patrick michaels

Post image for Why Is Congress Lethargic about Energy?

This week National Journal’s Energy Experts Blog poses the question: “What’s holding back energy & climate policy.” So far 14 wonks have posted comments including yours truly. What I propose to do here is ‘revise and extend my remarks’ to provide a clearer, more complete explanation of Capitol Hill’s energy lethargy.

To summarize my conclusions in advance, there is no momentum building for the kind of comprehensive energy legislation Congress enacted in 2005 and 2007, or the major energy bills the House passed in 2011, because:

  • We are not in a presidential election year so Republicans have less to gain from passing pro-energy legislation just to frame issues and clarify policy differences for the electorate;
  • Divided government makes it virtually impossible either for congressional Republicans to halt and reverse the Obama administration’s regulatory war on fossil fuels or for Hill Democrats to pass cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, or a national clean energy standard;
  • Democrats paid a political price for cap-and-trade and won’t champion carbon taxes without Republicans agreeing to commit political suicide by granting them bipartisan cover;
  • The national security and climate change rationales for anti-fossil fuel policies were always weak but have become increasingly implausible thanks to North America’s resurgence as an oil and gas producing province, Climategate, and developments in climate science;
  • Multiple policy failures in Europe and the U.S. have eroded public and policymaker support for ’green’ energy schemes;
  • It has become increasingly evident that the Kyoto crusade was a foredoomed attempt to put policy carts before technology horses; and,
  • The EPA is ’enacting’ climate policy via administrative fiat, so environmental campaigners no longer need legislation to advance their agenda.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Global Lukewarming? Update: Norwegian Study Not Peer Reviewed

Last week the Research Council of Norway announced the results of a new assessment of the climate system’s “sensitivity” taking into account the leveling off of global temperatures during the decade from 2000 to 2010. The study projects that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations over pre-industrial levels will increase global temperatures by between 1.2°C and 2.9°C, with 1.9°C being the most likely outcome. That is considerably cooler than the UN IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) estimate of 2°C to 4.5°C, with 3°C as the most probable outcome.

Climate sensitivity is an estimate of how much warming results from a given increase in CO2 concentrations. Estimates typically project the amount of warming from a doubling of CO2 concentrations over the pre-industrial (year 1750) level of 280 parts per million (ppm). At the current rate of increase (about 2 ppm/yr), a doubling to 560 ppm is expected by mid-century.

Climate alarm depends on several gloomy assumptions — about how fast emissions will increase, how fast atmospheric concentrations will rise, how much global temperatures will rise, how warming will affect ice sheet dynamics and sea-level rise, how warming will affect weather patterns, how the latter will affect agriculture and other economic activities, and how all climate change impacts will affect public health and welfare. But the chief assumption is the range of projected warming from a doubling of CO2 concentrations — the sensitivity estimate.

When the reseachers at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO) applied their computer “model and statistics to analyse temperature readings from the air and ocean for the period ending in 2000, they found that climate sensitivity to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration will most likely be 3.7°C, which is somewhat higher than the IPCC prognosis.” However, ”when they entered temperatures and other data from the decade 2000-2010 into the model, climate sensitivity was greatly reduced to a ‘mere’ 1.9°C.”

Referring to the IPCC AR4 warming forecasts, project manager Terje Berntsen, a geoscience professor at the University of Oslo, commented: “The Earth’s mean temperature rose sharply during the 1990s. This may have caused us to overestimate climate sensitivity.”

No single study can make a dent on the self-anointed “scientific consensus.” But the Norwegian study is one among several recent studies that call into question the IPCC sensitivity assumptions. Cato Institute climatologist Patrick Michaels recently summarized a partial list of such studies in Forbes magazine: [click to continue…]

Post image for Sen. Whitehouse vs the ‘Deniers’ – Addendum on Ocean Acidification

As discussed in an earlier post, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) took to the Senate floor in December last year to lash out at climate ‘deniers.’ Among other allegations, Whitehouse said “deniers tend to ignore facts they can’t explain away.” He cites “the increasing acidification of the oceans,” which ”is simple to measure and undeniably, chemically linked to carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. So we hear nothing about ocean acidification from the deniers,” he claims. Not so, I explained.

