Friday, October 23, 2015

The Road Not Taken In Climate Change

In The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost said,
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Some people view this as a celebration - by taking the road less traveled he had good experiences that he might not have had otherwise. Others view it as a lament - this road led him to things he would prefer he hadn't experienced. Either way, the point is made. We all have that occasion to go right or go left and the decision makes 'all the difference.'

That time has long since passed when it comes to climate change. We came to the branch in the road decades ago and decided not to take the path of dealing with it. Now, we are in a time and place where manmade climate change is a reality we have to deal with. That is why I find it interesting to see articles about whether or not global warming is responsible for some weather event.

In recent months, we have seen massive heat waves that have left thousands dead in India and Pakistan, huge flash floods in the Southwest that swept away homes and cars; incredible drought in California resulting in record amounts of wildfires and eventual mudslides; super-typhoons in the Pacific; and a '1000-year' flood in South Carolina, to name just a few. For all of these events (and many more), the question is always raised - is this the result of global warming? The problem is this question makes no sense.

Asking this question supposes we know of some alternative time-line without manmade climate change, one where we can check the weather on a given date and compare it to our own timeline to see how they compare. If we hadn't changed the climate, would California still have a drought? Would South Caroline still have a '1000-year' flood? Would thousands still be dead from heat in India and Pakistan? How do we know and how could we possibly know? The best we can do is make an effort at calculating the probabilities of such events. And, of course, how can you tell if this particular event is the result of AGW or not?

The answer is, they are all the result of AGW - every single one of them. In fact, all weather is the result of AGW. We are responsible for every single weather event, no matter how mild or severe. The reason is weather doesn't just pop-up out of nothingness and climate change isn't some switch you can flip on or off. Significant AGW has been ongoing for over 40 years. That means any climate system today is the end product of a 40-year climate system that has been changed by our emissions.

There is the claim in chaos theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Rocky Mountains can cause a storm in Miami three days later. I don't subscribe to this belief, but the point is important. If weather is so sensitive that a butterfly flapping its wings can change it, then what will be the effect of 40 years of AGW? Wouldn't everything be different as a result?

There is no alternative timeline to which we can compare our weather. All weather today is the result of manmade climate change caused by human emissions. There is no other possible conclusion. And, we made the decision decades ago to do nothing about that. We chose our path in the woods and that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Yes, Mr. Monckton, Warming Continues

I see it's time for Christopher Monckton, the Great Lord Denier, to come out with another of his ridiculous claims that there has been no warming for xx number of years (time span to be determined). That's because NOAA released the September Global Analysis today showing this last September to be the hottest September ever recorded. It also had the highest departure from average ever recorded for any month. That was the fifth consecutive hottest month in a row. January through September 2015 is the hottest such period ever recorded.

Tell us, Mr. Monckton, if there has been no warming, why do the months keep getting hotter?

So far, 2015 has seven hottest months ever recorded, one second hottest month, and one third hottest month, not to mention the hottest of all 1629 measured months (July).

For the last 12 months, the tally is:

August 2015 was the hottest August ever recorded;

July 2015 was the hottest July (and hottest any month) ever recorded;

June 2015 was the hottest June ever recorded;

May 2015 was the hottest May ever recorded;

April 2015 was tied for the third hottest April ever recorded;

March 2015 was the hottest March ever recorded;

February 2015 was the hottest February ever recorded;

January 2015 was the second hottest January ever recorded;

December 2014 was the hottest December ever recorded;

November 2014 was the 7th hottest November ever recorded;

October 2014 was the hottest October ever recorded;

Adding up the score for the last 12 months gives us: one 7th hottest month, one 3rd hottest month, one 2nd hottest month, and nine hottest months ever.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Seasonal Increases of CO2 Underway

The CO2 level in the atmosphere experiences seasonal increases and decreases over the year. As plant life becomes dormant in the fall, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases. This continues until the following spring when the amount of plant life activity is enough to start pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere faster than it goes in. Unfortunately, the amount being dumped in the atmosphere year-to-year is greater than the amount taken out by natural processes, so the level increases every year. This process produces a saw-tooth curve with an upward slope, known as the Keeling curve after Charles Keeling, the scientists who began high-precision atmospheric CO2 measurements on Mauna Loa, Hawaii in 1957. Here is the total curve since he began his measurements:

Source: SIO
Recently, the level hit the annual minimum and has begun increasing again. This year's minimum was about 1.5 ppm higher than last year's minimum. Here is the two-year plot:

Source: SIO

This year (2015) saw the monthly average level exceed the benchmark of 400 ppm from February through July. We will also see it exceeded in December. Only August through November will be below 400 ppm this year. My forecast is that September next year will be the last month we will ever see where the average is below 400 ppm. August, October, and November will be over 400 ppm next year and September will be only a little bit below.

