Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Recommended Reading

I recommend that anyone concerned about climate change and climate change policies read “False Alarm” by Bjorn Lomborg and “Apocalypse Never” by Michael Shellenberger.  Both authors believe that climate change is a serious problem that needs to be addressed but they persuasively argue that current policies need to be change else the proposed cures will be worse than the impacts of climate change.  Their arguments eviscerate the rationale and proposed plans for New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

I am a retired electric utility meteorologist with nearly 40-years-experience analyzing the effects of meteorology on electric operations. I believe that gives me a relatively unique background to consider the potential quantitative effects of energy policies based on doing something about climate change.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

My biggest concern with the CLCPA is that I am convinced that the general public has no idea what is going on with these energy policies and the possible ramifications.  Moreover, I do not believe that the CLCPA implementation process includes sufficient provisions for the general public to find out what this law will mean to them until it is too late to prevent the inevitable higher costs of energy.  Furthermore, these two books demonstrate that the CLCPA will not provide global environmental benefits that out-weigh the costs to society and impacts to the environment.

False Alarm

According to his web page Dr. Bjorn Lomborg is “president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and visiting professor at Copenhagen Business School. The Copenhagen Consensus Center is a think-tank that researches the smartest ways to do good. For this work, Lomborg was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.“

His latest book is entitled “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet”.  The book is meticulously documented: the text itself is 222 pages but there are 24 pages of notes and the bibliography has 44 pages.  It relies on work done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that is the technical basis for much of the CLCPA.  It was published by Basic Books, New York, NY in 2020, ISBN 978-1-5416-4746-6.  The book description states:

Hurricanes batter our coasts. Wildfires rage across the American West. Glaciers collapse in the Artic. Politicians, activists, and the media espouse a common message: climate change is destroying the planet, and we must take drastic action immediately to stop it. Children panic about their future, and adults wonder if it is even ethical to bring new life into the world.

Enough, argues bestselling author Bjorn Lomborg. Climate change is real, but it’s not the apocalyptic threat that we’ve been told it is. Projections of Earth’s imminent demise are based on bad science and even worse economics. In panic, world leaders have committed to wildly expensive but largely ineffective policies that hamper growth and crowd out more pressing investments in human capital, from immunization to education.

False Alarm will convince you that everything you think about climate change is wrong — and points the way toward making the world a vastly better, if slightly warmer, place for us all.

The Introduction concludes:

In this book, we will start by examining the culture of fear created around climate change.  Next, we will ask, what does the science actually tell us to expect?  What is the cost of rising temperatures?  After that we will look at what’s wrong with today’s approach.  How is it that climate change is at the forefront of our minds, yet we are failing to solve it?  Finally, we will explore how we could actually solve climate change.  What policies need to be prioritized in order to rein in temperature rises and leave the planet in the best shape possible for our grandchildren?

We have it within our power to make a better world.  But first, we need to calm down.

Apocalypse Never

According to the web page for Environmental Progress, Michael Shellenberger is “a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” Green Book Award winner, and the founder and president of Environmental Progress.”  He has been called “a “environmental guru,”climate guru,” “North America’s leading public intellectual on clean energy,” and “high priest” of the environmental humanist movement for his writings and TED talks, which have been viewed over five million times.”

His latest book is titled “Apocalypse Never – Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All”.  This book too is meticulously documented: the text itself is 285 pages but there are 105 pages of notes and references.  It was published by HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY in 2020, ISBN 9780063001695.  The book description states:

Michael Shellenberger has been fighting for a greener planet for decades. He helped save the world’s last unprotected redwoods. He co-created the predecessor to today’s Green New Deal. And he led a successful effort by climate scientists and activists to keep nuclear plants operating, preventing a spike of emissions.

But in 2019, as some claimed “billions of people are going to die,” contributing to rising anxiety, including among adolescents, Shellenberger decided that, as a lifelong environmental activist, leading energy expert, and father of a teenage daughter, he needed to speak out to separate science from fiction.

Despite decades of news media attention, many remain ignorant of basic facts. Carbon emissions peaked and have been declining in most developed nations for over a decade. Deaths from extreme weather, even in poor nations, declined 80 percent over the last four decades. And the risk of Earth warming to very high temperatures is increasingly unlikely thanks to slowing population growth and abundant natural gas.

Curiously, the people who are the most alarmist about the problems also tend to oppose the obvious solutions. Those who raise the alarm about food shortages oppose the expansion of fertilizer, irrigation, and tractors in poor nations. Those who raise the alarm about deforestation oppose concentrating agriculture. And those who raise the alarm about climate change oppose the two technologies that have most reduced emissions, natural gas and nuclear.

