Saturday, 1 February 2020

Climate News - February 2020

Climate News - February 2020
A review and commentary on topical matters concerning the science, economics, and governance associated with climate change developments.

Alan Moran
1 February 2020
Bush fires
Joe Bastardi places the tragic bush fires in Australia in perspective.
Though woke folk will never accept hard data, Michael Shellenberger disposes of the myth that global fires are increasing.  They are more serious than they should be in Australia only because those same woke folk prevent measures to address the risks.
Roy Spencer has one of the most comprehensive evaluations of bush fires with this summary:

  1. Global wildfire activity has decreased in recent decades.
  2. Like California, Australia is prone to bushfires every year during the dry season. Ample fuel and dry weather exist for devastating fires each year, even without excessive heat or drought.
  3. Australian average temperatures in 2019 were well above what global warming theory can explain, illustrating the importance of natural year-to-year variability.
  4. Australia precipitation was at a record low in 2019, but climate models predict no long-term trend in Australia precipitation.
  5. While reductions in prescribed burning have probably contributed to the irregular increase in large bush fires, a five-fold increase in population in the last 100 years has greatly increased potential ignition sources, both accidental and purposeful.

Pointing to the elimination of fire stick land management practiced by the aborigines “Giordini Bruno” points to political reasons, “Regretfully, extraordinarily little is now done to prevent bush fires in Australia. While there has been negligible precautionary burning, and reducing cleaning of public areas, citizens have also been prevented from cleaning up their own land, and the nearby reserves, by impossible rules.” Fuel load and wind conditions are the major factors in fire frequencies and intensities with heat playing a minor role.  As recognised even by an alarmist like  Bjorn Lömborg, from 1997 to 2018 the burnt area declined by one-third. Australia’s current fire season has seen less area burned than in previous years”.

In November, fire expert David Packham explained that we have allowed fuel on the ground to increase by tenfold, which increases fire intensity one hundred fold. Without systematic burning, fuel on the ground has increased to 70 megawatts per metre and, “The maximum we can extinguish — with helicopters, bulldozers, tankers, is just 3 megawatts per metre”. Dissenting views, that have been swiftly rebutted, claim burning is not effective.

Claims about Australia heating up more than the rest of the world are, at least in part, illusory – a result of the BoM “homogenising” earlier climate records.  Only the satellite data is truly reliable and, as Jo Nova illustrates, the current year is not the hottest on record. 
Scientific fraud on greenhouse
At the Davos world economic forum, Donald Trump said, “To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the Apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday's foolish fortune tellers, and they want to see us do badly but we won't let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives.”

Walter Russell Mead excoriated the meeting saying, “There is something inescapably ridiculous about a gathering this self-important; certainly Marie Antoinette and her friends dressing up as shepherdesses to celebrate the simple life has nothing on the more than 100 billionaires descending, often by private jet, on an exclusive Swiss ski resort for four days of ostentatious hand-wringing about the problems of the poor and the dangers of climate change.”

Peter Ridd, fired for collegial disloyalty at James Cook University (JCU), is seeing his views about scientific fraud/sloppiness in the climate change theatre, especially covering the Great Barrier Reef, being validated. A major study seeking to replicate work showing disastrous outcomes for oceanic life from increased CO2 has been debunked. One JCU PhD recipient was, two years ago, found guilty of scientific fraud. JCU says it had now set up an investigatory panel. And, as the Head of the Great Barrier Reef Authority informed Australia’s Parliament, “The reef is a vast estate and many areas remain vibrant and ecologically robust”.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals expressed sympathy with the young plaintiffs who sued the government, saying that a “failure to change existing policy may hasten an environmental apocalypse.” But in a 2-to-1 ruling this was rejected.
Climate myths’ effects on economics, trade and finance
During the last 30 years the mortality risk from climate-related disasters plunged more than six-fold and the economic loss rates went down five-fold.

Responding to pressure from agitators, Black Rock, the world’s largest asset manager, with about $7 trillion under management is to divest shares in thermal coal firms Chief Executive Laurence Fink said, “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”  CBUS is among the US superannuation funds with similar policies. “BlackRock has been a laggard when it comes to climate change,” said John Hewson, a renewables investor and chairman of the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia.

Whatever the rationale for emissions, trading in them is booming at $214 billion last year, up 34 per cent on the previous year.  That is an income stream worth protecting by investing in funding media to publish favourable commentary.

Chris Hohn, the owner of The UK’s TCI Fund Management, is revealed as a major bankroller of the Extinction Rebellion.  TCI is one of the largest global fund managers. Its success, which netted Hohn £800million, is due to its bets against companies that have been embroiled in environmental scandals. 

Morgan Stanley analysts said the world needs to spend $73 trillion by 2050 to meet the Paris Agreement emission targets (a bit less than world GDP) on five areas of technology.

EU President, Ursula Von Der Leyen, threatened to impose tariff duties on nations, including US and China, that did not reduce emissions in line with EU standards. The UK seems to acquiesce in this, announcing its intent to implement a £16 per tonne carbon tax on incremental emissions.

For its part the US signalled that this would invite retaliation.  Indeed, President Trump took no backward steps in confronting the rich elites with their climate pessimism and berated European governments for their high energy prices, contrasting them with the average $2,500 reduction in electric bills of American households.

Donald Trump also ridiculed EU climate alarmism proclaiming, “To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the Apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday's foolish fortune tellers, and they want to see us do badly but we won't let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives.”

Miranda Devine points out that in pressuring Boeing to supply planes with low emissions the 737 was made vulnerable to accidents and deaths. 