But, I suppose ruining the planet is a small price to pay to protect the jobs of a few coal miners (who could get jobs doing something else a lot safer) and the profits of billionaires (who already have more money than they could ever spend).

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fossil Fuel Companies Vow to Fight Climate Change

I was wondering, if manmade climate change isn't real, why did 10 of the largest fossil fuel companies feel it was necessary to make a vow to stop it? BG Group, BP, Eni, Pemex, Reliance, Industries, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Statoil and Total all made pledges to reduce the level of carbon dioxide emissions and work towards greener energy sources. They specifically stated they were committed to working towards to goal of limiting global temperatures increases to 2 degrees Celsius.

The initiative is being written off by some as a public policy ploy. It is true these are the same companies that have funded denier organizations and have worked to obstruct initiatives to address the problem. However, we now have on record statements from these ten companies that manmade emissions are responsible for global warming and manmade climate change.

That, at least, is some progress

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Guest Post: Ben Boychuk and Criticism of Pope Francis

To Ben Boychuk,
RE: Your recent syndicated comments in the Duluth News Tribune,

With all due respect Mr. Boychuk, it concerns me that you have the audacity to criticize religious leaders like the Pope for pursuing social and economic issues that are directly related to religious duty and moral actions concerning the practice of caring for our environment, and how we can preserve that environment for the benefit of posterity.

You accuse the Pope of resorting to misguided politics when he discusses the empirical research done by esteemed and knowledgeable climate scientists who are simply reporting their findings for politicians to either act upon or not act upon? You don't get that one does not choose to believe in climate science and global warming like you would choose to believe in Santa Clause or Bigfoot. What scientists are doing is simply reporting the facts they have discovered about our environment, and the effects man is having on it. For them it was never meant to be a political issue. They represent both conservatives and liberals and are merely amassing data and then reporting it—after all, that's their job.

It's also distressing that you make no bones about accusing the Pope of speaking about matters he knows very little about, yet decline to extend the same criticism to the many members of Congress who know absolutely nothing about the challenges involving human caused global warming—at least beyond how it will affect the future earnings of oil industry moguls and CEOs, who are myopically concerned only with increasing their profits and attending to their bottom line. The Pope was educated as a chemist in Argentina—and attained a level of proficiency which equals the expertise attained by those in America who earn degrees in chemistry from our Universities. As such, he very likely knows much more about the heat trapping properties of Co2 and the effects that even relatively small changes in temperatures can have on our biosphere. And, he is certainly much more knowledgeable than Ted Cruz or the many Republicans in congress who think climate change can be disproved by simply tossing a snowball procured from a single snowfall in Washington. It's also very presumptuous of you to imply that that the Pope has no right to view climate change as an issue directly involving human morality and proper stewardship of the Earth we live in—not only for ourselves but for our children, our grandchildren, and those who come after them.

And what pray tell, is your conception about his supposed ignorance of the way free markets work? His criticisms obviously involve our tendency to worship the materialistic products and the political environments which allow our love of money and power to flourish—he has never claimed the right to educate others about market forces—rather, his criticisms concern the ways we tend to ignore human moral responsibilities towards our fellow men when caught up in the pursuit of wealth via satisfying the materialistic needs we have all become so absorbed in. These matters are not merely matters concerning economic theories about capitalism or communism. He has never denied the need to make money—only to warn us about the immoral worship of money which has already enabled our “too big fail institutions” to foolishly threaten the economy of America and the world. If market forces require worshiping human greed and profit motives in exclusion of all other important social concerns, then materialism has clearly become a moral issue and something that the Pope or any other religious leader has the right, (and the duty) to weigh in on!

The Pope would be the last person to claim that he is acting or distributing opinions under a cloak of infallibility—he is not that kind of religious leader, and in, fact has asked everyday people to pray for him. However, the fact that he has dedicated his life to doing God's work, clearly gives him the right to criticize human forms of sin and folly wherever they appear. Jesus said, in Matthew 6 verses 19-22, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

This simple and unambiguous teaching directly from Jesus, leaves no doubt that it is entirely appropriate for our religious leaders to alert us about the moral folly of worshiping money and wealth, and about the consequences this kind of worship has when used to unnecessarily burden our fellow men. Sorry if you disagree, but as far as I am concerned you are much less qualified to lecture the Pope about man-made global warming, and economic greed, then he is to make these issues part of his mission to teach us what attitudes God and Jesus would want us to have—especially concerning the true value of wealth! Here is a link you should examine:

Peter W. Johnson

Superior WI

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Coal Industy Ugliness Exposed

Of course, climate change deniers are famous for making claims that defy logic. Among these are efforts to defend the coal industry. A common refrain I have heard repeatedly lately is that modern human civilization was made possible by coal. Of course, that is a false claim. Our modern society depends on energy, not specifically coal. It doesn't matter where that energy comes from.