What’s really behind the rise of apocalyptic environmentalism? There are powerful financial interests. There are desires for status and power. But most of all there is a desire among supposedly secular people for transcendence. This spiritual impulse can be natural and healthy. But in preaching fear without love, and guilt without redemption, the new religion is failing to satisfy our deepest psychological and existential needs.

Imminent and Inevitable Catastrophe

I get frustrated by the never-ending media message that climate change is destroying the planet and will kill us all.  Both authors address this message head on.  Both authors believe that “global warming is mostly caused by humans” and that it needs to be addressed.  However, both disagree with the “scare the pants off the public” approach.

Lomborg shows that the media, politicians and activists that hype climate catastrophe are picking and choosing results that support that narrative but do not reflect the whole story.  Then he goes on to demonstrate that “in almost every way we can measure, life on earth is better now than at any time in history” and explains that “analysis by experts shows that we are likely to become much, much better off in the future”.  He shows that we are committing to try to solve climate change with policies that he demonstrates will not make much of a difference but will cost a lot and not do much to change global warming.  Moreover, “Our extraordinary focus on climate also means we have less time, money and attention to spend on other problems” and lists a host of ways the time and money could be better spent.

Shellenberger has been an environmentalist for thirty years.  He says he is motivated to “not only protect the natural environment but also the achieve the goal of universal prosperity for all people.”  He also “cares about getting the facts and science right.”  “Every fact, claim, and argument in this book is based on the best available science, including as assessed by the prestigious Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, and other scientific bodies.  The book explores “how and why so many of us came to see important but manageable problems as the end of the world”.  Finally, he argues there is a moral case for secular and religious humanism “against the anti-humanism of apocalyptic environmentalism.”

Lomborg uses numbers to make his case while Shellenberger uses examples from his experiences as an environmentalist.  Alarmists claim “The planet is experiencing a new wave of die-offs driven by factors such as habitat loss, the introduction of exotic invaders and rapid changes to our climate” and Shellenberger devotes an entire chapter to the issue.  He provides documentation that modeling used to make these claims “don’t match observations”.  He shows that the International Union for Conservation of Nature exaggerates extinction claims.  Importantly he describes the problem of habitat loss and Congo’s silverback gorillas.  Because most of the cooking needs of Congo are met by burning wood and charcoal there is tremendous pressure on the forests leading to habitat loss for the gorillas and other endangered species.  He concludes that “for people to stop using wood and charcoal as fuel, they will need access to liquified petroleum gas, LPG. which is made from oil and cheap electricity.”

Going Forward

Both authors agree that greater prosperity for the world’s poorest in not only the moral thing to do but will also have wildlife conservation and other environmental benefits that out-weigh the negative effects of climate change caused by increasing emissions in the poorest countries.  Moreover, they point out that these benefits will accrue sooner than the negative effects will occur and that a richer society is better able to adapt to any negative effects.

Lomborg argues that a better way forward would be to evaluate climate policy in terms of costs and benefits.  He shows how different policy options can be optimized to pick the best strategy to balance costs and benefits.  He concludes that policies that set moderate goals have lower effects on the global economy that can compensate for the slightly bigger impacts of climate change.  Importantly this approach shows what we should not do: “We should not try to eliminate almost all carbon dioxide emissions in just a few short years” because “If we try to do this the costs could escalate out of hand”.

Lomborg makes a couple of other recommendations for going forward.  He argues that the best way to combat negative effects of climate change is to invest in green innovation: “We should be innovating tomorrow’s technologies rather than erecting today’s inefficient turbines and solar panels”.  In the meantime, he advocates for more nuclear energy.  He also points out that spending on adaptation will provide more benefits, much faster than investments in today’s renewable energy systems could possibly reduce impacts.

Shellenberger evaluates the current war on nuclear and natural gas fracking by the environmental alarmists.  He includes several examples of the hypocrisy of the loudest voices when it comes to the most obvious solutions.  His evaluation of concentrated power provided by nuclear and natural gas compared to the dilute energy provided by wind and solar shows that they are obvious choices while we develop better fossil-free alternatives.

In my opinion, both authors are on the same page about a better path going forward.  They agree that a wind and solar future will not work and will have bigger negative environmental impact than climate change’s impact.  They both endorse nuclear energy and putting a greater emphasis on research and development.

