for more than 20 years. The debate over the Marcellus Shale will shape national energy policy—including how fully, and at what cost, we exploit this vast resource.

HYDRAULIC FRACTURING SQUANDERS OUR PRECIOUS WATER RESOURCES.” Green Party of Pennsylvania, April 2011

There is no question that hydraulic fracturing uses a lot of water: It can take up to 7 million gallons to frack a single well, and at least 30 percent of that water is lost forever, after being trapped deep in the shale. And while there is some evidence that fracking has contributed to the depletion of water supplies in drought-stricken Texas, a study by Carnegie Mellon University indicates the Marcellus region has plenty of water and, in most cases, an adequate system to regulate its usage. The amount of water required to drill all 2916 of the Marcellus wells permitted in Pennsylvania in the first 11 months of 2010 would equal the amount of drinking water used by just one city, Pittsburgh, during the same period, says environmental engineering professor Jeanne VanBriesen, the study’s lead author. Plus, she notes, water withdrawals of this new industry are taking the place of water once used by industries, like steel manufacturing, that the state has lost. Hydrogeologist David Yoxtheimer of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research gives the withdrawals more context: Of the 9.5 billion gallons of water used daily in Pennsylvania, natural gas development consumes 1.9 million gallons a day (mgd); livestock use 62 mgd; mining, 96 mgd; and industry, 770 mgd.

NATURAL GAS IS CLEANER, CHEAPER, DOMESTIC, AND IT’S VIABLE NOW.” OILMAN TURNED NATURAL-GAS CHEERLEADER T. BOONE PICKENS, SEPTEMBER 2009

Burning natural gas is cleaner than oil or gasoline, and it emits half as much carbon dioxide, less than one-third the nitrogen oxides, and 1 percent as much sulfur oxides as coal combustion. But not all shale gas makes it to the fuel tank or power plant. The methane that escapes during the drilling process, and later as the fuel is shipped via pipelines, is a significant greenhouse gas. At least one scientist, Robert Howarth at Cornell University, has calculated that methane losses could be as high as 8 percent. Industry officials concede that they could be losing anywhere between 1 and 3 percent. Some of those leaks can be prevented by aggressively sealing condensers, pipelines and wellheads. But there’s another upstream factor to consider: Drilling is an energy-intensive business. It relies on diesel engines and generators running around the clock to power rigs, and heavy trucks making hundreds of trips to drill sites before a well is completed. Those in the industry say there’s a solution at hand to lower emissions—using natural gas itself to power the process. So far, however, few companies have done that.

“[THERE’S] NEVER BEEN ONE CASE—DOCUMENTED CASE—OF GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION IN THE HISTORY OF THE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING [WELLS]” SEN. JAMES INHOFE, R-OKLA., APRIL 2011

The senator is incorrect. In the past two years alone, a series of surface spills, including two blowouts at wells operated by Chesapeake Energy and EOG Resources and a spill of 8000 gallons of fracking fluid at a site in Dimock, Pa., have contaminated groundwater in the Marcellus Shale region. But the idea stressed by fracking critics that deep-injected fluids will migrate into groundwater is mostly false. Basic geology prevents such contamination from starting below ground. A fracture caused by the drilling process would have to extend through the several thousand feet of rock that separate deep shale gas deposits from freshwater aquifers. According to geologist Gary Lash of the State University of New York at Fredonia, the intervening layers of rock have distinct mechanical properties that would prevent the fissures from expanding a mile or more toward the surface. It would be like stacking a dozen bricks on top of each other, he says, and expecting a crack in the bottom brick to extend all the way to the top one. What’s more, the fracking fluid itself, thickened with additives, is too dense to ascend upward through such a channel. EPA officials are closely watching one place for evidence otherwise: tiny Pavillion, Wyo., a remote town of 160 where high levels of chemicals linked to fracking have been found in groundwater supplies. Pavillion’s aquifer sits several hundred feet above the gas cache, far closer than aquifers atop other gas fields. If the investigation documents the first case of fracking fluid seeping into groundwater directly from gas wells, drillers may be forced to abandon shallow deposits—which wouldn’t affect Marcellus wells.

