• Tag Archives climate change
  • 4 Big Problems With the Government’s New Climate Change Report

    If you’re like me, you’re happy the White House released the latest version of the National Climate Assessment on Black Friday. Publishing the 1,700-page report the day after Thanksgiving saved me from unwanted dinner conversations about our planet’s impending climate doom.

    But if your aunt calls you up this week spouting claims of mass deaths, global food shortages, economic destruction, and national security risks resulting from climate change, here’s what you need to know about this report.

    One statistic that media outlets have seized upon is that the worst climate scenario could cost the US 10 percent of its gross domestic product by 2100.  The 10 percent loss projection is more than twice the percentage that was lost during the Great Recession.

    The study, funded in part by climate warrior Tom Steyer’s organization, calculates these costs on the assumption that the world will be 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. That temperature projection is even higher than the worst-case scenario predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In other words, it is completely unrealistic.

    The scary projections in the National Climate Assessment rely on a theoretical climate trajectory that is known as Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. In estimating impacts on climate change, climatologists use four representative such trajectories to project different greenhouse gas concentrations.

    To put it plainly, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 assumes a combination of bad factors that are not likely to all coincide. It assumes “the fastest population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions.”

    Despite what the National Climate Assessment says, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 is not a likely scenario. It estimates nearly impossible levels of coal consumption, fails to take into account the massive increase in natural gas production from the shale revolution, and ignores technological innovations that continue to occur in nuclear and renewable technologies.

    When taking a more realistic view of the future of conventional fuel use and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the doomsday scenarios vanish. Climatologist Judith Curry recently wrote, “Many ‘catastrophic’ impacts of climate change don’t really kick at the lower CO2 concentrations, and [Representative Concentration Pathway] then becomes useful as a ‘scare’ tactic.”

    A central feature of the National Climate Assessment is that the costs of climate are here now, and they are only going to get worse. We’re going to see more hurricanes and floods. Global warming has worsened heat waves and wildfires.

    But last year’s National Climate Assessment on extreme weather tells a different story. As University of Colorado Boulder professor Roger Pielke Jr. pointed out in a Twitter thread in August 2017, there were no increases in drought, no increases in frequency or magnitude of floods, no trends in frequency or intensity of hurricanes, and “low confidence for a detectable human climate change contribution in the Western United States based on existing studies.”

    It’s hard to imagine all of that could be flipped on its head in a matter of a year.

    Another sleight of hand in the National Climate Assessment is where certain graph timelines begin and end. For example, the framing of heat wave data from the 1960s to today makes it appear that there have been more heat waves in recent years. Framing wildfire data from 1985 until today makes it appear as though wildfires have been increasing in number.

    But going back further tells a different story on both counts, as Pielke Jr. has explained in testimony.

    Moreover, correlation is not causality. Western wildfires have been particularly bad over the past decade, but it’s hard to say to what extent these are directly owing to hotter and drier temperatures. It’s even more difficult to pin down how much man-made warming is to blame.

    Yet the narrative of the National Climate Assessment is that climate change is directly responsible for the increase in economic and environmental destruction of western wildfires. Dismissing the complexity of factors that contribute to a changing climate and how they affect certain areas of the country is irresponsible.

    The National Climate Assessment stresses that this report “was created to inform policy-makers and makes no specific recommendations on how to remedy the problem.” Yet the takeaway was clear: The costs of action (10 percent of America’s GDP) dwarf the costs of any climate policy.

    The reality, however, is that policies endorsed to combat climate change would carry significant costs and would do nothing to mitigate warming, even if there were a looming catastrophe like the National Climate Association says.

    Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposed a carbon tax of between $135 and $5,500 by the year 2030. An energy tax of that magnitude would bankrupt families and businesses and undoubtedly catapult the world into economic despair.

    These policies would simply divert resources away from more valuable use, such as investing in more robust infrastructure to protect against natural disasters or investing in new technologies that make Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 even more of an afterthought than it already should be.

    The Trump administration is coming under criticism for publishing the report on Black Friday. To the extent that was a conscious strategy, it certainly isn’t a new tactic. The Obama administration had frequent Friday night document dumps in responding to congressional inquiries about Solyndra and the Department of Energy’s taxpayer-funded failures in the loan portfolio. The Environmental Protection Agency even released its Tier 3 gas regulations, which increased the price at the pump, on Good Friday.