My Comments

Anyone who reads these books and looks at NY’s climate agenda should be alarmed.  We are going down the exact path that both authors show will cost enormous sums of money, hurt more of the world’s poor than help, and will have no effect on global warming itself.  Critics have to address the fact that both authors documented their work actually referencing the IPCC science reports and not the summaries provided for policy makers that do not always reflect those documents.

One final note.  Both authors base their belief that “global warming is mostly caused by humans” on the results of modeling done by the IPCC.  I have enough experience with modeling that I believe those model results are at the lower end of the possibility scale[1].  As a result, I think the potential for the negative climate effects they presume is very low.  In other words, I think all their cost/benefit calculations showing benefits to not using solar and wind as the primary source of energy overestimate the costs of climate effects which makes their cost numbers much better.

[1] The ultimate problem with the modeling is that they cannot simulate clouds.  In order to solve the physical equations in a global climate the world has to be divided up into a three-dimensional grid.  The equations are calculated for each grid cell and repeated to generate a forecast.  My particular problem is that the grid cell size needed in order to do these calculations are on the order of 100 km horizontally, the vertical height is often 1 km and they do the calculations every 30 minutes or so.  As a result, the models cannot simulate clouds.  Instead the climate modelers develop parameters to project the effect of global warming on clouds.  That single parametrization is a big enough driver of climate that this model component alone could dominate the GCM projections.  This uncertainty is well understood in climate science by those who have worked with these models.  However, the problems with parameterization is not well understood and its ramifications on the policy decisions is poorly understood by most of those who advocate eliminating fossil fuel use.

Hay Harvest Climate Trend?

At a recent meeting I ran into Lois New who, before she retired, was the Director of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Office of Climate Change.  I have known her for years and we worked together during RGGI stakeholder meetings. During our conversation she mentioned that her neighboring farmers were seeing the effects of climate change because they were having more trouble getting hay in before winter.  I said I thought it was more likely weather, she disagreed, and that ended the conversation.  This post looks at data to see if there is, in fact, a climatic trend for worse weather for haying.

First, let’s define weather and climate.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service “Weather reflects short-term conditions of the atmosphere while climate is the average daily weather for an extended period of time at a certain location.”  The referenced article goes on to explain “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”

New York State policy is all in that there is an imminent and inevitable climate change catastrophe that can only be averted if we do something.  In this case New York’s version of doing something is the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which was enacted last summer.  It is described as “the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country”.  When Governor Cuomo signed the bill he said:

“The environment and climate change are the most critically important policy priorities we face.  They literally will determine the future – or the lack thereof. Even in today’s chaos of political pandering and hyperbole there are still facts, data and evidence – and climate change is an undeniable scientific fact.”

In order to rationalize these statements Governor Cuomo has a long history of attributing any observed unusual or extreme weather to climate change’s effects being seen today.

Paul Homewood at the Not a Lot of People Know That web page authored a couple of recent articles slamming NY Governor Cuomo for a couple of examples. The first article points out that his statement that “we did not use to have hurricanes, we did not have super storms, we did not have tornadoes” is dead wrong.  The second article entitled “Cuomo’s Fake Claims About Extreme Rainfall” noted that Cuomo implied in an MSNBC interview (referenced in the blog post) that extreme rainfall was getting much worse in NY State.  However, Homewood showed that “there is absolutely no evidence of that at all” at the long running Ithaca station or a New York City station.

As a member of the Governor’s inner climate circle Ms. New must have been a part of the public relations campaign justifying the CLCPA.  Her claim that farmers cannot complete harvesting hay because of climate change is entirely consistent.  This post will look at the facts, data, and evidence that there is a climate effect on haying.   Homewood referenced a link to precipitation data at http://climod2.nrcc.cornell.edu/ which is what I needed to do this analysis.

Approach

According to Mother Earth News in a Guide to Growing, Harvesting and Baling Hay “there are three steps involved in turning a green crop into what can rightfully be called hay:

      1. Cutting (followed by partial drying.)
      2. Windrowing (followed by further drying.)
      3. Baling hay or stacking hay.”

For our purposes the key is that freshly cut hay has to be dried because if hay is tied into tight bales when it still contains moisture it will go through a curing process that creates heat which can lead to self-combustion.  Therefore, farmers do not want to bale their cut crop until the moisture is less than 20%.  To do that the cut grass is allowed to dry for up to several days, then raked into rows and allowed to dry out most of the moisture.  Once dry then the hay can be baled.

