NOAA Future Aridity against Al Gore’s C20th Precipitation Graphic

Paul Homewood has taken a look at an article in yesterdays Daily Mail – A quarter of the world could become a DESERT if global warming increases by just 2ºC.

The article states

Aridity is a measure of the dryness of the land surface, obtained from combining precipitation and evaporation.  

‘Aridification would emerge over 20 to 30 per cent of the world’s land surface by the time the global temperature change reaches 2ºC (3.6ºF)’, said Dr Manoj Joshi from the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences and one of the study’s co-authors.  

The research team studied projections from 27 global climate models and identified areas of the world where aridity will substantially change.  

The areas most affected areas are parts of South East Asia, Southern Europe, Southern Africa, Central America and Southern Australia.

Now, having read Al Gore’s authoritative book An Inconvenient Truth there are statements first about extreme flooding, and then about aridity (pages 108-113). The reason for flooding coming first is on a graphic of twentieth-century changes in precipitation on pages 114 & 115.

This graphic shows that, overall, the amount of precipitation has increased globally in the last century by almost 20%.

 However, the effects of climate change on precipitation is not uniform. Precipitation in the 20th century increased overall, as expected with global warming, but in some regions precipitation actually decreased.

The blue dots mark the areas with increased precipitation, the orange dots with decreases. The larger the dot, the larger the change. So, according to Nobel Laureate Al Gore, increased precipitation should be the far more common than increased aridity. If all warming is attributed to human-caused climate change (as the book seems to imply) then over a third of the dangerous 2ºC occurred in the 20th century. Therefore there should be considerable coherence between the recent arid areas and future arid areas.

The Daily Mail reproduces a map from the UEA, showing the high-risk areas.

There are a couple of areas with big differences.

Southern Australia

In the 20th century, much of Australia saw increased precipitation. Within the next two or three decades, the UEA projects it getting considerably arider. Could this change in forecast be the result of the extreme drought that broke in 2012 with extreme flooding? Certainly, the pictures of empty reservoirs taken a few years ago, alongside claims that they would never likely refill show the false predictions.

One such reservoir is Lake Eildon in Victoria. Below is a graphic of capacity levels in selected years. It is possible to compare other years by following the historical water levels for EILDON link.

Similarly, in the same post, I linked to a statement by re-insurer Munich Re stating increased forest fires in Southern Australia were due to human activity. Not by “anthropogenic climate change”, but by discarded fag ends, shards of glass and (most importantly) fires that were deliberately started.

Northern Africa

The UEA makes no claims about increased aridity in Northern Africa, particularly with respect to the Southern and Northern fringes of the Sahara. Increasing desertification of the Sahara used to be claimed as a major consequence of climate change. In the year following Al Gore’s movie and book, the UNIPCC produced its Fourth Climate Assessment Report. Working Group II report, Chapter 9 (Pg 448) on Africa made the following claim.

In other countries, additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-2020 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003).

Richard North took a detailed look at the background of this claim in 2010. The other African countries were Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Agoumi 2003 compiled three reports, only one of which – Morocco – had anything near a 50% claim. Yet Morocco seems, from Al Gore’s graphic to have had a modest increase in rainfall over the last century.


The UEA latest doom-laden prophesy of increased aridity flies in the face of the accepted wisdom that human-caused global warming will result in increased precipitation. In two major areas (Southern Australia and Northern Africa), increased aridity is at add odds with changes in precipitation claimed to have occurred in the 20th Century by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth. Yet over a third of the of the dangerous 2ºC warming limit occurred in the last century.

Kevin Marshall


President Trumps Tweet on record cold in New York and Temperature Data

As Record-breaking winter weather grips North-Eastern USA (and much of Canada as well) President Donald Trump has caused quite a stir with his latest Tweet.

There is nothing new in the current President’s tweets causing controversy. This is a hard-hitting one has highlights a point of real significance for AGW theory. After decades of human-caused global warming, record cold temperatures are more significant than record warm temperatures. Record cold can be accommodated within the AGW paradigm by claiming greater variability in climate resultant on the warming. This would be a portent of the whole climate system being thrown into chaos once some tipping point had been breached. But that would also require that warm records are
(a) far more numerous than cold records and
(b) Many new warm records outstrip the old records of a few decades ago by a greater amount than the rise in average temperatures in that area.
I will illustrate with three temperature data sets I looked at a couple of years ago – Reykjavík, Iceland and Isfjord Radio and Svalbard Airport on Svalbard.

Suppose there had been an extremely high and an extremely low temperature in 2009 in Reykjavík. For the extreme high temperature to be a record it would only have to be nominally higher than a record set in 1940 to be a new record. The unadjusted average anomaly data is the same. If the previous record had been set in say 1990, a new high record would only be confirmation of more extreme climate if it was at least 1C higher than the previous record. But a new cold record in 2009 could be up to 1C higher than a 1990 low record to count as greater climate extremes. Similarly in the case of Svalbard Airport, new warm records in 2008 or 2009 would need to be over 4C higher than records set around 1980, and new cold records would need to be up to 4C higher than records set around 1980 to count as effective new warm and cold records.
By rebasing in terms of unadjusted anomaly data (and looking at monthly data) a very large number of possible records could be generated from one temperature station. With thousands of temperature stations with long records, it is possible to generate a huge number of “records” to analyze if the temperatures are becoming more extreme. But absolute record cold records should be few and far between. However, if relative cold records outstrip relative warm records, then there are questions to be asked of the average data. Similarly, if there were a lack of absolute records or a decreasing frequency of relative records, then the beliefs in impending climate chaos would be undermined.

I would not want to jump ahead with the conclusions. The most important element is to mine the temperature data and then analyze the results in multiple ways. There are likely to be surprises that could enhance understanding of climate in quite novel ways.

