Example of dogmatic pseudo-science on coral reef bleaching

I have already posted twice on coral reefs, but skirted round the article on Coral Alarmism by Geoff Price at his own blog on April 2nd 2018, reposted at ATTP eleven months later. By reposting this article Prof Ken Rice has shown how derisory is the evidence for global warming being the cause of increasing coral bleaching. 

Checking the sources that Price gives for (a) evidence of global warming (b) media sources of coral bleaching reveal there is no unambiguous underlying evidence to make a persuasive case  linking of one with the other. Further. the major peer review paper that Price cites finds that changes in severe coral bleaching events are not explained by global warming.

Evidence of global warming related to coral reefs

The first issue I want to deal with is the evidence that Price presents for the increase in coral bleaching being due to global warming.

Price first states the dogma

In our window of time here and on our watch, we’re observing the unfolding collapse of global coral reef cover – the largest living structures on the planet, relatively priceless in terms of human and economic value, and stunningly beautiful – due to human-induced stresses, now most prominently from human-caused global anthropogenic (greenhouse) warming of the oceans.

The claim of human induced warming is not backed up by any evidence.  That global average temperatures have been rising for well over a century  does not mean that this was human-induced. It could be natural or just some random cyclical cycle in a chaotic complex system, or some combination of all three. The evidence of warming oceans is the NOAA data of estimated increase in ocean heat content from 1960. There are a number of things wrong with this approach. The data period is only from 1960; heat stress in corals is from the amount of temperature rise; and the data is for 0-700m down, whilst most corals reside just a few meters below the surface. A much better measure is the sea surface temperature data records, which measures temperature just below the surface.

Below is the HADCRUT4 land and ocean anomalies temperature anomalies that I charted last year.

 

 

Crucially, the HADSST3 ocean warming data shows a similar global average temperature increase in the early twentieth century as the post 1975 warming. Both were about 0.5C, a value likely much less than the seasonal sea surface temperature change. Also, the rise in GHG gases – especially of CO2 – is much more post 1950 than from 1800 to 1940. The data does not support the idea that all warming is human-caused, unless global warming is caused by Mother Gaia anticipating the rise in CO2 levels.

Even then, then rise in global sea surface temperatures is not an indication of warming in a particular area. The Great Barrier Reef, for instance has shown little or no warming since 1980. From my previous post, observed major bleaching events do not correspond to any rise in warming, or any increase in extreme temperatures.

Media Sources do not support hypothesis

Even if Geoff Price cannot provide proper evidence of the rise in average temperatures that coral reefs are experiencing, at least he could provide credible scientific evidence of the link between warming and increase in coral bleaching. Price states

Some articles in major media break through, e.g. Global Warming’s Toll on Coral Reefs: As if They’re ‘Ravaged by War’, though the impact on public awareness and policy action remains low. The impact is global including the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Japan, the South PacificHawaii, the Florida keys, and Belize.

Rather than presenting empirical evidence, or at least scientific articles, relating increased coral reef bleaching to global warming, Price bizarrely “quotes” from various media sources. To show how bizzare, I have made some notes of the sources,

As if “Ravaged by War”

The “Ravaged by War” article in the New York Times of Jan 4 2018. At the start of the article is stated “large-scale coral bleaching events……were virtually unheard-of before the 1980s“, whereas later on is stated ”before 1982-3, mass bleaching events across wide areas were nonexistent.”  The perceived lack of bleaching before the 1980s is changed into a fact. The lack of perception is due to lack of wide-scale research. But even 1982-3 as the first year of reporting of mass bleaching is contradicted by Figure 1c in Glynn 1993, reference 3 in the Hughes et al 2018 paper that prompted the NYT article. 1978 and 1979 have far more recorded mass coral mortalities than 1982 and 1993.

Evidence of global bleaching

The link is to a page of high quality pictures of coral bleaching from around the world. The rise of digital photography, and the increase in the numbers of people diving reefs with cameras in the last twenty years is evidence observation bias not of real increase. In the past, lack of wide-scale human perception does not mean the issue was not there.

Great Barrier Reef Bleaching

From the UK Independent April 20 2016 is the headline “Great Barrier Reef: Half of natural wonder is ‘dead or dying’ and it is on the brink of extinction, scientists say“.

The event is partly being caused by the strong El Nino weather system that has swept across the world in the last year. But global warming is the underlying cause, say scientists, and so the bleaching and death is likely to continue.

“We’ve never seen anything like this scale of bleaching before. In the northern Great Barrier Reef, it’s like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once,” said Professor Terry Hughes, conveyor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, 

The claim that global warming is the underlying cause of the bleaching is not attributed to any one person, or group. Prof Terry Hughes only makes a statement about the current state of affairs not being observed before, not that, in reality, it is unprecedented. Again a difference between perceptions and underlying reality.

Japan

The Japanese study is from an environmentalist website Down to Earth on January 13 2017. It states

Experts have, for quite a while now, believed that corals are among the most susceptible organisms to climate change. In fact, the world has already lost 30-40 per cent of its total documented coral cover.

According to the ministry’s estimate, 70 per cent of the Sekisei lagoon in Okinawa had been killed due to bleaching, which occurs when unusually warm water forces coral to expel the algae living in their tissues. Unless water temperatures quickly return to normal, the coral eventually dies from lack of nutrition.

Based on the survey done on 35 locations in Japan’s southernmost reaches from November to December 2016, the ministry observed that the plight of the reef has become “extremely serious” in recent years.

According to a Japanese media, the dead coral has now turned dark brown and is now covered with algae. It also revealed that the average sea surface temperature between June and August 2016 in the southern part of the Okinawa island chain was 30.1°C—one to two degrees warmer than usual. According to the Japan meteorological agency, it was also the highest average temperature since records began in 1982.

There is no link to the original source and from the statement the article is probably relying on media sources in English. Therefore there is no way of verifying whether the claims are due to warming. I would assume that the authors, like myself, do not speak Japanese, and the script is incomprehensible to them. Further, the article highlights just one of 35 locations in the Japanese study. This should be a signal that the cause of that extreme example of coral bleaching is more than just extreme temperatures.

Searching “Sekisei Lagoon” I come up with lots of returns, mostly about Coral bleaching. There was one is a short 2017 article at the Japanese Ministry of Environment website, and sponsored by them. The second paragraph states

(C)orals in the (Sekisei) Lagoon have extensively diminished since park designation because of various reasons: terrestrial runoffs of red clay and wastewater; coral bleaching due to high water temperatures; and outbreaks of the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci). Initial efforts have been made to reduce terrestrial runoffs to help the natural recovery of coral ecosystem health. Studies on coral distribution and techniques for reef rehabilitation are also in progress.

It is does not look like global warming in the sole cause of the excessive coral bleaching in Sekisei Lagoon. It is also local human factors and a large predator. A little research of crown-of-thorns starfish reveals that sudden increases in populations are poorly understood and that it is also found on the Great Barrier Reef. Acanthaster planci has a number of predators, the lack of which might indicate reasons for the outbreaks.

Other Media Sources

The South Pacific source is a blog post from March 2016 on American Samoan Reefs, a small part of the total extent of islands across the vast region. It is about coral bleaching being on hold, but there is an alert due to recent abnormally high temperatures. If bleaching did follow it would have been due to the El Nino event, which caused abnormally high average temperatures globally.

The Hawaii source, does not give a link to the peer reviewed article on which it is based. Looking at the article, it is (a) based on surveys in 2014 and 2015, but with no data on historical events (b) claims that elevated temperatures were present in Hawaii, (but does not show that the global average temperature were not elevated (c) provides no evidence of comparative surveys in the past to show the issue has got worst. In the first sentence of the introduction it is implied that the entire 0.9 °C in average SSTs is due to rise in GHGs, a totally unsupportable statement. Peer J’s boasted rapid peer review process has failed to pick up on this,

The Florida Keys reference is a Washington Post article of June 25 2017 about how loss of the coral reefs through temperature rise will impact on tourism. It assumes that temperature rise is the sole course of coral reef loss.

Finally the Belize article a New York Times opinion piece from July 6 2017, about a researcher visiting the coral reefs. There is no data provided for either local warming or trends in bleaching.

