Tag Archives: climate change

Why are Skeptics Ridiculed by Society?

Any discussion of our changing climate (aka weather) is by nature somewhat speculative.  I am only a little surprised when tomorrow’s weather is accurately predicted.  When weekly or monthly forecasts prove correct I am impressed.  I expect them to be wrong.

Soooo….answer me this.   Why are people who question the predictions of gloom and doom coming from the global climate community ridiculed by society?

News stories assuming that man caused global climate to change dramatically are everywhere.

  • Today’s paper touted February 2016 as the warmest ever in Alaska
  • Yesterday One news blamed the strong El Nino for floods in Peru
  • Yesterday the Anchorage Dispatch news featured a political cartoon of an argument between person touting global warming and a person noting that it had been warmer 2500 years ago.  The cartoon was drawn to make the skeptic look stupid.
  • Articles are here, there and everywhere calling 2015 the warmest in history for the earth.
  • On Sunday, it was reported that the Arctic Ice cap is at it’s lowest level in history and it stopped growing early this year.  ( A history that is only 40 years old)
  • A month or so ago, I read an article about the recent (last two years)  warmer than anticipated weather.   The article touted climate experts that said climate was again warming rapidly after a 15 year hiatus.  And that it was proof that the UN climate experts were right.

I could go on forever.

We are in the midst of a strong El Nino climate pattern in the Northern Hemisphere.  It has been warmer in 2015 and early 2016 than in the recent past.  2016 is starting out a a bit warmer than 2015.  Interestingly, satellite data and land based temperature data disagree about 2015.  Satellite data is a tiny bit cooler than land based data.  It shows a 13 month  average that is still below the 1998 peak.  If the current El Nino pattern persists, 2016 could be warmer than 2015 or 1998.  Land based data already has 2015 higher than 1998.

https://i1.wp.com/www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_February_2016_v6.png

What happened 50 or 150 or 500 years ago?   How does the current El Nino compare to El Nino patterns in history?  We don’t know.   Study of El Nino is a relatively new science.   Our understanding of it began about 50 years ago as we began to collect better Ocean current and temperature data.  So how did El Nino events impact the climate in the dust bowl era?  Your guess is as good as mine!

Science is a guessing game.  Weather science is a big time guessing game.  And too many of the articles I have read assume Scientists are certain.  Doubters are the fools.  Carbon Dioxide is the culprit and  if we don’t keep it under under control, the world’s climate will  change dramatically.  And if we meet IPCC goals, everything will be just fine.

REALLY!?

How can we really know what is gong to happen to the world climate ecosystem in 50 or 100 or 500 years?   How can we guarantee a small change in a system that changes regularly regardless of what we do or do not do.

And people that have doubts are the bad guys?

I’m one of those guys.  I look at the science and I see lots of guessing.  Wild Ass Guessing.   I’m in favor of a cautious approach to greenhouse gas emissions. They might be bad.  Why take the risk.    But then again other things that Scientists aren’t paid to study are likely more important.  Global temperature changes don’t track particularly well to carbon dioxide levels.  It has been argued that carbon dioxide is a following rather than a leading indicator.

One thing is certain, we need to know more.   Lots more.   Something important is being missed or misunderstood.  I see a society that decided what the answer was in 1992 and UN Scientists and their many comrades have been trying to prove it ever since.

The level of confidence displayed by the scientists and the writers is wildly out of place with the science.  This specific science problem has many many variables.   Orbital variations, solar winds, sunspots and even the relative position of continents matter. Climate changes wildly without the assistance of man.  A change of 10 degrees C is common in a single 100,000 year long ice age cycle. It has been lots warmer and lots colder in the last 20,000 years. And in the climate game, 20,000 is a short time period.

It was warmer that it is today just 1000 years ago.  And skeptics are not stupid just because they have a contrary opinion or wonder what will happen when/if  it starts to get cold again.

Sometimes I think about a Mark Twain quotation or three.  All this has gone on before.

It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s what we know for sure that just aint so.

and

Get your facts first, then you can distort them any way you please.

and finally

Facts are stubborn things, statistics are pliable.

It’s worth remembering that measuring the average temperature of the Earth is a difficult task full of guessing.  We have very few thermometers in the Southern Hemisphere (only 1 in Antarctica).  The Oceans that absorb heat better than land,  represent most of the Earth’s surface and are underrepresented in any current global climate temperature measurement.  Ocean probes drift with the currents and are not well distributed.  Adjustments are made to temperature measurements to compensate for these shortcomings. Global surface temperature is not a precisely known number.

Was 2015 the warmest ever? NO.  The warmest in the last 100 years?  Well maybe.  How about 100o years?  Unlikely.

Satellite data varies somewhat from surface data.  Satellite data says 2015 was a warm year and 2016 is starting out strong.  2016 might be just a bit warmer than 1998 (another El Nino year) but it might not (according to the Satellite data).  It’s a close call and the data on 2016 has a while to run.

Our collection of Satellite data began in the late 1970’s.  We know the world was warmer than average in the late 1930’s.  And our ability to measure temperature was less sophisticated then than it is today.  We have no idea what went on in Antarctica or in the Oceans back then.   We think it is warmer today than it was back then…but we are not certain.  We were guessing back then and we’re guessing today.

Have a nice day.

A Three Question Climate Change Knowledge Test

Climate change is a scientific discussion that has been hijacked by political considerations.  Many people have strong opinions about climate change and too many of those opinions are based on political rather than scientific reality.   Politics are here, there and everywhere.  And the UN, a strangely political place, is the recognized world expert.  Need I say more.

With that in mind I have developed a simple 3 question test.  If you already know all the answers, congratulations!

