Recommended Climate Act Reading – Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) codifies a New York approach to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.  Unfortunately, the rationale for this massive transformation of the entire energy sector is suspect because the science contained in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of global warming was not understood.  Dr. Steven Koonin’s “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters” translates the IPCC scientific reports into plain English and explains why a more reasoned approach to climate change is more appropriate.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy outstrip available technology such that it will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   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.


Last fall I recommended two books: “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet” by Bjorn Lomborg and “Apocalypse Never – Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” by Michael Shellenberger.  They both explained why New York is going down a path that will cost enormous sums of money, hurt more of the state’s poor than help, and will have no effect on global warming itself.  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 meteorological modeling that I believe those model results are at the lower end of the possibility scale[1]

The rationale for the Climate Act is that climate change is “the greatest threat facing life as we know it” based on the “science”.  However, the authors of the Climate Act, the politicians who voted for the it, and the individuals charged with developing a plan to meet its targets did not choose to follow the science contained in the IPCC assessment of global warming for what I think are a variety of reasons.  Caught up by massive publicity to push the climate catastrophe narrative these folks were either naïve, did not bother to try to understand or know full well that the science buried in the scientific reports contain major uncertainties and results that show this is an issue that can be addressed better.

Dr. Steven Koonin is a theoretical physicist, director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, and a professor in the Department of Civil and Urban Engineering at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. From 2009 to 2011, he was Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy, in the Obama administration.  His book “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters” translates the IPCC scientific reports into plain English and does a great job explaining issues with the climate model results.  His background as a scientific advisor in the Obama Administration gives him the background to ask the right questions to develop a policy that will not do more harm than good. He makes a great case that the Climate Act is on the wrong path. 

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants an in-depth description of the problems with the current climate change narrative that the science is settled and supports the massive transformation to a net-zero economy.  The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) had Koonin give the 2021 Annual GWPF lecture based on his book in London on November 16, 2021 that serves as a good advertisement for the book.  The video of the lecture takes about 40 minutes of your time to get an excellent summary of the issues described in detail in the book.

GWPF Lecture Slides

In this section I will give an overview of the lecture.  I took screen shots of the slides in the lecture.  His first slide (discussed at 5:10 in the recording) gave examples of the alarming stories we have heard in the leadup and during the 2021 Conference of Parties meeting in Glasgow Scotland in November 2021.

[1] The ultimate problem with the climate modeling is that it 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.

Dr. Koonin went on to explain (6:35 in the recording) where these stories come from.  The IPCC and a similar organization, the US National Climate Assessment have developed what has become to be known as the “consensus” for climate change science.  Very few people have waded through all those reports and I am comfortable saying that no policy decision makers have read them.  The book explains why the material in the scientific assessments say important and surprising things that have not been considered in the Climate Act and bely the narrative that there is a climate crisis.

The book gives examples (8:10 in the recording) of surprises where commonly held beliefs about climate change science are not supported.  Please keep in mind that there are multiple lines of evidence and sources of data to support any climate science claim.  The point is that while we are incessantly told that the science is certain and settled, the reality is that the scientific assessment reports and other analyses actually show information that runs contrary to the narrative.

Dr. Koonin explains (10:30 in the recording) how the unsettled science with alternative viewpoints has morphed into the climate crisis story in the next slide.  Scientific analyses of observations and modeling simulations are numerous and not understood by many people.  The IPCC and the equivalent US organizations summarize the literature in assessment reports.  However, even those are overly technical for most policy makers so summaries are developed.  Press releases describing the assessment results invariably highlight the scariest results and that is what usually drives public and decision maker perceptions.  He concludes this discussion with a description of the bad behavior that turned the unsettled science into the current narrative of climate crisis certainty:

  • Confusing weather with climate
  • Confusing “climate change” with “a changing climate”
  • Highlighting recent trends without historical context
  • Implausibly extreme emissions scenarios termed “business as usual”
  • Minimization of uncertainties
  • Alarming predictions that never materialize and are soon forgotten
  • Non-expert and activist reporters aiming to persuade rather than to inform
  • Suppression of legitimate divergence from the consensus (“denier”,…)

All of this behavior has been evident during the Climate Act implementation process.

Dr. Koonin goes on to give specific examples of data contradicting the commonly understanding of increasing hurricane intensity and numbers and sea-level rise.  The book includes more examples and provides greater detail.  Importantly, remember that all his information is directly from the scientific assessment reports not filtered through the telephone game.  The common perception of the existential threat of climate change are the result of the bad behavior he describes.  Hurricane trends are described at 13:02 in the recording.

Sea-level trends are described at 14:08 in the recording.

Koonin uses the discussion of sea-level variability in the IPCC latest report as an example of how the real story is obscured in the report at 15:02 in the recording.  It is well worth listening to this bit to understand the games that are played to tell the story.

In addition to the perverted historical observation stories, the projections for climate change impacts in general and sea-level rise in particular are biased as shown at 17:38 in the recording.  The Climate Act rationale relies on these projections and does not recognize the issues raised for the Manhattan sea-level trends shown in the following slide. 

The next slide (19:35 in the recording) looks at Nile River water level over 900 years to illustrate the point that there is always variation in a climate data observation set.

Last summer there was an extraordinary period of high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest that was wrongly attributed to climate change.  However, the historical record of high temperatures (22:25 in the recording) does not indicate any trend that could be ascribed to climate change due to greenhouse gas concentrations increasing over time.

Another Climate Act claim is that there are climatic trends in precipitation.  Again, the actual historical data don’t support those claims (23:02 in the recording).

In the September 2021, Hurricane Ida caused major damages in New York City and I predicted that the Climate Action Council would blame climate change.  My forecast verified.  Dr. Koonin provided a couple of graphs (22:25 in the recording) that don’t support any suggestion of a climatic trend causing the storm.

