Friday, December 28, 2012

Basic physics shows how the IPCC exaggerates alleged warming from CO2 by 10 times

Re-blogged from Dr. Claes Johnson, Professor of Applied Mathematics, KTH:

Leaked Climate Sensitivity of 0.3 C

The leaked Second Order Draft IPCC AR5 essentially repeats the AR4 estimate of a climate sensitivity of 3 C:
  • Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 2°C–4.5°C, and very likely above 1.5°C. The most likely value is near 3°C. Equilibrium climate sensitivity greater than about 6°C–7°C is very unlikely. 
Let me here  leak the following update of my previous 10 times smaller estimate of climate sensitivity coming down to 0.3 C, based on the following argument using the standard numbers of 
  • Earth surface temperature: + 15 C
  • top of the atmosphere TOA temperature: - 18 C at 5 km altitude
  • lapse rate: 6.5 C/km 
  • dry adiabatic lapse rate: 10 C/km
  • transported from surface to TOA by thermodynamics: 120 W/m2 
  • transported from surface to TOA by radiation: 60 W/m2.
Assuming that thermodynamics reduces the lapse rate from 10 to 6.5 C/km, thermodynamics would thus have the effect of decreasing the temperature increase from TOA to Earth surface by 5 x 3.5 = 18 C, thus with a relative decrease of 18/120 = 0.15 Cm^2/W. 

The corresponding number for radiation would be an increase of 33/60 = 0.5 Cm^2/W. 

The combined effect would thus be with a partition of 2/3 thermodynamics and 1/3 radiation:
  • 1/3 x 0.5 - 2/3 x 0.15  = 1/6 - 1/10 = 5/30 - 3/30 = 2/30 = 1/15 Cm^2/W.
An assumed radiative forcing of 4 W/m2 would thus lead to a warming of  4/15 C, which is less than 0.3 C, thus a factor 10 smaller than IPCC's most likely value of 3 C.

Do you say that the above argument is simplistic? Yes, it is, but it may well be more realistic than the IPCC argument  leading to a climate sensitivity probably inflated by a factor 10.

See Negative Climate Sensitivity, the followup post to the above

Good riddance! The economic damage wrought by former EPA chief Lisa Jackson

The Jackson Damage

The economic harm the EPA chief wrought.

WSJ.COM  Op-Ed 12/28/12:  More than four years after the 2008 panic, the U.S. economy still hasn't rebounded to its normal potential growth trend. So the legacy of one of the main culprits—Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency, who announced Thursday she is resigning—must include the millions of Americans who can't find a job or haven't seen their incomes rise.
The EPA chief is among President Obama's most abusive and reckless regulators—his repressed green id. Over her four years, Ms. Jackson inflicted an unprecedented surge of new rules on private business, including the most expensive ever in the history of government by several orders of magnitude. A "major" regulation used to be defined as imposing costs of $100 million or more. The EPA now routinely issues multibillion-dollar rules with little more than a press release.
Ms. Jackson most notably cranked up clean-air regulation that will force a third or even as much as half of the U.S. coal-fired electric fleet out of existence. She also rewrote laws to declare carbon emissions a "dangerous pollutant" even though the laws were written in the 1970s. Along with other rules, including auto efficiency standards, she started a re-engineering of the U.S. energy system, without so much as a Congressional vote.
Ms. Jackson used her discretion to make these rules as aggressive and punitive as possible, even if they couldn't survive legal scrutiny. To the extent this surge contributed to business uncertainty and stole dollars otherwise available for private investment, Ms. Jackson's agenda explains why the economic recovery and job creation are weaker than they ought to be by historical standards. Take the champagne off ice.
Nothing like this was expected out of Ms. Jackson, a New Jersey political functionary under then-Governor Jon Corzine. She turned out to be a master power-politics operator. Her most consequential victory was steamrolling Cass Sunstein at the White House regulatory review office.
Mr. Sunstein was a promoter of sensible regulation only when the benefits justified the costs, and he often opposed Ms. Jackson's methods internally. When he succeeded in persuading the President to yank a purely discretionary EPA rule on ozone in 2011, Ms. Jackson went around town threatening to resign and make trouble for Mr. Obama among his environmental base.
Her authority was never challenged seriously again. The EPA now routinely rigs its estimates to exaggerate benefits—which all of a sudden include such shapeless concepts as racial justice and economic redistribution—and underestimate costs, when it admits costs exist at all.
Astonishingly enough, the green lobby regards Ms. Jackson's term as something of a disappointment, because she didn't do enough on the supposedly humanity-defining problem of global warming and compromised too often. We'd hate to see who they think should continue the revolution she started.