The Northeast Regional Climate Center data sets provide processed values for temperature and precipitation for many observing sites in New York.  I chose to look at two stations with long records: Ithaca (1894-2019) and Mohonk House (1896-2019 with 1899 missing).  I downloaded the daily maximum, minimum, and average temperatures, precipitation amount, snowfall amount, snow depth and growing degree days.  A growing degree is the difference between average temperature in deg F and 50.  For example, if the average daily temperature is 60 deg F then there are ten daily growing degree days for that date.

I assumed that in order to harvest hay that the farmer would need to have at least four days when there was no precipitation greater than 0.05”.  Whenever that threshold was reached or exceeded the Harvest-Day parameter was set to one.  The total number of days that met this criterion in each month was summed along with the number of growing degree days per month for the growing season that I set as May through October.

I did a simple analysis of the two data sets.  I calculated the growing degrees and number of harvest days for each month in the growing season that I defined as May 1 to October 31.  I summed these values for the whole growing season.  I also summed values for the fall hay harvest season that I defined as August and September.  I fit a linear regression model to describe the relationship between growing degree days and hay harvest days by year for the whole growing season and just August and September. I use Statgraphics Centurion software from StatPoint Technologies, Inc. to do my statistical analyses because it enables the user to choose the best relationship from 27 different linear regression equations.  I determine which linear regression model provides the best fit and then use that model to describe the data. If the calculated probability value (P-value) is less than 0.05, there is a statistically significant relationship at the 95.0% confidence level and I defined the test result as significant. In addition, I calculated simple statistics to describe the two data sets.

Results

The purpose of this analysis is to evaluate the claim that farmers are having more trouble getting their hay harvested because of climate change.  If that were in fact the case then we would primarily expect to see a trend in decreasing hay harvest days and to a lesser extent a decrease in the number of growing degree days.  The linear regression statistical results for two sites over the entire growing season and August and September were evaluated.  Overall eight tests were done with the following results:

Mohonk Growing Season hay-harvesting days

      • Insignificant reduction in the number of hay-harvesting days over the growing season

Mohonk Growing Season growing degree days

      • Significant increase in the number of growing degree days over the growing season

Mohonk August and September hay-harvesting days

      • Significant increase in the number of hay-harvesting days in August and September

Mohonk August and September growing degree days

      • Significant increase in the number of growing degree days in August and September

Ithaca Growing Season hay-harvest days

      • Significant reduction in number of hay-harvesting days over the growing season

Ithaca Growing Season growing degree days

      • Significant reduction in growing degree days over the growing season

Ithaca August and September hay-harvest days

      • Insignificant reduction in number of hay-harvesting days in August and September

Ithaca August and September growing degree days

      • Significant reduction in growing degree days in August and September

Of the eight tests: three were consistent with the hypothesis that getting hay harvested is getting more difficult because hay-harvesting days and growing degree days decreased, three were inconsistent with the hypothesis because hay-harvesting days and growing degree days increased, and two tests were statistically insignificant.  Note that if growing degree days are going down that is an indication that temperatures are cooling and not warming.

Another way to look at the climate change impact is to statistically evaluate the data.  The Ithaca Hay Season Climatological Normal and Last 30 Year Dataand the Mohonk House Hay Season Climatological Normal and Last 30 Year Data tables include climatological normal data, the last 30 years of data, and summary statistics.

I believe that one way to check climate change claim effects is to check the 30-year average from the beginning of the period of record with the 30-year average at the end of the period of record.  I also believe that there are multi-year weather cycles of differing lengths and if that is the case then arbitrarily picking these two periods may not be representative.  Therefore, consider this comparison with caution. At Mohonk House the growing season hay harvesting days decreased by two days but the August and September days increase by three days.  The Ithaca growing season hay harvesting days decrease by five days but the August and September days stayed the same.

Importantly, these data also indicate that there is a lot of inter-annual variation in hay harvesting days.  The standard deviation of the August and September data at Ithaca was 6, the minimum was 2 and the maximum was 28. At Mohonk House the standard deviation was 8, the minimum was 0 and the maximum was 43.  The difference between the first 30-years and the last 30-years is less than the standard deviation variation.  Therefore, I don’t think it is reasonable for anyone to claim that they can discern a climatic trend.

So why is there an impression that hay harvesting is getting worse?  A quick review of the last 30 years of data indicates to me that this impression is consistent with weather variations.  At Mohonk House in 2014 and 2015 there were a couple of years that were great for hay harvesting with half the days (31) in August and September suitable.  Jump forward to the last two years and there were only 11 and 12 days suitable.  In that short time frame of reference an alarming trend is evident.  However, also recall that the average number of hay harvesting days is 18 and with a standard deviation of 8.  So even though  2018 and 2019 data suggest there may be a problem, the data are within one standard deviation of the mean which means that they are well within natural variation observed since 1896.

