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In the Wake of the News

Enlightened Self-interest – Opposition to Trump’s Environmental Policies

Prior to the US election in November 2016 the UNFCCC, the IPCC, the signatories to the Paris Accords and numerous environmental NGOs were quietly confident that the expected future Clinton Administration would continue the environmental policies of the Obama Administration. Since the election of President Trump, those organizations and their progressive allies in the US have attempted to convince the then President-elect and now President to modify the positions he espoused during his campaign regarding climate change.

They have also attempted to convince themselves and others that the momentum produced by the Paris Accords would continue regardless of the positions taken by the Trump Administration; and, they attempted to halt or slow the approval of Scott Pruitt as the new EPA Administrator. Their progressive allies in and out of government have resisted and continue to resist the changes being pursued by President Trump and Administrator Pruitt. They even organized a March for Science to demonstrate their opposition to the Administration’s climate agenda.

Several recent events have clearly demonstrated to these groups and their progressive allies that they have been unsuccessful in slowing the Administration’s pace or changing its direction.

The NGOs and others have now begun efforts to convince US businesses that they “must” take the lead in moving the US toward a clean energy economy, since the Administration has decided not to force the US economy down that path. The Environmental Defense Fund document linked above goes into significant detail regarding what they believe is in the enlightened self-interest of US businesses, apparently under the impression that those businesses would be incapable of identifying courses of action which would be in their best interests on their own; or, that they can shame the businesses into courses of action which the businesses do not see as being in their best interests.

The Administration actions so far have no impact on the climate change positions taken by several states in the Northeast and California, which have established state goals and state cap & trade programs designed to achieve those goals. The Administration actions also have no effect on the Renewable Portfolio Standards established by state legislatures and regulatory bodies regarding electric power generation. They also have no impact on state incentive programs for on-site generation, including net metering programs available from regulated utilities. However, the Administration has begun efforts to free the states from the CO2 emissions reduction requirements which would be imposed by the EPA Clean Power Plan, which has currently been stayed by the US Supreme Court.

The US “commitment” to reduce its CO2 emissions under the Paris Accords is not the only issue of discussion regarding the Accords. The developing nations have begun their “show me the money” chorus regarding the Climate Fund agreed to in Paris. It appears exceedingly unlikely that the desired $100 billion per year funding level will be achieved, despite the best intentions of the intended funders and the fondest desires of the intended recipients.

 

Tags: Clean Power Plan, Paris Accords, Donald Trump, EPA, United Nations, IPCC

Hyperbolic Reaction to Trump’s Executive Order

The general reaction of the consensed climate science community, the environmentalist community, the progressive political class, and the “mainstream” media to the Trump Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth has been marked by a degree of hyperbole bordering on the unhinged. The EO has been accused of doing several things which it does not do, nor even intend to do.

One major focus of the reaction has been aimed at the Administration’s intent to remove support for the Clean Power Plan. This is viewed as an attempt to reinvigorate the US coal industry, though the intent is actually to allow operators of existing coal-fired electric generating plants to continue to operate those plants to meet their customers’ electric needs; and, to allow the construction of new coal-fired generating stations, if approved by the State Utility Commissions with jurisdiction over the serving utilities. The EO does not affect existing State Renewable Portfolio Standards, nor does it reduce or eliminate existing federal programs to encourage wind and solar generation development and use. The EO does not require a reversion from current environmental dispatch protocols to economic dispatch. The EO does not affect any existing federal emissions regulations regarding criteria pollutants. The EO merely states the intent not to enforce the proposed CO2 emissions limits imposed by the CPP, which are not currently economically achievable on either new or existing coal generators with commercially available and demonstrated control equipment.

Trump’s critics have proclaimed that the Clean Power Plan is the salvation of the future of life as we know it; and, that not enforcing it will make no difference because its objectives will be achieved anyway. There is reasonable likelihood that the truth lies somewhere between these extreme positions.

A second major focus is the intent to abandon or substantially revise the current Social Cost of Carbon calculation. The current SCC estimate of ~$40 per ton is believed to be exaggerated; and, to completely ignore the social benefits of increased atmospheric CO2, such as the NASA-documented “greening” of the planet. Increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been experimentally determined to increase plant growth rates and to improve the efficiency with which plants use available water.

The intent of the SCC calculations was to be a precursor to a carbon tax or fee (essentially a “sin” tax) intended to drive up the costs of fossil fuels and produce large incremental federal revenues. One proposal for a “fully refundable carbon tax” is discussed here in all its redistributionist glory.

A third significant focus is the intent to reopen federal lands to fossil fuel exploration and production. Most of the growth of natural gas reserves over the past eight years has been the result of exploration and production on private lands. While this has been effective in dramatically increasing availability and reducing cost, the limitations to E&P on federal lands has taken many highly regarded development prospects “off the table” and led to the development of less attractive prospects because they are on private land and thus accessible.

Perhaps the most shocked reactions to the explanations of the Administration positions which led to this Executive Order have been to the extremely blunt response by Administration Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to questions about climate change funding in the President’s Budget Outline. Mulvaney is quoted as responding that he believed the President had been quite clear that he believed that funding was a waste of taxpayers’ money and that the Administration would not be funding that in the future.

 

Related Articles:

Cornwall Alliance Fights Climate Ugliness

 

Tags: Regulation, EPA, Clean Power Plan

Whistleblowing and Government Secrets, Chelsea Manning edition

In his final days in office, President Obama commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning. While in the employ of the US Army, Manning had downloaded tens of thousands of government documents and passed them on to Wikileaks.