“THE GAS ERA IS COMING, AND THE LANDSCAPE NORTH AND WEST OF [NEW YORK CITY] WILL INEVITABLY BE TRANSFORMED AS A RESULT. WHEN THE VALVES START OPENING NEXT YEAR, A LOT OF POOR FARM FOLK MAY BECOME TEXAS RICH. AND A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE—ESPECIALLY THE ECOSENSITIVE NEW YORK CITY CROWD THAT HAS SETTLED AMONG THEM—WILL BE APOPLECTIC AS THEIR PRISTINE WEEKEND SANCTUARY IS CONVERTED INTO AN INDUSTRIAL ZONE, CRISSCROSSED WITH DRILL PADS, PIPELINES, AND ACCESS ROADS.” New York magazine, Sept. 21, 2008

Much of the political opposition to fracking has focused on the Catskill region, headwaters of the Delaware River and the source of most of New York City’s drinking water. But the expected boom never happened—there’s not enough gas in the watershed to make drilling worthwhile. “No one has to get excited about contaminated New York City drinking water,” Penn State’s Engelder told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y., in April. The shale is so close to the surface that it’s not concentrated in large enough quantities to make recovering it economically feasible. But just to the west, natural gas development is dramatically changing the landscape. Drilling rigs are running around the clock in western Pennsylvania. Though buoyed by the economic windfall, residents fear that regulators can’t keep up with the pace of development. “It’s going to be hard to freeze-frame and say, ‘Let’s slow down,’?” Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., D-Pa., said last fall. “That makes it more difficult for folks like us, who say we want to create the jobs and opportunity in the new industry, but we don’t want to do it at the expense of water quality and quality of life.”

“NATURAL GAS IS AFFORDABLE, ABUNDANT AND AMERICAN. IT COSTS ONE-THIRD LESS TO FILL UP WITH NATURAL GAS THAN TRADITIONAL GASOLINE.” REP. JOHN LARSON, D-CONN., CO-SPONSOR OF H.R. 1380, A MEASURE THAT WOULD PROVIDE TAX INCENTIVES FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND PURCHASE OF NATURAL GAS VEHICLES, MARCH 2011

That may be true. Plus, there’s another incentive: Vehicles powered by liquefied natural gas, propane or compressed natural gas run cleaner than cars with either gasoline or diesel in the tank. According to the Department of Energy, if the transportation sector switched to natural gas, it would cut the nation’s carbon-monoxide emissions by at least 90 percent, carbon-dioxide emissions by 25 and nitrogen-oxide emissions by up to 60. But it’s not realistic: Nationwide, there are only about 3500 service stations (out of 120,000) that offer natural gas—based automotive fuel, and it would cost billions of dollars and take years to develop sufficient infrastructure to make that fuel competitive with gasoline or diesel. And only Honda makes a car that can run on natural gas. That doesn’t mean natural gas has no role in meeting the nation’s short-term transportation needs. In fact, buses in several cities now rely on it, getting around the lack of widespread refueling opportunities by returning to a central terminal for a fill-up. The same could be done for local truck fleets. But perhaps the biggest contribution natural gas could make to America’s transportation picture would be more indirect—as a fuel for electric-generation plants that will power the increasingly popular plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“DO NOT DRINK THIS WATER” HANDWRITTEN SIGN IN THE DOCUMENTARY GASLAND, 2010

It’s an iconic image, captured in the 2010 Academy Award—nominated documentary GasLand. A Colorado man holds a flame to his kitchen faucet and turns on the water. The pipes rattle and hiss, and suddenly a ball of fire erupts. It appears a damning indictment of the gas drilling nearby. But Colorado officials determined the gas wells weren’t to blame; instead, the homeowner’s own water well had been drilled into a naturally occurring pocket of methane. Nonetheless, up to 50 layers of natural gas can occur between the surface and deep shale formations, and methane from these shallow deposits has intruded on groundwater near fracking sites. In May, Pennsylvania officials fined Chesapeake Energy $1 million for contaminating the water supplies of 16 families in Bradford County. Because the company had not properly cemented its boreholes, gas migrated up along the outside of the well, between the rock and steel casing, into aquifers. The problem can be corrected by using stronger cement and processing casings to create a better bond, ensuring an impermeable seal.

