Friday, April 27, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Moves To End Reliance On ‘Secret Science’








Is OPEC Underestimating U.S. Shale (Again)?

In this newsletter:

1) EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Moves To End Reliance On ‘Secret Science’
Kevin Mooney, The Daily Signal, 24 April 2018
 
2) Climate Change Not The Key Driver Of Human Conflict And Displacement In East Africa
University College London, 24 April 2018


 
3) Global Warming Likely To Be 30 To 45 Percent Lower Than Climate Models Project
Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, 24 April 2018
 
4) Did You Know The Greatest Two-Year Global Cooling Event This Century Just Took Place?
Aaron Brown, Real Clear Markets, 24 April 2018
 
5) Is OPEC Underestimating U.S. Shale (Again)?
Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price, 19 April 2018
 
6) John Constable: Bringing The “Unruly Sun” To Heel: Is Solar Energy Worth The Candle?
GWPF Energy, 24 April 2018


Full details:

1) EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Moves To End Reliance On ‘Secret Science’
Kevin Mooney, The Daily Signal, 24 April 2018

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed a new rule Tuesday aimed at bolstering the role of science in developing regulations.

Pruitt announced the change at an event at the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters that was closed to The Daily Signal and other press. It could, however, be viewed online.

“The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end,” Pruitt said. “The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of the rule-making process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.”

The EPA crafted the proposal to ensure that the science standing behind the agency’s actions is made public so that it can be independently verified, officials said in a press release.

Pruitt’s decision to make the rule will prevent agency officials from using undisclosed scientific data as the foundation for regulations that cost affected individuals and businesses tens of billions of dollars.

Going forward, Pruitt said, EPA regulators will be permitted to use only scientific studies with data available for public consumption. Pruitt’s proposed rule also calls for EPA-funded studies to make all data public.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is among EPA critics who have faulted the agency’s reliance on data derived from “secret science” to promulgate regulations they view as highly burdensome to average Americans.

Smith and other congressional critics point out, for instance, that over the past two decades, the EPA’s air quality regulations have been based on science produced in a taxpayer-funded study from Harvard and Brigham Young University researchers that the agency kept sealed from public scrutiny. The study is widely known as the Six Cities Study.

In 1994, an EPA external science advisory board known as the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee requested the study data, but the agency denied the request. In 1997, Congress also asked, but the EPA again denied the request.

The following year, Congress passed legislation calling for the EPA’s scientific data to be made public, but an appellate court ruled that the law was not enforceable.

In 2013, House members issued a subpoena to compel the EPA to produce the data, which the agency successfully resisted.

The House also passed several bills to ban the practice of “secret science,” but the measures never made it out of the Senate. The latest version is known as the HONEST Act.

Smith, who is chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and a lead sponsor of that bill, attended and spoke at the EPA event.

Full post

2) Climate Change Not The Key Driver Of Human Conflict And Displacement In East Africa
University College London, 24 April 2018

Over the last 50 years climate change has not been the key driver of the human displacement or conflict in East Africa, rather it is politics and poverty, according to new research by UCL.

Human displacement refers to the total number of forcibly displaced people, and includes internally displaced people — the largest group represented — and refugees, those forced to across international borders.

“Terms such as climate migrants and climate wars have increasingly been used to describe displacement and conflict, however these terms imply that climate change is the main cause. Our research suggests that socio-political factors are the primary cause while climate change is a threat multiplier,” said Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography).

The study, published in Palgrave Communications, found that climate variations such as regional drought and global temperature played little part in the causation of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa over the last 50 years.

The major driving forces on conflict were rapid population growth, reduced or negative economic growth and instability of political regimes. While the total number of displaced people is linked to rapid population growth and low or stagnating economic growth.

However the study found that variations in refugee numbers, people forced to cross international borders, are significantly linked to the incidence of severe regional droughts as well as political instability, rapid population growth and low economic growth.

The UN Refugee Agency report there were over 20 million displaced people in Africa in 2016 — a third of the world’s total. There has been considerable debate as to whether climate change will exacerbate this situation in the future by increasing conflict and triggering displacement of people.

This new study suggests that stable effective governance, sustained economic growth and reduced population growth are essential if conflict and forced displacement of people are to be reduced in Africa, which will be severally affected by climate change.[…]

Journal Reference:
Erin Llwyd Owain, Mark Andrew Maslin. Assessing the relative contribution of economic, political and environmental factors on past conflict and the displacement of people in East AfricaPalgrave Communications, 2018; 4 (1) DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0096-6

Full post

see also 
GWPF coverage on Climate Change & Conflict
 
3) Global Warming Likely To Be 30 To 45 Percent Lower Than Climate Models Project
Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, 24 April 2018

A new study in the Journal of Climate compares global temperature data trends since 1850 with model outputs.