The next slide (24:50 in the recording) addresses SW United States and California droughts.  He explained that there is no apparent trend in the Southwest but there seems to be a trend for droughts in California.

The climate crisis narrative ascribes the recent forest fire problems in California to a climate change in droughts but the following slide (24:45 in the recording) explains that forest management and development are also factors for forest fire damages.

One of the fundamental arguments for the Climate Act was that there will be major economic impacts if we don’t do something.  The economic impact of warming slide (27:41 in the recording) gives examples of media coverage of those impacts and shows that the alarming numbers are given out of context.  If you consider these values relative to the total costs they are “in the noise” of expected variability.

One of the major points in the book that was too complicated to include in the lecture was the over-reliance on an unrealistic projection (RCP8.5 on the chart) for future emissions.  All of the most alarming projections use this very questionable assessment and, as a result, are very unlikely (29:32 in the recording). 

Even when the unrealistic estimates of future emissions are used the impacts of climate change will “be small relative to the impacts of other drivers” (30:15 in the recording).  He concludes that this should not be considered a climate crisis.

In the final section of the lecture and the book he discusses the likelihood that there will be global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  He concludes that global “net zero” by 2050 is a fantasy in the developed world because of the importance of reliable energy systems, the difficulty of transforming the energy sector away from fossil fuels, and the potential that ill-conceived changes will have negative consequences (31:03in the recording).  With respect to the Climate Act note that he believes that backlash is likely when the public becomes aware of the reliability risks and enormous costs of the net-zero transformation.

In the next slide (34:18 in the recording) he addresses whether net-zero is possible in the developing world. Given the facts that energy demand is correlated with well-being and that “fossil fuels are the most convenient and reliable way to meet growing demand” he believes that there are self-interests and moral obligations to meet that energy demand using fossil fuels.  As a result, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise.

Koonin explains that if you want to decarbonize in the best way(35:42 in the recording) that it is necessary to optimize the rate of decarbonization.  If you go too fast you incur costs due to disrupting the system (e.g., blackouts due to reliability issues) and extra costs because the technology is immature.  If you go too slow there are greater risks of climate damages.

Koonin ran out of time to discuss the slide at 36:53 in the recording.  He makes the point in this slide that the “largest cost of a green grid is not generation but reliability”.

At 37:04 in the recording he stated that adaptation will be dominant response and explained why.  Also note that he makes the point that it is a lot easier to adapt if you’re richer than if you’re poorer.  As a result the best global solution may be to help developing countries move along to more prosperity.

In the slide described at 36:18 in the recording he makes a point that is prominent in the book.  It is inappropriate to “misrepresent the science to persuade rather than to inform”.  He notes that Jonathan Gruber was one of the primary architects of Obamacare and in the quotation admits to exploiting the lack of understanding of economics of the American voter.  The architects of the Climate Act certainly did the same thing to con the New York legislature and Governor to pass the plan to “do something” about climate change with the provisions included.  I believe that all of the problems noted that result from this misrepresentation are part of the fallout of the Climate Act.

Finally, he recommended (40:05 in the recording) a course forward.  He says first we need to not panic and put more emphasis on adaptation rather than mitigation.  He concludes that decarbonization pathways were put together by people who have no sense of the real world. 


Koonin’s concludes that “precipitous climate action can be much more dangerous than any climate change you can imagine.  I concur.  If you want a readable description of the basis for our belief than I recommend reading his book.

New York City’s Plan to Combat Extreme Weather

This post was published at Watts Up With That on September 30, 2021

On September 27, 2021 New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio releasedThe New Normal: Combatting Storm-Related Extreme Weather in New York City,” billed as a “landmark report that provides New York City with a new blueprint to prepare for and respond to extreme weather”. I wholeheartedly support many of the initiatives proposed in the document but I disagree with the report’s arguments suggesting that absent climate change, initiatives to increase resiliency would not be appropriate.  Furthermore, given the enormous sums of money needed to address these issues I question whether it is appropriate to continue to spend any money on emissions reductions to ameliorate the alleged effects of climate change.

The report starts off claiming the devastation associated with the remnants of Hurricane Ida on September 1, 2021 was unprecedented: “it was a frightening lesson in our new reality: one in which even so-called “remnants” of storms, traveling from thousands of miles away, can be as ferocious and dangerous as those aimed directly at our city”.  The report goes on to say: “Increasingly, these extreme weather events are the new normal: part of an undeniable climate crisis that stretches across our entire nation, from droughts in the Southwest to raging wildfires on the West Coast. Climate change isn’t a far-off threat. It is here, it is real, and it is taking lives.”

New York governments have been claiming that most every recent extreme weather event is evidence of climate change for quite a while.  For example, before the most recent Climate Act implementation meeting I wrote a post predicting that Hurricane Ida impacts would be highlighted at the meeting and, surprising no one, that is exactly what happened at the meeting.  I have documented other instances where New Yorkers have confused climate change impacts with weather events here.

In my prediction post I noted that on August 22, 2021 tropical depression Henri made landfall in Rhode Island.  Although it had weakened from a hurricane and skirted New York, it dumped heavy rains from New Jersey to New England.   The region had a wet summer so the ground was already saturated.  As a result, the main impact was flooding.  Hurricane Ida struck the Louisiana coast on August 29, 2021.  I followed the forecasts of the remnants of Ida as it slogged north and the east out to sea in the New York City area.  Every forecaster was warning that heavy rains were likely in the New York City area and coupled with already saturated grounds that flooding was likely. 

Cliff Mass described the weather as it hit the area and noted that New York’s Central Park had a record of 3.15 inches in an hour.  He explained that hurricane remnants, known as extratropical cyclones, combine strong upward motions with large amounts of tropical moisture.  This combination causes heavy rains and flooding.  Moreover, Paul Homewood evaluated climate data and showed that that worse precipitation has been observed in the past

Sadly, there were big impacts associated with the storm.  The New York City report states that “For the first time in history, the National Weather Service (NWS) declared a flash flood emergency in New York City. The storm shattered the record for the most single-hour rainfall in our city, set only two weeks earlier by another extreme storm, Hurricane Henri. It flooded streets, subways, and homes. Most tragically, Ida took the lives of 13 New Yorkers.”

