"Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen"
Sir John Houghton, first chairman of IPCC
THIS WEEK The nomination of Alaska governor Sarah Palin may change the dismal prospects of a future Cap & Trade system, as has been advocated by both Obama and McCain. Of course, it is much too early to tell but Palin has expressed a certain degree of skepticism – so perhaps there is an opening here for a sensible approach to the climate issue. It is worth a try to attempt to brief her and the campaign staff of the Republican Party on the key issue: that natural forcing, not human activities, dominate climate change.
Meanwhile in Bled, Slovenia, a galaxy of statesmen assembled, generally from destinations in the Balkans, Russia and Asia to discuss climate/energy problems. Overshadowing everything were the recent events in Georgia, with the implication that supplies of natural gas from Russia could be used to force political concessions – not to mention the escalating price. My presentation at the Bled Strategic Forum gained only a few adherents, but included a Minister of the Slovenian Republic. By contrast, a colloquium at the leading Slovenian research institute, the Institute Jozef Stefan, drew a record crowd of over 300, with standing room only. So maybe we achieved something.
At the Bled Strategic Forum also, I had a chance to comment at length on a presentation of the Al Gore slide show. A smaller audience, but one that accepted readily the lack of scientific underpinnings to the Gore thesis.
SEPP Science Editorial
In my opinion, the evidence is overwhelming that decadal-scale climate variability is controlled by changes in solar activity (which in turn controls the intensity of incoming cosmic radiation). The strongest evidence (see NIPCC report) comes from observations on stalagmites, covering a time period of 1,000s of years and shows a detailed correspondence between cosmic ray intensity and earth climate. But we also know from observations of the last 100 years that climate changes are controlled by internal oscillations, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, with typical periods of 20-30 years. This raises a certain puzzle: Are there two independent natural forcings that control the climate or is it possible that the solar focing controls the timing of the PDO and other atmosphere-ocean oscillations? This intriguing possibility I first heard suggested by a Scripps oceanographer more than a decade ago but has recently been given more substance by Australian astronomer Ian Wilson. This is still work in progress and you will be hearing more about it in the future.
1. What the CCSP Extremes Report (SAP-3.3) really says: No trends in extreme events in US
2. Skeptical scientists overwhelm international conference
3. Drilling boom revives hopes for natural gas
4. U.S. Bureau of Land Management waives review for solar projects
5. UK Environment Minister calls global warming fears 'hysterical pseudo-religion'
6. CFC ban causes suffering to asthma sufferers
NEWS YOU CAN USE
From Americans for Prosperity:
After the US Senate rejected a plan to regulate greenhouse
gases, the EPA decided to go ahead and do it anyway. The extent of their
plan is truly terrifying. If this proposal becomes law, 33 programs
within the EPA would be empowered to, among other things:
Impose Grass Mileage Standards for Home Lawnmowers
Put Speed Limiters on the Commercial Trucking Fleet
List Large Single-Family Homes as Carbon-Polluters
Require Carbon Permits for Retail, Restaurant, Hotel and School Construction
We need your help to tell the EPA this is unacceptable. Environmentalists will be stuffing the
comment box with their opinion; we need you to make your voice heard.
Are you aware that Arctic Sea ice has EXPANDED in 2008?(See: Arctic ice INCREASES by nearly a half million square miles over same time period in 2007 - July 18, 2008 (LINK) ) Are you aware of the multiple peer-reviewed studies blaming Arctic sea ice reductions on many factors not related to man-made carbon emissions?(See: Numerous Peer-Reviewed Studies Show Natural Causes of Arctic Warming and Ice Reduction - Jan. 2008 (LINK))
A June 29, 2007 scientific analysis by Gerd Burger of Berlin’s Institute of Meteorology in the peer-reviewed Science Magazine challenged a previously touted study claiming the 20th century had been unusually warm. Excerpt: Burger argues that [the 2006 temperature analysis by] Osborn and Briffa did not apply the appropriate statistical tests that link the proxy records to observational data, and as such, Osborn and Briffa did not properly quantify the statistical uncertainties in their analyses. Burger repeated all analyses with the appropriate adjustments and concluded As a result, the highly significant occurrences of positive anomalies during the 20th century disappear.