Kevin Marshall

Climate Public Nuisance as a justification for Climate Mitigation

Ron Clutz, at his Science Matters blog, has a penchant for producing some interesting articles that open up new areas outside of the mainstream of either climate alarmism or climate scepticism, some of which may challenge my own perspectives. With Critical climate intelligence for jurists and others, Ron has done this again.
There is a lot of ground covered here, and I am sure that it just touches on a few of the many issues. The first area covered is the tort of Public Nuisance, explained by legal scholar Richard O. Faulk. This touches upon areas that I have dealt with recently, particularly this section. (bold mine)

Generally in tort cases involving public nuisance, there is a term, which we all know from negligence cases and other torts, called proximate causation. In proximate causation, there is a “but for” test: but for the defendant’s activity, would the injury have happened? Can we say that climate change would not have happened if these power plants, these isolated five power plants, were not emitting greenhouse gases? If they completely stopped, would we still have global warming? If you shut them down completely and have them completely dismantled, would we still have global warming? 

I think Faulk then goes off the argument when he states.

Is it really their emissions that are causing this, or is it the other billions and billions of things on the planet that caused global warming—such as volcanoes? Such as gases being naturally released through earth actions, through off-gassing?

Is it the refinery down in Texas instead? Is it the elephant on the grasses in Africa? Is it my cows on my ranch in Texas who emit methane every day from their digestive systems? How can we characterize the public utilities’ actions as “but for” causes or “substantial contributions?” So far, the courts haven’t even reached these issues on the merits.

A necessary (but not sufficient) condition to be met for adverse human-caused global warming to be abated, is that most, if not all, human GHG emissions must be stopped. Unlike with smoke particulates, where elimination in the local area will make a big difference, GHGs are well-mixed. So shutting down a coal-fired power station in Oak Creek will have the same impact on the future climate change for people of South-East Wisconsin as shutting down a similar coal-fired power station in Boxburg, Ningxia, Mpumalanga, Kolkata or Porto do Pecém. That is in the range of zero or insignificantly different to zero depending on your perspective on CAGW.

Proximate causation was a term that I should have used to counter Minnesotan valve-turners climate necessity defense. As I noted in that post, to reduce global emissions by the amount desired by the UNIPCC – constraining future emissions to well below 1000 GtCO2e, requires not only reducing the demand for fossil fuels and other sources of GHG emissions, but also requires many countries dependent on the supply of fossil fuels for a large part of their national incomes, to leave at least 75% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

An example of proximate causation to be found in the post of 27 December Judge delivers crushing blow to Washington Clean Air RuleGovernor Inslee called the legislation “the nation’s first Clean Air Rule, to cap and reduce carbon pollution.” But the legislation will only reduce so-called carbon pollution if the reduction is greater than the net increase in other areas of the world. The will not happen as both demand and supply are not covered by global agreements with the aggregate impact

Kevin Marshall

Thomas Fuller on polar-bear-gate at Cliscep

This is an extended version of a comment made at Thomas Fuller’s cliscep article Okay, just one more post on polar-bear-gate… I promise…

There are three things highlighted in the post and the comments that illustrate the Polar Bear smear paper as being a rich resource towards understanding the worst of climate alarmism.

First is from Alan Kendall @ 28 Dec 17 at 9:35 am

But what Harvey et al. ignores is that Susan Crockford meticulously quotes from the “approved canon of polar bear research” and exhorts her readers to read it (making an offer to provide copies of papers difficult to obtain). She provides an entree into that canon- an entree obviously used by many and probably to the fury of polar bear “experts”.

This is spot on about Susan Crockford, and, in my opinion, what proper academics should be aiming at. To assess an area where widely different perspectives are possible, I was taught that it is necessary to read and evaluate the original documents. Climate alarmists in general, and this paper in particular, evaluate in relation collective opinion as opposed to more objective criteria. In the paper, “science” is about support for a partly fictional consensus, “denial” is seeking to undermine that fiction. On polar bears this is clearly stated in relation to the two groups of blogs.

We found a clear separation between the 45 science-based blogs and the 45 science-denier blogs. The two groups took diametrically opposite positions on the “scientific uncertainty” frame—specifically regarding the threats posed by AGW to polar bears and their Arctic-ice habitat. Scientific blogs provided convincing evidence that AGW poses a threat to both, whereas most denier blogs did not.

A key element is to frame statements in terms of polar extremes.

Second, is the extremely selective use of the data (or selective analysis methods) to enable the desired conclusion to be reached. Thomas Fuller has clearly pointed out in the article and restated in the comments with respect to WUWT, the following.

Harvey and his 13 co-authors state that WUWT overwhelmingly links to Crockford. I have shown that this is not the case.

Selective use of data (or selective analysis methods) is common on climate alarmism. For instance

  • The original MBH 98 Hockey-Stick graph used out-of-date temperature series, or tree-ring proxies such as at Gaspe in Canada, that were not replicated by later samples.
  • Other temperature reconstructions. Remember Keith Briffa’s Yamal reconstruction, which relied on one tree for the post-1990 reconstructions? (see here and here)
  • Lewandowsky et al “Moon Hoax” paper. Just 10 out of 1145 survey respondents supported the “NASA faked the Moon Landings” conspiracy theory. Of these just 2 dogmatically rejected “climate”. These two faked/scam/rogue respondents 860 & 889 supported every conspiracy theory, underpinning many of the correlations.
  • Smoothing out the pause in warming in Risbey, Lewandowsky et al 2014 “Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase”. In The Lewandowsky Smooth, I replicated the key features of the temperature graph in Excel, showing how no warming for a decade in Hadcrut4 was made to appear as if there was hardly a cessation of warming.

