Wednesday, August 16, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: Global Ocean Cooling Continues








Pruitt: EPA Will Review 'Politicized' Climate Science Report

In this newsletter:

1) Global Ocean Cooling Continues
Science Matters, 10 August 2017 
 
2) Pruitt: EPA Will Review 'Politicized' Climate Science Report
Politico, 11 August 2017 
 
3) U.S. Climate Policy -- Get Ready For The Next Round Of Hype
Fox News, 15 August 2017
 
4) Green Energy Lobby Attacks Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds
The Times, 16 August 2017
 
5) The Scottish Wind-Power Racket
CapX, 10 August 2017
 
6) John Constable: UK ‘Subsidies’ To Fossil Fuels
GWPF Energy Comment, 15 August 2017

Full details:

1) Global Ocean Cooling Continues
Science Matters, 10 August 2017 
Ron Clutz
 
July Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) are now available, and we can see further ocean cooling led by plummeting temps in the  Tropics and SH, continuing the downward trajectory from the previous 12 months.
 

 
HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.

The chart below shows the last two years of SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3 including July 2017.
 

 
In May despite a slight rise in the Tropics, declines in both hemispheres and globally caused SST cooling to resume after an upward bump in April.  Now in July a large drop is showing both in the Tropics and in SH, declining the last 4 months.  Meanwhile the NH is peaking in July as usual, but well down from the previous July.  The net of all this is a slightly lower Global anomaly but with likely additional future cooling led by the Tropics and also SH hitting new lows for this period.

Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 were first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in January 2016, and steadily declining back to its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added two bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year. Also, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one. Note that Global anomaly for July 2017 matches closely to April 2015.  However,  SH and the Tropics are lower now and trending down compared to an upward trend in 2015.

We have seen lots of claims about the temperature records for 2016 and 2015 proving dangerous man made warming.  At least one senator stated that in a confirmation hearing.  Yet HadSST3 data for the last two years show how obvious is the ocean’s governing of global average temperatures.

The best context for understanding these two years comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:
  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature these years.
 Full post

2) Pruitt: EPA Will Review 'Politicized' Climate Science Report
Politico, 11 August 2017 
Emily Holden

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said his staff will gauge the “accuracy” of a major federal science report that blames human activity for climate change — just days after researchers voiced their fears to The New York Times that the Trump administration would alter or suppress its findings.

“Frankly this report ought to be subjected to peer-reviewed, objective-reviewed methodology and evaluation,” Pruitt told a Texas radio show Thursday. “Science should not be politicized. Science is not something that should be just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Pruitt, who has expressed doubts about carbon dioxide’s role as a major driver of climate change, also dismissed the discussions in Washington about manmade carbon emissions, calling them “political.”

Scientists called his remarks troubling, especially because the report — part of a broader, congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment — has already undergone “rigorous” peer-review by a 14-person committee at the National Academies. The reviewing scientists backed the report’s conclusion from researchers at 13 federal agencies that humans are causing climate change by putting more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to a clear increase in global temperatures.

“It’s a much more extensive process than a usual peer review, which does not typically come out as a paperback book,” said Bob Kopp, a lead report author and climate scientist at Rutgers University.

Kopp said he has “no idea” what to expect after hearing Pruitt’s comments. Staffers at EPA had already signed off on an earlier draft.

Eric Davidson, president of the American Geophysical Union, said the report has undergone “a very rigorous peer-review” and is “built on 50-some years of published research, and each of those papers went through its own peer review.”

He added that while fears of Pruitt suppressing the climate report might be more imagined than real right now, he didn’t rule it out.

“Certainly it’s a possibility, and if the administration doesn’t understand that it’s already peer-reviewed, that really is a sign of concern that he may not understand the process,” Davidson said. “If he’s continuing to question why CO2 is a big deal, that’s also very concerning, because CO2 is a big deal. … To see those quotes continue to come out is definitely disconcerting.”

