Saturday, 4 October 2008

Global CO2 Emissions Rise to Record Levels, but Global Cooling Since 2002

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement manufacturing are rising faster than the worst-case scenario drawn up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to the latest worldwide carbon budget, released by the Global Carbon Project, CO2 levels rose by 3.5% a year between 2000 and 2007, compared with 2.7% as calculated by the IPCC. During the 1990s, emissions rose at 0.9% a year. "For a decade we've been using the [IPCC] middle-ground scenario, while we're actually in a different realm of emissions," says Pep Canadell, the project's executive director. China is now the biggest emitter of CO2 and responsible for 21% of the world's emissions — up from 14% in 2002. This knocks the United States into second place, contributing 19% of global emissions. India is fourth, but looks set to take third place from Russia this year. Currently, more than half of the global emissions come from less developed countries.

Link for image above showing global cooling since 2002:

Monday, 15 September 2008

EU's New Car CO2 Rules "are illegal"

A regulation forcing car makers to cut average CO2 emissions to 130g/km for their model ranges, or face hefty fines, has been declared illegal.

That was the decision of the EU Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee which met on 9 September, prompting fears that negotiations on targets, fines and start-dates may have to start from scratch next year.

Consumer web site has also learned that committee members expressed "utmost misgivings" about methods for collecting fines from car makers and with plans to use these as revenue for European Union budgets.

"This decision is extremely serious," said Jay Nagley, Clean Green Cars publisher. "The committee said that the proper legal basis for the regulation is Article 175 of the EC Treaty which deals with environmental laws. But it has been drafted under Article 95, which prevents market distortions. This isn't just a technicality; the whole legal basis of the regulation could be challenged."

The new car CO2 regulation is self-evidently an environmental measure, so it is hardly surprising that this question has been raised. It appears that the EU wanted a single pan-European regulation, so has tried to squeeze it through under single market rules in Article 95.
However, this looks like putting the cart before the horse as the regulation is primarily an environmental measure. What the EU is trying to avoid is a rule which would allow far more flexibility. If proposals were to be re-drafted under Article 175, one country could set tougher CO2 limits than those in a neighbouring state.

The decision comes shortly after discussions in Parliament's Industry Committee. Its members infuriated socialist MEPs by tabling amendments to water-down CO2 targets, extend deadlines for compliance, and cut fines for car makers.

The Parliament's Environment Committee, which is leading the process, must now consider these views. It should have voted last week. However, amid rumours of heated rows and political tensions, the vote has been postponed until 25 September.

A plenary vote in parliament has been scheduled for 20 October. This is the date when elected representatives should have the opportunity to vote on final proposals, either paving the way for adoption of the rules by the end of the year, or dragging the issue on into 2009. The latter now seems most likely.

Press Release from 15th September 2008

Estimated Sea Level Rise by 2100: 0.8 Metres 'More Plausible'

A paper published in Science magazine on 5th September 2008 set a limit of 2 metres for sea level rise from ice melt in Greenland and western Antarctica. The paper by W. T. Pfeffer, J. T. Harper, and S. O'Neel is entitled: 'Kinematic Constraints on Glacier Contributions to 21st-Century Sea-Level Rise.'

The Abstract states:

On the basis of climate modeling and analogies with past conditions, the potential for multimeter increases in sea level by the end of the 21st century has been proposed. We consider glaciological conditions required for large sea-level rise to occur by 2100 and conclude that increases in excess of 2 meters are physically untenable. We find that a total sea-level rise of about 2 meters by 2100 could occur under physically possible glaciological conditions but only if all variables are quickly accelerated to extremely high limits. More plausible but still accelerated conditions lead to total sea-level rise by 2100 of about 0.8 meter. These roughly constrained scenarios provide a "most likely" starting point for refinements in sea-level forecasts that include ice flow dynamics.

Contrast this with Al Gore's claim in his 2006 documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' that sea levels would rise by 20 feet (6 metres) and The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projection of a rise of no more than 0.6 metres by 2099 in its 2007 report.

A mathematical analysis of the divergence problem in dendroclimatology

Craig Loehle has a new paper in the journal Climatic Change, which examines the divergence problem in paleoclimate reconstructions using tree rings.