Conclusion

The points that I want readers to remember are that climate numerical analysis results are likely ambiguous, picking a climatic trend out of weather records is not simple, and, most importantly, any statistically significant trends are likely smaller than the observed inter-annual variation.   As a result, anecdotal claims of observed changes of weather parameters due to climate change are likely biased and unsubstantiated.

This data analysis shows ambiguous results.  It suggests that there is conflicting support for a climate-change induced problem with hay harvesting in August and September.  Mohonk House data indicate a statistically significant trend in more days suitable for harvesting hay whereas Ithaca data indicate a trend towards less days suitable for harvesting hay but the trend is insignificant.  At both stations there is a negative statistically significant trend in the number of growing degree days.  Depending upon your intent, statistics can “prove” an argument that there is a problem or there isn’t a problem.

In order to do a comprehensive analysis to settle the question would take a lot of work.  Before doing any more analysis work, the evaluation data used should be confirmed as appropriate.  In order to represent the New York region adequately, stations across New York and the region would all have to be analyzed similarly.  It might also be appropriate to look at each month when haying is done.

I think the comparison of possible trends against inter-annual variation is illuminating.  If there is a climate change signal the difference between the first thirty years of the records with the last thirty years should show changes.  What differences that do exist are smaller than the observed variations.  All changes are less than one standard deviation from the mean.  I believe that this is a consistent problem for lines of the so-called evidence for climate change impacts observed in New York.

Based on this analysis I believe that anecdotal claims of observed changes of problems with hay weather parameters due to climate change are likely biased and unsupported by the data.  The variations noted and ascribed to climate change are in fact due to weather.

I also think that similar analyses of other claims would provide similar results.  The Governor’s claim “Even in today’s chaos of political pandering and hyperbole there are still facts, data and evidence – and climate change is an undeniable scientific fact” and his tendency to blame any unusual weather on climate change are not supported by this analysis.  In my opinion, careful evaluation of data and evidence for most of his claims would find similarly ambiguous and less certain results.

Climate Forecast Lessons from Dorian

Although I am a meteorologist with over 40 years of experience, I have been told that does not qualify me to have an “expert” opinion on the science of climate change.  Nonetheless, I believe my background and experience qualifies me to make a few points about the model-based projections of climate change relative to the forecasts for Hurricane Dorian.  Don’t ever forget that model projections are the basis for the “climate crisis” rhetoric that we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

A quick internet search found this very well done forecast for Dorian on August 29, 2019.  Meteorologist Tim Pandajis from WVEC Channel 13 in Norfolk, VA explains the current status of the storm on August 29, the forecast for the next several days, but also explains many of the reasons why the forecast is uncertain.  I particularly liked his explanation because it includes spaghetti plots.  At 8:04 in the video he shows how different models are seeing things differently and his presentation shows how different models predict how the storm will move and the timing.  Of course as it turned out Dorian behaved quite differently than any of the forecasts.

Given the constant changes to the forecasts for Dorian I am sure many recall the old saying that meteorology is the only profession where you can be wrong most of the time and still keep your job.  Reality is much different.  For me there are two things to keep in mind.  On September 1 the storm reached peak intensity but it also stalled.  The forecast intensity for the rest of the storm only went down when it became obvious that the storm intensity was going down.  The reason the intensity went down is that the hurricane sat in one place for so long that it brought cold water up to the surface.  Hurricanes need warm water to maintain intensity or grow and the cold water affected the intensity.  It is interesting that the models did not incorporate that effect or did not incorporate enough of that effect.  However, I am confident that the models will be revised to address that in the future.

When I graduated with my MS of in meteorology in 1976 three to five-day forecasts were not that good but they have improved a lot.  I ascribe that improvement in large part because weather forecasts are always being tested.  Whenever there is a poor forecast the models and the forecasters learn from that and improve their products going forward.  The climate forecasts that predict imminent and inevitable climate catastrophe do not have that advantage.  The National Weather Service defines 30-year averages as a climatic normal.  Using that time-period a climate model forecast should be tested against a 30-year weather average of observations.  Clearly there are many fewer opportunities to test a climate forecast model as opposed to a weather forecast. In addition, my experience with simpler models is that you can get the “right” answer for the wrong reason.  Weather forecast models address this problem by the large number of tests.  If they adjust the model for the wrong reason it may work once but the error will show up later so a different adjustment is tried until they get it right.  Climate models will never be able to correct if they have the wrong reason in our lifetimes.