Question 1. —  What is Climate Sensitivity and how does it impact the global climate debate?

Most people have never heard of Climate Sensitivity.  Some will be well aware of the idea, but not know the name.  Others are simply unaware of the arguments.  A general knowledge of how climate sensitivity is used by the global warming doom crowd is important.

Carbon dioxide is a weak greenhouse gas.  Water vapor and methane are strong greenhouse gases.   As carbon dioxide changes in the atmosphere, it is predicted to make changes in other climate variables.   IF the model assumes a high climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide then small changes in carbon dioxide cause big changes in climate.  Low sensitivity produces much less change.   Many UN modelers assume a fairly high carbon dioxide sensitivity.  This high sensitivity leads to “tipping points” and gloom and doom.

Climate models are run by computers. These computers use carbon dioxide as a key input variable.  They then predict temperature years and centuries into the future.   UN approved climate models do not agree with each other.   Models can vary by as much as 5 degrees C by the year 2100.

As time goes by computers get faster, more information becomes available and the models are adjusted.  Predictions made just 10 years ago have proven to be wildly high.  Either the climate sensitivity was too high or … they have failed to properly consider natural climate variation.

Question 2. — What is natural climate variation?

If you don’t get this one right, you’re really not paying attention to the science.

We live in an ice age time.  We have been in an ice age for the last 2.5 million years.  For the last 11,000 years we have been in the Holocene, an oddly steady period of climate history.  Climate during the Holocene has been warm and stable.  Ice cores go back about 700,000 years.  The Holocene is the only climate period during that time that has stayed warm for 11,000 years.   The norm is colder.  Much colder.

Here is a copy of a Vostok Antarctic Ice Corps showing climate variations at the drill site.

This chart starts in the present time and then goes back 400,000 years.  Another widely used chart displays the last 50,000 years of the chart beginning at the oldest with the newest dates at the right:

It’s easy to see the Holocene.  20,000 years ago New York City was covered in ice…and 130,000 years the world was warmer than it is right now.   This wildly changing climate is called natural climate variation.

Now lets look at the last 10,000 years using a Greenland Ice Core:

This chart ends with year 2009.  Man has only been able to influence climate for perhaps 200 years.  Any variations seen before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (the blue on the chart) must, by definition, be something that man did not cause.  Three times in the last 10,000 years it has been more than a degree warmer than it is right now.

What change is natural and what is man caused?  This is one very difficult science problem.

Question 3 — How is electricity stored?

This is a bit of a trick question.  Generally, electricity is not stored.   Power generation is an on demand business.  You turn on the light switch, the utility provides the electricity and the lights go on.  The utility grid has a bit of excess capacity running all the time so that it can maintain a stable grid.

A small amount of electricity is stored in batteries, but batteries are expensive and have manufacturing and disposal problems.  Batteries are not now a viable option.  People are working hard to solve this problem.   But in science, wishing doesn’t make it so.  When the solution is found…we can consider it, but for right now we have to look at what is available today, not what might be there in 10 or 20 years.

Electricity is not stored, any electricity provided must be immediately used by the grid.  Electrical demand varies throughout the day and the electric utility has to vary production to meet that demand.  Demand usually peaks just before sunrise and again in the early evening.  Wind and solar are only available when mother nature feels like it.  Germany, the largest solar power market in the world is so far North that solar provides almost no power in the winter.   Munich, which is in Southern Germany, has the same latitude as International Falls, Minnesota.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) releases statistics every month on power generation in the USA.  Here is the data for a 12 month rolling average including October 2015.

Coal   Natural Gas    Nuclear    Hydro     Solar     Renewable (inc. wind)

35%         32%              19%           6%           0.6%                          7%

Natural gas burns much cleaner than coal but does create some carbon dioxide when burned.  Hydro and Nuclear are clean (from a carbon dioxide perspective)   All four are unpopular with environmentalists for various reasons and they represent about 92% of all power production.

Wind is the most difficult to predict alternative fuel, and it’s the least reliable.   Places with lots of wind relative to other sources of power have odd things happen from time to time.  When the wind really blows, Germany gets so much power from wind that they have to pay neighboring countries to take the energy.  A US utility made news a few months ago when it gave away electricity during peak wind production.  A  cheap reliable battery network would fix this problem.  Unfortunately none exists right now.

Whenever I encounter a global warming true believer I ask them the same simple question.   What is your opinion on Nuclear Power?  Coal represents 35% of total load now and most environmentalists want that at zero.   Where is that capacity going to come from?   There is only one currently available source that can bridge the gap to a better world with wind, solar and cheap batteries and that choice is Nuclear.

Which of course begs the question.   What do you fear more, Nuclear Power or global warming?  I myself am skeptical about the science that touts global disaster, but they could be right.  On the chance that they might be at least partly right…. I support more Nuclear Energy.  How about You?

 

Old Predictions Make Prejudiced Scientists

On Monday, the Alaska Dispatch News reprinted a Washington Post story by Chris Mooney titled Renowned climate scientist projects rapid rise in sea level, more intense storms The article discusses a research study Dr. James Hansen and 16 of his associates are about to release.  That study predicts gloom and doom even if the UN is successful in controlling climate change. The study has yet to be peer reviewed but is given priority by the Washington Post because as the article states:

It’s an alarming picture of where the planet could be headed — and hard to ignore, given Hansen’s reputation.

