patrick michaels

Post image for Hansen on Extreme Weather — Pat and Chip Respond

Last week, I posted a commentary on NASA scientist James Hansen’s study and op-ed, which attribute recent extreme weather to global climate change. In the op-ed, Hansen stated:

The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.

My commentary concluded: “Hansen’s sweeping assertion that global warming is the principal cause of the European and Russian heat waves, and the Texas-Oklahoma drought, is not supported by event-specific analysis and is implausible in light of previous research.”

Although Hansen does not explicitly attribute the ongoing U.S. drought to global warming, he does blame global warming for both the 2011 Texas-Oklahoma drought and the current summer heat. And in his study, Hansen states: “With the temperature amplified by global warming and ubiquitous surface heating from elevated greenhouse gas amounts, extreme drought conditions can develop.”

This week on World Climate Report, Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger argue that the current U.S. drought “is driven by natural variability not global warming.” Their post (“Hansen Is Wrong“) is concise and layman-friendly. Here I offer an even briefer summary.

A standard measure of drought in the U.S. is the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), which measures the combined effects of temperature (hotter weather = more soil evaporation) and precipitation (more rainfall = more soil moisture). “The more positive the PDSI values, the wetter conditions are, the more negative the PDSI values, the drier things are.” The PDSI for the past 117 years (1895-2011) shows a small non-significant positive trend (i.e. towards wetter conditions). There is no greenhouse warming signal in this data.

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Post image for Carbon Tax? Sorry, I Already Gave at the <strike>Office</strike> Gas Pump

Carbon tax advocates say Congress should slap a price penalty on fossil fuels to make consumers bear the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) — the damage carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions allegedly inflict on public health and welfare via their presumed impacts on global climate.

What is the SCC? Depends on who you ask. Climate “hot heads” like Al Gore think the SCC is huge. “Lukewarmers” like Patrick Michaels think the SCC is less than the cost of the tax or regulatory burden required to make deep cuts in CO2 emissions. “Flatliners” like Craig Idso think the SCC is negative (i.e. CO2’s net impact is beneficial), because a moderately warmer climate is healthful and CO2 emissions nourish the biosphere.

In February 2010, the EPA and 11 other agencies issued a Technical Support Document (TSD) on the SCC. The TSD’s purpose is to enable federal agencies to incorporate the “social benefit” of CO2 emission reductions into cost-benefit estimates of regulatory actions.

The TSD recommends that agencies, in their regulatory impact analyses, use four SCC estimates, ranging from $5 per ton to $65 per ton in 2010:

For 2010, these estimates are $5, $21, $35, and $65 (in 2007 dollars). The first three estimates are based on the average SCC across models and socio-economic and emissions scenarios at the 5, 3, and 2.5 percent discount rates, respectively. The fourth value is included to represent the higher-than-expected impacts from temperature change further out in the tails of the SCC distribution.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Both the federal and state governments levy taxes on motor fuel. Motor fuel taxes are not called carbon taxes but their economic effect is the same — impose a price penalty on consumption. Moreover, via simple arithmetic any carbon tax can be converted into an equivalent gasoline tax and vice versa.

The point? Americans in every state except Alaska already pay a combined federal and state gasoline tax that is higher than a carbon tax set at $5, $21, or $35 per ton. Americans in five states pay a combined gasoline tax that is higher than a $65 per ton carbon tax. Americans in several other states pay a combined gasoline tax that is nearly as high as a $65 per ton carbon tax.    [click to continue…]

Post image for The Greenland Ice Melt: Should We Be Alarmed?

If you follow global warming news at all, you’ve probably seen the NASA satellite images (above) many times. The images show the extent of Greenland surface ice melt on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). In just a few days, the area of the ice sheet with surface melting increased from about 40% to 97%, including Summit Station, Greenland’s highest and coldest spot.

NASA took a drubbing from Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger at World Climate Report (“Illiteracy at NASA“) for describing the ice melt as “unprecedented” in the title of the agency’s press release. The word literally means without precedent, and properly refers to events that are unique and never happened before. In reality, as one of NASA’s experts points out in the press release, over the past 10,000 years, such events have occurred about once every 150 years:

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data.

Equating ‘rare yet periodic’ with ‘unprecedented’ is incorrect and misleading. “But apparently,” comment Michaels and Knappenberger, “when it comes to hyping anthropogenic global warming (or at least the inference thereto), redefining English words in order to garner more attention is a perfectly acceptable practice.” New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin also chided NASA for an “inaccurate headline” and the associated “hyperventilating coverage,” but for a different reason: NASA provided “fodder for those whose passion or job is largely aimed at spreading doubt about science pointing to consequential greenhouse-driven warming.”