The final lesson from Dorian is forecasting uncertainty.  As Tim Pamdajis showed with spaghetti plots in his presentation there was enough uncertainty to make a difference on hurricane response actions to take for the forecasts on August 29.  On the other hand, the climate model projections are portrayed in the media and by advocates as absolutely certain.  None of the caveats provided by the modelers are acknowledged in the hue and cry about a climate emergency.  The reality is that there are a range of modeled projections for future climate and, for the most part, only the most extreme impact results are publicized and those are the ones that are the basis for the “climate emergency”.

These lessons from Dorian support my belief that climate model forecasts cannot be trusted enough to believe that there is a climate emergency.  I am not alone.  Richard Lindzen commented on climate modeling for greenhouse gas effects:

“Here is the currently popular narrative concerning this system. The climate, a complex multifactor system, can be summarized in just one variable, the globally averaged temperature change, and is primarily controlled by the 1-2% perturbation in the energy budget due to a single variable – carbon dioxide – among many variables of comparable importance.  This is an extraordinary pair of claims based on reasoning that borders on magical thinking.”

My takeaway message from Dorian.  Everyone has experience with weather forecast model predictions.  Intuitively I imagine most people have some suspicions about the validity of any predictions of the climate in 100 years.  This post illustrates reasons why those suspicions are well-founded.  In no way does that mean that the climate is not warming or that greenhouse gas emissions might not have an effect in the future.  However, in my opinion the imminent, inevitable climate catastrophe forecast is a very low probability for this and many other reasons.  If you want to do something to reduce potential climate impacts then do the “no regrets” like energy conservation and energy efficiency, and invest in research to make carbon dioxide free energy production cheaper than energy production from fossil sources which would make conversions a no regrets solution.  Unfortunately this is not the message from any of the Democratic candidates for President.

One final point relates to the effect of global warming on the storm itself.  I am sure you have heard the stories that Dorian supports the catastrophic concerns.  I don’t have time to address this in particular but I believe that the following refute the proposition that Dorian is somehow indicative of a global warming crisis.

    • Judith Curry “Alarmism enforcement” on hurricanes and global warming argues that there are a few climate scientists whose behavior “is violating the norms of science and in my opinion is unethical”. She also provides links to two papers from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Task Team on Tropical Cyclones that do not support the crisis allegation:

Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change Assessment: Part I. Detection and Attribution

Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change Assessment: Part II. Projected Response to Anthropogenic Warming

Connect New York “Climate Change in New York” Panel Discussion

Updated response from the host September 5, 2019 follows

On August 26,2019 Public Broadcasting Service WCNY Syracuse NY aired the Connect New York program “Climate Change in New York, a Changing Landscape”.   I stopped listening within the first two minutes because there were three gross mis-characterizations in that time and that was too much for me to swallow.  This post documents those three mis-characterizations.

Their description of the show states:

“Summer 2019 has been an illustration of climate change in New York – from a record breaking heat wave to flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario. In July, Governor Cuomo signed one of the most aggressive climate bills in the nation. We ask climate experts if the new law will be enough when the International Panel on Climate Change has warned that the world has 11 years left to act.”

In the opening monologue of the show host Susan Arbetter said: “Summer 2019 has been a graphic illustration of climate change from a record-breaking heat wave in France to flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario.”  After introducing the panel Ms. Arbetter referenced the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asking Sandra Steingraber why we have to act quickly.  Dr. Steingraber said “Climate change now is a real emergency” and I stopped watching.  I believe that the heat wave and high water only represent extreme weather within the range of natural variability and that there is no climate emergency.   One of my pragmatic environmentalist’s principles is Alberto Brandolini’s  Baloney Asymmetry Principle: “The amount of energy necessary to refute BS is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”  The explanation of the reason why Lake Ontario flooding is not an illustration of climate change exemplifies that principle.

If climate change were the cause of record Lake Ontario levels and resulting flooding then we would expect that there would be a trend of increasing lake levels.    That presumption is very easy to check. The US Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit Office provides monthly mean lake-wide average levels for all the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes water levels 1918 to 2018 figure shows these data for all the lakes.  A quick scan does not reveal any obvious trend for Lake Ontario.  Moreover there are high lake levels in 1943, 1947, 1951, 1952, 1973, and 1974 as well has values in 2017 and the record breaking levels in 2019.