Why is it hard to ignore?  Why is gloom and doom by Dr. Hansen news?  Dr. Hansen has been predicting gloom and doom since the 1980’s.  He has been predicting rapid temperature rises and sea level mass destruction since 1982.  His 1988 projections in front of Congress were wrong.  This graph from a Skeptical Science article defending Hansen shows three Hansen predictions.  Scenario A predicted changes with carbon dioxide near current levels: https://i1.wp.com/www.skepticalscience.com/pics/Hansen_1988.gif According to Dr. Hansen, we should be quite a bit warmer.  And I would argue that the black line drawn by Skeptical Science is a bit too aggressive.  Most temperature models show a rapid rise from the 1992 cooling following the  Mt. Pinatubo eruption, to the great El Nino of 1998.  Worldwide temperatures since 1998 have been largely unchanged.  The  Skeptical Science graph makes it look like there is a persistent uptrend that really stopped in 1998.

Climate research sites  UAH, and East Anglia University both show this.   As Skeptical Science said in the article, Dr. Hansen’s models had a too high climate sensitivity. English translation…his predictions were wrong.

Dr. Hansen is not alone, most early models at the IPCC were wildly high  in their predictions.  Climate models have had to be modified to reflect the lack of warming since 1998.   IPCC reports have been toning down the immediate impacts of carbon dioxide (and methane too), using natural climate variation as the reason.

They still think they are right, but natural climate variation appears to be masking the predicted results and their predictions  might take a long time to materialize.  Virtually every temperature based prediction made by the IPCC in the 2007 Climate Change Report was wrong.  The IPCC has now modified their positions to reflect this reality.   Not Dr. Hansen. Back in June of 1988, Dr Hansen is quoted in a New York Times article as saying the following to Congress:

that it was 99% certain that  the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a build up of carbon dioxide and other artificial gasses in the atmosphere.

And in 2007 he had not changed his view one iota as these quotes courtesy of the Steve Goreham website demonstrate:

“…99 percent confiden t that the world really was getting warmer and that there was a high degree of probability that it was due to human-made greenhouse gases.”     —Dr. James Hansen on his 1988 Senate testimony, PBS Frontline, Apr. 24, 2007

Two years later he said:

“The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions over the next few decades.”     —Dr. James Hansen, The Observer, Feb. 15, 2009

“The greatest danger hanging over our children and grandchildren is initiation of changes that will be irreversible on any time scale that humans can imagine.”     —Dr. James Hansen, The Observer, Feb. 15, 2009

“Burning all the fossil fuels will destroy the planet we know, Creation, the planet of stable climate in which civilization developed.”     —Dr. James Hansen, letter to Barack and Michelle Obama, Dec. 29, 2008

Back in 1988, we knew much less than we do now and Dr. Hansen was 99% sure he was right.  How could anyone be that sure then or now?   Even the UN is only 90% sure that most warming seen since 1950 is man caused.  Some could be natural climate variation.  This is one extraordinarily difficult science discussion.  A rational person should have more doubt.

Now, Dr. Hansen believes even a modest rise in temperature of less than a degree C will be catastrophic.  I have doubts.  Dr. Hansen is so prejudiced in his view, I doubt he can produce a document that does not display his almost religious zeal on the subject.

Interestingly, the Washington Post decided to use Michael Mann as their independent scientist to discuss this controversial paper presented by Dr. Hansen. Mann would not have been my first choice.

Back in 1998, Dr. Mann produced a paper predicting rapid climate change.  It was the rage of the Climate Community for years. Al Gore used the Hockey Stick Graph as it was called in his film.  In 2005 the study was successfully challenged by Canadian mathematicians.  Dr. Mann has been at the center of a climate fire storm for some 10 years now.

Hansen and Mann share a common problem.  Both made wild predictions in the distant past and must either defend them or admit mistakes.  Neither has been willing to admit errors, and errors were made. Some times I don’t understand journalistic choices.  I cannot think of any duo more shrouded in controversy in Climate Science than Dr. Hansen and Dr. Mann.

All this begs a question – Why did Mr. Mooney give Dr. Hansen such stature and why did he use Dr. Mann as a source confirming the story?

Note to the IPCC — Develop Realistic Goals

The IPCC has a global temperature goal for the World that makes no sense.   The leading “authority” on climate wants to keep the world temperature to less than 2 degrees C higher than it was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  The Earth has already warmed over a degree C since 1750. This makes the IPCC limit  something less a than 1 degree C from current temperatures.

Natural climate variation makes the goal unattainable in the long run.  At some time in the future, the world will change (probably begin cooling) in  a way the IPCC failed to anticipate.   Nobody can make such a precise temperature guarantee.  Our knowledge of the science is simply too primitive.  And yet the goal is repeated over and over again.  I see references to the goal almost daily.  A goal that is nothing more than a wild ass guess.

We live in an ice age cycle and have been in this cycle for some 2.5 million years.   Average Antarctic temperatures as calculated using ice cores during the last three ice age cycles (about 400,000 years) have varied by about 13 degrees C.  Average Antarctic temperatures have been 8 degrees colder than today, and the coldest place on earth averaged 5 degrees C warmer some 130,000 years ago.  Most of the time it’s colder.

We are living in the Holocene, a 10,000 year period of very stable temperatures.   When one looks at the Vostok Ice Core from Antarctica it is clear that the Holocene is a surprisingly stable time from a temperature perspective.  Nowhere else on the chart does the climate stay stable and warm for 10,000 years.

Now let’s take a peek at a Greenland Ice Core that only goes back about 10,000 years.  This core takes place entirely within the Holocene and covers most of the period.

https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/gisp2-ice-core-temperatures.jpg

This ice core indicates that we have spent most of the last thousand years in a relatively cool period of the Holocene.   The recent warming has brought us up to the average.  The average temperature for the last 10,000 years in this particular part of Greenland was about the same as it is right now.  The chart stoped some 95 years ago and back then the world was about .7 degrees colder than it is today.   Add that bit back in and were about average for the Holocene.

