2015 a Banner Year for Skeptical Peer-reviewed Publications

Published March 11, 2016

Climate Change Weekly #206

The German climate science site, No Tricks Zone, has assembled a list of approximately 250 peer-reviewed academic articles published in 2015 demonstrating nature has a significant role in ongoing climate change, contrary to the dominant meme humans are solely or primarily responsible for catastrophic climate change.

Many of the articles stress solar activity plays a dominant role in climate change. For instance:

Mounting evidence from proxy records suggests that variations in solar activity have played a significant role in triggering past climate changes. Our results indicate a close link between solar activity and SSTs in the northern North Atlantic during the past 4000 yr. … Furthermore, the high-resolution SST record indicates that climate in the North Atlantic regions follows solar activity variations on multi-decadal to centennial time scales. (Geology, February 2015)

[I]n order to account for the problem of urbanization bias, we compile a new estimate of Northern Hemisphere surface air temperature trends since 1881, using records from predominantly rural stations in the monthly Global Historical Climatology Network dataset. A strong correlation is found …, implying that solar variability has been the dominant influence on Northern Hemisphere temperature trends since at least 1881. (Earth Science Reviews, November 2015)

There has been widespread investigation of the drivers of changes in global temperatures. However, there has been remarkably little consideration of the magnitude of the changes to be expected over a period of a few decades or even a century. [W]hile some portion of the temperature change observed in the 20th century was probably caused by greenhouse gases, there is a strong likelihood that the major portion was due to natural variations. (Energy and Environment, April 2015)

A host of articles addressed the positive role the changing climate and increasing carbon dioxide have had on plant growth and agricultural yields. For instance:

We quantified the temporal trend and climatic sensitivity of vegetation phenology in dryland ecosystems in the US Great Basin during 1982–2011. Our results indicated that vegetation greenness in the Great Basin increased significantly during the study period. … [C]limate warming played a strong role in extending GSL [growing season length] that in turn resulted in the upward trend in mean vegetation greenness during 1982–2011. (Biogeosciences, July 2015)

In summary, climate change has prolonged FFP [frost free period], increased the heat resource, and slightly changed solar radiation resource during crop growing season, which is beneficial for agriculture in Northeast China. (International Journal of Climatology, September 2015)

The Sahel region of Northern Africa is home to more than 50 million people for whom summer rainfall is a crucial water resource in terms of food security and societal stability. [D]uring 1982–2012, we detected a significant increase in both vegetation greenness and monsoon rainfall over the Sahel since the early 1980s. (Geophysical Research Letters, July 2015)

In addition, contrary to climate model projections, multiple papers indicate weather extremes are unlikely to increase due to climate change. For example:

Our work illustrates a major constraint on the large-scale global atmospheric engine: As the climate warms … the global atmospheric circulation might comprise highly energetic storms due to explosive latent heat release, but in such a case, the constraint on work output identified here will result in fewer numbers of such [extreme weather] events. (Science, January 2015)

Substantial changes in the hydrological cycle are projected for the 21st century, but these projections are subject to major uncertainties. In this context, the ‘dry gets drier, wet gets wetter’ (DDWW) paradigm is often used as a simplifying summary. However, recent studies cast doubt on the validity of the paradigm … 70% of all land area will not experience significant changes. Based on these findings we conclude that the DDWW paradigm is generally not confirmed for projected changes in most land areas. (Geophysical Research Letters, July 2015)

I haven’t reviewed all the abstracts, much less read all the articles, compiled on the No Tricks Zone website. It may be the case none of the collected articles explicitly rejects the idea humans are driving climate change. However, what these articles do make clear, individually and collectively, is the debate concerning the causes and consequences of climate change is still open and lively. There is no consensus humans are driving dangerous climate change!