Third, is to frame the argument in terms of polar extremes. Richard S J Tol @ 28 Dec 17 at 7:13 am

And somehow the information in those 83 posts was turned into a short sequence of zeros and ones.

Not only one many issues is there a vast number of intermediate positions possible (the middle ground), there are other dimensions. One is the strength of evidential support for a particular perspective. There could be little or no persuasive evidence. Another is whether there is support for alternative perspectives. For instance, although sea ice data is lacking for the early twentieth-century warming, average temperature data is available for the Arctic. NASA Gistemp (despite its clear biases) has estimates for 64N-90N.

The temperature data seems to clearly indicate that all of the decline in Arctic sea ice from 1979 is unlikely to be attributed to AGW. From the 1880s to 1940 there was a similar magnitude of Arctic warming as from 1979 t0 2010 with cooling in between. Yet the rate of increase in GHG levels was greater from greater in 1975-2010 than 1945-1975, which was in turn greater than the period decades before.

Kevin Marshall


Russian Brexit Influence on Social Media a Loser’s Conspiracy Theory

A few weeks ago there emerged a new conspiracy theory about the Russians have funded a massive pro-Leave social media campaign. I part-prepared a post backing one at Cliscep emphasizing how ridiculous the so-called evidence was for these claims. Last week Facebook announced that the Russian Internet Research Agency had spent a grand total of $1 (73p) on six adverts and Twitter revealed that a total of $1,031.99 had been spent on six referendum-related ads during the campaign.

There are two parts to this post.

  1. Russian Social Media impact on Brexit in context of the wider campaign
  2. The circumstantial evidence that social media was likely to have had a bigger influence on the Remain vote than on the Leave vote.


Russian Social Media impact on Brexit in context of the wider campaign

The evidence for the success of the Russians on Twitter in influencing the Brexit result needs to be viewed in the wider context.

First is to check the data in support of the argument. As Geoff Chambers pointed out @ 

Second is to look at the other tweets. The bot accounts were not the only source of tweets supporting Brexit. Further, there were quite a lot of tweets in the support of Remain.

Third, is that there are other sources of news/information/propaganda in support of both sides in the campaign. What about the official campaigns? Or the support of international political leaders or International Organisations (e.g. IMF, EU) or businesses? Would a majority of the British public really prefer the opinions of a Twitter Bot over those of President Barak Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Treasury, celebrities like St. Bob Geldof, the majority of British MP’s or most British businesses?


Which side of the EU Referendum did social media influence more?

It is very difficult to tell the actual influence of social media on the vote, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that the influence will have been more towards increasing Remain vote rather than the Leave.

First is from the age spread of the vote. I believe that Twitter and other social media use is inversely related to age. Therefore, one would expect that if there had been undue influence, the young would have voted more for Brexit than the older folks. Lord Ashcroft’s Polls surveyed 12,369 on EU Referendum day and published on 24th June under “How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and why“.  73% of 18-24 year olds and 62% of 25-34 year olds voted to remain in the EU. It would suggest that the Leave campaign as a whole failed to reach the Twitterati.

From How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and why, is the following split by age band.

Second I believe that due to its transitory nature, social media is more likely to have had a bigger influence on in those who made up their mind at the last moment, than those who voted as a reflection of long-held beliefs. But whilst 25% of Remain voters decided in the last week, just 22% of Leave voters did so. So either social media made a bigger influence on the Remain vote, or it had no significant difference at all.

Third evidence that runs counter to a Russian influence through Twitter on the Brexit vote is in the geographical distribution of the Brexit vote. In England and Wales the constituencies that voted most strongly Remain were in inner cities, particularly London, Manchester and Liverpool. The strongest pro-Leave votes were widely spread. But the many of the extreme pro-Leave constituencies in the traditional Labour heartlands in the North of England and South Wales.

I live in Manchester. This encapsulates the divide. The City of Manchester has some of the most pro-Remain constituencies in the country, whilst much of the rest of Greater Manchester was pro-Leave. But as the City of Manchester folks has the most vocal people in the region, along with the most vocal twitterati, it would seem that Greater Manchester is full of Remainers. The estimated vote by constituency gives a quite different picture.

The Leave constituencies are on the margins of Greater Manchester and form the big majority. But the most vocal opinion formers are in central Manchester. Similarly, the most vocal activists nationally are those in London, along with the University Cities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Bristol.  Brighton and Manchester are also other centers of activism.

Following the EU Referendum, there was a major online petition to Parliament that wanted to nullify the result by having a 2nd Referendum on different rules.The petition was dominated by those in London and other centers of activism. This was a petition map extract of 00.30 26/06/16.

These same centres of activism dominated the “Prevent Donald Trump making a State Visit” petition at the beginning of this year. Compare the spread of petition numbers by political constituency with the rival petition supporting the state visit. The pale orange areas have proportionately very low numbers of signatories. The red areas have proportionately high numbers. The “Prevents” are mostly in the cities, the “Supports” have a much more even geographical spread.


Concluding Comments

The claims that Russian-sponsored social media presence helping tip the scales towards a Brexit vote does not stand up to scrutiny. The actual evidence of spending on social media is negligible; the other forms of media and major leaders were predominantly pro-Remain; the demographics of social media users are very much in line with Remain voters; and online activists are dominated by City-based virulently pro-EU types. The continued Russian conspiracy theory is predominantly from a bunch losers who cannot recognize that most people have different views from their own.

Kevin Marshall 

Evidence for the Stupidest Paper Ever

Judith Curry tweeted a few days ago

This is absolutely the stupidest paper I have ever seen published.

What might cause Judith Curry to make such a statement about Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy? Below are some notes that illustrate what might be considered stupidity.