“AS NEW YORK GEARS UP FOR A MASSIVE EXPANSION OF GAS DRILLING IN THE MARCELLUS SHALE, STATE OFFICIALS HAVE MADE A POTENTIALLY TROUBLING DISCOVERY ABOUT THE WASTEWATER CREATED BY THE PROCESS: IT’S RADIOACTIVE.” ProPublica, November 2009

Shale has a radioactive signature—from uranium isotopes such as radium-226 and radium-228—that geologists and drillers often measure to chart the vast underground formations. The higher the radiation levels, the greater the likelihood those deposits will yield significant amounts of gas. But that does not necessarily mean the radioactivity poses a public health hazard; after all, some homes in Pennsylvania and New York have been built directly on Marcellus shale. Tests conducted earlier this year in Pennsylvania waterways that had received treated water—both produced water (the fracking fluid that returns to the surface) and brine (naturally occurring water that contains radioactive elements, as well as other toxins and heavy metals from the shale)—found no evidence of elevated radiation levels. Conrad Dan Volz, former scientific director of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities at the University of Pittsburgh, is a vocal critic of the speed with which the Marcellus is being developed—but even he says that radioactivity is probably one of the least pressing issues. “If I were to bet on this, I’d bet that it’s not going to be a problem,” he says.

“CLAIMING THAT THE INFORMATION IS PROPRIETARY, DRILLING COMPANIES HAVE STILL NOT COME OUT AND FULLY DISCLOSED WHAT FRACKING FLUID IS MADE OF.” Vanity Fair, June 2010

Under mounting pressure, companies such as Schlumberger and Range Resources have posted the chemical compounds used in some of their wells, and in June, Texas became the first state to pass a law requiring full public disclosure. This greater transparency has revealed some oddly benign ingredients, such as instant coffee and walnut shells—but also some known and suspected carcinogens, including benzene and methanol. Even if these chemicals can be found under kitchen sinks, as industry points out, they’re poured down wells in much greater volumes: about 5000 gallons of additives for every 1 million gallons of water and sand. A more pressing question is what to do with this fluid once it rises back to the surface. In Texas’s Barnett Shale, wastewater can be reinjected into impermeable rock 1.5 miles below ground. This isn’t feasible in the Marcellus Shale region; the underlying rocks are not porous enough. Currently, a handful of facilities in Pennsylvania are approved to treat the wastewater. More plants, purpose-built for the task, are planned. In the meantime, most companies now recycle this water to drill their next well.

“THE INCREASING ABUNDANCE OF CHEAP NATURAL GAS, COUPLED WITH RISING DEMAND FOR THE FUEL FROM CHINA AND THE FALL-OUT FROM THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER IN JAPAN, MAY HAVE SET THE STAGE FOR A ‘GOLDEN AGE OF GAS.” WALL STREET JOURNAL SUMMARIZING AN INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY REPORT, JUNE 6, 2011

There’s little question that the United States, with 110 years’ worth of natural gas (at the 2009 rate of consumption), is destined to play a major role in the fuel’s development. But even its most ardent supporters, men like T. Boone Pickens, concede that it should be a bridge fuel between more polluting fossil fuels and cleaner, renewable energy. In the meantime, the U.S. should continue to invest in solar and wind, conserve power and implement energy-efficient technology. Whether we can effectively manage our natural gas resource while developing next-gen sources remains to be seen. Margie Tatro, director of fuel and water systems at Sandia National Laboratories, says, “I think natural gas is a transitioning fuel for the electricity sector until we can get a greater percentage of nuclear and renewables on the grid.”

 

5.Compendium of Studies Demonstrating the Safety and Health Benefits of Fracking

The United States has made massive improvements in air quality over the past decade
and study after study has shown that the increased use of natural gas for electricity
generation – made possible by the shale revolution – is the reason we’ve achieved this
feat.

This progress is the centerpiece of Energy In Depth’s new report – Compendium of
Studies Demonstrating the Safety and Health Benefits of Fracking – which includes data
from 23 peer-reviewed studies, 17 government health and regulatory agencies and
reports from 10 research institutions that clearly demonstrate:
• Increased natural gas use — thanks to hydraulic fracturing —has led to dramatic
declines in air pollution. The United States is the number one oil and gas producer in
the world and it has some of the lowest death rates from air pollution in the world.
Numerous studies have shown that pollution has plummeted as natural gas production
has soared.
Emissions from well sites and associated infrastructure are below thresholds
regulatory authorities consider to be a threat to public health – that’s the conclusion of
multiple studies using air monitors that measure emissions directly.
• There is no credible evidence that fracking causes or exacerbates asthma. In fact,
asthma rates and asthma hospitalizations across the United States have declined as
natural gas production has ramped up.
• There is no credible evidence that fracking causes cancer. Studies that have directly
measured emissions at fracking sites have found emissions are below the threshold
that would be harmful to public health.
• There is no credible evidence that fracking leads to adverse birth outcomes. In fact,
adverse birth outcomes have decreased while life expectancy has increased in areas
that are ramping up natural gas use.
Fracking is not a credible threat to groundwater. Study after study has shown that
there are no widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing.
It is well known that the shale revolution has been a boon to our nation’s economy,
its geopolitical position, and the millions of consumers and manufacturers who
continue to benefit from historically low energy costs. But the case in support of
shale’s salubrious effect on air quality and health continues to be an underreported
phenomenon – this new report puts the health benefits of our increased use of natural
gas in the spotlight.

