The Week That Was
May 8, 2004

1. New on the Web: WILL WE RUN OUT OF OIL SOON? NOT LIKELY, says the article by Mike Fumento and SEPP comments.






7. IS THERE A US FUTURE FOR REACH (Registration, Evaluation And Authorisation of CHemicals)?


2. The Ongoing Debate about Satellite Temperature Data; Part1

More than a decade ago, Roy Spencer and John Christy realized that the data from the microwave-sounding unit (MSU) on weather satellites could be used to measure long-term temperature trends of the Earth's atmosphere. Their analysis produced surprisingly low values since 1979 - at first, a slightly negative and, more recently, a slightly positive trend for the troposphere. These MSU results derived by the University of Alabama (Huntsville) group are in good agreement with independently derived trends from radiosondes carried in weather balloons.

Their results have caused - and continue to cause -- great consternation among supporters of the greenhouse-warming hypothesis. For not only do the MSU-UAH trends disagree with the warming trend shown by (global mean) surface data (from weather stations and from sea surface temperatures --- SST), but they also contradict the GH models -- all of which show the troposphere warming more rapidly than the surface. The disparity in the three data sets (surface, radiosondes, MSU-UAH) has been confirmed by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, whose report (Jan 2000), however, provides no explanation for the disparity.

Not surprisingly, the satellite data have been scrutinized extensively and attacked - but without success so far. We shall briefly review the history and current status:

1. The IPCC Summaries for Policymakers (1996 and 2001) simply ignore the inconvenient absence of any pronounced warming trend in the satellite and radiosonde data, and so do many other reports that misleadingly refer to the "warming of the 20th century" (without explaining that it refers to the pre-1940 warming) or, sometimes, to a "warming in the past few decades."

2. Another approach has been to claim that the satellite record is too short to derive reliable trend values. This is clearly disingenuous since one compares to a surface warming record of the same length. Besides, now that we have a quarter-century of satellite data (since Nov 1978), this excuse is beginning to lose its force.

3. Another approach has been to regard the satellite trends as sound and to look for physical explanations of the disparity: Long-term changes in the near-surface boundary layer or in the atmospheric lapse rate; the effects of volcanoes and El Ninos; time delays introduced by the large heat capacity of the oceans. None of these seem to work.

4. There have also been direct attacks on the methodology used by the UAH group in analyzing the satellite MSU data. The earliest, by Hurrell and Trenberth, pointed to the lack of sufficient overlap between some of the 11 satellites used to obtain the 25-year record. This approach has been updated in a completely original analysis of the MSU data by the Remote Sensing Services (RSS) group [Mears, Schabel, and Wentz 2003]. The response by UAH has been a detailed comparison with balloon radiosonde results, showing support for the UAH trends but not for RSS [Christy and Norris 2004]. There has not been time yet for a response from RSS.

5. A successful criticism of the UAH analysis was published earlier by Wentz and Schabel; they pointed out that the decay of the satellite orbit would introduce a spurious cooling effect in the UAH value for the lower troposphere. This critique was accepted by Christy and Spencer who then corrected their analysis further to take account also of the satellite drift in the local time of equatorial crossings. This introduces a cooling that largely canceled the RSS warming effect - producing little net change in the reported UAH trends.

6. The latest attack on the UAH trend results comes from a different direction. The MSU Channel-2 measures a weighted average temperature of the atmosphere below. While mostly troposphere, it also includes a small contribution from the stratosphere, which has shown a cooling trend. Thus, if the stratospheric contribution were eliminated, one would see a tropospheric warming trend. How large would it be? Spencer and Christy have tried to minimize the stratosphere by a technique that compares the readings for different viewing angles - a technique first suggested to obtain the vertical distribution of ozone from a satellite. Their differencing technique introduces some noise and is also sensitive to (and requires correction for) decay in the satellite orbital altitude.

Therefore, Fu et al [2004] have applied what seems like a more straightforward approach - namely, a direct subtraction of the stratospheric contribution by using the data for MSU Channel-4. Their just-published result claims a tropospheric warming trend similar to the surface trend and not too far removed from what models would predict.

