McClaughry: Rethinking the climate ‘crisis’

By John McClaughry

As world leaders meet in Glasgow to seek agreement to make Earth’s climate stop changing, the news media has delivered a continual tsunami of alarming reports: “Climate change is already ravaging the world,” “climate change-induced disasters,” “climate crisis,” “climate emergency.”

President Joe Biden informed delegates at Glasgow that “there’s only a brief window” before we are confronted by “an existential threat to human existence as we know it.” The network news shows feature endless images of dead cattle, calving glaciers, confused polar bears, desperate refugees, and hurricane wreckage.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Could we calm down a minute and get a grip on this subject? Here are eight useful thoughts, and my conclusion.

First, “climate change” is not a thing. It’s a shorthand description of a host of observable events. There is no metric for “climate change,” any more than there is for, say, “addiction.” No scientist can say “in 1940 the planet’s climate stood at 106.5, and today it’s 172.1.”

Second, we must recognize that science welcomes and depends upon skeptical inquiry. It proceeds by “show me” — disproving the null hypothesis.

Third, correlation is not causation. For example, if the mortality rate among people with white hair is higher than that of people with dark hair, it doesn’t mean that white hair is a cause of death. Also, weather is not climate, and positive feedbacks can’t go on forever.

Fourth, planet Earth is a non-linear dynamic system that warms and cools in many cycles, influenced by variations in the earth’s orbit, the tilting and precession of the axis, solar irradiance, cosmic ray flux, oceanic decadal oscillations, solar magnetic fluctuation, cloud cover variations, and terrestrial emissions of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, aerosols, and volcanic ash. As such, it is not possible to create a model that can reliably predict events likely to occur in 2100 — or even next month.

This is not just my opinion. Steven Koonin, a senior professor of computational physics at CalTech and now NYU, devoted a lengthy chapter on this point in his valuable new book “Unsettled.”

Fifth, climate models are not scientific evidence for anything. They are projections based on assumptions and parameters selected by the modelers, mindful of the reception their model will get in the current politicized climatology world if it fails to predict a crisis. Climatologists “tune” their models so that they describe past, known climate activity — if they did not, the models would have no predictive value.

Sixth, pay attention to the source of data. The United Nations IPCC relies on (“tuned”) surface temperature reports to support its recurring pronouncements of an approaching climate crisis. But the NASA-UAH microwave satellite sensing projections, whose data is not subject to “tuning”, has proven far more accurate, and far less alarming.

Seventh, no one should believe any climate predictions made by a coal company. Similarly, no one should unthinkingly swallow the frenzied conclusions put forth by climatologists in the employ of political bodies (i.e., governments) whose leaders are preaching the climate emergency gospel to distribute trillions of dollars in subsidies.

Finally, dismiss any presentations claiming “the science is settled,” shamefully denouncing honest skeptics as “climate deniers,” and contending that “97% of climate scientists agree.” These are falsehoods created to stop legitimate debate.

What can you believe? You can believe, with Dr. Koonin (and me), that “there is no question that our emission of greenhouse gases, in particular CO2, is exerting a warming influence on the planet.” The question is, how much of an influence, with what accompanying disadvantages and benefits, and whether spending trillions of dollars in purportedly remedial efforts would yield a positive return.

Put another way, global mean temperatures (a tricky concept) have risen by 1 degree C in the 170 years since the Little Ice Age ended in the mid-19th century. How many economic resources should we earthlings divert away from human well-being in a probably futile attempt to prevent another very modest 1 degree C rise by 2100?

The flood of hype issuing from the UN IPCC, government-funded researchers, politicians, and climate change activist organizations, amplified by the scientific ignorance or complicity of major news organizations, does not accurately reflect the scientists’ reports; and (per Dr. Koonin) “the science is insufficient to make useful projections about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what effect our actions will have on it.”

