Tuesday, January 10, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: El Niño Does Not Mean The End Of The ‘Pause’

‘Knives Sticking Out Of My Back’: Judith Curry On Why She Left Academia

In this newsletter:

1) David Whitehouse: El Nino Warming Does Not Mean The End Of The ‘Pause’
The Spectator, 6 January 2016
2) Global Losses From Weather-Related Disasters Is Sharply Declining
The Daily Caller, 4 January 2016
3) ‘Knives Sticking Out Of My Back’: Judith Curry Tells Tucker Carlson Why She Left Academia
The Daily Caller, 7 January 2016
4) Dominic Lawson: Friends Of The Earth, But Not Of The Truth
The Sunday Times, 8 January 2016
5) OECD Opens Investigation Into WWF
Survival International, 5 January 2016
6) John Constable: Subsidies To Renewables: Lessons From Northern Ireland’s Renewable Heat Fiasco
Global Warming Policy Forum, 6 January 2016
7) And Finally: University Students Demand Plato And Kant Are Removed From Syllabus Because They Are White
The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2016

Full details:

1) David Whitehouse: El Nino Warming Does Not Mean The End Of The ‘Pause’
The Spectator, 6 January 2016

The death of the global warming ‘pause’ has been greatly exaggerated

The global warming ‘pause’ never existed, say the headlines. It’s a claim that has been made before, only to be refuted, yet now it’s back again. If there is one topic that sends a small subset of climate scientists’ temperature into the stratosphere, it’s the topic of the global warming ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’. This is the idea that global surface temperatures haven’t changed much for almost 20 years. Never in my experience of science have I come across a topic like it, and that’s because it means nothing, and everything.

Global warming is about energy imbalance. Greenhouse gasses stop heat leaving the earth, so the planet is getting warmer. This is fundamental physics. Temperature goes up; oceans warm up, expand and sea level rises; pole caps melt. The world has certainly warmed up: 2001 to 2010 was the warmest decade for which we have reliable measurements. Global temperatures are over one degree C above pre-industrial levels and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says most of the temperature rise since the 1950s is due to mankind.

But around 2007 it began to be noticed by so-called sceptics (usually scientists from other fields) that for a few years, global temperatures had not gone up. Perhaps the climate situation was more complicated than was first thought. They were of course lambasted, called deniers for just saying ‘look at this graph’. But the ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ or whatever it was called didn’t go away, at least until 2015, when the natural temperature spike that is El Nino started – a Pacific-based emergence of hot water that affects the entire globe for a year or two.

It would be fair to say that most climate scientists think the ‘hiatus’ exists and is a fascinating phenomenon that deserves study. There have been hundreds of research papers about it and over 30 explanations proffered. These range from ones focussed on heat going into the ocean, to ones which focus on the sun, or the stratosphere or even an unknown effect. The hiatus showed the importance of natural climate variability being, possibly for a while, stronger than long-term global warming. But some wouldn’t have it. The ‘pause’ had to be destroyed. That’s fair enough, but they need to make a case.

The latest evidence has just cropped up. The headlines say there is fresh doubt over the so-called global warming ‘hiatus’. This is because a new study suggests that the temperature of the oceans was being underestimated in the past 20 years or so because the ocean buoys used to measure sea temperatures were recording slightly cooler temperatures than the older ship’s intake systems. When taken into account, this new effect makes the oceans warmer in recent years and so obliterates the ‘hiatus’.

Well, not quite. The 2015-16 El Nino has been one of the strongest on record, temporarily elevating global temperatures by a significant margin. This means that their case rests on the El Nino temperature increase and will be destroyed when the El Nino subsides, as it is currently doing. A temporary victory over the ‘pause’.

The ‘pause’ can be accommodated into global warming – but not for very much longer. The world’s temperature has to increase outside the El Nino effect. If it doesn’t there will be some fascinating new science to work on, and many questions to be asked.

Full post & comments
2) Global Losses From Weather-Related Disasters Is Sharply Declining
The Daily Caller, 4 January 2016
Andrew Follett

Damage from weather-related disasters is in sharp decline, according to data compiled by University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr. The chart indicates that the cost of weather-related disasters as a proportion of the global economy is declining.

Data for the chart comes from the the reinsurance company Munich Re, the United Nations and Pielke’s own research.

Damage from weather events in 2015 was much less costly than expected, according to a study by an insurance industry group.

