Saturday, August 27, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice 2016

We have about three weeks left to the Arctic sea ice melt season. Time to take a look at how it's going. Of course, this is the 21st century, so the immediate answer is it's not good. In fact, the current sea ice extent is already less than the minimum extent for every year before 2007. This figure, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), shows the 2016 sea ice extent (the unfinished line in red) and every year from 1979 to 2006.

Source: NSIDC

In fact, the 2016 extent is already one of the lowest ever. Here is the 2016 extent compare to the years since 2006. Again, 2016 is the unfinished line in red. And, with about three weeks to go, 2016 is already the seventh lowest extent ever recorded.

Source: NSIDC

Like I said, the 21st century has not been good to Arctic sea ice. The big question at this point is, how low will it go?

Take a look at this plot of sea ice extent from the Polar Portal:

Source: Polar Portal

The darker the shading, the less ice is present. This figures shows the extent is not only very low, but large areas have little ice cover. Compare this extent to this figure of the extent from the Climate Change Institute:

Source: Climate Reanalyzer
The less colored in the ice, the lower the density. Plus, the blue line indicates the normal extent for this date. We can see the extent is drastically lower than normal and what little ice is there is very thin. This agrees with the Polar Portal image above which used different satellite data.

The reason the low extent is important to this conversation is that the open water absorbs sunlight and heats up. Normally, the water would be covered with ice, which reflects sunlight, and would stay cool. Here is one more plot showing the sea surface temperature anomaly for the Arctic region, also from the Climate Reanalyzer at the Climate Change Institute.

Source: Climate Reanalyzer

The redder the water is, the bigger the temperature anomaly. We can clearly see the exposed portions of the Arctic Ocean are very much warmer than normal. This does not bode well for sea ice.

Currently (August 27, 2016), the sea ice extent is 4.913 million square kilometers. Taking all of this data into account, I estimate the sea ice extent will decrease to between 4.2 and 4.3 million square kilometers, making it the second or third lowest extent ever recovered. Worse still, it is very close to being on track for the long-term trend of decreasing Arctic sea ice.

Source: NSIDC

At the current rate, we will see ice free Septembers some time in the 2060s. However, an anomalous year could produce an ice-free Arctic well before that time frame.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Well-Written Article on Following the Science

I have nothing to add to this article except to say that, in the early-1980s, I too did not think man-made climate change was real. As in the case of this meteorologist, the science changed my mind.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Guest Submission: More on Tom Harris' Deceitful Practices

To: Chuck Frederick at the Duluth News Tribune,

In today’s 7-6-16 Tribune, you published an opinion letter from Tom Harris which is either identical or very similar to one of his that I remember seeing in the Tribune or the Telegram. The letter below is a copy of a letter I wrote that was not intended for publication in the Tribune, and which was sent to you, Shelley Nelson, and Citizen’s Representatives, Mike Lundstrom and Terese Tomanek. In it I mention Harris’s emphasis on the superiority of Adaptive measures instead of mitigation efforts used to minimize the effects of global warming, and I explain that Climate Scientists do not dispute the value of adaptive measures. However, I also point out that these scientists think adaptation and mitigation efforts are BOTH needed to successfully combat global warming.

About his 7-6-16 letter in today’s Tribune, let me add that once again Harris employed some deceptive tactics which advocate his preference primarily for the use of adaptive measures—a view that most fossil fuel producing companies would undoubtedly be inclined to parrot. But, for example, Harris’s claim that that, “The real issue is if relevant scientists agree our greenhouse gas emissions will cause dangerous climate change.” And that, “Only if it is dangerous should this be a public policy concern. And no one knows the answer to that question because such a poll has never been conducted,” is an exercise in flawed reasoning on so many levels. One being that today’s scientists absolutely DO KNOW that man’s contributions to global warming definitely WILL affect our future environment in many extremely harmful ways.  And for Harris to dispute the clear proof of this fact, with the idea that it has not yet been the subject of a publicly conducted poll, is one of the most creative bits of erroneous reasoning I have ever heard—and of the type that Harris is a master of.

