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

The Inferior Methods in Supran and Oreskes 2017

In the previous post I looked at one aspect of the article Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications (1977–2014) by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes. I concluded the basis for evaluation of ExxonMobil’s sponsored climate papers – “AGW is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” –  is a mantra held by people who fail to distinguish between empirical and verifiable statements, tautologies, opinions and public policy that requires some fanciful global political implementation. In this post I look at how the application of that mantra in analyzing journal articles can lead to grossly misleading interpretations.

Under Section 2. Method, in Table 2 the authors lay out their criteria evaluation in terms of how the wording supports (endorses) or doubts elements of the mantra. For AGW is real & human-caused there are quite complex criteria. But for whether it is “serious” and “solvable” they are much more straightforward, and I have reproduced them below.

The acknowledgment or doubt of “AGW as serious” or “AGW as solvable” are in relation to the mantra. That is the only criteria used. Supran and Oreskes would claim that this does not matter. What they are looking at is the positions communicated in the papers relative to the positions expressed by ExxonMobil externally. But there are problems with this methodology in terms of alternative perspectives that are missing.

First is that the underlying quality and clarity of results and relevancy of each paper is ignored. What matters to Supran and Oreskes is the language used.

Second is that ExxonMobil’s papers are not the only research on whether “AGW is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable”. The authors could also take into account the much wider body of papers out there within the broad areas covered by the mantra.

Third, if the totality of the research – whether ExxonMobil’s or the totality of climate research – does not amount to a strong case for anthropogenic global warming being a serious global problem, and nor having a workable solution, why should they promote politicized delusions?

Put this into the context of ExxonMobil – one of the World’s most successful businesses over decades – by applying some of the likely that it would use in assessing a major project or major strategic investment. For instance

  • How good is the evidence that there is a serious problem on a global scale emerging from human GHG emissions?
  • How strong is the evidence that humans have caused the recent warming?
  • Given many years of research, what is the track record of improving the quality and refinement of the output in the climate area?
  • What quality controls and KPIs are in place to enable both internal and external auditors to validate the work?
  • Where projections are made, what checks on the robustness of those projections have been done?
  • Where economic projections are produced, have they been done by competent mainstream economists, what are the assumptions made, and what sensitivity analyses have been done on those assumptions?
  • Does the project potentially harm investors, employees, customers and other stakeholders in the business? Where are the risk assessments of such potential harms, along with the procedures for the reporting and investigation of non-compliances?
  • Does a proposed project risk contravening laws and internal procedures relating to bribery and corruption?
  • Once a project is started, is it possible to amend that project over time or even abandon it should it fail to deliver? What are the contractual clauses that enable project amendment or abandonment and the potential costs of doing so?

Conclusions and further thoughts

Supran and Oreskes evaluate the ExxonMobil articles for AGW and policy in terms of a belief mantra applied to a small subset of the literature on the subject. Each article is looked at independently of all other articles; all other available information; and all other contexts in evaluating the information. This includes ignoring how a successful business evaluates and challenges information in strategic decision-making. Further any legitimate argument or evidence that undermines the mantra is evidence of doubt. It is all about throwing the onus on ExxonMobil to disprove the allegations, but never for Supran and Oreskes justify their mantra or their method of analysis is valid.

There are some questions arising from this, that I hope to pursue in later posts.

1. Is the method of analysis just a means of exposing ExxonMobil’s supposed hypocrisy by statistical means, or does it stem from a deeply flawed and ideological way of perceiving the world, that includes trying to shut out the wider realities of the real world, basic logic and other competing (and possibly superior) perspectives?

2. Whatever spread of misinformation and general hypocrisy might be shown on the part of ExxonMobil from more objective and professional perspectives, is there not greater misinformation sown by the promoters of the “climate consensus“?

3. Can any part of the mantra “AGW is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” be shown to be false in the real world, beyond reasonable doubt?

Kevin Marshall

 

Supran and Oreskes on ExxonMobils Communication of Climate Change

Over at Cliscep, Geoff Chambers gave a rather bitter review (with foul language) about a new paper, Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications (1977–2014) by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes.
One point that I would like to explore is part of a quote Geoff uses:-

The issue at stake is whether the corporation misled consumers, shareholders and/or the general public by making public statements that cast doubt on climate science and its implications, and which were at odds with available scientific information and with what the company knew. We stress that the question is not whether ExxonMobil ‘suppressed climate change research,’ but rather how they communicated about it.

It is the communication of climate science by a very powerful oil company, that the paper concentrates upon. The approach reveals a lot about the Climate Change movement as well. In particular, this statement in the introduction:-

Research has shown that four key points of understanding about AGW—that it is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable—are important predictors of the public’s perceived issue seriousness, affective issue involvement, support for climate policies, and political activism [62–66].