Several climate experts said they welcomed scrutiny of the report, but they also expressed concerns that political biases could color the process.

“The question is will it be reviewed by people who are scientific experts or will it be reviewed by people who have a political agenda?” said Kathy Jacobs, who oversaw the broader National Climate Assessment under the Obama administration and now heads the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions at the University of Arizona.

“The implication of [Pruitt’s statement] is that it hasn’t been linked to the data,” she said of the report. “That certainly is not true. This is built on a mountain of evidence.”

Even as Pruitt said EPA would review the report for objectivity, he criticized the Times for saying scientists worry that the administration might interfere with its publication.

“The New York Times out there saying they had to release this report because it’s going to be suppressed is just simply legendary,” he said. “It’s just made-up news trying to create a distraction from the real work that’s being done in Washington, D.C.”

Full story

3) U.S. Climate Policy -- Get Ready For The Next Round Of Hype
Fox News, 15 August 2017
W. David Montgomery

Preparations are well underway in the liberal media to make August 18 a milestone in the history of climate policy.  That is the date when a special U.S. government report on the state of climate science by authors from 13 federal agencies, known as the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is due to be released. 

But if August 18 does become a day to be remembered, it will be as a much-hyped political event, not a scientific one. The substance of the USGCRP report apparently only rehashes, at great length, research that was assessed even more exhaustively in the Fifth Assessment Report or FAR, published in 2013 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report’s claim of progress is supported by lists of advances in climate science since 2013, but the major conclusions of the report are no different from the FAR and are based on the same materials.  Over and over, the report states that support for its conclusions comes from the FAR.

What is different is that the well-known research findings -- well known to experts, anyway -- are summarized in the USGCRP document in a way that makes them appear newer, stronger and more alarmist than they really are.

The New York Times stoked the hype by claiming on August 7 that it had unearthed the report from where it was being hidden by Trump Administration doubters, when in truth drafts of the report were readily available and posted for public comment.

In summary, there is little new about climate science in the report, and nothing at all new about attribution of past warming and extreme weather events to human activity, projections of future warming and its effects, or potential for catastrophic changes.

Then the Times became excited about how the report would finally force the administration to admit the reality of climate change.  The Times even embedded a video of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in one article, with the heading “A draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies directly contradicts statements by Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, that human contribution to climate change is uncertain.” But the USGCRP report itself recognizes and describes the uncertainty of climate science, which all involved except the Times editors understand.

The headline and editorial writers are having a wonderful time inventing claims about how novel and definitive the report will be. They are aided and abetted by selective summarizing of key sections of the report.

For example: “Attribution” is the term applied to efforts to determine how much of the observed increase in global average temperature since 1950 is caused by human activity, principally carbon dioxide emissions and land use change.

The upcoming report claims there has been substantial progress in attribution research since the IPCC covered this topic extensively in 2013.  At that time, the IPCC declined to give a single number for the share attributable to human activity.  The definitive statement of the IPCC was that more than half of observed warming was attributable to human activity.

In contrast, the USGCRP report claims that human activity was responsible for 100 percent of observed warming.

This major rewording comes despite the fact that the USGCRP report relies exclusively on the FAR for its calculations of the human share of warming.   Nor does the report cite new evidence that would justify its shock-value conclusion.
The new summary judgments are made subjectively by the authors of the report, who are all government employees working on climate research or academics supported by government climate funding.  I question why these authors chose to make the scarier statement when they could have relied on the IPCC report to settle the attribution question.

This pattern is repeated through the major findings.  Summary statements are phrased to give the impression of greater certainty and larger impacts than either the text of the report or the earlier FAR support.

For example, the report highlights a statement about decreases in surface soil moisture in the United States but leaves for the reader to unearth the statement that “Little evidence is found for a human influence on observed precipitation deficits.”

In other words, the report admits that there is low confidence in attribution of drought on a global scale to human influence on climate.