There has been an immediate response from Spencer and Christy, who point out that they tried this technique in 1992 but that it gave erroneous results. In essence, they claim, it introduces a spurious warming. They suggest that the Fu paper is in error and should not have been published. Fu has not yet replied in detail but claims his method is OK.

As an independent observer, a senior colleague of Fu at the University of Washington, John Michael Wallace, thinks that Fu's approach seems reasonable, but that the debate won't be settled until all the scientists involved have time to hash out the data and the methods. "I won't profess to claim the verdict is in yet," he said.

Selected References:

Fu, Qiang, Celeste M. Johanson, Stephen G. Warren and Dian J. Seidel, 2004. Contribution of stratospheric cooling to satellite-inferred tropospheric temperature trends. Nature Vol. 429, No 6987, pp. 55-58, May 6, 2004

Spencer, R.W., and J.R. Christy, 1992: Precision and radiosonde validation of satellite gridpoint temperature anomalies, Part II: A tropospheric retrieval and trends during 1979-90. J. Climate, 5, 858-866.

Christy, J.R, Spencer, R.W., 2003.Reliability of Satellite Data Sets, Science, 301, 1046-1047.

Christy, J. R., and W. B. Norris, 2004: What may we conclude about global tropospheric temperature trends? Geophysical Research Letters, 31, L06211, doi:10.1029/2003GL019361.

Spencer, R.W., and J.R. Christy, 1990. Precise monitoring of global temperature trends from satellites. Science, 247, 1558-1562.

Christy, J.R., Spencer, R.W., Braswell, W.D., 2000. MSU tropospheric temperatures: Dataset construction and radiosonde comparisons. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 17, 1153-1170.

Christy J. R. et al., 2003: Error estimates of version 5.0 of MSU-AMSU bulk atmospheric temperatures, Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 20, 613-629.

Wentz, F.J., and M. Schabel, 1998, Effects of orbital decay on satellite-derived lower-tropospheric temperature trends, Nature, 384, 661-664.

Mears, C. A., M. C. Schabel, and F. J. Wentz, 2003: A reanalysis of the MSU channel 2 tropospheric temperature record, Journal of Climate, 16, 3650-3664.

R. Kerr, Science, Vol. 304, Issue 5672, 805-807, 7 May 2004

3. The Scenarios Behind Climate Change Forecasts Are Full Of Hot Air

By Martin Agerup
The Daily Telegraph, 3 May 2004

HOW would you react if fellow members of your profession were violating good practices of that discipline? What if the same people had massive amounts of taxpayers' money to develop flawed ideas, and wielded influence over public policies? Most people would be appalled. Yet this is exactly what is happening with the climate scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body charged with advising governments on the causes and consequences of climate change, which met in Geneva last week. The IPCC has received much attention for its projections, which suggest that the earth's climate will warm by anywhere between 1.4C and 5.8C in the next century. These projections are largely based on scenarios about how people will use energy in the future, which in turn determine future emissions of greenhouse gases. These scenarios are developed by economists (not climate scientists, as many are led to believe by misleading press releases issued by the IPCC).

The scenarios are presented as an exercise in free thinking about the future. The Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) published in 2000 describes them as "images of the future or alternative futures" which should not be seen as predictions or forecasts, rather as "computer-aided storylines." Unfortunately, they appear to present a very concrete result in terms of numbers for emissions. When fed into a computer, the results are more numbers, the 1.4C and 5.8C range for temperature rises. The SRES tries to have it both ways: a noncommittal scenario process and a clear numerical result. The SRES claims that the scenarios "are not assigned probabilities of occurrence, neither must they be interpreted as policy recommendations", but since each scenario gives a result which translates into a number, there is an implicit bias towards the extremes.