The world has warmed rapidly, but there are lots of periods along the chart that are more severe.  Yep…wild natural climate variation…in a calm period of the ice age cycle.  Hmmm…..

I’m not a big fan of ice cores because they provide climate for a single location and regional climate varies more wildly than the world as a whole.   But if Greenland has varied by more than 3 degrees C at a time when the entire planet was unusually stable and warm, maybe a 1 degree C goal is for the world includes just a bit of wishful thinking.

Remembering that the world has warmed steadily since the end of the Little Ice Age, let’s look again at recent temperature data provided by East Anglia University in the UK.

gtc graph

Wild annual variation everywhere.  My favorite section…from 1863 to 1878, the world warmed by a bit over half a degree  C in only 15 years.  Warming before 1950 is presumed by the IPCC to be mostly natural variation.  Furthermore, the world warmed by almost .7 degree C between 1912 and 1942, a 30 year period not unlike the period between 1976 and 1998.  Since 1998, the pattern has been unusually stable.  More stable than at any time in the last 175 years.  No single year has varied from the prior year by more than .2 degree C during the last 17 years

One would never guess we are living (since 1998) in a time of relatively stable temperatures.    Reports in the media cast climate change as an accelerating problem.   And they could be right.  Perhaps natural climate variation is masking a disaster in the making?

But the IPCC could be wrong too.  The IPCC has been making temperature predictions since 1992.  The world went along as predicted until 1998, and then it didn’t.  7 years of right, 18 years of wrong.  7 for 25, not bad if your playing baseball.  I expect more from my scientists. When I look at IPCC data, I see guessing.  Wild Ass Guessing.

Problems are here, there, everywhere in the climate game.  Guessing is a part of the scientific process.  And guessing is everywhere as scientists attempt to predict future climate.  Carbon dioxide is higher than it has been in a really long time, and man probably plays a significant part in that impact.  But it is not the only input required in any attempt to predict future climate based on the past.

We have difficulty accurately measuring the Earth’s temperature both right now and in the past.  Arguments persist about volcanic impacts.  Sudden changes in the Earth’s magnetic field might matter.  Some think solar winds are important. The World was dramatically changed when Antarctica and South America became separate continents some 23 million years ago.

We know solar output varies and some suspect sunspot activity might matter.   Ice ages are presumed to be impacted by the location of the continents and by variations in the Earth’s orbit.   Land near the poles makes the world colder than when most land is near the equator is it was 50 million years ago.  The shape of the the earth’s orbit varies, as does it’s tilt.  And the earth wobbles too.  All 3 orbital variations are presumed to impact climate.

I suspect the IPCC is simply playing politics.  They need the problem to be immediate and urgent in order to secure funding.   And they know that our society lacks the political will to do what they say needs to be done.  If something bad happens, they can say I told you so.  If nothing happens they can blame natural climate variation.   And as long as the problem persists in the minds of the population, they continue to get funding!

The IPCC cannot afford to tell you the truth. It might impact funding.

THIS TRUTH —   The  scientific community is confident that man is impacting climate.  That impact is extraordinarily difficult to quantify,  measure,  or predict   When scientists use computer models they are guessing.  The models are not as precise as they should be and change wildly as new information come to life.   There is much we still do not know. The entire process is strongly influenced by  politics and economics . We all share the planet together.  We have a shared responsibility to be good stewards of the environment.  Society should act in a cautious manner because it might be important.

Gloom and doom sells newspapers and provides funding, but does little to advance the science.  I wish those that advocate climate change science in it’s current form were just a bit more circumspect and a bit less confident they are right.   Until I see some healthy skepticism from within the advocate community, I will remain skeptical.

USA isn’t Number 1 in Carbon Emissions

This morning I decided to look up some recent carbon dioxide production statistics.  I performed a Google search and selected the Natural Resources Defense Council website, which came up first on the search (and you wondered how Google made money).  The site was chock full of climate propaganda and half truths.  I selected the following question from their website:

Q:  What country is the largest source of global warming pollution?

A:  The United States. Though Americans make up just 4 percent of the world’s population, we produce 25 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel burning — by far the largest share of any country. In fact, the United States emits more carbon dioxide than China, India and Japan, combined. Clearly America ought to take a leadership role in solving the problem. And as the world’s top developer of new technologies, we are well positioned to do so — we already have the know-how.

Al Gore used similar data in his 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth. 

Both Al and the Environmental lobby are wrong.  Big Surprise!  They must be using ancient data.  The data used by Mr. Gore  in his 2006 released film has a 1999 copyright date.  Data takes time to compile.  I’d guess the actual data was probably produced using data form the mid 1990’s.   2014 data is now available .

I wish the Natural Resource Defense Council had spent a bit more on content  editing and a bit less on online advertising.

The Statistica website has  data from 2014.  Their data shows the USA is second place with 14.7% of total manmade carbon dioxide production.  China leads and has led the country chart since 2006.  Their 2014 share was 23.4%, a number that has been steadily rising for over 20 years.  India, another rapid grower sits in third position with 5.7%, followed by Russia (4.9%), Brazil (4.7.%), Japan(3.6%), Indonesia (2.31%), Germany (2.23%) and Korea (1.71%).

Why did Al Gore use old statistics in 2006 when he made his film and why does the USA’s largest environmental lobby still use 20 year old data today?   Because it works as a fundraising tool.  Potential givers want  to feel important. China (and India too) have the ability to overwhelm the mathematics.  Why give.  We in the USA are powerless to impact the autocracy that is China.

