Tag Archives: climate politics

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.


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.


Increased Carbon Dioxide may harm marine life

Yesterday, August 26th,  I read a global warming gloom and doom article that I actually liked.  Researchers in Germany have just released a study showing that increased carbon dioxide in the air causes the oceans to absorb the gas faster, which changes the acidity of the oceans.  That acidity is changing faster than the marine animals can adapt.  If it continues to accelerate many species of marine animals could become extinct.

Most climate gloom and doom articles use carbon dioxide levels as a proxy for temperature and then discuss gloom and doom as it relates to temperature.
Temperature and carbon dioxide are not as directly related as most climate hawks want us to believe.   This article deals with carbon dioxide directly.  Direct is good.

Temperature and carbon dioxide have a spotty correlation record, sometimes going in the opposite direction for thousands of years, even as they tend to move in the same direction generally over time.  Carbon dioxide is at a million year high, temperature is currently a bit cooler than it was 10,000 years ago and it has been relatively stable for the last 11.000 years.

I liked this article because it made no effort to try to imply that carbon dioxide proved temperature predictions. Increased temperature could accelerate the problem they say, but the study  is primarily concerned with carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

I have no difficulty believing that man has increased the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere.  I would not be surprised if there were significant negative impacts because of that relatively rapid change.  And this research may have found a real and direct impact.

That said, I still am skeptical…not of this research specifically, but of the process.   I am not qualified to judge whether the change in the  environment is sufficient to cause the impacts described…but I have a problem.  The process encourages exaggeration.

Virtually all funding in this area is government sponsored.   Scientists are consultants working for the government.   The first job of every consultant I have ever met is continued employment.  If a scientist completes a study and that study fails to find a significant problem, there is no follow up study.  No follow up study means no future employment.

The process encourages scientists to find problems whether or not they actually exist.

I am not qualified to tell whether the rate of change in the oceans is significant….but I wonder.   75,000 years ago a huge super volcano erupted in Indonesia that would have introduced rapid change into all the oceans of the world.  I wonder, which is more significant…the super volcano eruption or the changes in the atmosphere we are seeing today?

Perhaps they are both significant, I don’t know…but I wish the process was more about science and less about achieving employable results.

Sea Level — A S.W.A.G. Game

Sea level has been rising steadily since the end of the little ice age some 250 years ago.  It has been averaging about .2 mm per year or about 7 inches per century.  The rate of change has been surprisingly stable as this chart of San Francisco demonstrates:

Sea level in San Francisco has been trending downward since 1998.  This second chart of the same information makes it a bit easier to see the recent decline:

So if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been steadily rising, and the world is a degree warmer than it was 200 years ago, why has sea level has not been rising since it peaked in 1998?

Sea level is a trailing rather than a leading indicator of climate.  And the delay can be as much as a thousand years!  The world warms and then the ice melts.  As fresh water stored over land decreases, sea level rises.  If it stays warm long enough, the deep oceans begin to warm.  As they warm, they expand and sea level rises even more.

The current rising sea level process began about 20,000 years ago as we came out of the last ice age cold cycle.  Here is a chart of that rise in sea level:

Temperature in the Holocene peaked about 10,000 years ago as this chart demonstrates:

The world is a bit cooler than it was 10,000 years ago.  Sea level has been slowly rising the entire period.  Imagine the world of 130,000 years ago when it was much warmer than it is today.

And finally we’ll look at a chart prepared of a Greenland Ice Core:

Greenland is in a cool cycle right now.  It’s a bit warmer than it was a few hundred years ago, but the current period is cold for Greenland in the last 10,000 years.  Greenland is some 2 degrees C cooler than it was just 3000 years ago.  It is worth noting that according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center Greenland has been covered in ice for 18 million years.

When I look at the last two charts I must give Mother Nature her due.  Sea level has been rising since we came out of the last ice age some 20,000 years ago.   And that’s a good thing!   We don’t want the climate we had even 15,000 years ago.  Sure we had lots more land above sea level, but much of it was frozen.   Think Greenland …then imagine the Northeastern USA and you’ll get the idea.

The IPCC appears to be ready to predict (in their 2014 Climate Report) a rise in sea level of from 10 inches to 3 feet and they attribute it to man caused events (according to a NY Times article).   I suspect wild ass guessing.

Changes in sea level we see in the next 86 years are more likely than not a function of the climate we have been having for thousands of years.  The IPCC thinks most variation seen before 1950 is natural climate variation. That’s a lot of change.  How do they know the current changes are not natural climate variation.  How can they know?