Prominent skeptics Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger of the Cato Institute discussed the subject on their old blog, World Climate Report. Another leading skeptical Web site, CO2Science.Org, maintains an ocean acidification database, and the researchers – Drs. Craig, Sherwood, and Keith Idso – review another scientific paper on acidification just about every week. My earlier post concluded: “They don’t share Sen. Whitehouse’s alarm about ocean acidification, but they do not ignore it. The Senator should check his facts before casting aspersions.”

It’s a familiar pattern. Al Gore would have us believe that if we acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic global warming, then we must also believe in his ”planetary emergency” and embrace his policy agenda as a moral imperative. Similarly, the Gorethodox would have us believe that if CO2 emissions make sea water slightly more acidic (actually, slightly less basic), then corals and other calcifying organisms are headed for disaster and, again, we have a moral imperative to stop mountaintop coal mining, block the Keystone XL pipeline, etc.

Here I’d like to reproduce in full the Idsos’ latest review of an ocean acidification study, because it clearly demonstrates the difference between facts and alarmist interpretations of facts.

Growth, Calcification and Mortality of Juvenile Mussels Exposed to Ocean Acidification
—————————————————————————————
Reference
Range, P., Pilo, D., Ben-Hamadou, R., Chicharo,M.A., Matias, D., Joaquim, S., Oliveira, A.P. and Chicharo, L. 2012. Seawater acidification by CO2 in a coastal lagoon environment: Effects on life history traits of juvenile mussels Mytilus galloprovincialis. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 424-425: 89-98.

Background
Ocean acidification is considered by climate alarmists to be detrimental to nearly all sea creatures; and the early life-stages of these organisms are generally thought to be the most sensitive stages to this environmental change.

What was done
In a study designed to explore these assumptions, the authors tested the effects of seawater acidification by CO2 addition, leading to reductions of 0.3 and 0.6 pH units, on six-month-old juvenile mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis), which they obtained from a mussel raft on the Ria de Ares-Betanzos of Northwest Spain, focusing their attention on growth, calcification and mortality. [click to continue…]

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 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 Lung Association Poll: Another Attempt to Influence Public Opinion in the Guise of Reporting It

The American Lung Association (ALA) is hawking the results of an opinion poll that supposedly shows “American voters support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) setting stronger fine particle (soot) standards to protect public health.” ALA spokesperson Peter Iwanowicz says the poll ”affirms that the public is sick of soot and wants EPA to set more protective standards.” Missy Egelsky of pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner says the survey “clearly indicates that Americans strongly back the EPA taking action now to limit the amount of soot released by oil refineries, power plants and other industrial facilities” (Greenwire, Nov. 29, 2012). This is all spin.

Most Americans probably have opinions about President Obama’s overall record and many have opinions about the Stimulus, Obamacare, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the auto industry bailout, and whether Congress should cut spending and/or raise taxes. But how many even know the EPA is revising the national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particles (PM2.5)?

So the first thing I notice in the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll is the absence of an appropriate first question: Please name or describe any major air quality rules the U.S. EPA is expected to complete in the near future? Starting with that question would likely show most people are unaware of the pending NAAQS revision. From which it follows they don’t have an opinion about it (though of course anyone can have an off-the-cuff reaction to anything).

The survey asks a bunch of demographic questions about respondents’ party affiliation, age, gender, and the like, but only two substantive questions. The first is as follows:

As you may know, the EPA is proposing to update air pollution standards by placing stricter limits on the amount of fine particles, also called “soot,” that power plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities can release. Do you favor or oppose the EPA setting stricter limits on fine particles, also called “soot?”

Of total respondents, 63% were in favor, 30% were opposed. So according to the ALA, the public supports tougher standards by 2 to 1. But since most respondents have probably never heard or thought about the issue until that moment, the results simply confirm what everybody already knows: Most people think air pollution is a bad thing and would prefer to have less of it.