Hughes et al 2018

The major scientific article that Price refers to is

Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8048 . (Hughes et al 2018) 

Unusually this paper is open access. I quite like the attempt to reduce the observation bias when they state

Here we compiled de novo the history of recurrent bleaching from 1980 to 2016 for 100 globally distributed coral reef locations in 54 countries using a standardized protocol to examine patterns in the timing, recurrence, and intensity of bleaching episodes, including the latest global bleaching event from 2015 to 2016.

This does not eliminate the observation bias, but will certainly lesson the bias. They then make the observation

Since 1980, 58% of severe bleaching events have been recorded during four strong El Niño periods (1982–1983, 1997–1998, 2009–2010, and 2015–2016) (Fig. 2A), with the remaining 42% occurring during hot summers in other ENSO phases.

Considering that 2017 was also a severe bleaching events and global average temperatures were higher than in the 2015 El Nino year and in 2018, not to state it is an El Nino year is a maybe a bit dubious. Even so, on this basis El Nino free years are runs of 13, 10 and 4. This is not unlike the statement in the abstract

The median return time between pairs of severe bleaching events has diminished steadily since 1980 and is now only 6 years.

The paper makes no direct claims about the increase in observed coral bleaching being related to global warming. But This is because the data does not show this. Supplementary data figure 4 tests the relationship between the number of severe coral bleaching events per location and warming at that location across four regions.

For Australia R2 = 0.0001. That is zero. Better results can be achieved from two random unrelated data sets.
The best relationship is for the West Atlantic – mostly the Caribbean. That is R2 = 0.0939. The downward slope implies a negative relationship.  But still less than 10% of the variation in severe bleaching events is explained by rising temperatures.

Figure 2A of the Supplementary materials I also find interesting in the context of Jaime Jessop’s contention that coral bleaching is related to El Ninos.

Note that this is cumulative recorded severe bleaching events. The relative size of individual years is from the increase in that year.
For Australasia, the three standout years are 1998, 2010 and 2016/2017. These are El Nino years, confirming Jaime’s hypothesus.
For the West Atlantic there were also an unusual number of severe bleaching events in 1995 and 2005. No El Ninos there, but 2005 saw a record number of hurricanes in the area, and 1995 also saw an unusually high number including Hurricane Andrew, the last category 5 to make landfall in the USA. Although excess heat might be the principal cause of stress in coral reefs, I am sure they might also get stressed by severe storms, with the accompanying storm surges.
If severe storms can lead to bleaching there is a problem with observation of bleaching. From Heron et al 2016 we learn that since the 1990s satellites have made twice-weekly recording of surface temperatures are 0.5 degree grids (about 50km), then comparing with the SST data to detect unusual runs of DHWs. Since 2015, a new product was launched with just 5km grids. It is then left to some intrepid scientists to go out in a boat, dive down and take samples. If severe storms do not have unusually high temperatures, then there will be no alerts of bleaching, so unless there are other attempts to observe, this will not be picked up, or could be picked up a short while later after an episode of unusual warming. Before the 1990s, there was no such over-all detection system, and likely much less researchers. Many of the bleaching events occurring before 1990 may not have been picked up, or if they were, there may have been less ability to define that events as major.

Concluding Comments

By re-posting a dogmatic article ATTP has done a service to climate scepticism. Laying out a very bad, but well-referenced, case for global warming causing increased coral reef bleaching shows the inadequacies of that case. Where long periods of data collated on a consistent basis is used there is no correlation. Further, increasing observed frequency of bleaching events since is mostly due El Nino events being closer together, whilst the increase in observed bleaching can be accounted for by the greatly improved methods of detection and the resources put into observing, which are many times what they were a few decades ago.

Geoff Price’s method of presenting the opinions of others, rather than focusing on the underlying data that supports the conjecture, is something in common with ATTP and others of the climate community. When checked, the fail to connect with any underlying reality.

There is a rider to be made. The case for global warming is very poor by the traditional scientific methods of confronting conjectures with evidence of the natural world, and letting such evidence being the ultimate arbiter of that conjecture. From the consensus viewpoint popular today it is collective opinion that is the arbiter. The above is from the former point of view, which means from the latter view this is misinformation.

Is increasing Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching related to climate change or observation bias?

In the previous post I looked at whether the claimed increase in coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef was down to global average temperature rise. I concluded that this was not the case as the GBR has not warmed, or at least not warmed as much as the global temperatures. Here I look further at the data.
The first thing to state is that I recognize that heat stress can occur in corals. Blogger Geoff Price (in post at his own blog on April 2nd 2018, reposted at ATTP eleven months later) stated

(B)leaching via thermal stress is lab reproducible and uncontroversial. If you’re curious, see Jones et al 1998, “Temperature-induced bleaching of corals begins with impairment of the CO2 fixation mechanism in zooxanthellae”.

I am curious. The abstract of Jones et al 1998 states

The early effects of heat stress on the photosynthesis of symbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae) within the tissues of a reef‐building coral were examined using pulse‐amplitude‐modulated (PAM) chlorophyll fluorescence and photorespirometry. Exposure of Stylophora pistillata to 33 and 34 °C for 4 h resulted in ……….Quantum yield decreased to a greater extent on the illuminated surfaces of coral branches than on lower (shaded) surfaces, and also when high irradiance intensities were combined with elevated temperature (33 °C as opposed to 28 °C). …..

If I am reading this right. the coral was exposed to a temperature increase of 5-6 °C for a period of 4 hours. I can appreciate that the coral would suffer from this sudden change in temperature. Most waterborne creatures would be become distressed if the water temperature was increased rapidly. How much before it would  seriously stress them might vary, but it is not a serious of tests I would like to carry out. But is there evidence of increasing heat stress causing increasing coral bleaching in the real world? That is, has there been both a rise in coral bleaching and a rise in these heat stress conditions? Clearly there will be seasonal changes in water temperature, even though in the tropics it might not be as large as, say, around the coast of the UK. Also, many over the corals migrate up and down the reef, so they could be tolerant of a range of temperatures. Whether worsening climate conditions have exacerbated heat stress conditions to such an extent that increased coral bleaching has occurred will only be confirmed by confronting the conjectures with the empirical data.


Rise in instances of coral bleaching

I went looking for long-term data that coral bleaching is on the increase and came across and early example. 

P. W. Glynn: Coral reef bleaching: Ecological perspectives. Coral Reefs 12, 1–17 (1993). doi:10.1007/BF00303779

From the introduction

Mass coral mortalities in contemporary coral reef ecosystems have been reported in all major reef provinces since the 1870s (Stoddart 1969; Johannes 1975; Endean 1976; Pearson 1981; Brown 1987; Coffroth et al. 1990). Why, then, should the coral reef bleaching and mortality events of the 1980s command great concern? Probably, in large part, because the frequency and scale of bleaching disturbances are unprecedented in the scientific literature.

One such example of observed bleaching is graphed in Glynn’s paper as Figure 1 c

But have coral bleaching events actually risen, or have the observations risen? That is in the past were there less observed bleaching events due to much less bleaching events or much less observations? Since the 1990s have observations of bleaching events increased further due to far more researchers leaving their families the safe climates of temperate countries to endure the perils of diving in waters warmer than a swimming pool? It is only by accurately estimating the observational impact that it is possible to estimate the real impact.
This reminds me of the recent IPPR report, widely discussed including by me, at cliscep and at notalotofpeopleknowthat (e.g. here and here). Extreme claims were lifted a report by billionaire investor Jeremy Grantham, which stated

Since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires sevenfold

The primary reason was the increase in the number of observations. Grantham mistook increasing recorded observations in a database with real world increases, than embellished the increase in the data to make that appear much more significant. The IPPR then lifted the false perception and the BBC’s Roger Harrabin copied the sentence into his report. The reality is that many extreme weather events occurred prior to the conscientious worldwide cataloguing of them from the 1980s. Just because disasters were not observed and reported to a centralized body did not mean they did not exist.
With respect to catastrophic events in the underlying EM-DAT database it is possible to have some perspective on whether the frequency of reports of disasters are related to increase in actual disasters by looking at the number of deaths. Despite the number of reports going up, the total deaths have gone down. Compared to 1900-1949 in the current decade to mid-2018 “Climate” disaster deaths are down 84%, but reported “Climate” disasters are 65 times more frequent.
I am curious to know how it is one might estimate the real quantity of reported instances of coral bleaching from this data. It would certainly be a lot less than the graph above shows.