New paper finds floods and extreme precipitation were more common during the Little Ice Age

A recent paper published in Quaternary Research examines floods in the Mediterranean French Alps over the past 1400 years and finds that extreme precipitation and flooding were less common and less extreme during warm periods compared to cold periods. The authors find "a low flood frequency during the Medieval Warm Period and more frequent and more intense events during the Little Ice Age." The paper provides yet another example of real-world data disproving climate alarmist (IPCC) contentions that warming results in more extreme weather, extreme precipitation, or floods. The paper also shows that summer temperatures in southwestern Europe were warmer during the Medieval Warming Period [MWP] in comparison to the year 2000, and adds to the work of over 1000 scientists demonstrating that the global MWP was as warm or warmer than the present. 

In addition, the paper shows that Total Solar Irradiance sharply increased by about 1 Wm-2 throughout most of the 20th century, dwarfing the alleged effect of CO2 during the 20th century [allegedly about 0.35 Wm-2 per the IPCC formula].

Graph from the poster presentation of the same paper shows flooding was more frequent and extreme during the Little Ice Age
From the latest NIPCC Report:

Paleofloods of the Mediterranean French Alps

Introducing their work, Wilhelm et al. (2012) say that "mountain-river floods triggered by extreme precipitation events can cause substantial human and economic losses (Gaume et al., 2009)," adding that "global warming is expected to lead to an increase in the frequency and/or intensity of such events," citing the IPCC (2007), "especially in the Mediterranean region (Giorgi and Lionello, 2008)." They then proceed to conduct a historical examination of floods in the French Alps.

Working at Lake Allos (44°14'N, 6°42'35" E) - a 1-km-long by 700-m-wide high-altitude lake in the French Alps - Wilhelm et al. carried out a coupled bathymetric and seismic survey of the lake's sediment infill, analyzing three sediment cores for grain size, geochemical composition, total organic carbon content, and pollen content and identity; while small-size vegetal macro-remains (pine needles, buds, twigs and leaves) were sampled at the base of the flood deposits and used for AMS 14C analysis, which was conducted at France's LMC14 carbon-dating laboratory. And although acknowledging the complicating fact that "changes in vegetation and/or land-use can modify soil stability/erodibility," they report that "the size of the coarsest sediment fraction still reflects stream flow velocity," citing Beierle et al. (2002) and Francus et al. (2002).
In further discussing their methodology, the thirteen French scientists report that some 160 graded layers of sedimentary deposits over the last 1400 years were compared with records of historic floods; and they indicate that these comparisons "support the interpretation of flood deposits and suggest that most recorded flood events are the result of intense meso-scale precipitation events." And they make a point of noting that the temporal history of these deposits reveals "a low flood frequency during the Medieval Warm Period and more frequent and more intense events during the Little Ice Age."
Once again, we have another example of climate-alarmist (IPCC) contentions widely missing the mark when it comes to predicting which temperature extreme - hot or cold - produces both more frequent and more intense precipitation events, as well as the flooding that accompanies them.
Wilhelm, B., Arnaud, F., Sabatier, P., Crouzet, C., Brisset, E., Chaumillon, E., Disnar, J.-R., Guiter, F., Malet, E., Reyss, J.-L., Tachikawa, K., Bard, E. and Delannoy, J.-J. 2012. 1400 years of extreme precipitation patterns over the Mediterranean French Alps and possible forcing mechanisms. Quaternary Research 78: 1-12.
Additional References
Beierle, B.D., Lamoureux, S.F., Cockburn, J.M.H. and Spooner, I. 2002. A new method for visualizing sediment particle size distributions. Journal of Paleolimnology 27: 279-283.
Francus, P., Bradley, R.S., Abbott, M.B., Patridge, W. and Keimig, F. 2002. Paleoclimate studies of minerogenic sediments using annually resolved textural parameters.Geophysical Research Letters 29: 10.1029/2002GL015082.
Gaume, E., Bain, V., Bernardara, P., Newinger, O., Barbuc, M., Bateman, A., Blaskovicova, L., Bloschl, G., Borga, M., Dumitrescu, A., Daliakopoulos, I., Garcia, J., Irimescu, A., Kohnova, S., Koutroulis, A., Marchi, L., Matreata, S., Medina, V., Preciso, E., Sempere-Torres, D., Stancalie, G., Szolgay, J., Tsanis, I., Velasco, D. and Viglione, A. 2009. A compilation of data on European flash floods. Journal of Hydrology 367: 70-78.
Giorgi, F. and Lionello, P. 2008. Climate change projections for the Mediterranean region. Global and Planetary Change 63: 90-104.
IPCC. 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Solomon, S., Qin, D., Manniing, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K.B., Tignor, M. and Miller, H.L. (Eds.), Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Al Gore's venture capital firm scores another spectacular disaster

Silicon Valley's Green Energy Mistake

Political venture capital turns out to be a loser.