Bürger, G., 2007. Comment on “The Spatial Extent of 20th-Century Warmth in the Context of the Past 1200 Years”. Science, 316, 1844a.
Mackay, A.W., 2007. The Paleoclimatology of Lake Baikal: A Diatom Synthesis and Prospectus. Earth-Science Reviews, 82, 181–215.
Osborn, T.J., and Briffa, K.R., 2006. The spatial extent of 20th-century warmth in the context of the past 1200 years. Science, 311, 841-844.
At www.itsthesunnotyoursuv.com you find the flyer of John Zyrkowski's new and highly recommended book "It's the Sun and not your SUV: CO2 won’t destroy the Earth" now available at amazon.com (search for Zyrkowski). A great book for those who like to work with actual data. John is expert in regression analyses proving the solar and cloud impact on climate. Foreword by noted German climate skeptic Peter Dietze. St. Augustine Press (South Bend, IN). $17.00. 141 pp.
UNDER THE BOTTOM LINE
Blame Global Warming "Sales of Thermal Underwear Soar in Dismal
Summer"--headline, Daily Telegraph (London), Aug. 22
1. WHAT THE CCSP EXTREMES REPORT (SAP-3.3) REALLY SAYS
By Roger Pielke Jr. in Prometheus blog
Yesterday the U.S. Climate Change Science Program released an assessment report titled "Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate", with a focus on the United States. This post discusses some interesting aspects of this report, with an emphasis on what it does not show and does not say. It does not show a clear picture of ever-increasing extreme events in the United States. And it does not clearly say why damage has been steadily increasing.
First, let me emphasize that the focus of the report is on changes in extremes in the United States, and not on climate changes more generally. Second, my comments below refer to the report's discussion of observed trends. I do not discuss predictions of the future, which the report also covers. Third, the report relies a great deal on research that I have been involved in and obviously know quite well. Finally, let me emphasize that anthropogenic climate change is real, and deserving of significant attention to both adaptation and mitigation.
The report contains several remarkable conclusions that somehow did not seem to make it into the official press release.
1. Over the long-term U.S. hurricane landfalls have been declining.
Yes, you read that correctly. From the appendix (p. 132):
The final example is a time series of U.S. landfalling hurricanes for 1851-2006 . . . A linear trend was fitted to the full series and also for the following subseries: 1861-2006, 1871-2006, and so on up to 1921-2006. As in preceding examples, the model fitted was ARMA (p,q) with linear trend, with p and q identified by AIC.
For 1871-2006, the optimal model was AR(4), for which the slope was -.00229, standard error .00089, significant at p=.01.
For 1881-2006, the optimal model was AR(4), for which the slope was -. 00212, standard error .00100, significant at p=.03. For all other cases, the estimated trend was negative, but not statistically significant.
2. Nationwide, there have been no long-term increases in drought.
Yes, you read that correctly. From p. 5:
Averaged over the continental U.S. and southern Canada, the most severe droughts occurred in the 1930s and there is no indication of an overall trend in the observational record . . .
3. Despite increases in some measures of precipitation (pp. 46-50, pp. 130-131), there have not been corresponding increases in peak streamflows (high flows above 90th percentile).
From p. 53:
Lins and Slack (1999, 2005) reported no significant changes in high flow above the 90th percentile. On the other hand, Groisman et al. (2001) showed that for the same gauges, period, and territory, there were statistically significant regional average increases in the uppermost fractions of total streamflow. However, these trends became statistically insignificant after Groisman et al. (2004) updated the analysis to include the years 2000 through 2003, all of which happened to be dry years over most of the eastern United States.
4. There have been no observed changes in the occurrence of tornadoes or thunderstorms
From p. 77:
There is no evidence for a change in the severity of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, and the large changes in the overall number of reports make it impossible to detect if meteorological changes have occurred.
5. There have been no long-term increases in strong East Coast winter storms (ECWS), called Nor'easters.
From p. 68:
They found a general tendency toward weaker systems over the past few decades, based on a marginally significant (at the p=0.1 level) increase in average storm minimum pressure (not shown). However, their analysis found no statistically significant trends in ECWS frequency for all nor'easters identified in their analysis, specifically for those storms that occurred over the northern portion of the domain (>35°N), or those that traversed full coast (Figure 2.22b, c) during the 46-year period of record used in this study.