Severe winter weather has caused most insurance industry losses in recent years. Global warming and El Niño — a weather event that warms up ocean temperatures in South America, causing the United states to get unusually warm for a year — abated these insurance costs, according to Munich Reinsurance America, Inc.

Historically, hurricanes are the insurance industry’s biggest weather-related expense, but no hurricane made landfall in the U.S. during 2015. Additionally, no major hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. in the last decade, setting a new record. Scientists, however, expect global warming will lead to fewer, but slightly stronger, hurricanes.

Deaths from natural disasters and weather also dropped significantly, according to the study and other sources. Natural disasters claimed 280 lives in the U.S. in 2015 and 270 lives in 2014, which is dramatically below the 30-year annual average of 580 deaths.

Full post

3) ‘Knives Sticking Out Of My Back’: Judith Curry Tells Tucker Carlson Why She Left Academia
The Daily Caller, 7 January 2016
Michael Bastasch

Climatologist Dr. Judith Curry told Fox News host Tucker Carlson she was so sick of politicization of global warming in academia she resigned from her tenured position at Georgia Tech.

“I’ve been vilified by some of my colleagues who are activists and don’t like anybody challenging their big story,” Curry told Carlson Friday night.

“I walk around with knives sticking out of my back,” she said. “In the university environment I felt like I was just beating my head against the wall.”

Curry, a skeptic that humans are causing catastrophic global warming, announced Tuesday she was retiring from academic life to focus more on her own climate analytics business and blogging. A big reason she decided to leave, though, had to do with the “craziness” of climate science.

“A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science,” she wrote in her blog.

“Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc,” she wrote. “How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide.”

Curry has been attacked by colleagues for questioning claims made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientists who use climate models to claim humans are the main cause of recent global warming.

“There’s far too little funding and effort going into studying natural climate variability,” Curry told Carlson.

Full post

4) Dominic Lawson: Friends Of The Earth, But Not Of The Truth
The Sunday Times, 8 January 2016

Friends of the Earth is corrupt in a noble cause. Which, unfortunately, means you cannot trust a word it says. Friends of the earth, but not of the truth.

Increased risk of cancer and plummeting house prices are the primordial terrors of the middle classes. This horrific combination of physical and financial ruin just happens to be the grim future facing households if fracking for natural gas is allowed in their vicinity . . . or that is what Friends of the Earth (FoE) claimed in leaflets soliciting money from the public in its campaign against this form of gas exploration and production.

But last week the environmental group agreed not to repeat, in any future promotional material, its assertions that such drilling would cause cancer to rise and house prices to slump. That, at least, was the impression of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

After two members of the public (one a retired vicar) and the gas exploration company Cuadrilla complained about the FoE leaflet in October 2015, the advertising regulator spent 14 months investigating the claims, before concluding they could not be substantiated and therefore should be withdrawn.

Not only that, but “future ads [must] not include claims that imply the fluid used in fracking contains chemicals dangerous to human health . . . that there is an established risk of the chemicals concerned causing cancer and other conditions among the local population, when used in fracking in the UK . . . that fracking will cause plummeting house prices”.

Imagine then the consternation at the regulator when an FoE spokeswoman, Rose Dickinson, insisted on both the BBC and Channel 4 News that the ASA had in fact “dropped the case” and that all FoE had agreed was “that particular old leaflet produced around a year and a half ago will not be distributed any more”. She went on to say that FoE “stand by absolutely everything we have said [about fracking]”.

On Thursday night, therefore, the ASA summoned Craig Bennett, chief executive of FoE, to a meeting in which he was asked to reassure the authority that he accepted the terms of the agreement and was reminded that it was only because of this agreement that the ASA had not moved to a formal ruling censuring the anti-fracking campaign.

Apparently Bennett gave the assurances sought. But when I spoke to the FoE chief executive on Friday he seemed anything but contrite — indeed, I am sure he sees no reason why he should be. He continued to insist he had evidence that fracking would cause house prices to “plummet”.

It is true the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs commissioned a review in 2014 of the effect of fracking on local house prices in America that suggested there could “potentially be a range of 0% to 7% reductions in property values within one mile of an extraction site”, but noted the evidence was “quite thin”.

Last week, in fact, the most recent examination of this matter in America concluded: “On average, counties with more [shale gas] production have household wages that are 8% higher and house prices that are 6% higher than in areas with less activity.”

This, perhaps, is why the Rev Michael Roberts, one of those who complained about the FoE leaflets, told the BBC how angry he had been at what he termed its “scaremongering”.