WSJ.COM  12/28/12: Silicon Valley's investment wizards are fleeing the so-called green economy, and not a moment too soon for American prosperity. As painful as the era of enviro-investing has been for taxpayers and shareholders, there's an emerging silver lining. It's likely that in 2013 fewer people will spend their time trying to turn political projects into companies.
A recent survey from our corporate cousins at Dow Jones VentureSource and the National Venture Capital Association finds that "clean technology" is inspiring pessimism among venture capitalists. Fully 61% expect less clean-tech investment in 2013 compared to 2012. On the flip side, a majority expect more investment next year in business information technology, a traditional U.S. economic strength.
Fisker Automotive co-founder Henrik Fisker, left, and CEO Tony Posawatz in Los Angele in November.
The survey reflects a natural and healthy shift in Silicon Valley. Talent and resources are moving back to the technologies that gave the valley its name—and away from trendy eco-projects that failed.
When Silicon Valley was committed to addressing market needs, it enriched the world with Intel, Apple, Google and Cisco. When venture investors tried to profit from political agendas, they saddled taxpayers with stinkers like Abound Solar, Range Fuels and the infamous Solyndra, which went bust last year after receiving more than half a billion dollars in federal loans.
Success has proven elusive even for the smartest guys in the solar-heated room. Five years after Al Gore joined the prestigious venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins to back environmentally correct companies, the collaboration has yielded few successful exits for Mr. Gore and his partners, along with some spectacular disasters.
This week brought further embarrassment for a Kleiner-backed and taxpayer-subsidized project called Fisker Automotive. In an interview with Delaware's News Journal, the head of the state's economic development office, Alan Levin, discussed the $21.5 million that was provided by the state in return for a Fisker promise to build green cars there. "All we want are the jobs or our money back," Mr. Levin told the newspaper.
Fisker, an electric-car maker, is currently not making any cars due to various design and production problems. Last year the Department of Energy stopped lending money to Fisker after the company missed development deadlines, but federal taxpayers were already on the hook for more than $190 million. Fisker's problems have lately been exacerbated by the October bankruptcy of a key supplier, A123 Systemswhich also received federal loans.
Last week another green company backed by Kleiner, Glori Energy, withdrew its plans for an initial public offering (IPO), blaming poor market conditions. Perhaps Glori will be able to go public next year, and IPOs are a great way for venture investors to cash out of an investment, but Kleiner has enjoyed very few of them in its clean-tech portfolio.
And what appeared to be a true success earlier this year is looking, well, less so. On Wednesday the Journal pronounced Enphase Energya Kleiner-backed company that went public in March, the worst IPO of the year. Shareholders who bought at the opening lost about half their money in nine months. The shares of Kleiner-backed Amyris Inc., a biomass company, have lost more than 80% of their value since the firm's 2010 IPO.
VentureSource counts more than 60 companies engaged in "clean tech" that have received investments from Kleiner Perkins. Kleiner calls its environmental investments "greentech" and says that among the green firms receiving Kleiner equity investments, three have been acquired or merged into other companies. The assets of another company were sold. But since Mr. Gore joined up in 2007, Enphase and Amyris are the only two Kleiner green companies to go public, and their performance doesn't leave investors begging for more.
Their rough ride might be among the reasons that another green energy firm, SolarCityoffered shares at its recent public debut about 40% below the expected price. Yuliya Chernova of Dow Jones VentureWire reports that "solar investors lost massive amounts of money over the past two years by betting on manufacturers that overbuilt factories and saw prices for their products fall." She quotes a fund manager who notes that "there aren't a lot of people going to investment committees saying, 'This one is different.'"
Back at Kleiner, the biggest headaches probably don't come from the ones that have gone public, but from the green ventures that haven't yet been sold to other investors. Among the biggest in that category is Fisker. Kleiner and other investors have sunk more than $1 billion into the firm, a huge sum by the standards of venture capital, which has traditionally funded small start-ups.
Like many venture firms, Kleiner doesn't disclose much detail about its investments, and the firm says that information on investment returns is confidential. In a recent interview with the Journal, Kleiner partner John Doerr said that the revenues of companies in Kleiner's green portfolio are rising rapidly. But it's not clear where Kleiner will generate green home runs to offset struggling firms like Fisker.
Mr. Doerr made another claim in his Journal interview: "Our green investing doesn't depend on government policies. It's about basic supply and demand."
If even Al Gore's partner John Doerr is now on record questioning the need for government assistance, we'd say it's well past time for Washington to turn off the subsidy spigot. Many of the potential beneficiaries are already moving on to more worthwhile pursuits.

