June 29, 2012

NRC Sea Level Rise Scare: Losing Sight of the Science

Last week, the National Academies of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) released a report Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. The apparent intent of the report was to raise global warming alarm by projecting rapidly rising seas—some 2-3 times higher than recent IPCC estimates—along the California coast and elsewhere. Based on the news coverage, the NRC was successful.

Successfully handling the media does not equate to successfully handling the science, if scientific success is judged by scientific accuracy.

The NRC was quite adept at sidestepping the inconvenient scientific literature which would have tempered their conclusions and which would have replaced alarm with prudent vigilance. Sure, global sea level will continue to rise, but the rate of future rise will likely be closer to the rise observed during the 20th century, about 8-12 inches—a rate to which coastal residents have easily adapted—than to the NRC’s upper bound which approaches some 4-5 feet by the year 2100.


June 22, 2012

Not So Hot in East China

While the IPCC is big on the idea that the warmth of the late 20th and early 21st century in the Northern Hemisphere is unprecedented in recent centuries, apparently that finding does not apply universally over longer timescales.

According to the Summary of Policymakers from the IPCC Fourth Assessmnet Report:

Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1,300 years.

This is basically a verbal description of the “hockeystick”-like temperature progression of the past millennia or so.

How that representation came to be and just how scientifically accurate it is a story unto itself, and one which continues to be assessed and reassessed over at the Climate Audit website. An interesting discussion has been taking place there as to yet another methodological flaw in the mathematics involved in multiproxy reconstructions. And another oft-discussed issue there is the very selective use of only particular proxy temperature records which are combined to produce the now-too-familiar hockeystick shape.

One proxy record that most definitely was not included in the assembly of the hockeystick is a just-published proxy reconstruction of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) from the East China Sea.


June 15, 2012

The EPA and “Independence”

Filed under: Climate Politics

The public comment period is fast drawing to a close (June 25, 2012) on the EPA’s latest scheme to try to limit human greenhouse gas emissions (a fruitless task as far as climate change is concerned). The EPA’s Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for Future Power Plants, announced on March 27, 2012, seeks to limit the emissions of carbon dioxide from new power plants to 1,000 lbs per megawatt hour. Such a standard would effectively bar any new coal-fired power plants from being built as such an emissions standard is not achievable by coal plants under current or near-term technology.

Accompanying its latest proposal, the EPA has produced a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) that “discusses potential benefits, costs, and economic impacts of the proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources for Electric Utility Generating Units.” Chapter 3 of the RIA is concerned with “The climate change problem and rationale for rulemaking” and basically reiterates EPA’s version of the “science” behind its Endangerment Finding from December 2009, in which the EPA determined that human greenhouse gas emissions act to “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations” –a finding which opened the door for the EPA to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from the U.S.

In order to make it seem as if they were keeping up with the latest scientific research on the topic of climate change (something which any more that a cursory inspection of the RIA reveals definitively is not the case at all), and that their opinions of the science behind the Endangerment Finding were robust, the EPA states that the Endangerment Finding has been bolstered by recent assessments by the National Research Council (NRC) which provide “independent” confirmation of the state of climate change science. From the RIA:

3.1.3 Recent Assessments

Since the Endangerment Finding was released, more recent assessments have produced similar conclusions to those of the assessments upon which the Finding was based. In May 2010, the NRC published its comprehensive assessment, “Advancing the Science of Climate Change” (2010). It concluded that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems.” Furthermore, the NRC stated that this conclusion is based on findings that are “consistent with the conclusions of recent assessments by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, and other assessments of the state of scientific knowledge on climate change.” These are the same assessments that served as the primary scientific references underlying the Administrator’s Endangerment Finding.

…Importantly, these recent NRC assessments represent another independent and critical inquiry of the state of climate change science, separate and apart from the previous IPCC, NRC, and USGCRP assessments.

However, it is clear from the (2010) NRC report “Advancing the Science of Climate Change” that it is not an “independent” assessment, as the EPA asserts. The EPA deceitfully backs its assertion of “independence” with the highly selective quote (reproduced above) that, out of context, gives the appearance that the NRC has arrived at its conclusions independently, and that they are “consistent” with the other assessment reports. But that is not the case at all.


June 7, 2012

Asian Air Pollution Warms U.S. More Than U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

There is a just-published study that provides evidence that air pollution emanating from Asia will warm the U.S. as much as or even more than all U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Such a result effectively renders all EPA and other efforts at mitigating climate change in the U.S. by limiting homegrown GHG emissions mute.

Over at the web site Master Resource, there is a detailed discussion into how the warming effect from Asian air pollution compares with the warming effect of U.S. CO2 emissions. [Spoiler Alert] It turns out, that the two are pretty much on par with one another—which leads to the uncomfortable question: If the future temperature rise in the U.S. is subject to the whims of Asian environmental and energy policy, then what sense does it make for Americans to have their energy choices regulated by efforts aimed at mitigating future temperature increases across the US—efforts which may have less of an impact on temperatures than the policies enacted across Asia?


June 4, 2012

Historical Imagery of Greenland Glaciers Lessens Sea Level Rise Alarm

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

A new study using historical images of glaciers in southeast Greenland to investigate glacier response to climate changes suggests that the recently observed acceleration of ice loss from Greenland may not be a long-term phenomenon. Instead, as marine terminating glaciers reach their grounding line and as the termini of land-terminating glaciers migrate upwards in elevation, ice loss rates from glacial discharge may slacken. According to Anders Bjørk and co-researchers:

[T]he recent high rate of retreat may come to a slowdown when retreating marine-terminating glaciers reach their grounding line and become less sensitive to the influence of ocean temperature, or through positive or negative feedback mechanisms relating to the cold East Greenland Coastal Current.


Our results have implications for future estimations of sea-level rise as retreat rates for marine-terminating glaciers are likely to increase as temperature rises until glacier fronts reach the grounding line, or when cold ocean currents re-establish, whereas retreat rates for land-terminating glaciers are not likely to rise in the same order of magnitude.

Such results throw a bit of cold water on alarmist ideas that rising temperatures will lead to ever-accelerating ice loss from Greenland and accelerating sea level rise.


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