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Contra New York Times Scare Story, Trump Is Trying to Improve Climate Forecasts

May 31, 2019

Climate Change Weekly #325

Editor’s Note: The New York Times (NYT) recently published another in a long series of editorials (and jeremiads) posing as news items claiming the Trump administration is undermining the science used to guide regulations in general and climate science in particular. Merrill Matthews Jr., Ph.D., a longtime friend and colleague, penned a response to the NYT’s most recent broadside against Trump’s efforts to improve the science used by regulatory agencies, writing for the Institute for Policy Innovation.

Matthews was kind enough to allow me to reprint the article here. Climate models, like models used by every other discipline, are beset by basic problems, including inadequate or missing information, poorly understood parameters, and assumptions filling in for nonexistent data, resulting in models’ projections about the future being tentative in the extreme and needing correction in the light of new data or the discovery of previously unknown facts or improved understanding of facts or relationships. The farther out models’ projections are from the time they are made, the less reliable they are, with small initial errors magnified exponentially over time. Here’s Matthews’ takedown of the Times article and the point of view it represents.

Trump's Climate Modeling Reform Heats Up His Critics

The Trump administration has made, and is still making, adjustments in the way the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies approach climate change and make the predictions that drive climate policies. Not everyone is pleased, to put it mildly.

New York Times reporters Coral Davenport and Mark Landler, in a piece that sounds more like a screed than a news story, can barely contain themselves.

“Now, after two years spent unraveling the [environmental] policies of his predecessors,” they write, “Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.”

They continue: “In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. …

“And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.”

And what is this “science” the president seeks to “undermine”? Climate models.

“As a result, parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century,” Davenport and Lander write.

Interesting concept: “reporting on the future effects.” One might be forgiven for thinking that reporting is supposed to describe things that have actually happened. It’s not entirely clear how one can report on something that hasn’t happened and may never happen.

What the Trump administration is actually doing is limiting the predictive scope of climate models to the year 2040—20 years in the future.

There’s a reason for that: climate models have often overestimated future warming and other climate changes.

And the further one looks into the future, the less reliable any predictions will be. That’s not just true of climate models; it’s true of all econometric models.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) econometric models often overestimate the negative impact of tax increases and underestimate the positive impact of tax cuts, even though the CBO usually predicts just 10 years into the future.

The point here isn’t whether climate change is occurring; it’s whether climate change models accurately predict future changes.

Environmentalists believe they do and are pushing for radical policy changes that would dramatically disrupt if not devastate the economy and the U.S. standard of living, based on questionable long-term climate predictions.

Of course, nothing stops academics and environmental groups from continuing their climate modeling independently and taking their findings to the press.

The president’s policy, however, merely accepts what these two “reporters” deny: the future of the economy and country is far too important to be based on sometimes questionable climate models.

  • Guest essayist Merrill Matthews Jr. (policyguy1@aol.com) is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.

SOURCES: New York Times; Institute for Policy Innovation; Tax Policy Center; Washington Post


IN THIS ISSUE …

U.S. sets record for freedom from droughts … Oceanic cycles drive Arctic ice losses … Climate costs drive Australian election surprise


U.S. SETS RECORD FOR FREEDOM FROM DROUGHTS

One of the most persistent and persistently disproven but still oft-repeated claims made by global warming alarmists is human-caused climate change is causing or will cause an increase in the number, length, and severity of droughts. James Hansen, when he was director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was one of the first people to promulgate this myth publicly, in testimony before Congress in 1988. Hansen said he was 99 percent certain humans were causing climate change and one symptom would be increasing droughts in the coming years.  Since Hansen testified, the United States has had some of its wettest years on record.

In fact, despite carbon dioxide concentrations topping 415 parts per million, 65 parts per million higher than when Hansen testified, for the first time in recorded U.S. history, no part of the continental United States is in either severe or extreme drought, and less than 10 percent of the United States faces modest drought (meaning between 2 and 2.0 inches below normal rainfall for the year).

Climate researcher Roger Pielke Jr. reports the week of May 15 marked

… the first time in the record that [more than] 90 percent of the US has experienced conditions of NO drought, … [and] since 2000, the linear trend in the data indicates that the overall proportion of the US experiencing no drought conditions increased from about 50 percent to about 60 percent, [and] according to the Drought Monitor, more than 283 million people currently live in regions experiencing no drought. This is the most people in the history of the U.S. to experience no drought conditions at once.