New paper finds climate models exaggerate projected warming

A paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters finds climate models "suffer from temperature-dependent biases" which "leads to an overestimation of projections of regional temperatures." According to the authors, "10-20% of projected warming is due to model deficiencies." The paper adds to many other peer-reviewed papers demonstrating that climate models exaggerate global warming, regional warming, extreme weather, cyclones, extreme precipitation, wind storms, droughts, and floods.

Key Points
  • GCMs suffer from temperature-dependent biases
  • This leads to an overestimation of projections of regional temperatures
  • We estimate that 10-20% of projected warming is due to model deficiencies
Jens H. Christensen
Danish Climate Centre, Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
Fredrik Boberg
Danish Climate Centre, Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
Monthly mean temperatures for 34 GCMs available from the CMIP5 project are compared with observations from CRU for 26 different land regions covering all major land areas in the world for the period 1961–2000 by means of quantile-quantile (q-q) diagrams. A warm period positive temperature dependent bias is identified for many of the models within many of the chosen climate regions. However, the exact temperature dependence varies considerably between the models. We analyse the role of this difference as a contributing factor for some models to project stronger regional warming than others by looking at the entire ensemble rather than individual models. RCP4.5 temperature projections from all GCMs for two time periods (2021–2050 and 2071–2100) are compared against a linear fit to the 50% warmest months from the respective q-q plot for each model and region. Taken together, we find that in general models with a positive temperature dependent bias tend to have a large projected temperature change, and these tendencies increase with increasing global warming level. We argue that this appears to be linked with the ability of models to capture complex feedbacks accurately. In particular land-surface atmosphere interactions are treated differently and with different degree of realism between models.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New paper finds modern sea ice coverage in Canadian Arctic near highest levels of past 150 years

A new paper published in the European Geosciences Union journal Biogeosciences reconstructs sea ice coverage in the Beaufort Sea of the Canadian Arctic over the past 150 years and finds modern sea ice coverage [9.4 months per year] is significantly greater than during the period from ~ 1887-1945 [8.3 months per year]. Figure 4 of the paper shows modern sea ice coverage is amongst the highest levels of the entire 150 year record. The authors find that the reduced sea ice coverage from ~1887-1945 corresponded with reconstructed sea surface temperatures that were up to 3C warmer from 1885-1935 in comparison to the average modern temperature. According to the paper, sea ice coverage was dominated by natural variation from the Pacific Decadal Oscillation [PDO] and Arctic Oscillation [AO].

According to the paper:

4.4 Reconstruction of sea-surface conditions

Summer SST [sea surface temperature] reconstructions (Fig. 6c) are characterised by a decreasing trend between ∼ AD 1855–1960 and reconstructed SST between ∼ AD 1885–1935 are warmer by up to 3◦C with respect to the average modern temperature at the coring site which is ∼ 4.1◦C. During ∼ AD 1935–1975 reconstructed SSTs are ∼ 1◦C below the modern value. Within the next 10 yr, the temperature increases up to 5.4◦C (∼ 1987) and gradually decreases towards the modern value of 4.1◦C.

The reconstructed SIC [sea ice coverage] trend mirrors that of reconstructed SSTs (Fig. 6b). The root mean squared error (RMSE) calculated on SIC values, which is the difference between reconstructed and observed values, is 1.43 months yr−1, and reflects the accuracy of the approach. For the period ∼ AD 1887–1945, reconstructed SIC values are  an average 8.3 months yr−1 which is 1.1 months yr−1 lower than the modern values. In contrast, the period AD 1945–1975 is marked by reconstructed SIC values closer to the modern conditions, with an average value of 8.8 months yr−1
A decrease in SIC characterises the period AD 1975–1995, with an average value of 7.6 months yr−1, which is 1.8 months yr−1 below the modern value. Sea ice cover duration then gradually increases toward the modern value. All above reconstructed values are within or very close to the confidence limits of the method.