Have temperatures increased?

In the previous post I looked at temperature trends in the Great Barrier Reef. There are two main sources that suggest that, contrary to the world as a whole, GBR average temperatures have not increased, or increased much less than the global average. This was shown on the NASA Giss map comparing Jan-2019 with the 1951-1980 average and for two HADSST3 ocean data 5ox5o gridcells. For the latter I only charted the temperature anomaly for two gridcells which are at the North and middle of the GBR. I have updated this chart to include the gridcell 150-155oE / 20-25oS at the southern end of the GBR.

There is an increase in warming trend post 2000, influenced particularly by 2001 and 2003. This is not replicated further north. This is in agreement with the Gistemp map of temperature trends in the previous post, where the Southern end of the GBR showed moderate warming.


Has climate change still impacted on global warming?

However, there is still an issue. If any real, but unknown, increase in coral bleaching has occurred it could still be due to sudden increases in surface sea temperatures, something more in accordance with the test in the lab.
Blogger ATTP (aka Professor Ken Rice) called attention to a recent paper in a comment at cliscep

The link is to a pre-publication copy, without the graphics or supplementary data, to

Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals – Hughes et al Nature 2017

The abstract states


The distinctive geographic footprints of recurrent bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998, 2002 and 2016 were determined by the spatial pattern of sea temperatures in each year.


So in 2002 the GBR had a localized mass bleaching episode, but did not share in the 2010 pan-tropical events of Rice’s quote. The spatial patterns, and the criteria used are explained.

Explaining spatial patterns
The severity and distinctive geographic footprints of bleaching in each of the three years can be explained by differences in the magnitude and spatial distribution of sea-surface temperature anomalies (Fig. 1a, b and Extended Data Table 1). In each year, 61-63% of reefs experienced four or more Degree Heating Weeks (DHW, oC-weeks). In 1998, heat stress was relatively constrained, ranging from 1-8 DHWs (Fig. 1c). In 2002, the distribution of DHW was broader, and 14% of reefs encountered 8-10 DHWs. In 2016, the spectrum of DHWs expanded further still, with 31% of reefs experiencing 8-16 DHWs (Fig. 1c). The largest heat stress occurred in the northern 1000 km-long section of the Great Barrier Reef. Consequently, the geographic pattern of severe bleaching in 2016 matched the strong north-south gradient in heat stress. In contrast, in 1998 and 2002, heat stress extremes and severe bleaching were both prominent further south (Fig. 1a, b).

For clarification:-

Degree Heating Week (DHW) The NOAA satellite-derived Degree Heating Week (DHW) is an experimental product designed to indicate the accumulated thermal stress that coral reefs experience. A DHW is equivalent to one week of sea surface temperature 1 deg C above the expected summertime maximum.

That is, rather than the long-term temperature rise in global temperatures causing the alleged increase in coral bleaching, it is the human-caused global warming changing the climate by a more indirect means of making extreme heat events more frequent. This seems a bit of a tall stretch. However, the “Degree Heating Week” can be corroborated by the gridcell monthly HADSST3 ocean temperature data for the summer months if both the measures are data are accurate estimates of the underlying data. A paper published last December in Nature Climate Change (also with lead author Prof Terry Hughes) highlighted 1998, 2002, 2016 & 2017 as being major years of coral bleaching. Eco Watch has a short video of maps from the paper showing the locations of bleaching event locations, showing much more observed events in 2016 and 2017 than in 1998 and 2002.

From the 2017 paper any extreme temperature anomalies should be most marked in 2016 across all areas of the GBR. 2002 should be less significant and predominantly in the south. 1998 should be a weaker version of 2002.
Further, if summer extreme temperatures are the cause of heat stress in corals, then 1998, 2002, 2016 & 2017 should have warm summer months.
For gridcells 145-150oE / 10-15oS and 150-155oE / 20-25oS respectively representing the northerly and summer extents of the Great Barrier Reef, I have extracted the January February and March anomalies since 1970, then circled the years 1998, 2002, 2016 and 2017. Shown the average of the three summer months.

In the North of the GBR, 2016 and 2017 were unusually warm, whilst 2002 was a cool summer and 1998 was not unusual. This is consistent with the papers findings. But 2004 and 2010 were warm years without bleaching.
In the South of the GBR 1998 was exceptionally warm in February. This might suggest an anomalous reading. 2002 was cooler than average and 2016 and 2017 about average.
Also note, that in the North of the GBR summer temperatures appear to be a few tenths of a degree higher from the late 1990s than in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the South there appears to be no such increase. This is the reverse of what was found for the annual average temperatures and the reverse of where the most serious coral bleaching has occurred.
On this basis the monthly summer temperature anomalies do not seem to correspond to the levels of coral bleaching. A further check is to look at the change in the anomaly from the previous month. If sea surface temperatures increase rapidly in summer, this may be the cause of heat stress as much as absolute magnitude above the long-term average.

In the North of the GBR the February 1998 anomaly was almost a degree higher than the January anomaly. This is nothing exceptional in the record. 2002, 2016 & 2017 do not stand out at all.

In the South of the GBR, the changes in anomaly from one month to the next are much greater than in the North of the GBR. February 1998 stands out. It could be due to problems in the data. 2002, 2016 and 2017 are unexceptional years. There also appears to be less volatility post 2000 contradicting any belief in climate getting more extreme. I believe it could be an indication that data quality has improved.

Conclusions

Overall, the conjecture that global warming is resulting in increased coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reeg directly through rising average temperatures, or indirectly through greater volatility in temperature data, is not supported by the HADSST3 surface temperature data from either the North or South of the reef. This does not necessarily mean that there is not a growing problem of heat stress, or though this seems the most likely conclusion. Alternative explanations could be that the sea surface temperature anomaly is inadequate or that other gridcells show something different.
Which brings us back to the problem identified above. How much of the observed increase in coral bleaching is down to real increases in coral bleaching and how much is down to increased observations? In all areas of climate, there is a crucial difference between our perceptions based on limited data and the underlying reality.

Kevin Marshall

Empirical evidence contradicts theory that coral bleaching of Great Barrier Reef is a result of Global Warming

At Cliscep, Jaime Jessop looks at Coral Reefs again. She quotes from

Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8048 . (Hughes et al 2018) 

The first line is 

The average surface temperature of Earth has risen by close to 1°C as of the 1880s (1), and global temperatures in 2015 and 2016 were the warmest since instrumental record keeping began in the 19th century.

The surface temperature consists of two parts, land and ocean data. HADCRUT4 data since 1850 is as follows.

Recent land warming is significantly greater than ocean warming. Further, in the last 50 years the warming in the tropics was slightly  less than the global average, with the greatest warming being north of the tropics. Below is a split of the HADCRUT4 data into eight bands of latitude that I compiled last year. 

NASA GISS have maps showing trends across the globe. The default is to compare the most recent month with the 1951-1980 average.

The largest coral reef on the planet is the Great Barrier Reef off the North West Coast of Australia. From the map the warming is -0.2 to 0.2 °C. By implication, Hughes et al are claiming that coral bleaching in the Southern Hemisphere is being caused not by local average surface temperature rise but by a global average heavily influenced by land-based northern hemisphere temperature rise.

However, this is only a modeled estimate of trends. Although local data trends for the sea is not readily available, Berkeley Earth does provide trends for towns on the coastline adjacent to the GBR. I have copied the trends for Cairns and Rockhampton, one located in the middle section of the GBR, the other at the Southern tip.

Cairns, in the middle of the GBR, has no warming since 1980, whilst Rockhampton has nearer the global average and no warming trend from 1998 to 2013. This is consistent with the NASA GISS map.

BE are extremely thorough, providing the sites which make up the trend, with the distance from the location. The raw data reveals a more complex picture. For Townsville (one-third of the way from Cairns to Rockhampton) the station list is here. Looking at the list, many of the temperature data sets are of short duration, have poor quality data (e.g. Burdekin Shire Council 4875), or have breaks in the data (e.g. Ayr, Burdekin Shire Council 4876). Another issue with respect to the Great Barrier Reef is that many are inland, so might not be a good proxy for sea surface temperatures. However, there are a couple of stations that can be picked out with long records and near the coast.
Cardwell Post Office 152368 had peak temperatures in the 1970s and cooling since. Relative to other stations, BE’s algorithms estimated there was a station bias of over 0.5°C in the 1970s.