As another example, the report discusses how changes in the El Nino weather phenomenon and in ocean currents have contributed to recent extreme weather events. But then the USGCRP report admits that there is little evidence of human influence on past changes in either El Nino or ocean currents.

The discussion of projected impacts of warming is wide open to selective quotation because it frequently starts with a broad statement of a tendency and then admits that it is impossible to say how large the effect will be.   For example, the statement that sea level rise will increase flooding due to coastal storms is later qualified by the statement that there is “low confidence in the magnitude” of the increase in flood risk.

Likewise, the upcoming report highlights a statement that extreme temperatures in the U.S. are likely to increase “even more” than average temperatures, but a description of the beneficial effect of fewer severely cold days and fewer cold waves is left hidden in the text.

The agencies’ report also gives emphasis to the possibility of unanticipated and impossible-to-manage changes in the climate system in the next century.   This is a topic likely to attract editorial attention, but a closer reading of the text reveals that highlighted risk is only speculation about a physical possibility.

In its discussion of specific examples, such as a catastrophic change in ocean circulation patterns, the report emphasizes predicted risks that the FAR concluded were minimal through the rest of the century.

Given the uproar over President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, statements in the report about that topic are also likely to be widely quoted.  Here the report is subtle in how it summarizes findings about the importance of that agreement.

It states that “successful implementation of the first round of Nationally Determined Contributions associated with the Paris Agreement will provide some likelihood of meeting the long-term temperature goal [of] 2oC.”

That could suggest to a reader that the Paris Agreement was well on its way to achieving the goal, but the study cited in the report concludes that the Paris Agreement only increases the probability of achieving the target from zero to eight percent.

In other words, the odds of global temperature increases staying below 2oC remain at 12 to 1 against, even with the Paris Agreement.

The report raises the stakes for the Paris Agreement by describing the 2oC goal as “what scientists have referred to as the guardrail beyond which changes become catastrophic.”

Nothing in the USGCRP report or the FAR supports calling 2oC a guarantee of no harmful effects or a trigger that ensures catastrophe if it is exceeded.  Moreover, the very study cited in the discussion of the Paris Agreement found that there was no scenario for the Paris Agreement that gave better than a 50-50 chance of staying below 2oC.

One claim in the USGCRP report is not about climate but about research activities, and it is quite understandable.  It is that there have been major advances in climate science since 2013.  The USGCRP is a target in the 2018 budget, and reporting recent achievements sends the message that cutting the USGCRP budget will shut off the progress.

Full story

4) Green Energy Lobby Attacks Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds
The Times, 16 August 2017

A coalition of businesses has called on one of the UK’s most powerful charities to stop fighting plans for a major off-shore wind farm and warned that the livelihoods of hundreds of families are at stake.


Twenty-nine companies claim that the continued legal action by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) could further delay or even kill off the £2 billion renewable energy scheme and the 600 jobs involved in it. An appeal to the Supreme Court in London by the RSPB, announced yesterday, challenges the approval given by Scottish ministers to the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm off the east coast of Scotland. The charity is to ask the court for leave to appeal against a Court of Session decision earlier this year which gave the green light to one of Scotland’s largest offshore energy projects.

Mainstream Renewable Power, the wind farm’s developer, has said that it estimates the project would bring an additional £610 million in revenue into the regional economy.

A full-page advertisement in national newspapers today says that the RSPB’s action would further delay a project first planned ten years ago and given consent to by the Scottish government in 2014; it has been dragged through the courts ever since… The RSPB has decided to take the last legal step allowed it by appealing directly to the Supreme Court.

It argues that Scottish ministers were wrong to approve the scheme, and if three other offshore developments were also given the go-ahead, they could lead to a “major decline in sea-bird populations”.

Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “[We have] not taken this decision lightly. However, our concerns with the manner in which Scottish ministers took their decisions in 2014 remain undiminished.