There is another factor to keep in mind relative to the Lake Ontario historical water levels.  When the Moses-Saunders dam on the St. Lawrence River was completed in 1958 it enabled some control of Lake Ontario water levels.  The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board implemented Plan 2014 to ensure that releases at the Moses-Saunders Dam comply with the International Joint Commission’s 8 December 2016 Supplementary Order effective January 2017 entitled: Regulation Plan 2014 for the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River Compendium Document.  I will not try to determine whether the dam had any effect on the recent high water levels but there are those that believe that is the case.

In order to determine if there is a possible trend I fit a linear regression model to determine if there was a statistically significant trend. I use Statgraphics Centurion software from StatPoint Technologies, Inc. to do my statistical analyses because it provides flexible plotting and regression tools.  Statgraphics enables the user to choose the best relationship from 27 different linear regression equations.  It is also nice because it presents clear summaries for the non-statistician like me.

I found the maximum monthly Lake Ontario water level for each year and plotted those values versus the year.  The Maximum Annual Monthly Lake Ontario Lake Levels 1950 to 2019 figure plots the water levels that have been coordinated with Canada from 1918 to 2018 and 2019 data through July that I extracted from the monthly reports.  According to the statistical program there is a statistically significant relationship at the 95% confidence level between Lake Ontario Maximum Monthly Level and Year because the P-value in the ANOVA table is less than 0.05.  I have listed the statistics and Statgraphics descriptions in Lake Ontario Annual Maximum Water Level Statistics 1950 to 2019.

At first glance host Susan Arbetter appears to be justified saying that Lake Ontario water levels are rising in response to anthropogenic climate change.  Based on their backgrounds I doubt that any members of the expert panel disagreed either. The expert panel consisted of Rachel May, NYS Senator who was an environmental sustainability educator at SUNY ESF with no science degrees; Sandra Steingraber, a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College where she writes about climate change, ecology, and the links between human health and the environment;  Mark Dunlea, founder of the Green Education and Legal Fund whose web page states that he is a graduate of RPI (Management) and Albany Law School; and Yvonne Chu a member of Climate Change Awareness and Action who has a BS in Environmental Science from SUNY Plattsburgh.

However there is an inconvenient fact.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims the effect of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the climate system “has a 95–100% probability of causing the currently observed and unprecedented warming of the climate since the mid-twentieth century”. As a result anthropogenic climate change could only have affected water level change after 1950. To test this I separated the Lake Ontario water level data into two sets: before and after 1950.  Maximum Annual Monthly Lake Ontario Lake Levels 1918 to 1949 figure lists the water levels from 1918 to 1949. According to the statistical program there is a statistically significant relationship at the 95% confidence level between Lake Ontario Maximum Monthly Level and Year over this time period because the P-value in the ANOVA table is less than 0.05.  I have listed the statistics in Lake Ontario Annual Maximum Water Level Statistics 1918 to 1949.

However, as shown in Maximum Annual Monthly Lake Ontario Lake Levels 1950 to 2019, the relationship is much weaker after 1950.  According to the statistical program there is not a statistically significant relationship at the 95% confidence level between Lake Ontario Maximum Monthly Level and Year over this time period because the P-value in the ANOVA table is greater than 0.05.  I have listed the statistics in Lake Ontario Annual Maximum Water Level Statistics 1950 to 2019.

Because there is no statistically significant trend after 1950, the disastrous flooding of 2019 is more likely weather related than indicative of climate change.  I refer you to another of my pragmatic environmentalist principles the Golden Rule of Climate Extremes.  Dr. Cliff Mass christened this rule as “The more extreme a climate or weather record is, the greater the contribution of natural variability”.  I am confident that were I to do the same kind of analysis for the French heat wave this summer it would be another example of this golden rule.

If you recall, Ms. Arbetter referenced the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asking Sandra Steingraber why we have to act quickly.  She said “Climate change now is a real emergency”.  Again I refer you to Dr. Cliff Mass who has explained that climate change is probably not an existential threat.  He believes it is a serious problem and I agree.  Note, however, over-hyping the reality could very well come back and hurt the cause.

Ms.  Arbetter summed up the Lake Ontario flooding as “pitting the status quo against science”.  I have shown that her “science” was fatally flawed.  Her expert panel only included advocates without the technical expertise to differentiate between weather and climate.  Where does that leave the viewers who watched this show?  Eventually the public will catch on that this alleged imminent, inevitable climate emergency that requires costly and sweeping changes to society is not as advertised.