Conclusion
To be clear, no form of energy development, whether we’re talking about fossil fuels or
renewables, is risk free. But the data clearly show, time and time again, that emissions
from fracking are not a credible risk to public health.

In fact, the data show that enormous reductions in pollution across the board are
attributable to the significant increases in natural gas consumption that hydraulic
fracturing has made possible.

They show power plant emissions of SO2 declining by 86 percent, emissions of NOx
declining by 67 percent, and emissions of mercury by 55 percent. They also show
hospitalizations for asthma declining as natural gas ramps up. At the same time life
expectancy and birth outcomes have improved.

And, of course, all these positive health outcomes can be largely traced back to
significantly cleaner air, thanks to fracking.

Head, Heart and Science Updated

A man who has not been a socialist before 25 has no heart. If he remains one after 25 he has no head.—King Oscar II of Sweden

H/T to American Elephants for linking to this Jordan Peterson video:  The Fatal Flaw in Leftist Thought.  He has an outstanding balance between head and heart, and also applies scientific analysis to issues, in this case the problem of identity politics and leftist ideology.

As usual Peterson makes many persuasive points in this talk.  I was struck by his point that we have established the boundary of extremism on the right, but no such boundary exists on the left.  Our society rejects right wingers who cross the line and assert racial superiority.  Conservative voices condemn that position along with the rest.

We know from the Soviet excesses that the left can go too far, but what is the marker?  Left wingers have the responsibility to set the boundary and sanction the extremists.  Peterson suggests that the fatal flaw is the attempt to ensure equality of outcomes for identity groups, and explains why that campaign is impossible.

From Previous Post on Head, Heart and Science

Recently I had an interchange with a friend from high school days, and he got quite upset with this video by Richard Lindzen. So much so, that he looked up attack pieces in order to dismiss Lindzen as a source. This experience impressed some things upon me.

Climate Change is Now Mostly a Political Football (at least in USA)

My friend attributed his ill humor to the current political environment. He readily bought into slanderous claims, and references to being bought and paid for by the Koch brothers. At this point, Bernie and Hilliary only disagree about who is the truest believer in Global Warming. Once we get into the general election process, “Fighting Climate Change” will intensify as a wedge issue, wielded by smug righteous believers on the left against the anti-science neanderthals on the right.

So it is a hot label for social-media driven types to identify who is in the tribe (who can be trusted) and the others who can not.  For many, it is not any deeper than that.

The Warming Consensus is a Timesaver

My friend acknowledged that his mind was made up on the issue because 95+% of scientists agreed. It was extremely important for him to discredit Lindzen as untrustworthy to maintain the unanimity. When a Warmist uses: “The Scientists say: ______” , it is much the same as a Christian reference: “The Bible says: _______.” In both cases, you can fill in the blank with whatever you like, and attribute your idea to the Authority. And most importantly, you can keep the issue safely parked in a No Thinking Zone. There are plenty of confusing things going on around us, and no one wants one more ambiguity requiring time and energy.

Science Could Lose the Delicate Balance Between Head and Heart

Decades ago Arthur Eddington wrote about the tension between attitudes of artists and scientists in their regarding nature. On the one hand are people filled with the human impulse to respect, adore and celebrate the beauty of life and the world. On the other are people driven by the equally human need to analyze, understand and know what to expect from the world. These are Yin and Yang, not mutually exclusive, and all of us have some of each.

Most of us can recall the visceral response in the high school biology lab when assigned to dissect a frog. Later on, crayfish were preferred (less disturbing to artistic sensibilities). For all I know, recent generations have been spared this right of passage, to their detriment. For in the conflict between appreciating things as they are, and the need to know why and how they are, we are exposed to deeper reaches of the human experience. If you have ever witnessed, as I have, a human body laid open on an autopsy table, then you know what I mean.