Among the leaked documents were many State Department cables, reports on incidents during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Some documents revealed information that put US diplomacy into disadvantaged negotiating positions and exposed personnel to increased military risk. Some of the more controversial documents were about arbitrary arrests, the use of torture and the training of torturers, and 2007 video footage showing an Apache helicopter killing civilians in Baghdad, Iraq.

So: Is Manning a traitor who illegally exposed sensitive government secrets -- or a whistleblower exposing corrupt and illegal government activities? Or both?

In the business world, ethicists encourage whistleblowers to set aside the ordinary expectation of confidentiality and loyalty to expose illegalities within their organizations. The US Department of Labor has extensive protections in place for whistleblowers. The employers that whistleblowers expose are prohibited by law from taking adverse actions such as firing, threatening, or reducing the whistle-blowing employee's compensation.

Does anything change when the employer is the government itself? And does it matter that very recent public perceptions are of a government with an increasing number of high officials who lie prodigiously, use power arbitrarily, and then use information-classification procedures to cover-up their misdeeds? Our government officials are constitutionally bound, and they are ultimately responsible to us, the citizens.

Executive Order 13526 says:

“In no case shall information be classified … in order to: conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency … or prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.” (Sec. 1.7, Classification Prohibitions and Limitations)

Yet we should also consider the standard procedures whistleblowers should follow.

The first consideration is to whom the problem should be reported. Normally, problems can be reported to a superior officer. But if the superior is the problem, then it can be communicated to the superior's superior. If that is bureaucratically impossible or the illegality is coming from on high, then the whistleblower can appropriately seek an ombudsman or an independent regulatory or judicial office with the authority to investigate.

A second consideration is how much information to release. Whistleblowers should not release information indiscriminately, but rather only information directly relevant to the infraction(s).

So relevant to evaluating Chelsea Manning's actions is whether she respected those two considerations.

Did she discuss her concerns with her superiors? Or if she rightly judged that would be ineffective, did she seek out the Army's or other appropriate watchdog or judicial units, e.g., the FBI? Or did she simply and directly go public to Wikileaks?

And did she review the information she downloaded and release only those documents relevant to her legitimate concerns? Or did she indiscriminately release any documents she was able to acquire?

Illegal activities and cover-ups by high government officials are dangerous to our republic -- but so is the flouting of the rule of law and its specified procedures.

 

Tags: Chelsea Manning, Whistleblower

EPA Endangerment Finding

Several commentators have identified rescission or substantial revision of the 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding regarding CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” as the key to achieving the Trump Administration’s environmental objectives, as described in the 2017 Executive Order “Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”.

“The Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Clean Air Act established two types of national air quality standards. Primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of “sensitive” populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly. Secondary standards set limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility, damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.

The US Supreme Court ruled in April 2007 that EPA had the authority to regulate the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act of 1970, as amended. The Supreme Court decision was based on the potential endangerment which could be caused by climate change driven by CO2 and other GHG emissions, rather than on direct human endangerment resulting from exposure to these gases.

EPA issued an Endangerment Finding regarding greenhouse gases in December, 2009. The language reproduced above states that EPA was then required set an NAAQS for CO2 as well as the other listed greenhouse gases. The contemporaneous EPA Cause or Contribute Finding was limited to new motor vehicles, though they are obviously not the only sources of CO2 and other GHG emissions of concern. For example, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) has determined that “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport.”

EPA was immediately petitioned to set the NAAQS for CO2 at 350 ppm. Others have spoken out for an NAAQS at 270 ppm. Dr. James Hansen of NASA-GISS and others asserted that 350 ppm was the maximum safe atmospheric concentration of CO2. This assertion was based on the outputs of climate models, rather than on any rigorous experimental demonstration of endangerment. EPA could elect to set the NAAQS at some other atmospheric concentration. However, EPA has failed to do so in the intervening 7+ years, for a variety of reasons.

Fortunately, the NAAQS process includes an “escape hatch” for exceedances resulting from “pollution” from non-state sources, including non-US sources such as China and India. Unfortunately, each US state would have to comply with the NAAQS, with the exception of “pollution” from non-state sources, even in the face of continuing increases in emissions from those non-state sources.

An NAAQS set at 350 ppm would arguably require not only the total elimination of CO2 emissions by each US state, but also the installation of facilities deemed capable of reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations by ~50 ppm below current levels during the compliance period. Presumably, the capacity of the US facilities to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere would be limited to the capacity to remove CO2 from “state sources”.

Historic NAAQS compliance periods have been less than 10 years. A similar compliance period for CO2 would make the “83% by 2050″ touted by the Obama Administration pale in comparison. This would be the case, not only because the required investments would have to be made over an extremely compressed time frame, but also because many potential technologies, which might have become economically viable both for producing energy without CO2 emissions and for removing CO2 from the atmosphere, would likely not be commercially available during the dramatically shortened compliance time frame.

Regardless, absent a dramatic change of course by the developing world, the actual atmospheric concentration of CO2 would continue to increase, though arguably at a somewhat slower rate than would otherwise have occurred. That means that an NAAQS set at 350 ppm could not possibly be achieved in reality without rapid and coordinated action by all of the nations of the globe to both halt current emissions and to install and operate facilities to remove CO2 already in the atmosphere. The discussions at COP 15 in Copenhagen in December, 2009 and the Paris Accords announced in December, 2015 suggest that such action is highly unlikely, absent some cataclysmic event(s).

