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New U.S. Climate Report a 'Scientific Embarrassment'

The U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA), released last Friday, provides a superb illustration of journalist H. L. Mencken’s (1880-1950) claim:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

The 1,656-page NCA report, produced by a team from thirteen federal agencies, is riddled with imaginary hobgoblins. Especially mistaken is the NCA’s repeated reference to increased warming and extreme weather events, both in the recent past and in the future. The NCA asserts:

Observations collected around the world provide significant, clear, and compelling evidence that global average temperature is much higher, and is rising more rapidly, than anything modern civilization has experienced …

While NASA’s claim that there has been slightly more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 deg Fahrenheit) of warming since 1880 is likely correct, there has been no additional warming since the new millennium. This is referred to as the “Global Warming Hiatus” by the climate modeling community. Contrary to the outputs of climate models that project continued warming, the Earth’s climate appears to be cooling down, with increasing cold weather extremes worldwide in the last six years.

The past two winters have been especially cold over North America. November 2018 set low temperature records across the contiguous U.S., with three winter storms as of November 28 and the coldest Thanksgiving Week in one hundred years. Among some of the cold records: 19 F (degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded at New York City’s Central Park on November 22, which was the park’s coldest Thanksgiving since 1871; on the same day, the temperature at the top of Mount Washington in northern New Hampshire fell to -26 F, the coldest ever recorded for November. This beat the previous record of -20 F on Nov. 30, 1958.

Extreme cold was also witnessed in many locales in central and eastern Canada on November 22. For example, Toronto’s Pearson Airport recorded -13.3 degrees Celsius (8 F), 0.9 Celsius (C) colder that the previous record set in 1989. Kingston saw -16.7 C (2 F), breaking the record set in 1880 by 2.7 C. Ottawa recorded -17.2 C (1 F), 1.6 C colder than the record (1895). And Algonquin Park experienced -22 C (-7.6 F), 1.4 C colder than the previous record set in 1929.

The NCA’s projections of catastrophic warming of 5 C over the next 80 years is clearly at odds with the current cooling trend that appears to be the reality of climate change.

Even if warming resumes in the near future, a number of peer-reviewed papers now suggest that future warming would be about 0.5 C (0.9 F) to, at most, 1 C (1.8 F) by 2100. This is not dangerous in the least, and certainly not worth dedicating trillions of dollars to try to prevent it by attempting to reduce worldwide human-CO2 emissions.

Next, the NCA maintains:

The warming trend observed over the past century can only be explained by the effects that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, have had on the climate.

This claim is not borne out by the data. Earth’s climate warmed steeply by about 0.5C from about 1915 to 1945 when human-produced CO2 emissions were minimal. Worldwide CO2 emissions increased quickly after World War II, yet the Earth cooled between 1945 and 1977 by about 0.25 deg C (0.45 F). Supporters of the dangerous man-made climate hypothesis are unable to give an adequate explanation for this temperature drop while emissions were increasing rapidly.

The climate warmed by about 0.7 C (1.3 F) between 1980 and 1999, in tandem with increasing human-CO2 emissions, but since the new millennium there has been no further warming despite continuing CO2 rise (largely due to rapid industrial growth in China, now the world’s leading emitter). The World Meteorological Organization in Geneva recently declared that atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest today in almost three million years, however, this has clearly not impacted the Earth’s climate, as mentioned above.

The NCA then says:

The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities.

Once again, the NCA is making claims without adequate assessment. Many peer-reviewed papers have documented no increase in extreme weather events in recent years. Some of the extreme weather events like tornadoes and associated damages in the U.S. have declined significantly in the last 20 years. Also, hurricane activity in the U.S. and elsewhere is at a record low, as documented by U.S. meteorologist Ryan Maue. It may be noted that starting in October 2005, there were almost 142 consecutive months during which there were no major or moderate hurricanes making landfall in the continental United States.

Further, it is important to note that there were as many extreme weather events during the cooling period between 1945 and 1977 as there are today. Reducing atmospheric CO2 now will have no impact on future extreme weather events, as naively claimed by many environmentalists and their ardent followers. Blaming a slightly warmer climate today for more extreme weather is without any scientific merit.

The NCA continues to assert:

Increasing wildfire frequency … are expected to decrease the ability of U.S. forests to support economic activity, recreation, and subsistence activities.

The NCA cites recent California wildfires which led to the unfortunate deaths of over 80 people and the destruction of several thousand homes. However, it is important to note that this was probably started by campfires, and not because of a warmer climate. Furthermore, there has been a significant reduction in forest fires over the past century. This appears to be occurring partly due to two effects -- rising temperatures and increasing CO2 -- that act to increase soil moisture and thus reduce the potential of fires.

Here’s why: Due to an increase in atmospheric CO2, stomata -- the pores in plant’s leaves -- are open for shorter periods of time. This means that the plants lose less water to the air and so more of it stays in the soil, reducing fire risk.

Due to rising temperatures, there is also more evaporation and consequently more precipitation, which also leads to more soil moisture and thus less fire potential.

Finally, the NCA makes this outrageous claim:

Climate models have proven remarkably accurate in simulating the climate change we have experienced to date, particularly in the past 60 years or so when we have greater confidence in observations.

MIT’s Emeritus Professor of Meteorology Dr. Richard Lindzen objected:

In terms of sensitivity to greenhouse forcing, the most important relationship is that between temperature and outgoing radiation measured from space. As Choi and I showed around 2010, all IPCC models fail badly to describe the observed behavior.

Dr. John Christy, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and an expert in satellite measurements, has shown that climate models projected almost twice the amount of warming between 1990 and 2010 than was actually observed (see figure below). This too suggests that the NCA claim of 5 C warming over the next 80 years must be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Observations from satellite and weather balloons for global lower tropospheric temperatures, compared to the average or 102 IPCC CMIP-5 Climate Models. (Sources: John Christy US, KNMI, The Netherlands)

Concerning the supposedly “greater confidence in observations,” historical climatologist Dr. Tim Ball replied:

Today, there is virtually no data for approximately 85 percent of the Earth’s surface. We have less weather stations today feeding data into the Global Historical Climatological Network database that we did in 1960.

Especially considering that large extraneous impacts (e.g., urban heat islands in large city centers, poor station location, etc.) have not been adequately compensated for, we actually have less confidence in observations today than we did in the past. Clearly, climate models are totally unreliable for projecting future climate change -- let alone as the basis for costly policy decisions.

Dr. Jay Lehr, science director of The Heartland Institute, summed up the feelings of many climate experts when he described the U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment as “a scientific embarrassment.”