Anyone, scientist or artist, can find awe in contemplating the mysteries of life. There was a time when it was feared that the march of science was so advancing the boundaries of knowledge that the shrinking domain of the unexplained left ever less room for God and religion. Practicing scientists knew better. Knowing more leads to discovering more unknowns; answers produce cascades of new questions. The mystery abounds, and the discovery continues. Eddington:

It is pertinent to remember that the concept of substance has disappeared from fundamental physics; what we ultimately come down to is form. Waves! Waves!! Waves!!! Or for a change — if we turn to relativity theory — curvature! Energy which, since it is conserved, might be looked upon as the modern successor of substance, is in relativity theory a curvature of space-time, and in quantum theory a periodicity of waves. I do not suggest that either the curvature or the waves are to be taken in a literal objective sense; but the two great theories, in their efforts to reduce what is known about energy to a comprehensible picture, both find what they require in a conception of “form”.

What do we really observe? Relativity theory has returned one answer — we only observe relations. Quantum theory returns another answer — we only observe probabilities.

It is impossible to trap modern physics into predicting anything with perfect determinism because it deals with probabilities from the outset.
― Arthur Stanley Eddington

Works by Eddington on Science and the Natural World are here.

Summary

The science problem today is not the scientists themselves, but with those attempting to halt its progress for the sake of political power and wealth.

Eddington:
Religious creeds are a great obstacle to any full sympathy between the outlook of the scientist and the outlook which religion is so often supposed to require … The spirit of seeking which animates us refuses to regard any kind of creed as its goal. It would be a shock to come across a university where it was the practice of the students to recite adherence to Newton’s laws of motion, to Maxwell’s equations and to the electromagnetic theory of light. We should not deplore it the less if our own pet theory happened to be included, or if the list were brought up to date every few years. We should say that the students cannot possibly realise the intention of scientific training if they are taught to look on these results as things to be recited and subscribed to. Science may fall short of its ideal, and although the peril scarcely takes this extreme form, it is not always easy, particularly in popular science, to maintain our stand against creed and dogma.
― Arthur Stanley Eddington

But enough about science. It’s politicians we need to worry about:

Footnote:

“Asked in 1919 whether it was true that only three people in the world understood the theory of general relativity, [Eddington] allegedly replied: ‘Who’s the third?”

Postscript:  For more on how we got here see Warmists and Rococo Marxists.

Answers Before Climate Action

As the stool above shows, the climate change package sits on three premises. The first is the science bit, consisting of an unproven claim that observed warming is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. The second part rests on impact studies from billions of research dollars spent uncovering any and all possible negatives from warming. And the third leg is climate policies showing how governments can “fight climate change.”

The call for climate action depends on proponents providing convincing answers to questions regarding all three dimensions.  H/T to Master Resource for pointing to essays by William Niskonen and Steven Horwitz setting forth the issues to be resolved.  I will refer to excerpts from Global Warming Is about Social Science Too by Horowitz.

To help clarify what’s at stake, I offer a list of questions that are (or should be) at the center of the debate over anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. I will provide some quick commentary on some to note their importance and then conclude with what I see as the importance of this list.

Matters of Science

1. Is the planet getting warmer?

2. If it’s getting warmer, is that warming caused by humans? Obviously this is a big question because if warming is not human-caused, then it’s not clear how much we can do to reduce it. What we might do about the consequences, however, remains an open question.

3. If it’s getting warmer, by what magnitude? If the magnitude is large, then there’s one set of implications. But if it’s small, then, as we’ll see, it might not be worth responding to. This is a good example of a scientific question with large implications for policy.

My Comment:  Most people studying climate science agree that it has warmed about a degree celsius since the end of the Little Ice Age (~1850).  But there have been multi-decadal periods of warming and cooling as well as the current plateau in temperatures.  As well, there are many places (e.g.almost 1/3 of US stations) showing cooling while other places have warming trends.  Skeptics note that no one has yet separated natural warming from man-made warming.  In the record, natural warming prior to the 1940s matches almost exactly the warming from 1970s to 2000, claimed to be man-made.

Horowitz continues: All these questions are presumably matters of science. In principle we ought to be able to answer them using the tools of science, even if they are complex issues that involve competing interpretations and methods. Let’s assume the planet is in fact warming and that humans are the reason.

Impacts of Warming

4. What are the costs of global warming? This question is frequently asked and answered.

5. What are the benefits of global warming? This question needs to be asked as well, as global warming might bring currently arctic areas into a more temperate climate that would enable them to become sources of food. Plus, a warmer planet might decrease the demand for fossil fuels for heating homes and businesses in those formerly colder places.