Warmest years are not sufficient evidence of a warming trend

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) both recently reported that 2016 was the warmest year on record (Potter et al. 2016), followed by 2015 and 2014. Currently, 2017 is on track to be the second warmest year after 2016. 

The theory is that rising greenhouse gas levels are leading to warming. The major greenhouse gas is CO2, supposedly accounting for about 75% of the impact. There should, therefore, be a clear relationship between the rising CO2 levels and rising temperatures. The form that the relationship should take is that an accelerating rise in CO2 levels will lead to an accelerating rate of increase in global average temperatures. Earlier this year I graphed the rate of change in CO2 levels from the Mauna Loa data.

The trend over nearly sixty years should be an accelerating trend. Depending on which temperature dataset you use, around the turn of the century warming either stopped or dramatically slowed until 2014. A strong El Nino caused a sharp spike in the last two or three years. The data contradicts the theory in the very period when the signal should be strongest.

Only the stupid would see record global average temperatures (which were rising well before the rise in CO2 was significant) as strong evidence of human influence when a little understanding of theory would show the data contradicts that influence.

Misrepresentation of Consensus Studies

The vast majority of scientists agree that most of the warming since the Industrial Revolution is explained by rising atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations (Doran and Zimmerman 2009, Cook et al. 2013, Stenhouse et al. 2014, Carlton et al 2015, Verheggen et al. 2015), 

Doran and Zimmerman 2009 asked two questions

1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

Believing that human activity is a significant contributing factor to rising global temperatures does not mean one believes the majority of warming is due to rising GHG concentrations. Only the stupid would fail to see the difference. Further, the results were a subset of all scientists, namely geoscientists. The reported 97% consensus was from a just 79 responses, a small subset of the total 3146 responses. Read the original to find out why.

The abstract to Cook et al. 2013 begins

We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. 

Expressing a position does not mean a belief. It could be an assumption. The papers were not necessarily by scientists, but merely authors of academic papers that involved the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. Jose Duarte listed some of the papers that were included in the survey, along with looking at some that were left out. It shows a high level of stupidity to use these flawed surveys as supporting the statement “The vast majority of scientists agree that most of the warming since the Industrial Revolution is explained by rising atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations“.

Belief is not Scientific Evidence

The most recent edition of climate bible from the UNIPCC states (AR5 WG1 Ch10 Page 869)

It is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in GMST from 1951 to 2010.

Mispresenting surveys about beliefs are necessary because the real world data, even when that data is a deeply flawed statisticdoes not support the belief that “most of the warming since the Industrial Revolution is explained by rising atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations“.  

Even if the survey data supported the statement, the authors are substituting banal statements about beliefs for empirically-based scientific statements. This is the opposite direction to achieving science-based understanding. 

The false Consensus Gap

The article states

This chasm between public opinion and scientific agreement on AGW is now commonly referred to as the consensus gap (Lewandowsky et al. 2013)

Later is stated, in relation to sceptical blogs

Despite the growing evidence in support of AGW, these blogs continue to aggressively deny the causes and/or the projected effects of AGW and to personally attack scientists who publish peer-reviewed research in the field with the aim of fomenting doubt to maintain the consensus gap.

There is no reference that tracks the growing evidence in support of AGW. From WUWT (and other blogs) there has been a lot of debunking of the claims of the signs of climate apocalypse such as

  • Malaria increasing as a result of warming
  • Accelerating polar ice melt / sea level rise
  • Disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro due to warming
  • Kiribati and the Maldives disappearing due to sea level rise
  • Mass species extinction
  • Himalayan glaciers disappearing
  • The surface temperature record being a true and fair estimate of real warming
  • Climate models consistently over-estimating warming

The to the extent that a consensus gap exists it is between the consensus beliefs of the climate alarmist community and actual data. Scientific support from claims about the real world come from conjectures being verified, not by the volume of publications about the subject.

Arctic Sea Ice Decline and threats to Polar Bear Populations

The authors conjecture (with references) with respect to Polar Bears that

Because they can reliably catch their main prey, seals (Stirling and Derocher 2012, Rode et al. 2015), only from the surface of the sea ice, the ongoing decline in the seasonal extent and thickness of their sea-ice habitat (Amstrup et al. 2010, Snape and Forster 2014, Ding et al. 2017) is the most important threat to polar bears’ long-term survival.

That seems plausible enough. Now for the evidence to support the conjecture.

Although the effects of warming on some polar-bear subpopulations are not yet documented and other subpopulations are apparently still faring well, the fundamental relationship between polar-bear welfare and sea-ice availability is well established, and unmitigated AGW assures that all polar bears ultimately will be negatively affected. 

There is a tacit admission that the existing evidence contradicts the theory. There is data showing a declining trend in sea ice for over 35 years, yet in that time the various polar bear populations have been growing significantly, not just “faring well“. Surely there should be a decline by now in the peripheral Arctic areas where the sea ice has disappeared? The only historical evidence of decline is this comment in criticizing Susan Crockford’s work.

For example, when alleging sea ice recovered after 2012, Crockford downplayed the contribution of sea-ice loss to polar-bear population declines in the Beaufort Sea.

There is no reference to this claim, so readers cannot check if the claim is supported. But 2012 was an outlier year, with record lows in the Summer minimum sea ice extent due to unusually fierce storms in August. Losses of polar bears due to random & extreme weather events are not part of any long-term decline in sea ice.

Concluding Comments

The stupid errors made include

  • Making a superficial point from the data to support a conjecture, when deeper understanding contradicts it. This is the case with the conjecture that rising GHG levels are the main cause of recent warming.
  • Clear misrepresentation of opinion surveys.
  • Even if the opinion surveys were correctly interpreted, use of opinion to support scientific conjectures, as opposed looking at statistical tests of actual data or estimates should appear stupid from a scientific perspective.
  • Claims that a consensus gap between consensus and sceptic views when the real gap is between consensus opinion and actual data.
  • Claims that polar bear populations will decline as sea ice declines is contradicted by the historical data. There is no recognition of this contradiction.