Sea ice coverage in months per year is shown in the 3rd graph from the left. Modern average sea ice coverage is shown at the top and is amongst the highest values of the entire 150 year record. 
Biogeosciences, 9, 5391-5406, 2012

Quantitative reconstruction of sea-surface conditions over the last 150 yr in the Beaufort Sea based on dinoflagellate cyst assemblages: the role of large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns

L. Durantou1, A. Rochon1, D. Ledu2, G. Massé2, S. Schmidt3, and M. Babin4
1Institut des sciences de la mer (ISMER), Université du Québec à Rimouski, 310 allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, QC, Canada
2LOCEAN Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, UMR7159, 4 Place Jussieu, BP100 75252 Paris Cedex, France
3Université de Bordeaux, EPOC, UMR5805, 33400 Talence, France
4Takuvik Joint Laboratory, Université Laval, Pavillon Alexandre-Vachon, 1045, avenue de la Médecine, local 2064, Quebec city, Canada

Abstract. Dinoflagellate cyst (dinocyst) assemblages have been widely used over the Arctic Ocean to reconstruct sea-surface parameters on a quantitative basis. Such reconstructions provide insights into the role of anthropogenic vs natural forcings in the actual climatic trend. Here, we present the palynological analysis of a dated 36 cm-long core collected from the Mackenzie Trough in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. Dinocyst assemblages were used to quantitatively reconstruct the evolution of sea-surface conditions (temperature, salinity, sea ice) and freshwater palynomorphs fluxes were used as local paleo-river discharge indicators over the last ~ 150 yr. Dinocyst assemblages are dominated by autotrophic taxa (68 to 96%). Cyst of Pentapharsodinium dalei is the dominant species throughout most of the core, except at the top where the assemblages are dominated by Operculodinium centrocarpum. Quantitative reconstructions of sea-surface parameters display a series of relatively warm, lower sea ice and saline episodes in surface waters, alternately with relatively cool and low salinity episodes. Variations of dinocyst fluxes and reconstructed sea-surface conditions may be closely linked to large scale atmospheric circulation patterns such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and to a lesser degree, the Arctic Oscillation (AO). Positive phases of the PDO correspond to increases of dinocyst fluxes, warmer and saltier surface waters, which we associate with upwelling events of warm and relatively saline water from Pacific origin. Freshwater palynomorph fluxes increased in three phases from AD 1857 until reaching maximum values in AD 1991, suggesting that the Mackenzie River discharge followed the same trend when its discharge peaked between AD 1989 and AD 1992. The PDO mode seems to dominate the climatic variations at multi-annual to decadal timescales in the western Canadian Arctic and Beaufort Sea areas.

 Final Revised Paper (PDF, 12486 KB)   Discussion Paper (BGD)   Special Issue

WSJ Op-Ed: Wind power is less economically viable today than 20 years ago

The Multiple Distortions of Wind Subsidies

Producers get so much from the government that they can pay utilities to take their power and still make a profit.

Federal subsidies for new wind-power generation will end on Dec. 31 unless they are renewed by Congress. For the sake of our economy and the smooth operation of the energy market, Congress should let the subsidies lapse. They waste taxpayer money, subvert the allocation of capital, and generate a social cost many times the price tag of the subsides themselves.

Since 1992, the federal government has expended almost $24 billion to encourage investment in wind power through direct spending, tax breaks, R&D, loan guarantees and other federal support of electric power. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that a one-year extension of existing federal subsidies for wind power would cost taxpayers almost $12 billion.

The costs of wind subsidies are extraordinarily high—$52.48 per one million watt hours generated, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By contrast, the subsidies for generating the same amount of electricity from nuclear power are $3.10, from hydropower 84 cents, from coal 64 cents, and from natural gas 63 cents.

In addition, wind power benefits from federal mandates requiring the use of renewable energy by federal agencies along with preferential treatment by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Many states provide additional tax breaks, subsidies and mandates for wind power. The total value of these additional subsidies has never been calculated.

But the cost to taxpayers is only part of the problem. Subsidized, wind-generated electricity is displacing other, much cheaper sources of power. The subsidies are so high that wind-power producers can pay utilities to take the electricity they produce and still make a profit. Such "negative pricing" has occurred for some time in the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest and in Texas—and, according to the Energy Information Administration, it will likely grow.
Bloomberg News

In West Texas, where wind power is a larger percentage of total electricity production than in any other part of the country, negative energy-price distortions have occurred 8% or more of the time for the last five years. Donna Nelson, the chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, warned in September that the market distortion caused by negative prices "makes it difficult for other generation types to recover their cost and discourages investment in new generation."

The net result is that federal subsidies are triggering an inefficient and costly transformation of grid resources from low-cost megawatts to high-cost "maybe" watts—electricity generated only when the wind blows.