Dr. Cliff Mass defines the Golden Rule of Climate Extremes as: The more extreme a climate or weather record is, the greater the contribution of natural variability.  For example, he did an extensive analysis of this summer’s great Northwest heat wave and found that “ global warming only contributed a small about (1-2F) of the 30-40F heatwave and that proposed global warming amplification mechanisms (e.g., droughts, enhanced ridging/high pressure) cannot explain the severe heat event.”  Although he did not do a similar analysis of the New York City flooding, the analyses described above suggest a similar conclusion here.  Note, however, his description of the weather event made the point that we could and should improve forecasting and communications for this type of event because the deaths were preventable.

In this regard, the New York City report is encouraging.  The press release explains that the following new strategies are outlined in the report:

  • Educate, train, and acclimate New Yorkers to this new reality
  • Increase planning for the worst-case scenario in every instance
  • Accelerate upgrades to storm modeling, tracking, and alert systems
  • Broaden protection for inland communities, not only our coastlines
  • Protect basement and cellar occupants
  • Prioritize investments in low-income neighborhoods, immigrant communities, and communities of color
  • Re-imagine our sewage and drainage system, and rapidly increase green infrastructure and cloudburst solutions
  • Call on support from the state and federal government in further depending our reach

I will look at these strategies in more detail below.

Educating New Yorkers to be more weatherwise is a necessary first step in the public warning process.  In my opinion, many city folks are so insulated from the real world, including the weather, that they don’t bother to follow weather forecasts.  For the most part, that only creates inconveniences.  However, there are extreme weather events that can affect safety and they have to be aware of the consequences.  Given the importance of this requirement I will not quibble that those events have always happened and, even if the magical solutions to mitigate climate change are enacted, severe weather events will continue happen.

The planning for worst-case scenarios basically consists of setting up a “new senior position at City Hall, the Extreme Weather Coordinator”.  Hopefully they will work closely with the National Weather Service experts in the area of severe weather communications.  If the warnings are not credible then they will be ignored.

I am sure Dr. Mass would endorse the plan to “build state-of-the-art storm modeling, a new tiered alert system tailored to at-risk areas, and a modern tracking system that will monitor dangerous weather throughout the tri-state area and beyond”.   I agree that this is necessary and would be the first to support diverting some of the money poured into climate change research into a better warning system for weather events associated with the “new normal”.  This certainly is a “no regrets” option.

Three of the strategies are related.  Inland communities and basement occupants are threatened mostly because the sewage and drainage system is inadequate.  The report notes that “Completely recalibrating our sewers for storms like Ida would require a decades-long, potentially $100-billion investment dependent on federal funding”. However, it would reduce the severity of inland flooding, help prevent basement flooding, and reduce the health impacts associated with sewage overflows.

It seems that all environmental infrastructure projects proposed today have to include environmental justice commitments.  I doubt that anyone would object to requirements that mandate equitable investments.  However, given the amount of money needed to address all the resiliency problems it would be inappropriate to try to over-compensate low-income neighborhoods for past injustices.

Clearly it is beyond the capability of the city to fund everything that could be done.  Not surprisingly, the final strategy is to get more money from “our partners at the State and Federal level”.   In my opinion New York City is missing the obvious solution.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions affect global warming as alleged, there are problems with New York City’s support of greenhouse gas emission reduction mitigation projects.  In the first place, New York emissions reductions cannot possibly measurably affect global warming.  Paul Knappenberger’s Analysis of US and State-By-State Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Potential “Savings” In Future Global Temperature and Global Sea Level Rise used the Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-gas Induced Climate Change which projects changes based in expected global warming based on admittedly old Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates.  I simply pro-rated his estimates of United States impacts by the ratio of New York greenhouse gas emissions divided by United States emissions to determine the effects of a complete cessation of all New York State’s emissions.  I found that there would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of between 0.0097°C and 0.0081°C by the year 2100.  To give you an idea of how small these temperature changes are consider changes with elevation and latitude.  Generally, temperature decreases three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000-foot increase in elevation above sea level.  The projected temperature difference for all the greenhouse gases is the same as a 39-inch change.  The general rule is that temperature changes three (3) degrees Fahrenheit for every 300-mile change in latitude at sea level.  The projected temperature change is the same as a change in latitude of less than a mile. Given these small changes I believe that there could not possibly be an effect on extreme weather events from New York emission reductions.

In addition, New York’s potential emission reductions should be considered relative to the rest of the world.  According to the China Electricity Council, about 29.9 gigawatts of new coal power capacity was added in 2019 and a further 46 GW of coal-fired power plants are under construction.  If you assume that the new coal plants are super-critical units with an efficiency of 44% and have a capacity factor of 80%, eliminating all New York’s greenhouse gas emissions will be replaced by the added 2019 Chinese capacity in less than two years.

I think that the New York City New Normal report outlines useful strategies to address the problems of extreme weather.  I disagree that there is any “new” normal but the fact is that extreme weather always has happened and will always happen whatever mankind tries to do, makes planning a system to address these events a no regrets solution.  The biggest impediment to implementation is the enormous funding needed and I believe it is obvious that taking the money presently being thrown away on greenhouse gas emission reduction projects would be better served funding these strategies.  New York emissions cannot possibly be reduced enough to affect global warming and the alleged new normals of extreme weather even if there is a link between the two.  Given that it is a moral imperative that everyone should have access to abundant, reliable energy that can only be provided affordably with fossil fuels means that emission increases elsewhere are going to be greater than any possible New York emission reductions.  Finally, New York’s emphasis on wind and solar zero emissions resources for future emission reductions depends on technology that does not exist.  As a result, catastrophic blackouts with impacts equivalent to the extreme weather events are likely as a result of the mitigation efforts of New York.  It would be logical and safer to use emission reduction funds for the proposed strategies.


