Time Magazine Climate Anarchy

This article first appeared at Watts Up With That. I slightly modified the first paragraph but the rest is the same. This represents my opinion and not the opinion of any of my previous employers or any other company with which I have been associated. 

Based on the Time Magazine opinion piece, “What Comes After the Coming Climate Anarchy?”, we may have reached a point where no facts have to be included in a climate fear porn editorial.  This is just a short introduction to the piece and the author.  I encourage you to read it yourself.  After my post was published David Middleton wrote another article about the opinion piece covering much the same ground.  His version has much better graphics.

The author is Parag Khanna who Time describes as a founder of Future Map and author of the new book MOVE: The Forces Uprooting UsAccording to Khanna’s long bio, he is a “leading global strategy advisor, world traveler, and best-selling author”. He is Founder & CEO of Climate Alpha, an AI-powered analytics platform that forecasts asset values because “the next real estate boom will be in climate resilient regions”.   He also is Founder & Managing Partner of FutureMap, a data and scenario based strategic advisory firm that “navigates the dynamics of globalization”.  Dr. Khanna “holds a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics, and Bachelors and Masters degrees from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University”.  A quick look at the School of Foreign Service Georgetown core curriculum offers no suggestion of any scientific requirements that could provide a basis for Dr. Khanna’s climate beliefs.

The opinion piece starts out with correlation causation fallacy endemic to the scientifically illiterate and climate innumerate crisis mongers.  He notes that in 2021, “global carbon dioxide emissions reached 36.3 billion tons, the highest volume ever recorded” and that this year “the number of international refugees will cross 30 million, also the highest figure ever”. Then he explains the basis for his climate anarchy belief: “As sea levels and temperatures rise and geopolitical tensions flare, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that humanity is veering towards systemic breakdown”.

This is just a windup to:

Today it’s fashionable to speak of civilizational collapse. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) states that just a 1.5 degree Celsius rise will prove devastating to the world’s food systems by 2025. Meanwhile, the most recent IPCC report warns that we must reverse emissions by 2025 or face an irreversible accelerating breakdown in critical ecosystems, and that even if the Paris agreement goals are implemented, a 2.4 degree Celsius rise is all but inevitable. In other words, the “worst case” RCP 8.5 scenario used in many climate models is actually a baseline. The large but banal numbers you read—$2 trillion in annual economic damage, 10-15% lower global GDP, etc.—are themselves likely massively understated. The climate bill just passed by the Senate is barely a consolation prize in this drama: a welcome measure, but also too little to bring rains back to drought-stricken regions in America or worldwide.

Then there is this:

Let’s assume that we are indeed hurtling towards the worst-case scenario by 2050: Hundreds of millions of people perish in heatwaves and forest fires, earthquakes and tsunamis, droughts and floods, state failures and protracted wars. Henry Gee, editor of the magazine Nature, wrote in an essay in Scientific American in late 2021 that even absent the hazards of climate change and nuclear war, humankind was heading towards extinction due to declining genetic variety and sperm quality.

He goes on to predict that even in the most plausibly dire scenarios billions of people will survive.  He says that current population stands at eight billion but claims as a result of these dire scenarios “the world population would likely still stand at 6 billion people by 2050”.  As you read on this opinion piece is simply an infomercial for Climate Alpha and FutureMap.  He believes that climate migrations will be necessary for the survivors.  His future vision is pockets of reliable agricultural output and relative climate resilience that may become havens for climate refugees.

He concludes:

What these surviving societies and communities will have in common is that they are able to unwind the complexity that has felled our predecessors. They rely less on far-flung global supply chains by locally growing their own food, generating energy from renewable resources, and utilizing additive manufacturing. A combination of prepping and nomadism, high-tech and simple, are the ingredients for species-level survival.

