Tag Archives: climate change

Put the stories about record 2016 warming in a useful context

Summary: Alarmists have gone hysterical about the third year of record global warming. Should we be hysterical? Fortunately NOAA and NASA provide graphics showing us the temperature record, so we can put the current warming in a larger context. The temperature trend is not the only piece in the climate change puzzle, but it’s an important one — worth taking a few minutes to understand. The climate does not care about our politics, and will have the last work in the policy debate.

Global Warming

Current trends: what’s the weather doing now?

The big news is that 2016 temperature anomaly was a record high: 0.07°F warmer than 2015 and 0.04°F warmer than the previous El Nino peak in 1998. Measuring temperatures from El Nino peak to peak is a crude but effect measure of warming because ENSO cycles are so powerful. NOAA “The global temperatures in 2016 were majorly influenced by strong El Niño conditions…“.UK Met Office: “A particularly strong El Niño event contributed about 0.2C to the annual average for 2016…

Also, neither increase is even close to statistically significant. The 2016 anomaly was 1.69°F  ±  0.27°F). Alarmists ignore the actual numbers, preferring to make alarming pronouncements about the coming climate apocalypse (vagueness is the alarmist’s best friend).

There is no one true way to show trends in global temperature. Here are three different perspectives; all give roughly similar results. First, a graph by NOAA of the global average surface temperature in Decembers (their excellent interactive website shows data since the reliable instrument era began in 1880). This graph minimizes the overall warming trend, which is concentrated in the months of May, June, & July. Click to enlarge.

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Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.

Summary: During the past two weeks I’ve posted much good news to help you prepare for the New Year. Concluding the series is the best news of all: a solid leftist declares an end to the planetary climate emergency! Solar and wind are replacing fossil fuels at an astonishing pace, sooner even than optimists expected when James Hansen began the climate crusade in 1988.

Good news about the climate

Donald Trump’s “carbon bubble” economy is bound to pop
— the only question is how bad it will be

“Trump’s economic policies are built on many flawed assumptions,
especially a fossil-fuel boom that won’t end well.”
By Paul Rosenberg at Salon, 2 January 2017.

Let’s go directly to the money paragraphs that give us the good news.

“The carbon bubble does exactly the same thing. It’s not just fossil fuel reserves that are overvalued by the bubble, but everything associated with the sector — pipelines, power plants, refineries, etc. …

“The carbon bubble risk is only made worse by the fact that renewable energy costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, and become increasingly competitive. Thus, even if those reserves were not unburnable because of their potential impact on climate change, they will become so for economic reasons in the next few decades. For example, the World Economic Forum’s recently released “Renewable Infrastructure Investment Handbook: A Guide for Institutional Investors” reported:

‘[T]he unsubsidized, levellized cost of electricity (LCOE) for utility scale solar photovoltaic, which was highly uncompetitive only five years ago, has declined at a 20% compounded annual rate, making it not only viable but also more attractive than coal in a wide range of countries. By 2020, solar photovoltaic is projected to have a lower LCOE than coal or natural gas-fired generation throughout the world.’

“Add to this the fact that renewable energy — particularly solar and wind — is a new technology sector, in which large efficiency gains are to be expected. That’s quite unlike the fossil fuel industry, whose costs are increasing because the cheap, easy-to-get fuel has already been burned. By 2030, renewables could well leave fossil fuels in the dust. …

“Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English.”

This is the good news of the decade (even if bad news for fossil fuel investors)! For a decade climate activists have warned about the coming apocalypse from RCP8.5, the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s AR5 report (often misrepresented as “business as usual” despite its unlikely assumptions). Almost all the articles you have read about the horrific effects of climate change assume the RCP8.5 scenario.

To learn about this possible future see “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011. It describes a hot dirty 21st century, in which coal use increases 5-fold to become the world’s major source of power (it’s a back to the 19thC future) — with the steepest increase coming after 2030. This graph shows energy use by fuel in 2100 for each of the four scenarios in AR5.

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A status report on global warming. Much depends on the next few years.

Summary: Alarmists went hysterical about the warming during the 2015-16 El Nino. In October the decline began from that spike. The climate policy debate might depend on what the world’s temperature does during the next year or so. Will the pause continue, or will warming resume? Here are several perspectives on the current warming, provided by NOAA and NASA.

775 degree warming

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— One of the most important conclusions of IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

This statement about past warming is important. But for making public policy decisions future warming we need to know the odds of various amounts of warming during the 21st century. There is no easy answer to this, let alone a consensus of climate scientists about it. So climate activists either ignore the research (such as the 4 scenarios described in AR5) or focus on the worst of these (the truly horrific RCP8.5) while ignoring its unlikely assumptions.