Cairns Airport 152392 (with data since 1908, twenty years before planes first flew from the site! ) has cooling in the 1930s and warming from 1940 to the late 1950s. The opposite of the global averages. There are no station bias adjustments until 1950, showing that this is typical of the regional expectation. Recent warming is confined to 1980s and a little post 2000.

These results are confined to the land. I have found two sites on the GBR that have give a similar picture. Lihou Reef (17.117 S 152.002 E) and Marion Reef (19.090 S 152.386 E). Both for fairly short periods and the quality of the data is poor, which is not surprising considering the locations. But neither show any warming trend since the 1980’s whereas the faint grey line of the global land data does show a warming trend.

The actual temperature data of the GBR indicates that not only are average temperatures not a cause of GBR bleaching, but that calculated global average temperature trends are not replicated on the North East Australian coast. With respect to the world’s largest coral reef, increase incoral bleaching is not empirically linked to any increase in average global temperatures.

UPDATE 11/03/19 – 20:10

Following a comment by Paul Matthews, I have found the sea surface temperature data by location. The HADSST3 data is available in 5o by 5o gridcells. From data that I downloaded last year I have extracted the gridcells for 145-150oE/10-15oS and 145-150oE/15-20oS which cover most of the Great Barrier Reef, plus a large area besides. I have charted the annual averages alongside the HADCRUT4 global and HADSST3 ocean anomalies.

Ocean surface temperatures for the Great Barrier Reef show no warming trend at all, whilst the global averages show a quite distinct warming trend. What is more important, if the coral bleaching is related to sudden increases in sea temperatures then it is the much more massive increases in local data that are important, not the global average. To test whether increases in temperatures are behind bleaching events requires looking for anomalous summer months in the data. Another post is required.     

The context of Jaime Jessop’s Cliscep article

After multiple comments at a blogpost by Jaime Jesssop in early January 2018 Geoff M Price wrote a post at his own blog “On Coal Alarmism” on 2nd April 2018. ATTP re-posted 11 months later on 5th March 2019. Personally I find the post, along with many of the comments, a pseudo-scientific and discriminatory attack piece. That may be the subject of another post.

Kevin Marshall

What would constitute AGW being a major problem?

Ron Clutz has an excellent post. This time on he reports on A Critical Framework for Climate Change. In the post Ron looks at the Karoly/Tamblyn–Happer Dialogue on Global Warming at Best Schools particularly at Happer’s major statement. In my opinion these dialogues are extremely useful, as (to use an old-fashioned British term) are antagonists are forces by skilled opponents to look at the issues in terms of a level playing field. With the back and forth of the dialogue, the relative strengths and weaknesses are exposed. This enables those on the outside to compare and contrast for themselves. Further, as such dialogues never fully resolve anything completely, can point to new paths to develop understanding. 

Ron reprints two flow charts. Whilst the idea is of showing the issues in this way to highlight the issues is extremely useful correct. I have issues with the detail. 

 

In particular on the scientific question “Is it a major problem?“, I do not think the “No” answers are correct.
If there was no MWP, Roman warming, or Bronze Age warming then this would be circumstantial evidence for current warming being human-caused. If there has been 3 past warming phases at about  1000, 2000 and 3000 years ago, then this is strong circumstantial evidence that current warming is at least in part due to some unknown natural or random factors. Without any past warming phases at all then it would point to the distinctive uniqueness of the current warming, but that still does not mean not necessarily mean that it is a major net problem. There could be benefits as well as adverse consequences to warming. But the existence of previous warming phases under many studies and only being able to claim by flawed statistics that the majority of warming since 1950 in human-caused (when there was some net warming for at least 100 years before that suggests a demonstrable marginal impact of human causes far less than 100% of total warming. Further there is issues with

(a) the quantity of emissions a trace gas to raise that the atmospheric levels by a unit amount

(b) the amount of warming from a doubling of the trace gas – climate sensitivity

(c) the time taken for rises on a trace gas to raise temperatures.

As these are all extremely difficult to measure, so a huge range of equally valid answers. It is an example of the underdetermination of scientific theory.

At the heart of the underdetermination of scientific theory by evidence is the simple idea that the evidence available to us at a given time may be insufficient to determine what beliefs we should hold in response to it.

But even if significant human-caused warming can be established, this does not constitute a major problem. Take sea-level rise. If it could be established that human-caused warming was leading to sea level rise, this may not, on a human scale, be a major problem. At current rates sea levels from the satellites are rising on average by 3.5mm per year. The average adjusted level from the tide gauges are less than that – and the individual tide gauges show little or no acceleration in the last century. But if that rate accelerated to three or four times that level, it is not catastrophic in terms of human planning timescales. 

The real costs to humans are expressed in values. The really large costs of climate change are based not so much on the physical side, but implausible assumptions about the lack of human responses to ongoing changes to the environment. In economics, the neoclassical assumptions of utility maximisation and profit maximisation are replaced by the dumb actor assumption.

An extreme example I found last year. In Britain it was projected that unmitigated global warming could lead to 7000 excess heatwave deaths in the 2050s compared to today. The projection was most of these deaths would occur in over 75s dying in hospitals and care homes. The assumption was that medical professionals and care workers would carry on treating those in the care in the same way as currently, oblivious to increasing suffering and death rates.  

Another extreme example from last year was an article in Nature Plants (a biology journal) Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heatThere were at least two examples of the dumb actor assumption. First was failure by farmers to adjust output according to changing yields and hence profits. For instance in Southern Canada (Calgary / Edmonton) barley yields under the most extreme warming scenario were projected to fall by around 10-20% by the end of the century. But in parts of Montana and North Dakota – just a few hundred miles south – they would almost double. It was assumed that farmers would continue producing at the same rates regardless, with Canadian farmers making losses and those in Northern USA making massive windfall profits. The second was in retail. For instance the price of a 500ml bottle of beer in Ireland was projected to increase under the most extreme scenario in Ireland by $4.84 compared to $1.90 in neighbouring Britain. Given that most of the beer sold comes from the same breweries; current retail prices in UK and Ireland are comparable (In Ireland higher taxes mean prices up to 15% higher); cost of a 500ml bottle is about $2.00-$2.50 in the UK; and lack of significant trade barriers, there is plenty of scope with even a $1.00 differential for an entrepreneur to purchase a lorry load of beer in the UK and ship it over the Irish Sea. 

On the other hand nearly of the short-term forecasts of an emerging major problem have turned out to be false, or highly extreme. Examples are

  • Himalayan Glaciers will disappear by 2035
  • Up to 50% reductions in crop yields in some African Countries by 2020
  • Arctic essentially ice-free in the summer of 2013
  • Children in the UK not knowing what snow is a few years after 2000
  • In the UK after 2009, global warming will result in milder and wetter summers

Another example of the distinction between a mere difference and a major problem is the February weather. Last week the UK experienced some record high daytime maximum temperatures of 15-20C. It was not a problem. In fact, accompanied by very little wind and clear skies it was extremely pleasant for most people. Typical weather for the month is light rain, clouds and occasional gales. Children on half-term holidays were able to play outside, and when back in school last week many lessons were diverted to the outdoors. Over in Los Angeles, average highs were 61F (16C) compared to  February average of 68F (20C). This has created issues for the elderly staying warm, but created better skiing conditions in the mountains. More different than a major problem. 

So in summary, for AGW to be a major problem it is far from sufficient to establish that most of the global warming is human caused. It is necessary to establish that the impact of that warming is net harmful on a global scale.

Kevin Marshall

 

Two false claims on climate change by the IPPR

An IPPR report  This is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown published yesterday, withing a few hours received criticism from Paul Homewood at notalotofpeopleknowthat, Paul Matthews at cliscep and Andrew Montford at The GWPF.  has is based on an April 2018 paper by billionaire Jeremy Grantham. Two major issues, that I want cover in this post are contained in a passage on page 13.

Climate Change : Average global surface temperature increases have accelerated, from an average of 0.007 °C per year from 1900–1950 to 0.025 °C from 1998–2016 (Grantham 2018). ……. Since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires sevenfold (GMO analysis of EM-DAT 2018).

These two items are lifted from an April 2018 paper The Race of Our Lives Revisited by British investor Jeremy Grantham CBE. I will deal with each in turn.