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that the investment required to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations at ~450 ppm by 2050 would be ~$45 trillion over and above the business as usual scenario; and, could be more than double that amount if technology advances do not occur as rapidly as they project. The investments required to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations at ~350 ppm by 2050 are not estimated, but would certainly be more than $100 trillion, since the emissions reductions required would become emissions eliminations; and, additional investments would be required to remove carbon already in the atmosphere. A dramatically shortened compliance time frame would increase these investments significantly.

I remain convinced that the ultimate intent of the AGW CO2 “mitigation” effort is the total elimination of anthropogenic carbon emissions. Should EPA actually establish an NAAQS for carbon dioxide at a concentration at or below ~400 ppm, that intent would be confirmed; and, the timeframe for compliance would be dramatically shortened compared with the timeframes contemplated even by the Paris Accords.

The FACT that the atmospheric concentration would not actually be stabilized at that level, since accomplishing that is clearly beyond the capability of the US, would have no bearing on EPA’s enforcement of the NAAQS. The only advantage of an NAAQS which is clearly unachievable in reality would be its susceptibility to being overturned by the courts, which still appear to retain the ability, if not the willingness, to separate fantasy from reality.

 

Tags: EPA, Regulation

Should Politicians Force Diversity at Universities?

By diversity I mean the intellectual kind. Numerous surveys (e.g., here and here) show that university faculties lean left, often far left in humanities departments.

A purely democratic argument says Yes, politicians should force diversity. Government-funded universities are paid for with tax monies, and in a democracy politicians are responsible to their constituents to ensure that their funds are spent appropriately. But biased faculties cannot deliver quality education, especially on important controversial issues about which students need to hear and weigh all sides of the arguments. Therefore, it is democratically appropriate that politicians either withdraw government funding or intervene to mandate intellectual diversity and balanced presentation.

The other side of the argument says No, even state universities should be self-governing institutions free of political pressure. The ideal of liberal education holds that knowledge seeking and transfer require intellectual freedom to pursue politically unpopular lines of thought in research, publication, and in the classroom. But governments are institutions of compulsion, and any thought policing by politicians must be rejected vigorously in the name of academic freedom. So government-funded universities should not be seen in purely democratic terms but—true to their medieval roots—more in feudal terms, as part of an overall political structure but with special privileges and rights not necessarily granted to other sectors.

But what if the universities—or significant portions of them—become captured by professors, administrators, and/or student groups actively opposed to liberal education? That is, what if they willfully engage in biased teaching or even indoctrination? What if they suppress the academic freedom of those they disagree with? What if they tolerate the use of physical threats or engage in acts of compulsion against dissenters and intellectual minorities? If the case for academic freedom is part of the ideal of liberal education, but a university rejects or subverts liberal education, then the politicians who fund the government universities face a dilemma.

Politicians must then choose either (1) to fail in their responsibilities to taxpayers by continuing to spend their money on educationally irresponsible institutions, or (2) to use their political power to interfere with or override the self-governance of universities. The dilemma is worsened by the government's being an institution of compulsion: it either uses compulsion to get people to pay their taxes to fund the universities, or it uses compulsion to force the universities to reform (or it does both).

The tension between liberal education on compulsory funding thus becomes explicit.

If politicians choose the route of imposing reforms on the state universities, they have a number of sub-options:

* Eliminate tenure in order to speed up the process of replacing faculty.
* In the hiring of new faculty, require a kind of affirmative action for under-represented perspectives.
* Threaten to or actually withdraw funds unless specific politically-decided reform targets are met.
* Tie political funding to demonstrated educational responsibility, including ideological balance, but leave it up to the universities how they will achieve that.

But history shows that politicians' controlling education is a worse outcome. In politically authoritarian societies, uniformity and fear replace independent thinking and debate. And in politically democratic societies, political control means that education becomes a football kicked back and forth across the field depending on who won the last election.

Preserving the autonomy of universities should therefore be the priority. And that means that the needed diversity reforms have to be effected by other interest groups that care about education—students, administrators, boards of trustees, donors, accrediting agencies, media, and, perhaps most importantly, those faculty who are genuinely committed to liberal education.

Despite the worrying current trends, there is also encouraging evidence that the pushback against intellectual intolerance has momentum:

* Students marching with their feet to avoid the most politicized universities, e.g, the significantly declining enrollment at University of Missouri in response to out-of-control events the previous year.
* Donors who withhold their much-needed funds when educational bias increases, as the examples of AmherstYale, and other institutions show.
* Reporting by widely-read publications such as The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education to highlight the seriousness of the problems.
* National and international groups of professors joining with other professors to reinvigorate the ideal of genuine knowledge-seeking and liberal education.

There's no obvious answer to the question of which side will prevail—liberalism versus authoritarianism is an age-old, multi-front battle. But when there is still hope that the universities can heal themselves, precedence should be given to the principle of keeping separate the spheres of intellectual freedom and political compulsion.

 

Tags: Ideological Diversity, Political Diversity

America First – Trump’s Climate Change Budget

The Trump Administration has released “America First, A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”. The blueprint is long on direction and short on details. The implications of this document for climate change are significant and broad-ranging. Of course, it remains to be seen how and to what extent the direction provided by this budget blueprint will be embodied in the actual Federal Budget.