Now, we have even more proof of how nasty the coal industry is, as if any reasonable person needed more. Patriot Coal Company filed for bankruptcy and in their reorganization papers they proposed taking $18 million from a $22 million fund for retired coal workers and spending it on legal fees. This money was supposed to be dedicated for the health benefits of the workers. Now, Patriot Coal has decided the health of these workers isn't important enough and is reneging on its promises to them.

To see just how nasty this is we need to take a look at the reported health problems of the workers. It is reported some suffer from black lung disease, while others are suffering from cancers they believe are linked to industrial waste dumps at Squaw Creek. No mention is made in the article of the health effects down stream of non-miners who may have been affected by that dumping.

But, even that isn't the end of it. The evidence strongly suggests this was a plot to unload pension liabilities and even have them disposed of in bankruptcy. It began when Alcoa and Peabody energy had a joint venture called Squaw Creek Coal Co.  In 2007, Peabody assigned the Squaw Creek health care liabilities for 208 workers to an offshoot called Heritage Coal, which was a subsidiary of Patriot Coal. Peabody also assigned 40% of its health care obligations, covering about 8400 former workers, to Patriot Coal.  Then, in 2008, Patriot purchased Magnum Coal and assumed the health care liabilities for another 2,300 retirees.

Lo and behold, this health care liability dumping was more than the mining could support and Patriot filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2011. Patriot emerged from bankruptcy that same year and part of the deal was to turn over the health care liabilities to the union, along with $310 million to help support the health care for about 11,000 retirees. 

Then, Patriot filed for bankruptcy again this year.

Since the Squaw Creek liabilities were supposed to be paid for by Alcoa under the original contract, it was a big surprise when the union and the retirees learned Alcoa had traded a $40 million obligation for a $22 million payment to Patriot. Then, as stated earlier, Patriot has decided only $4 million of that money is to go towards supporting the health care liabilities of the people who are suffering due to their work in the industry. In case you haven't been keeping count, that is 10 cents on the dollar of the original health care obligation. The rest of the money is being used to pay legal fees. The tragedy is that the Squaw Creek workers who are being abused by this procedure never worked for Patriot.

Hopefully, these workers will be covered by a government program assisting retired coal industry workers. Oh, by the way, that program is costing taxpayers nearly $500 million per year.

Remember this the next time some denier talks about how cheap and morally correct the coal industry is.

If that isn't enough, read about this hero of the coal industry, one we can all hope will be going to prison very soon.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Record Highs in Australia Increasing

I was reading a paper in Geophysical Research Letters on a study conducted on Australian hot records (high maximum and high minimum temperatures). If the climate is stable, the number of record highs should equal the number of record lows. However, during the period of 2000 - 2014 the number of record highs outnumbered the record lows by twelve to one on average.

One of the things I keep saying about regional temperatures is that we are discussing global warming, not xxx regional warming. That applies here, as well. The term is 'global' warming, not 'Australian' warming. However, when you combine many regional trends you get a global trend. And, in fact, the Australian trend is characteristic of the global trend (see the Climate Change Institute's Climate Reanalyzer for a global view).

It has been said that when we see the effects of climate change it will be too late. Hopefully, this is not true because we can certainly see the effects in Australia, as well as other parts of the world.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reality Makes Lies Of Denier Economics

A common claim by many deniers is that global warming is good for us, or at least not as expensive as doing something about it. A couple of news stories from this past week puts the lie to those claims. And, this is just two.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) stated it will be doubling the amount of loans for climate change adaptation from $3 billion to $6 billion annually by 2020. This is just for the Pacific and Asian territories, not world-wide. That comes to about $100 billion in additional dollars by 2050 in this one bank in this one market.

Additionally, the head of the Bank of England stated climate change threatens a global financial crises and long-term declines in wealth. Just the cost to insurers from weather-related losses has increased five-fold since the 1980s to $50 billion per year. Assuming those losses don't increase any further (a completely invalid assumption), the additional costs will amount to $1.4 trillion by 2050. By the way, the insurance companies will merely pass those expenses on to their customers.

These two events by themselves amount to $1.5 trillion in the next 35 years. When you include everything else and then factor in how things are getting worse, it is easy to see the claims of the deniers are lies. Just imagine what we could do if we devoted $1.5 trillion to fixing this problem instead of paying the coal companies to poison our land, water, and air.