Record Cold Muddies Warming Claims
Climate Change Weekly #273
Much of the United States and Canada is in a winter freeze the likes of which has rarely been seen across such a vast swath of the continent. As we rang in the new year on January 1, the average temperature for the continental United States was a bone-chilling 11 degrees Fahrenheit, with more than 85 percent of the country experiencing below-freezing temperatures and nearly one-third of the nation facing temperatures 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Daily record low and record low high temperatures have been set or tied in dozens of cities and towns across the United States in the past week, with several cities breaking cold weather records that are more than 100 years old. On top of the cold, much of the Unites States is experiencing record-setting snow fall and snow accumulations.
And it’s not just North America beset by record-setting cold and snow. The Daily Mail reports “Plunging temperatures have been blamed for dozens of deaths in Europe with cold front moving through [with] weather ha[ving] left villages cut off, caus[ing] power outages, frozen rivers and lakes across the continent [and] The Met Office has issued a snow warning for Scotland, Wales, and eastern England from Wednesday to Friday.”
The story is no different halfway around the world in China, where residents are experiencing the coldest winter they’ve faced in more than 30 years. Some parts of the country are expected to face temperatures as low as –50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not surprisingly given his penchant for snarky tweets, President Donald Trump sent out a December 29 missive, tweeting, “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against.”
The media was quick to critique Trump’s tweet, noting no single cold spell or winter storm is proof humans aren’t causing global warming. After all, the talking heads write or say, there is a difference between weather and climate. This is true. One wishes they were as cognizant of this fact when they breathlessly report claims made by scientists that a single flood or hurricane, or a busy hurricane season, provide evidence humans are causing warming. Guess what? That’s weather, not climate, as well. Weather isn’t climate, but a region’s climate is no more than its weather patterns and history accumulated, measured, and/or averaged over long periods of time.
Based on climate models, scientists have repeatedly predicted climate change should be causing more frequent and more powerful hurricanes and, as a 2014 article in the Daily Caller reminds me, scientists and pundits have repeatedly predicted snow and ice and extended record cold spells should be waning and on the way out. In February 2014, The New York Times ran an article titled, “The End of Snow,” yet less than a month later the U.S. East Coast was getting pounded with record cold and snow (some of those records are now being broken by the current cold spell). Indeed, the polar vortex that hit the United States and other parts of the globe in the winter of 2014/2015 was one of the worst on record.
In 2000, a scientist in the U.K. said global warming would make snowfall a very rare and exciting event, saying “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.” In 2004, other scientists warned Scotland’s ski industry was set to collapse as warming ended snowfall there. Where were the reporters following up with these scientists in 2014 when record cold and snowfall descended across the United Kingdom, and where are those reporters as skiers take to the slopes during Scotland’s present ski season?
Concerning hurricanes, while the media was quick to parrot claims made by some scientists that the busy 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was consistent with climate model projections of more powerful hurricanes, the same stories failed to note the United States had before last season gone through the longest period in recorded history – more than 14 years – of no Class 3 hurricanes or higher making landfall in the United States. That 14-year hurricane hiatus was completely inconsistent with climate model projections.
True shifts in climate are demonstrated only over hundreds if not thousands of years, not dozens of years during which weather changes could be just fluctuations or oscillations around the mean. By contrast, a hypothesis about changing climate that makes repeated predictions that fail to match reality should be discounted and reconsidered much more quickly than one can claim to assess permanent climate changes. Such a reassessment of the hypothesis of looming, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is long overdue.
— H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
On December 19, 2017, France’s Parliament passed a law banning all oil and gas production within its borders and territories beginning 2040. The announcement was greeted with a collective yawn, as The Hill notes. Because France is almost entirely dependent on hydrocarbon imports – it produces just 1 percent of the oil it uses – the law is largely symbolic, an instance of virtue signaling.
French President Emmanuel Macron applauded Parliament’s action, tweeting after the vote he is “very proud” of the measure. The Hill reports, “France has also committed to ending the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.”
SOURCE: The Hill
An analysis by David Wojick, Ph.D., a former consultant with the U.S. Department of Energy, of the satellite temperature record indicates there has been no carbon dioxide-induced warming over the past 40 years, accounting for the entirety of the satellite temperature record. Wojick’s analysis compares satellite temperature records to the arbitrarily chosen average temperature or baseline commonly used for comparison by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among others.