I believe Harvey et al paper gives some lessons for climatologists in particular and academics in general.

First is that when making claims crucial to the argument they need to be substantiated. That substantiation needs to be more than referencing others who have said the same claims before.

Second is that points drawn from referenced articles should be accurately represented.

Third, is to recognize that scientific papers need to first reference actual data and estimates, not opinions.  It is by comparing the current opinions with the real world that opportunities for advancement of understanding arise.

Fourth is that any academic discipline should aim to move from conjectures to empirically-based verifiable statements.

I have only picked out some of the more obvious of the stupid points. The question that needs to be asked is why such stupidity should have been agreed upon by 14 academics and then passed peer review?

Kevin Marshall

The Supply-Side of Climate Mitigation is Toothless

To eliminate global greenhouse gas emissions requires a two-pronged policy approach. Much is made of reducing demand for greenhouse gases through the switch to renewables, regulations and carbon taxes. But, with respect to fossil fuels, the supply needs to be reduced and eventually ceased. Climate activists like valve-turner Micheal Foster recognize that to achieve the climate mitigation targets much of the potential supply of fossil fuels must be left in the ground. With respect to the valve-turners actions of October 16th 2016, whilst it is possible to look at the minuscule impact that on global oil supply and proven reserves of oil, it is more difficult to estimate the marginal impact on the overall greenhouse gas emissions of their broader objective of permanently shutting down Canadian oil production. That requires estimates of CO2 emissions per unit of oil, coal and gas. In searching for figures to make my own estimates I came across a letter to Nature. McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves of oil, gas and coal would produce about 2900 GtCO2e. They further estimate that the “non-reserve resources” of fossil fuels represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions.

There is no breakdown by country, so I input their values of CO2 per unit into the BP’s estimates of global reserves of oil, gas and coal, coming up with a similar 2800 GtCO2e. These represent roughly 50 years of oil and gas supply and 120 years of coal supply at current usage rates. This should be put into the context of the policy objectives. From the abstract.

It has been estimated that to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2).

This is similar to the IPCC’s central estimate of 1000 Gt CO2e from 2012 onwards. With just over 50 GtCO2e of GHG emissions per annum, from the beginning of 2018, the figure is around 700-800 GtCO2e. Taking into account other GHG emissions, to achieve the emissions target around 75% of proven reserves and 100% of any non-reserve sources or future discoveries must be left in the ground. I have produced a chart of the countries where these proven reserves lie, measured in terms of CO2 produced from burning.

These are very rough estimates, based upon assuming that the emissions per unit of each fossil fuel are the same as the McGlade and Ekins averages. This is clearly not the case. A better estimate for oil, for instance, would likely have higher potential emissions from Venezuela and Canada, and lower potential emissions from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. However, it is clear that if global emissions constraints are to be achieved, the UN must get binding agreements from USA, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Qatar – plus many other countries – to abandon these vital resources within a few years. This would need to be done fairly and equitably in the eyes of all parties. But in such matters, there are widely different perspectives on what is fair, with a lack of ability by the UN to impose a settlement. There are also considerable economic costs to those nations whose economies rely on the producing fossil fuels, with the compensation the that they might demand unimaginably high. Further, like any cartel, there are considerable economic advantages in reneging on such deals, whilst ensuring that rival countries are held to their part of the agreement.

The problem is even greater. McGlade and Ekins 2015 is likely to have underestimated the unproven reserves of fossil fuels, even though the 8000 GtCO2e is truly staggering. The short 2013 GWPF paper THE ABUNDANCE OF FOSSIL FUELS by Phillip Mueller estimates that unproven, but potential recoverable reserves of tar sands in Canada and Green River Basin Wyoming, heavy oil in Venezuela and shale oil in Saudi Arabia could each be similar to or exceed, the global proven reserves of oil. Combined these could produce the around the same CO2 emissions of all the proven reserves of oil, gas and coal combined.

Then there are methane hydrates, which could contain 500 to 5000+ GtCO2e of emissions if burnt. The very nature of the hydrates could mean that large amounts of methane being released directly into the atmosphere.  This US Geological survey graphic (from a 2014 BBC article) shows the very wide distribution of the hydrates, meaning many countries could have large deposits within their territorial waters. This is especially significant for African nations, most of whom have very low, or nil, proven fossil fuel resources.

Mueller does not explore the potential reserves of coal. Under the North Sea alone there is estimated to be 3 to 23 trillion tonnes of the stuff. (Searches reveal a number of other sources.) This compares to the BP estimate of 800 million tonnes of global proven reserves. 3 to 23 trillion tonnes of hard coal if burnt would represent 7000 to 55000 GtCO2e of emissions, compared to less than 1000 GtCO2e the IPCC claims sufficient to reach the 2C warming limit.

How many other vast fossil fuel reserves are out there? It may be just economic factors that stop fossil fuels reserves being proven and then exploited. What is clear is that whilst activists might be able to curtail or stop production of fossil fuels in Western countries, they are powerless to stop vast reserves being exploited in much of the rest of the World. The only significant consequence is to harm the economic futures of any country in which they gain successes and inadvertently work to benefit some pretty intolerant and oppressive regimes.

However, this does not leave climate activists impotent. They can work on better identifying when and where the catastrophic impacts of climate change will occur. But that would mean recognizing that previous prophesies of impending doom have been either totally false or massively exaggerated.