Not only was it causing unnecessary fears among parishioners in Lancashire, a county attractive to the frackers, but he doubtless saw that in a relatively deprived region a return of some industry would be a boon, not a blight.
Anyway, I pointed out to the FoE boss, even the most pessimistic projection of a seven-point fall in house prices within a one-mile radius was nothing like “plummeting”— the word for which accepted synonyms include “nosedive”, “crash” and “plunge”.

He just repeated: “I believe there is evidence that house prices will plummet.”
I could only respond that I was sure he did believe this evidence existed, but that the issue for the ASA was whether he could produce it. That was met with a long silence. I didn’t then have the will to discuss the cancer scare.

FoE lawyers had spent 14 long months failing to convince the ASA they had evidence of this allegedly mortal risk — not an experience I wanted to endure.
But the FoE chief executive did introduce one fresh point. He told me the chairman of the ASA, Lord Smith, “had led a taskforce to examine fracking which was funded by the industry itself”.

I was amazed by this unsubtle attempt to insinuate that the ASA’s integrity had in some way been corrupted in favour of fracking — and by Chris Smith, of all people, who had previously been chairman of the Environment Agency.

But I should not have been. It is the style of the green lobbying organisations to claim that anyone opposed to them must be motivated by purely financial interests. Of course they are right as far as the oil and gas companies themselves are concerned; they are in business to make profits.

But this tactic becomes base when directed even at those who disagree on scientific or moral grounds — along the lines that this can only be because they are “in the pay” of someone.

If I were to use the same tactic, I could point out that FoE is an entity that relies on fundraising to pay its many salaries and that the terrifying leaflet warning of the risks of cancer and plummeting house prices was accompanied by donation forms. “Your money could help us use the media to expose the truth about the dangers of fracking.” So the more successfully it scaremongers, the more money it can make.

Full post

5) OECD Opens Investigation Into WWF
Survival International, 5 January 2016

In an unprecedented move, a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has agreed to investigate a complaint that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has funded human rights abuses in Cameroon, beginning a process which until now has only been used for multinational businesses.

Baka have been forced from large areas of their ancestral land, and face violence from WWF-funded anti-poaching squads if they hunt, forage, or visit sacred sites.
Baka have been forced from large areas of their ancestral land, and face violence from WWF-funded anti-poaching squads if they hunt, forage, or visit sacred sites. — © Survival International

Survival submitted the complaint in February 2016, citing numerous examples of violent abuse and harassment against Baka “Pygmies” in Cameroon by WWF-funded anti-poaching squads. Survival also alleges that WWF failed to seek communities’ free, prior and informed consent for conservation projects on their ancestral land.
This is the first time a non-profit organization has been scrutinized in this way. The acceptance of the complaint indicates that the OECD will hold WWF to the same human rights standards as profit-making corporations.

WWF funds anti-poaching squads in Cameroon and elsewhere in the Congo Basin. Baka and other rainforest tribes have reported systematic abuse at the hands of these squads, including arrest and beatings, torture and even death, for well over 20 years.

Full story

6) John Constable: Subsidies To Renewables: Lessons From Northern Ireland’s Renewable Heat Fiasco
Global Warming Policy Forum, 6 January 2016
Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

Students of subsidy mechanisms will learn a great deal from the Northern Ireland’s collapsing version of the Renewable Heat Incentive, which is now collapsing in a storm of political controversy.

The Northern Ireland RHI (NIRHI), was modelled on the RHI applying elsewhere in the UK, and introduced in 2012 to encourage the uptake of renewable sources of heat, for example biomass boilers. The current scandal concerns poor ministerial control of costs, which are now reckoned to be some £490m over budget, due, arguably, to a) overly generous and extended levels of support leading to exceptionally high uptake and wasteful use of energy, since the subsidy was provided per unit of heat employed, b) poor inspection schedules, and c) even some alleged fraud. (The legislation creating the RHI differs elsewhere in the UK, a budget overspend seems unlikely, and not all these faults would occur there, but the risk of fraud and perverse incentives remain.)

Doubtless there is more to the Northern Irish scandal than the issues nominally at stake, and it is fairly obviously being used as a convenient occasion for political manoeuvring. But that is normal in democratic debate, where it is rare for a problem to be addressed without an old score also being settled. One might wish it to be otherwise, but human motivation is as it is, and in fact, though not perfect, the system works reasonably well.