Roger Caiazza blogs on New York energy and environmental issues at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York.  This represents his opinion and not the opinion of any of his previous employers or any other company with which he has been associated.

Forecast Verification for the New York Climate Action Council Meeting

On September 4, 2021 I predicted that at the next meeting of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) Climate Action Council the recent flooding in lower New York State would be described as evidence that climate change is a reality and that the actions of the Council will fight these kinds of disasters.  This post notes that for the record the Co-Chair “remarks and reflections” included a slide on the recent flooding.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   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.


Since the spring of 2020 the Climate Action Council has been developing a scoping plan outlining recommendations to implement the CLCPA.  The goal is to make the recommendations by the end of 2021 and have the next state energy plan incorporate their recommendations.  A key component of the process will be the integration analysis prepared by Energy & Environmental Economics (E3) that “combines a detailed accounting model of energy supplies and demands across the entire economy with an optimized capacity expansion model in the electric sector” to develop a mix of energy sources that will meet the CLCPA goals.  The plan will also estimate total societal costs and benefits.  For further background, I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.

A common feature in the Climate Action Council meetings has been a “reflection” in the opening remarks by the co-chairs that brags about recent implementation actions and includes an argument that additional implementation is needed to address the latest extreme weather event.  My forecast was correct because the meeting included the following slide describing the recent New York flood events (At 8:25 in the Meeting Recording).


The immediate response after the flooding from the usual suspects was that climate change was involved despite the fact that worse precipitation has been observed in the past.  As noted in the last post the mis-perception between climate and weather is so common that I have developed a page that explains the difference between weather and climate and includes articles debunking similar claims. 

In the previous post I concluded that flooding caused by heavy rainfall following a previous storm is much more an example of extreme weather than a climate change driven event.  The need to implement mitigation measures as part of the CLCPA is mis-guided because it diverts resources from improvements to weather forecasting, extreme weather warning communications, and resiliency adaptation measures.  Those improvements could provide tangible benefits even if the climate change alarm proves to be over rated.  On the other hand, expecting any extreme weather benefits from emission mitigation measures by New York State are doomed simply because world-wide emissions continue to increase at a greater pace than New York reductions can ever hope to slow down much less reverse.

The remarks and reflections also noted that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had come out since the last meeting.  The director of the Department of Environmental Conservation, Basil Seggos, described the stark warnings of the report at 7:25 of the video.  Not surprisingly, there was no recognition that the high carbon pathway that gives the catastrophic predictions is based on emissions that are implausibly high because recent International Energy Agency estimates are 30% less than that IPCC scenario.  Furthermore, Dr Judith Curry writes that “The extreme tail risks from global warming, associated with very high emissions and high climate sensitivity, have shrunk and are now regarded as unlikely if not implausible.”  Nonetheless, NY policy makers continue to emphasize projections based on the high emissions and high climate sensitivity scenarios.


The CLCPA implementation process continues to portray any extreme weather event as “proof” of global warming driving climate change.  However, New York agencies ignore the difference between weather and climate.  A climatological average is defined as a 30-year average.  In 1954 three hurricanes and in 1955 two hurricanes hit the Atlantic coast north of South Carolina.  If that were to happen today, the alarmists would be screaming that this is definitive proof of a changing climate.  It happened over 66 years ago and has not happened again through two climatological averaging periods.  That indicates if anything, a tendency for fewer hurricanes.  I conclude that describing the flooding caused by the remnants of hurricane Ida as proof of climate change is an example of not letting a crisis go to waste and not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

Facebook Missing Context in Missing Context Label

A friend recently posted information on Facebook that the Texas blackout situation was a “literal perfect storm test if an all-renewable energy plan would work”.  The Facebook police posted a warning that there was “missing context” but I will explain why there was missing context in the missing context claim.

I while away my time in retirement publishing a blog on New York environmental and energy issues and have written extensively on New York’s attempts to address climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions.  For this context I wrote a post explaining the lessons that should be learned by New York in their quest to save the planet and another responding to a newspaper article asking whether something similar could happen in New York.  Short answers: New York has to be very careful with their plans or they will end up in the same situation as Texas in the future and New York’s electricity market is currently structured differently than Texas so it is very unlikely that the same thing could happen today.    

The Facebook missing context check claims that because failure of natural gas and other fossil sources was the primary problem with the blackouts this February it is unfair to claim this was an appropriate test of an all-renewable energy plan.  However, their arguments fail to consider a couple of things.

In the first place the claim in the post was that this was a test of an all-renewable energy system.  One way to consider generating availability is the capacity factor which is the actual electricity generated divided by the maximum electricity possible.   If we look at the capacity factors for Texas generation types during the crisis, midnight 2/15 to noon 2/18, then we can try to determine the cause of the crisis. None of the energy sources performed particularly well.  It is clear that in all-renewable energy system a lot would have to be done to replace the lack of wind and solar generation.  Note that 30,000 MW of wind at a cost of some $70 billion producing 650 MWs when it was desperately needed is a failure on the magnitude of the Maginot Line in World War 2. My first problem with the fact checkers is that even though the fossil plants failed to do well in this situation, the resources needed to keep the lights on in an all-renewable energy system for a future situation would be so immense and so expensive that they may not be feasible and that was the point of the claim.

Figure 1 ERCOT Capacity Factors 2/15/21:0000 to 2/18/21:1200

In my opinion the actual root cause to the problem is that the Texas energy market only pays generators when they produce power.  Most other electric markets pay generators for capacity or the ability to provide electricity when it is needed.  Texas had a very similar situation ten years ago which also led to blackouts.  If you don’t pay generators to be available in critical if rare situations they simply will not invest for those periods.   In this case, the wind mills could have spent extra for cold weather upgrades, the natural gas infrastructure could add heat tracing so equipment did not freeze, and the nuclear plants could have protected their water systems and this catastrophe could have been avoided.  All of that would have been done if the market paid for capacity.   