6. Do the benefits outweigh the costs or do the costs outweigh the benefits? This is also not frequently asked. Obviously, if the benefits outweigh the costs, then we shouldn’t be worrying about global warming. Two other points are worth considering. First, the benefits and costs are not questions of scientific fact because how we do the accounting depends on all kinds of value-laden questions. But that doesn’t mean the cost-benefit comparison isn’t important. Second, this question might depend greatly on the answers to the scientific questions above. In other words: All questions of public policy are ones that require both facts and values to answer. One cannot go directly from science to policy without asking the kinds of questions I’ve raised here.

Rotterdam Adaptation Policy–Ninety years thriving behind dikes and dams.

Climate Policies

7. If the costs outweigh the benefits, what sorts of policies are appropriate? There are many too many questions here to deal with in detail, but it should be noted that disagreements over what sorts of policies would best deal with the net costs of global warming are, again, matters of both fact and value, or science and social science.

8. What are the costs of the policies designed to reduce the costs of global warming? This question is not asked nearly enough. Even if we design policies on the blackboard that seem to mitigate the effects of global warming, we have to consider, first, whether those policies are even likely to be passed by politicians as we know them, and second, whether the policies might have associated costs that outweigh their benefits with respect to global warming. So if in our attempt to reduce the effects of global warming we slow economic growth so far as to impoverish more people, or we give powers to governments that are likely to be used in ways having little to do with global warming, we have to consider those results in the total costs and benefits of using policy to combat global warming. This is a question of social science that is no less important than the scientific questions I began with.

I could add more, but this is sufficient to make my key points. First, it is perfectly possible to accept the science of global warming but reject the policies most often put forward to combat it. One can think humans are causing the planet to warm but logically and humanely conclude that we should do nothing about it.

Second, people who take that position and back it up with good arguments should not be called “deniers.” They are not denying the science; they are questioning its implications. In fact, those who think they can go directly from science to policy are, as it turns out, engaged in denial – denial of the relevance of social science.

Steven Horwitz is the Schnatter Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise in the Department of Economics at Ball State University, where he also is a Fellow at the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. He is the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions.

Climate science, impacts and policies also appear as a house of cards.

More about Climate Policy Failures

Speaking Climate Truth to Policymakers

Climate Policies Failure, the Movie

Climatists Wrong-Footed

Ontario Voters Sack Climate-Obsessed Premier

A number of posts here (linked at bottom) described how Ontario’s liberal government spent taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ money like drunken sailers looking to score in International circles.  It seems chickens do come home to roost, and those politicians are out in a landslide.  The story from CBC (warmists all) is Ontario vote will hamper prime minister’s efforts on climate change (Ya think?) Excerpts below with my bolds.

Voters in the province of Ontario have sent a stinging rebuke to the ruling Liberal Party reducing it to a rump, and they voted massively for populist Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives. Ford has promised to take Ontario out of its carbon cap-and-trade agreement with California and the province of Quebec, and he is against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to oblige all provinces to levy a carbon tax.

“Now what you have is Doug Ford leading…the biggest province in the country…Now as premier of Ontario, he has one of the largest voices in the country when it comes to issues on the environment, the economy—all of these things that the premiers of the country and the prime minister have to sit down and talk about. Doug Ford now has the biggest voice at that table,” says Jordan Press, parliamentary reporter with The Canadian Press.

‘How do you meet..international agreements?’

“In much the same way that he (Trudeau) has an issue dealing with (U.S. President) Donald Trump on the environment, now Justin Trudeau faces a domestic issue as well, that how do you meet those international agreements that you have promoted. How do you continue to be that progressive leader on the world stage when at home, you are facing opposition to some of your plans,” asks Press.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna with Justin Trudeau in the choir.

Less tax, cheaper beer promised

During the election campaign, Ford promised to cut taxes, reduce gasoline prices by 10 cents a litre, reduce the high price of electricity and offer beer for one dollar a bottle. He was criticized for not providing a clear plan for how he would pay for these promises. The province of Ontario already carries a massive debt load.

But people seem to have appreciated his promise to defend “the little guy” and ignored a lawsuit launched by his brother’s widow alleging Ford mismanaged the family’s business costing millions from the estate.

Some people compare Ford to Trump and debate about that will likely be vigorous long into the future.

In the final tally, Progressive Conservatives were elected in 76 ridings and the New Democratic Party took 40. After ruling for 15 years, the Liberal Party lost official party status and the funding that comes with it by winning only seven seats. The Green Party took one.

Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Background

Electrical Madness in Green Ontario

Ontario Jammed by Rent-Seekers and Ratepayers

Ontario Climate Policy Refugees

Ontario Coal Phase-out: All Pain, No Gain

Another wheel flies off Ontario’s green energy bus

US House Votes Down Social Cost of Carbon

 

The House GOP on Friday took a step forward in reining in the Obama administration’s method of assessing the cost of carbon dioxide pollution when developing regulations.