When electricity demand peaked in Chicago on July 6, 2012, wind energy, which comprised 2,700 megawatts of capacity, was able to supply only four megawatts of electricity, a stunning 99.8% failure rate. In Europe, one day this February wind power produced almost a third of Germany's electricity—but four days later it produced none (it was a still day).

Power grids that rely on wind-generated electricity have to maintain redundant, backup generating capacity in case the wind isn't blowing and the demand for electricity is high. Many of these backup sources, such as coal and gas-fired plants, have to be kept up and running to be available when they are needed—even if they are not used. This partially offsets the environmental benefits of wind power.

Wind-power is an ancient technology—a Greek mathematician, Heron of Alexandria, is generally credited with building the first windmill 2,000 years ago. Charles Brush, an industrialist, was the first to generate electricity from a windmill in this country in Cleveland almost 125 years ago. But it never proved to be commercially viable.

In the 1990s, the federal government began subsidizing wind power based on the hope that, with a helping hand, the technology would improve rapidly, costs would decline, and the industry would become economically viable. Congressman Phil Sharp (D., Ind.), the original proponent of the subsidies, argued in 1991 for "a sunset provision to ensure that the temporary incentive does not become a permanent subsidy."

But the sun has never set. Again and again—on seven subsequent occasions in all—federal subsidies for wind were extended.

Yet wind power is less economically viable today than it was when the current subsidies started in 1992. After the expected gains in moving from one-off production to assembly-line production, no major technological breakthrough has occurred that would substantially lower the cost of wind-power electricity generation. The Department of Energy's "2009 Wind Technology Market Report" finds average wind-power costs were higher in 2009 than they were in 1994, two years after the subsidies began. As Energy Secretary Steven Chu has observed on more than one occasion, wind energy is a "mature technology."

Meanwhile, as the production of natural gas has surged in the past few years, the price paid for this energy source has declined dramatically, to $3.29 per million BTUs at last report. This is less than one-fourth the July 2008 price, according to Energy Information Administration data.

Declining costs for electricity will give America a comparative advantage in industrial jobs that entail high levels of energy use, such as aluminum, glass, iron and steel, cement and petrochemical production. It also means, however, that wind-power subsidies will become even more costly and disruptive. As Dieter Helm notes in his important new book, "The Carbon Crunch," wind subsidies make "new gas investment much more risky and . . . gas contracting difficult, since how much gas the power station buys as its fuel depends on factors outside its control: the wind speed."

It is increasingly difficult to make a case that taxpayers should continue to subsidize wind-generated electricity. The end of the subsidy will not induce owners of existing windmills to shut them down, since so much of the cost is fixed in the original construction project and so little of their costs are entailed in operating the windmill once it is constructed. Under current law, billions of dollars in subsidies will continue to be paid out over the next decade on existing projects even if the subsidies for projects built in the future expire.

If unimpeded, the expanded use of cheap natural gas to generate electricity will raise living standards and attract millions of new industrial jobs back to our shores. A vote to stop wind subsidies from being extended is, therefore, a vote for cheaper, more reliable power, higher living standards, reindustrialization and fiscal sanity.
Mr. Gramm, a former Republican U.S. senator from Texas, is a senior partner of US Policy Metrics and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

WSJ: 'The climate-change justification for a carbon tax is bogus'

Will the Carbon Tax Make a Comeback?

A proposed levy on energy use sparked outrage and was abandoned. The president, it was said, had been 'BTU-ed.'

'I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you've made me a better president." So said President Barack Obama after winning re-election. But on the subject of energy it isn't clear what he has learned. If news reports are accurate, the president's second-term agenda may include pushing for a carbon tax ostensibly to reduce the deficit and address climate change.
Before getting too carried away with the wonders of a carbon tax, Mr. Obama might want to talk to former President Bill Clinton, who attempted a similar gambit almost 20 years ago.
The centerpiece of Mr. Clinton's first budget was a tax on energy use, as measured in British thermal units, or BTUs. At that time, McGraw-Hill's Data Resources Incorporated estimated that the so-called BTU tax would raise more than $30 billion in federal revenue annually ($50 billion in today's dollars). That translated into $500 in additional taxes per family, or $800 today. No segment of the economy would have been exempt from the tax, which the Competitive Enterprise Institute estimated would cost 700,000 American jobs over three years.