There is a bigger problem associated with the lack of a capacity market in Texas that the Facebook fact checkers completely ignore in their missing context claim.  A former electric utility planning engineer described his impression of the problems that lead to the debacle and noted that the purpose of the payment for energy only market strategy was “to aid the profitability of intermittent wind and solar resources and increase their penetration levels.” Put another way, because renewables don’t provide capacity that means having a capacity market disadvantages renewables.

I conclude that the Facebook fact checkers were more interested in damage control against claims that renewable energy has weaknesses than objectively addressing the claims.  The original claim is that an all-renewable energy system would most likely fail even more under the conditions that occurred and that has nothing to do with the fact that fossil fueled sources failed in this event.  The other flaw in their fact check is that the ultimate cause of the failure, payments only for energy, is the preferred approach for renewables advocates.  If they get their way blackouts will be inevitable.

Politics and Global Warming Poll

A recent survey claims that there is wide support for policies to combat climate change by developing “clean” energy.  I am very cynical about polls in general and climate polls in particular.  This post poses some questions about the survey results.


The Politics & Global Warming poll[1] was performed by the researchers from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.    According to the Executive Summary:

“Drawing on a nationally representative survey (N = 1,036; including 949 registered voters), this report describes how registered voters view a variety of climate and energy policies. This survey was fielded from December 3 – 16, 2020 – after the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election were known, but before control of the U.S. Senate was determined. This executive summary reports the results from all registered voters, while the report breaks the results down by political party and ideology.

    • 53% of registered voters say global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress.
    • 66% of registered voters say developing sources of clean energy should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress.”

In the Executive Summary I count percentage results for 62 questions.  The report breaks down the results from questions in more detail, but the complete survey text is not included as far as I can tell. There are questions included in graphical results but I believe that there had to be some explanatory text too.  Given the volume of material included in this survey I believe it is expecting a lot to expect respondents to have enough knowledge of the topics to give educated responses.  If the survey does provide background information, that is where the biases of the survey developers could easily affect the results.  If not, then respondents have to depend on sound-bite news stories.  There is nothing in this poll that reduces my cynicism of climate polls.

Premise of the Survey

Section 2, Support for Policies to Reduce the Pollution that Causes Global Warming, describes questions related to strategies to address climate change.  There is an implicit presumption that we understand the reasons for climate change well enough to be able to say climate mitigation policies could actually affect global warming.  If there was any expository text introducing these questions, I am sure that it followed the politically correct meme that there is a climate crisis and we have to act now to save the earth from thermal Armageddon.

What if the respondents were to hear the other side of the story?  In a recent interview Judith Curry described the climate models used to generate the scary stories used to justify the policies:

“However, the most consequential applications of climate models are to tell us what caused the 20th century climate change, how much the climate change is going to change in the 21st century and what’s causing extreme weather events. I mean, those are the more consequential applications and climate models aren’t fit for any of those purposes. And that’s pretty much acknowledged even in the IPCC report. Well, they, they do claim that they can attribute the global warming, but this can’t be easily separated from the natural variability associated with large-scale ocean circulations. And the way they’ve used climate models to do that involves circular reasoning, where they throw out climate simulations that really don’t match what was observed. So, you, you end up, even if you’re not explicitly tuning to the climate record, you’re implicitly tuning. And then the thing with extreme events, weather events is beyond silly because these climate models can’t resolve the extreme events and they can’t simulate the ocean circulation patterns that really determine the locations of these extreme events. And then when you start talking about 21st century, the only thing they’re looking at is the manmade human emissions forcing, they’re not predicting solar variability.”

Paris Climate Agreement

The first subsection stated that “There is bipartisan support for U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement”.  The text states:

“In December, 2015, officials from 197 countries (nearly every country in the world) met in Paris at the United Nations Climate Change Conference and negotiated a global agreement to limit global warming.  On Earth Day, April 2016, the United States and 174 other countries signed the agreement, with all of the other countries following suit. On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the agreement, and on November 4, 2020, the day after the U.S. presidential election, the U.S. formally withdrew. President-elect Biden has announced that the U.S. will re-join the agreement soon after Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021.”

I have to assume that this text was used in the survey.  There is nothing factually incorrect in this explanation but for a public that has no clue it also does not provide the full story.  Bjorn Lomborg recently pointed out that “Climate change, according to Biden, is “an existential threat” to the nation, and to combat it, he proposes to spend $500 billion each year on climate policies — the equivalent of $1,500 per person”.  He goes on to explain that the agreement will not materially affect global warming itself and that increases in emissions in countries without Paris Agreement commitments will quickly overwhelm any reductions made in the United States.

In Appendix I: Data Tables, the specific question was quoted:

“In 2015, the United States signed an international agreement in Paris with 196 other countries to limit the pollution that causes global warming.  Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the U.S.’s participation in the Paris Agreement?”

The report claims that:

“Three in four registered voters (75%) support U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement, but support varies by party. Nearly all liberal Democrats (97%) and moderate/conservative Democrats (93%) support U.S. participation, as do seven in ten liberal/moderate Republicans (71%) and Independents (70%). About four in ten conservative Republicans (44%) also support U.S. participation in the Agreement.”

If the Lomborg’s background information were provided then I do not believe there would be as much support for the Agreement.