Climate researchers have spent decades trying to pin down the planet’s equilibrium climate sensitivity. Also known by the initials ECS, that figure represents how much it would ultimately increase global average temperatures if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles above the pre-industrial level.

Figuring out the ECS has huge implications for policy. If future warming is at the low end, humanity has more time to adapt and to shift energy production away from the fossil fuels that are loading up the atmosphere with extra carbon dioxide. If at the high end, efforts to adapt and shift energy production to low-carbon sources would need to be speeded up. The current assessment of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that ECS is likely to be in the range of 1.5°C to 4.5°C, extremely unlikely to be less than 1°C, and very unlikely to be greater than 6°C.

But a new study in the Journal of Climate suggests that the IPCC’s estimates are much too high. In calculating their rival figures, authors Nicholas Lewis and Judith Curry take into account historical atmospheric and ocean temperature trends since the mid-19th century. Their estimates also draw on new findings since 1990 of how atmospheric ozone and aerosols are likely to affect global temperature trends. (They also address other researchers’ concerns about an earlier ECS study that they published in 2015.)

“Our results imply that, for any future emissions scenario, future warming is likely to be substantially lower than the central computer model-simulated level projected by the IPCC, and highly unlikely to exceed that level,” Lewis says in a press release from the Global Warming Policy Forum.

How much lower? Their median ECS estimate of 1.66°C (5–95% uncertainty range: 1.15–2.7°C) is derived using globally complete temperature data. The comparable estimate for 31 current generation computer climate simulation models cited by the IPCC is 3.1°C. In other words, the models are running almost two times hotter than the analysis of historical data suggests that future temperatures will be.

Full post

4) Did You Know The Greatest Two-Year Global Cooling Event This Century Just Took Place?
Aaron Brown, Real Clear Markets, 24 April 2018

Would it surprise you to learn the greatest global two-year cooling event of the last century just occurred? From February 2016 to February 2018 (the latest month available) global average temperatures dropped 0.56°C.

You have to go back to 1982-84 for the next biggest two-year drop, 0.47°C—also during the global warming era. All the data in this essay come from GISTEMP Team, 2018: GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP). NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (dataset accessed 2018-04-11 at https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/). This is the standard source used in most journalistic reporting of global average temperatures.

The 2016-18 Big Chill was composed of two Little Chills, the biggest five month drop ever (February to June 2016) and the fourth biggest (February to June 2017). A similar event from February to June 2018 would bring global average temperatures below the 1980s average. February 2018 was colder than February 1998. If someone is tempted to argue that the reason for recent record cooling periods is that global temperatures are getting more volatile, it’s not true. The volatility of monthly global average temperatures since 2000 is only two-thirds what it was from 1880 to 1999.

None of this argues against global warming. The 1950s was the last decade cooler than the previous decade, the next five decades were all warmer on average than the decade before. Two year cooling cycles, even if they set records, are statistical noise compared to the long-term trend. Moreover, the case for global warming does not rely primarily on observed warming; it has models, historical studies and other science behind it. Another point is both February 1998 and February 2016 were peak El Niño months so the record declines are starting from high peaks—but it’s also true that there have been many other peak El Niño months in the past century and none were followed by such dramatic cooling.

My point is that statistical cooling outliers garner no media attention. The global average temperature numbers come out monthly. If they show a new hottest year on record, that’s a big story. If they show a big increase over the previous month, or the same month in the previous year, that’s a story. If they represent a sequence of warming months or years, that’s a story. When they show cooling of any sort—and there have been more cooling months than warming months since anthropogenic warming began—there’s no story.

The public and media case for global warming, unlike the scientific case, depends heavily on short-term observation of actual temperatures. Biased reporting suggests warming is much steadier than it is. If the global temperature really showed half a century of uninterrupted warming—with only warming records, no cooling records—then people with nuanced views of plausible future temperatures could be dismissed as deniers. Annual atmospheric CO2 levels have gone up in pretty much a straight line since 1960, if temperatures did the same thing, the link to CO2 would be direct and obvious. In fact, it is real but complex, and those complexities are important for analyzing policy choices. […]

Full post

5) Is OPEC Underestimating U.S. Shale (Again)?
Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price, 19 April 2018

The oil production cuts and healthy oil demand growth have helped the global inventory surplus to nearly vanish and it certainly looks very much like OPEC and allies have a “mission accomplished” within reach.

That’s the verdict of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which said last week that OECD crude oil stocks at end-February were just 30 million barrels above the five-year average—with product stocks actually below it—compared to a glut of more than 300 million barrels at the start of the production cut agreement that OPEC and Russia-led non-OPEC partners have been implementing since January 2017.

Today, a leaked OPEC/NOPEC report suggested that the lingering overhang was even smaller—at 12 million barrels above the five-year average.

Still, there are no signs that OPEC and friends would be rushing to declare ‘mission accomplished’. Even the usual OPEC/Russia chatter of ‘gradual exit’ from the cuts once they expire at end-2018 has not been heard on the market for a couple of months. Instead, we’re hearing more reports that OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia would rather overtighten the market, shooting for oil prices higher than the current around $73 a barrel Brent, which is already a more than a three-year high.