Warming acceleration

The claim concerning how warming has accelerated comes from Exhibit 2 of The Race of Our Lives Revisited.

The claimed Gistemp trends are as follows

1900 to 1958  – 0.007 °C/year

1958 to 2016  – 0.015 °C/year

1998 to 2016  – 0.025 °C/year

Using the Skeptical Science trend calculator for Gistemp I get the following figures.

1900 to 1958  – 0.066 ±0.024 °C/decade

1958 to 2016  – 0.150 ±0.022 °C/decade

1998 to 2016  – 0.139 ±0.112 °C/decade

That is odd. Warming rates seem to be slightly lower for 1998-2016 compared to 1958-2016, not higher. This is how Grantham may have derived the incorrect 1998-2016 figure.

For 1998-2016 the range of uncertainty is 0.003 to 0.025 °C/year.

It would appear that the 1900 to 1958 & 1958 to 2016 warming rates are as from the trend calculator, whilst the 1998 to 2016 warming rate of 0.025 °C/year is at the top end of the 2σ uncertainty range.

Credit for spotting this plausible explanation should go to Mike Jackson.

Increase in climate-related disasters since 1950

The IPPR report states

Since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires sevenfold

Exhibit 7 of The Race of Our Lives Revisited.

The 15 times “Floods” increase is for 2001-2017 compared to 1950-1966.
The 20 times “Extreme Temperature Events” increase is for 1996-2017 compared to 1950-1972.
The 7 times “Wildfires” increase is for 1984-2017 compared to 1950-1983.

Am I alone in thinking there is something a bit odd in the statement about being from 1950? Grantham is comparing different time periods, yet IPPR make it appear the starting point is from a single year?

But is the increase in the data replicated in reality?

Last year I downloaded all the EM-DAT – The International Disasters Database – from 1900 to the present day. Their disaster types I have classified into four categories.

Over 40% are the “climate”-related disaster types from Grantham’s analysis. Note that this lists the number of “occurrences” in a year. If, within a country in a year there is more than one occurrence of a disaster type, they are lumped together.

I have split the number of occurrences by the four categories by decade. The 2010s is only for 8.5 years.

Climate” disasters have increased in the database. Allowing for 8.5 years in the current decade, compared to 1900-1949, “Climate” disasters are 65 times more frequent. Similarly epidemics are 47 times more frequent, geological events 16 times and “other” disasters 34 times.

Is this based on reality, or just vastly improved reporting of disasters from the 1980s? The real impacts are indicated by the numbers of reports deaths. 

The number of reported disaster deaths has decreased massively compared to the early twentieth century in all four categories, despite the number of reported disasters increasing many times. Allowing for 8.5 years in the current decade, compared to 1900-1949, “Climate” disaster deaths are down 84%. Similarly epidemic deaths are down by 98% and”other” disasters down by 97%. Geological disaster deaths are, however, up by 27%. The reported 272,431 deaths in the 2010s that I have classified under “Geology” includes the estimated 222,570 estimated deaths in the 2010 Haitian Earthquake.

If one looks at the death rate per reported occurrence, “Climate” disaster death rates have declined by 97.7% between 1900-1949 and the 2010s. Due to the increase in reporting, and the more than doubling of the world population, this decline is most likely understated. 

The Rôle of Progressives in Climate Mitigation

The IPPR describes itself as The Progressive Policy Think Tank. From the evidence of the two issues above they have not actually thought about what they are saying. Rather they have just copied the highly misleading data from Jeremy Grantham. There appears to be no real climate crisis emerging when one examines the available data properly. The death rate from extreme weather related events has declined by at least 97.7% between the first half of the twentieth century  and the current decade. This is a very important point for policy. Humans have adapted to the current climate conditions, just have they have reduced the impact of infectious diseases and are increasingly adapting to the impacts of earthquakes and tsunamis. If the climate becomes more extreme, or sea level rise accelerates significantly humans will adapt as well.

There is a curious symmetry here between the perceived catastrophic problem and the perceived efficacy of the solution. That for governments to reduce global emissions to zero. The theory is that rising human emissions, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels, are going to cause dangerous climate change. Global emissions involve 7600 million people in nearly 200 countries. Whatever the UK does, with less than 1% of the global population and less than 1% of global emissions makes no difference to global emissions.

Globally, there are two major reasons that reducing global emissions will fail.

First is that developing countries, with 80%+ of the global population and 65% of emissions, are specifically exempted from any obligation to reduce their emissions. (see Paris Agreement Articles 2.1(a), 2.2 and 4.1) Based on the evidence of the UNEP Emissions GAP Report 2018, and from the COP24 Katowizce meeting in December, there is no change of heart in prospect.

Second is that the reserves of fossil fuels, both proven and estimated, are both considerable and spread over many countries. Reducing global emissions to zero in a generation would mean leaving in the ground fossil fuels that provide a significant part of government revenue in countries such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan. Keeping some fossil fuels in the ground in the UK, Canada, Australia or the United States will increase the global prices and thus the production elsewhere.

The IPPR is promoting is costly and ideological policies in the UK, that will have virtually zero benefits for future generations in terms of climate catastrophes averted. In my book such policies are both regressive and authoritarian, based on failing to understand to the distinction between the real very marginal impacts of policy and the theoretical total impacts.

If IPPR, or even the climate academics, gave proper thought to the issue, then they would conclude the correct response will be to more accurately predict the type, timing, magnitude and location of future climate catastrophes. This information will help people on the ground adapt to those circumstances. In the absence of that information, the best way of adapting to changing climate is the same way as people have been able to adapt to extreme events, whether weather or geological. That is through sustained long-term economic growth, in the initial stages promoted by cheap and reliable energy sources. If there is a real environmental breakdown on its way, the Progressives, with their false claims and exaggerations, will be best kept well away from the scene. Their ideological beliefs render them incapable of getting a rounded perspective on the issues and the damage their policies will cause.

Kevin Marshall

Was time running out for tackling CO2 pollution in 1965?

In a recent Amicus Brief it was stated that the Petroleum Industry was told

– CO2 would cause significant warming by the year 2000.
– Time was running out to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution.

The Amicus Brief does not mention

– The Presentation covered legislative impacts on the petroleum industry in the coming year, with a recommendation to prioritize according to the “thermometer of legislative activity”.
– The underlying report was on pollution in general.
– The report concluded CO2 emissions were not controllable at local or even the national level.
– The report put off taking action on climate change to around 2000, when it hoped “countervailing changes by deliberately modifying other processess” would be possible.

The Claim

In the previous post I looked at a recent Amicus Brief that is in the public domain

In this post I look at the following statement. 

Then in 1965, API President Frank Ikard delivered a presentation at the organization’s annual meeting. Ikard informed API’s membership that President Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee had predicted that fossil fuels would cause significant global warming by the end of the century. He issued the following warning about the consequences of CO2 pollution to industry leaders:

This report unquestionably will fan emotions, raise fears, and bring demands for action. The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.

The Ikard Presentation

Note 6 contains a link to the presentation 

6. Frank Ikard, Meeting the challenges of 1966, Proceedings of the American Petroleum Institute 12-15 (1965), http://www.climatefiles.com/trade-group/american-petroleuminstitute/1965-api-president-meeting-the-challenges-of-1966/.

The warning should be looked at in context of the presentation.
– Starts with the massive increase in Bills introduced in the current Congress – more than the previous two Congresses combined.
– Government fact gathering
– Land Law Review
– Oil and Gas Taxation
– Air and Water Conservation where the alleged statement was made above.
– Conclusion

The thrust of the presentation is about how new legislation impacts on the industry. I have transcribed a long quotation from Air and Water Conservation section, where the “time is running out” statement was made.