Kevin Marshall

Scotland now to impose Minimum Pricing for Alcohol

This week the British Supreme Court cleared the way for the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 to be enacted. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) had mounted a legal challenge to try to halt the price hike, which it said was disproportionate’ and illegal under European law. (Daily Mail) The Act will mandate that retailers have to charge a minimum of 50p per unit of alcohol. This will only affect the price of alcohol in off-licences and supermarkets. In the pub, the price of a pint with 5% ABV is already much higher than the implied price of £1.42. I went round three supermarkets – Asda, Sainsbury’s and Aldi – to see the biggest price hikes implied in the rise.

The extra profit is kept by the retailer, though gross profits may fall as sales volume falls. Premium brands only fall below the minimum price in promotions. With the exception of discounter Aldi, the vast majority of shelf space is occupied by alcohol above the minimum price. Further, there is no escalator. The minimum price will stay the same for the six years that the legislation is in place. However, the Scottish Government claims that 51% of alcohol sold in off-trade is less than 50 pence per unit. The promotions have a big impact. The Scottish people will be deprived of these offers. Many will travel across the border to places like Carlisle and Berwick, to acquire their cheap booze. Or enterprising folks will break the law by illegal sales. This could make booze more accessible to underage drinkers and bring them into regular contact with petty criminals. However, will it reduce the demand for booze? The Scottish Government website quotes Health Secretary Shona Robison.

“This is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland’s troubled relationship with alcohol.

“In a ruling of global significance, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously backed our pioneering and life-saving alcohol pricing policy.

“This has been a long journey and in the five years since the Act was passed, alcohol related deaths in Scotland have increased. With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high.

“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.

Is minimum pricing effective? Clearly, it will make some alcohol more expensive. But it must be remembered that the tax on alcohol is already very high. The cheapest booze on my list, per unit of alcohol, is the 3 litre box of Perry (Pear Cider) at £4.29. The excise duty is £40.38 per hectolitre. With VAT at 20%, tax is £1.92, or 45% of the retail price. The £16 bottles of spirits (including two well-known brands of Scottish Whisky) are at 40% alcohol. With excise duty at £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol, tax is £13.33 or 83% of the retail price. It has been well-known that alcohol is highly inelastic with respect to price so very large increases in price will make very little difference to demand. This is born out by a graphic from a 2004 report Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England of the UK alcohol consumption in the last century.

In the early part of the twentieth century, there was sharp fall in alcohol consumption from 1900 to the 1930s. There was a sharp drop in the First World War, but after the war the decline continued the pre-war trend. This coincided with a religious revival and the temperance movement. It was started in the nineteenth century by organisations such as the Salvation Army and the Methodists, but taken up by other Christian denominations. In other words, it was a massive cultural change from the bottom, where it became socially unacceptable for many even to touch alcohol. Conversely, the steep decline in religion in the post-war period was accompanied by the rise in alcohol consumption.

The minimum price for alcohol is a fiscal solution being proposed for cultural problems. The outcome of a minimum price will be monopoly profits for the supermarkets and the manufacturers of alcoholic drinks.

It is true that a lot of crime is committed by those intoxicated, other social problems are caused and there are health issues. But the solution is not to increase the price of alcohol. The solution is to change people. The Revival of the early twentieth century, (begun before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914) saw both a fall in alcohol consumption and a fall in crime levels, that continued through the Great Depression. But it was not lacking of alcohol that reduced crime on the early twentieth. Instead, both reductions had a common root in the Christian Faith.

The Scottish Government will no doubt see a fall in sales of alcohol. But this will not represent the reduction in consumption, as cheaper booze will be imported from England, including Scottish Whisky. All that they are doing is treating people as statistics to be dictated to, and manipulated by, their shallow moralistic notions.

Kevin Marshall


Macron calls for Climate Tariffs against most of the World

From the Independent (via Eric Worrall at WUWT)

In his speech, Mr Macron also called for an EU tariff on goods imported from countries or companies that do not share its climate goals, and pledged to work to raise the cost of carbon within the EU to €30 a tonne.

The EU INDC submission to COP21 Paris states

The EU and its Member States are committed to a binding target of an at
least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
compared to 1990,

Most INDC submissions do not state they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, even if the proposals are fully met (and the EU is unlikely to meet its target) then emissions are forecast to be higher in 2030 than they are today. This graphic from the UNEP Emissions Gap Report published at the end of October demonstrates the situation quite nicely.

So President Macron is wanting sanctions not just against the USA, but most of the world as well? This includes China, India, nearly every African country,  most countries in SE Asia, the Middle East nations and some other nations besides. Or is it just those who stand up to the useless European climate policies, that are benefiting large businesses with subsidies financed disproportionately by the poor? The rhetoric includes “companies”, on whom sanctions cannot be applied. Further, the €30 carbon price is equivalent to €0.10 on the price of petrol (gasoline). How is a small rise in the cost of fossil fuel energy from a group of countries with less than 10% of GHG emissions going to save the world? As economics Professor Richard Tol has estimated, to achieve the targets would require a global carbon tax from 2020 of $210 and then escalated by 4-6% a year until fossil fuels were unaffordable. Chancellor Angela Merkel claims “Climate change is by far the most significant struggle of our time.” (Independent again). The falsity of this claim is shown by political newcomer President Macron’s trying to marginalize and silence opponents with empty and ineffectual threats.

Climate Necessity Defense for Minnesotan Valve Turners

Unlike the Michael Foster and other co-defendants is North Dakota, the Minnesotan Valve-Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein get their chance to present the Climate Necessity Defense. From (Hat tip Science Matters)

Klapstein, a retired lawyer, said they know of one case in which a judge allowed evidence about climate change but then told the jury to disregard it.

“It looks like we’re going to be able to bring in all our experts and present our evidence of how dire climate change is, so we’re pretty excited about that,” she said.

As a retired attorney, she perhaps should have read the criteria before responding.