Since what the question elicits from most respondents is their general attitude about air pollution, it is remarkable that 30% answered in the negative. Note too that most of what the public hears about air pollution comes from organizations like the EPA and the ALA, which relentlessly exaggerate  air pollution levels and the associated health risks. [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…]

Post image for Should the GOP Champion Climate Change as a National Security Issue?

Yes, argues Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in The Atlantic (Sep. 17, 2012). Gartenstein-Ross is the author of Bin Laden’s Legacy: Why We’re Still Losing the War on Terror. I haven’t read the book, but judging from the favorable reviews, Gartenstein-Ross has the ear of defense hawks of both parties. Does he offer sound advice on global warming?

In his Atlantic article, Gartenstein-Ross chides Republicans for taking a “decidely unrealistic tack” on climate change. “The available evidence overwhelmingly suggests that climate change is real; that extreme weather events are increasing; and that this dynamic will have an impact on American national security, if it hasn’t already,” he avers. He goes on to blame this summer’s drought on global warming, citing NASA scientist James Hansen’s claim that the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Russian heat wave, and the 2011 Texas-Oklahoma drought have “virtually no explanation other than climate change.” (For an alternative assessment, see these posts.) 

Since 2010, notes Gartenstein-Ross, the Department of Defense has classified climate change as a conflict accelerant — a factor exacerbating tensions within and between nations. Well, sure, what else is Team Obama at DOD going to say in an era of tight budgets when no rival superpower endangers our survival? The concept of an ever-deepening, civilization-imperilling climate crisis is an ideal mission-creep accelerant

Gartenstein-Ross concludes by urging Republicans to face “reality” and take action on climate change. However, he offers no advice as to what policies they should adopt. Does he favor cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulatory cascade, ’all of the above’? Gartenstein-Ross doesn’t say. He ducks the issue of what economic sacrifices he thinks Republicans should demand of the American people. 

Below is a lightly edited version of a comment I posted yesterday at The Atlantic on Gartenstein-Ross’s article: [click to continue…]

Post image for John Christy on Summer Heat and James Hansen’s PNAS Study

In a recent study published in Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), NASA scientist James Hansen and two colleagues find that whereas “extremely hot” summer weather ”practically did not exist” during 1951-1980, such weather affected between 4% and 13% of the Northern Hemisphere land area during 2006-2011. The researchers infer that human-caused global warming is “loading” the “climate dice” towards extreme heat anomalies. They conclude with a “high degree of confidence” that the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Russian heat wave, and the 2011 Texas-Oklahoma drought were a “consequence of global warming” and have (as Hansen put it in a recent op-ed) ”virtually no explanation other than climate change.”

In a recent post, I reviewed studies finding that the aforementioned anomalies were chiefly due to natural variability. In another post, I summarized an analysis by Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, who conclude that “the 2012 drought conditions, and every other [U.S.] drought that has come before, is the result of natural processes, not human greenhouse gas emissions.”

But what about the very hot weather afflicting much of the U.S. this summer? Greenhouse gas concentrations keep rising, heat spells are bound to become more frequent and severe as the world warms, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that July 2012 was the hottest July ever in the U.S. instrumental record. Isn’t this summer what greenhouse warming “looks like“? What else could it be?

University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) climatologist John Christy addressed these questions last week in a two-part column. In Part 1, Christy argues that U.S. daily mean temperature (TMean) data, on which NOAA based its report, ”do not represent the deep atmosphere where the enhanced greenhouse effect should be detected, so making claims about causes is unwise.” A better measure of the greenhouse effect is daily maximum temperature (TMax), and TMax records set in the 1930s remain unbroken. In Part 2, Christy argues that Hansen’s 10% estimate of the portion of land affected by extreme heat during 2006-2011 shrinks down to 2.9% when anomalies are measured against a longer, more representative climate baseline.  [click to continue…]