The references are as follows

[62] Krosnick J A, Holbrook A L, Lowe L and Visser P S 2006 The origins and consequences of democratic citizens’ policy agendas: a study of popular concern about global warming Clim. Change 77 7–43
[63] Ding D, Maibach E W, Zhao X, Roser-Renouf C and Leiserowitz A 2011 Support for climate policy and societal action are linked to perceptions about scientific agreement Nat. Clim. Change 1 462–6
[64] Roser-Renouf C, Maibach E W, Leiserowitz A and Zhao X 2014 The genesis of climate change activism: from key beliefs to political action Clim. Change 125 163–78
[65] Roser-Renouf C, Atkinson L, Maibach E and Leiserowitz A 2016 The consumer as climate activist Int. J. Commun. 10 4759–83
[66] van der Linden S L, Leiserowitz A A, Feinberg G D and Maibach E W 2015 The scientific consensus on climate change as a gateway belief: experimental evidence PLoS One 10 e0118489

For the purposes of Supran and Oreskes study, the understanding that people have of any issue does not require any substance at all beyond their beliefs. For instance, the Jehovah Witness Sect developing an “understanding” that Armageddon would occur in 1975. This certainly affected their activities in the lead up to the momentous history-ending event. Non-believers or members of the Christian Church may have been a little worried, shrugged their shoulders, or even thought the whole idea ridiculous. If similar studies to those on climate activism had been conducted on the prophecy of Armageddon 1975, similar results could have been found to those quoted for AGW beliefs in references 62-66. That is, the stronger the belief in the cause, whether religious evangelism in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses or ideological environmentalism in the case of AGW, is a predictor of activism in support of the cause. They cannot go further because of an issue with scholarly articles. Claims made must be substantiated, something that cannot be done with respect to the prophecies of climate catastrophism, except in a highly nuanced form.
But the statement that AGW is “real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” – repeated five times in the article – indicates something about the activists understanding of complex issues.
AGW is real” is not a proper scientific statement, as it is not quantified. Given that the impacts on surface temperatures can muffled and delayed nearly indefinitely by natural factors, or swallowed by the oceans, the belief can be independent of any contrary evidence for decades to come.
AGW is human-caused”, is saying “Human-caused global warming is human-caused”. It is a tautology that tells us nothing about the real world.
AGW is serious” is an opinion. It may be a very widely-held opinion, with many articles written with confirming evidence, and many concerned people attending massive conferences where it is discussed. But without clear evidence for emerging net adverse consequences, the opinion is largely unsubstantiated.
AGW is solvable” could be whether it is theoretically solvable, given the technology and policies being implemented. But the statement also includes whether it is politically solvable, getting actual policies to reduce emissions fully implemented. If the “solution” is the reduction of global emissions to a level commensurate with 2C of warming (hence a partial solution), then COP21 in Paris shows that AGW is a long way from being solvable, with no actual solution in sight. Whereas the 2C limit requires global emissions to be lower in 2030 than in 2015, and falling rapidly, fully implemented policies would still see emissions higher in 2030 than in 2015 and still increasing.

The statement AGW is “real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” is, therefore, nothing more than a mantra held by people who fail to distinguish between empirical and verifiable statements, tautologies, opinions and public policy that requires some fanciful global political implementation. 

Kevin Marshall

Smoking Causes Lung Cancer therefore Climate Change will cause more Extreme Weather: Unpicking a pseudo-analogy

A few weeks ago Stephen Lewandowsky, James Risbey and Naomi Oreskes posted at the Conversation “Climate change is not all disaster and uncertainty“. This compared the strongly-supported hypothesis that “Smoking causes lung cancer” with the hypothesis that “climate change will cause extreme weather events”. Below is the comment I posted.

You make an analogy between climate change and smoking causes lung cancer. It is worth exploring this analogy further. According to Cancer Research UK 86% of people who caught lung cancer in 2010 were smokers. A smoker is 15 times more likely to catch lung cancer than somebody who has never smoked. Put another way, only 1 in 15 smokers who caught lung cancer would have caught it anyway – and you cannot identify which these people are. Also lung cancer has a 90% mortality rate and can be diagnosed by professionals very clearly. It is a nontrivial problem both for the people experiencing it and there are large numbers dying from it.

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/lung/riskfactors/

Climate policy is about prevention of nontrivial adverse climate change, predicted to happen many years into the future. With less than one degree of warming so far (which might be partly natural), the severe effects are difficult to detect amongst all the infrequent naturally-caused extreme events, with natural cycles and fluctuations. There are two ways that this differs from lung cancer.

Firstly, somebody either has lung cancer or not. There is no trivial in between. In between human caused climate change being false and there being an apocalyptic problem, there is a huge range of possibilities. This is from the highly trivial through being a significant problem, to being serious enough to justify global mitigation policy.

Secondly, whereas for a smoker who catches lung cancer it is most probably caused by smoking, an extreme weather event occurring now will most probably not be caused by climate change, whereas (if the predictions are correct and no successful policies are implemented) one happening in 2100 will most probably will be.

That leads to a dual problem. Extreme weather events may become much more extreme in the future, but this will only be detectable over large numbers of similar events at the present time. Even that will not necessarily point to a problem severe enough to justify the adoption of mitigation policies.

If there is false attribution or exaggeration for promotion people will smell something quite different than the climate science. There has been huge damage to climate change cause in England from the prediction in 2000 that children will grow up never knowing what snow is, or in the USA by saying hurricanes would become more frequent and stronger after Katrina. As a result of these and other failures many people will fail to believe anything that is said by competent scientists. Unless more objective and scientific methods are discerned for isolating the anthropogenic climate change signal than the hollering of climate activists, then the message will not get across. Even for those not turned off, the failure of the short-term predictions will conclude (like most sceptics) that it is a far more trivial problem to that which the climate consensus portrays.

Kevin Marshall