These demographic, geographic, and technological shifts are evidence that we are already doing things differently now rather than waiting for an inevitable “collapse” or mass extinction event. They also suggest the embrace of a new model of civilization that is both more mobile and more sustainable than our present sedentary and industrial one. The collapse of civilizations is a feature of history, but Civilization with a big ‘C’ carries on, absorbing useful technologies and values from the past before it is buried. Today’s innovations will be tomorrow’s platforms. Indeed, the faster we embrace these artifacts of our next Civilization, the more likely we are to avoid the collapse of our present one. Humanity will come together again—whether or not it falls apart first.


In my opinion there are several major flaws in his arguments.  Apparently, his projections are based on the RCP 8.5 scenario because he thinks it is “actually a baseline”.  Roger Pielke, Jr. has noted that the misuse of RCP8.5 is pervasive.  Larry Kummer writing at Climate Etc. explains that it is a useful worst-case scenario, but not “business as usual”.  For crying out loud even the BBC understands that the scenario is “exceedingly unlikely”.  Relying on that scenario invalidates his projections.

Khanna’s worst-case scenario statement “Hundreds of millions of people perish in heatwaves and forest fires, earthquakes and tsunamis, droughts and floods, state failures and protracted wars” is absurd.  He has to address the many examples that show that weather-related impacts have been going down as global temperatures have increased such as those described by Willis Eschenbach in “Where Is The “Climate Emergency?”.   The theme of his opinion is climate anarchy so why are earthquakes and tsunamis included?  I concede that his flawed climate projections could stress states and prolong wars but I am not convinced that climate is a major driver.

Finally, his argument that climate is a major driver is contradicted by his dependence on the Sustainable Development Index, a “ranking of countries that meet their people’s needs with low per capita resource consumption”.  He states that the best performers are “Costa Rica, Albania, Georgia, and other less populated countries around middle-income status”.  The fact that Costa Rica is in a tropical region and thus much warmer than mid-latitude Albania and Georgia suggests that warm climates are not a limiting factor for sustainable development.

Khanna may be a leading global strategy advisor, world traveler, and best-selling author but his lack of understanding of the uncertainties associated with climate change are evident in this editorial.  Not unlike many of those advocates for climate change action, upon close review it appears that following the money is his motivation.

Easily Solvable

A different version of this article was posted at Watts Up With That.

Just when I think that the climate-related madness cannot get any shoddier something comes up even worse.  The American Meteorological Society (AMS) Council adopted a special statement on 8 July 2022 in response to the Supreme Court decision West Virginia vs. EPA that takes the level of climate change hysteria to a whole new level.

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) plans to reach net-zero by 2050 that are outlined in the Draft Scoping Plan fully align with the material in this Statement.  I submitted comments on the Plan and have written extensively on implementation of New York’s response to that risk because I don’t agree that the alleged problem can be solved simply and affordably. 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.

Special Statement of the American Meteorological Society

The AMS is deeply concerned by the United States’ inadequate response to climate change and the dangers it poses to the nation and all life. This inadequacy is illustrated most recently–but by no means only–through the Supreme Court decision West Virginia v. EPA.

Climate change is a highly solvable problem and the available solutions offer tremendous opportunity for societal advancement and climate protection. We applaud the many people throughout the country who are working constructively to tackle climate change, including many government officials, politicians, members of the public, scientists, and members of the business community.

All people should know that:

1. Climate change is extraordinarily dangerous to humanity and all life

> Climate is a basic life-support system for people and all life.

> Global climate changes occurring now are larger and faster than any humanity is known to have endured since our societal transition to agriculture.

> The physical characteristics of the planet, biological systems and the resources they provide, and social institutions we have created all depend heavily on climate, are central to human well-being, and are sensitive to climate change.

2. People are changing climate

> Multiple independent lines of scientific evidence confirm that people bear responsibility.

> The warming effect of our greenhouse gas emissions is demonstrated through laboratory experiments, evidence from past changes in climate on Earth, and the role of greenhouse gasses on other planets.

> The patterns of climate change occurring now match the characteristics we expect from our greenhouse gasses and not the other potential drivers of change: the sun, volcanoes, aerosols, changes in land-use, or natural variability.

3. The scientific conclusions summarized here result from decades of intensive research and examination

> The scientific evidence has been assessed comprehensively by independent scientific institutions and independent experts that consider all evidence.