So far the weather has sided with the skeptics, with little of the extreme weather activists predicted. No surge of hurricanes after Katrina (despite the predictions). No sign of the methane monster. Northern hemisphere snow extent has risen since in both the Fall and the Winter. There is little evidence that we have passed one of the often declared “tipping points”.

So it is logical that — despite the efforts of government agencies, academia, and many ngo’s — the public’s policy priorities have been unaffected (details here). Republican control of the Presidency, Congress, and most States makes policy action almost impossible for the next 4 years (ceteris paribus). As a result, activists are going thru the 5 stages of grief for their campaign.

Current trends: what’s the weather doing now?

Both sides in the public policy climate wars obsess over short-term weather, even local weather. They rejoice over statistically insignificant changes in the global average temperature. They celebrate record highs and lows in obscure corners of the world. But there is a gram of sense in this, as short-term (decade long) trends have had great influence on the policy debate — and might bring decisive victory to either side (no matter what the climate does by 2050).

There is no one true way to show trends in global temperature. Bob Tisdale produces a detailed monthly analysis. Here are some perspectives better suited for the general public. First, a graph by NOAA (excellent, as usual) clearly showing the trend since the reliable instrument era began in 1880. This graph exaggerates the flatness because warming is concentrated in months of May, June, & July. Click to enlarge.

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What happens to the losers of the public debate about climate change?

Summary: Liberals believed that 2017 would mark a new start for US public policy to manage climate change. Now Conservatives agree, in a different sense. Both are wrong. The weather will determine who will win. The stakes for both sides are large (as are the possible effects on the world). The consequences for the losers will be severe. Just as we are unprepared for climate change (even repeat of past extreme weather), both sides are unprepared for defeat. This is an update and expansion of a post from March.

Cover of "Turning the Tide On Climate Change" by Robert Kandel

Cover of “Turning the Tide On Climate Change” by Robert Kandel (2009).

“The future is not what is coming at us, but what we are headed for.”
— Jean-Marie Guyau in Le Genèse de l’idée du temps, translated by Astragale.

The US public policy debate about climate has run for 28 years, from James Hansen’s famous Senate testimony to Trump’s threat to cut NASA’s climate research. This is one of the largest publicity campaigns in American history. Many people assume that US politics will determine the eventual winner, skeptics or alarmists. I disagree: the weather will determine who wins the public policy debate.

So far the weather has sided with the skeptics, with little of the extreme weather activists predicted. No surge of hurricanes after Katrina (despite the predictions). No sign of the methane monster; little evidence that we have passed the long-predicted tipping points. So, despite the efforts of government agencies, academia, and many ngo’s, the public’s policy priorities have been unaffected (see yesterday’s post). As a result, activists are going thru the 5 stages of grief for their campaign.

Global surface temperatures, flattish for 14 years (except for the 2015-16 El Nino).
October 2016 shows the El Nino spike, but exaggerates the recent flatness.
Warming is concentrated in months of May, June, & July.

NOAA Global temperature anomalies: October

From NOAA. Temperature in October of each year. Reference period is the 20th century.

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Can the Left adapt to the Trump era? Watch their climate activists for clues.

Summary: Much depends on the Left’s ability to resist Trump, making arguments that mobilize public opinion. Their actions since the election suggest that will not happen soon. Climate change is both the Left’s signature initiative and its greatest failure (failing to change the US public’s policy priorities). How (or if) the Left changes their climate advocacy will show if they can adapt to the Trump era.

Climate change activist

London, 6 December 2009. Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA.

Astronomer Phil Plait writes at Slate, one of the Left’s better-known climate propagandists. His recent columns at Slate show why the Left has failed to mobilize public opinion — and that they have learned nothing from the election.

There were no questions about climate change in the presidential debates. Clinton said little about climate change during the entire campaign. Accordingly, Gallup found that environmental issues were not in the top 12 issues people associate with Clinton. There are good reasons for this. Climate change has consistently ranked near the bottom of the US public’s major policy concerns. Gallup asks people “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” In October only 3% listed an environmental or pollution-related issues (including climate); economic issues were #1, totaling 17%.

His November 28 column at Slate, Plait discussed Trump’s plan to get NASA out of climate change research. He played the same song climate activists have sung for a decade. He began by invoking the consensus of climate scientists, which he should state (but doesn’t). As expressed by the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”

This is important. But the relevant public policy question concerns future warming: what are the odds of various amounts of warming during different time horizons of the 21st century? There is no easy answer to this, let alone a consensus of climate scientists about it. So climate activists either ignore the research (such as the 4 scenarios described in AR5) or focus on the worst of these (the truly horrific RCP8.5), ignoring its unlikely assumptions.