Temperature anomalies (temperatures above or below the baseline) recorded by the satellites oscillate in an irregular fashion. Though there has been relatively little warming overall, the warming that has occurred is due almost entirely to extremely high temperature anomalies associated with El Niño periods (When La Niñas occur, temperature anomalies fall below the baseline for measurement). All anomalies track El Niño/La Niña cycles, with extremely powerful El Niño periods resulting in high temperature anomalies, which when averaged over time have resulted in a modest warming. If carbon dioxide emissions were responsible for the measured warming over the period, Wojick says, the recorded warming should be represented by a relatively consistent rise over time, tracking the relatively steady rise in carbon dioxide emissions.
In written testimony submitted in support of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) recent grid reliability and resilience pricing proposal, ratepayer Susan Fleetwood says those objecting to the rule ignore the fact renewable energy sources provide an inferior product at above market rates due to favorable government policies.
FERC has proposed to compensate, and thus keep operational, baseload coal and nuclear power plants that maintain on-site fuel sufficient for 90 days of operation.
Fleetwood says ratepayers are paying more for electricity than they would absent government support for renewables, writing:
Decisions to build new renewable (wind and solar) generating capacity are decidedly not based on the risks and rewards of the market economy. Without the production tax credit for wind (and investment tax credit for solar), there would be no wind farms of the scale that exist today.
The … American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) acknowledges … new investments in wind have largely disappeared when funding for the production tax credit (PTC) lapses. ‘Initially established in 1992, the PTC has expired five times: 1999, 2001, 2003, 2012 and 2013. This led to a 76% to 92% decrease in domestic investment following each of those years.’
New wind energy earns $24/MWH in production tax credits (PTC) from U.S. taxpayers for the first ten years of a project’s life ….”
According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, lengthy power purchase agreements with electric utilities and non-utilities alike – including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others – averaged $70/MWh, guaranteeing wind operators extra market compensation two to four times the $20 to $30/MWh received by coal, nuclear, and natural gas power plants.
Fleetwood concludes: “Renewable energy is the Trojan horse that is quickly destroying existing energy infrastructure and endangering the reliability and resiliency of the nation’s electric grid.”
An investigative report from Yale Environment 360 indicates the European Union (EU) will have only itself to blame if it finds itself unable to meet its Paris climate commitments. The carbon accounting rules of the EU and United Nations (UN) contain a loophole allowing the burning of wood pellets to count as a carbon-neutral renewable energy source. As a result, many coal-fired power plants in Europe have switched to burning wood pellets to reap carbon dioxide credits. The problem is, wood-fired power plants are not carbon-neutral and, depending upon the source of the fuel, may result in higher net carbon dioxide emissions than burning coal.
The Drax Power Station in Britain highlights the problem. Once among Europe’s largest coal-fired power stations, Drax switched to using wood pellets shipped from the United States. Although it emits 23 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, it claims the new trees planted to replace the wood burned make it carbon-neutral.
A growing number of scientists say this claim is false, with comparable numbers of trees not being promptly replanted. Forests in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and the United States that are currently providing (or will soon be providing) fuel for the Drax plant and others like it in Europe and America are increasingly being logged, destroying ecosystems and wildlife habitat, to provide fuel for the plants. As the Yale reporters write:
Under the terms of both the UN Paris climate agreement and Europe’s internal rules, carbon losses from forests supplying power stations should be declared as changes to the carbon storage capacity of forest landscapes. But such changes are seldom reported in national inventories. And there is no system either within the EU or at the UN for reporting actual changes in carbon stocks on land, so the carbon is not accounted for at either end — when trees are cut, or when the wood is burned.
Contrary to claims made by the power plants and accepted without confirmation by supportive governments, the wood pellets are increasingly coming from whole trees felled specifically to be turned into pellets for power plants – not from wood waste, twigs, branches, rotten timber, and sawdust left over from timber operations. A 2015 analysis prepared for the American Forest and Paper Association determined most wood pellets produced in the United States came from whole trees, not wood waste.
Even if new trees are promptly planted in sufficient numbers to balance the carbon dioxide emitted from the wood pellet plants, the trees take 20 to 30 years to reach sufficient size to soak up the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emitted when the trees are burned. So overall there will be more carbon dioxide emitted, with plantings never catching up with the emissions from power production unless power production from wood pellets ends at some point and the cycle is closed. And this doesn’t even count the fuel used to log, transform the trees to pellets, and ship them to their final destination.
SOURCE: Yale 360