“Additionally, the issues of the case and the recent Inner House (Court of Session) judgment extend beyond simply the impacts of these developments on important seabird populations.”

Full story

5) The Scottish Wind-Power Racket
CapX, 10 August 2017
By John Constable and Matt Ridley

Imagine a sausage factory – the luckiest, most profitable sausage factory in the world. Its machines crank out their sausages, and lorries carry them to supermarkets. So far, so normal.

But this particular factory makes as many sausages as the management and staff choose. If they feel like taking the day off, the lorries and shelves stay empty. If they want to go a bit wild, they sometimes make so many sausages that there aren’t enough lorries to take them away. Or they carry on cranking out sausages even if the shelves are already full.

And here’s the really amazing thing: even when the lorries can’t cope or there is no demand for sausages, the factory gets paid. Indeed, they get paid more for not sending the sausages to the shops than for sending them. This is such great business that the factory is actually building an extension, so it can threaten to make even more unwanted sausages.

Does all that sound completely mad? Of course it does. But it’s what happens in the British electricity industry – where the blackmailing, money-printing sausage factory is a wind farm in Scotland.

There are currently about 750 wind farms north of the border, with roughly 3,000 wind turbines. Their total generating capacity amounts to 5,700 MW. The actual amount produced varies according to the weather. But at its maximum, that wind capacity is more than the 5.5 GW peak demand on the Scottish grid.

What this means, of course, is that the output from Scottish wind turbines is often more than the Scottish system can absorb. That requires the surplus energy to be exported to England and Wales. But that isn’t as easy as it sounds.

The wind farms are distributed across Scotland, sometimes in very remote regions, so there is a real problem in getting their energy down to the English border – let alone getting it across. For some years now, Scotland’s total export capacity has been only 3.5 GW, well under the peak output of the wind farm fleet.

So, reinforcements and new links are being introduced. These range from the hugely controversial, and to many environmentally unacceptable, £820 million Beauly-Denny upgrade, to the massive Western Link, a subsea connector from Hunterston to Deeside that is set to come online this year at a cost of more than £1 billion – and will entail a standing charge on energy bills across Britain of about £100 million a year for 35 years.

Yet in spite of the cost, these upgrades cannot completely address the problem: there is still more wind power in Scotland than can be reasonably and affordably absorbed into the system, or exported to its neighbours, partly because the wind fleet keeps growing.

Why has so much been built? Partly, it is because of income-support subsidies. This top-up of nearly 100 per cent over the wholesale price – funded, of course, from consumer bills – makes wind farms very attractive, at least until they wear out (by which time developers hope to have sold them on to naive pension funds and investment trusts).

There is also the political situation. In England and Wales, onshore wind is effectively dead, due primarily to the strong local resistance the turbines tend to attract, to which government eventually responded.

In Scotland, the story is different. The country is intensely urbanised, with most voters located in the cities. Rural objectors were simply too few in number to have much influence, no matter how strong their environmental or economic arguments.

Subsidies to onshore wind in the UK now cost a little under £600 million a year, with Scottish wind taking about half, yet the Scottish government continues to ignore the protests and consent to new wind farms as if they cost almost nothing at all.

Which as far as Holyrood is concerned, is in fact true. Part of the attraction for Scottish politicians is that the subsidies that pay for Scottish wind farms come from consumers all over Great Britain. Scottish consumption is about 10 per cent of the British total – so when the Scottish government grants planning permission to the wind industry, it is simply writing a cheque drawn overwhelmingly on English and Welsh accounts. Taxation without representation, in fact.

But a careless government and a lucrative subsidy system doesn’t explain the full flourishing of Scotland’s wind industry. Bizarre as it may seem, the fact that the Scottish grid cannot physically absorb all this wind power is also an attraction – because subsidised wind farms can actually earn more per unit generated when that unit is thrown away than when it is sold to consumers. In other words, they really do get paid more for not making sausages than they do when selling normally.