Green New Deal

The report states “A majority of registered voters support a ‘Green New Deal’”, but does admit that “only 18% say they have heard ‘a lot’ about it.”  The Section 2 documentation notes:

“As we reported in 2019, a majority of registered voters support the policy aspirations included in the Green New Deal, although support decreased during the time period between December 2018 and April 2019, particularly among conservative Republicans and regular viewers of the Fox News Channel.  The description of the policy was summarized based on a 2018 policy report: “the Green New Deal will produce jobs and strengthen America’s economy by accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. The Deal would generate 100% of the nation’s electricity from clean, renewable sources within the next 10 years; upgrade the nation’s energy grid, buildings, and transportation infrastructure; increase energy efficiency; invest in green technology research and development; and provide training for jobs in the new green economy.”

Again, I have to assume that this text was used in the survey.  For anyone who has not heard a lot about the Green New Deal summarizing it based on a report from Data for Progress, “a multidisciplinary group of experts using state-of-the-art techniques in data science to support progressive activists and causes” clearly is going to hear only one side of the story.  A complete description would explain the following.  The conversion from fossil fuels to “clean” energy has negative consequences that are overlooked in the simple “clean” description.  It is impossible to convert 100% of the nation’s electricity to clean, renewable energy in ten years by any rational evaluation.  In addition to the technical considerations, costs will be enormous.

In that light of the biased information provided the survey’s findings are not surprising:

“As of December 2020, about two in three registered voters (66%) support the Green New Deal as described above, including a large majority of liberal Democrats (91%) and conservative/moderate Democrats (86%). About six in ten liberal/moderate Republicans (59%) but fewer conservative Republicans (24%) also support the Green New Deal.”

“About one in five registered voters (18%) have heard “a lot” about the policy proposal called the “Green New Deal” (see section 2.12 for a description of the policy). This represents an increase of 15 percentage points since this question was first asked in December 2018. Conservative Republicans were most likely to have heard “a lot” about the Green New Deal (27%), followed by liberal Democrats (23%).”

“Overall, relatively few registered voters have heard a lot about the Green New Deal, which suggests that opinions about the proposal may continue to change over time.”

I agree with the authors of this survey that opinions about the Green New Deal may continue to change over time but I suspect that if the short-comings of the policy and costs become known that the support for it will plummet.


Organizations with the name “Climate Change Communication” in their names are necessarily dependent upon climate change being a problem.  So, it is not surprising that the survey was constructed to get answers supporting their pre-conceived outcome that there is wide support for policies to combat climate change by developing “clean” energy.  However, if respondents who admit to having little knowledge about the topics in the poll are given both sides of the story, I believe the results would be much different.  Nonetheless expect advocates to use this poll to justify action.

[1] Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Carman, J., Wang, X, Goldberg, M., Lacroix, K., & Marlon, J. (2021). Politics & Global Warming, December 2020. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication


Frustrations of a Meteorologist in Today’s Times

An article came to my attention today that epitomizes my frustration with everyone assuming that all extreme weather events are associated with climate change.  I have been meaning to vent on this issue so here I go.

I have two degrees in meteorology, am a retired certified consulting meteorologist accredited by the American Meteorology Society, and have over 40 years experience as a practicing meteorologist.  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.

The article that piqued my interest was titled: “Con Edison to install 17 weather stations across New York; largest tower slated for Staten Island”.   The quote that wound me up was the following:

“Climate change makes smart infrastructure planning and design essential,” said Charles Viemeister, Con Edison’s project manager. “We’ll use data from the Micronet to gain additional insight into the local short-term and longer-term impacts of climate change. We are always looking for technologies that can help us maintain the resilient, reliable service our customers need.”

My first issue is the implicit inference in this quote and elsewhere in the article that the primary value of these meteorological stations has something to do with climate change when in reality the value is for evaluation of weather events.  Weather is not climate!  One way to think of it is: Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.

The reality is that adding 17 weather stations to the 126 stations in the NYS Mesonet system and providing that data to the public will be used to address the weather we get today.  It will strengthen the ability of meteorologists to provide real-time analyses and short-term forecasts of extreme weather events that can cause power outages.  Con Edison will be able to provide better responses with this finer-scale resolution information.  This is a good thing and I applaud the project.

On the other hand, these data are not suitable for climate trend analyses to determine what we can expect.  In order to assess climatic trends, the meteorological data collected must be from a representative location.  By that I mean it cannot be affected by anything local that could change the trend of temperature, winds or precipitation measurements.  Frankly, that is always difficult to do and in New York City nearly impossible to do well enough to be able to tease out the climate signal. For example, an ideal location for measuring temperature trends would be in a field surrounded by at least 100 feet of mown grass.  As long as the grass does not become overgrown with shrubs and trees, planted with different crops or, worst of all, paved over for a parking lot then changes to the measured temperatures over time are the result of a climate signal.  Of course, in the city keeping everything that can affect the measurements constant is much more difficult.

This story opens a scab of mine related to the constant conflation of any extreme weather event with climate change.  In the headlines this week are the wildfires in California and Oregon.  California Governor Newsom vows to face climate change head on fighting the wildfires.  CNN claims that the warming climate is going to make things worse.  Of course in this politically charged year others claim  climate change is not the primary factor and argue for other causes.  As a meteorologist I can only argue with any kind of authority about the climate data.  The satellite observations show a decreasing trend in global wildfires and the data show high temperatures in the past too.  Ultimately, wildfires have always been a problem in California.  Finally another meteorologist looked at what caused the fires in Oregon and Washington and concluded that climate change was not a factor.  I expect he would have made the same conclusion if he looked at the California situation.  In my experience, every time (here, here, and here for example) I have looked at some weather event that is claimed to be related to climate change I have been unable to find any real evidence supporting the claim and plenty of evidence to argue otherwise.

The constant refrain that every extreme weather event is “proof” that climate change is happening now bothers me because the claims are used to justify the need to change the energy system.  In fact, were it not for the climate emergency do we really need to change the energy system? Worse is the fact that the transition to a green economy diverts resources better spent to adapt and strengthen infrastructure for extreme weather observed in the past. For example, if a storm exactly like tropical storm Sandy were to occur again would we be able to weather the storm with minimal impacts?  If not then we are doing something wrong.