The proposal provoked a brutal backlash, to the surprise of no one but the Clinton White House, environmental advocates, and liberal members of Congress such as Henry Waxman (D., Calif.). The vocal anti-BTU coalition included small businesses, the agriculture sector, the building trades, the transportation industry, manufacturers and even social-service organizations that relied on gasoline and heating oil to care for the poor and homeless.
A few months after Mr. Clinton proposed the tax, the administration and Democrats in Congress abandoned the idea. As the great English writer Samuel Johnson observed, there is nothing like a hanging to concentrate the mind. "BTU" became a verb, and from then on no politician wanted to be "BTU-ed." A year later, in November 1994, voters gave control of the House to Republicans for the first time in decades.
Associated Press
Promoting an initiative for energy-efficient construction, President Obama tours a building site with former President Bill Clinton in Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2011.

Yet now the BTU tax may be resurrected as a carbon tax. Not only is the president reportedly exploring the possibility, but the American Enterprise Institute has held meetings over the past six months on the design and operation of carbon taxes, and the National Academy of Sciences is studying—with funding from the Treasury Department—"the basic building blocks of the tax system, but not from a job creation or growth perspective. Instead, the question is what levels of greenhouse gas are currently produced by its provisions."
A carbon tax is intellectually elegant to economists but dangerous and complex in practice. The theoretical basis is to raise taxes on things considered bad (carbon from energy consumption) and to lower taxes on things considered good (labor, for example).
But energy is consumed to produce things that people value, and there are no near-term substitutes for fossil fuels. So a carbon tax would affect food prices, consumer goods, electricity, mobility, charitable works and more. It would also destroy jobs, and a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that it would "impose a larger burden on low-income households."
A carbon tax would be especially harmful for an economy on the verge of slipping back into recession. Yet some in Washington will support it in any season, for it would raise a lot of revenue for the federal government without directly imposing higher taxes on consumers and business. (The taxes would be imposed on producers of fossil energy, which in turn would pass the cost through to customers in the form of higher prices.) Surely Congress would make adjustments to mitigate adverse impacts on lower-income citizens. This would yield the kind of inefficient complexity of the current tax code, but it would also allow politicians to claim that they aren't really hurting the economy.
A carbon tax is a slippery slope. Once in place, small changes in rates would yield large increases in federal revenue. Who is naive enough to believe that Congress wouldn't be tempted to make small increases that accumulate over time?
Across Europe, value-added taxes (VATs) target consumption just as a carbon tax would—and over the years those tax rates have only gone up. In Germany, for example, an initial VAT rate of 10% has climbed to 19%, and in France the rate is 19.6%, up from 13.6% initially. Several European countries have VAT rates above 20%.
What's more, the climate-change justification for a carbon tax is bogus. Greenhouse-gas emissions are rising in China and other emerging economies, not in the United States. Carbon-dioxide emissions in the U.S. have been declining and by 2035 will return to 2005 levels, the Energy Information Administration projects.
Advances in climate science, meanwhile, raise even more doubt about the assertion that human activities are the primary cause of warming. Former NASA scientist Roy Spencer, for example, has shown that temperatures since 1976 have risen and stabilized in parallel with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a natural climate pattern affecting all sorts of natural phenomena. An increasing number of experts now admit that natural variability is poorly understood and poorly reflected in the models that are the foundation of so much climate-change dread.
All this should factor into Mr. Obama's decision making as he considers calling for a carbon tax on Americans. Will he repeat the Clinton administration's experience and be BTU-ed?
Mr. O'Keefe, a former executive vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, is CEO of George C. Marshall Institute.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New paper finds IPCC climate models substantially exaggerate wind speeds

A paper published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research compares observations of wind speeds over China from 1971-2005 to the results from 9 IPCC AR5 climate models for the same period and finds that all 9 models show a "substantial positive bias," i.e. a substantial exaggeration, of wind speeds. The paper adds to many other peer-reviewed papers demonstrating that IPCC climate models greatly exaggerate extreme weather, cyclone activity, wind storms, droughts, and floods.

Key Points
  • Nine CMIP-5 AOGCMs display positive bias in near-surface wind speeds over China
  • The AOGCMs do not indicate any long-term tendency over the historical period
  • Projected wind climates over China are insensitive to the RCP scenario applied
Lian Chen
Sara C. Pryor
Dongliang Li
The ability of nine current generation (CMIP-5) coupled Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs) to accurately simulate the near-surface wind climate over China is evaluated by comparing output from the historical period (1971−2005) with an observational data set and reanalysis output. Results suggest the AOGCMs show substantial positive bias in the mean 10-m wind speed relative to observations and the ERA-40, NCEP/DOE and NCEP/NCAR reanalysis. Given the models generally produce the upper-level geopotential height gradients comparative well, it is postulated that one major reason for the discrepancy between observed and modeled wind fields is the surface characterization used in the AOGCMs. All models exhibit lower inter-annual variability than reanalysis data and observations, and none of the models reproduce the recent decline in wind speed manifest in the near-surface observations. The wind speed of individual model runs during the historical period do not exhibit much influence from the initial atmospheric conditions. Output for the current century from seven of the AOGCMs is examined relative to the contemporary wind climate. The results indicate that spatial fields of wind speed at end of the 21st century are very similar to those of the last 35 years with comparatively little response to the precise Representative Concentration Pathway scenario applied.