By Harris’s logic we might as well doubt the fact that jumping off the top floor of the Empire State building, will result in a severe case of death, simply because no poll has ever been conducted in which respondents confirm this fact? Or, we might as well doubt that full scale nuclear war will be catastrophic to the planet just because no one has taken a poll devoted to assessing that proposition? And anyway, those polls that might be done without proper controls, are a poor way to affirm the beliefs of a clear majority including only those who respond. 

Where climate science is concerned, we have literally mountains of evidence confirming the extreme probability (of harmful future effects on the environment) due to global warming, which has been gathered with proper scientific diligence. So, just like the guy on the top of the Empire State building, we know that taking a terminal leap, will bring great harm to us, just as the fact that if both adaptive and mitigating measures are not employed,  our inactions result in great harm to us, and to our planet.  The notion that Climate Scientists (even just the “relevant” ones) do not recognize the value of adaptive measures is just not true—in fact a great deal of research and thought has been put into both of those options and climate scientists truly recognize the value of both:

Rather than writing longer, please take the time to re-read this letter below which I wrote about Harris before:


To Chuck Fredericks, Shelley Nelson, and both new Citizen's Representatives for the Duluth News Tribune, Mike Lundstrom and Terese Tomanek,

Prominent global warming denier Tom Harris executed a slick maneuver in the Jan. 31st Tribune when claiming that climate adaptation to avoid global warming would be much cheaper than climate mitigation, (taking steps to prevent the accumulation of greenhouse gases) like reducing Co2 emissions, and investing in solar and wind energy, to prevent run away global warming.

However, his claim that adaptation, including measures like, building seawalls, relocating buildings, finding ways to store and obtain sufficient water for crops, supporting sustainable forestry, instituting the practice of recycling, and using low energy appliances and devices to serve as deterrents to global warming—etc., are less expensive, or get more bang for the buck, is not true.

Some estimates comparing the advantages between using mitigation and adaptation have produced figures that at first seem to support Harris's claims. However, these estimate compared the cost of taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions vs the cost of making adaptations, but did not offset these amounts with the economic benefits of mitigation, vs. the economic benefits of taking adaptive measures. When the economic rewards of mitigation are examined this way they far exceed any economic saving from using adaptation i.e. things like losses of property and lives, droughts that destroy crop production, or flooding and storms that do horrific damage etc., are all the result of global warming, and as Co2 levels are decreased, the costs associated with these disasters will also decrease.

In actuality the IPCC believes that both mitigation and adaptation are both valuable strategies. However, if global warming is not gradually reduced by mitigation, the amounts of Co2, will continue unchecked in the latter part of the century and soar out of control, (regardless of adaptation policies)—so no attempts at adaptation can solve the global warming issue unless mitigation is also used as a primary strategy.

It is true that the problems created by global warming will fall mostly on the poor, and that wealthier countries will need to give them financial aid to adapt. In fact, after the meetings of COP16 Cancun, donor countries offered to provide undeveloped countries $100,000,000,000 by 2020, to help them adapt through the Green Climate Fund. Pledges have not materialized as they should, but at least much of the world now recognizes the need for adaptive strategies—especially if unencumbered by political conflicts.

I should point out one logical mistake in Mr. Harris's letter though—Harris points out that the anticipated effects of climate change, may or may not happen, while failing to mention that, adaptation measures also, may or may not work—especially if extreme climate change happen sooner than expected. Without mitigation, efforts to diminish global warming's impact by way of adaptation, will essentially and eventually, be neutralized. In essence though, you can't have one without the other, since, even if initially successful outcomes are achieved through the use of adaptation, if greenhouse gasses continue to increase without mitigation, they will eventually usher in catastrophic climate change anyway!

Although Harris claims not to be a shill of big oil, he has spoken at several meetings of big conservative think tanks and conservative organizations, (like the Heartland Institute), which he is very complicit in and supportive of, when helping to distribute the distorted messages they deliver. He has also had a position as an Earth Science teacher, and taught a course entitled, “Climate change: An Earth Sciences perspective,” and was found by climate scientists to have included 140 factual errors in his teachings.

