Post image for Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.: Sober Analysis, Cool Graphics from Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger

Cato Institute scholars Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger have produced a layman-friendly yet thoroughly referenced draft report summarizing “the important science that is missing from Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” a U.S. Government document underpinning the EPA’s December 2009 endangerment rule, the foundation of all of the agency’s greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations.

Pat and Chip’s draft report, titled Addendum: Climate Change Impacts in the United States, is a sober antidote to the climate fear-mongering patronized by the Obama administration, mainstream media, the U.N., corporate rent seekers, and the green movement. Among the best features are the numerous graphics, some of which I will post here.

Taking these in no particular order, let’s begin with the scariest part of Al Gore’s “planetary emergency”: sea-level rise. Is the rate of sea-level rise dangerously accelerating? No. Over the 20th century, there was considerable decadal variation in the rate of sea-level rise but no long-term trend.

Decadal rate of sea level rise from satellites (red curve) appended to the decadal rate of global sea level rise as determined from a nine-station tide gauge network for the period 1904–2003 (blue curve) and from a 177-station tide gauge network for the period 1948–2002 (magenta). Adapted from Holgate, S.J., 2007: On the decadal rate of sea level change during the 20th century. Geophysical Research Letters, 34, doi:10.1029/2006 GL028492 [click to continue…]

Post image for PTC: Costly Climate Policy Dud

The wind energy production tax credit (PTC) expires at the stroke of midnight, Dec. 31, unless Congress votes to renew the tax break. A one-year extension would add an estimated $12.1 billion to deficit spending over 10 years. A six-year extension, advocated by the wind industry, could add $50 billion.

The fiscal cliff looms and the national debt already exceeds GDP, but if Congress cared more about the general interest of taxpayers than about the special interests of campaign contributors, the nation would not be sliding towards insolvency.

Whether Congress should renew the PTC or let it expire is the topic of this week’s National Journal Energy Experts Blog. Twenty wonks weigh in, including your humble servant. I heartily recommend the contributions by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.), Craig Rucker, Phil Kerpin, Benjamin Zycher, Thomas Pyle, James Valvo, and David Banks.

My contribution addresses the environmental side of the debate, in particular the claim that recent extreme weather events demonstrate “just how badly our nation needs to take advantage of our vast wind energy potential,” as one contributor put it.

Below is a lightly edited version of my comment.

* * *

Of all the lame arguments used to sell Americans on the proposition that wind power, an industry propped up by Soviet-style production quota in 29 states and numerous other policy privileges, deserves another renewal of the 20-year-old production tax credit (PTC), the lamest is the claim that the PTC helps protect us from extreme weather.

PTC advocates talk as if Hurricane Sandy and the Midwest drought were obvious consequences of anthropogenic global warming, and that subsidizing wind energy is a cost-effective way to mitigate climate change.

They are wrong on both counts.

Neither economic analyses nor meteorological investigations validate the asserted link between recent extreme weather events and global warming. When weather-related damages are adjusted (“normalized”) to account for changes in population, per capita income, and the consumer price index, there is no long-term trend such as might indicate an increase in the frequency or severity of extreme weather related to global climate change.

A 2012 study in the journal Climate Change  examined 370 years of tropical cyclone data from the Lesser Antilles, the eastern Caribbean island chain bisecting the main development region for landfalling U.S. hurricanes. The study found no long-term trend in either the power or frequency of tropical cyclones from 1638 to 2009. It did however find a 50- to 70-year wave pattern associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, a mode of natural climate variability. [click to continue…]

Post image for No Long-Term Trend in Frequency, Strength of Landfalling Hurricanes

Numerous politicians, pundits, and activists, and even some scientists blame fossil-fuel emissions for the death and devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Such allegations are ideological, not scientific.

As noted previously on this blog, when hurricane damages are adjusted (“normalized”) to account for changes in population, per capita income, and the consumer price index, there is no long-term trend such as might indicate an increase in hurricane frequency or power related to global climate change.

Moreover, 370 years of tropical cyclone data from the Lesser Antilles (the eastern Caribbean island chain that bisects the main development region for landfalling U.S. hurricanes) show no long-term trend in either power or frequency but a 50- to 70-year wave pattern associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, a mode of natural climate variability. 

A new study by Jessica Weinkle (University of Colorado), Ryan Maue (Naval Research Laboratory), and Roger Pielke, Jr. (University of Colorado) dumps more cold water on claims that global warming significantly (detectably) influences hurricane behavior.

The researchers examined data on the number and power of hurricanes making landfall in the five main hurricane basins: North Atlantic, northeastern Pacific, western North Pacific, northern Indian Ocean, and Southern Hemisphere. The data extend back to 1944 for the North Atlantic, to 1950 for the northeastern Pacific, and to 1970 for the other basins. The data for all basins is current through 2010.