In the real world, scenario builders would normally treat an extreme outcome as less likely and therefore assign it less importance. It is normal not to assign probabilities when working with scenarios, since the point is to cover the full range of possible futures. By the same token, scenarios should not be used as forecasts, because a forecast makes no sense without a discussion of probability. Meteorologists only make weather forecasts three to five days into the future because of the tiny probability of being right with longer forecasts. Yet the SRES scenarios are indeed used to make forecasts, far into the future. Two out of the six so-called "marker scenarios" push up the IPCC's temperature range by 2C, but neither is likely given historical trends. The first, which produces global warming of 5.8C, assumes that by 2100, emissions will be more than twice what the historic growth trend would imply. To this must be added the least likely of the climate models, which assumes a very high sensitivity to increased carbon dioxide, to get to the apocalyptic number of 5.8C. This scenario is entirely unrealistic.
The second absurd scenario, which produces global warming of 4.8C, uses a projection for world population growth that is the UN's top estimates, while assuming a reversal of the global trend of the past 100 years towards less carbon-intensive energy sources. Again, this is extremely unlikely.

Others have criticised the SRES methodology and practices. John Reilly of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change calls the SRES approach an "insult to science". Reilly suspects that the scenario teams started with an emissions projection, estimated the relationship between emissions and growth, and finally calculated the growth rate needed to achieve the desired emissions projection. Ian Castles, former president of the International Association of Official Statistics, and David Henderson, former chief economist of the OECD, have criticised the SRES for using market exchange rates instead of purchasing-power parity. This results in models that overestimate future growth rates in poor countries. Some of the SRES scenarios produce a world economy, which, by 2100, is up to 25 times larger than it is today. Few would complain if this happens, but history suggests that it won't. Since 1975, world GDP growth per capita has averaged 1.2pc annually, a rate that would produce a figure 3.7 times today's GDP per head by 2100. Even if world population doubles (a high estimate), the global economy would be only 7.4 times larger than at the base year (1990).

With such sloppy practices, ignoring historical data and trends, and turning scenarios into forecasts, the SRES has misled the public and policy makers. This is serious because the results are being used as a basis for policies to regulate energy consumption - of which the Kyoto Protocol is the most obvious - that will cost billions of dollars and harm economic growth. Worse still, there is no proof they will have any measurable effect on the world's climate.
Martin Agerup is a Danish economist, economic historian and scenario expert, and president of the Danish Academy for Future Studies.


4. European Energy News

The Czech Republic plans to expand nuclear energy, a victory of wisdom over ideology, acc to industry minister Milan. [Contrast this to neighboring Germany and Austria. In Germany, industry has seen a 27% increase in electric rates since 2000]

Ukraine replaces 10 decommissioned Chernobyl-type rectors with advance pressurized-water reactors.

The 9th shipment of vitrified nuclear waste from Japanese rectors is shipped by COGEMA from Cherbourg (France) for final storage in Japan

The scientific advisory panel of the German ministry of economics and labor recommends abolition of the law requiring renewable energy (EEG). Greenpeace accuses the panel of fraud, claiming that climate protection is impossible without EEG.
Meanwhile, the liberal FDP party warns against subsidies for wind and the closing of nuclear reactors. All forms of renewable energy must first prove their cost-effectiveness. [Gudrun Kopp, speaking in the Bundestag.]


5. Super Plants Could Clean Toxic Sites:

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed genetically modified plants that could help clean contaminated soil at toxic sites. Newsday reports that the researchers began with a strain of bacteria that degrades toluene and tricholoroethylene into carbon dioxide and water. The researchers were able to transfer the genetic mechanism responsible for the process from this bacterial strain into similar bacteria that normally live within certain plants. In a successful trial, modified poplar trees were able to halt the spread of contaminated groundwater at a site in northern Belgium. The research team is currently looking at other plants and chemicals that can be used for similar efforts.

6. Sequestering Carbon Through Agricultural Soils - Another Boondoggle?

The Economic Research Service of US Department of Agriculture has just published a report, Economics of Sequestering Carbon in the U.S. Agricultural Sector,
Technical Bulletin 1909 (TB1909), 68 pp, March 2004,

The report analyzes the performance of alternative incentive designs and payment levels if US farmers were paid to adopt land uses and management practices that raise soil carbon levels. At payment levels below $10 per metric ton for permanently sequestered carbon, the model predicts landowners would find it cost-effective to adopt changes in rotations and tillage practices, but none of the potential land use changes. At higher payment levels, afforestation dominates sequestration activities, mostly through conversion of pastureland. The model predicted converting cropland to grassland was not competitive up through a $125 carbon price, in part because conversion to afforestation (where feasible) was more profitable - with its higher sequestration rate per acre. Across payment levels, the economic potential to sequester carbon is lower than the technical potential reported in soil science studies.