One tenet of the IPCC climate change group is that it is cheaper to try to mitigate climate change than it is to adjust to it.  I’m not so sure, I fear they underestimate nature.

  • When I look at the San Francisco chart I see a relatively steady increase since the beginning of the chart in 1850.
  • When I look at the Greenland chart, I see lots on natural climate variation.   Greenland has been lots warmer in the recent past than is today…and that was a natural event.  Will carbon dioxide make it warmer than it otherwise would be. Probably.  But it could get lots colder soon too if history is a guide.  How much of any short term  change is natural and how much is man caused?  I don’t know.
  • When I look at the last 150,000 years I’m glad we live in the warm time we live in.

When I step back and look at the big picture…a steady increase in sea level seems possible as long as we don’t start another ice age cool cycle.  It could be accelerated by an increase in melting from Greenland and Antarctica.  Greenland had an average melt year in 2013 and Antarctic Ice has been actually increasing in recent years.   Sea level has been declining since 1998.

What will the future bring?   I don’t know but I do know this:   Many of the changes in sea level that are a result of today’s weather will show up hundreds of years from now….even if the IPCC is right.

And when I look at the IPCC….I see guessing…..wild ass guessing.

Obama Administration Energy Policy Missteps

Sometimes you can’t win for losing.   Or maybe it’s a case of no good deed goes unpunished.   Na….I think the guys advising Mr. Obama all have the same view of the energy world.   And it’s a dream world that looks past renewable energy shortcomings and exaggerates the shortcomings of fossil fuels.   Their rose colored glasses have made it difficult for them to see clearly.

The Obama administration has made a total mess of their energy policy….but they have been trying.

The administration is full of global climate change true believers. They have used the EPA to wage war on coal.   This has driven the cost of coal down….which has made it the fuel of choice in the developing world.   China has vaulted to the top of the world pollution statistics in large part because they use cheap coal energy.

To combat the problem (if cheap energy can be considered a problem), the administration, as a part of a 2009 stimulus package, threw money at a variety of alternate energy initiatives.    In September of 2011, the whole thing began to unravel when Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, taking over 500 million in federal loan guarantees with it.

April 20th, 2010 — A few months after the administration began supporting deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, BP made a total mess of things when the Deepwater Horizon blew up.

Mr. Obama then overreacted to the disaster, and played a bit of politics. The subsequent mess set back deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for years.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge probably has lots of oil under it.   And it’s pristine wilderness (as is most of Alaska).  Environmental groups have made drilling there politically impossible.  After years of study, the Administration has decided to allow drilling offshore near there in the Beaufort Sea.

There likely is lots of oil in the Beaufort Sea.   Shell has spent almost 5 billion dollars trying to figure out a good way to produce there.  2012 was not a good year for Shell.  Late summer ice in the Bering Sea, and a support ship arriving late virtually assured the fall drilling season would be a bust, but Shell tried.

When the abbreviated drilling season was over, things went from bad to worse when a tow line between a tug and the drill rig broke.  The rig drifted dangerously and was damaged when it became grounded.

The 2013 drill season was cancelled and the drill rig was sent to Asia for repairs.

ANWR is a safer and less expensive place to drill when compared to drilling in the Beaufort Sea.  Modern directional drilling virtually assures a very small footprint for the drilling operations at ANWR.  Oil field infrastructure is nearby at Deadhorse.  The Alaska Pipeline is running less than half full, and all the necessary transportation infrastructure alreadly exists at Valdez.

ANWR is the smart choice when choosing Alaska Arctic exploration.  The Administration tried to be a participant in the region while staying as far away from ANWR as possible.  So far, things haven’t worked well.

And then there was Keystone.   A few posts ago I detailed why the current policy relating to Keystone is flawed.   And then a runaway train accentuated my point.

If I were in the Obama administration, I’d be more than a bit demoralized.   Every attempt seems wrought with difficulties… and missteps seem to be standard operating procedure.

Oh, one more thought….Mr. Obama has been on the wrong side of the Natural Gas debate since he got elected.  Jobs, clean air, cheap energy, and good for the environment; natural gas is all of the above.   The administration is so preoccupied with “clean” energy that they missed the big clean fuel right in front of their noses.  Natural Gas.

IPCC Climate Synopsis Critique – Part 1

Any frequent reader of this blog knows I think the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been practicing sloppy science for at least the last 20 years. Wild Ass Guesses are their stock and trade.   I thought I’d take a few blogs to better explain myself.