Air and Water Conservation
The fact that our industry will continue to be confronted with problems of air and water conservation for many years to come is demonstrated by the massive report of the Environment Pollution Panel of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, which was presented to President Johnson over the weekend.
This report unquestionably will fan emotions, raise fears and bring demands for action. The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.
One of the most important predictions of the report is that carbon dioxide is being added to the earth’s atmosphere at such a rate that by the year 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or even national efforts. The report further states, and I quote: “… the pollution from internal combustion engines is so serious, and is growing so fast, that an alternative nonpollution means of powering automobiles, buses and trucks is likely to become a national necessity.”
The report, however, does conclude that urban air pollution, while having some unfavourable effects, has not reached the stage where the damage is as great as that associated with cigarette smoking. Furthermore, it does not find that present levels of pollution in air, water, soils and living organisms are such as to be a demonstrated cause of disease or death in people: but it is fearful of the future. As a safeguard it would attempt to assert the right of man to freedom from pollution and to deny the right of anyone to pollute air, land or water.
There are more than 100 recommendations in this sweeping report, and I commend it to your study. Implementation of even some of them will keep local, state and federal legislative bodies, as well as the petroleum and other industries, at work for generations.
The scope of our involvement is suggested, once again, by the thermometer of legislative activity this past year. On the federal level, hearings and committee meetings relating to air and water conservation were held almost continuously. The results, of course, are the Water Quality Act of 1965 and an important amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1963.

My reading is that Ikard is referring to a large report on pollution as a whole, with more 100 recommendations, when saying “time is running out”. However, whether the following paragraph on atmospheric CO2 is related to the urgency claim will depend whether the report treats tackling pollution from atmospheric CO2 with great urgency. Ikard commends the report for study, prioritizing by the “thermometer of legislative activity”.
Further. this Amicus Brief was submitted by a group of academics, namely Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Dr. Geoffrey Supran, Dr. Robert Brulle, Dr. Justin Farrell, Dr. Benjamin Franta and Professor Stephan Lewandowsky. When I was at University, I was taught to read the original sources. In his presentation Frank Ikard also commends listeners to study the original document. Yet the Amicus Brief contains no reference to the original document. Instead, they make an opinion based on an initial opinion voiced just after publication.

1965 Report of the Environmental Pollution Panel 

Nowadays, mighty internet search engines can deliver now-obscure documents more quickly than a professional researcher would think where to find the catalogues with a reference in a major library.
I found two sources.
First, from the same website that had the Ikard presentation – climatefiles.com.
http://www.climatefiles.com/climate-change-evidence/presidents-report-atmospher-carbon-dioxide/
As the filename indicates, it is not a copy of the full report. The contents include a letter from President Johnson; Contents; Acknowledgements; Introduction; and Appendix Y4 – Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Interestingly, it does not include “Climatic Effects of Pollution” on page 9.
Fortunately a full copy of the report is available at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b4315678;view=1up;seq=5

I have screen-printed President Johnson’s letter and an extract of Page 9, with some comments.

President Johnson made a general reference to air pollution in general, but nothing about the specific impacts of carbon dioxide on climate. Page 9 is more forthcoming.

CLIMATIC EFFECTS OF POLLUTION

Carbon dioxide is being added to the earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas at the rate of 6 billion tons a year. By the year 2000 there will be about 25% more CO2 in our atmosphere than at present. This will modify the heat balance of the atmosphere to such an extent that marked changes in the climate, not controllable though local or even national efforts, could occur. Possibilities of bringing about countervailing changes by deliberately modifying other processes that affect climate may then be very important.

The page 9 paragraph is very short. It makes the prediction that Ikard referred to in his presentation. By 2000, there could be “marked changes in climate not controllable though local or even national efforts”. I assume that there is a typo here, as “not controllable through local or even national efforts” makes more sense.
I interpret the conclusion, in more modern language, is as follows:-
The earth is going to warm significantly due to fossil fuel emissions, which might cause very noticeable changes in the climate by 2000. But the United States, the world’s largest source of those emissions, cannot control those emissions. Around 2000 there might be ways of controlling the climate that will counteract the impact of the higher CO2 levels.

Concluding Comments

Based on my reading of API President Frank Ikard’s presentation, he was not warning about the consequences of CO2 emissions when he stated

This report unquestionably will fan emotions, raise fears, and bring demands for action. The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.

This initial interpretation is validated by the lack of urgency given in the report to rising tackling possible impacts of rising CO2 levels. Given that Ikard very clearly recommends reading the report, one would have expected over fifty years later for a group of scholars to follow that lead before formulating an opinion.
The report is not of the opinion that “time is running out” for combating the climatic effects of carbon dioxide. It further pushes taking action to beyond 2000, with action on climate seeming to be of a geo-engineering type, rather than adaptation. Insofar as Izard may have implied urgency with respect to CO2, the report flatly contradicts this.
The bigger question is why the report chose not to recommend taking urgent action at the time. This might inform why people of the time did not see rising CO2 as something for which they needed to take action. It is the Appendix Y4 (authored by the leading American climatologists at that time) that makes the case for the impact of CO2 and courses of action to tackle those impacts. In another post I aim to look at the report through the lens of those needing to be convinced. 

Kevin Marshall

Climate Alarmism from Edward Teller in 1959

The Daily Caller had an article on 30th January SEVERAL HIGH-PROFILE ENVIROS ARE WORKING TO RESUSCITATE CALIFORNIA’S DYING CLIMATE CRUSADE

What caught my interest was the following comment

Researchers Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran were among those propping up the litigation, which seeks to hold Chevron responsible for the damage climate change has played on city infrastructure.

The link is to an Amicus Brief submitted by Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Dr. Geoffrey Supran, Dr. Robert Brulle, Dr. Justin Farrell, Dr. Benjamin Franta and Professor Stephan Lewandowsky. I looked at the Supran and Oreskes paper Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications (1977–2014) in a couple of posts back in September 2017. Professor Lewandowsky on probably gets more mentions on this blog than any other.

The Introduction starts with the following allegation against Chevron

At least fifty years ago, Defendants-Appellants (hereinafter, “Defendants”) had information from their own internal research, as well as from the international scientific community, that the unabated extraction, production, promotion, and sale of their fossil fuel products would result in material dangers to the public. Defendants failed to disclose this information or take steps to protect the public. They also acted affirmatively to conceal their knowledge and discredit climate science, running misleading nationwide marketing campaigns and funding junk science to manufacture uncertainty, in direct contradiction to their own research and the actions they themselves took to protect their assets from climate change impacts such as sea level rise.

This are pretty serious allegations to make against a major corporation, so I have been reading with great interest the Amicus Brief and started making notes. As an ardent climate sceptic, I started reading with trepidation. Maybe there would be starkly revealed to me the real truth of climate denial. Instead, it has made very entertaining reading. After a three thousand words of notes and having only got up to 1972 in the story, I have decided to break up the story into a few separate posts.

Edward Teller 1959

The Amicus Brief states

In 1959, physicist Edward Teller delivered the first warning of the dangers of global warming to the petroleum industry, at a symposium held at Columbia University to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the industry. Teller described the need to find energy sources other than fossil fuels to mitigate these dangers, stating, “a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.”

Edward Teller was at the height of his fame, beingcredited with developing the world’s first thermonuclear weapon, and he became known in the United States as “the father of the H-bomb.” At the height of the cold war it must have been quite a coup to have one of the world’s leading physicists and noted anti-communist to give an address. As top executives from all the major oil companies would have been there, I would not sure they would have greeted the claims with rapturous applause. More likely thought the Professor has caught some new religion. They might have afterwards made some inquiries. Although climatology was in its infancy, the oil majors would have teams of geologists, who could make enquiries. The geologists  may have turned up the Revelle and Suess 1957 paper Carbon Dioxide Exchange Between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase of Atmospheric CO2 during the Past Decades, 9 Tellus 18 (1957) that is mentioned in the previous paragraph of the Amicus Brief.

Revelle and Suess state in the Introduction

(A) few percent increase in the CO2 content of the air, even if it has occurred, might not produce an observable increase in average air temperature near the ground in the face of fluctuations due to other causes. So little is known about the thermodynamics of the atmosphere that it is not certain whether or how a change in infrared back radiation from the upper air would affect the temperature near the surface. Calculations by PLASS (1956) indicate that a 10% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would increase the average temperature by 0.36oC. But amplifying or feed-back processes may exist such that a slight change in the character of the back radiation might have a more pronounced effect.

So some experts in the field report that it is uncertain how much warming could occur from a small rise in CO2 levels. The only actual estimate is 0.36oC from a 10% rise. So how could that melt the icecap and flood New York? If this was first introduction that oil executives had to the concept of CO2-induced global warming might they have become a little on their guard about any future, more moderate, claims?