Yes, climate change, whatever that is, is real, whatever that means. There are good arguments for conserving energy, improving efficiency and resilience, and reducing our reliance on environmentally harmful fossil fuels, especially coal, with Generation IV nuclear plants, hydro, wind and solar in certain favorable locations, and, possibly, geothermal and fusion. But frantically spending trillions of dollars to thwart a supposedly looming “climate crisis” is not one of them.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Gillfoto and John McClaughry
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10 thoughts on “McClaughry: Rethinking the climate ‘crisis’

  1. JOHN,

    We all agree there has been global warming. The issue is how much.
    The global warming is NOT uniform over the entire surface of the earth.

    The ACCURATE satellite data regarding global warming, from 1979 onwards, is the ONLY objective data.

    All the rest, from 1850 and onward, is subjective malarkey, based on temperature estimates, made up by various RE cabals, mindful of their job security, etc.

    I wonder, if there is a society of world temperature predictors, that holds Zoom meetings to coordinate their scribbly lines.

    SATELLITE DATA RAISE DOUBTS ABOUT MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE

    Large, urban-sprawl-city complexes, and their Obama/Biden-world-mix of denizens, are responsible for most of global warming, due their HUGE, pollution-induced, “micro climates”, such as from Portland, Maine to well south of Washington DC, and from north of San Francisco to south of San Diego.

    Those complexes have many surface-temperature sensing stations

    Surface temperatures, which read higher and higher values, due to changing/increasing urban development, are SUBJECTIVELY ADJUSTED BY THE BIASED “97% OF CLIMATE SCIENTISTS” to be “well within the model range” of about 70 computer-generated graphs.

    “97% of Climate Scientists” invent all sorts of reasons for why OBJECTIVE satellite data are invalid and should be ignored.
    Plus, they claim the more or less, SUBJECTIVE computer graphs should not be ignored, because those graphs are based on “established” science.

    Nature has been totally destroyed in those urban SPRAWLS

    All the newfangled RE systems should be located within those areas, to achieve the RE mantra “Electricity generation close to the user”.
    What is not to love?

    With no fossil fuels we will all be wearing jute-based clothing, and leather, hand-sewn moccasins.

    The Dem/Prog ruling elite doesn’t want to SEE, or HEAR, the results of their policies, designed to enrich their wealthy cronies!

    The obsequiously servile class, such as the Media, think tanks and academia, are shilling for those policies.

    The rebellious “despicables” in rural areas are forced to live among the wind turbines and solar systems

    The 850-ft-tall offshore wind turbines are placed at least 30 miles offshore.
    You would not expect Barack Obama or Bill Gates to look at them through their pricey-coastal-mansion windows, do you?

    Here is my latest example of prepping for the “End of our World”, as we will fondly remember it.

    WIND AND SOLAR TO PROVIDE 30 PERCENT OF FUTURE NEW ENGLAND ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-provide

    • Willem……You consistently provide the most comprehensive data on the overall subject of dealing with climate change ……Clearly, the best we see and no can match you nor does anyone rebut you. Today, I’m taking exception to your comment: “We all agree there has been global warming. The issue is how much.”

      I agree that most people (Not necessarily all) believe that there has been global warming. But, I don’t know if “The issue is how much.” It’s definitely an issue, but is it “The issue”?

      It seems to me that “The issue” is what to do to address the problem? What can be done that will make a measurable difference that justifies the called for multiple trillions of dollars in spending?…..At this point there is no consensus on what to do that will make a measurable difference in climate change to justify the cost.

      On the one hand we have the renewable energy industry all for full speed ahead, because they’ll make a fortune. The lobbyists and activists are in 100% because they are also making money on the process, the social justice advocates are all in because they see a giant transfer of wealth to their clients and finally the high school kids are in 100% simply because they’ve heard the climate activists talking points.