The Abstract states:

Tree rings provide a primary data source for reconstructing past climates, particularly over the past 1,000 years. However, divergence has been observed in twentieth century reconstructions. Divergence occurs when trees show a positive response to warming in the calibration period but a lesser or even negative response in recent decades. The mathematical implications of divergence for reconstructing climate are explored in this study. Divergence results either because of some unique environmental factor in recent decades, because trees reach an asymptotic maximum growth rate at some temperature, or because higher temperatures reduce tree growth. If trees show a nonlinear growth response, the result is to potentially truncate any historical temperatures higher than those in the calibration period, as well as to reduce the mean and range of reconstructed values compared to actual. This produces the divergence effect. This creates a cold bias in the reconstructed record and makes it impossible to make any statements about how warm recent decades are compared to historical periods. Some suggestions are made to overcome these problems.

In conclusion:

the nonlinear response of trees to temperature explains the divergence problem, including cases where divergence was not found. The analysis here also shows why non-tree ring proxies often show the Medieval Warm Period but tree ring-based reconstructions more often do not. While Fritts (1976) notes the parabolic tree growth response to temperature, recent discussions of the divergence problem have not focused on this mechanism and climate reconstructions continue to be done using a linear response model. When the divergence problem clearly indicates that the linearity assumption is questionable, it is not good practice to carry on as if linearity is an established fact.

Friday, 12 September 2008

New Paper: US Hurricane Counts are Significantly Related to Solar Activity

There is a new GRL paper in press by Elsner and Jagger entitled: 'United States and Caribbean tropical cyclone activity related to the solar cycle.'

The Abstract states:

The authors report on a finding that annual U.S hurricane counts are significantly related to solar activity. The relationship results from fewer intense tropical cyclones over the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico when sunspot numbers are high. The finding is in accord with the heat-engine theory of hurricanes that predicts a reduction in the maximum potential intensity with
a warming in the layer near the top of the hurricane. An active sun warms the lower stratosphere and upper troposphere through ozone absorption of additional ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Since the dissipation of the hurricane’s energy occurs through ocean mixing and atmospheric transport, tropical cyclones can act to amplify the effect of relatively small changes in the sun’s output thereby appreciably altering the climate. Results have implications for life and property throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and portions of the United States.

The IPCC '2500 Scientists' Myth

It’s an assertion repeated by politicians and climate campaigners the world over: “2,500 scientists of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agree that humans are causing a climate crisis.”

But it’s not true. And, for the first time ever, the public can now see the extent to which they have been misled. As lies go, it’s a whopper. Here’s the real situation.

Like the three IPCC “assessment reports” before it, the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) released during 2007 (upon which the UN climate conference in Bali was based) includes the reports of the IPCC’s three working groups.

Working Group I (WG I) is assigned to report on the extent and possible causes of past climate change as well as future “projections”. Its report is titled “The Physical Science Basis”.
The reports from working groups II and III are titled “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” and “Mitigation of Climate Change” respectively, and since these are based on the results of WG I, it is crucially important that the WG I report stands up to close scrutiny.

There is, of course serious debate among scientists about the actual technical content of the roughly 1,000-page WG I report, especially its politically motivated Summary for Policymakers which is often the only part read by politicians and non-scientists. The technical content can be difficult for non-scientists to follow and so most people simply assume that if large numbers of scientists agree, they must be right.

Consensus never proves the truth of a scientific claim, but is somehow widely believed to do so for the IPCC reports, so we need to ask how many scientists really did agree with the most important IPCC conclusion, namely that humans are causing significant climate change - in other words the key parts of WG I?

The numbers of scientist reviewers involved in WG I is actually less than a quarter of the whole, a little more than 600 in total. The other 1,900 reviewers assessed the other working group reports. They had nothing to say about the causes of climate change or its future trajectory. Still, 600 “scientific expert reviewers” sounds pretty impressive. After all, they submitted their comments to the IPCC editors who assure us that “all substantive government and expert review comments received appropriate consideration”. And since these experts reviewers are all listed in Annex III of the report, they must have endorsed it, right?


For the first time ever, the UN has released on the Web the comments of reviewers who assessed the drafts of the WG I report and the IPCC editors’ responses. This release was almost certainly a result of intense pressure applied by “hockey-stick” co-debunker Steve McIntyre of Toronto and his allies. Unlike the other IPCC working groups, WG I is based in the US and McIntyre had used the robust Freedom of Information legislation to request certain details when the full comments were released.

An examination of reviewers’ comments on the last draft of the WG I report before final report assembly (i.e. the “Second Order Revision” or SOR) completely debunks the illusion of hundreds of experts diligently poring over all the chapters of the report and providing extensive feedback to the editing teams. Here’s the reality.

A total of 308 reviewers commented on the SOR, but only 32 reviewers commented on more than three chapters and only five reviewers commented on all 11 chapters of the report. Only about half the reviewers commented on more than one chapter. It is logical that reviewers would generally limit their comments to their areas of expertise but it’s a far cry from the idea of thousands of scientists agreeing to anything.

