April 25, 2007

Torching the Forest Fire Myth

Filed under: Droughts

Since the first time you heard about global warming, you probably learned that among other consequences, wildfires will increase in frequency and area burned in many parts of the world. This prediction is based on the obvious link that increased temperatures will increase evapotranspiration, forests will become drier in the absence of any increase in precipitation, the changes in climate will promote a weakening of the forest ecosystems making them more susceptible to countless stresses, and forests will “burn baby burn.” Back in 1988 when the greenhouse engine was getting into gear (a rather low gear compared to the overdrive gear of today), Yellowstone Park burned as did many other forests in the western states, and the image of forest fires being linked to global warming has lived on ever since. There is not a day that a substantial forest fire is not burning somewhere across the planet, so the popular press will never run out of material on this front.

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April 20, 2007

The Stop Global Warming College Tour

Filed under: Climate Politics

Last night (Thursday April 19, 2007) Laurie David’s self-professed brainchild (dreamed up over lunch with her rockstar girl friend Sheryl Crow), the “Stop Global Warming College Tour” blew into town. Apparently the previous stops on the tour must have seemed like global warming love-ins when compared to what Ms. David encountered here in Charlottesville. Maybe it was because Sheryl Crow wasn’t around for support, or that the crowd that was attracted to see Sheryl Crow’s replacement (a free concert by Robert Randolf and the Family Band) was less inclined to get a stern talking to about how they were destroying the environment, than are the followers of Ms. Crow. Or perhaps it was the copious beer. Or maybe it was that the temperature was about 15ºF below normal and a light rain was falling. But whatever the case, it didn’t go so well.

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April 19, 2007

Hurricane/Global Warming Link Weakens Further (not much left)

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

The atmosphere above the major hurricane formation and intensification region in the Atlantic ocean continues to evolve in a manner that is virtually opposite to the way it is projected to evolve by climate models run with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other anthropogenic emissions. This fact suggests that the role played by natural variability in the recent upswing in hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean (including storms striking the U. S. coastline) is likely large and significant. A just-published paper further adds to this evidence.

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April 13, 2007

Methane Matters

We all know the story – humans are burning fossil fuels, greenhouse gases are increasing in atmospheric concentration at an alarming rate, the temperature of the earth is soaring upward, the ecosystems are struggling to cope with all the related changes, and if we don’t act now, we will soon push the entire system past the dreaded tipping point. We at World Climate Report have presented evidence from a growing number of scientific papers that challenge this simple but highly popularized and publicized global warming story. Now another recent paper calls into question one of the most basic assumption – the article questions whether the second most important greenhouse gas, namely methane, is continuing to increase in atmospheric concentration.

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April 9, 2007

Canadian Heat Waves Declining?

Filed under: Heat Waves

No popular presentation of global warming is complete without images of people suffering from the effects of a heat wave. It seems so simple – the world is getting hotter, temperatures are rising everywhere, and therefore, heat waves will be longer, more frequent, and more severe. There are heat waves somewhere on the planet at any moment, so one would never run out of fresh material for such a story. Add in giant killer heat waves in Chicago and/or Europe, claim tens of thousands of deaths on those ever-increasing heat waves, and another scary global warming story emerges. Heat waves put a human face on suffering thanks to global warming, and if you include sweltering pets and animals at the zoo, the story is further embellished. Add in the familiar lines about the heat waves differentially impacting the elderly, the poor, and children, and the story is nearly complete. Obviously, blame the industrial nations (particularly the United States) for all the misery just for some icing on the cake.

We have covered heat waves many times in the past at World Climate Report, but another article has appeared in a recent issue of Theoretical and Applied Climatology that we must call to your attention. A team of scientists from various institutions in Quebec decided to examine trends in the number of summer-season heat spells and the number of summer-season hot days in southern Quebec over the past 60 years. Canada is in the mid-to-high latitudes where climate models predict enhanced warming compared to the rest of the planet, so one might logically expect to see an increase in the heat spells. The title of the article reveals that the focus is on observed changes in heat spells in southern Quebec, but the results may surprise the global warming advocates of that country.

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April 2, 2007

The Dissenting Opinion

Filed under: Climate Politics

Here is the concluding section of the dissenting opinion of Chief Justice Roberts (and joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) to the Supreme Court’s ruling that carbon dioxide regulation falls under the EPA’s purview under the Clean Air Act. (the complete decision including the majority and dissenting opinions can be found here )

According to Chief Justice Roberts:

IV.…The realities make it pure conjecture to suppose that EPA regulation of new automobile emissions will likely prevent the loss of Massachusetts coastal land.