Qatar has signed a solar purchasing agreement at 1.57 US cents per kWh for about a quarter of its needs. This is lower than the typical US and Australian wholesale price (2 cents and 7.5 cents respectively) though it is for power delivered whenever available. Some say it means solar is competitive, while seeking more subsidies! US subsidies are being phased out.  

Climate change is reportedly causing birds to fly in the wrong direction.  Not so Prince Charles who flew 16,000 miles at UK taxpayer expense to meet with Greta Thunberg, the funding of whom including her expensive security is being investigated by Rebel Media.  

Thriving polar bear communities have deprived the alarmists of one poster animal but now they have turned scare-mongering to penguins.  Talking of polar bears, one claim is that each return flight to Svalbard in Norway melts 3 square metres of ice. Luckily, the Arctic and Greenland ice is about 14 million square metres, which may reduce the need for therapy “to tackle feelings of anger, guilt and grief” offered to those students and staff at the University of Derby, who are anxious about climate change Surely one such anxiety is that 80 per cent of wine-producing areas are said to be threatened by climate change. Fortunately, as with all temperate crops, if the climate warms, they are relocated a few hundred kilometres.

In an “Every cloud has a silver lining” statement, Canadian politician Luc Ferrandez tweeted, “Wuhan. No automobile traffic. No air flights. The only city on the planet that will meet its GHG reduction targets. The way to this necessary degrowth will happen when all the debates have been in vain.”

Environmentalists responsible for much of Australia’s bush fire problem

By Tom Harris 

Recent climate change has not caused Australian bushfires. Besides the fact that many of the fires are set by people, either intentionally or by accident, a major cause of Australia’s fire problem has been the high ‘fuel loads,’ underbrush that, left to accumulate over years, acts as a tinder box for bushfires. Craig Kelly, the Liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives (Hughes, New South Wales), told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on January 6:

“Now, we have record fuel loads on the ground, … and every single royal commission we have had from our past bushfires have said that we have to reduce those fuel loads. And that is the main issue. And yet we have failed to do so.”

Kelly went on to explain that the Royal Commission in 2009 “called for a minimum burning of 5% of that state’s forest in Victoria. That would amount, over the past two years of something like 770,000 hectares that should have been back burned and the actual number was something only about 200,000.” 

Surrey, British Columbia-based forest microclimate specialist, Rob Scagel agrees and said, “Fuel load rules. Spending resources and intellectual capital on climate change considerations are as effective at mitigating bushfires as changing the colour of the paper used in reporting them.”

Later in the interview, Kelly pointed out that drought was also an important contributor to the bushfires but explained, 

“If you look at … the long-term rainfall records in Australia, there is simply no trend. As CO2 has increased there has been no trend. The first 20 years of this century, we’ve had more rainfall in Australia than the first 20 years of the last century. “

Kelly was correct again. Here is the graph of rainfall from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). 

Arson apparently also plays a significant role in Australian bushfires. ABC (Australia) News reported in September 2019 that:

Dr Paul Read, co-director of the National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, said the great majority of bushfires are deliberately lit by “cunning, furtive and versatile criminals”.

“About 85 per cent are related to human activity, 13 per cent confirmed arson and 37 per cent suspected arson,” he said.

“The remainder are usually due to reckless fire lighting or even just children playing with fire.”

And, of course, lightning strikes cause many fires. These strikes occur more frequently in areas where fires occur because of the type of clouds that form, cumulonimbus, and the precipitation they produce. Cumulonimbus are the only clouds that produce lightning.

In recent weeks, Australian bushfires have often been blamed on global warming supposedly caused by rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. But this is completely backwards. 

Rising temperatures and increasing CO2 both act to increase soil moisture and so reduce the potential of fires. When temperatures rise, evaporation increases, causing more precipitation which increases soil moisture and so lessens fire risk. As CO2 rises, stomata, the pores in plant leaves, are open for shorter lengths of time. Plants therefore lose less water to the air and so more of it stays in the soil, again reducing fire potential.

A closer look at the issue reveals that fire has benefits as well as risk. Indeed, it is an essential part of the natural cycle. Fire clears off dead debris as plants go through their lifecycle. There is a special area of botany called Fire Ecology that studies the role and importance of fire in ecosystems. In most ecologies, especially forests, many plants require fire to soften or open the seeds to start life, although the seed shell must survive the fire first.

One example of such a seed occurs in the vegetation of what is called a Mediterranean climate. California is an example of this type. It is a unique climate zone because 70% of the precipitation occurs in the winter. All other climate types have either 70% in summer or an even distribution throughout the year.

A Mediterranean climate results in a unique vegetation called Maquis in Europe and Chaparral in California. The annual climate cycle that makes this an area that requires fire to be healthy has a hot, dry, summer that shrivels the plant but the seeds survive. At the end of the summer, lightning occurs as rain clouds begin to form, and that triggers fires that burn off the plants but leave many of the seeds intact. Mudslides follow as the rainy season progresses. Fortunately, the seeds germinate quickly and stabilize the soil.

The natural cycle of forest fires creates what are called crown fires. They move through quickly, burning off dead debris but leaving most of the plants still alive. When governments decided to stop forest fires, they upset the natural dynamics completely. The bureaucracies, now populated by graduates of the biased environmental education system, willingly allowed the environmental extremists’ demands to end the former sensible practice of cleaning the undergrowth. Activists complained that such forest tending was not ‘natural,’ when it was, in fact, a reasonable facsimile of ‘nature’. So, the debris built up, leaving the forest a tinder box ready to ignite. 

Environmentalists have themselves to thank for much of Australia’s bush fire problem.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition(ICSC).