I’d argue the data doesn’t begin to tell the full story.   Population density, location and GDP all must also be considered.  China and the USA are about the same size, but China has 4 times as many people and produces less than 50% of the goods the USA produces.  All those people with middle class desires.  Urbanization will lead to additional carbon production.  Throw in GDP differences and China looks more and more like the Elephant in the room nobody talks about

China is a bit closer to the equator than the USA, which means they need to use less energy to keep warm.   The USA has been reducing  their carbon footprint steadily since about 2000.  China continues to grow theirs at nearly 8% per year.

India is another rapid grower and that has the potential to be a perplexing problem for the climate control crowd.   India is about 1/3 the size of the USA and produces a bit more than 1/3 of the USA’s total carbon dioxide.   Their population is still growing rapidly which means that their carbon production will grow rapidly unless they can use much less on a per capita basis.   Their current per capita use is rising from a very low level which means that India has a long runway of increased carbon production in front of them.

China’s impact is huge.  India’s is growing rapidly.  The USA’s potential climate impact (if you trust the UN scientists) has been declining for most of the 21st century.  Who knows what will happen next.  Any notion that we in the USA can change the world with rather modest  changes at home seems a bit fanciful.

Perhaps the guys at the UN are wrong.  Their temperature predictions for the first 15 years of the 21st century have been awful.  The world has been colder than predicted.  Yes surface data shows 2014 as being a warm year.  Satellite data disagrees; and both land based and satellite data are lower than UN predictions made just a few years ago.  Perhaps increased carbon dioxide won’t be as damaging as advertised.

China’s growth rate is slowing and they are building a bunch of new Nuclear Power Plants which should slow their emissions growth rate in the 2020’s.   Maybe the elephant in the room will move more carefully a few years from now.

Time will tell.

Beaufort Sea Polar Bears

Three days ago I read an article dramatizing the rapid reduction in Polar Bear populations in a sub-region of the Arctic.  The Beaufort Sea population had been reduced by 40% between 2004 and 2010.  I was a bit surprised by this statistic because I had seen many recent articles that had said Polar Bear populations had not been in recent decline.

I wondered if it was a regional issue or was it really the beginning of the end for the Polar Bear.  And then I read a bit more.   The 2010 Polar Bear population estimate was 900 bears down from 1250-2000 in 2004.  How can we have a precise number for 2010 and such a wide range only 6 years earlier?  Have we become expert Polar Bear counters in just 6 years?  Perhaps the 900 bears is a range value too.  If so what is the range?

The article used indirect counting methods so there must have been a range of values.  Bears were tagged and then survival rates of bears found years later were compared to past data.  Incomplete data in Canada in 2004 explained the range in the 2004 to 2006 data.   OK, but 900 sounds like an estimate to me.  The study might be an excellent proxy; it is beyond my expertise.  I still want more precise data.

And that is only the beginning of this data accumulation problem.  We really don’t have much data…and that is a big problem.

I wonder how many bears were wandering around in 1940 at the end of the last mini warming cycle?  Perhaps 2000 bears is too many for the local ecosystem?   How did Polar Bears fare some 130,000 years ago when sea level was 6 meters higher than it is today?  And how have the bears fared since 2010.  Why is there no recent update?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions.   I’d go a step further and say that nobody really knows.  But too many of the scientists studying the recent decline KNOW the cause, reduced sea ice. And these same scientists seem to know why the sea ice has reduced, man caused climate change!

Maybe, maybe not.

Sea ice data is only 34 years old. And the best data is only 4 years old.  Just 4 years ago we began accumulating accurate data on sea ice thickness?  Anyone interested can visit the Snow and Ice Data Center website.

What has happened to Polar Bear populations since 2010? How have other regions in the Arctic fared?  What were the Polar Bear populations 40 years ago when hunting was allowed?  Or 400 years ago, during the little ice age?  Or 40,000 years ago when there was lots more ice, ice all the way down to NYC?

So many questions!  Oh yes, two more questions.  Did they need a global warming angle to get funding for their study?  And who paid for the study?

Don’t get me wrong.  I think man probably has caused some of the impacts being witnessed.  How much is an extraordinarily difficult science problem.  I wish society were be a bit more circumspect.  Sometimes problems are not that simple   All too often we humans looks for easy simple answers to difficult complicated questions.

 

 

 

 

Climate — The Good, the Bad and the Stupid

Wow.  What a week.

On Saturday the Wall Street Journal published a feature article on the current state of climate science that was probably the best detailed article I have ever seen on global climate change. (the good).

On Sunday my local paper reprinted a New York Times article that featured a night photo of the UN building featuring the 2 degree C goal on the face of the building (the bad) and …

On Monday climate protestors amassed on Wall Street (the stupid).

The Good

If you haven’t read the Wall Street Journal article, Climate Science is Not Settled, read it now.  It is simply the best article on the subject I have seen.   The first paragraph is an excellent introduction:

The idea that “Climate science is settled” runs through today’s popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. It has not only distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment. But it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.

The article begins by acknowledging that the world is warmer and that man is probably responsible for some amount of warming.  It then details all the shortcomings in the science.   Discussions items include our limited understanding of the Oceans, the wild variability of computer models and the societal desire to have a precise answer when science cannot give us one.

Precise answers are beyond our abilities at this time and yet the UN has been providing precise answers since 1997.

A quotation courtesy of Mark Twain and/or Will Rogers:

It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.

The Bad

The UN (when discussing global climate) has always been a political association trying to solve an extraordinarily difficult science problem.  Political solutions don’t work well in science.   The UN has been making specific predictions about future climate for some 20 years now.  Those predictions have been wrong because they have not been willing to admit to the scientific shortcomings listed in the WSJ article just referenced.