What is particularly notable about the NIRHI scandal is that this budgetary overspend could become a prominent political issue at all. Consider the case in London. Not only is there no apparent concern about the RHI, but under the now disbanded Department of Energy and Climate Change spending on renewable electricity subsidies spun wildly out of control, and still threatens to be greatly in excess of the Levy Control Framework instituted by the Treasury. But there has been no explosion of anger in Westminster. Part of the explanation for that complacent silence is to be found in the cross-party near-consensus that green energy is beyond criticism. But that is far from being the whole explanation.

Perhaps the most important factor is that unlike other subsidies to renewables, the NIRHI, and indeed the RHI in England, Wales, and Scotland, was funded by taxpayers from central funds, rather than from a levy on consumers drawn invisibly from their energy bills, as for example is the case with the Renewables Obligation (RO), the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and the new Feed-in Tariffs with Contracts for Difference (CfD).

The NIRHI was a rather traditional sort of measure, and this matters because it was easily overseen by the existing institutions, and faults identified. Indeed, it is a general truth that in the UK, and elsewhere, the democratic procedures designed to audit state spending are best suited for controlling government use of income derived from tax. They are less efficient as an instrument for inspecting the more novel and vastly more subtle stealth spending conducted through consumer levies. This is as much due to the historically established custom and habits of elected representatives as the formal procedures of the democratic assemblies concerned.

Nevertheless it is a reality, and one where increased vigilance is long overdue.
Those who chose to fund renewable electricity subsidy in the UK through levies on bills may not have been intending to conceal that expenditure from democratic inspection, though it is inevitable that one has suspicions, but that has been the actual consequence of the policy design. Surprisingly few people, in Parliament or elsewhere, know what is going on, how much is being spent, whether that spending is under control and well directed.

Objectively, it is notable that while there is an extremely vigorous political discussion in progress in Northern Ireland about £490m, there is almost no recognition in Westminster that the UK government has allowed an excess of planning consents to renewable generators to be issued, with a potential for subsidy overspending running into billions per year for decades.

There is, according to the Government’s own Renewable Energy Planning Database (REPD) sufficient capacity to overshoot the 2020 renewable electricity target by upwards of 30%, with no subsidy budget to pay for these project and little sign that government is actively trying to discourage them. In point of fact, many of these planning consents have been issued by the Scottish Government, whose electorate will not be providing the bulk of any subsidies required. That is the case because the renewable generators consented by the Scottish Government are paid for not out of Holyrood’s own budgets, but by all UK electricity consumers, and predominantly by English and Welsh billpayers since they comprise the vast majority of all consumers. In other words, because these policies are funded by levies on bills not taxes, decisions taken in Holyrood are paid for by consumers who have no electoral representation in that assembly. Now that really is a scandal.

7) And Finally: University Students Demand Plato And Kant Are Removed From Syllabus Because They Are White
The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2016
Camilla Turner, education editor

They are said to be the founding fathers of Western philosophy, whose ideas underpin civilised society. But students at a prestigious London university are demanding that figures such as Plato, Descartes and Immanuel Kant should be largely dropped from the curriculum because they are white.

Image result for Plato Kant white banned

The student union at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) insists that when studying philosophy “the majority of philosophers on our courses” should be from Africa and Asia.

The union said it is part of wider campaign to “decolonise” the university, as it seeks to “address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism”.

It comes after education leaders warned that universities will be forced to pander to the demands of “snowflake” students, however unreasonable they might be.

Under proposed reforms to higher education, the Government wants to place student satisfaction at the heart of a new ranking system, but critics fear it could undermine academic integrity.

Sir Roger Scruton, the philosopher, said the demands suggest “ignorance”. “You can't rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavour without having investigated it and clearly they haven't investigated what they mean by white philosophy,” he told The Mail on Sunday.

“If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant's Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.'

Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, added: “There is a real danger political correctness is getting out of control. We need to understand the world as it was and not to rewrite history as some might like it to have been.”

I would firmly resist dropping philosophers or historians just because it was fashionable
Head of SOAS's Religions and Philosophies department Erica Hunter
The student union at SOAS, a leading centre for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, stated that “decolonising” the university and “confronting the white institution” is one of its priorities for the academic year.

It said that “white philosophers” should be studied only “if required”, adding that their work should be taught solely from a “critical standpoint”. “For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so-called 'Enlightenment' philosophers wrote within,” it added.

Full story

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.

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