Geological records indicate at times in the past parts of the United States have experienced droughts lasting decades and even hundreds of years. With drought nearly nonexistent for the first time in recorded history and the trend indicating less, not more drought, may we put the final nail in the coffin of the myth of human-induced droughts?

SOURCES: Roger Pielke, Jr.; Real Climate Science


OCEANIC CYCLES DRIVE ARCTIC ICE LOSSES

Busting the myth that the sharp decline in Arctic sea ice in the early 2000s was due to anthropogenic climate change, an article in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters shows the ice loss was due to natural factors, primarily periodic decadal shifts in the Pacific and Atlantic ocean currents and associated shifts in surface wind patterns.

The authors write,

“Why did the trend of Arctic sea ice loss accelerate after about 2000? We show that a combination of decadally varying tropical sea surface temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic drove seasonally dependent patterns of stronger surface winds and sea ice drifts over the Arctic that produced accelerated decreases of Arctic sea ice concentrations after 2000.”

SOURCE: Geophysical Research Letters (behind paywall)


CLIMATE COSTS DRIVE AUSTRALIAN ELECTION SURPRISE

Defying the press, the pundits, the pollsters, and the punters (bettors), Australia’s Liberal (=conservative) party won the national election, emerging with more seats in Parliament than it had before the elections.

The New York Times wrote,

The polls said this would be Australia’s climate change election, when voters confronted harsh reality and elected leaders who would tackle the problem. … But overall, Australians shrugged off the warming. …. On Saturday, in a result that stunned most analysts, they re-elected the conservative coalition that has long resisted plans to sharply cut down on carbon emissions and coal.

Until the votes were counted, Australia’s federal election was universally held to be “unlosable” for the Labor Party, which made the fight against climate change and ending the use of fossil fuels the centerpiece of its platform. The election was considered such a lock for Labor at least one big betting house, Sportsbet, paid out on a Labor win two days before the election, in order to stop taking bets on it. Tweeting, “We’ve paid out early on Labor to win the Federal Election. #ausvotes19 We thought we'd simply give them their cash early,” Sportsbet’s mistake cost the company more than $1 million Australian in payouts on an ultimately losing bet. The company then, of course, had to pay those who bet the Liberal/National coalition would win, tweeting about its previous announcement and payout, “This didn’t age well...#ausvotes.”

Labor had reason to be confident of a win. As National Review writes, the party “enjoyed a healthy lead over the Coalition in more than 60 successive polls since the 2016 election. Even an allegedly infallible exit poll promised Labor a total of 82 seats in the 151-member Parliament. Instead Labor finished the election with 67 seats in Parliament, two fewer than it began the day with.”

The Liberal/National coalition won because while Labor played up its hatred of reliable fossil fuel sources of energy, to motivate its radical, liberal, urban-elite constituency, the Liberals pointed out how Labor’s climate policies would undermine the nation’s energy system, increase costs, and result in widespread unemployment. The result: the Liberal/National coalition crushed Labor where working people live: suburban and rural areas.

Labor promised to raise revenue through policies meant to curb global warming, acknowledging it would increase energy costs on blue-collar workers and other low-income people who were already struggling to pay their bills, and that it would cost jobs. Shortly before the election, Labor sent protestors to the sites of proposed coal mines where the locals, who wanted the jobs and the prosperity the mines would lead to, gave them a rough welcome, refusing to serve them food or drinks and getting into shoving matches with the anti-coal outside agitators.

According to National Review, former Prime Minister Tony Abbot summed up the election thus:

When climate change is solely a moral issue, Labor wins; when it’s an economic one too, the Coalition wins. The scales tip farther rightward when the voters are informed that Australia’s contribution to carbon emissions is nugatory and that the Greens don’t seem interested in asking China or India to cut their much greater carbon emissions. The Left in politics and the media advertised this as “the climate change election.” And they lost.

There is never a good time for bad public policy, and restricting the use of or increasing taxes on fossil fuels, actions that will do nothing to prevent climate change, are among the worst policies I can imagine.

Australia’s election results, and the results of recent elections elsewhere I described in Climate Change Weekly 322, indicate this fact is dawning on a growing number of people.

U.S. Democrat politicians who are making the fight against climate change a defining issue for their party could learn this in 2020. So could moderate Republicans who, while rejecting crazy schemes like the Green New Deal (GND), want to virtue-signal they too care about climate change by offering their own “light” versions of the GND socialist nightmare.

SOURCES: National Review; New York Times; BTBC;  Climate Change Weekly
Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org
Author
Merrill Matthews, Ph.D., is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, a research-based, public policy think tank.
mmatthews@ipi.org @MerrillMatthews

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