6. There are no long-term trends in either heat waves or cold spells, though there are trends within shorter time periods in the overall record.
From p. 39:
Analysis of multi-day very extreme heat and cold episodes in the United States were updated from Kunkel et al. (1999a) for the period 1895-2005. The most notable feature of the pattern of the annual number of extreme heat waves (Figure 2.3a) through time is the high frequency in the 1930s compared to the rest of the years in the 1895-2005 period. This was followed by a decrease to a minimum in the 1960s and 1970s and then an increasing trend since then. There is no trend over the entire period, but a highly statistically significant upward trend since 1960. . . Cold waves show a decline in the first half of the 20th century, then a large spike of events during the mid-1980s, then a decline. The last 10 years have seen a lower number of severe cold waves in the United States than in any other 10-year period since record-keeping began in 1895 . . .
From the excerpts above, it should be obvious that there is not a pattern of unprecedented weather extremes in recent years or a long- term secular trend in extreme storms or streamflow. Yet the report shows data in at least three places showing that the damage associated with weather extremes has increased dramatically over the long-term. Here is what the report says on p. 12:
. . . the costs of weather-related disasters in the U.S. have been increasing since 1960, as shown in Figure 1.2. For the world as a whole, "weather-related [insured] losses in recent years have been trending upward much faster than population, inflation, or insurance penetration, and faster than non-weather-related events" (Mills, 2005a). Numerous studies indicate that both the climate and the socioeconomic vulnerability to weather and climate extremes are changing (Brooks and Doswell, 2001; Pielke et al., 2008; Downton et al., 2005), although these factors' relative contributions to observed increases in disaster costs are subject to debate.
What debate? The report offers not a single reference to justify that there is a debate on this subject. In fact, a major international conference that I helped organize along with Peter Hoeppe of Munich Re came to a consensus position among experts as varied as Indur Goklany and Paul Epstein. Further, I have seen no studies that counter the research I have been involved in on trends in hurricane and flood damage in relation to climate and societal change. Not one. That probably explains the lack of citations.
They reference Mills 2005a, but fail to acknowledge my comment published in Science on Mills 2005a and yet are able to fit in a reference to Mills 2005b, titled "Response to Pielke" (responding to my comment). How selective. I critiqued Mills 2005a on this blog when it came out, writing some strong things: "shoddy science, bad peer-review and a failure of the science community to demand high standards is not the best recipe for helping science to contribute effectively to policy."
The CCSP report continues:
For example, it is not easy to quantify the extent to which increases in coastal building damage is due to increasing wealth and population growth in vulnerable locations versus an increase in storm intensity. Some authors (e.g., Pielke et al., 2008) divide damage costs by a wealth factor in order to "normalize" the damage costs. However, other factors such as changes in building codes, emergency response, warning systems, etc. also need to be taken into account.
This is an odd editorial evaluation and dismissal of our work. (Based on what? Again not a single citation to literature.) In fact, the study that I was lead author on that is referenced shows quantitatively that our normalized damage record matches up with the trend in landfall behavior of storms, providing clear evidence that we have indeed appropriately adjusted for the effects of societal change in the historical record of damages.
The CCSP report then offers this interesting claim, again with the apparent intention of dismissing our work:
At this time, there is no universally accepted approach to normalizing damage costs (Guha-Sapir et al., 2004). Perhaps surprisingly, given how it is used, Guha-Sapir et al. contains absolutely no discussion of normalization methodologies, but instead, a general discussion of damage estimation. It is therefore improperly cited in support of this claim. However, Guha- Sapir et al. 2004 does say the following on p. 53:
Are natural hazards increasing? Probably not significantly. But the number of people vulnerable and affected by disasters is definitely on the increase. Sound familiar?
In closing, the CCSP report is notable because of what it does not show and what it does not say. It does not show a clear picture of ever increasing extreme events in the United States. And it does not clearly say why damage has been steadily increasing. Overall, this is not a good showing by the CCSP.