The House voted 212-201, along party lines, to include a rider blocking the use of the climate change cost metric to an energy and water spending bill.

The amendment offered by Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert bars any and all funds from being used under the bill to “prepare, propose, or promulgate any regulation that relies on the Social Carbon analysis” devised under the Obama administration on how to value the cost of carbon. (Source Washington Examiner, here)

To clarify: the amendment in question defunds any regulation or guidance from the federal government concerning the social costs of carbon.

Background: 
The Obama administration created and increased its estimates of the “Social Cost of Carbon,” invented by Michael Greenstone, who commented on the EPA Proposed Repeal of CO2 emissions regulations.  A Washington Post article, October 11, 2017, included this:

“My read is that the political decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan was made and then they did whatever was necessary to make the numbers work,” added Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who worked on climate policy during the Obama years.

Activists are frightened about the Clean Power Plan under serious attack along three lines:
1. No federal law governs CO2 emissions.
2. EPA regulates sites, not the Energy Sector.
3. CPP costs are huge, while benefits are marginal.

Complete discussion at CPP has Three Fatal Flaws.

Read below how Greenstone and a colleague did exactly what he now complains about.

Social Cost of Carbon: Origins and Prospects

The Obama administration has been fighting climate change with a rogue wave of regulations whose legality comes from a very small base: The Social Cost of Carbon.

The purpose of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) estimates presented here is to allow agencies to incorporate the social benefits of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into cost-benefit analyses of regulatory actions that impact cumulative global emissions. The SCC is an estimate of the monetized damages associated with an incremental increase in carbon emissions in a given year. It is intended to include (but is not limited to) changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services due to climate change. From the Technical Support Document: -Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis -Under Executive Order 12866

A recent Bloomberg article informs on how the SCC notion was invented, its importance and how it might change under the Trump administration.
How Climate Rules Might Fade Away; Obama used an arcane number to craft his regulations. Trump could use it to undo them. (here). Excerpts below with my bolds.

scc-working-group

In February 2009, a month after Barack Obama took office, two academics sat across from each other in the White House mess hall. Over a club sandwich, Michael Greenstone, a White House economist, and Cass Sunstein, Obama’s top regulatory officer, decided that the executive branch needed to figure out how to estimate the economic damage from climate change. With the recession in full swing, they were rightly skeptical about the chances that Congress would pass a nationwide cap-and-trade bill. Greenstone and Sunstein knew they needed a Plan B: a way to regulate carbon emissions without going through Congress.

Over the next year, a team of economists, scientists, and lawyers from across the federal government convened to come up with a dollar amount for the economic cost of carbon emissions. Whatever value they hit upon would be used to determine the scope of regulations aimed at reducing the damage from climate change. The bigger the estimate, the more costly the rules meant to address it could be. After a year of modeling different scenarios, the team came up with a central estimate of $21 per metric ton, which is to say that by their calculations, every ton of carbon emitted into the atmosphere imposed $21 of economic cost. It has since been raised to around $40 a ton.

Trump can’t undo the SCC by fiat. There is established case law requiring the government to account for the impact of carbon, and if he just repealed it, environmentalists would almost certainly sue.

There are other ways for Trump to undercut the SCC. By tweaking some of the assumptions and calculations that are baked into its model, the Trump administration could pretty much render it irrelevant, or even skew it to the point that carbon emissions come out as a benefit instead of a cost.

The SCC models rely on a “discount rate” to state the harm from global warming in today’s dollars. The higher the discount rate, the lower the estimate of harm. That’s because the costs incurred by burning carbon lie mostly in the distant future, while the benefits (heat, electricity, etc.) are enjoyed today. A high discount rate shrinks the estimates of future costs but doesn’t affect present-day benefits. The team put together by Greenstone and Sunstein used a discount rate of 3 percent to come up with its central estimate of $21 a ton for damage inflicted by carbon. But changing that discount just slightly produces big swings in the overall cost of carbon, turning a number that’s pushing broad changes in everything from appliances to coal leasing decisions into one that would have little or no impact on policy.

