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Climate Disaster Paper a Disaster of Bad Science

July 7, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #255

There’s a saying in computer science—“garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO)—referring to the fact computers, operating solely on logical processes, will unquestioningly process flawed, even nonsensical, input data (garbage in) and produce often nonsensical output (garbage out). GIGO in fact applies not just to computers but to all types of analyses and logical arguments.

A recent paper in Science, “Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States,” brings GIGO to mind. The paper, much heralded by the press, claims the damages from human-caused climate change have been woefully underestimated by previous analyses. The mainstream media displayed its usual fawning deference to the authors’ conclusions, displaying nary an iota of skepticism.

The paper concludes, “The combined value of market and nonmarket damage across analyzed sectors—agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor—increases quadratically in global mean temperature, costing roughly 1.2 percent of gross domestic product per +1°C on average … [with the result being] By the late 21st century, the poorest third of counties are projected to experience damages between 2 and 20 percent of county income (90 percent chance) under business-as-usual emissions.”

Alarming if true, but there are good reasons to believe it is a gross instance of GIGO. As Larry Kummer of website Fabius Maximus points out, the study acknowledges significant uncertainties concerning such critical factors as the amount of future warming, regional weather patterns, policy responses, and economic and technological development. Still the study itself, and the scientists quoted in the press coverage surrounding it, follow a narrative developed and strictly enforced by climate alarmists (including those who fashion themselves environmental “journalists”): the effects of climate change can only be bad (ignore any possible beneficial affects); where there are uncertainties or factors that can’t be adequately accounted for, the effects can only be worse than previously expected or projected, never better; and finally, as Kummer writes, “the only true experts are those writing about extreme adverse effects of warming. No matter how eminent, anyone speaking otherwise is bogus.”

For instance, Pennsylvania State University’s Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann said the study “can at best only provide a very lower limit on the extent of damages likely to result from projected climate changes.” And Gernot Wagner, an economist at Harvard University and the Environmental Defense Fund, praised the study saying, “For a quarter century, economists have made (lame) assumptions on climate damages. The adults have entered the room.”

The multiple problems with the study build upon one another. First, the study takes as gospel the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5), the climate model framework used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment report (AR5). Yet numerous recent papers show CMIP5 and AR5 grossly overestimate the warming Earth experiences from additional units of carbon dioxide. For instance, a recent paper in Climate Dynamics examining 38 CMIP climate models finds each of the models’ simulations projected multi-decadal warming in the Pacific over the past half-century exceeding the actual measured temperatures. “Models which simulate the greatest global warming over the past half-century also project warming that is among the highest of all models by the end of the twenty-first century, .... Given that the same models are poorest in representing observed multidecadal temperature change, confidence in the highest projections is reduced.” Garbage In No. 1.

In addition, the Science study uses for its projections RCP8.5, the most extreme of the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), the estimate of the rate of radiative forcings from future greenhouse gas concentrations. Yet it labels this scenario “business as usual.” Even AR5 does not consider RCP8.5 the business as usual scenario; rather, it is the worst-case scenario, assuming an extremely high fertility rate; static or even a reversal in energy technology; increasing, rather than demonstrated decreasing, carbon dioxide intensity as economic growth occurs; a massive resurgence in coal use in old, not state-of-the-art, power plants; limited growth in non-carbon, or low-carbon, emitting energy sources; and stagnant fuel economy gains and electric vehicle penetration. The Science study basically predicts a future based upon the technology of the past, ignoring technological advancements over the past 20 years that continue. Garbage In No. 2.

The end result: “Our market estimates are for a 1.0 to 3.0 percent loss of annual national average GDP under RCP8.5 at the end of the century,” says the paper. Garbage out!

Even if this paper’s doom and gloom predictions were true, the result, as Roger Pielke, Jr. points out, is, “US GDP in 2015 was ~$18 trillion. In 2100 at 2% annual GDP growth it will be ~$97 trillion. Under the scenario presented in this paper it will be $94 trillion. … On the one hand, 3% of 2100 GDP is a big number, on the other hand under this same scenario, GDP is still expected to increase by >500 percent.”

Basing policies on assumptions rife with uncertainties and scenarios that don’t reflect the reality of present demographic, climatic, or economic trends would be foolish for any government.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Climate Etc., Fabius Maximus, Climate Dynamics, and Science


IN THIS ISSUE …

Consensus forming: Hiatus realStudy shows world can’t run on green energyDust degrades solar energyCarbon dioxide confusion


CONSENSUS FORMING: HIATUS REAL

A new paper in Nature: Geoscience acknowledges what climate realists have long pointed out: Climate models grossly overstate the amount of measured warming and, in particular, they fail to account for a recent 18-year period in which carbon dioxide emissions rose, yet there was an extended pause in surface warming. This paper is important because it is written by among the most vocal scientific climate alarmists. The lead author of the study, Benjamin Santer, a scientist implicated in the Climategate scandal, has always been quick to deride climate realists. In 2015 when Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz discussed the global warming “hiatus” during a congressional hearing, the Daily Caller writes Santer and Carl Mears “authored a lengthy blog post in 2016 critical of Cruz’s contention there was an 18-year ‘hiatus’ in warming that climate models didn’t predict.” In addition, Santer recently co-authored a paper purporting to “debunk statements EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made that global warming had ‘leveled off.’”