In an order Friday, Clearwater County District Judge Robert Tiffany said the four defendants must clear a high legal bar.

In Minnesota, Tiffany wrote, a defendant asserting a necessity defense “must show that the harm that would have resulted from obeying the law would have significantly exceeded the harm actually caused by breaking the law, there was no legal alternative to breaking the law, the defendant was in danger of imminent physical harm, and there was a direct causal connection between breaking the law and preventing the harm.

The judge said it applies “only in emergency situations where the peril is instant, overwhelming, and leaves no alternative but the conduct in question.

This appears fairly clear. The Judge lays down four criteria to be met within an overriding one of emergency situations with no alternative. It is the legal equivalent of demanding that the positive impacts of an action greatly exceed the harms in very specific, very short-term, circumstances. Further, it is up to the defense to demonstrate that the circumstances apply, convincing the court in the face of cross-examinations.

There are a number of areas where I believe climate activists actions not only fails to meet these criteria, but does not even get anywhere close.

The timing issue

The emergency situations criteria are pretty immediate. An example is a police officer shooting dead a rampaging terrorist rather than maiming and performing an arrest. Another example might be destroying the car keys of someone who is drunk and intent on driving. The very short time scales of seconds or minutes exclude options that would take months or years to implement.  There are examples of where such an emergency situation does not apply to climate change policies.

If prominent climate activist Prince Charles was correct in saying in October 2009 that we have less than 100 months to save the planet, it would not have been considered an instant peril. With three months to go until the deadline, even that appears to be somewhat alarmist in the context of a lack of increase of signals of impending catastrophic consequences.

Another source is from the pinnacle of the climate establishment. The IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report gave a very rough guide to how much CO2 (or equivalent greenhouse gases) could be emitted to limit warming to less than 2°C. From 2012 it was about 1000 GtCO2e. This flowing is part of a presentation to summarize the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report of 2014. Slide 33 of 35.

A more recent source is Miller et al 2017 Nature GeoScience. They estimate that 240 GtC (880 GtCO2e) from now will be needed to reach 1.5°C of warming. On the IPCC’s estimate then with slightly over 50GtCO2e of emissions per annum, the 2°C of warming would be reached sometime before 2032, when the climate experts are now saying the lower 1.5°C barrier will be reached sometime before 2035. Whichever you use as the barrier for breaching of dangerous climate change, that level will not be reached anytime soon according to the climate experts. There is plenty of time for a few more, tense, annual meetings with representatives of 195 nations to pontificate about mitigation policies.

So even if extreme climate alarmism is true, the expert opinion on policy strongly implies that the defendants were not “in danger of imminent physical harm”.

Finally, in 2008 the climate necessity defense was supported by James Hansen in a couple of British court cases. The detailed document prepared as written testimony for the Ratcliffe Nottingham trial is here and a 2011 commentary on the two cases by Hansen is here. As the supposed emergency in global emissions have not appeared in eight years between the testimony and the felony why should it be still considered a pressing problem? James Hansen, sometimes referred to as the Father of Climate Change after his 1988 Congressional Testimony pushed Global Warming to the fore of the political agenda, is likely to be the key witness in the necessity defence. He would have been the key witness at the trial of Micheal Foster in North Dakota last month if the necessity defense had been allowed. After the Foster Trial, Hansen wrote a long article, including arguments that will likely be presented at the Johnston and Klapstein Trail.

Indivisibility Issues

Many people in the United States believe that abortion is murder. Suppose a group managed to close down a busy abortion clinic by constant blockades and intimidation, throwing a number of people of work. An argument could be made that some of the women will not get abortions elsewhere, but will instead give birth to a child. The necessity defense criteria could, therefore, be operable. But with respect to global warming the evidence shows (and the science agrees) that it does not matter where in the world fossil fuels are burnt, the generated CO2 will be dispersed affecting the whole atmosphere. Otherwise, Eastern USA and Eastern China would have much higher concentrations of CO2 than in Africa, Antarctica or over the oceans that cover 70% of the earth’s surface.  Neither does that CO2 leave the atmosphere quickly but could remain in the atmosphere for many decades or even centuries. Therefore, the marginal impact delaying the transportation of one type of fossil fuel in one country for a few hours will have no significant impact on generations of people yet to come. As a rough estimate, the combined actions of the valve-turners (of which Micheal Foster on the Keystone Pipeline was by far the biggest contribution), was to delay the transportation of less than a million barrels of oil. That is to delay the transportation of around 1% of the daily global output of about 92 million barrels. A million barrels (140,000 tonnes) will produce around 400,000 tonnes of CO2. That is 0.4 million tonnes or 0.0004 billion tonnes. This 0.0004 GtCO2 is 0.00004% of the 1000 GtCO2e (million million) of emissions by the IPCC to breach the dangerous 2°C of warming barrier. The impact of Valve-Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein is somewhat less than this. The difference between “the harm that would have resulted from obeying the law” and “the harm actually caused by breaking the law” is infinitesimally small.

Local Harms, Wider Benefits

There is another set of harms to be considered.  That is the immediate costs of property damage and business disruption from the activists’ actions, along with the time and expense of law enforcement. Even if the action could be shown to have benefits exceeding the costs, for the actual persons or entities targeted that position will be reversed. So, hypothetically, if the benefits of stopping a few hundred thousand tonnes of emissions are even $100,000,000, and the immediate costs are just $1,000,000, the benefits are across the planet decades or centuries in the future and shared by tens of billions of people, whilst the costs are immediate and disproportionately borne by very few victims that the activists select. In reality, the benefits are likely far less, and the full costs somewhat more.

The catalyst effect of the action

As this was an act of climate activism, there was probably no intention that this act would stop climate change. Rather, that the act could serve as a catalyst for action to constrain emissions. It could serve as a wake-up call to policy-makers. A year later it is possible to see any impacts.