Enough on the spin. Let’s examine the real issues: (1) Did anthropogenic global warming cause the extraordinary increase in surface melting between July 8 and July 12? (2) How worried should we be about Greenland’s potential impact on sea-level rise? [click to continue…]

Post image for Historical Perspective on the Recent Heat Wave

Over at World Climate Report, the indefatigable Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger review a new study updating National Climate Data Center (NCDC) data on U.S. State climate extremes. I’ll cut right to the chase. The paper, “Evaluating Statewide Climate Extremes for the United States,” published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, finds that far more State-wide all-time-high temperature records were set in the 1930s than in recent decades.

From Pat and Chip’s review:

Despite the 24/7 caterwauling, only two new state records—South Carolina and Georgia—are currently under investigation. And, looking carefully at Shein et al. dataset, there appears to be a remarkable lack of all-time records in recent years. This is particularly striking given the increasing urbanization of the U.S. and the consequent “non climatic” warming that creeps into previously pristine records. . . .

Notice that the vast majority of the all-time records were set more than half a century ago and that there are exceedingly few records set within the past few decades. This is not the picture that you would expect if global warming from greenhouse gas emissions were the dominant forcing of the characteristics of our daily weather. Instead, natural variability is still holding a strong hand.

The chart below shows the number of State heat records and the year in which they were set. (When the same all-time high occurs in two or more years in the same State, each of those years gets a fraction of one point.)


Post image for Should We Fear the Methane Time Bomb?

A favorite doomsday scenario of the anti-carbon crusade hypothesizes that global warming, by melting frozen Arctic soils on land and the seafloor, will release billions of tons of carbon locked up for thousands of years in permafrost. Climate havoc ensues: The newly exposed carbon oxidizes and becomes carbon dioxide (CO2), further enhancing the greenhouse effect. Worse, some of the organic carbon decomposes into methane, which, molecule for molecule, packs 21 times the global warming punch of CO2 over a 100-year time span and more than 100 times the CO2-warming effect over a 20-year period.

The fear, in short, is that mankind is fast approaching a “tipping point” whereby outgassing CO2 and methane cause more warming, which melts more permafrost, which releases even more CO2 and methane, which pushes global temperatures up to catastrophic levels.

In a popular Youtube video, scientists flare outgassing methane from a frozen pond in Fairbanks, Alaska. A photo of the pond, with methane bubbling up through holes in the ice, appears in the marquee for this post. Are we approaching the End of Days?

New York Times science blogger Andrew Revkin ain’t buying it (“Methane Time Bomb in Arctic Seas – Apocalyplse Not,” 14 Dec. 2011), nor does his colleague, science reporter Justin Gillis (“Artic Methane: Is Catastrophe Imminent?” 20 Dec. 2011).

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Post image for Arctic Ice Loss: Portent of Doom or Reason to Rethink IPCC Climate Sensitivity Assumptions?

“Two ice shelves that existed before Canada was settled by Europeans diminished significantly this summer, one nearly disappearing altogether, Canadian scientists say in new research,” reports an Associated Press (AP) article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The impact is significant and yet only a piece of the ongoing and accelerating response to warming of the Arctic,” Dr. Robert Bindschadler, emeritus scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Center, told the AP.

The Canadian team’s research confirms MIT scientists‘ recent finding that the Arctic is shedding ice much faster than forecast by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), published just four years ago (2007). Which of course is taken to mean that global warming ‘is even worse than scientists previously believed.’

Not so fast, say climatologists Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, editors of World Climate Report (WCR). Paradoxically, more-rapid-than-projected Arctic ice loss is additional evidence that IPCC climate models are too “hot” — that is, overestimate climate sensitivity and forecast too much warming.

In IPCC climate models, decline of Arctic sea ice is treated as both a consequence of rising greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations and as an important “positive feedback” that amplifies the direct GHG warming effect. Al Gore popularized this idea in An Inconvenient Truth, noting that as Arctic ice melts, less solar energy is reflected back to space and more absorbed by the oceans.

But, as WCR points out, if the IPCC models’ climate sensitivity estimates were correct, then the greater-than-expected positive feedback from greater-than-expected Arctic ice loss should be producing greater-than-expected global warming. Yet, despite the extra unanticipated warming influence from accelerating ice loss, the world is warming more slowly than IPCC models project.

Far from being a portent of doom, greater-than-projected ice loss, coinciding as it does with smaller-than-projected warming, indicates that actual climate sensitivity is less than model-estimated sensitivity.

Similarly, argues WCR in a related post, had IPCC models properly accounted for the planet’s recovery from the cooling effect of aerosols blown into the stratosphere by the Mount Pinatubo volcano eruption, they would be projecting even more warming than they do now. Yet model current projections already exceed the observed warming of the past 10-15 years.