They would have been right to be uneasy. 1959 was the first full year CO2 levels were monitored at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The mean CO2 Level for that year was 315.97 ppm. The 10% increase was passed in 1987, and for 2018 the figure was 408.52 ppm, 29.3% higher. The polar icecaps are still in place. From Sea Level Info, tide gauges show linear sea level rises over the last 59 years of  7.6 inches for Washington DC; 6.9 inches for Philadelphia 6.9 inches, and 6.6 inches for Battery at the tip of Lower Manhattan . This assumes a linear rise over 60 years.

The chart for The Battery, NY shows no discernible acceleration in the last 60 years, despite the acceleration in the rate of CO2 rise shown in green. It is the same for the other tide gauges.

The big question here is that 60 years later, what were the authors of the Amicus Brief thinking when they quoted such a ridiculous claim?

Kevin Marshall

East Antarctica Glacial Melting through the filter of BBC reporting

An indication of how little solid evidence there is for catastrophic anthropogenic global warming comes from a BBC story story carried during the COP24 Katowice conference in December. It carried the headline “East Antarctica’s glaciers are stirring” and began

Nasa says it has detected the first signs of significant melting in a swathe of glaciers in East Antarctica.

The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent.

But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.

If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.

There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.

Reading this excerpt one could draw a conclusion that the drainage basins on “one-eighth of the eastern coastline” have sufficient ice to raise sea levels by 28m. But that is not the case, at the melting of all of Antarctica would only raise sea levels by 60m. The map reproduced from NASA’s own website is copied below.

The study area is no where near a third or more of Antarctica. Further, although it might be one eighth of the eastern coastline, it is far less than the coastline of East Antarctica, which is two-thirds or more of the total area.

NASA does not mention the 28m of potential sea level rise in its article, only 3 metres from the disappearance of the Totten Glacier. So how large is this catchment area? From a Washington Post article in 2015 there is a map.

The upper reaches of the catchment area may include Vostok Station, known for being the location of the lowest reliably measured natural temperature on Earth of −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F). The highest temperature recorded in over 60 years is −14.0 °C. In other words, what is being suggested is that a slight increase in ocean current temperatures will cause, through gravity, the slippage of a glaciers hundreds of miles long into the ocean covering ten times the Totten Glacier catchment.

The Guardian article of 11th December also does not mention the potential 28m of sea level rise. This looks to be an insertion by the BBC making the significance of the NASA research appear orders of magnitude more important than the reality.

The BBC’s audio interview with Dr Catherine Walker gives some clarification of the magnitude of the detected changes. At 2.30 there is a question on the scale of the changes.

Physically the fastest changing one is Vincennes Bay which is why we were looking at that one. And, for instance, in 2017 they changed average about .5 meters a year. So that is pretty small.

Losing 0.5 metres out of hundreds of thousands of length is not very significant. It just shows the accuracy of the measurements. Dr Walker than goes on to relate this to Fleming Glacier in West Antarctica, which is losing about 8 meters a year. The interview continues:-

Q. But the point is that compared to 2008 there is definitely an acceleration here.
A. Yes. We have shown that looking at 2008 and today they have increased their rate of mass loss by 5 times.
Q. So it is not actually a large signal is it? How do we describe this then. Is this East Antarctica waking up? Is it going to become a West Antarctica here in a few decades time or something?
A. I think its hard, but East Antarctica given how cold it is, and it still does have that layer insulating it from warm Antarctic circumpolar current … that really eats away at West Antarctica. We’ve seen it get up under Totten, so of you know, but it is not continuous you know. Every so often it comes up and (…….) a little bit.

There is acceleration detected over a decade, but for the disappearance of the glacier would take tens or hundreds of thousands of years. 

Walker goes into say that for the small changes to further increase

you would have to change the Antarctic circumpolar current significantly. But the fact that you are seeing these subtle changes I guess you could say Antartica is waking up.
We are seeing these smaller glaciers – which couldn’t be seen before – see them also respond to the oceans. So the oceans are warming enough now to make a real difference in these small glaciers.

This last carry-away point – about glaciers smaller than Totten – is not related to the earlier comments. It is not ocean warming but movements in the warm Antarctic circumpolar current that seem to impact on West Antarctica and this small section of the East Antarctica coast. That implies a heat transfer from elsewhere could be the cause as much as additional heat.

This account misses out on another possible cause of the much higher rates of glacier movement in West Antarctica. It might be just a spooky coincidence, but the areas of most rapid melt seem to have a volcanoes beneath them.

Yet even these small movements in glaciers should be looked at in the context of net change in ice mass. Is the mass loss from moving glaciers offset by snow accumulation?
In June 2018 Jay Zwally claimed his 2015 paper showing net mass gain in Antarctica is confirmed in a forthcoming study. It is contentious (as is anything that contradicts the consensus. But the mainstream estimate of 7.6 mm of sea-level rise over 25 years is just 0.30mm a year. It is in Eastern Antarctica that the difference lies. 

From the Daily Caller

Zwally’s 2015 study said an isostatic adjustment of 1.6 millimeters was needed to bring satellite “gravimetry and altimetry” measurements into agreement with one another.

Shepherd’s paper cites Zwally’s 2015 study several times, but only estimates eastern Antarctic mass gains to be 5 gigatons a year — yet this estimate comes with a margin of error of 46 gigatons.

Zwally, on the other hand, claims ice sheet growth is anywhere from 50 gigatons to 200 gigatons a year.

In perspective the Shepard study has a central estimate of 2,720 billion tonnes of ice loss in 25 years leaving about 26,500,000 billion tonnes. That is a 0.01% reduction. 

As a beancounter I prefer any study that attempts to reconcile and understanding differing data sets. It is looking at differences (whether of different data sets; different time periods; hypothesis or forecast and empirical reality, word definitions etc.) that one can greater understanding of a subject, or at least start to map out the limits of one’s understanding. 

On the measure of reconciliation, I should tend towards the Zwally estimates with isostatic adjustment. But the differences are so small in relation to the data issues that one can only say that there is more than reasonable doubt about against the claim Antarctica lost mass in the last 25 years. The data issues are most clearly shown by figure 6 Zwally et al 2015, reproduced below.

Each colour band is for 25mm per annum whereas the isostatic adjustment is 1.6mm pa. In the later period the vast majority of Antarctica is shown as gaining ice, nearly all at 0-50mm pa. The greatest ice loss from 1992 to 2008 is from West Antarctica and around the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica. This contradicts the BBC headline “East Antarctica’s glaciers are stirring“, but not the detail of the article nor the NASA headline “More glaciers in East Antarctica are waking up“.

Concluding Comments

There are a number of concluding statements that can be made about the BBC article, along with the context of the NASA study.

  1. The implied suggestion by the BBC that recent glacier loss over a decade in part of East Antarctica could be a portent to 28m of sea level rise is gross alarmism. 
  2. The BBC’s headline “East Antarctica’s glaciers are stirring” implies the melt is new in area, but the article makes clear this is not the case. 
  3. There is no evidence put forward in the BBC, or elsewhere, to demonstrate that glacier melt in Antarctica is due to increased global ocean heat content or due to average surface temperature increase. Most, or all, could be down to shifts in ocean currents and volcanic activity. 
  4. Most, or all of any ice loss from glaciers to the oceans will be offset by ice gain elsewhere.  There are likely more areas gaining ice than losing it and overall in Antarctica there could be a net gain if ice.
  5. Although satellites can perform measures with increasing accuracy, especially glacier retreat and movement, the fine changes in ice mass are so small that adjustment and modelling assumptions for East Antarctica can make the difference between net gain or loss.

The NASA study of some of East Antarctica’s glaciers has to be understood in the context of when it was published. It was during the COP24 conference to control global emissions, with the supposed aim of saving the world from potential dangerous human-caused climate change. The BBC dressed it up the study make it appear that the study was a signal of this danger, when it was a trivial, localized (and likely) example of natural climate variation. The prominence given to such a study indicates the lack of strong evidence for a big problem that could justify costly emissions reduction policies. 

Kevin Marshall

UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2018 Part 2 – Emissions Projections by Country

On previous UNEP Emission Gap Reports I found that although they showed the aggregate global projected emissions, there has been no breakdown by country. As mitigation policies are mostly enacted by nation states, and the aim is to reduce global emissions, it would be useful to actually see how each of the near 200 nation states have pledged contribute to that objective.  Table 2.1 on page 9 of the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2018 (published last week) goes part way to remedy this glaring omission. The caption states

Table 2.1: Overview of the status and progress of G20 members, including on Cancun pledges and NDC targets.


