October 2013

Post image for Satellite Observations Validate Model Predictions — CO2 Emissions Are Greening the Earth!

I’m going to have to revise my skepticism about climate models. In at least one respect, their projections are spot on accurate. Satellite observations apparently validate model predictions that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will green the Earth.

That’s what four Australian scientists report in “Impact of CO2 fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments,” a study published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Models project that the 14% increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration from 1982 to 2010 would increase green foliage in warm, arid environments by 5-10%, and lo, satellites reveal an 11% increase that cannot be accounted for by other known factors.

As the researchers explain in the study’s abstract:

Satellite observations reveal a greening of the globe over recent decades. The role in this greening of the “CO2 fertilization” effect—the enhancement of photosynthesis due to rising CO2 levels—is yet to be established. The direct CO2 effect on vegetation should be most clearly expressed in warm, arid environments where water is the dominant limit to vegetation growth. Using gas exchange theory, we predict that the 14% increase in atmospheric CO2 (1982–2010) led to a 5 to 10% increase in green foliage cover in warm, arid environments. Satellite observations, analyzed to remove the effect of variations in precipitation, show that cover across these environments has increased by 11%. Our results confirm that the anticipated CO2 fertilization effect is occurring alongside ongoing anthropogenic perturbations to the carbon cycle and that the fertilization effect is now a significant land surface process. [click to continue…]

Post image for Global Warming: Planet’s Most Hyped Problem

Last week, National Journal’s Energy Insiders blog hosted a discussion on the question: “Is Global Warming the Planet’s Biggest Problem?” The blog has been experiencing technical difficulties, and several posts, including mine, are invisible (though they still exist on some server somewhere). So I have decided to repost my contribution here.

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Is global warming the planet’s biggest problem? Not even close.

Globally, poverty is by far the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death, and will likely remain so for decades to come.

The World Health Organization is hardly a hotbed of climate skepticism. Nonetheless, climate change ranks near the bottom of the WHO’s list of global health risk factors, well behind “mundane” problems like indoor air pollution, waterborne disease, and vitamin A deficiency, notes economist Indur Goklany. Global warming remains low in the ranking, Goklany finds, even if one accepts the UK Government’s climate impact assessments that informed the alarmist Stern Review.

Other problems that arguably pose greater threats to the health and welfare of millions include nuclear proliferation, uncontrolled entitlement spending, and tyrannical governments.

Al Gore and many other influential people claim global warming is “a planetary emergency – a crisis that threatens the survival of civilization and the habitability of the Earth.”

That is correct, however, only if one or more of their favorite doomsday scenarios is credible. Let’s examine the evidence.

In the mid-2000s, Gore and other pundits warned that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could collapse, plunging Europe into an ice age, with all manner of terrible repercussions for the global economy and international stability. The AMOC is the oceanic “conveyor belt” that pulls warm water up from the equator to Northern Europe. In this scenario, melt water from the Greenland ice sheet so decreases the salinity (density) of North Atlantic surface water that it no longer sinks fast enough to drive the AMOC. A Pentagon-commissioned study on abrupt climate change gave credibility to this warming-causes-cooling scare. Climate activists were jubilant: ‘Even the generals are worried!’

The scenario rests on two assumptions: (1) the AMOC is chiefly responsible for Europe’s comparatively mild winters; (2) global warming is melting enough Greenland ice to shut down the AMOC. The first assumption is dubious, the second is highly implausible.

Richard Seager of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and colleagues found that the chief factor making England 15-20°F warmer in January than comparable latitudes in North America is not maritime heat transport via the AMOC but the very different prevailing winds that blow across northeastern North America and Western Europe. During the winter, “South-westerlies bring warm maritime air into Europe and north-westerlies bring frigid continental air into north-eastern North America.” Thus, Europe should continue to enjoy mild winters even if global warming weakens the AMOC. [click to continue…]

Post image for IPCC Cancels Planetary Emergency

Okay, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not do so in as many words. But in addition to being more confident than ever (despite a 16-year pause in warming and the growing mismatch between model projections and observations) that most recent warming is man-made, they are also more confident nothing really bad is going to happen during the 21st Century.

The scariest parts of the “planetary emergency” narrative popularized by Al Gore and other pundits are Atlantic Ocean circulation shutdown (implausibly plunging Europe into a mini-ice age), ice sheet disintegration raising sea levels 20 feet, and runaway warming from melting frozen methane deposits.

As BishopHill and Judith Curry report on their separate blogs, IPCC now believes that in the 21st Century, Atlantic Ocean circulation collapse is “very unlikely,” ice sheet collapse is “exceptionally unlikely,” and catastrophic release of methane hydrates from melting permafrost is “very unlikely.” You can read it for yourself in Chapter 12 Table 12.4 of the IPCC’s forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report.

But these doomsday scenarios have always been way more fiction than science. For some time now, extreme weather has been the only card left in the climate alarm deck. Climate activists repeatedly assert that severe droughts, floods, and storms (Hurricane Sandy is their current poster child) are now the “new normal,” and they blame fossil fuels.

On their respective blogs Anthony Watts and Roger Pielke, Jr. provide excerpts about extreme weather from Chapter 2 of the IPCC report. Among the findings:

  • “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”
  • “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.”
  • “In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems.”
  • “Based on updated studies, AR4 [the IPCC 2007 report] conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated.”
  • “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extra-tropical cyclones since 1900 is low.”

[click to continue…]

Post image for Inspector General Satisfied After EPA Claims Innocence

Investigations usually bring to mind a picture of an in-depth collection of physical and tangible evidence, questioning of witnesses, cross-referencing those witnesses, and asking more questions to reach some conclusion about a past event to determine whether wrongdoing occurred. If a person accused of a crime claimed he was innocent, no reasonable and unbiased sleuth would stop his investigations based upon this admission alone. Unfortunately, such due diligence is not what the Inspector General undertook for its investigation of EPA’s use of secondary email accounts. The IG’s report concludes:

We found no evidence to support that the EPA used, promoted, or encouraged the use of private email accounts to circumvent records management responsibilities. Furthermore, EPA senior officials indicated that they were aware of the agency records management policies and, based only on discussions with these senior officials, the OIG found no evidence that these individuals had used private or alias  email to circumvent federal recordkeeping responsibilities.

For those unfamiliar with the ongoing saga, CEI Fellow Chris Horner, after conducting extensive research for his book, discovered a secondary email account for former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson – the birth of the so-called “Richard Windsor” scandal. The existence of this email prompted the question: Why would the EPA administrator have a secondary email account if not to hide information from the federal record? Moreover, having requested to see the contents of the private emails through the FOIA process, why has the government continued to hide information from the public through copious redaction?

If the EPA is telling the truth about its activities, then why does it continue to stonewall serious investigation attempts? The kind of investigation which relies on hard evidence and not just the word of the accused.