Natural climate variation and flawed computer modeling have made many predictions in the 2007 synopses report wrong.   The recently released 2014 Synopses Report modified those predictions to include climate variation.   Some changes in climate that were predicted for our immediate future now might not show up for centuries.  But the predictions persist.

The Wall Street Journal article referenced earlier had this to say about specific climatic predictions:

Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole. For example, human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere’s natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%. Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.

The UN needs  a specific identifiable goal to motivate people to act.  So they give them one.  The following photo accompanied an article about the New York warming protests in my local Sunday paper:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1.2017169!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg

Keep global temperature increases to_less_than 2 degree C is plastered across the UN building encouraging protestors.  This goal was a part of the 2007 Synopses report.   The UN is supporting the notion that society can control temperature and can keep the change to less than a 2 degree C change since the beginning of the Industrial revolution.   The world has already changed more than a degree C since 1750 so the goal is to keep  temperature in a very tight range.

Natural climate variation makes the goal virtually impossible.

A few less sunspots, a volcanic eruption, a change in short term weather patterns.  A Little Ice Age here, the Medieval Warming Period there, or perhaps the next ice age cold cycle.

One volcanic eruption on the scale of the Mt. Tambora eruption of 1815 would change the world by more than 2 degrees C.  1815 was known around the world as the year without a summer.

Europe in 1709 was a very cold place.  It is guesstimated that Europe was a full 7 degrees C below the 20th century average  that year.  And the Romans built gold mines high in the Alps during a very warm period around 1800 years ago.

Mt. Pinatubo in 1992 changed the world by 1 degree C in only 2 years.  Any notion that man can control climate as specifically as the UN stated on their building last Sunday is poppycock and BAD science.

THE STUPID

Assume the UN is right and all the problems mentioned in the WSJ article are wrong (bad assumptions both).  Gloom and doom is close at hand and immediate action is necessary.  So activists protest on Wall Street? Why?

What would that accomplish?  What do they expect Wall Street to do?  What are their goals?

Carbon production worldwide is growing despite efforts to slow it.  Why?  Four words…China, India and Nuclear Power.  We must find a way to slow the population growth rate and we must construct clean energy plants all over the world.  Plants that will operate on cloudy windless days.  There is only one choice that will work right now (if you believe the UN math), and that choice is Nuclear Power.

Does the world fear Nuclear Power or global warming more?   Right now the answer is Nuclear Power.  Western countries are phasing out of Nuclear because of the Fukashima disaster.   California and Vermont are closing old Nuclear plants and no new ones are scheduled to be built.   That carbon free power is being replaced by power that produces carbon.

China produces more carbon dioxide than the USA and Europe combined.  And in the next 50 years India will become the world’s most populous place, adding half a billion people to its already burdensome population. Each additional Indian that makes it to the middle class wants to use energy to improve their quality of life.  Cheap power is a necessity.

China’s per capita production of carbon now exceeds the average for Europe.  That production is rising at about 8% per year with zero population growth.  India’s use is rising faster than it’s population growth.    The USA, the world’s second largest producer of carbon, has been reducing production, but it gets lost in the mix as China overwhelms everything else.    If India and China don’t change, then it doesn’t matter what the rest of us do.

These are worldwide political problems.   And they involve hard choices and tradeoffs.  Wall Street has very little to do with either.    So why protest there?

Politics of course.  And headlines!

I’d be willing to bet that most of the protestors are absolutely sure they are correct….and I’d also be willing to bet they think all the science issues are settled.   That is a sad reality that has become global warming politics.

 

Polar Bears, Whales, Climate Science and Exxon

Wow!

What  a day. Four different articles in Section One of the Anchorage Daily News worthy of a post.  Most days nothing catches my eye.  Not today….well it is April Fools Day.

  1. UN Court orders Japan to halt Antarctic whaling was the feature page 1 story of the day.   The court voted 12 to 4 against the Japanese claim that killing up to 1000 whales a year was a form of scientific research.
  2. Researchers use DNA to trace lineage of polar bears was also a page one story.  A University of Alaska Fairbanks study used DNA evidence to demonstrate that the Polar Bear, Black Bear and Brown Bear have specific genetic histories.   The article went on to discuss the Endangered Species Act and the use of computer models to try to place the Polar Bear on the Endangered Species List.
  3. Exxon: Climate Change Policy Highly Unlikely to Limit Fossil Fuel Sales appeared on Page 3.   This article featured arguments between Exxon scientists and Environmental scientists about the relative costs and benefits of fossil fuels to society.  Surprise…they disagree.
  4. UN report: Global warming dials up our risks made it’s appearance on page 5.  The UN released a 32-volume report on climate on Monday.   This AP article discussed the impact climate change will have on food production.  The article talked about the impacts on poor people and the impacts on fine wine and coffee too.

There you have it, four wonderful April Fools Day treats in the first five pages of  my local paper.

Article 1 – Whaling in Antarctica

Apparently, last year the UN’s highest court had a trail.  In that trial, the Japanese government claimed that killing up to 1000 whales a year in the Antarctic was being done as a form of scientific research.

The Japanese position fails the laugh test.  When a legal position is so bad that others witnessing the lawsuit might actually laugh during the argument, that position has failed the laugh test.  Trust me, no lawyer wants to present a position that fails the laugh test.  Japan just failed.

This story says  something about Japan and about the UN too. 4 judges agreed with the Japanese position?!  And it took the court months and months to come to this conclusion?  World politics is a constant source of amazement.