      On the other hand, we have Joe Biden’s Climate Czar John Kerry who has said that even if the United States achieves 100% of it climate goals, it will make no difference in mitigating climate change. John Kerry with the resources of the entire US government has more information on this subject than anyone else on this planet and he tells us that achieving climate goals will not mitigate climate change……Yet he charges forward with the Biden climate change agenda purely for political reasons arising from pressure from the left, the social justice and climate activists and industrial interests expecting to make a fortune on the trillions of dollars to be spent.

      Before totally disrupting the way human economic systems and societies operate and spending trillions to do so, we must first determine what can be done and be assured of a reasonable chance for success……..We haven’t reached this point and knowing if global warming has increased 1.7 degrees vs 1.9 degrees will make no difference as most likely neither of these numbers is correct.

  2. Reading John McClaughry’s thoughtful article on ‘climate crisis’ prompted me to do some what-was-once seventh grade arithmetic. It turns out the planet Earth is 4.6 billion years old, and that just 12,000 years ago (a blink of the eye in cosmic terms) our very own ice age ended after lasting 110,000 years. Total ice age cycle: 132,000 years.

    Using these numbers as a benchmark, the ensuing arithmetic will show that in 4.6 billion years there were 34,848 ice age cycles, each one dumping ice as much as 2 miles deep on the northern climes.
    Imagine the hysteria, hair pulling, pearl clutching – better known as CLS (Chicken Little Syndrome) that occurred after the warming of these events.

    And we are not currently in an ice age; we are experiencing normal, cyclical cooling and warming that occurs several times between ice ages. But the CLS greenies will have nothing to do with the logic and reason of arithmetic. There’s no emotion in mathmatics.

    • Pete,
      We have been, and still are, in an Ice Age, which is about 2 million years old.

      During the past 400,000 years, there were 4 glaciation periods, the last reached its low point about 26,500 years ago.

      After that the THAW started!

      About 12,000 years ago, much of the ice had melted, and the ocean water level has risen 120 METERS, which means the US land area became a lot smaller as all coastal areas flooded.

  3. EXCERPT from:

    WIND AND SOLAR TO PROVIDE 30 PERCENT OF NEW ENGLAND ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION BY 2050
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-provide-50-percent-of-future-new-england

    Grid Stability and Grid Load Shaping

    Electricity supply from various sources to a grid must always be equal to demand; the grid does not store electricity.
    Temporary oversupplies, such as during high winds and mid-day sunshine, must be immediately counteracted, on less than a minute-by-minute basis, by quick-reacting power plants, or absorbed by storage systems, or curtailed, to maintain grid stability.

    ISO-NE performs studies to determine impacts on the reliability of electric service, based on various scenarios of future changes, such as:

    1) Electricity sources, i.e., more wind, solar, and imports
    2) The time-of-use conditions of heat pumps, major appliances, HVAC systems, and PHEV/EVs.

    Grid Load Shaping: This ISO-NE study has a section dealing with “Grid Load Shaping” and an image of what the shape would look like in 2030. The main purpose of grid load shaping is to:

    1) Avoid grid-load up/down spikes, due to wind and solar
    2) Flatten the daily shape by managing supply and demand.

    The net effect is to integrate wind and solar into the grid mix with minimal instabilities; the more wind and solar, the greater the efforts and costs required to maintain grid stability. See URL
    https://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2020/06/2019_nescoe_economic_study_final.docx

    Wind and solar:

    – Have weather-dependent, i.e., random outputs, which, in case of wind, can be controlled by partially feathering rotor blades, aka, curtailment.

    – Outputs can cause frequent disturbance/stability problems on the grid, especially on grids with a large presence of wind and solar.

    – Outputs require quick-reacting plants, such as CCGTs and hydro plants, to counteract the (wind + solar) output variations, year-round, 24/7/365. The ISO-NE report shows curtailments of wind and solar would be required, if the variations would be too large, such as during high winds and mid-day solar, to avoid instability and congestion on the grid.

    In the future,

    1) There would be millions of mandated smart heat pumps, and smart major appliances, smart HVAC systems, and PHEV/EVs. If they were turned on/off by the whims of users, there would be chaos on the grid.

