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.


May 18, 2012

CO2 Not to Blame for Southwest Droughts?

Filed under: Floods, Precipitation

In our last WCR, we discussed a series of articles that found that higher resolution climate models—models which include a better representation of the complex terrain features of the Southwest—produce less drought stress on the Southwestern U.S. in their projections of future climate change from greenhouse gas emissions than do coarser resolution general circulation models.

Now comes along a new paper published in Nature magazine by Robert Allen and colleagues which suggests that the drying trend which remains is being caused more by black carbon aerosols and tropospheric ozone than by greenhouse gas emissions.


May 14, 2012

Future Southwest Drought in Doubt?

Filed under: Droughts, Precipitation

One of the most “robust” signals from global climate models run under scenarios of increasing human greenhouse gas emissions is an even drier climate in the Southwestern U.S. than exists there currently.

The 2009 report “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” from the U.S. Global Change Research Program (a report which the EPA relied upon in making its “Endangerment Finding” from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases) has this to say about the prospects of future drought in the U.S. (p. 33):

“In the future, droughts are likely to become more frequent and severe in some regions. The Southwest, in particular, is expected to experience increasing drought as changes in atmospheric circulation patterns cause the dry zone just outside the tropics to expand farther northward in the United States.”

The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (another report which the EPA relied heavily upon in making its “Endangerment Finding”) had this to say (p. 890):

“Annual mean precipitation is very likely to increase in Canada and the northeast USA, and likely to decrease in the southwest USA.”

Not surprisingly, the EPA included this statement about projected changes in precipitation in the Executive Summary of its Technical Support Document for its “Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act”:

“Increases in the amount of precipitation are very likely in higher latitudes, while decreases are likely in most subtropical latitudes and the southwestern U.S., continuing observed patterns.”

But new research published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that the USGCRP, the IPCC, and consequently, the EPA may be overdoing things a bit.


May 9, 2012

No sea level rise catastrophe?

Filed under: Climate History

As one of the central tenets of climate change catastrophe involves inundation by rapidly rising seas, we like to visit the issue from time to time here at World Climate Report. Interestingly, or perhaps some may prefer predictably, we usually are able to uncover plenty of science that indicates that the situation is not nearly so dire.

More evidence of this was published this week in Science magazine.

A paper by Twila Moon, Ian Joughin, Ben Smith, and Ian Howat titled “21st Century Evolution of Greenland Outlet Glacier Velocities” examined the flow characteristics from nearly 200 glaciers across Greenland for the period 2000-2010 as analyzed using synthetic aperture radar data collected from various satellites. Moon and colleagues assessed changes in the flow rate of each of the glaciers.

And what they found—much like what is found whenever the climate system is examined in detail rather than painted with a broad brush—was that the patterns of flow rate changes across Greenland were complex, both in space and time. Glaciers that were accelerating during a few years were found to be decelerating in others. Some accelerating glaciers were found in close proximity to other glaciers that were decelerating. The authors hypothesize that a variety of local factors are important in controlling the flow rate of individual glaciers including “fjord, glacier, and bed geometry,” “local climate” and “small-scale ocean water flow and terminus sea ice conditions.”


April 27, 2012

EPA’S Toxic Science

Filed under: Climate Politics

EPA’s recently announced regulations on mercury from power plants will, in fact, do nothing substantial about the amount of this element in the global atmosphere. If they were really serious, they would ban volcanoes and forest fires, which are much larger sources.

Total annual releases of mercury to the atmosphere from such natural sources are about 5,200 metric tons per year. The world’s volcanoes tend to concentrate along the Pacific Rim, where the great tectonic plates that define the world’s continents are in flux, and in the mid-Atlantic, where continental drift is expanding the Atlantic ocean, opening up huge rifts that extend far beneath the surface. Forest fires tend to take place where there are forests—especially dry ones like those in the western U.S.

Data published in the refereed scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions indicate that the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere by human activities—mainly from smelting of metals and combustion of coal—is about 2,320 tons, for a total atmospheric increment (natural + anthropogenerated) of a bit over 7,500 tons per year. The human contribution makes up about 31% of the annual total.

Now it gets good, and we can see how absurd EPA’s perseveration on mercury from U.S. power plants is.


April 20, 2012

For Wheat and Rice, CO2 is Nice

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

We have written about the biological benefits of elevated temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels hundreds of times, and we will never run out of new material! Evidence the results of two recent article showing how CO2 improves the yield of wheat and the competitiveness of rice.

A team of seven scientists from various agencies in China began their article noting “In the past 100 years, the mean surface temperature in China has increased by 0.4–0.6ºC, and it is expected that the average surface temperature in western China will rise by 1.7ºC in the next 30 years and by 2.2ºC over the next 50 years.” Furthermore, Xiao et al. report “The annual mean rainfall decreased by about 60 mm [~2.4 in.] from the 1950s to the 1990s in semiarid regions of China, and a loss of soil moisture through evaporation increased 35–45 mm [~1.5 in.] due to the temperature increase. The rainfall and available soil moisture throughout the entire growing stage of the crops was about 100 mm [~4 in.] lower in the 1990s than in the 1950s. As a result, concerns about the vulnerability of agricultural production to climate change are increasing. For example, it is likely that evaporation will increase and soil moisture will decline in many regions as the temperature increases.” If that is not enough bad news, they state “There is now strong evidence that overall crop yields will decrease by 5–10% in China by 2030 as a result of climatic changes, and that the yields of wheat, rice and maize will be greatly reduced.”

But, then, quite importantly, they add “The impact of future climate change on crop production has been widely predicted by modeling the interaction between crops and climate change; however, few observations of the impacts of climate change on crop production have been reported.” [emphasis added]

Xiao and colleagues from the Institute of Arid Meteorology of the China Meteorological Administration set out to help remedy this deficiency.

And were they ever in for a surprise.


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