Compounding this is the fact that IPCC editors could, and often did, ignore reviewers’ comments. Some editor responses were banal and others showed inconsistencies with other comments. Reviewers had to justify their requested changes but the responding editors appear to have been under no such obligation. Reviewers were sometimes flatly told they were wrong but no reasons or reliable references were provided.

In other cases reviewers tried to dilute the certainty being expressed and they often provided supporting evidence, but their comments were often flatly rejected. Some comments were rejected on the basis of a lack of space - an incredible assertion in such an important document.
The attitude of the editors seemed to be that simple corrections were accepted, requests for improved clarity tolerated but the assertions and interpretations that appear in the text were to be defended against any challenge.

An example of rampant misrepresentation of IPCC reports is the frequent assertion that “hundreds of IPCC scientists” are known to support the following statement, arguably the most important of the WG I report, namely “Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years”.

In total, only 62 scientists reviewed the chapter in which this statement appears, the critical chapter 9, “Understanding and Attributing Climate Change”. Of the comments received from the 62 reviewers of this critical chapter, almost 60 per cent of them were rejected by IPCC editors. And of the 62 expert reviewers of this chapter, 55 had serious vested interest, leaving only seven expert reviewers who appear impartial.

Two of these seven were contacted by NRSP for the purposes of this article - Dr Vincent Gray of New Zealand and Dr Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph, Canada. Concerning the “Greenhouse gas forcing …” statement above, Professor McKitrick explained “A categorical summary statement like this is not supported by the evidence in the IPCC WG I report. Evidence shown in the report suggests that other factors play a major role in climate change, and the specific effects expected from greenhouse gases have not been observed.”
Dr Gray labeled the WG I statement as “Typical IPCC doubletalk” asserting “The text of the IPCC report shows that this is decided by a guess from persons with a conflict of interest, not from a tested model”.

Determining the level of support expressed by reviewers’ comments is subjective but a slightly generous evaluation indicates that just five reviewers endorsed the crucial ninth chapter. Four had vested interests and the other made only a single comment for the entire 11-chapter report. The claim that 2,500 independent scientist reviewers agreed with this, the most important statement of the UN climate reports released this year, or any other statement in the UN climate reports, is nonsense.

“The IPCC owe it to the world to explain who among their expert reviewers actually agree with their conclusions and who don’t,” says Natural Resources Stewardship Project Chair climatologist Dr Timothy Ball. “Otherwise, their credibility, and the public’s trust of science in general, will be even further eroded.”

That the IPCC have let this deception continue for so long is a disgrace. Secretary General Ban Kai-Moon must instruct the UN climate body to either completely revise their operating procedures, welcoming dissenting input from scientist reviewers and indicating if reviewers have vested interests, or close the agency down completely. 'The UN climate change numbers hoax' by John McLean, 30/06/08

Thursday, 11 September 2008

New Climate Paper Provides Evidence for Negative Feedback

A new paper by Roy Spencer and William Braswell is now available as an early online release in the Journal of Climate. The paper is entitled: 'Potential Biases in Feedback Diagnosis from Observational Data: A Simple Model Demonstration.'

The Abstract states:

Feedbacks are widely considered to be the largest source of uncertainty in determining the sensitivity of the climate system to increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, yet our ability to diagnose them from observations has remained controversial. Here we use a simple model to demonstrate that any non-feedback source of top-of-atmosphere radiative flux variations can cause temperature variability which then results in a positive bias in diagnosed feedbacks. We demonstrate this effect with daily random flux variations, as might be caused by stochastic fluctuations in low cloud cover. The daily noise in radiative flux then causes interannual and decadal temperature variations in the model's 50 m deep swamp ocean. The amount of bias in the feedbacks diagnosed from time-averaged model output depends upon the size of the non-feedback flux variability relative to the surface temperature variability, as well as the sign and magnitude of the specified (true) feedback. For model runs producing monthly shortwave flux anomaly and temperature anomaly statistics similar to those measured by satellites, the diagnosed feedbacks have positive biases generally in the range of −0.3 to −0.8 W m−2 K−1. These results suggest that current observational diagnoses of cloud feedback – and possibly other feedbacks -- could be significantly biased in the positive direction.