The impacts of the budget blueprint on climate change would impact primarily the following cabinet departments and executive branch agencies:

            Department of State (UN funding for UNFCCC, IPCC and related activities)

            Department of Commerce (NOAA, NCEI)

            Department of Energy (NREL, energy efficiency programs)

            Environmental Protection Agency (climate related programs, including CPP)

            NASA (GISS activities related to climate change)

These impacts are discussed in more detail below.

Department of State

Eliminates Global Climate Change Initiative. Ceases funding to Green Climate Fund and its two precursors. Probable effects on numerous other UN climate change related activities.

Department of Commerce

Eliminates NOAA grants for coastal and marine management and education, largely related to sea level rise. Retains funding for current polar satellite programs, but proposes savings from future efforts.

Department of Energy

Refocuses Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Fossil Energy Research and Development programs on limited, early stage R&D. Specific impacts on national laboratories are not articulated.

Environmental Protection Agency

Discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs and climate change research and partnership programs.

Energy Star appliance efficiency program is defunded.

NASA

NASA’s efforts will be refocused toward space exploration and away from climate change. Major effect should be on the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, which is currently heavily involved in climate change related activities.

The largest budgetary impacts of the budget blueprint fall on the Department of State (28.7% reduction) and US EPA (31.4% reduction). The major impacts on the Department of State appear to be in UN-related funding for climate change activities, though UN funding for other activities is also identified for elimination or reduction. The major impacts on EPA are focused on climate change, as had been promised.

The detailed negotiations in the Congress regarding the 2018 Federal Budget will occur against the background of both a congressional investigation and a NOAA investigation of allegations surrounding Karl et al adjustments to the global sea surface temperature data; and, EPA efforts to terminate the Clean Power Plan and to question the validity of the 2009 CO2 endangerment finding.

 

Tags: Trump, EPA, Budgets

Parsing Bloomberg – The Dishonest Press

I recently propounded “Reid’s Law”, which is an “observational law” regarding climate.

“As an online discussion regarding climate grows longer, the probability of the term “denier” being used approaches 1.”

Reid’s Law has two corollaries:

“The less scientific and the more political a website is, the more probable it is that the term “denier” will appear in an original blog post.”

“The more liberal / progressive a media outlet is, the more probable it is that the term “denier” will appear in an original editorial, opinion piece or news story.”

A recent article on Bloomberg presents an interesting opportunity to illustrate one of the corollaries to Reid’s Law, as well as to illustrate the subtle changes in messaging which appear between the quoted statement of a public official and the journalistic perception of the official’s message. Bloomberg is generally recognized as a liberal or progressive media outlet.

The Bloomberg article is based on a response to a politically “loaded” question asked of new US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during an interview on CNBC’s "Squawk Box" on March 10th. Pruitt was asked if he agreed that human activity was a primary contributor to global warming. Pruitt’s response was as follows.

"Measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."

The headline of the Bloomberg piece was titled: “EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Discounts Carbon’s Role in Warming Planet”; and, subtitled: “Says greenhouse gas is not a ‘primary contributor’ to warming”. The problem is that Pruitt neither said, nor intended to say, what the article’s title and subtitle suggest he did.

What he said is clear in the quote above from the article. Pruitt recognized that it is not currently possible to accurately measure the human impact on climate, no less its individual components, or to measure the impact of natural variation on climate. He also recognized that the degree of human impact is the subject of disagreement. Therefore, he declined to agree with the premise on which the question was based, since he did not believe he had sufficient information on which to base such agreement. Even the IPCC, in its Fifth Assessment Report, assigns 95% probability to the estimate that human activity is responsible for “more than half” of recent warming; and, that “probability” is questionable.

Later in the Bloomberg article, US Senator Brian Schatz (D, HI) is quoted as follows.

"It’s why we should have never confirmed him. It’s why he is unqualified to do that job. He held it together for one hearing, but he is a climate denier. There is no doubt about it."

Schatz accusation is, at the very least, hyperbolic and disingenuous. Some might consider it ignorant and duplicitous. Pruitt clearly does not deny that the earth has a climate, based on the quote above. He also clearly does not deny that the climate has warmed, or that there is human influence on climate warming, or even that the human influence is significant. Bloomberg’s choice of Schatz comment and its inclusion of the portion of the Schatz comment which includes the “denier” accusation is consistent with the distortion of Pruitt’s message earlier in the article.

The CNBC article regarding the interview with Pruitt is quite similar in tone to the Bloomberg article, more extensively quoting Senator Schatz. It also quotes Obama Administration climate negotiator Jeffrey Sachs as follows:

“President Trump dangerously wrong on climate change.”

Neither article bothers to quote or paraphrase anyone supportive of Pruitt, the positions he mentions or the distinctions he makes regarding human influence on climate change. Both Bloomberg and CNBC were even less objective, though far more supportive, in their coverage of prior Obama Administration EPA administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy.

 

Tags: Media, Climate Change Debate

Highlighted Article: Falling Sea Level: The Critical Factor in 2016 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching!

This is a detailed paper on the 2016 bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. It contradicts the wide spread supposition that global warming is responsible for the bleaching. Instead it details how the effects of extreme low tides because of El Nino is responsible for it, the same as it has been in the past.

Falling Sea Level: The Critical Factor in 2016 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching!

