Saturday, April 18, 2009

The EPA, sea-level rise and climate change

One of the big questions facing power generating companies has been in regard to the actions that the new Administration would take over the issue of carbon dioxide, and coal-fired power plants. As the Earth Policy Institute recently noted
Since the beginning of 2007, 95 proposed coal-fired power plants have been canceled or postponed in the United States--59 in 2007, 24 in 2008, and at least 12 in the first three months of 2009. This covers nearly half of the 200 or so U.S. coal-fired power plants that have been proposed for construction since 2000. The vast majority of the remaining proposals are essentially on hold, awaiting word on whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is going to impose limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. With further legal challenges ahead and the regulation of CO2 imminent, 2009 may very well witness the end of new coal-fired power plants in the United States.
Well the EPA issued a ruling on Friday, at noon
After a thorough scientific review ordered in 2007 by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed finding Friday that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare. 
 . . . . EPA’s proposed endangerment finding is based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of intensive analysis by scientists around the world. The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate.
The ruling now moves into the public comment phase, and it will be interesting to see how this is handled. Interesting because, just a couple of weeks ago Lord Monkton submitted a letter to the Congressional Committee which began by showing this graph, which shows the reported temperatures of the globe as an average of measurements by the Hadley Center/Climate Research Unit (HadCru), by the US National Climatic Data Center, and the satellite measurements of the temperatures in the lower-troposphere as published by Remote Sensing Systems Inc, and by the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Source Monkton Letter to House Committee on Energy and Commerce


At the time of his original testimony Lord Monkton was challenged in some of his comments by Dr. Karl, the Director of the National Climatic Data Center of NOAA. Dr. Karl’s testimony was largely focused on what the agency was planning to do to help with the consequences of global temperature and climate change. At the same hearing David Waskow, the Head of the Climate Change Program at Oxfam said
“Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events.

In his letter to the Subcommittee, Lord Monkton noted that Dr. Karl had challenged the graph on the grounds that the temperature plot was an averaged value from four different readings of temperature that had been made over the past seven years, and thus the conclusions were not, potentially, reliable. Whereupon, in the letter, his lordship separated out the four curves – as you may note they all show the same downward trend in temperature over the past seven years.

Source Monkton Letter to House Committee on Energy and Commerce
He notes, however, that the NCDC plot shows one third of the decline that is recorded by the other sources, but he notes that it follows the data from NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), which is where Dr. Hansen resides, and whose data is considered to be unreliable because of “persistent problems of objectivity and of reliability.”

He shows part of the problem in accepting the validity of the NCDC data by showing how the historic data at the Santa Rosa site has been manipulated by GISS to show a warming trend that was not evident in the original information:

Source Monkton Letter to House Committee on Energy and Commerce

He continues to show further evidence of why the GISS data, and Dr. Karl’s testimony cannot be seen to be reliable through a total of 50 different problems with the information that has been put forward. (Although it should be noted that those who spoke to the global warming issue did not present much factual information to back their presentations).

More particularly he points to the Minoan, Roman and Medieval Warming Periods as being warmer than the present, with evidence such as the uncovering of artifacts as the current glacial cover melts.

In regard to the predictive equations that the IPCC have used to estimate the rises in temperature, he notes that the prediction rests on the product of four factors: radiative forcing, the Planck parameter; the temperature feedback multiplier and the natural logarithm of the proportional increase in carbon dioxide concentration. Because these are multiplied together any overestimate of the value of one multiplies in the final result, and he shows that the IPCC has approximately doubled the value of each parameter, so that when multiplied together it gives a 16-fold increase in the predicted effects of temperature rise, over that which the increase would induce, by their reckoning.

He draws attention to the fact that, in contrast to David Waskow’s concern, the energy in tropical storms has actually decreased over the past decade:
Source Monkton Letter to House Committee on Energy and Commerce

And he notes that, despite concerns that the Maldive Islands will be buried underwater, as sea-levels rise, that, in fact the sea level there has fallen. The islands have been occupied for at least 1,500 years. (Note the sea level at the time of the MWP 1000 years ago).

Maldives sea level over the past 5000 years, relative to today. (Source Morner, Tooley and Possnert

When I first got entangled in the debate over climate change, I pointed out that there was some evidence that the Sahara was shrinking, and I note that Lord Monkton has commented that the Sahara has shrunk by 300,000 sq kilometers, as vegetation has grown back over the edges. It has not all been due to climate change, perhaps, but increased rainfall has played a major factor.

And he also noted that there are five times as many polar bears in the Arctic as there were in the 1940’s. He also pointed out that since the majority of the world’s glaciers are in the Antarctic and that is getting colder so they are growing, so to say that the world’s glaciers are retreating is not, in substance, true.

As I noted last December, as scientific focus turns to the possible impacts of the potential regulation, and it becomes part of Administration policy, so it is likely that many of the claims by those espousing AGW will come under increasing scrutiny, among other things to ensure that the facts being presented are true, and not a distortion. It should be interesting to see the debate that should unfold at public hearings on the EPA ruling, and how they address these and similar comments.

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