Assembling a Climate “Red Team” or “Team B”
Climate Change Weekly #247
Two prominent physicists, William Happer, Ph.D., the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics (emeritus) at Princeton University, and Steven Koonin, Ph.D., director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, recently made similar proposals concerning how the government and the public could come to an accurate understanding of the state of climate science and a clearer picture of policy options.
In addition to their academic positions, both Happer and Koonin have served in the Department of Energy (DOE): Happer as director of DOE’s Office of Energy Research, and Koonin as Undersecretary of Energy for Science. They understand the incentives and pressures researchers seeking grant dollars face to produce results likely to secure them tenure and continued funding.
Happer and Koonin share the opinion human influence on climate is so small we are unable to tease out the human impact from natural background factors that drive climate change. They also say we lack sufficient knowledge concerning the causes and consequences of climate change to formulate sound climate policy. Their proposals aim to remedy the gaps in knowledge in both areas.
In his closing luncheon keynote address at The Heartland Institute’s 12th International Conference on Climate Change on March 24, Happer proposed President Donald Trump convene a “blue ribbon Team B” panel to examine how well climate research is working, how well we understand the factors that affect climate, and whether the information climate researchers are providing is factual and evidence-based.
The ultimate goal of the Team B, Happer said, would be to “bring the facts about climate to the American people.”
Subsequently, in an April 21, pre-Earth Day/March for Science editorial in The Wall Street Journal, Koonin proposed Trump implement a “Red Team/Blue Team” exercise aimed at testing the assumptions, analyses, and data surrounding climate change and accurately identify the risks presented by climate change. The goal would be to better understand, and to the extent possible reduce, the uncertainties currently endemic in climate research and policy proposals. Koonin wrote the Red Team/Blue Team process would be more “rigorous than traditional peer review, which is usually confidential and always adjudicated, rather than public and moderated.” He also pointed out such a process is considered routine and best practice in other areas of high consequence such as intelligence assessments and aircraft and spacecraft design.
Among the myriad benefits of the Red/Blue analysis of the current state of climate research and knowledge would be “[i]t would produce a traceable public record that would allow the public and decision makers a better understanding of certainties and uncertainties. It would more firmly establish points of agreement and identify urgent research needs … [and] the inherent tension of a professional adversarial process would enhance public interest, offering many opportunities to show laymen how science actually works.”
Trump has yet to fill most positions at cabinet departments, agencies, and advisory bodies open to him. Some he may not fill at all, believing certain positions are unjustified drains on public resources. That said, quickly appointing a director of the President’s Office of Science and Technology – the president’s science advisor – - would undermine some of the complaints made against Trump that he is anti-science. That science advisor, forming a Red Team or Team B to study climate change, should take some of the heat out of the climate change debate and shed much-needed light on the true state of the climate and climate research, while providing a way forward for scientifically grounded and effective energy and climate policies.
– H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
A new study in Nature examines ice cores from the Antarctic to determine how plants have responded to increases and decreases in carbon dioxide levels throughout history. The researchers aim to explain why, with all the carbon dioxide humans have added to the atmosphere in the past century, measured carbon dioxide levels aren’t higher than they are. The researchers determined “plants are converting 31 percent more carbon dioxide into organic matter than they were before the Industrial Revolution.” As a result, across the globe “plants have been growing at a rate far faster than at any other time in the last 54,000 years.” This lush growth is replenishing forests, reclaiming deserts, and contributing to record crop yields.
“It’s the whole Earth – it’s every plant,” said lead author, J. Elliot Campbell of the University of California – Merced.
According to the research, the extra plant growth from the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is 28 billion tons each year, or 300 percent more than the entire amount of carbon stored in all the crops harvested on Earth annually.
Commenting on the importance of the new study, Max Berkelhammer, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told The New York Times, “the research would serve as a benchmark for climate projections. ‘It means we can build more accurate models.’”
A recent paper in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews finds, “[w]hile many modelled scenarios have been published claiming to show that a 100% renewable electricity system is achievable, there is no empirical or historical evidence that demonstrates that such systems are in fact feasible.” This paper is a survey and analysis of the research by green energy boosters who’ve produced a number of studies in recent years claiming fossil fuels can be entirely replaced in the electricity sector.
This paper finds 24 studies claiming fossil fuels could be entirely replaced with off-the-shelf technologies “have provided sufficient detail ... to be considered potentially credible.” Analyzing those studies’ assertions in light of mainstream estimates of expected energy demand and the technical reliability needs and requirements of modern electric systems under a variety of climate conditions, the researchers found, “none of the 24 studies provides convincing evidence that these basic feasibility criteria can be met.” Half of the studies failed to use realistic estimates of energy demand and multiple studies posited gross expansion of the use of hydropower and biomass raising serious environmental and social justice concerns – including increased air pollution, species deaths, deforestation, and forcibly removing impoverished peoples from their traditional homelands.
Ultimately, the review concluded the research claiming alternative energy sources can seamlessly and effectively replace fossil fuels for electric power generation is unpersuasive, substantially underestimating the challenges posed by such a wholescale shift in global or regional energy use.
It seems the United Kingdom is trying to back out of its share of the carbon dioxide emission reductions it agreed to as part of the European Union’s emission commitments under the Paris climate agreement. The U.K. had agreed to help the E.U. cut emissions, but U.K. voters decided to take the country out of the E.U. Citing an anonymous person involved with the matter, Bloomberg reports the U.K.’s Treasury and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy are seeking ways to scrap the country’s Paris commitment without being penalized for missing its reduction targets. An unnamed government official told Bloomberg the U.K. wishes to “avoid further constraints on its energy mix stemming from the EU.”
The U.K.’s attempt to cancel its Paris agreement commitments comes as PV Magazine is reporting the nation is likely to miss its emission targets as it is determined to cut back, rather than increase, its subsidies for wind and solar power.
It is unclear whether the U.K. will be able to scrap its commitments to cut carbon dioxide and still meet other goals it has for interactions with the E.U. post-Brexit.
“Criticized for its desire to ‘cherry pick’ the benefits of EU membership, the U.K. could be on course for more flashpoints where energy is concerned. In the European Parliament this week, MEPs ruled that industry-specific deals between the U.K. and the EU will not be allowed, and any future deal between the two bodies is conditional on the U.K. upholding the climate and energy goals it agreed to while under EU membership,” reports PV Magazine.
An international team of researchers made up of physicists, oceanographers, and meteorologists from Canada, Sweden, and the U.K. confirms what other research has shown but climate alarmists continue to deny: Increased warming should decrease, not increase, extreme weather.
According to the research, if temperatures start to rise again, the hydrologic cycle will intensify but be less able to do such work as “fueling more very intense storms.” That will hamper the formation of high winds, storms, and hurricanes. The researchers found as temperatures rise, the hydrologic cycle reduces the amount of kinetic energy in the atmosphere. They write, “As much as we may associate the hydrological cycle with severe weather and heavy precipitation, it is also responsible for nice, sunny weather, which occurs when air masses gradually regain some of the water vapor lost during an earlier rainfall. The hydrological cycle reduces the average intensity of the winds around Earth mostly by generating pleasant weather around large portions of the globe.” More warming, less extreme weather – not a bad result.