 

Tags: Sea Level Change, Sea Level Rise

California’s Drought

The past several years featured a never-ending stream of stories about California’s never-ending drought and its supposed roots in climate change. The past few weeks have featured a stream of stories about California’s experience with an “atmospheric river”, which effectively ended the never-ending drought.

Climate models purportedly predicted the never-ending California drought, but not the rains and snows which ended it. Some commentators were critical of California’s failure to increase water storage capacity in the face of rapidly growing population. Other commentators suggested that it made no sense to build additional reservoirs, since there would be no rain and snow available to fill them.

The recent “atmospheric river” event, in the absence of additional reservoir capacity, resulted in the loss of trillions of gallons of water which might have been stored for future use by the state’s residents and by the state’s farmers, ranchers, orchardists and wine grape growers. Those trillions of gallons of water instead flowed unproductively back to the Pacific Ocean.

The “atmospheric river” event also highlighted problems with California’s existing infrastructure, especially the Oroville dam, which was extensively damaged as the reservoir rapidly refilled, followed by massive discharge of water down the dam’s main spillway, damaging the spillway and later the emergency spillway and the downstream channel. More than 185,000 residents of homes downstream of the dam were evacuated as the result of concerns that the dam might fail, inundating their homes.

Reports later revealed that the state had allocated funds from a bond issue for reservoir expansion and maintenance, but that the funds had not been spent on those projects. The state has now requested federal emergency funds to deal with the Oroville dam problem, despite the fact that the state has budgeted and unspent state funds available to make the necessary repairs.

The key issue now is planning for the future water needs of the state’s water consumers. California needs to approximately double its reservoir capacity to match the needs of its growing population, which has roughly doubled since the last reservoir was commissioned. Those construction projects will take years, once construction begins. They might require additional years to obtain the necessary environmental approvals and adjudicate the expected environmental lawsuits and appeals before construction can begin.

California would also be wise to maximize the hydroelectric generating capacity of these new dams, to assist the state in meeting its renewable energy supply goals.

 

Related Articles:

California Snowpack 185% of normal, another big snow on the way - Watts Up With That?

California’s Wasted Winter Rains (paywall) – The Wall Street Journal

What “permanent drought”? New all-time rainfall record set for California - Watts Up With That?

 

Tags: Drought

Reid’s Laws - RE: Climate Denier

Mike Godwin, a Washington, DC attorney, propounded “Godwin’s Law” in 1990.

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

Godwin describes this as an “observational law”, based on his experiences observing and participating in online comment threads.

I hereby propound “Reid’s Law”, which is also an “observational law”; and, arguably, a corollary to Godwin’s Law.

“As an online discussion regarding climate grows longer, the probability of the term “denier” being used approaches 1.”

Reid’s Law has two corollaries:

“The less scientific and the more political a website is, the more probable it is that the term “denier” will appear in an original blog post.”

“The more liberal / progressive a media outlet is, the more probable it is that the term “denier” will appear in an original editorial, opinion piece or news story.”

A Google search of related terms produces the following results:

  •             468,000 hits -- “climate denier”
  •             519,000 hits -- “climate change denier”
  •             184,000 hits -- “anthropogenic climate change denier”
  •             114,000 hits -- “catastrophic anthropogenic climate change denier”

The term “denier” and its variants are most likely to appear in blog posts at websites such as climateprogress.org, desmogblog.org, skepticalscience.org, scienceofdoom.org, scienceblogs.com/stoat and tamino.wordpress.com. However, they also appear in RealClimate.org, the semi-official website of the scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

The term “denier” and its variants are most likely to appear in editorials, opinion pieces and news stories in outlets such as the Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The New Republic, Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, Slate, MSNBC, CNN and NPR/NET.

The expression “climate denier” is ridiculous on its face, since no person of reasonable intelligence and education believes that the earth does not have a climate. However, this term, the shortest of the variants, is the most common term used, as verified by the results of the Google searches. It is the most convenient “sound bite” or “bumper sticker” accusation. It is also the closest in form to the expression “Holocaust Denier”, which is the image those using the expression “climate denier” wish to evoke.

The expression “climate change denier” is almost equally ridiculous, since any reasonably informed adult or high school student is aware that global climate has changed over the millennia, from ice ages (glacial periods) to inter-glacial periods, such as the current Holocene period. Anyone denying that climate changes is either ignorant or being deceptive.

The expression “anthropogenic climate change denier” is far less frequently used, mostly because it is somewhat awkward and not universally understood. There are people who deny that there is any human influence on climate change, though that position is not easily defensible; and, can be disproven by conducting a relatively simple experiment.

The expression “catastrophic anthropogenic climate change denier”, the least frequently used of the various expressions according to Google, is the expression that comes closest to the reality of climate change skepticism – skepticism that the recent climate change is primarily or exclusively of human origin and would lead to a global climate catastrophe. These are the aspects of the “climate consensus” that are based exclusively on the outputs of climate models which have not been verified and have not demonstrated skill at forecasting future conditions or events.

The term “denier” and its variants have become epithets which avoid the necessity of describing the nuances of climate skepticism, while also taking advantage of the negative implications of “Holocaust Denial” to cast aspersions on those who are genuinely skeptical of the analyses and future scenarios produced by the consensed climate science community. Referring to people as “deniers”, rather than as skeptics, is an attempt to delegitimize their skepticism; and, ultimately, to delegitimize them.