    No matter what party is in charge, the opposite party will complain about their burying the story. Regardless, the American public would be better served by enjoying the holiday season and shopping rather than worrying about an alarmist report.

    This article was reprinted from The Daily Signal.

    Source: 4 Big Problems With the Government’s New Climate Change Report – Foundation for Economic Education

  • NYT: Biofuel Mandates Have Been an Environmental Disaster

    Gridlock that stops any legislation from being passed is usually better than “bipartisanship.” To get bipartisan support, legislation has to buy off power brokers and special interest groups in both political parties. A classic example is America’s harmful legislation requiring the use of biofuels. It has resulted in the destruction of vast areas of tropical rainforest, massively increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

    The New York Times describes this in a story called “Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe.” The story explains that “A decade ago, the U.S. mandated the use of vegetable oil in biofuels, leading to industrial-scale deforestation—and a huge spike in carbon emissions.” In some areas once covered by rainforest, there are now “only charred stumps poking up from murky, dark pools of water.” As the Times explains:

    Slashing and burning the existing forests to make way for oil-palm cultivation had a perverse effect: It released more carbon. A lot more carbon. NASA researchers say the accelerated destruction of Borneo’s forests contributed to the largest single-year global increase in carbon emissions in two millenniums, an explosion that transformed Indonesia into the world’s fourth-largest source of such emissions. Instead of creating a clever technocratic fix to reduce American’s carbon footprint, lawmakers had lit the fuse on a powerful carbon bomb that, as the forests were cleared and burned, produced more carbon than the entire continent of Europe.

    Despite this massive destruction of forests, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Speaker of the House at the time, continues to defend the “biofuels mandate she shepherded into law.” She claims it is “reducing emissions” when it obviously isn’t. Her fellow Democrat and political ally, former Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), admits as much. He helped enact the mandate as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But he now recognizes the obvious reality that the mandate is “doing more harm to the environment” than any fossil fuels it has replaced.

    Former President George W. Bush enabled this destruction by supporting the mandate and signing it into law. This bipartisan support for the mandate didn’t make it better because bipartisanship is usually a toxic blend of evil and stupidity. “In America, we have a two-party system,” a Republican congressional staffer told a visiting group of Russian legislators in the 1990s. “There is the stupid party. And there is the evil party. … Periodically, the two parties get together and do something that is both stupid and evil. This is called—‘bipartisanship.’”

    This harm to the environment was also facilitated by the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency. It massively underestimated the destruction of forest that the mandate would cause. Dire losses of forests were projected in its initial, honest estimate of what would happen from the mandate going into effect. But in response to lobbying from special interests, it replaced that estimate with a rosier one that dismissed forest losses as negligible.

    As The New York Times notes, initially, the Obama EPA recognized that the negative effect on the environment “of land-use changes overshadowed any other consideration, and not by a small margin,” resulting in negative effects on the climate annually for at least 32 years and taking “a century” before the resulting replacement of fossil fuels would “reach the level of benefit required under the law.” But in response to lobbying, the EPA’s stance changed:

    By the time the E.P.A. released its final rule in early 2010, it had made a complete about-face. Its models now found that the impact from land-use changes were almost negligible. For Indonesia, the E.P.A. estimated that just 110,000 acres of forest would be converted to cropland as a result of the American biofuels law, and almost none of it on sensitive peatland.

    Across the world, the land substitution effects of biofuels mandates have been profoundly negative.

    Biofuel mandates drove up wheat prices in Egypt, triggering riots and contributing to the ouster of pro-American ruler Hosni Mubarak. Egypt is now under a veiled military dictatorship that is far more oppressive and wasteful than Mubarak’s rule, and there is far more terrorism and much less tourism and growth in small businesses than under Mubarak. Related food price increases fueled terrorism and violence in places like Yemen and Afghanistan. They also contributed to hunger and child malnutrition in Guatemala.

    This article was reprinted from Liberty Unyielding.

    Source: NYT: Biofuel Mandates Have Been an Environmental Disaster – Foundation for Economic Education

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  • Why We Need More Climate Change Skeptics

    Climate scientists are not prophets. Those who believe them on faith provide no good service to the pursuit of truth.