> Accuracy is central to credibility for scientific institutions such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, all of which have assessed climate science.

> No broadly contradictory assessments from credible scientific organizations exist.

4. Solutions are available and highly promising–a serious reason for optimism.

> Greenhouse gas emissions are an economically harmful market failure. Those who emit pollution to the atmosphere shift the costs of climate damage onto everyone, including future generations. Making emitters pay for all the costs of their use of our atmosphere would help correct this failure and thereby improve economic well-being.

> Regulatory approaches can speed the adoption of best practices, require broadly beneficial technologies, promote public interest, and enhance equity and fairness.

> As a result, reducing greenhouse gas emissions can increase climate security, national security, the well-being of biological systems, and economic vitality.

> Existing and emerging technologies such as roof-top solar, electric vehicles, and electric heat pumps can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality in our homes and cities, and often provide superior products or services.

> Building our resilience to climate impacts (adaptation) makes communities stronger and better able to deal with both existing vulnerabilities and emerging threats.

People are changing climate and it poses serious risks to humanity. There are a wide range of response options that are well understood, many of which would be broadly beneficial. We will need to work together to harness human ingenuity to address climate change. Therein lies an even greater opportunity for humanity. If we can address our climate problem, we will have a new template for the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing us at this point in the 21st century.


Tony Heller writing at Real Climate Science eviscerated the “Climate change is extraordinarily dangerous to humanity and all life” statement.  He showed that natural disasters are decreasing and life expectancy has doubled since fossil fuel use has become widespread across the globe.  Willis Elsenbach’s post Where is the Climate Emergency is a more comprehensive rebuttal to this statement.  My comments on similar claims in the Draft Scoping Plan also argued that if you actually look at the data that these threats are unsupportable.

I stopped being a member of the AMS in 2012 when the organization ranked advocacy above science. I tried to argue that their approach was wrong but the responses back showed that they were not interested in toning down their advocacy.  The arguments supporting the “People are changing climate” statement appear to be talking points for the public.  Near the end of the Trump Administration a series of short, easily understandable brochures that support the general view that there is no climate crisis or climate emergency, and pointing out the widespread misinformation being promoted by alarmists through the media were prepared.  The following brochures address the other side of these arguments:

The section “The scientific conclusions summarized here result from decades of intensive research and examination” is a direct appeal to authority.  The recent Global Warming Golden Goose article summarizes the follow the money trail that suggests that the scientific institutions we are supposed to trust are not necessarily interested in only scientific truth and enlightenment.  It amuses me that the first ones to scream that deniers are on the payroll of big oil are most likely to be directly benefiting from big green funding organizations.

The next section “Solutions are available and highly promising” shows an amazing lack of self-awareness.  The point of the previous section was that you should trust only the “experts”. Why in the world would anyone expect that the American Meteorological Society has expertise in energy solutions.  The vague, content-free arguments are a joke to anyone who has spent any time looking at the tremendous technological difficulties associated with running today’s society using intermittent and diffuse wind and solar or even follows today’s energy issues.  Any proposed transition plan that does not list nuclear power at the top of the list is not credible because that is the only source of dispatchable emissions-free electricity that can be scaled up. I also have to wonder whether the authors follow current energy news. My feed of followed websites this weekend had articles on copper shortages that will preclude the net zero by 2050 transition, the amount of solar panels needed for the transition, the German net-zero transition is running out of energy, and the current Texas heat wave is straining power supplies so much that electric car owners are being asked to charge off-peak. My Draft Scoping Plan comments focused on the many instances where New York’s plan to transition to net-zero is anything but easy.  All of these issues invalidate the claim that the climate threat is “easily solvable”. 

Once upon a time I was proud to be a member of the American Meteorological Society.  This policy statement is so embarrassing I don’t want to admit I was associated with a scientific organization that could publish something this far detached from reality.   Unfortunately, it will undoubtedly be used by advocates to “prove” that something can be done.  In my opinion I have no doubts that the suggested solutions will cause more harm than good.

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.