Article 2 – Polar Bears

When I first started reading about Polar Bears, the conventional wisdom was that they became a distinct species about 200,000 years ago.   Perhaps two years ago, early DNA studies changed that to 600,000 and then another study last year said it could be as high is 4 million years.   This study pegs the change at 1.2 million years plus or minus.  And the study acknowledges that the time clock being used is approximate.

The lead scientist, Dr. Matthew Cronin, has been a vocal critic of the Endangered Species Act.   He has made, according to the article,  the following statements about the listing of the Polar Bear as an endangered species

It seems logical that if polar bears survived previous warm, ice free periods, the could survive another.

and

This is of course speculation, but so is predicting they will not survive, as the proponents of the Endangered Species Act listing of polar bears have done.

and

I don’t think you should base endangered species on predictions and models.  It should be focused on real-world problems.

All this was music to my ears. No so for Dr Steven C. Amstrup, principal author of the report recommending the ESA listing.  He called Dr Cronin’s study incautious and misleading.  Dr. Amstrup then pointed out that the current warming cycle was happening much more rapidly than had previous cycles.

Wrong.  The world is predicted by IPCC climate scientists to begin rapid warming soon. The World has been warming for over 200 years, but most of that has been natural climate variation.  The 2007 IPCC Climate Synopses predicted immediate warming.  The world was supposed to be about .2 degree C warmer than it is right now and that warming was supposed to accelerate with time.  The IPCC was wrong.

Warming to date is well within the normal range of the last 10,000 years.  The Earth warmed at a relatively rapid rate between 1993 and 1998, which also included a climate changing volcanic eruption and a strong El Nino.  Warming stopped and has been relatively stable since 1998 as this Satellite Temperature chart demonstrates:

https://i1.wp.com/www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_February_2014_v5.png

Perhaps Dr. Amstrup is just a tiny bit defensive.   He based all his arguments on climate models that have …at least so far…been wrong.

Article 3 Exxon vs Environmentalists

This article seemed perfect to me for April 1st.   Exxon and the Environmental lobby differ on the relative value of fossil fuels.   Duh!  Talk about a firm grasp on the obvious.   The article can be summed up by a single paragraph about halfway through the article.

Exxon and the environmental groups agree that climate change is a risk and that society will take steps to reduce emissions from fossil fuels to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  They differ, however, on how drastic society’s response could be, and what would cost more — severely restricting fossil fuel consumption or not doing so and allowing more carbon dioxide to build up in the atmosphere.

Exxon thinks emissions will peak in about 2030.  The peak level of emissions will be less a risk than the environmental lobby predicts.    I have no idea where the truth lies.  Vested interests are everywhere.   The article really broke no new ground and provided no new information.

Article 4 — UN Report on Climate

Our local paper ran an AP story titled UN Report: Global warming dials up our risks in today’s paper.  I cannot find the article at AP or at adn.com (The Anchorage Daily News website).  I found stories with the same title.   I also found a story with the same title written by the same AP writer, but the story was completely different.  The Anchorage Daily News has a history of editing AP articles, so I read the online AP article.   The two articles are completely different. I have never encountered this before.

It does feel a bit like an April Fools Day prank…on page 5 of the Anchorage Daily News.

My local newspaper version of the AP story is an awful story.  It focuses solely on food supply issues caused by global climate change.   I wish I could find a way to link it.   The article mixes starvation in India with fine wine and coffee in the developed world.  Global climate change will change food availability and costs according to the article.  And not in a good way.

The article talked about potential starvation in India.     Yep, as India goes from a country with a billion people to a country with 1.5 billion people, food is going to become more of an issue.   Perhaps birth control or lack thereof might be a part of India’s food supply problem.   Maybe even more important than carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere?

 

 

Dr. Hansen’s Dream World — part 2

It’s time to beat up on Dr. Hansen some more.  My last post only dealt with the introduction of  a new article published by Dr. Hansen and 17 other authors“Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature is the less than catchy title. This post deals with the first section of the body of the article, the section that deals with temperature.

Oh! First a sidebar…NASA (Dr. Hansen’s employer) Climate Research Funding  and Columbia University funding helped pay for the project.   I don’t mind NASA funding research, but I’d rather have them not use their own employees….it feels like we (the people of the United States) are paying them twice.

In part 1 of this discussion I mentioned that Dr. Hansen had been somewhat cavalier with his data selection.   I accused him of using regional data, and of cherry picking data.  But Dr. Hansen does so much more.  He uses old data, he misrepresents data and uses his own work as a resource.

He does all that within the first major section of the article, which is called Global Temperature and Earth’s Energy Balance.   In a subsection titled Temperature, he begins by showing temperature graphs.  The following graphs are displayed:

https://i0.wp.com/www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action

I find those charts difficult to read and I think they misrepresent the recent past.  Here are three other charts that better tell the story.   First is the East Anglia University chart that was prepared in 2010:

https://i2.wp.com/www.climatechangefacts.info/ClimateChangeImages/cru_gtc.gif

The total amount of temperature variation shown is less on the East Anglia chart than on the charts provided in the article.  A lot less.  Dr. Hansen has a rationale for using only average data, but I don’t like the choice.  The 13 year average data masks all recent data and makes details much more difficult to interpret.   It in effect spreads the El Nino data out for a long period of time.

I like the older (pre 2013) East Anglia charts.  The University changed something in 2013 that made 1998 look cooler relative to the rest of the chart.  I suspect data fudging and prefer the older charts.