    Those who blame climate change for every storm or forest fire are silly. Equally silly are those who claim that a particularly cold day proves that climate change is a farce.

    Fear of environmental calamity has caused human destruction before, such as when Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, led to the banning of the pesticide DDT. As a result of the “success” of the environmentalist movement in banning DDT, an estimated 30-50 million people in Africa—mostly children—died from malaria carried by the renewed growth in the mosquito population. Malaria deaths increased from tens of thousands per year pre-ban to millions per year post-ban. The story was similar in India. These were preventable deaths that resulted from stoked fears.

    Now the target is carbon dioxide. We are told that 97 percent of climate scientists agree with their own scientific consensus. But that’s a misleading statement in an important way. The actual figure refers to “97 percent of climate scientists actively publishing in scientific journals.” To understand the relevance of this 97 percent figure, we need to know: what are the determiners of “actively publishing?”

    Could the selection process for entry and success (“actively publishing”) in the climate profession create a bias that compromises the information we rely on to make our critical decisions about climate?

    Let’s ask the question, calmly and rationally, and see where it takes us.

    1. It is reasonable to consider that children raised in climate-conscious families are more likely to become interested in the environment than those raised by families who either don’t care or who deny. The climate-conscious children are more likely to undertake science fair projects and write papers about climate change. Climate work is rewarded in school, so it shouldn’t be any surprise if such children, more than others, later consider environmental science as a college major. If this occurs, which seems likely, this childhood process would be Distillation Step 1 in creating a future climate scientist. More speculatively, if sufficiently reinforced, some of these youths might even develop some neuronally hardwired (unchangeable) biases as the brain matures.

    2. As is true in all fields, college climatology professors encourage the most dedicated students in introductory environmental studies classes to pursue climate science as a major. Other students—such as those who are skeptical—may never again see the inside of a climate science classroom. The selection of academic major is Distillation Step 2.

    3. When students pursue their master’s degrees, the crop of future climate scientists is further distilled. Those who don’t align with their professors’ views are less successful getting into PhD programs. Then, success within a PhD program relies (in any field) on abiding by one’s dissertation committee’s wishes so as to get their PhD in as few years as possible and finally make some money. During this phase, those who best comply will be more likely to obtain their doctorate and get set up in post-doc positions working for experienced senior scientists. Distillation Step 3 has occurred, along with further psychological reinforcement to agree with those more senior. The climate liquor is getting more concentrated.

    4. To succeed in academia, the newly minted PhD must apply for grants, mostly from government agencies or his own university. He chooses hypotheses and writes his grant application with care, knowing he’ll need the approval of committees populated with scientists who are invested in promoting their previously published papers and who make their living from government-funded studies of climate change. If he fails to craft his project to appeal to the needs of the reviewers on the committee, he won’t get funded. Funding failure increases the likelihood that he will wash out of academia. This selection of research grants to write is Distillation Step 4.

    The process of nurturing and selection of the climate scientist starts in kindergarten and proceeds through high school and college, then to grant funding, manuscript preparation, and publication. His research is then only seen through the lens of the media’s selective presentation. The many reinforcing layers of bias create a distillate of pure concentrated climate orthodoxy, and this liquor is what we are offered to drink.

    5. Successfully obtaining funding allows the young academic to perform a research project that will buttress the beliefs of the grant committee that channeled funding to him. Research studies are these days (improperly) designed to accomplish the affirmation of the hypothesized outcome as opposed to examining the truth of a hypothesis. If his project (done well or done poorly) appears to prove his hypothesis, then he tries to publish a paper to join the ranks of the “actively publishing.” He will craft the conclusion and abstract to promote his bias (again, this is true in any field). By the way, we should not underestimate the pressured academic’s skill at justifying to himself the removal of any data from his dataset that adversely affect his ability to get a publishable p value of “less than 0.05” (an arbitrary cut off in statistics that is needed for publication).

    Note that if the project fails to prove his hypothesis, the young scientist probably will never write a manuscript about it, and therefore he won’t yet be “actively publishing.” Oh, and often there are multiple hypotheses in a project, and if only one of them is proven, it will be the only one written up and submitted for publication. The disproven hypotheses will not be written up and will never be seen by us. This is all part of Distillation Step 5.

