The Gravy TrainMight Be Ending

Climate advocates and environmental organizations like the Union of Uninformed (Concerned) Scientists are in a high state of dudgeon over the election of Donald Trump. Before appointments are made or any policy decisions are announced, they are claiming that his Administration will be run by climate denialists. It doesn’t matter to them or the media that cites their railing that the word “denial” pejorative. The real sources of anxiety for many perhaps most is the prospect of their funding stream being turned off.

Ever since Vice President Gore increased climate funding to demonstrate that using fossil fuels would create a climate catastrophe, federal funding for so called climate research has increased, with the emphasis on confirming the climate catastrophe described in Earth in the Balance.

It was clear during the Clinton Gore Administration that if researchers wanted funding, their work had to support the Vice President’s beliefs. That remains true today where research funding under the Obama Administration has increased to about $2.7 annually. In addition to that has to be added $8 billon in “clean energy technologies” and $5 billion in subsidies. Since Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University has established that the US has been decarbonizing for over a century, spending on fossil duel alternatives is mainly waste, especially the subsidies.

Rationalizing climate related spending could save taxpayers upwards of $16 billion dollar annually. All that the Trump Administration has to do is set objective criteria for reviewing and continuing existing programs.

One place to start is spending on larger and more complex climate models. Given the range of scientific uncertainties that are even acknowledged by climate advocates—climate sensitivity, natural variability, cloud formation, solar affects, aerosols, and oceans for example—it should be obvious that model performance can’t improve until our state of knowledge improves. Federal research should focus on improving our understanding of the climate system by addressing major areas of uncertainty.

One of the pillars of climate orthodoxy is the assertion that CO2 is a pollutant. It is not; it is a nutrient as has been clearly documented by the CO2 Coalition. A better understanding the CO2 and the physics related to it would undermine EPA’s Endangerment Finding and regulations based on it. That would not only eliminate wasteful spending and economically damaging regulations but also would represent an important step in restoring scientific integrity. The corruption of science by the Obama Administration and agency climate advocates can be reversed by appointing as Science Advisor to the President an individual whose integrity is beyond reproach, a person who will take steps to make sure that the best available science is used in the policy process.

None of these actions have anything to do with “denial”. Climate change is real and humans are a contributing force, although there is no compelling evidence that we are the driving force. Instead of wasting resources on trying to prove the contrary, the federal government could invest in developing the capacity to deal with whatever future climates evolve.

We know that sea level is rising. As MIT professor Carl Wunsch has made clear. Sea level has been rising since the end of the last ice age and will continue until the next one. Helping states deal with that reality is a legitimate government function. Agricultural research on drought resistant crops is also a legitimate role.

Government decisions on climate should like Lewis and Clark’s expedition of the west should only extend as far as our state of knowledge, which should always be expanding. Prophesies of doom have been the mainstay of charlatans for centuries. We need to stop feeding them and start ignoring them

Political Forecasting Failure: a Broader Lesson in Humility

This year’s election demonstrated very clearly that forecasting is fraught with dangers because it is dependent on assumptions, the quality of data, and the structure of models used. And, the lessons from the failure of most pollsters/forecasters to come close to the actual election results should lead modelers and users of model outputs, independent of the field of study, to show a bit more humility. That is especially true about climate and other environmental models.

For almost three decades, climate models have over predicted the affect of greenhouse gases on global temperatures and weather events. That should surprise no one because the climate system is complex, chaotic, and still not well understood. It should be obvious that if the system being modeled is complex, not well understood and requires a very large number of equations, the models built to represent it cannot be accurate, especially when the forecasters use point estimates instead of ranges that reflect uncertainty. That has been the case with climate models and the forecasts that come from them,in spite of the billions of dollars spent on model development and the super computers to run them.

In spite of a very poor records of predictions, those who make predictions based on these complex models are considered experts who must be listened to. In fact, the cult of climate experts who peddle visions of doom are no better that fortune tellers and seers of the Middle Ages who became well knows by their prophecies of the future. Assertions of expertise is no substitute for being right more than half the time.

Whether forecasting economic growth, elections, or future climates, forecasts are no better than the understanding of the underlying phenomena, the data that reflect those phenomena, and the models that process that data. The uncertainties in our understanding of the climate system as documented by the IPCC should disqualify climate models from being used to drive policy.

Professor John Christy in congressional testimony presented a comparison of a large number of models with actual temperature increases over the past few decades. While that is a short time frame for climate, all of the models over predicted actual temperatures. That fact is evidence of a bias about how the climate system is thought to work and a lack of humility about the inability to model a complex and chaotic system. Instead of expressing humility, climate advocates double down by making their models more complex and providing rationalizations for their inaccurate forecasts. Unfortunately, the political system hasn’t discounted the forecasts, it has embraced them, wasting money on solutions to a contrived problem.

A new Congress and new Administration has the opportunity to change course and demand a higher level of objectivity and real scientific proof.



Mass Delusion in Marrakesh

In 1841, Charles Mackay wrote Extraordinary Popular Delusion and the Madness of Crowds. Ever since then, the world has kept proving that Mackay was right when he wrote, “ In reading the history of nations … we find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit…” Over 10,000 people have descended into the city of Marrakesh to attend COP 22, celebrate the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change and to plan its implementation. This annual ritual is a manifestation of the madness of crowds.

Ever since the Rio Treaty in 199X, annual Conferences of the Parties have been held to plan actions to avoid a climate apocalypse, which is just over the horizon. But, like the horizon, it recedes as it is approached. Prophets of doom have been predicting dramatic climate events for about three decades and for almost that length of time have been explaining why they haven’t yet occurred but soon will.

Under the Paris Agreement, nations are to submit plans for achieving their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and then regular reports on progress made. COP-22 has the responsibility for hammering out the details of reporting, transparency, compliance, capacity building in developing nations, and financing actions. On the surface, this does not appear to be an overwhelming task but in reality it will prove difficult to achieve. Every past COP has ended with delegates floundering to achieve its goals and then scrambling to make failure appear as success.

Many developed nations, if not most, will look for ways to create loopholes so that their reports can show significant progress and to make any shortcomings something that is outside their control. Developing countries will tie their commitments to significant funding from the developed world. There is already a pledge of $100 billion annually by 2020. A review of the last report stated that an “estimated … $62bn was provided in 2014. However, there is some tension about the methodology chosen to produce this report, which might flare up in Marrakech”. At a time when developed nations are struggling with weak economies, excessive debt, and unfulfilled citizen expectations, financing will continue to be the Achilles Heel for this agreement as it was in the past.

The delegates, who are enjoying the good life in Marrakesh, are harboring a vision of how the world works that no longer exists. Our presidential election is not the only sign that the paradigm of the past has changed. It is evident around the globe. Populist unrest is changing the political dynamics and that cannot but influence how nations address the illusion of dangerous climate change. In addition to the problems that the COP-22 delegates had at its beginning, they now have to face the reality that the Obama climate agenda will be brought to an end on January 20, 2017. The climate change table has been reset.