Next is a 45 year chart I used in my last post.  It shows East Anglia data, and  2 satellite sets of data:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7e/Satellite_Temperatures.png/800px-Satellite_Temperatures.png

and finally the current UAH chart:

https://i0.wp.com/www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_November_2013_v5.6.png

I like the UAH data best.  It is the most current and the most detailed.   I am fascinated by the changes in data from month to month.  The data Dr.Hansen chose makes it look like there is a steady march upward with a small pause at the end of the chart; the other charts tell a different, less ominous sounding story.

In the text that appears with the graphs, Dr. Hansen tells his story complete with multiple cites, including one to an article by an expert.   Yep, he cites himself.  He does that on 3 different occasions within the first two sub-section of the article.

A little further into the piece we get this statement:

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets began to shed ice at a rate, now several hundred cubic kilometers per year, which is continuing to accelerate.

An article by Edward. Hanna et al. is cited as the source material for the statement.   The article was published in Nature in June of 2013 and the article has this to say about Antarctica:

It remains unclear whether East Antarctica has been gaining or losing ice mass over the past 20 years, and uncertainties in ice-mass change for West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula remain large.

Parts of Antarctica are losing ice, other parts are not.  And there is lots of uncertainty. Surface ice adjacent to Antarctica is at record high levels according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

https://i2.wp.com/nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/files/2013/12/Figure4a-350x416.png

I am sure that if the world warms, ice will melt.  If enough melts it could become a serious problem. But Dr. Hansen overreached in this area.

The next sentence of the report (after the Greenland stuff) is as follows:

Mountain glaciers are receding rapidly all around the world  with effects on seasonal freshwater availability of major river.

Dr. Hansen provided two cite references for the Mountain glacier section.  Both were published in 2007.  That’s really old data in this field.  Recent studies blame some of the melting  not on carbon dioxide, but on particulate matter.   Air pollution turns the snow a slightly grey color, which causes it to melt faster.  It’s still a man caused problem, but the solution to the problem is to clean the air, not to eliminate carbon dioxide.

Oh…carbon black impacts melting in Greenland and the Arctic too.

The first of two cites supporting his argument for rapid melting referenced an article about the Andes; a part of the world that has not experienced significant warming.  The second site was the 2007 IPCC  Climate Change Report.   I was surprised to see this cite.  This part of the IPCC report is famous…or should I say infamous.  The Guardian ran a story on it in 2010.   The Guardian reported the following:

The UN’s climate science body has admitted that a claim made in its 2007 report – that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 – was unfounded.

The admission today followed a New Scientist article last week that revealed the source of the claim made in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not peer-reviewed scientific literature – but a media interview with a scientist conducted in 1999. Several senior scientists have now said the claim was unrealistic and that the large Himalayan glaciers could not melt in a few decades.

In a statement, the IPCC said the paragraph “refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.”

So, in 2010, the IPCC admitted the cite referenced by Dr. Hansen was flawed.  And his other cite was both regional and at an odd location.

The IPCC makes several statements  in their 2007 Synopses report.  Two are applicable here.  1) Warming has been regional  with most warming occurring over land in the Northern Hemisphere and 2) climate on a less than continental scale is subject to wild swings which makes it difficult to predict.

In finishing up the temperature section of the paper,  the article discusses the changes seen in the world. We are told the following:

Mega-heatwaves, such as those in Europe in 2003, the Moscow area in 2010, Texas and Oklahoma in 2011, Greenland in 2012, and Australia in 2013 have become more widespread with the increase demonstrably linked to global warming

The world is a big place.  I can make any argument I want to by picking my location.  If I want to sound alarmist about tropical storms, I can discuss the disastrous impacts of the Typhoon that destroyed so much of the Philippines.  If I want to sound calming, I can discuss the record low number of hurricanes  in the Atlantic during the same period.

Both events happened.  Both are regional.  And both happened in a part of the world that has not warmed significantly in the last 30 years.

The article provides two cites for the statement saying these items are demonstrably linked to global warming.  One cite provides a statistical argument for extreme weather whenever there is any warming or cooling.  It is in effect an argument that says extremes will appear whenever the average weather changes.   Climate has not been changing recently, so Dr. Hansen’s conclusion seems to be unsupported by the cite. The second site deals with one event, the 2013 drought in Australia.  No link was provided to that reference.

In Part 3, I’ll look at Dr. Hansen’s evaluations as to why climate politics has stalled and what needs to be done.  Stay tuned.

What’s a Humberto

Humberto is the first hurricane of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.  It formed off the coast of Africa yesterday.  CNN filed a report.  If Humberto had formed a few hours later it would have set a record as the latest first hurricane in Atlantic Hurricane reported history, whatever that means. After all a mere 100 years ago we didn’t even name storms.

https://i2.wp.com/s.imwx.com/dru/2013/09/f29c450f-d958-4b3b-8bb8-ac702c83e1c3_320x180.jpg

The Atlantic season runs from June through November each year and peaks on September 10th.  In a normal year we would have had 3 named hurricanes by now.  Humberto formed off the coast of Africa.  Had it formed 50 years ago we might have missed it.  It is a relatively small storm that will likely not last very long and will probably never threaten land.   It might not have been counted at all just 50 years ago.

2005 was a really bad year for hurricanes, particularly if you lived in Florida or in New Orleans and points East when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast.   Al Gore used the Katrina event as proof of global warming gloom and doom in his 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth.  He went on and on and on.   Every year since Al published his docudrama, hurricanes have been less severe than 2005.   We have now had seven and one half years of relatively mild hurricanes since the record setting season of 2005.

Why is it that bad hurricane years are equated to proof that global warming is serious and imminent while mild seasons prove nothing?     Hmmm.  One bad season, seven going on eight good ones. Maybe Mr. Gore was wrong?   Time will tell.