2. SKEPTICAL SCIENTISTS OVERWHELM CONFERENCE: '2/3 of presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC' (H/t to: http://tomnelson.blogspot.com)
[Note: Below is a report by Professor Charles Hall from SUNY-Syracuse about a recent major international scientific conference. The International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists' equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Oslo, Norway, from August 4-14. As more and more scientists publicly dissent and peer-reviewed studies debunk man-made climate fears, the skeptical scientists are now dominating scientific conferences. See: Global Warming Skeptics Prominently Featured At International Scientific Meeting - Indian Scientist Mocks Nobel Prize Award to Gore August 19, 2008 - http://www.rightsidenews.com/200808191759/energy-and-environment/global-warming-skeptics-prominently-featured-at-international-scientific-meeting.html ]
Key quote: “About two thirds of the presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the IPCC (International panel on climate change) and the idea that the Earth's climate was responding to human influences. This was rather shocking to me [Ch Hall] who knows of several other such scientists but had no idea there were so many.”
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4442 August 24, 2008
Report from 33d International Geology Congress (or far more than you want to know about geology meetings and Norway) by Charles A. S. Hall
Excerpt: 9) The plenaries, especially the climate session and somewhat the energy sessions, were designed for a more general scientific audience. They tended to be moderately interesting, optimistic about resources and technology and often extremely contentious. About two thirds of the presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the IPCC (International panel on climate change) and the idea that the Earth's climate was responding to human influences. This was rather shocking to me who knows of several other such scientists but had no idea there were so many. They talked about Milankovich Cycles of course, but also sunspot cycles and other possible climate forcings. These were linked to some pretty bizarre (to me) ways of influencing the climate: e.g. making cloud condensation nuclei through ionizing radiation from sun spots or slowing or speeding the Earth's rate of spin in response to cosmic rays. These were apparently very serious scientists but presented far more correlation than clear and convincing mechanism, at least I thought. An atmospheric physicist sitting next to me said that there was no correlation between cosmic rays and clouds as he had made all the measurements. The IPCC folks were adamant that there model was built on first principles, could reproduce past changes in climate and was making proper predictions. The plenary had at the end a "debate" but it was really two ships passing in the might---each side presented its arguments usually using different types of logic, often arrogantly, and said the other side could not possible be right. The moderators could have done us all a service by guiding the debate to specific issues "what do each of you think about sun spot correlations even when their effect appears trivial" but that did not happen.
10) I could not at first figure out why there was so much hostility between the two climate groups. At first I thought it empiricists vs modelers, although each group was somewhat mixed. Then I concluded that it is the geologists, used to studying constant climate change over very long time periods of Earth's history, who think that basically the climate of the earth is always changing due to various forcings, and what's the big deal now? The IPCCers respond that the Earth has never seen CO2 levels such as we are headed for and that the CO2 changes produce a strong enough signal to change the climate. And on and on.
3. DRILLING BOOM REVIVES HOPES FOR NATURAL GAS
American natural gas production is rising at a clip not seen in half a century, pushing down prices of the fuel and reversing conventional wisdom that domestic gas fields were in irreversible decline, says the New York Times.
Competition among companies for rights to the new gas has set off a frenzy of leasing and drilling:
o Domestic gas production was up 8.8 percent in the first five months of this year compared with the period a year earlier, a rate of increase last seen in 1959, during the great drilling boom that followed World War II.
o Most of the gain is coming from shale, particularly the Barnett Shale region around Fort Worth, which has been under development for several years.
o The increase in gas production stands in sharp contrast to the trend in domestic oil production, which has been declining steadily since 1970 and dropped 21 percent in the last decade alone.
o The Barnett region proved that, using new technology, shale gas could be extracted on a large scale, but lately, companies have set their sights on shale formations that could produce far more gas than the Barnett.
According to a new report by Navigant Consulting, paid for by a foundation allied with the gas industry, there could be as much as 842 trillion cubic feet of retrievable gas in shales around the country, enough to supply about 40 years' worth of natural gas, at today's consumption rate.
Rising production of natural gas has significant long-range implications for American consumers and businesses, says the Times. A sustained increase in gas supplies over the next decade could slow the rise of utility bills, obviate the need to import gas and make energy-intensive industries more competitive.
Source: Clifford Krauss, "Drilling Boom Revives Hopes for Natural Gas," NY Times, August 25, 2008.