Let Experience be your Guide to Climate Science

In this post I explain why I think that your direct experience should guide your opinion on global warming climate science.  You may not be a climate scientist but your personal experiences enable you to judge the certainty of the climate claims popularly heard.

Update November 1, 2019: Added a link at the end to a post about the reliability of extended forecasts

Greenhouse Effect

The reason that we hear that there is an inevitable, imminent climate emergency is because of the greenhouse effect.  But how do we observe it in the atmosphere?  All things being equal, if you know whether it is warmer or colder in the morning after a clear night then you understand the impact of the greenhouse effect.  Of course, the answer is it is colder after a clear night.  Simply put, when something, in this case clouds, reduces the amount of heat loss (long wave radiation) from the surface and atmosphere, then the temperature does not cool as much, so it is colder after a clear night than a cloudy night.

There are a couple of ramifications of what you already know about this greenhouse effect fact.  On clear nights cooling can occur at about 3.4 deg F an hour while on an overcast night cooling is only about 0.5 deg F per hour.  Global average temperature was on the order of 2.5 deg F warmer in 2017 than in 1850.  If all the warming since 1850 was due to greenhouse gases, then that warming is less than one hour of a cloudy night as opposed to a clear night.  Therefore, clouds have a much stronger effect on temperature than greenhouse gases.   The other point is that the greenhouse gas effect is stronger at night than during the day so nights are warming faster than days.  Keep this in mind when you hear that climate change is going to cause much hotter day time temperatures.  The reality is that the average is going up more because the minimum temperature is going up rather than because the maximum temperature is going up.

Forecast Skill

Predictions of a climate emergency are based on climate prediction models.  Remember weather is what we feel over short periods and climate is how the atmosphere acts over longer periods of time, i.e., decades.  Observant weather-wise people understand the uncertainty of forecasts for different time periods.  Obviously, a 24-hour forecast is more reliable than a seven-day forecast.  You know that longer term weather forecasts are not as reliable because you have observed that.  The fact is that the physical relationships for forecasting weather and climate are the same.  There are differences but the inescapable conclusion is that climate forecasts for one hundred years from now are much less reliable than weather forecasts.

Although people like to say that the weather forecasting profession is the only one that lets you be wrong much of the time and still have a job, the reality is that weather forecasts have improved markedly over time.  When I graduated in 1976 with a master of science degree in meteorology, three to five-day forecasts were much less accurate than they are today.  In no small part that is because weather forecasters are constantly verifying their predictions against observations.  If the forecast is radically wrong then the data are re-evaluated and the modeling parameters are reviewed.  Testing a new modeling variation with the data from the period when the old model forecast failed to test improvements and then implementing the revised modeled is a constant process.  Obviously, a 100-year climate forecast cannot be tested the same way.  It is just not possible to improve climate models much because they cannot be tested frequently enough to make a lot of improvements.


Another aspect of forecasting that observant folks understand is the effect of clouds on forecast reliability and usefulness.  Consider the uncertainty when the forecast is for scattered showers.  You know that you may get rain or just as likely may not and if your outdoor activity depends on dry weather that means a lot.  For numerous reasons it is not possible under many conditions to predict exactly when and where a shower may pop up.  The primary reason is that cloud formation is a process that takes place over a small spatial-scale – yards instead of miles.  Weather forecast models can incorporate the factors that cause clouds and precipitation into the predictions but not the small-scale factors that cause them at a specific location and time.  Residents of Upstate New York are very familiar with the forecast that lake-effect snow is going to occur “north of the Thruway”.  Even though forecasters run finer-scale models that are limited to areas immediately adjacent to the Great Lakes, they still can only predict that somewhere in that area there will be a snow band but not exactly where.

There are very serious implications of clouds on the climate forecasting models.  Because climate models have to predict over the entire globe, none of the physical processes that create clouds are incorporated into the models.  Instead the models simulate clouds by parameters which, to be kind, is simply the expert opinion of the model developer.  Don’t believe me?  Here is what Nakamura Mototaka says in Confessions of a climate scientist:

“Clouds are represented with parametric methods in climate models. Are those methods reasonably accurate? No. If one seriously studies properties of clouds and processes involved in cloud formation and dissipation, and compare them with the cloud treatment in climate models, one would most likely be flabbergasted by the perfunctory treatment of clouds in the models. The parametric representations of clouds are ad hoc and are tuned to produce the average cloud cover that somewhat resembles that seen in the current climate. Can we, or should we, expect them to simulate the cloud coverage and properties in the “doubled atmospheric carbon dioxide” scenario with reasonable accuracy? No.”


I have described three aspects of global warming climate science that observant folks basically understand based on their personal experience.  We know that clouds cause great differences in temperatures.  Clearly weather forecast models that can be tested are more reliable than climate prediction models that cannot be tested for the relevant forecast period.  Even though weather forecast models have improved we know that they still don’t do as well as we would like for clouds and precipitation.

This all leads to the implication of the fact that the climate models do not do a credible job with clouds.  We all know that clouds have a big effect on the temperatures we observe.  If the climate models that cannot be tested do not simulate clouds correctly, why should we have much faith in the projections of inevitable, imminent climate emergency from those climate models?

I believe we should consider the results of climate models the same way we treat a forecast for a slight chance of scattered showers.  Based on our experiences we know that there are a range of potential outcomes for that forecast.  Clearly, those who claim that there is an inevitable, imminent climate catastrophe are stretching credibility.  While nothing here can lead to the conclusion that a catastrophic outcome is impossible, the uncertainty surely dictates that our response be carefully crafted. While it might seem prudent to act we must not forget  Ridley’s ParadoxEconomic damage from man-made ‘climate change’ is illusory whereas damage from man-made ‘policies’ to fight the said change is real.  Moreover, there is the potential that the current focus on a climate emergency is diverting attention that might be better spent on higher probability issues such as: global pandemics, antibiotic resistance, Carrington events, or, if you worried about truly existential threats with low probabilities, asteroid impacts.