The most cost-effective payment design adjusts payment levels to account both for the length of time farmers are willing to commit to sequestration activities and for net sequestration. A 50-percent cost-share for cropland conversion to forestry or grasslands would increase sequestration at low carbon payment levels but not at high payment levels.
SEPP Comment: Carbon sequestration is a bad idea - costly and counter-productive (since CO2 raises crop yields). Nevertherless, USDA has carefully positioned its numerous conservation payments so as to appear to promote sequestration and thus Kyoto Protocol goals. Most USDA soil and water and forestry programs predate Kyoto and really amount to good farming/forestry practices; the additional "hook" helps to justify continued funding to USDA for conservation programs. These subsidies are also considered to be Green subsidies not subject to challenge under WTO rules.

7. Is There A US Future For REACH (Registration, Evaluation And Authorisation of CHemicals)

REACH as Model for California Toxic Laws: California Assemblyman John Laird (D) and State Senator Byron Sher (D), chairmen of the environment committees in their respective chambers, are looking to the proposed European chemical regulatory regime as a possible model for overhauling state regulations. The legislators have asked the University of California to undertake a review of the REACH program as part of a look into alternatives to current regulatory structures.

New Activist Group Says Industry Overestimating REACH Costs: A new report claims that industry groups in the U.S. and Europe have greatly exaggerated the estimated costs of the proposed EU chemical regulatory program. Cry Wolf was issued by the International Chemical Secretariat, an activist group based in Sweden and supported by the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF's) toxics campaign. Like WWF, this new group supports the adoption of the chemicals policy in Europe and is pushing for similar policies in the United States. The report is available at Separately, a recent article in the UK Sunday Herald described U.S. opposition to the REACH program as "a fierce and covert global campaign to undermine the European Union's plan to protect people from thousands of toxic chemicals used by industry." The Herald article draws heavily on a report prepared for U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) that was released in the U.S. last month..

8. Will Antarctica Soon Be The Only Place To Live?
By Geoffrey Lean
Environment Editor, The Independent (UK), 02 May 2004

Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the Government's chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, said last week.

He said the Earth was entering the "first hot period" for 60 million years, when there was no ice on the planet and "the rest of the globe could not sustain human life". The warning - one of the starkest delivered by a top scientist - comes as ministers decide next week whether to weaken measures to cut the pollution that causes climate change, even though Tony Blair last week described the situation as "very, very critical indeed".

The Prime Minister - who was launching a new alliance of governments, businesses and pressure groups to tackle global warming - added that he could not think of "any bigger long-term question facing the world community". Yet the Government is considering relaxing limits on emissions by industry.

Sir David said that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - the main "greenhouse gas" causing climate change - were already 50 per cent higher than at any time in the past 420,000 years. The last time they were at this level - 379 parts per million - was 60 million years ago during a rapid period of global warming, he said. Levels soared to 1,000 parts per million, causing a massive reduction of life.
"No ice was left on Earth. Antarctica was the best place for mammals to live, and the rest of the world would not sustain human life." Sir David warned that if the world did not curb its burning of fossil fuels "we will reach that level by 2100".
Comment by Ross McKitrick: If Sir David is correct, then within about 20 years Greenland will be mild and habitable, as will vast stretches of the Canadian Arctic. This, in turn will raise the value of these lands, as they become productive for forests, ranching, and as alternative living space for the newly-uninhabitable mid-latitudes. Right now, land in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland can be bought very cheaply. My question to Sir David is, what percentage of the UK civil-service pension fund should be invested in arctic real estate? If there was an "arctic real estate mutual fund," what proportion of your personal retirement savings would you be willing to invest in it?


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