4. U.S. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT WAIVES REVIEW FOR SOLAR PROJECTS
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), giving in to pressure from the solar power industry, has reversed a decision to put on hold all new solar power proposals for public lands until it could finish a comprehensive study of the environmental impact of such projects.
The reversal came barely a month after BLM announced the temporary freeze on accepting new solar power applications pending completion of the study.
Environmental activist groups have been increasingly at odds with each other over the extremely large amount of land that must be developed to produce a marginal amount of solar power, says the Heartland Institute:
o Aware of such concerns, BLM had planned on taking up to two years for a comprehensive study of the impacts of solar power projects on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
o BLM's July 2 decision to continue accepting solar power applications even without the comprehensive study expedites solar power projects proposed in these and other states.
The decision has caused a rift between those who support increased development of alternative fuels and those who want to protect public lands:
o Environmentalist groups have generally insisted upon lengthy, comprehensive environmental studies before allowing any development on public lands.
o But now some contend alternative fuels should be immune to such environmental restrictions, while others remain convinced all forms of land development should be subject to rigorous environmental studies.
"This is a very unfortunate development," says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis. "BLM was trying to get ahead of the curve and do a careful, comprehensive environmental impact assessment regarding solar power. How ironic that some so-called environmentalists have successfully pressured BLM to approve development of public lands without such an assessment."
Source: E. Jay Donovan, "US. Bureau of Land Management Waives Review for Solar Projects," Heartland Institute, September 1, 2008.
5. UK ENVIRONMENT MINISTER CALLS GLOBAL WARMING FEARS 'HYSTERICAL PSEUDO-RELIGION' - SAYS NATURAL CAUSE!
The Environment Minister of Northern Ireland Sammy Wilson has angered green campaigners by describing their view on climate change as a "hysterical pseudo-religion”. In an article in the News Letter, Mr Wilson said he believed it occurred naturally and was not man-made. "Resources should be used to adapt to the consequences of climate change, rather than King Canute-style vainly trying to stop it," said the minister. Peter Doran of the Green Party said it was a "deeply irresponsible message."
Mr Wilson said he refused to "blindly accept" the need to make significant changes to the economy to stop climate change. "The tactic used by the "green gang" is to label anyone who dares disagree with their view of climate change as some kind of nutcase who denies scientific fact," he said. The minister said he accepted climate change can occur, but does not believe the cause has been identified. "Reasoned debate must replace the scaremongering of the green climate alarmists."
John Woods of Friends of the Earth said Mr Wilson was "like a cigarette salesman denying that smoking causes cancer". "Ironically, if we listen to him, Northern Ireland will suffer economically as we are left behind by smarter regions who are embracing the low-carbon economy of the future."
It is the latest clash between Mr Wilson and green groups since his appointment as environment minister in June.
6. CHANGE IN THE AIR
A federal ban on ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), to conform to the Clean Air Act, is, ironically, affecting 22.9 million people in the United States who suffer from asthma, says Scientific American. Generic inhaled albuterol -- the most commonly prescribed short-acting asthma medication that requires CFCs to propel it into the lungs -- will no longer be legally sold after December 21, 2008.
As more patients see their prescriptions change and costs go up -- the reformulated brand-name alternatives can be three times as expensive, raising the cost to about $40 per inhaler -- many question why this ban must begin before generics become available. Some skeptics point to the billions of dollars to be gained by the three companies, GlaxoSmithKline, Schering-Plough and Teva, holding the patents on the available HFA-albuterol inhalers.
However, the main public health issue may not be the drug's chemistry, but rather the side effects of the economics:
o Multiple studies have shown that raising costs leads to poorer adherence to treatment; one study discovered that patients took 30 percent less antiasthma medication when their co-pay doubled.
o In the case of a chronic disease such as asthma, it is particularly difficult to get people to follow regular treatment plans.
o The choice to forego medication could affect more than just the patient; for example, in a pregnant mother with untreated asthma, less oxygen is delivered to the fetus, which could lead to congenital problems and premature birth.
Considering that the disease disproportionately strikes the poor, what seemed to be a good, responsible environmental decision might in the end exact an unexpected human toll, says Scientific American.
Source: Emily Harrison, "Change in the Air: Banning CFC-driven inhalers could levy a toll on asthma sufferers," Scientific American, August 2008.