The explanation is simple. A wind farm receives roughly half of its income from the wholesale price and half from subsidy, the infamous Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC). When the grid is either at or close to capacity, National Grid stops the wind farm from generating, in order to prevent damage to the overhead wires and, at worst, a major system disruption.

When this happens, the wind farm will keep its wholesale income – which is fair enough, since it was contracted in to the system. But it loses its ROCs, because those are only issued for electricity actually sold to consumers.

What happens then, however, is that the wind farm will ask for compensation for the lost ROCs.  The euphemism for “being paid for not producing sausages” is “constraint payment”. And often – and this is the crucial point – they will ask for more compensation than they are losing in income.

Full post

6) John Constable: UK ‘Subsidies’ To Fossil Fuels
GWPF Energy Comment, 15 August 2017
Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

The Daily Telegraph recently published a claim by Aviva that subsidies to fossil fuels in the United Kingdom amounted to $6.5 billion dollars a year. Examination of the source behind this claim, data from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), reveals that it consists of $1 billion of tax relief and $5.5 billion of public finance to international aid projects. Neither of these are “subsidies” in any meaningful sense.

In a recent op. ed. for the Daily Telegraph (11 August 2017), Maurice Tulloch, the chief executive of international insurance at Aviva, demanded that subsidies to fossil fuels be brought to an end, terming them “a relic of the past”.

As a general rule, subsidies are undesirable, so Mr Tulloch would seem to be making an entirely reasonable suggestion, except that on closer examination the things he refers to as “subsidies” are only so on an extremely questionable definition.

In his reference to the United Kingdom and such subsidies he writes:

Just recently, the Health and Environment Alliance launched a report that laid out the costs of the health impacts that come from fossil fuel subsidies. In the UK, health costs arising from fossil fuel driven air pollution are almost five times higher than the subsidies paid. Over $6bn of public money is spent on the industry, and the health costs from premature deaths linked to air pollution run to over $30bn.

Six billion dollars per year is a lot of money, and very surprising in the UK context. That alone should have set off an alarm bell somewhere in Mr Tulloch’s office. As we shall see, it was not wise to rely on the HEAL study for information, and one wonders if Aviva made any inquiries into the methodology and criteria behind that striking number.

Investigation would have revealed that the data in the Health and Environment Alliance paper, Hidden Price Tags: How ending fossil fuel subsidies would benefit our health was not generated by HEAL itself, but was instead drawn from work by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London. The ODI’s main publication on this subject, Empty promises: G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production is the source for many of the principles used in the ODI’s work, and there is an important page on the UK (p. 80), but the data actually cited by HEAL seems to come from the ODI website: “G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production: United Kingdom”.

Putting this all together, it would not have taken Mr Tulloch’s researchers long to find out that the rather striking claim of $6.5bn subsidy to fossil fuels in the UK consists of $1bn of tax relief, mostly for the decommissioning of oil rigs, and $5.5 bn of public finance for overseas development of fossil fuel related projects, in other words development aid to extend energy access to the world’s poor. Neither of these are subsidies.

Tax relief is a perfectly justified business related exemption of a general kind extended not only to the fossil fuel industry, but to all sorts of companies, including, one imagines, international insurance companies. To call it a “subsidy” is to stretch the definition beyond breaking point.

Bad though that is, it is still more absurd to classify as a subsidy the public finance provided as overseas aid to support energy access projects. This aid happens to be spent on fossil fuels, because they are fundamentally economic, and bring the vast welfare benefits of low cost energy to as many people as possible. Judging from other parts of the ODI’s study, they would irrationally prefer such money to be spent on renewable energy that is uneconomic (and unaffordable even in the developed world), and would benefit far fewer people and probably benefit them much less.

The Overseas Development Institute approach to fossil fuel subsidy is childish and tendentious, not to say plain silly. Neither the Health and Environment Alliance, nor Mr Tulloch and Aviva, should have touched it with a barge pole.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.

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