 

Related Article:

Influence of Labeling and Incivility on Climate Change Communication

 

Tags: Climate Change Debate, Climate Skeptics

Ignorance or Duplicity - Average Global Temperature

The graph below originated with the Powerline blog in December, 2015 and was identified by National Review on December 14th, 2015 as “The Only Climate Change Chart You Need to See”. This description became controversial, the subject of articles at The Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the New Republic and other “progressive” media. The Washington Post asserted that the chart showed the global average temperature anomaly on a temperature scale 50 times too great, comparing it to plotting the US National Debt on a chart with a “Y” axis of $0 - $900,000,000,000, even though the US National Debt has not yet exceeded $20 trillion.

However, the graph actually plots the average global annual temperature estimate over the period of the instrumental temperature record with a “Y” axis representative of the normal range of annual temperatures for a mid-latitude city, such as Wichita, KS as shown in the graph below, reproduced from my previous commentary “Additional Perspective”. The red shaded area on the graph below is the typical range of daily temperatures for the month of July, while the blue shaded area is the typical range of daily temperatures for the month of January in Wichita. Each shaded area represents a diurnal temperature range of approximately 20oF, or more than 12 times the estimated increase in the average annual global temperature over the 135 year period shown in the graph. The difference between the warmest and coolest monthly average temperatures shown in the shaded areas shows an annual average temperature range of approximately 70oF, or approximately 43 times the estimated increase in the average global annual temperature over the period.

Daily high and low temperatures in Wichita can vary by more than 30oF; and, record high and low temperatures are 114oF and -22oF.

The graph “Y” axis does not extend to include the maximum and minimum temperatures experienced in the individual states of the United States, as shown in these graphics from NOAA, and certainly does not represent the extreme temperatures experienced in other areas of the globe, which range from 136oF to -126oF (approximately twice the range of the “Y” axis in the graph). Were the graph plotted with a “Y” axis representative of the maximum range of temperatures experienced around the globe, the increase in the average global annual temperature estimate would be barely visible.

During a typical year, especially during the Summer and Winter, the individual measuring station temperatures which are combined to calculate the average annual global temperature are tens of degrees Fahrenheit warmer and colder than the average annual global temperature, spanning the entire range of the “Y” axis of the graphs above. Therefore, it is either ignorant or duplicitous to suggest that the “Y” axis in these graphs is inappropriate or misleading.

The intent of the graph is to illustrate the relationship between the ~1.6oF increase in average annual global temperature over the period of the instrumental temperature record and the much larger changes in diurnal and seasonal average temperatures regularly experienced in the mid-latitudes. It clearly portrays a very different scenario than the graphs with severely truncated “Y” axes typically used to emphasize the rate of increase of the average global annual temperature, such as the graph included in the article in The Washington Post.

The graph above does show the annual natural variation in the average global temperature estimate relative to the overall average increase in estimated temperature asserted to be the result of increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, represented by the black line extending from the 1950 average global temperature estimate to the final point in the graph. The slope of the line is approximately 2.5oF per century, though the slopes of the year to year natural variations are significantly greater.

Tags: Temperature Record

Highlighted Article: U.S. House Hearing on Climate Science

On March 29, 2017 the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing entitled Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.  Testifying before the committee were Judith A Curry, John R. Christy, Michael E. Mann and Roger Pielke, Jr.  It is quite a contentious hearing with Michael Mann hurling insults at anyone with whom he disagrees.

All of the wittnesses' written testimony is linked to below the video.

Full Committee Hearing- Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method

 

Tags: Climate Science

Highlighted Article: Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

 

Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth

- - - - - - -

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

(b)  It is further in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's electricity is affordable, reliable, safe, secure, and clean, and that it can be produced from coal, natural gas, nuclear material, flowing water, and other domestic sources, including renewable sources. 

(d)  It further is the policy of the United States that, to the extent permitted by law, all agencies should take appropriate actions to promote clean air and clean water for the American people, while also respecting the proper roles of the Congress and the States concerning these matters in our constitutional republic.

Sec. 2.  Immediate Review of All Agency Actions that Potentially Burden the Safe, Efficient Development of Domestic Energy Resources.  (a)  The heads of agencies shall review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.  Such review shall not include agency actions that are mandated by law, necessary for the public interest, and consistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order. 

(c)  Within 45 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency with agency actions described in subsection (a) of this section shall develop and submit to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB Director) a plan to carry out the review required by subsection (a) of this section.  The plans shall also be sent to the Vice President, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.  The head of any agency who determines that such agency does not have agency actions described in subsection (a) of this section shall submit to the OMB Director a written statement to that effect and, absent a determination by the OMB Director that such agency does have agency actions described in subsection (a) of this section, shall have no further responsibilities under this section.

(e)  The report shall be finalized within 180 days of the date of this order, unless the OMB Director, in consultation with the other officials who receive the draft final reports, extends that deadline.  

(g)  With respect to any agency action for which specific recommendations are made in a final report pursuant to subsection (e) of this section, the head of the relevant agency shall, as soon as practicable, suspend, revise, or rescind, or publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding, those actions, as appropriate and consistent with law.  Agencies shall endeavor to coordinate such regulatory reforms with their activities undertaken in compliance with Executive Order 13771 of January 30, 2017 (Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs).

(i)    Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013 (Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change); 

(iii)  The Presidential Memorandum of November 3, 2015 (Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment); and

(b)  The following reports shall be rescinded: 

(ii)  The Report of the Executive Office of the President of March 2014 (Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions).