    6. Even if a scientist goes to the effort to write a manuscript that fails to support climate change concerns (which would be called a “negative manuscript” as it negates the hypothesis), it will be harder to get it published. Such “negative manuscripts” are, in any field, commonly rejected by the editor before going to peer review.

    If a negative manuscript does get to peer review, the reviewers will be more critical because the manuscript will conflict with their prior publications. Then the scientist will have to go to the considerable effort of resubmitting the manuscript elsewhere or have to respond to the reviewers’ critiques by getting more grant money and doing more studies, which will prove difficult. And it just isn’t worth it because publishing such a paper could only hurt his career. So the young academic understandably sticks the rejected manuscript and its data in a desk drawer, never to be seen again. This is Distillation Step #6.

    Selective manuscript writing, editorial bias, peer-review bias, and selective re-submission are four important biases in any field. This could be a reason—completely unrelated to scientific facts—as to why climate literature slants the way it does.

    After these multiple distillation steps, almost all impurities have been distilled away. Perhaps only 3 percent remains. It should be no more surprising that 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree with the climate change consensus than that 97 percent of actively preaching seminary graduates believe in their religion.

    7. Those who make it onto the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), are the most highly distilled, fully vetted climate scientists of all. Pure 200 proof. For this reason and others, consensus at the level of the IPCC is even less useful than “expert opinion.”

    In response to climatologists’ complaints that the IPCC is biased against nuclear power, Jonathan Lynn, an IPCC spokesman, rejected the accusation, telling Axios: “We completely reject the idea we are biased about nuclear power or anything else.”

    I would call Mr. Lynn’s statement psychological denial. Of course the IPCC is biased. Everyone who cares, one way or the other, is biased. To say otherwise is poppycock.

    8. Now, if it bleeds it leads. The lay world only hears the most dramatic climate stories. What self-disrespecting mainstream click-baiting journalist will bother to read anything beyond a research abstract or would waste their editor’s time with anything positive (or even innocuous) regarding climate change? Answer: none. Furthermore, journalists now manage to stick a scary line about climate change in any article they can. Bees, birds, ticks, human migration… it’s all climate change. This continual exposure to unsubstantiated statements from journalists will bamboozle many readers.

    What we in the lay world get to read and hear is a highly distilled climate change liquor and the most catastrophic fears of what climate change may cause. The climate-concerned lay reader is unlikely to be presented with, or click on, a climate story that opposes his worldview. Those with defensive personalities will reflexively lash out with vitriol at an author of such an article, as if the author were an infidel, often without reading past the title.

    We need to get our heads around the climate in an intellectually comprehensive way. We need science to do that. Unfortunately, the politicized climate field has many reinforcing biases entrenched within it. This must lead to the dissemination of biased or incomplete facts and biased conclusions.

    Yet it is important we don’t get this wrong because people suffer and die when science becomes unquestioned dogma.

    We need private watchdogs who go to the effort to examine the research that the climatologists produce, looking for flaws, biases, misrepresentations, malincentives, and even manipulations. Instead of demonizing such skeptics, we need to encourage and respect such people who work hard to identify where biases have interfered with the pursuit of truth.

    I recognize the importance of a healthy climate. I am not ignoring facts, and I respect the scientific method. I’m not brainwashed by oil companies nor in psychological denial. To the contrary, any skepticism I have arises because I do not deny the weaknesses of the academic process that create a scientist and the research he produces. Reinforcing layers of bias can occur in any field, but politicization exaggerates it.

    Let’s remember what saved the whales. It wasn’t Greenpeace. It was, rather, the successful distillation of petroleum that replaced the demand for the renewable fuel known as whale oil. That distillation made petroleum purer and more flammable. The distillation of climate science makes it purer, too—and more incendiary.

    Policymakers, teachers, journalists, environmentalists…all of us…really know nothing about climate change other than what trickles down from the climate scientists’ desks. Are the many reinforcing layered biases of the climate field sufficient to have relevant effects on the research results that are presented to us? Are the climate scientists getting some of it wrong, or maybe exaggerating it?

    It has happened before—with DDT—with horrific consequences.

    And the climate change field is even more politicized.

    Source: Why We Need More Climate Change Skeptics – Foundation for Economic Education