V. Petitioners’ difficulty in demonstrating causation and redressability is not surprising given the evident mismatch between the source of their alleged injury—catastrophic global warming—and the narrow subject matter of the Clean Air Act provision at issue in this suit. The mismatch suggests that petitioners’ true goal for this litigation may be more symbolic than anything else. The constitutional role of the courts, however, is to decide concrete cases—not to serve as a convenient forum for policy debates [emphasis added -eds]. See Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U. S. 464, 472 (1982) (“[Standing] tends to assure that the legal questions presented to the court will be resolved, not in the rarified atmosphere of a debating society, but in a concrete factual context conducive to a realistic appreciation of the consequences of judicial action”).

When dealing with legal doctrine phrased in terms of what is “fairly” traceable or “likely” to be redressed, it is perhaps not surprising that the matter is subject to some debate. But in considering how loosely or rigorously to define those adverbs, it is vital to keep in mind the purpose of the inquiry. The limitation of the judicial power to cases and controversies “is crucial in maintaining the tripartite allocation of power set forth in the Constitution.” DaimlerChrysler, 547 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 5) (internal 14 quotation marks omitted). In my view, the Court today—addressing Article III’s “core component of standing,” Defenders of Wildlife, supra, at 560—fails to take this limitation seriously.

To be fair, it is not the first time the Court has done so. Today’s decision recalls the previous high-water mark of diluted standing requirements, United States v. Students Challenging Regulatory Agency Procedures (SCRAP), 412 U. S. 669 (1973). SCRAP involved “[p]robably the most attenuated injury conferring Art. III standing” and “surely went to the very outer limit of the law”—until today. Whitmore, 495 U. S., at 158–159; see also Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U. S. 871, 889 (1990) (SCRAP “has never since been emulated by this Court”). In SCRAP, the Court based an environmental group’s standing to challenge a railroad freight rate surcharge on the group’s allegation that increases in railroad rates would cause an increase in the use of non recyclable goods, resulting in the increased need for natural resources to produce such goods. According to the group, some of these resources might be taken from the Washington area, resulting in increased refuse that might find its way into area parks, harming the group’s members. 412 U. S., at 688.

Over time, SCRAP became emblematic not of the looseness of Article III standing requirements, but of how utterly manipulable they are if not taken seriously as a matter of judicial self-restraint. SCRAP made standing seem a lawyer’s game, rather than a fundamental limitation ensuring that courts function as courts and not intrude on the politically accountable branches. Today’s decision is SCRAP for a new generation [emphasis added, -eds].

Perhaps the Court recognizes as much. How else to explain its need to devise a new doctrine of state standing to support its result? The good news is that the Court’s “special solicitude” for Massachusetts limits the future applicability of the diluted standing requirements applied in this case. The bad news is that the Court’s self-professed relaxation of those Article III requirements has caused us to transgress “the proper—and properly limited—role of the courts in a democratic society” [emphasis added, -eds]. Allen, 468 U. S., at 750 (internal quotation marks omitted).

I respectfully dissent.




Global Warming and California Agriculture

Filed under: Agriculture

The latest news continues to be full of stories about global warming, and one of the constant pillars of the apocalypse is that agricultural yields will substantially decline due to higher temperatures, increased drought, spread of diseases, invasion of weeds, destruction of soil nutrients, and … you name it! We did a quick search of the internet for “Global Warming and Agriculture” and found more than 5,000,000 websites, and as we began sampling the sites, we encountered an overwhelming amount of bad news. Occasionally, we would find sarcastic comments about “growing barley in Iceland,” but overall, we found gloomy news about our agricultural future. Of course, within the first two sites visited, we learned that “the region likely to be worst affected is Africa, both because its geography makes it particularly vulnerable, and because seventy percent of the population rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods.”

We at World Climate Report have long questioned such a pessimistic view of our future. Literally thousands of experiments have been conducted showing that agricultural plants benefit enormously in environments of higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide – they increase their rate of photosynthesis, increase water use efficiency, and increase yields. Furthermore, hundreds of experiments have shown that many agricultural plants benefit from higher temperatures, particularly higher temperatures at night. Believe it or not, most agricultural plants benefit from less frost! With all the gloom and doom about increased drought in the future, we note that all climate models predict increased precipitation on a global scale with little ability to predict changes in precipitation at local or even regional scales. Finally, can you name any important agricultural crop that has seen a reduction in yield per unit area over the past century? You cannot, because years of agricultural research have improved both the plants and the farming practices. Our guess is that the research in the future will produce even greater increases in yields, despite any changes that occur to the climate.

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