(d)  The heads of all agencies shall identify existing agency actions related to or arising from the Presidential actions listed in subsection (a) of this section, the reports listed in subsection (b) of this section, or the final guidance listed in subsection (c) of this section.  Each agency shall, as soon as practicable, suspend, revise, or rescind, or publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding any such actions, as appropriate and consistent with law and with the policies set forth in section 1 of this order.  

(b)  This section applies to the following final or proposed rules:

(ii)   The final rule entitled "Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units," 80 Fed. Reg. 64509 (October 23, 2015); and

(c)  The Administrator shall review and, if appropriate, as soon as practicable, take lawful action to suspend, revise, or rescind, as appropriate and consistent with law, the "Legal Memorandum Accompanying Clean Power Plan for Certain Issues," which was published in conjunction with the Clean Power Plan.  

Sec. 5.  Review of Estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon, Nitrous Oxide, and Methane for Regulatory Impact Analysis.  (a)  In order to ensure sound regulatory decision making, it is essential that agencies use estimates of costs and benefits in their regulatory analyses that are based on the best available science and economics.  

(i)    Technical Support Document:  Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866 (February 2010); 

(iii)  Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (November 2013); 

(v)    Addendum to the Technical Support Document for Social Cost of Carbon:  Application of the Methodology to Estimate the Social Cost of Methane and the Social Cost of Nitrous Oxide (August 2016); and

(c)  Effective immediately, when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations, including with respect to the consideration of domestic versus international impacts and the consideration of appropriate discount rates, agencies shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that any such estimates are consistent with the guidance contained in OMB Circular A-4 of September 17, 2003 (Regulatory Analysis), which was issued after peer review and public comment and has been widely accepted for more than a decade as embodying the best practices for conducting regulatory cost-benefit analysis.

Sec. 7.  Review of Regulations Related to United States Oil and Gas Development.  (a)  The Administrator shall review the final rule entitled "Oil and Natural Gas Sector:  Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources," 81 Fed. Reg. 35824 (June 3, 2016), and any rules and guidance issued pursuant to it, for consistency with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order and, if appropriate, shall, as soon as practicable, suspend, revise, or rescind the guidance, or publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding those rules. 

(i)    The final rule entitled "Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands," 80 Fed. Reg. 16128 (March 26, 2015);

(iii)  The final rule entitled "Management of Non Federal Oil and Gas Rights," 81 Fed. Reg. 79948 (November 14, 2016); and

(c)  The Administrator or the Secretary of the Interior, as applicable, shall promptly notify the Attorney General of any actions taken by them related to the rules identified in subsections (a) and (b) of this section so that the Attorney General may, as appropriate, provide notice of this order and any such action to any court with jurisdiction over pending litigation related to those rules, and may, in his discretion, request that the court stay the litigation or otherwise delay further litigation, or seek other appropriate relief consistent with this order, until the completion of the administrative actions described in subsections (a) and (b) of this section.  

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or 

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations. 

DONALD J. TRUMP

Tags: Clean Power Plan, Coal, Regulation, Executive Order

Additional Perspective - Temperature Anomaly Record

It is generally acknowledged that human influence on global climate was minimal prior to approximately 1950. Therefore, virtually all climate change prior to 1950 is considered to have been the result of natural climate variation or a climate response to natural causes. However, the consensed climate science community asserts that climate changes since 1950 are significantly / largely / predominantly / exclusively the result of human activity.

Prior to the period of the instrumental temperature record, our knowledge of global temperature changes relies on general reconstructions, based on analysis of ice cores, ocean sediments and an increasing number of additional sources. These reconstructions indicate that global temperatures have varied continuously, but over a relatively narrow range, for the past several thousand years.

The period of the global instrumental temperature record is generally agreed to begin in 1880, though the Central England Temperature (CET) record dates back to 1650. The graph below displays the global annual average temperature anomaly product prepared by the British Met Office.

Global Average Temperature

The black diagonal line on the graph illustrates the slope of the change in the global annual temperature anomaly over the entire period on the global instrumental temperature record. The orange diagonal line on the graph illustrates the slope of the change in the global annual average temperature anomaly over the period since 1950, when human influence on global average temperature is generally considered to have begun. The slope of the black line is approximately 0.07oC per decade. The slope of the orange line is approximately 0.14oC per decade. Note that, according to the Hadley Centre, 2016 is the warmest year in the instrumental temperature record; and, that 2016 is also an El Nino year.

It is not possible to separate the natural variation from any human influence in this temperature anomaly record. It is obvious that the rate of global annual temperature increase over the period since 1950 is approximately double the rate of increase over the entire period of the instrumental temperature record. However, since the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the period has been relatively constant and the use of annual anomalies renders the seasonal variation in atmospheric CO2 concentrations moot, there is obviously significant natural variation in global annual temperature over the period.

The natural fluctuations in the global temperature anomaly are easier to visualize over shorter time periods, using the monthly global temperature anomaly estimate produced by the Hadley Centre.

HADCRUT4 Temperature Anomalies

The slope of the red diagonal line on the graph, drawn from the first to the last monthly global temperature anomaly estimate, is approximately 0.16oC per decade. Again, it is not possible to separate the natural variation from any human influence in this temperature anomaly record. However, it is obvious that there is significant natural variation in the temperature anomalies. This is particularly obvious in the cases of the 1997/1998 and 2015/2016 El Nino events, both of which demonstrate natural event driven anomaly changes of 0.5 – 0.6oC.