Today’ Subject: Climate Forcing

The IPCC has been writing Synopsis Reports since 1992.  The latest is nicknamed AR4 (The 4th Assessment Report).  It was published in September of 2007.  UN Scientists (and politicians too because it is the UN) are working on AR5 right now.  It should be ready for public consumption in 2014.

The IPCC says the following in bold print in the beginning of section 2.4 of the 2007 Report:

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations.

The term very likely is a defined term in the document which means that they are more than 90% certain but less than 95% certain.  Unfortunately most is not a defined term.  I’d guess they mean greater than 50 percent.  The document  never defines most and  is silent about all other possible reasons the world has warmed.  Man caused greenhouse gases (GHG) are the only subject discussed.

The document begins with the statement that the IPCC is 90% certain that man is responsible for more than 50% of the increase in worldwide temperatures since 1950.  The rest of the document is constructed around the assumption that man is responsible for measured changes seen in recent years.

Recent temperature increases are considered confirmation that they are correct.  Temperatures that are well within the range of normal climate variation.   OK?

Early in Chapter 2 of the 2007 Report,  a graph is presented that explains the forcing agents behind global climate change (Figure 2.4).  Here it is:

This chart drives me crazy!  LOSU means level of scientific understanding.  This chart says the IPCC knows a lot about long lived greenhouse gases (high LOSU) and nearly nothing about everything else including Aerosols and the Sun (both are low LOSU).  It also says that greenhouse gases are 22 times more important than changes in the Sun.  The math looks like this:

(1.66+.48+.16+.34)/.12= 22

Everything shown on the chart is anthropogenic except Solar Irradiance. If so, where do ice ages come from?

The IPCC states that before 1950 most warming was natural climate variation.   The AR4 document appears to be saying that variation in Solar Radiation reaching the earth surface is always a very small number and only contributes to warming, and never contributes to cooling.

Here is an Antarctic Ice Core, the Vostok Ice Core: (http://rubyelephant.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/vostok-ice-core.jpg)

Wow look at all that natural variation;  400,000 years worth.  About 12 degrees C of natural climate variation. 3 degrees warmer than 1950 and 9 degrees colder.  And even today we are within the very tight range of the last 11,000 years…a period of nearly no change.

The temperature changes in a cycle that averages about 100,000 years.  Today, and for the last 11,000 years, it has been warm.  Less warm than 130,00o years ago but much more stable. Solar Irridiance must have been much less than it is today just 20,000 years ago.

The IPCC says in the Synopses document that their Solar data is based upon the time period from 1750 to 2005.  It appears that the IPCC has taken a period of stable warming climate…and then assumed that is the only condition that can exist.  If they had started say….500 years earlier… the results would have been different.

Look at the Aerosol numbers in the chart. It could be very small or bigger than carbon dioxide….and the IPCC admits to now knowing much about it

And carbon dioxide appears to be a trailing rather than a leading indicator as this image demonstrates:

130,000 years ago, carbon stayed stable while temperature dropped.   And it lasted for 20,000 years.  About 20,000 years later temperature rose rapidly while carbon dioxide levels drifted a bit lower.  Recent data shows wild increases in carbon dioxide without the corresponding temperature rise.  A less than perfect correlation.

Other  Vostok ice core images include dust particles in the graph.  They show sudden increases in dust during some of the cooling periods.  My guess….super volcano eruptions.

The IPCC admits to lots of areas where their knowledge is weak and they admit that Aerosols could be very important (the number could be large), they have used a simplistic model of the sun and admit they don’t know much about many important subjects. And they are 90% sure man is mostly responsible.

Can you say SWAG.

Science the IPCC way.

Do You Believe In Global Warming

Last night I played Team Trivia at a local bar.   We were asked the following

According to a Yale study, what percentage of the population believes in Global Warming.

The answer was 70%.   Hmmm.   I wonder how I would have responded to such a question?   Yes, I believe scientists when they say the world warms and cools and that we are in a warming cycle that began about 250 years ago.   I do think that climate changes with time and that man is probably responsible for some of that change.   But do I believe in Global Warming?