The G20 economies accounted for 78% of global emissions (excluding LULUCF) in 2017. The table does not clearly show the estimate emissions in 2015 and 2030, only the emissions per capita in 2015 (including LULUCF) and the percentage change in emissions per capita from 2015 to 2030. So I have done my own calculations based on this data using the same future population estimates as UNEP. That is from the medium fertility variant of the United Nations World Population Prospects 2017 edition. There are two additional assumptions I have made in arriving at these figures. First, the share of global emissions in 2015 for each country was exactly the same as in 2017. Second, the global shares including LULUCF (Land use, land-use change and forestry) are the same as those excluding LULUCF. This second assumption will likely understate the total emissions shares of countries like Brazil and Indonesia, where land use has high, and variable, emissions impacts. It may impact the country rankings by a small amount. However, the overall picture shown in Figure 1 will not be materially changed as the report states on page XV that the land use element was just 4.2 GtCO2e of the 53.5 GtCO2e estimated emissions in 2017.

In Figure 1 it is only G20 countries with 33% of current global emissions where emissions are projected to be lower 2030 than in 2015. The other G20, with 45% of global emissions, are projected to be higher. There are wide variations. I calculate, Argentina is projected to increase its emissions by 7% or 32 MtCO2e, Turkey by 128% or 521 MtCO2e and India by 93% or 2546 MtCO2e.
To get a clearer picture I have looked at the estimates changes between 2015 and 2030  in Figure 2. Please note the assumptions made above, particularly concerning LULUCF. I also make the additional assumption that in rest of the world emissions will increase in line with projected population growth, so emissions per capita will be unchanged.

The calculated figures show a net increase of 7.4 GtCO2e, compared to EGR2018 estimates of 6 GtCO2e including LULUCF. It might be a reasonable assumption that there are net reductions in removing the rainforests by burning, and increase in trees due to more planting, and the impact of increased growth due to higher CO2 levels will be net positive.
Note that whilst the USA has given notice of exiting the Paris Agreement, and thus its pledges, the pledge was a very soft target. It is more than likely the United States will have the greatest emissions reductions of any country between 2015 and 2030, and have one of the largest percentage reductions as well. These reductions are mostly achieved without economically damaging mitigation policies.
The figures used for the G20 countries in Table 2.1 are only vague estimates as section 2.4.2 (Emissions trends and targets of individual G20 members) implies. However, the assumption of a net increase of 29% for the rest of the world might not be valid if one uses country INDC submissions as a basis for calculation. There are a few countries that have pledged to reduce emissions. Andorra and Liechtenstein are two examples. But among the more populous emerging economies, it is clear from the INDC submissions that there is no intention to reduce emissions.

Figure 3 estimates the implied increase in emissions in the more populous countries outside of the G20 for the unconditional scenarios.

I would also have liked to include DR Republic of Congo, Egypt and Iran, with a combined population of 260 million. However, lack of data in the INDCs prevented this.
Although the 8 countries in Figure 3 contain one eighth of the global population, they currently have just 4% of global emissions. But their aggregate projected emissions increase without outside assistance is 3.0 GtCO2e, on top of 2.1 GtCO2e in 2015. Combined with the 7.4 GtCO2e estimated increase for the G20 countries and it is difficult to see how the UNEP estimates an increase just 3 GtCO2e. (see Figure ES.3 on page XVIII).

There appear to be no countries with a population of more than 40 million outside of the G20 who are promising to decrease their emissions. Tanzania, Colombia, Kenya and Algeria (combined population 190 million people) are all projecting significant emissions increases, whilst Myanmar and Sudan have inadequate data to form an estimate. A quick check of 8 non G20 countries with populations of 30-40 million has the same result. Either an increase in emissions or no data. 

Implications for mitigation policy

In summary, of the 45 nations with a population above 30 million, just 10 have pledged to have emissions lower in 2030 than 2015. The United States will likely achieve this objective are well. The other 34 nations will likely have higher emissions in 2030, with most significantly higher. The 11 emissions-reducing nations have a population of 1.1 billion against 5.3 billion in the 34 other nations and 1.15 billion in nations or territories with a population of less than 30 million. In terms of emissions, barring economic disaster, I estimate it is likely that countries with in excess of 60% of global emissions in 2017 will have emissions in 2030 that exceed those of 2015.  

To put this in context, the Emissions Gap report states on page xv

According to the current policy and NDC scenarios, global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030.

My analysis confirms this. The Report further states

Total annual greenhouse gases emissions, including from land-use change, reached a record high of 53.5 GtCO2e in 2017, an increase of 0.7 GtCO2e compared with 2016. 
In contrast, global GHG emissions in 2030 need to be approximately 25 percent and 55 percent lower than in 2017 to put the world on a least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to 2°C and 1.5°C respectively.

After over 20 years of annual meeting to achieve global reductions in emissions, there is still no chance of that happening. In the light of this failure UNEP appear to have fudged the figures. Part of this is justified, as many developing countries appear to have put through unjustifiable BAU scenarios then claimed “climate actions” that will bring the projection more into line with what would be a non-policy forecast. COP 24 at Katowice will just be another platform for radical environmentalists to denigrate capitalist nations for being successful, and for a collective finger-wagging at the United States. 

The next part will look at the coded language of the Emissions Gap Report 2018 that effectively admits the 2°C and 1.5°C ambitions are impossible.

Kevin Marshall

 

UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2018 Part 1 – The BBC Response

Over the past year I have mentioned a number of times to UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2017. The successor 2018 EGR (ninth in the series) has now been published. This is the first in a series of short posts looking at the issues with the report. First up is an issue with the reporting by the BBC.
On the 27th Matt Macgarth posted an article Climate change: CO2 emissions rising for first time in four years.
The sub-heading gave the real thrust of the article.

Global efforts to tackle climate change are way off track says the UN, as it details the first rise in CO2 emissions in four years.

Much of the rest of the article gives a fair view of EGR18.  But there is a misleading figure. Under “No peaking?” the article has a figure titled

Number of countries that have pledged to cap emissions by decade and percentage of emissions covered”.

In the report Figure 2.1 states

Number of countries that have peaked or are committed to peaking their emissions, by decade (aggregate) and percentage of global emissions covered (aggregate).

The shortened BBC caption fails to recognize that countries in the past peaked their emissions unintentionally.  In looking at Climate Interactive‘s bogus emissions projections at the end of 2015 I found that, collectively, the current EU28 countries peaked their emissions in 1980. In the USA emissions per capita peaked in 1973. Any increases since then have been less than the rise in population. Yet Climate Interactive’s RCP8.5, non-policy, projection apportionment by country assumed that 

(a) Emissions per capita would start to increase again in the EU and USA after falling for decades

(b) In China and Russia emissions per capita would increase for decades to levels many times that of any country.

(c) In India and African countries emissions per capita would hardly change through to 2100, on the back of stalled economic growth. For India, the projected drop in economic growth was so severe that on Dec 30th 2015 to achieve the projection the Indian economy would have needed to have shrunk by over 20% before Jan 1st 2016. 

Revising the CO2 emissions projections (about 75% of the GHG emissions EGR18 refers to) would have largely explained the difference between the resultant 4.5°C of warming in 2100 from the BAU scenario of all GHG emissions and the 3.5°C consequential on the INDC submissions. I produced a short summary of more reasonable projections in December 2015.

Note that EGR18 now states the fully implemented INDC submissions will achieve 3.2°C of warming in 2100 instead of 3.5°C that CI was claiming three years ago.

The distinction between outcomes consequential on economic activity and those resultant from the deliberate design of policy is important if one wants to distinguish between commitments that inflict economic pain on their citizens (e.g. the UK) and commitments that are almost entirely diplomatic hot air (the vast majority). The BBC fails to make the distinction historically and in the future, whilst EGR18 merely fails with reference to the future.  

The conclusion is that the BBC should correct its misreporting, and the UN should start distinguishing between hot air and substantive policy to could cut emissions. But that would mean recognizing climate mitigation is not just useless, but net harmful to every nation that enacts policy that will make deep cuts in actual emissions,

Kevin Marshall