The natural variations in the global temperature anomalies are also obvious in the satellite temperature anomaly records, as illustrated by the UAH global lower atmosphere temperature anomaly record (below). The diagonal black line on the graph connects the first and last temperature anomaly estimates in the satellite record. The slope of the line is approximately 0.16oC per decade. As in the previous examples, it is not possible to separate the natural variation from any human influence in this temperature anomaly record. However, the natural variation caused by the 1997/1998 and 2015/2016 El Nino events is very clearly visible.

UAH Satellite-Based Temperature

While it might be possible to attribute a relatively smooth, gradual increase in the global temperature anomaly to the relatively smooth, gradual increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, it is clearly not rational to attribute both the rapid increases and the rapid decreases in the anomalies around El Nino events to the gradual increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

The illustrations above of the instrumental and satellite temperature anomaly records are all plotted with a “Y” axis range of 2oC or less. This truncation of the “Y” axis makes the relatively small changes in the temperature anomaly estimates far easier to see. However, the truncated “Y” axis also distorts the significance of the changes in the temperature anomalies. The graph below displays the global annual temperature anomaly over most of the instrumental temperature record, using essentially the same temperature anomaly records as those in the truncated illustrations above. The “Y” axis in this graph ranges from -10oF to +110oF (-23oC to +43oC), a representative annual temperature range for the mid-latitudes. While the increase in the global annual temperature is visible in the orange line in this graph, on close inspection, its relatively minimal significance is also far more clearly displayed.

Wichita, Kansas is a typical mid-latitude city located close to the geographic center of the contiguous United States. The average temperature plotted by the orange line in the above graph is very close to the current average temperature of 57oF reported by the US National Weather Service for Wichita. The red shaded area in the graph above illustrates the typical daily average temperature range during the month of July in Wichita. The blue shaded area in the graph illustrates the typical daily average temperature range during the month of January in Wichita.

The reported increase in global annual temperature over the period of the instrumental temperature record is: approximately 8% of the daily average temperature variation experienced in Wichita throughout the year; approximately 3% of the seasonal average temperature variation; and, approximately 1.2% of the range of maximum and minimum temperature records.

The IPCC AR5 report expresses 95% confidence that more than half of the reported increase in global average temperature is the result of human influences, including gaseous and particulate emissions, land use changes and temperature “adjustments”. It is not currently possible to measure the relative effects of natural variation and human influences on global average temperature; and, it is not currently possible to measure the relative effects of the multiple potential human influences. Regardless, it is difficult to see imminent global catastrophe in the data we currently have available.

Tags: Temperature Record

Climate Science “The time has come, …”

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

The Walrus and The Carpenter, Lewis Carroll

Climate science is important. Climate science is a mess. Climate science must be fixed. The new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator and the soon to be appointed new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrators have an obligation, either to make the science worth the money being spent on it, or to reduce the money being spent on it to a level commensurate with its apparent value.

The Climategate scandal in 2009 and 2011 began the very public questioning of climate scientists and the conduct of climate science. Climategate exposed Frantic Researchers Adjusting Unsuitable Data, attempting to control peer review, attempting to control or discredit peer reviewed journals, attempting to prevent certain scientists and their research from being published and attempting to ruin the careers of certain scientists. The recent revelations about the conduct of NOAA researchers in the preparation and publication of ‘Possible Artifacts of Data Biases in the Recent Global Surface Warming Hiatus’ by Karl et al., Science 4 June 2015; and, the refusal of the NOAA Administrator to provide materials to a US House committee have rekindled the issue.

The new EPA, NOAA and NASA Administrators should immediately initiate a thorough, joint investigation of the acquisition, analysis and application of climate data by their agencies. This investigation should then expand to include those activities by other nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The initial focus of the investigation should be on data quality and data integrity. This should be followed by a focus on climate modeling and the application of climate models, particularly the need to verify climate models before using them as vehicles for producing questionable future scenarios.       

All the agencies using US and global near-surface temperature data to track global warming “adjust” the data because they either KNOW, or have strong reason to BELIEVE, that the data are flawed. The new NOAA and NASA Administrators should immediately question why the agencies have chosen to continue adjusting flawed data, rather than taking steps to ensure that the data they collect for analysis is accurate. Instrument calibration schedules and instrument enclosure and site maintenance schedules should be reviewed and amended as necessary to ensure data quality. Data archiving and storage procedures should also be reviewed and amended as required to ensure data integrity and accessibility. The new Administrators should establish firm policies regarding data and information access, with the expressed intent of eliminating the need for FOIA requests to obtain access.

These investigations and reviews should not be conducted by agency personnel, but rather by “tiger teams” of outside experts in all of the technical fields of concern, with support from agency personnel. Agency personnel should be notified that refusal to cooperate honestly, fully and timely with the tiger teams would be considered a notice of resignation from the agency; and, processed accordingly.

There is general recognition that the data available from satellites is more comprehensive than the data available from surface and near-surface sources. However, there is continuing disagreement regarding the relationship between satellite data and surface and near-surface data. The Administrators should redirect funds currently spent on studies applying unverified models to produce future scenarios of questionable value. These funds should be used instead to fund studies to resolve the differences between the various data sources, since such studies would likely result in an enhanced understanding of the atmosphere and the processes occurring within it.

Tags: Bad Science, Climate Science, 2016 election, Temperature Record, Climate Models
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