I’m stumbling over the word believe. The word believe implies a religious experience.  I don’t think I have a belief structure associated with the notion that world climate changes.   I think the climate changes for a whole host of reasons including variation in all of the following:

  1. gamma rays reaching the earth’s surface
  2. the solar winds and other variations in the sun
  3. the relative location of the continents
  4. variation in the earth’s orbit
  5. natural and man-made air pollution including volcanic eruptions
  6. comet and asteroid collisions
  7. other things we haven’t figured out yet

I think item 7 puts me in the no camp when the word believe is used.   I expect the answer to change as we learn more about the subject. Conventional wisdom in science changes all the time.  I don’t know the answer, I’m sort of a climate change agnostic.  I am very confident that Al Gore, the IPCC and James Hansen are wrong….but I might be wrong too.

Time will tell……lots of time.  And lots more science too.

EPA numbers — Nissan Leaf 99 miles per gallon?

When something appears too good to be true, I become suspicious.  When the government is providing the information…

I have been trying to figure out whether an electric car is as good as the 99 miles per gallon numbers make it sound.   I thought it would be easy.  I was WRONG.

Let’s begin by looking at data on the 2012 Nissan Leaf.   The EPA says the Leaf averages 99 miles per gallon and will use $561 worth of fuel per  year when driven 15,000 miles.

Edmunds.com says fuel will cost $1,781.  One is triple the other.   Same car, same miles per year, same MPG.  Whhaaaat?

Who’s right?   The EPA says the leaf uses 34 kilowatt hours to go 100 miles and it will cost $561 to drive 15,000 miles.  If you do the math the EPA is assuming electricity will cost 11 cents per kilowatt hour.

The EIA estimated average residential electricity rate for November 2012 for all customers  in the USA was 11.74 cents per kilowatt hour. So far the EPA looks a bit high but not too bad.

Rates vary with location.  The EIA says Hawaii is the highest at $.3672 and  Louisiana is lowest at $.0838.  The East Coast of the USA (New England + the Atlantic states) averages about $.15.

I just looked at Hawaii’s rates and the EIA estimate is wrong.  They put Hawaii a full 5 cents per kilowatt lower than Hawaiian Electric rate sheets.  The EIA is also ignoring the $9 per month charge Hawaiian Electric adds to the bill.  Hawaiian Electric has rates that encourage conservation.  As you use more your rates go even higher.  The Energy Information Administration appears to be omitting some costs… and it starts out higher than the EPA does.

If you pay less than 11 cents per kilowatt hour and you have a home charger paid for by someone else, then the EPA data might be right for you…if their efficiency data includes charging losses and vehicle efficiency is not impacted significantly by vehicle accessories.

EPA numbers have been found to be suspect in the past because the automakers perform the tests.  Both Hyundai and Ford have been recently chastised for inflated mileage numbers. Changed assumptions about vehicle efficiency and/or battery efficiency could dramatically change results.

Let’s look at the average data for the East coast.  Electricity gets to the meter for 15 cents per kilowatt hour.   It then loses about 20% of the energy going through the battery charge and discharge cycle.  I suppose the EPA might be taking that into consideration, but I doubt it.  By the time it gets to the car it costs 18 cents.

But it is necessary to install a charging system to charge the car.  Coulomb has a charging system on sale for $2789+ installation.   I’d guess you can get one installed and ready to go for $3500 to $4000.

Let’s assume it lasts long enough to allow you to drive a car 150,000 miles. $3700/150,000 miles equals 2.47 cents per mile driven.  The EPA estimates the leaf will go 2.94 miles per kilowatt hour so 2.94* 2.47 equals the cost per kilowatt hour the charging adds or 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour.  We have just assumed that the charger will last 10 years and require no maintenance…..

Now lets add everything up for the Eastern USA (New England + the Atlantic States).  We begin at $.15 for the cost of electricity, add 3 cents for the charging system inefficiency and add 7.2 cents to pay for the charger kit at the house. the total is 25.2 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now we must make an assumption on the cost of gasoline.   Let’s assume gasoline costs $3.70 per gallon.  If we pay 25.2 cents per kilowatt hour, how many miles would we have to go to spend $3.70 on fuel?

The EPA says the Leaf will use  2.94 miles per kilowatt.  At 25.2 cents per kilowatt that equals 25.2/2.94 or  8.57 cents per mile or 3.7/.0857 or 43.1 miles per gallon equivalent.

A person in New England paying $.15 for a kilowatt of electricity at his house will be able to drive 43 miles on what would be the equivalent cost for gasoline at $3.70 per gallon.   That doesn’t sound as good as 99 mpg sounds does it?

I have assumed all electricity will be provided by a home charger.  Public chargers will probably be more expensive.  I wonder what happens when it’s really hot out and the AC is on all the way.  Depending on what assumptions you make…Edmunds.com could be right.