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A leaked memo about climate change explains why we’re unprepared

Summary: A leaked memo from the highest levels of the Democratic Party leadership discuss how to build public support for large-scale climate policy initiatives. It shows why their efforts failed, and raises questions about the coming Hillary Clinton administration.

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earth; bio here), a comment posted at Climate Etc.

Climate Change Drama

Memorandum: “Climate: A unifying theory to the case“,
Emailed from John Podesta to Chris Lehane, 28 January 2014.

This memo was emailed to Podesta (a senior White House official) from Lehane (partner in the strategic communications firm Fabiani & Lehane, dissolved in Nov 2015). We have it courtesy of Wikileaks — and whoever leaked it to them.

John Podesta was Chief of staff to Bill Clinton and Counselor to the President for Obama. He is Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Chris Lehane – When an attorney in the White House Counsel’s office, he and his current business partner Mark Fabiani called themselves the “Masters of Disaster” for their work as a “rapid-response” team responding to the many scandals of the Clinton Administration. Lehane co-authored a book on damage control titled Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control. Jim Jordan, Kerry’s former campaign manager, called him ”a master of the political hand-to-hand” for his work as a political strategist.

——————————————-

“Thank you for asking us to share some ideas for a holistic approach to climate. Per your direction, the goal is to unify policy, politics, and communications to help the Administration best execute an informed plan over a multi-year time period. …this document is intended to provide some food for thought as the Administration refines its thinking on climate. …{it} addresses the four components that the Administration may want to consider as it seeks to lead on this issue.

  1. Three-Year Framework. …
  2. Right v. Wrong. Make the case that climate must be approached as a challenge of historical social change where progress will depend in part on successfully casting the issue in moral terms of who is right and who is wrong …
  3. The Big Idea. …{It} could drive an Administration-wide approach to climate for the next three years. …
  4. 2014 Action Plan. …

“To achieve victory, we must treat climate change as an issue of historic importance that is worthy of a true political social movement to create change. This political social movement must be founded on moral principles with stark definitions of who is right and who is wrong, and it is important to outline the historically negative, irreversible implications if we were to not succeed.

“By pursuing this as a political social movement, President Obama and his Administration will best be able to assure that his legacy includes his unprecedented leadership on climate that initiated the shifting of the country’s political tectonic plates to enable transformative climate change policy, before it was too late.

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A new study shows why we are polarized about climate change

Summary: Slowly scientists’ investigations produce insights about the psychological and social dynamics that create our dysfunctional politics. Here is a new study about one of drivers of political polarization, that which keeps us divided (despite our common interests), ignorant (despite the internet), and easily ruled. The specific subject is one of the central political issues of our time, and among the most contentious: climate change.

The essential accessory for the modern politically-active fashionista…

People Blinders

Here is a provocative new study (not peer-reviewed) by blue-chip authors. It’s well worth reading, and reveals much about the polarization that is a defining characteristic of modern politics.

How People Update Beliefs about Climate Change: Good News and Bad News

By Cass R. Sunstein, Sebastian Bobadilla-Suarez, Stephanie C. Lazzaro, Tali Sharot.
Excerpt from the preliminary draft posted at the Social Science Research Network.

“People are exposed to a great deal of variable information with respect to climate change. {The footnote cites an example: “Developing a Social Cost of Carbon” (ungated copy) — whose complex and assumption-laden calculations are certainly “variable information”.} …We aim here to investigate two simple questions:

  1. How do people update their beliefs when they receive new information about likely warming?
  2. How do people’s prior attitudes affect their response to such information?

“…We find that people who are doubtful that man‐made climate change is occurring, and unenthusiastic about an international agreement, show a form of asymmetrical updating: They change their beliefs far more in response to unexpected good news, suggesting that average temperature rises likely to be (even) smaller than previously thought, than in response to unexpected badness, suggesting that average temperature rises likely to be larger than previously thought.  In fact, we do not find a statistically significant change in their views in response to bad news at all.

“By contrast, people who strongly believe that man-­‐made climate change is occurring, and who strongly favor an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, show the opposite asymmetry: They change their beliefs far more in response to unexpected bad news, suggesting that average temperature rises likely to be even greater than previously thought, than in response to unexpected good news, suggesting that average temperature rises likely to be smaller than previously thought. People with moderate beliefs about climate change show no asymmetry.

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