An OPEC/non-OPEC ministerial monitoring panel is meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on April 20 to discuss the state of the oil market and possible long-lasting cooperation. According to analysts, OPEC (Saudi Arabia) and Russia look determined to continue with the cuts at least until their official expiry date at the end of 2018, despite the fact that their official target—bring OECD oil stocks down to their five-year average—could be achieved any moment now.

According to a Bloomberg source, 12 nations part of the OPEC+ pact will be meeting in Jeddah on Friday—the energy ministers of Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UAE, Algeria, Kuwait, Venezuela, Iraq, Oman, and Brunei, plus representatives from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and the head of Libya’s state oil firm. Any proposals or recommendations that this group would agree upon need to be later ratified by the full-line-up meeting in June.

But it looks like this week the partners won’t be hailing the mission as accomplished and may even discuss moving the goal posts—changing the current ‘five-year average’ metric they use to measure the success of the production cut pact—to justify that the cuts would be in place until the end of 2018.

“All of the various suggestions that have been floated would give OPEC a rationale to continue cutting,” Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale, told Bloomberg.

Although the official goal is to bring inventories back to normal levels, unofficially, the target is to prop up oil prices. Even at above-$70 oil now, Saudi Arabia is reportedly aiming much higher and would even let oil prices rise to as much as $100 a barrel.

The higher oil prices would help the cartel and allies to patch up their budgets that have been suffering from the low oil prices for three years now. Saudi Arabia ran budget deficits that were unthinkable before 2014, and its breakeven budget price is said to be upwards of $80 oil. Then, there’s the much-hyped Aramco IPO, ahead of which Riyadh is also looking for higher oil prices to boost the valuation of its giant oil firm.

Despite the fact that oil at $80 or $100 could backfire on both global supply and demand, with U.S. shale soaring further and demand growth possibly slowing down, analysts see the shortest-term higher budget revenues as the rationale for Saudi Arabia and the cartel to want oil prices so high. In short, they would prefer to rake in the windfall now and think of the state of the oil market later.

Full post

6) John Constable: Bringing The “Unruly Sun” To Heel: Is Solar Energy Worth The Candle?
GWPF Energy, 24 April 2018
Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

The wind industry is faltering as the mixed results of the mass deployment of the last twenty years become more widely known, but enthusiasm for solar energy is growing in its place. Is it any more promising? Even some of solar’s more enthusiastic proponents, such as Dr Varun Sivaram, whose new book, Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet(MIT Press: Cambridge Mass: 2018), is reviewed here, are open about the problems but are also asking for a correspondingly dramatic redesign of the world economy in order to bring about the solar revolution. Should we let them have their way? Dr Sivaram’s useful study helps us to reach a conclusion.

Solar energy has a powerful attraction for those thinking on the grand scale. Indeed, the bigger the picture, the more uncompromising the emphasis. Eric Chaisson, an American astrophysicist and well-known writer of Big History, has even gone so far as to predict that the development of solar power is the next necessary and indeed ultimate step after “wheels, agriculture, metallurgy, machines, electricity and nuclear power”, since “all intelligent civilizations, anywhere in the Universe, likely learn to exploit the energy of their parent star” (Eric J. Chaisson, Cosmic Evolution (Harvard UP: Cambridge Mass. 2001), 207).

Part of the attraction is that the use of solar energy is both very new and very old, a striking novelty that is also comfortably familiar. The photovoltaic effect was discovered only in the nineteenth century, making it the sole renewable energy with any claim to being a comparatively young technology, and yet life has in fact been exploiting the energy of the parent star, and with increasing sophistication, for as long or nearly as long as there has been life on earth. Photosynthesis creates cell structures rich in energy that are eaten or used by other creatures, whose own energy rich cells then provide resources for yet other creatures. Behind it all stands the sun. Humans have learned how to farm this process to their own advantage, greatly enlarging their population and even developing technologies  so that they could use the solar energy remaining in the compressed and transformed debris of prehistoric life, in coal, oil, and methane. A trace contribution from the gravitational energy of the moon, and more recently the use of sub-atomic energy, does not change the fact that the organic record on earth is that of solar energy transformations.

The generation of electricity from solar cells, therefore, is, and in spite of its technical novelty, felt as reassuringly consistent with the deep historical and prehistorical trends. Consequently it is seen as “natural”, and in this respect it stands in sharp contrast to nuclear sources, for which there is no precedent in post-photosynthetic life.

Even it were to be widely agreed that life in fact originated from thermophilic subsea creatures, drawing their energy from the heat resulting from radioactive decay of the earth’s core, there seems little likelihood that man will, on the grounds of that deep, foundational antiquity, come to feel comfortably familiar with energy from within the atom.

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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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