Yet in this new paper, Santer and his co-authors basically admit skeptical politicians like Cruz and Pruitt and numerous scientists were right: Climate models fail to replicate the warming pause in the early twenty-first century. In the Nature paper, Santer, et al. (including Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann) write, “In the early twenty-first century, satellite-derived tropospheric warming trends were generally smaller than trends estimated from a large multi-model ensemble. ... Over most of the early twenty-first century ... model tropospheric warming is substantially larger than observed … partly due to systematic deficiencies in some of the post-2000 external forcings used in the model simulations.”

SOURCES: Daily Caller, Nature: Geoscience (behind paywall), and Investor’s Business Daily


STUDY SHOWS WORLD CAN’T RUN ON GREEN ENERGY

A new report published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) destroys claims Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson and others made in a 2015 PNAS paper that all power in the United States—for electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry—could be provided by low cost wind, solar, and hydropower. The new study, co-authored by 21 scientists, found Jacobson’s paper contained “implausible assumptions” about expected energy technology breakthroughs, like underground thermal energy storage, concentrated solar power, and hydrogen-powered aircraft; made significant modeling errors; and failed to adequately account for the transmission infrastructure needed to move electricity from intermittent renewable energy resources in windy and sunny locales across the United States to regions with little wind or that are regularly overcast.

According to Climate Wire, lead author Christopher Clack’s team concluded the Jacobson et al. 2015 paper makes extraordinary claims but does not provide the evidence to back them up, thus the 2015 paper “can, at best, be described as a poorly executed exploration of an interesting hypothesis. ... It should not have been published, in our opinion,” said Clack.

SOURCES: Climatewire (behind paywall) and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


DUST DEGRADES SOLAR ENERGY

Fast-growing developing countries including China, India, and countries on the Arabian Peninsula are installing solar panels to fight air pollution and prevent the growth of carbon dioxide emissions while increasing energy production. This study shows solar energy production is diminished considerably in desert regions, in fast-growing, highly polluted areas, and, seasonally, in areas that still practice slash-and-burn agriculture. The deposition of sand, dust, and particulate matter on solar panels and ambient PM blocking the amount of sunlight reaching the panels negatively affects solar energy productions.

Using dust samples collected from multiple solar panels after different intervals between cleanings, the researchers estimated solar energy production is currently reduced 17 to 25 percent in these regions, with roughly equal contributions from ambient PM and PM deposited on photovoltaic surfaces. Based on current solar generation capacity, this means PM is responsible for 1 gigawatt (GW) (1,000 megawatts) loss of solar-generated electric power in India and 11 GW reduction of solar electricity in China.

The cleaning frequency for solar panels is a critical factor in solar energy generation. If the time between cleanings is doubled (from every month to every two months), the amount of solar energy lost increases by 200 percent.

Ambient PM also reduces the amount of solar energy produced by as much as 16 percent in parts of India, 15 percent in the most polluted regions of China, and 25 percent in the Sahara region.

SOURCE: Environmental Science and Technology Letters


CARBON DIOXIDE CONFUSION

Demonstrating again the huge gaps in knowledge in climate science concerning the sources of carbon dioxide, and thus the tenuous nature of the assumptions built into climate models about the sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, it seems although anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide have leveled off in recent years, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose at the highest rate on record (a relatively short record, I might add) in 2015 and 2016.

The Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station in Tasmania, as well as other stations around the world, show carbon dioxide’s rate of increase rose considerably in 2015 and 2016, despite the fact the amount of carbon dioxide humans are emitting seems (based on countries’ self-reporting) to have stabilized.

Human emissions have leveled off in part because emissions from the United States have fallen as natural gas has supplanted coal for a large part of electric power generation, and because China, the largest greenhouse gas emitter, has seen a severe economic slowdown.

The New York Times reports many scientists studying the issue suspect the particularly strong El Niño climate pattern from 2015 through 2016 caused the carbon dioxide spike, as previous El Niños have produced rapid carbon dioxide increases.

As Sam Cleland, manager of Tasmania’s air measuring station, told The New York Times, “It’s really important that people get that there’s an awful lot that’s just not known yet.”

Tell it to the press and the politicians.

SOURCE: The New York Times

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland research fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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