Climate Change Weekly #175
In an open letter to the president and officers of the American Physical Society (APS), three prominent members – Roger Cohen, APS fellow; Laurence I. Gould, past-chair of APS New England; and William Happer, a Princeton physicist – argue APS should shelve its 2007 statement on climate change and should not replace it. The members wrote the open letter on behalf of nearly 300 members who signed petitions against the statement in 2009 and 2010.
Cohen, Gould, and Happer argue APS’s climate change statement places the society in the untenable position of defending arguments for human-caused climate change not supported by the best available evidence. They also charge APS’s Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) with ongoing violations of APS by-laws that require expert input and mandate the organization avoid conflicts of interests.
Instead of securing experts’ input on climate science within the society, the three write, “a small group of firebrand” members with clear conflicts of interest and little expertise in the topic inserted themselves into the drafting process, ultimately shaping APS’s statement with the evident acquiescence of POPA and the APS council.
As the process of drafting an updated 2015 statement has progressed, APS has, according to Cohen, Gould, and Happer:
[F]ailed to consult any of at least 300 members, including Nobel Laureates, NAS members, and many Fellows, who were deeply dissatisfied with the 2007 Statement. Thus POPA deliberately failed to seek and incorporate interested and appropriate member input, as required in the Bylaws.
[F]ailed to take into account the findings of the broad-based workshop, chaired by Steve Koonin, which faithfully and expertly executed its charge to assess the state of the science in global warming … the only serious review of global warming science by a major American scientific society … [Yet] POPA subsequently ignored the Koonin workshop and its product. POPA once again returned to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as its sole source of authority on the science, thereby abrogating its responsibility to the membership to properly conduct independent scientific assessments.
[F]ailed to identify serious conflicts of interests by its members.
Cohen, Gould, and Happer conclude the failure to follow its own by-laws threaten to undermine APS’s perceived legitimacy and objectivity with regards to its position on climate change.
— H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
A new study in Nature Climate Change confirms findings of an earlier Global Warming Policy Foundation report showing increased greenhouse gas emissions have returned rain to the Sahel region of Africa, ending a drought that resulted in more than 100,000 deaths in the region in the 1980s. The Nature Climate Change study found Sahel summer rainfall was about 10 percent higher per day from 1996 through 2011 than in the drought period of 1964 to 1993.
Rowan Sutton, a professor at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading and co-author of the study, said: “Amounts of rainfall have recovered substantially. It was a surprise that the increase in greenhouse gases appears to have been the dominant factor.”
Using a supercomputer climate simulator, the researchers found warming by greenhouse gases allowed the air to hold more moisture and shifted winds, bringing more rains. The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) study noted increased carbon dioxide also improves the productivity of plants, in turn increasing rainfall as plants transfer moisture from the soil into the air by evaporation from their leaves. In total, increased greenhouse gas levels accounted for three-quarters of the recovery in rainfall.
Increased rainfall and expanded vegetation have caused the Sahara Desert to retreat in the Sahel region. GWPF says Burkina Faso, devastated by drought and advancing deserts 20 years ago, is now growing so much greener families who fled to wetter coastal regions are returning. There has been a 70 percent increase in yields of local cereals such sorghum and millet in recent years. Rainfall and vegetation also have increased significantly in the past 15 years in central Chad, in parts of Eritrea, in Mali, southern Mauritania, northwestern Niger, and in much of Sudan. Commenting on the Nature Climate Change study, Mike Hulme, professor of climate and culture at King’s College London, said: “One should continue to remain skeptical of overconfident claims that ‘climate change,’ by which is meant fossil fuel emissions, always causes negative effects in these African drylands.”
In The Wall Street Journal, energy research analyst Paul Tice highlights an alarming greening of the already controversial Common Core standards for the K–12 science curriculum.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) adopted by 13 states and the District of Columbia, recommend, “[B]y the end of Grade 5, students should appreciate that rising average global temperatures will affect the lives of all humans and other organisms on the planet. By Grade 8, students should understand that the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels is a major factor in global warming. And by Grade 12, students should know that global climate models are very effective in modeling, predicting and managing the current and future impact of climate change.”
None of these claims is settled science.
Many of the background materials provided to instructors for the new curriculum come from federal agencies, including from the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate change handouts that link carbon dioxide and average global temperatures and tear sheets on the causal relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea level.
Rather than using one-sided, non-scientific, ideology-driven climate change materials, Tice suggests students be encouraged to ask why the planet has stopped warming since the late 1990s despite the continued rise of carbon dioxide levels; what are the strengths and weaknesses of historical measurements of average global temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels using proxy data; and whether a 1.4-degree Fahrenheit increase in average global surface temperatures since 1880 is statistically significant in the 4.6 billion-year history of Earth.
Exploring these and other questions would allow students to develop their critical thinking, argumentation, and reasoning skills – the actual stated objective of the new K–12 science standards.
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal
A new paper in Energy & Environment finds the present period of warming is well within the range of natural variability. Philip Lloyd, a South Africa-based physicist, climate researcher, and former Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) lead author, examined temperature data over the past 8,000 years from a number of ice core samples and found the standard deviation of the temperature over the past 8,000 years was about 0.98 degrees Celsius – larger than the 0.85 degrees climate scientists say the world has warmed over the past century. According to Lloyd, “This suggests that while 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.” If Lloyd’s results prove accurate after testing, it implies IPCC should revise its claim suggesting “more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010” is due to human activities.
When oil prices fell due to the substantial amounts of new oil brought to the market through the fracking revolution, Saudi Arabia, the swing producer in the OPEC oil cartel, resisted calls to cut production to prop up prices. Saudi Arabia reasoned sustained lower prices would ultimately kill the fracking revolution, simultaneously shuttering expanded U.S. production and reestablishing OPEC’s market dominance.
That strategy failed. Though U.S. rig counts dropped 60 percent since October, overall production has been relatively stable as lower prices fueled efficiency gains and technological innovations in the industry. The most efficient oil drillers have cut the amount of time it takes to drill a new well by more than 20 percent, helping companies reduce the cost of drilling wells from $4.5 million to $3.5 million. The result: Whereas just a year ago, many analysts believed much shale oil production would become unprofitable if oil prices fell below $80 per barrel, now analysts believe wells are profitable at $60 per barrel, a number anticipated to soon fall to $50 per barrel.
A new paper in Environmental Research Letters found an unexplored solar mechanism affecting global climate. Changes in solar UV activity, sometimes doubling normal output, during 11-year solar cycles have an amplified, delayed effect on climate through their impacts on the North Atlantic Oscillation [NAO] of ocean currents. According to the paper, solar UV changes affect heating rates of the upper stratosphere, which in turn affects wind patterns and strength, temperature changes and rates of change in the troposphere, and ultimately heat storage in the North Atlantic Ocean. The impact on NAO lags in time by 3 to 4 years, influencing Arctic sea ice extent, other ocean patterns, the jet stream, and global weather patterns. The newly discovered lagged response to changes in solar UV radiation is not accounted for in climate models, suggesting another natural factor that could be mistaken for human-induced climate impacts.
SOURCE: Environmental Research Letters
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