New paper finds climate models exaggerate predictions of tropical cyclones

A new paper published in The Journal of Climate admits that climate models are greatly exaggerating the likelihood that global warming increases tropical cyclone activity or intensity. According to the authors, "temperature trends in NCEP [the National Center for Environmental Protection database] are unlikely to be accurate, and likely drive spuriously positive TC [tropical cyclone] and PI [potential intensity] trends, and an inflated connection between absolute surface temperature warming and TC [tropical cyclone] activity increases." Indeed, as observations show no increase in global cyclone activity. 

Impacts of Atmospheric Temperature Trends on Tropical Cyclone Activity

Gabriel A. Vecchi,1 Stephan Fueglistaler,2 Isaac M. Held,1 Thomas R. Knutson,1 and Ming Zhao1,3
1 NOAA/GFDL, Princeton, NJ 08540 USA
2 Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540 USA
3 UCAR, Boulder, CO USA

Impacts of tropical temperature changes in the upper troposphere (UT) and the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) on tropical cyclone (TC) activity are explored. UT and lower TTL cooling both lead to an overall increase in potential intensity (PI), while temperatures 70hPa and higher have negligible effect. Idealized experiments with a high-resolution global model show that lower temperatures in the UT are associated with increases in global and North Atlantic TC frequency, but modeled TC frequency changes are not significantly affected by TTL temperature changes nor do they scale directly with PI.

Future projections of hurricane activity have been made with models that simulate the recent upward Atlantic TC trends while assuming or simulating very different tropical temperature trends. Recent Atlantic TC trends have been simulated by: i) high-resolution global models with nearly moist-adiabatic warming profiles, and ii) regional TC downscaling systems that impose the very strong UT and TTL trends of the NCEP Reanalysis, an outlier among observational estimates. Impact of these differences in temperature trends on TC activity is comparable to observed TC changes, affecting assessments of the connection between hurricanes and climate. Therefore, understanding the character of and mechanisms behind changes in UT and TTL temperature is important to understanding past and projecting future TC activity changes. We conclude that the UT and TTL temperature trends in NCEP are unlikely to be accurate, and likely drive spuriously positive TC and PI trends, and an inflated connection between absolute surface temperature warming and TC activity increases.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another day, another non-hockey-stick

A paper published today in Quaternary Research reconstructs June-July air temperature over the past 785 years in British Columbia, Canada. The paper shows that reconstructed temperatures at the end of the record in 2010 were colder than in the 1940's and during at least 6 other periods within the Little Ice Age from 1350-1850 AD. The temperature record shows there is nothing unusual, unnatural, unprecedented, or accelerated about the 20th and 21st centuries.
Top graph shows reconstructed temperatures from 1225-2010. The reconstructed temperatures of 2010 have been exceeded many times over the past 785 years, even during the Little Ice Age

Tree-ring derived Little Ice Age temperature trends from the central British Columbia Coast Mountains, Canada

  • University of Victoria Tree-Ring Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 3R4


Most glaciers in the British Columbia Coast Mountains reached their maximum Holocene extent during the Little Ice Age. Early- and late-Little Ice Age intervals of expansion and retreat fluctuations describe a mass-balance response to changing climates. Although existing dendroclimatic records provide insights into these climatic fluctuations over the last 400 yr, their short durations prohibit evaluation of early-Little Ice Age climate variability. To extend the duration of these records, submerged coarse woody debris salvaged from a high-elevation lake was cross-dated to living chronologies. The resulting chronology provides the opportunity to reconstruct a regional June–July air-temperature anomaly record extending from AD 1225 to 2010. The reconstruction shows that the intervals AD 1350–1420, 1475–1550, 1625–1700 and 1830–1940 characterized distinct periods of below-average June–July temperature followed by periods of above-average temperature. Our reconstruction provides the first annually resolved insights into high-elevation climates spanning the Little Ice Age in this region and indicates that Little Ice Age moraine stabilization corresponds to persistent intervals of warmer-than-average temperatures. We conclude that coarse woody debris submerged in high-elevation lakes has considerable potential for developing lengthy proxy climate records, and we recommend that researchers focus attention on this largely ignored paleoclimatic archive.