Prometheus: The Carbon-Free Energy Gap

A few weeks ago Nature provided an analysis of the prospects for generating carbon-free energy from a range of technologies. Here is a brief summary of their verdicts for each technology for “coming decades” (and where they did not provide numbers I erred on the high side):

Hydropower = 1 TW
Nuclear = 1 TW
Biomass = 0 - ??
Wind = 1.5 TW
Geothermal = 1 TW
Solar = Lots
Ocean = 0

Total = ~4.5 TW + solar

So if the world will need between 11-22 TW of carbon free energy by 2025 to be consistent with a 550 stabilization path, where will that energy come from? This question is rarely addressed.

Here are some other questions:

Can solar provide between 6.5-17.5 TW?

Are there other technologies to fill the gap not discussed by Nature.

How can any cap and trade program ever hope to work if there are not suitable alternatives under a cap?

These are the central questions of mitigation.

This post is lifted and edited from Prometheus:

New Paper Suggests the Battle Against CO2 Emissions is Already Lost

A new paper has been published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (PDF) entitled: 'Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends' by Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows.

The Abstract states:

The 2007 Bali conference heard repeated calls for reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions of 50 per cent by 2050 to avoid exceeding the 28C threshold. While such endpoint targets dominate the policy agenda, they do not, in isolation, have a scientific basis and are likely to lead to dangerously misguided policies. To be scientifically credible, policy must be informed by an understanding of cumulative emissions and associated emission pathways. This analysis considers the implications of the 28C threshold and a range of post-peak emission reduction rates for global emission pathways and cumulative emission budgets. The paper examines whether empirical estimates of greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2008, a period typically modelled within scenario studies, combined with short-term extrapolations of current emissions trends, significantly constrains the 2000–2100 emission pathways. The paper concludes that it is increasingly unlikely any global agreement will deliver the radical reversal in emission trends required for stabilization at 450 ppmv carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Similarly, the current framing of climate change cannot be reconciled with the rates of mitigation necessary to stabilize at 550 ppmv CO2e and even an optimistic interpretation suggests stabilization much below 650 ppmv CO2e is improbable.

Here is an excerpt form the paper:

It is increasingly unlikely that an early and explicit global climate change agreement or collective ad hoc national mitigation policies will deliver the urgent and dramatic reversal in emission trends necessary for stabilization at 450 ppmv CO2e. Similarly, the mainstream climate change agenda is far removed from the rates of mitigation necessary to stabilize at 550 ppmv CO2e. Given thereluctance, at virtually all levels, to openly engage with the unprecedented scale of both current emissions and their associated growth rates, even an optimistic interpretation of the current framing of climate change implies that stabilization much below 650 ppmv CO2e is improbable.

The analysis presented within this paper suggests that the rhetoric of 2 C is subverting a meaningful, open and empirically informed dialogue on climate change. While it may be argued that 2 C provides a reasonable guide to the appropriate scale of mitigation, it is a dangerously misleading basis for informing the adaptation agenda. In the absence of an almost immediate step change in mitigation (away from the current trend of 3% annual emission growth), adaptation would be much better guided by stabilization at 650 ppmv CO2e (i.e. approx. 4 C). However, even this level of stabilization assumes rapid success in curtailing deforestation, an early reversal of current trends in non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions and urgent decarbonization of the global energy system.

Finally, the quantitative conclusions developed here are based on a global analysis. If, during the next two decades, transition economies, such as China, India and Brazil, and newly industrializing nations across Africa and elsewhere are not to have their economic growth stifled, their emissions of CO2e willinevitably rise. Given any meaningful global emission caps, the implications of this for the industrialized nations are bleak. Even atmospheric stabilization at 650 ppmv CO2e demands the majority of OECD nations begin to make draconian emission reductions within a decade. Such a situation is unprecedented for economically prosperous nations. Unless economic growth can be reconciled with unprecedented rates of decarbonization (in excess of 6% per year15), it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650 ppmv CO2e.

Ultimately, the latest scientific understanding of climate change allied with current emission trends and a commitment to ‘limiting average global temperature increases to below 4 C above pre-industrial levels’, demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda, and the economic characterization of contemporary society.

British Enviro Justice: Six Power Station Vandals Go Free, Bin Bag Mother Fined £700

What a crazy world we live in. NASA's James Hansen flies to the UK (burning fossil fuel and emitting CO2) to give evidence for the defence of six Greenpeace activists, who are cleared of criminal damage to a coal-fired power station estimated at £35,000. Zac Goldsmith also gave evidence for the defence.

Read more in The Independent:

Meanwhile, a young mother who put out her bin bags a day early, in order to give her small child more room to play in the back yard, was fined £700 for for the offence of "the advancement of waste."

Read more in The Telegraph:

We can all sleep safe in our beds now, can't we?