In the United States, less than a month after the valve turners did their deeds Donald Trump was elected President and subsequently has begun to rescind climate change policies. There appears to have been no impact on the Presidential elections. If it had, then criminal acts would have influenced the election, something that would have undermined the democratic process.

Another justification could be one of a catalyst for many more criminal actions. Again, there seems to be no surge in climate activism, whether through legal or illegal means does not seem to have happened. Further, lawyers might caution against using the catalyst argument in court to defend criminal acts.

So the catalyst defense (which may not be admissible under Judge Tiffany’s criteria) doesn’t seem to have worked out.

Non-exhaustion of legal policy initiatives

Judge Tiffany’s final specification was

leaves no alternative but the conduct in question.

Was there no alternative? There are two basic criteria necessary, but not sufficient, for the necessity defense to justify an otherwise illegal activity. First, that legal alternatives have been exhausted and second, that the illegal alternative has at least an expectation of being remotely effective. As already stated, the consensus believes that to prevent catastrophic climate change means permanently eliminating global greenhouse gas emissions. With respect to the burning of fossil fuels (about two-thirds of global GHG emissions), this is on the twin fronts of reducing global emissions to near zero and ensuring permanently leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Possibilities for closing the policy gap

The global efforts to reduce global GHG emissions culminated in the Paris Agreement, written at the end of December 2015 and signed by most countries. The Adoption of the Paris Agreement proposal; Section II, Point 17 notes gives an indication of the gap between the aggregate impact of all the vague policy initiatives and the desired policy goal.

17. Notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below;

In a post last month I adapted a graphic produced by the UNFCCC in the run-up to Paris COP21 to show the gap between actual policy proposals and the Millar et al 2017 estimates to prevent 1.5˚C of warming being breached.

The aggregate impact of all policy ambitions if fully implemented fall a long way short of the targets. The majority is not due to the United States, or other Western Countries, failing to reduce emissions at a fast enough rate, but the developing countries increasing their emissions, rather than cutting emissions. When compared with  protests against President Trump’s policies (in a country with less than one-eighth of global emissions and a falling share of the total) there are no mass protests outside the embassies of Asian, Middle Eastern, African or South American countries, with over 80% if the global population and which collectively account for 100% of the growth in emissions between 1990 and 2012. Yet these countries have no expressed intention of reducing their emissions commensurate with the policy pathways. Criminal acts in the USA will do nothing to change this.

Leaving Fossil Fuels in the Ground

Arguments for targeting the output of Canadian tar sands include

(a) per unit of energy, it creates higher emissions than oil from say, Saudi Arabia.

(b) there are vast unproven reserves of oil in Canada that may exceed the current global proven reserves.

These aspects I will deal with in depth in a follow-up post. However, the two statements above are true. There are, however, wider policy aspects. Shutting down some of the global production of oil (and raising the price of oil) could increase the usage of coal instead. Push the price high enough and there will generate economic incentives to convert coal to liquids, a process that involves the generation of a number of times the CO2 emissions as from generating energy direct from oil alone.

The wider aspect is whether shutting down some proven reserves make available much less than the 1000 GtCO2e of emissions that would supposedly cause dangerous climate change. McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves around 2900 GtCO2e. There is no clear breakdown by country, so I input their values of CO2 per unit into the BP’s estimates of global reserves of oil, gas and coal, coming up with a similar 2800 GtCO2e. These represent roughly 50 years of oil and gas supply and 120 years of coal supply at current usage rates. Taking into account other GHG emissions, to achieve the emissions target around 75% of proven reserves and 100% of any future discoveries must be left in the ground. I have produced a chart of the countries where these proven resources lie, measured in terms of CO2 produced from burning for energy.

McGlade and Ekins further estimate there are unproven but likely reserves of oil, gas and coal represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions. Shutting down the Tar Sands permanently will not stop production of fossil fuels elsewhere in the world, particularly in the Middle East, Russia and other Asian countries.


There are a number of reasons that on their own ought to fail the necessity defense criteria laid down by Clearwater County District Judge Robert Tiffany last month. 

First, the climate experts at the UNIPCC, and the policy-promotors at the UNFCCC do not believe there is an imminent emergency. They estimate the threshold to dangerous climate change will not be crossed for over a decade.

Second, the cause of dangerous climate change is meant to the rise in global greenhouse levels, caused by global human greenhouse gas emissions. Shutting down fossil fuel emissions will not stop the harms in that area.

Third, the harms inflicted on the victims of the action are local, whereas any benefits in reduced emissions are global. But there is no evidence of the activists realizing this by campaigning for policy changes in other countries on anything like the level in the USA. The activist’s actions single out a particular source and are thus discriminatory.

Fourth, although the various actions on the same day stopped a vast amount of oil being moved, it was tiny in relation to oil the fossil being produced. Further, oil is only a minority source of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Fifth, there is a large recognized global policy gap between forecast emissions if current policy proposals are fully enacted and the desired emissions pathways commensurate with 1.5°C or 2°C of warming. To meet these global pathways all countries must participate, but the evidence is that countries with over 80% of the global population have no expressed intention to get anywhere close to these policy criteria. Further, meeting the policy criteria would mean that the vast majority of proven reserves of fossil fuels are left in the group, along with any unproven reserves. Given the geographical dispersion of the proven reserves, this is not going to happen.

The principal theme that undermines the climate necessity defense is that the marginal impact of the action of shutting down a pipeline (or even a number of pipelines) is infinitesimally small compared to the required solution. For this reason, the necessity defense is still not valid even if (contrary to all the research to date) it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that catastrophic climate changes will happen without rapid reductions in global emissions.

Kevin Marshall