The relevance to the survival of civilization and the habitability of the Earth? WCR explains:

The reason that all of this is important is that climate models which produce too much warming quite possibility are doing so because they are missing important processes which act to counteract the warming pressure exerted by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations—in other words, the climate sensitivity produced by the climate models is quite possibly too high.

If this proves to be the case, it means that there will be less future warming (and consequently less “climate disruption”) as greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase as a result of our use of fossil fuels.

Evidence continues to mount that this is indeed the case.


Post image for Is Gov. Perry ‘Anti-Science’? (Updated, Sep. 14, 2011)

During this week’s GOP presidential candidates debate in California, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made a statement about global warming that Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, the UK Guardian, and others condemn as “anti-science.” Asked by moderator John Harris of Politico “which scientists” are “most credible” in questioning “the idea that human activity is behind climate change,” Perry replied:

Well, I do agree that there is – the science is – is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at – at- at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just – is nonsense. I mean, it – I mean – and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell. But the fact is, to put America’s economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country is not good economics and I will suggest to you is not necessarily good science. Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.

The UK Guardian was quick to denigrate Perry’s answer:

It’s one thing to question the economic impact and legacy of current climate policy proposals – you would expect and wish for politicians to debate this – but for a politician to question the science in this way is striking. . . .Note how he studiously ignored the moderator’s well-crafted question: who exactly are these “Galileos” that you believe have so comprehensively cast doubt on the canon of climate science? Perry couldn’t – or wouldn’t – name them.

The Guardian makes a mountain out of a molehill. If Harris was so keen to know which climate scientists Perry finds most credible, he could have just restated the question. Perry was apparently more interested in making two basic points: (1) he does not view global warming as a warrant for imposing massive new regulatory burdens on the U.S. economy; (2) he is not impressed by appeals to an alleged “scientific consensus” because, after all, scientific issues not settled by counting heads.

The question Harris asked is bound to come up again and again in candidate forums, and it’s a bit of a loaded question at that. Alarmists would like us to believe that any human contribution to climate change constitutes a “planetary emergency” (Al Gore’s phrase) and, as such, justifies the imposition of cap-and-trade and other assaults on affordable energy. Hence, they would like nothing better than to trick opponents into arguing as if the case against cap-and-trade, or against EPA’s hijacking of climate policy, hinges on the implausible thesis that greenhouse gases do not have a greenhouse (warming) effect.

How then should presidential contenders respond to such questions? [click to continue…]

Post image for Climate Change Mission Creep: Will the UN Security Council Establish a ‘Green Helmets’ Peacekeeping Force?

Yesterday’s UK Guardian reports that a “special meeting” of the United Nations (UN) Security Council is “due to consider whether to expand its mission to keep the peace in an era of climate change.”

This was inevitable. With the Cold War many years behind us, and only a few important regional wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) going on, the Security Council needs some kind of permanent, global crisis to justify its existence. Mission Creep thy name is Climate Change. [click to continue…]

Post image for Climategate Update

Citing the potential for “financial harm,” the University of East Anglia last week denied a Freedom of Information request by “Hockey Stick” debunker Stephen McIntyre for the controversial Yamal temperature data. This is the third time he has been rebuffed by the University, which was scandalized by last year’s Climategate controversy over, among other things, inappropriate avoidance of FOI requests.

The University of Virginia last week said it will use “all available exemptions” to avoid having to turn over documents related to debunked “Hockey Stick” creator Michael Mann in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Tradition Institute. This stands in stark contrast to the University’s treatment of Dr. Patrick Michaels, a climate skeptic. When Greenpeace asked filed a FIOA for his records, the University was willing to comply readily.

♫ You don’t have to live like a refugee

You’ve probably heard the dreary narrative many times. By increasing the frequency and severity of floods, storms, droughts, and famines, and by accelerating sea-level rise, anthropogenic global warming will drive millions of people from their homelands. Wave after wave of “environmental refugees” will inundate poor countries barely able to feed their own populations. Fragile governments will tumble. Regional conflicts will intensify. Moral of story: “Global warming is a national security threat — even the generals are worried.”

Google “climate change” and “environmental refugees,” and about 5 million sites  pop up. So you might be inclined to think, where there’s so much smoke, there’s bound to be some fire.

Many of these sites — for example, National Geographic News — reference a November 2005 United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report predicting there would be as many as 50 million climate refugees in 2010. What actually happened?

Today’s (pre-Earth Day) edition of the Wall Street Journal reports that the 50 million climate refugees did not materialize. In fact, many of the places UNEP supposed would be hardest hit by global warming are rapidly gaining population! [click to continue…]