I am heartened that WCNY has not joined the Columbia Journalism Review “Covering Climate Now” effort.  However, this Connect NY program was entirely consistent with the intent of that effort to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate crisis.  According to the Connect NY web page the program offers “insightful discussion, information, and analysis on timely topics that affect residents across the Empire State”.  However, it seems to me the program was not an honest attempt to present both sides of this topic but rather a platform to present opinions of one side of this issue.

Update: I sent a letter to the station with these explanations.  I received the following response on September 5, 2019:

Dear Roger,

I appreciate your email.  The climate program that aired on WCNY in August was the second “Connect: NY” program we have produced on the issue.  The first program aired on February 25th and featured the climate debate from the business perspective.   If you watch both of them, I think you’ll have a fuller appreciation of the range of perspectives we have featured on the air on this issue.

Thank you again for engaging.

warmly,

Susan Arbetter

 

 

It is Worse than I Thought

Last week was very depressing for me because New York State decided to jump the shark and go for the “the most comprehensive climate legislation in the nation”. I wrote about that and the obvious disconnect between reality and the ambitions of the legislation in a post published on Watts Up With That. Originally it was the Climate and Community Protection Act but now it is the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act because, after all, in order to signal your virtue it is best to be the leader.

Since then three blog posts have come to my attention that lay out my problem with climate change issues very well. I believe that there are two questions about addressing climate change: should we do something and what should we do? Two posts address those questions and the third discusses the over-arching problem of public perception.

Larry Kummer, at the Fabius Maximus website, published “Listening to climate doomsters makes our situation worse” which addresses the question whether we should do something. He concludes, and I agree, that we should not ignore it but we should also not focus on it to the extent that other, and in my opinion more likely, serious threats are ignored or not given enough resources because of the alleged existential threat of climate change. Mr. Kummer points out that the news today ignores the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is supposed to be the ultimate scientific authority on this issue apparently because their story is not scary enough. He points out that there is long list of failed predictions which suggests that the climate change predictions may also turn out poorly. Finally he lists historical examples of imminent doom scares that failed to end life as we knew it. This post is a great reference for the pragmatic side of whether we should do something.

Francis Menton, at the Manhattan Contrarian website, published “The Wall Street Journal embarrasses itself on the economics of 100% intermittent renewable energy” that addresses the “what should we do?” aspect of climate change. He takes issue with the story line that wind and solar power costs are falling so much that they are now the cheapest form of electricity power generation.   Mr. Menton explains that the problem is intermittency. At some penetration level wind and solar have to have energy storage backup. As soon as that cost is included wind and solar becomes markedly more expensive. The basis for that conclusion is an hour-by-hour generation and load comparison. He references several analyses that show how much storage is necessary and I know from conversations with people at the New York Independent System Operator that a similar problem exists in New York. Quite simply solar generation peaks in the summer and wind generation peaks in the spring and fall. Trying to develop a 100% wind and solar system that can cover the winter peak will be extraordinarily expensive because you must have storage over the seasons. He concludes with a chart that compares electricity costs and renewable installed capacity that shows a clear correlation to higher prices with more renewables.

Finally, Kip Hansen at Watts Up with That opines about “A national narrative for media on climate change”. He documents what I have been beginning to suspect – there is an organized movement among American journalists to have a common story about an inevitable, imminent climate threat. Somehow my cell phone got onto a google news feed that never fails to deliver a daily story of a disaster connected to climate change. It seemed odd that every media outlet had similar stories. Mr. Hansen explains that newspapers like the New York Times have editorial narratives to match stories to a pre-designated storyline. The national narrative is “Transforming the media’s coverage of the climate crisis” which claims that climate is a crisis, climate is the “biggest story of our time” and suggested that journalists warn that “humanity has a mere 12 years to radically slash greenhouse-gas emissions or face a calamitous future in which hundreds of millions of people worldwide would go hungry or homeless or worse.”  All this is supposed to culminate in a focused week of climate coverage in September just before a United Nations summit in New York City. He describes this all as ideological sabotage of the American mind and asks that skeptics “explain the complexity of the wicked problem called Earth’s Climate and the current controversies surrounding the issues involved” in every venue possible.

If not were for the fact that my state has swallowed this existential threat nonsense whole I would not be so worried. It is bad enough that New York has ignored the real science and has swallowed the nonsense that eliminating fossil fuel use can be done easily and cheaply but at least the legislation includes a provision to do an evaluation. Hopefully there will be some rigor involved with that analysis and the truth will come out. Ultimately the problem is that while these attempts in the United States will fall apart just like other places where they have been tried the economic damage will be immense. In the meantime maybe I should invest in yellow vest futures.