Here’s what Weinkle, Maue, and Pielke, Jr. found:  

We have identified considerable interannual variability in the frequency of global hurricane landfalls; but within the resolution of the available data, our evidence does not support the presence of significant long-period global or individual basin linear trends for minor, major, or total hurricanes within the period(s) covered by the available quality data. Therefore, our long-period analysis does not support claims that increasing TC [tropical cyclone] landfall frequency or landfall intensity has contributed to concomitantly increasing economic losses.

Figure explanation: Red bars indicate the number of major (category 3-5) hurricanes, blue bars indicate the number of minor (category 1-2) hurricanes. [click to continue…]

Post image for Sen. Whitehouse Fumes at ‘Climate Deniers’

In a fiery speech yesterday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) ”calls out” “climate deniers.” In the first half of the speech he goes ad hominem, attacking opponents as “front groups” who take payola from “polluters” to “confuse” the public by selling “doubt” as their product.

First a bit of free advice for the good Senator:

Your team has been playing nasty from day one. It didn’t get you cap-and-trade, it didn’t get you Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and it’s not going to get you a carbon tax.  

Vilification doesn’t work because biomass, wind turbines, and solar panels are not up to the challenge of powering a modern economy, and most Americans are too practical to believe otherwise.

So by all means, keep talking trash about your opponents. The shriller your rhetoric, the more skeptical the public will become about your bona fides as an honest broker of “the science.”

Okay, let’s examine Sen. Whitehouse’s argument. He accuses skeptics of peddling “straw man arguments,” such as that “the earth’s climate always changes; it’s been warmer in the past.” Well, it does, and it has! Many studies indicate the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was warmer than the current warm period (CWP). A study published in July in Nature Climate Change concludes the Roman Warm Period (RWP) was warmer than both the MWP and CWP. The Northern Hemisphere was substantially warmer than the present for thousands of years during the Holocene Climate Optimum (~5,000-9,000 years ago). Arctic summer air temperatures were 4-5°C above present temperatures for millennia during the previous interglacial period.

None of this is evidence man-made global warming is not occurring, but Sen. Whitehouse sets up his own straw man by making that the main issue in dispute. What the paleoclimate information does indicate is that the warmth of the past 50 years is not outside the range of natural variability and is no cause for alarm. The greater-than-present warmth of the Holocene Optimum, RWP, and MWP contributed to improvements in human health and welfare[click to continue…]

Post image for Hurricane Sandy and Global Warming

Both the blogosphere and the mainstream media have been abuzz with commentary blaming global warming for Hurricane Sandy and the associated deaths and devastation. Bloomberg BusinessWeek epitomizes this brand of journalism. Its magazine cover proclaims the culpability of global warming as an obvious fact:

Part of the thinking here is simply that certain aspects of the storm (lowest barometric pressure for a winter cyclone in the Northeast) and its consequences (worst flooding of the New York City subway system) are “unprecedented,” so what more proof do we need that our fuelish ways have dangerously loaded the climate dice to produce ever more terrible extremes?

After all, argues Climate Progress blogger Brad Johnston, quoting hockey stick inventor Michael Mann, “climate change is present in every single meteorological event.” Here’s Mann’s explanation:

The fact remains that there is 4 percent more water vapor – and associated additional moist energy – available both to power individual storms and to produce intense rainfall from them. Climate change is present in every single meteorological event, in that these events are occurring within a baseline atmospheric environment that has shifted in favor of more intense weather events.

Well sure, climate is average weather over a period of time, so as climate changes, so does the weather. But that tautology tells us nothing about how much — or even how — global warming influences any particular event. Moreover, if “climate change is present in every single meteorological event,” then it is also present in ”good” weather (however defined) as well as “bad.”

Anthony Watts makes this criticism on his indispensable blog, noting that as carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have risen, the frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. has declined.

The US Has Had 285 Hurricane Strikes Since 1850: ‘The U.S. has always been vulnerable to hurricanes. 86% of U.S. hurricane strikes occurred with CO2 below [NASA scientist James] Hansen’s safe level of 350 PPM.’

If there’s anything in this data at all, it looks like CO2 is preventing more US landfalling hurricanes.

Data Source: NOAA; Figure Source: Steve Goddard [click to continue…]

Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth bombarded audiences with image after image of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, forest fires, and drought, creating the impression of a world in climate chaos. Gore blamed the alleged upsurge in extreme weather on global warming, that is, mankind’s sins of emission. One of Gore’s mighty pieces of evidence was a dramatic increase in insurance payments for weather-related damages. As he writes in his best-selling book of the same title:

Over the last three decades, insurance companies have seen a 15-fold increase in the amount of money paid to victims of extreme weather. Hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters have caused these losses [An Inconvenient Truth, p. 101].

Gore presented a chart similar to this one:

Seeing is believing, right? The problem, of course, is not merely that correlation (warmer weather/bigger losses) does not prove causation. More importantly, the economic data depicted in the chart have not been adjusted (“normalized”) to offset increases in population, wealth, and the consumer price index.

[click to continue…]