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCE: No Tricks Zone


Congress backs Clean Power Plan challengeContra Congress, Obama makes $500 million climate fund downpaymentAutomating cars could increase carbon dioxide emissionsClimate won’t ding Berkshire Hathaway’s profits


More than 200 members of Congress filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC backing a court challenge by 27 states and numerous businesses, trade, labor, and public interest groups against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), the president’s signature regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The congressional brief argues the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepped its legal authority and defied the will of Congress by regulating carbon dioxide emissions. The brief states:

If Congress desired to give EPA sweeping authority to transform the nation’s electricity sector, Congress would have provided for that unprecedented power in detailed legislation. … [I]f anything can be inferred from Congress’ repeated rejection of proposed cap-and-trade legislation for [carbon dioxide] emissions, it is that Congress had no intention of conferring upon EPA the very authority that the agency now claims to wield as a central part of the [CPP].

SOURCES: American Energy News and Members of the U.S. Congress


President Barack Obama made a downpayment of $500 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF) in support of his commitment to provide $3 billion to GCF by 2020. According to the U.K.’s Guardian, the State Department says the payment “shows the US stands squarely behind climate commitments.” The $500 million GCF payment was seen as critical to shoring up international confidence in Obama’s ability to deliver on the pledges made at the United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris in late 2015.

As reported on Watts Up With That, some members of Congress questioned whether the payment was legal or authorized by Congress.

When asked by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) if Congress had approved diverting $500 million of State Department funds to GCF, Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Heather Higgenbottom responded, “Did Congress authorize the Green Climate Fund? No … We’ve reviewed the authority and the process under which we can do it, and our lawyers and we have determined that we have the ability to do it.”

Stay tuned. I expect some fireworks over this in future Senate and House hearings.

SOURCE: Watts Up With That


The results of a new study on the relative benefits and costs in terms of carbon dioxide emissions from the adoption of self-driving cars or vehicle automation (VA) produced results that might come as a surprise: VA could increase carbon dioxide emissions from driving.

A fully automated fleet will be able to chain cars together more aerodynamically, drive at more consistent speeds, and perhaps serve as shared vehicles in lieu of individual vehicle ownership, all of which should reduce the fuel used and thus vehicle emissions. VA also will open up car travel to populations (the young, the elderly, the visually or otherwise impaired) who may not have had regular access to personal vehicles.

VA also would allow cars to travel at higher speeds, which, beyond a certain point, reduces fuel efficiency, and it would make travel more pleasant with more time to fiddle with gadgets. That could mean more energy-using gadgets to fiddle with. All told, VA could increase the overall amount of vehicle miles traveled.

Using the equation Emissions = Activity Level x Modal Share x Energy Intensity x Fuel Carbon Content, researchers Zia Wadud (University of Leeds), Don MacKenzie (University of Washington), and Paul Leiby (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) found the biggest factor in determining whether VA increases or decreases energy use is the extent it reduces the costs of driving. To the extent automation makes driving less expensive, it is more likely there will be a net increase in fuel use and emissions.

SOURCES: Vox and Transportation Research Part A Policy and Practice


In Berkshire Hathaway’s (BH) 2015 annual report billionaire investor Warren Buffet tackles the issue of climate change’s impact on the company’s insurance division. While there are many investment risks, he says, “thinking only as a shareholder of a major insurer, climate change should not be on your list of worries.”

Buffet addressed climate change to head off a proxy proposal being put forward to require BH to report on the dangers climate change might present to its insurance operations and explain how the firm is responding to the threats. Buffett says he believes it is highly likely climate change could pose a major problem for the planet, although he admits it could be another mistaken scare story, like Y2K. Regardless of whether dangerous climate changes occur, because of the way BH’s companies price their insurance policies, even if property losses rise due to weather changes, investors should not expect their investments to decline. Buffet notes property insurers don’t write 10- or 20-year policies at fixed prices; rather, “policies are customarily written for one year and repriced annually to reflect changing exposures. Increased possibilities of loss translate promptly into increased premiums.”

SOURCE: Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

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