Let me just say that Heartland Institute is well known for receiving and distributing huge donation from the fossil fuel industry, as well as for being deeply involved in discrediting esteemed climate scientists, and is also known to have received over $67,000,000 from Exxon Mobil and other conservative donors. I don't know if Harris has been legally proven to have received large amounts of money in exchange for dissing climate scientists, but I think it’s safe to say that his associations with conservative groups like these are enough to cast serious doubts on the purity of his intentions.
At the end of his letter to the tribune, Harris displays false virtue by noting the fact that poor people are suffering disproportionately from global warming? Why does Harris object to people who work for green industries, who are simply earning honest money while helping create and develop clean alternatives—because by financially profiting they may be part of a greedy corporation? —What kind of company has been truly antagonistic to the idea of bringing relief to the suffering masses? —certainly those which are already known for being big parts of this problem already—big oil, and big coal!
What a lame excuse Harris uses, when employing the old, turn the tables on your opponent’s tactic, or, when trying to project his own culpability onto greedy Capitalists—Companies like Exxon Mobil make billions in profits—sometimes in just one economic quarter! They and others like them, are seeking to keep green companies at bay, while using incredibly large sums of money to spread lies and misinformation about man-made global warming! Even if Harris were not benefiting financially, in this case we are perfectly justified to criticize the messenger!

As the valley girls used to say—GAG ME WITH A SPOON!!

In the words of economist Paul Krugman;

"So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be. The science is solid; the technology is there; the economics look far more favorable than anyone expected. All that stands in the way of saving the planet is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests. What could go wrong?"


Peter W. Johnson
Superior, WI.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tom Harris Lied About Ontario Jobs

Tom Harris, the paid shill of the fossil fuel industry, wrote a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register, Coal plays essential role in U.S. economy on August 12, 2016. In this letter, Harris stated,
My home province of Ontario, Canada, was once an industrial powerhouse and home to thousands of well-paid manufacturing jobs. But we lost at least 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 15 years when companies either went bankrupt or left Ontario.

This happened largely because our electricity prices have increased 318 percent since 2002, giving us one of the highest rates in North America. The single most important cause for this staggering rise is, in the name of “stopping climate change,” we shut down all of our inexpensive coal plants, which, in 2002, provided about 25 percent of our electricity.

Really? How about an alternative explanation?
There are about 300,000 fewer people working today in Ontario’s manufacturing sector than 10 years ago. This has been devastating for the people and communities affected. What is behind the decline? And is there anything governments can do to reverse it?

Ontario’s problem is not unique. Manufacturing jobs have been disappearing in just about every developed economy for the past two decades. The rise of automation in manufacturing plants means that factories today have more robots and fewer workers. In the case of products that still require a lot of workers, jobs have been transferred out of wealthy countries to countries with much lower labour costs.

This development, supported by lower tariff barriers and transportation costs, has contributed to the rise of the Global Value Chain, which can be understood as a more refined, global division of labour based on competitive advantage (see chart below). It means Ontario cannot compete on wages with low-cost jurisdictions in Asia or Latin America – nor do we want to.

The rapid rise of the Canadian dollar compared to the American dollar over the past decade has caused a significant decline in manufacturing exports and thus employment in Ontario. Our most important customers are in the United States. As the Loonie rose higher, so did the cost of our goods. According to the Bank of Canada, the appreciation of the Canadian dollar explains “most of [the] deterioration in competitiveness” of Canadian firms. Many manufacturing firms have shut their doors and even more individuals lost their jobs as a result.

Canadian firms have not invested enough in productivity. When it comes to job training, ICT, research and development, and machinery and equipment, Canadian manufacturers have fallen way behind. That means our firms are about half as productive as our American competitors. The so-called ‘productivity gap’, the difference between output per worker, has widened between Ontario and its North American peers over the past several years.
Amazingly enough, there is not one mention about closing coal-fired power plants or increasing electricity costs in this assessment. A comparison of electricity costs in major North American cities, published by Hydro Quebec, shows Ontario has electricity costs very much in line with the most of Canada and significantly lower than the listed northern cities in the U.S. So, no, the cost of electricity in Ontario is not out of line with other manufacturing centers.

Addressing climate change did not cost Ontario 300,000 jobs. Tom Harris lied.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

More Coal Contamination In North Carolina

Duke Energy has been accused of contaminating ground water with the ash waste from it's coal-burning power plants. If true, it would be yet another example of how the only way coal is affordable is if it passes the costs on to others.