According to a 2013 government update on the SCC, by applying a discount rate of 5 percent, the cost of carbon in 2020 comes out to $12 a ton; using a 2.5 percent rate, it’s $65. A 7 percent discount rate, which has been used by the EPA for other regulatory analysis, could actually lead to a negative carbon cost, which would seem to imply that carbon emissions are beneficial. “Once you start to dig into how the numbers are constructed, I cannot fathom how anyone could think it has any basis in reality,” says Daniel Simmons, vice president for policy at the American Energy Alliance and a member of the Trump transition team focusing on the Energy Department.

David Kreutzer, a senior research fellow in energy economics and climate change at Heritage and a member of Trump’s EPA transition team, laid out one of the primary arguments against the SCC. “Believe it or not, these models look out to the year 2300. That’s like effectively asking, ‘If you turn your light switch on today, how much damage will that do in 2300?’ That’s way beyond when any macroeconomic model can be trusted.”

Another issue for those who question the Obama administration’s SCC: It estimates the global costs and benefits of carbon emissions, rather than just focusing on the impact to the U.S. Critics argue that this pushes the cost of carbon much higher and that the calculation should instead be limited to the U.S.; that would lower the cost by more than 70 percent, says the CEI’s Mario Lewis.

Still, by narrowing the calculation to the U.S., Trump could certainly produce a lower cost of carbon. Asked in an e-mail whether the new administration would raise the discount rate or narrow the scope of the SCC to the U.S., one person shaping Trump energy and environmental policy replied, “What prevents us from doing both?”

See Also:

Six Reasons to Rescind Social Cost of Carbon

SBC: Social Benefits of Carbon

drain-the-swamp

From Russia With Climate Love

Sputnik News spins climate alarmism in this current article New Climate Change Report Says We’re Screwed Even if Paris Accord Goals Met Text in italics with my bolds, images and titles.

A recently published study on climate change predicts catastrophic changes to the planet’s ecology, even if global temperatures rise by only 1.5 degrees Celsius, a cap on warming the Paris Climate Accord aims to secure.

Foretelling the Future

The new study, performed by an international research group and published in the journal Nature on June 7, predicts catastrophic changes to the planet even if Paris Accord emission targets are met.

According to Phys.org, many studies predict that a 2 degree increase would lead to massive climatic and ecological changes, but few have examined what would happen if the temperature rose by only 1.5 degrees instead. While this fraction of a degree might seem unimportant, it actually means a lot on a global scale, researchers say.

Apocalypse Now

If today’s temperature trend continues until 2100, then many inhabited islands as well as many coastal cities will be swallowed by the sea, with the Maldives being just one example. The Paris Agreement was signed with the stated aim of preventing this catastrophe by limiting global warming to only 1.5 C.

However, the new study says that while a hard limit keeping the temperature increase fewer than 2 C would avert drastic changes, such as the Mediterranean drying up or US cities getting 5 C hotter than they are now, the exact character of the global warming curve is more important to overall climate change effects than most people understand. For example, if global temperature even briefly increases by 2 C overall but then falls back, that would also cause irreparable damage.

“The extinction of species during a phase of excess temperatures couldn’t be undone, even if the level of warming was then reduced and limited to a 1.5 C increase,” says ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) professor Sonia Seneviratne, one of the lead authors of the study.

No Escape, No Silver Bullet

According to Seneviratne, many existing scenarios on climate change mitigation actually allow for a temporary 2 C degree increase and also involve vast CO2-reducing measures, which include reforestation, carbon capture and storage operations (CCS). However, CCS is not yet a viable option, as humanity does not have any effective and scalable means to return carbon from the air to the ground for good. Even the much-advertised “negative emissions” power plant in Iceland is not as great in reality as it looks on paper. Besides, even in theory, CCS needs so much space to work that it’s comparable to the world’s food production operations.

Therefore, Seneviratne says, the only way to save the world now is to immediately and dramatically cut CO2 emissions.

“It’s clear that we must urgently reduce emissions if we want to stand a chance of meeting the 1.5 C goal and keeping any temperature overshoot as low as possible,” Seneviratne emphasized.

The Usual Bad Guys

In 2015, China was the number one carbon dioxide-emitting country, with almost 30 percent of the world’s fossil fuel CO2 emissions, according to the data from the EU’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research. The US took second place, emitting almost half as much as China does, slightly below 15 percent of the world’s total. Despite all their efforts, the European Union as a whole takes proud third place with 9.6 percent, followed by India, which produces 6.8 percent of the world’s fossil fuel carbon emissions.

Women, Children and Minorities Hit Hardest By the World Ending

Unfortunately, drastic carbon emission cuts will also mean drastic changes to modern social and economic life, consequences the US has recently and notably refused to countenance by backing out of the global climate accord.