November 1, 2019 Update  This post by Dr. Cliff Mass provides good background to our experience that extended forecasts are not reliable.

Status of Climate Change Science October 2019

Several recent blog posts have come to my attention that I want to pass on to readers of this blog because all three make good points and, ultimately justify a pragmatic approach in my opinion.  I have summarized them below but recommend that you read them all in their entirety.

Judith Curry argues that the science does not support the claims that climate change in an existential threat.  I believe it is safe to say that Cliff Mass is more worried about the threats of climate change but makes the point that there is an active group in the climate debate, “mainly on the political left, that is highly partisan, anxious and often despairing, self-righteous, big on blame and social justice, and willing to attack those that disagree with them” that he believes may in the end do more harm than good.  Finally, Larry Kummer offers suggestions that could be implemented today with widespread support from most of society.

Judith Curry writing on her Climate Etc blog posted her response to a reporter’s questions about the current state of climate limits and timelines.  The reporter asked about the deadlines (e.g., the 12 years to act) currently in the news. She concluded:

Bottom line is that these timelines are meaningless.  While we have confidence in the sign of the temperature change, we have no idea what its magnitude will turn out to be.  Apart from uncertainties in emissions and the Earth’s carbon cycle, we are still facing a factor of 3 or more uncertainty in the sensitivity of the Earth’s climate to CO2, and we have no idea how natural climate variability (solar, volcanoes, ocean oscillations) will play out in the 21st century.  And even if we did have significant confidence in the amount of global warming, we still don’t have much of a handle on how this will change extreme weather events.  With regards to species and ecosystems, land use and exploitation is a far bigger issue.

Cleaner sources of energy have several different threads of justification, but thinking that sending CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 or whenever is going to improve the weather and the environment by 2100 is a pipe dream.  If such reductions come at the expense of economic development, then vulnerability to extreme weather events will increase.

There is a reason that the so-called climate change problem has been referred to as a ‘wicked mess.’

Cliff Mass has his own blog on weather and climate.  He recently posted on the Real Climate Debate.  The point of his post was that there are two groups of people active in the climate change debate covered by media and politicians.  He defines the two groups as the ACT group (Apolitical/Confident/Technical) and the the ASP group (Anxious, Social-Justice, Partisan).  The ACT group thinks that global warming is a technical problem with technical solutions while the ASP group see that social change is necessary to deal with global warming and that will require re-organizing society.  His bottom line:

Progress on climate change is being undermined by the efforts of the highly vocal, partisan, and ineffective ASP group.  They are standing in the way of bipartisan action on climate change, efforts to fix our forests, and the use of essential technologies.   They are a big part of the problem, not the solution.

In contrast to the ASP folks, the ACT group generally tries to stay out of the public eye, quietly completing the work  needed to develop the technologies and infrastructure that will allow us to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  In the end, they will save us.  That is, if the ASP folks don’t get in their way.

Larry Kummer writing at the Fabius Maximus blog recommended issues that he hopes a presidential candidate can adopt that will address serious threats. One of the issues he included was Climate Change.  The only disagreement I have with his recommendations concerns conversion to non-carbon-based energy. I think this needs to be included but would prefer that the emphasis be on R&D to find alternatives that are cheaper than fossil fuels.  Until that happens I believe that Roger Pielke Jr.’s Iron Law of Climate Policy will make implementation impossible.  His “iron law” simply states that “while people are often willing to pay some price for achieving environmental objectives, that willingness has its limits”.  Larry’s recommendations are:

   “We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earthbio here), a comment posted at Climate Etc.

We are locked into two camps, with a large confused mass between the climate extremists and those who deny that global warming is a threat. The resulting gridlock leaves us vulnerable to the inevitable repeat of past extreme weather and the effects of the continuation of the two centuries of warming (from a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors). We can continue to do almost nothing, waiting for one side to stampede the American public into acquiescence – or for the weather to decide for us. Or we can immediately take smaller but still effectual steps. I gave these recommendations six years, and they remain sound today. They could command popular support.

        1. Increased government funding for climate sciences. Many key aspects (e.g., global temperature data collection and analysis) are grossly underfunded. But this research should be run with tighter standards (e.g., posting of data and methods, review by unaffiliated experts), just as we do for biomedical research – and for the same reason, to increase its reliability.
        2. Fund a review of the climate forecasting models by a multidisciplinary team of relevant experts who have not been central players in this debate. Include a broader pool than those who have dominated the field, such as geologists, chemists, statisticians and software engineers. This should include a back-test of the climate models used in the first four Assessment Reports of the IPCC (i.e., run them with forcing data through now, and compare their predictions with actual weather). This will tell us much (details here).
        3. We should begin a well-funded conversion in fifty years to mostly non-carbon-based energy sources. We need not wreck the economy or defund defenses against the many other threats we face. This is justified by both environmental and economic reasons (see these posts for details). As we learn more about climate change, this program can be accelerated if necessary.
        4. Begin more aggressive efforts to prepare for extreme climate. We’re not prepared for repeat of past extreme weather(e.g., a major hurricane hitting NYC), let alone predictable climate change (e.g., sea levels climbing, as they have for thousands of years).


My pragmatic take based on these posts.  Climate change is an extraordinarily difficult problem to understand but the extremely bad projections are very unlikely.  Unfortunately those worst-case projections have the attention of a segment of society that is convinced otherwise and their passion may make reasonable and no regrets responses impossible.  Because we don’t understand natural variability well enough to pick out the small signal of human-caused global warming and, more importantly because the current alternatives to will be extremely expensive we need to monitor the climate better, focus our climate research on results and natural variability, develop a research program to develop alternative to fossil fuels that are cheaper than they are, and finally develop resiliency to observed extreme weather.

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.


Susan Arbetter