    2) Local utilities would be orchestrating the use-times of heat pumps and major appliances, and the charging/discharging of PHEV/EVs

    Comments on below image:

    1) ISO-NE used projected, hour-by-hour generation data, to obtain the below image, which shows the System Load during July 27 and 28, 2030, which were high-demand days.

    BTW, the image vertical axis is called “Production”, but it should be called “Modified System Load”. See figure 6.5, on page 15 in URL
    https://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2020/06/2019_nescoe_economic_study_final.docx

    2) Offshore Wind Systems: The image projects the presence of about 8,000 MW of new offshore wind systems, in 2030, just 8 years from now. In my opinion, such a build-out, plus major extension/augmentation of the NE grid, would not be physically achievable, in such a short time. See Note.

    The production would be 8,000 MW x 8,766 h/y x 0.45, CF = 31,557,600 MWh, about 27% of the NE grid load in 2020
    If the NE grid load increased from 2020 to 2030, the percentage would be less in 2030.
    The narrow, dark-green sections of the image show the entire output could be NEAR-ZERO for many hours. See page 15 of report URL

    3) The image shows legend items, such as Heat Pumps, PHEV/EVs, Pumped Storage and Batteries.
    Those items would be used for Grid Load Shaping
    Their use would involve significant electricity losses, measured on an A-to-Z basis. See Notes

    4) Grid Load Shaping: ISO-NE would perform Grid Load Shaping with:

    – Grid-scale batteries, pumped storage, etc., connected to the NE grid
    – An expanded demand-curtailment-load shifting program, PRD. See table 1.
    – Connections to nearby grids, as practiced by many countries in Europe.

    Energy Efficiency: Each NE state has energy efficiency programs in place to reduce annual NE electricity consumption.

    As part of Grid Load Shaping, the EE-reduction quantity, MWh, would be varied during a day, as user Heat Pumps, PHEV/EVs, Pumped Storage and Batteries would be remotely turned on/off, by local utilities, under the direction of ISO-NE

    Batteries: Some folks think batteries produce electricity. That is not true. Batteries merely store electricity for a time period, and then release about 80% of it for later use. The other 20% are various losses, measured on an A-to-Z basis.

    BTW, ISO-NE used 90% for battery efficiency in its 2019 Economic Report, which is in error.
    See page 10 of URL. See loss explanation in Appendix.
    https://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2020/06/2019_nescoe_economic_study_final.docx

    Multi-Day Wind/Solar Lulls: The ISO-NE report, did not discuss what happens during multi-day wind/solar lulls.

    Onshore wind, light green, as a mere sliver, because few additional onshore wind systems would be built by 2030.
    Placing thousands of 500-ft-tall wind systems, on 2000 ft-high NE ridge lines, would be environmentally unacceptable, especially by nearby people.

    Offshore wind, dark green, often is minimal in summer, and many other hours of the year, based on historic weather data. Major wind output curtailments would be required during gusty, high-wind periods; wind output increases by the cube of wind speed!

    What would provide electricity, if offshore wind were minimal during a multi-day wind lull, which can last 5 to 7 days, and can occur at random throughout the year?

    What would provide electricity, if solar, yellow, were minimal during overcast/rainy days, and during winter, after a major snowfall?
    See articles in Appendix

    NOTE: Charging an EV requires about 17% more electricity, kWh AC, than is added to the battery as kWh DC, because of various losses while charging. A utility drawing electricity from the EV battery, would involve an additional loss of about 10%, due to 1) battery discharge losses, and 2) converting the DC to AC, and 3) feeding the AC into distribution grids.

    NOTE: If 3 EVs participated, about 100 kWh AC from wall outlets, minus 17%, would become 83 kWh DC in batteries, minus 10%, would become 74.7 kWh AC fed to distribution grids, a round-trip loss of 25.3%.
    Would the EV owners be properly compensated by the utility, including additional wear and tear of the EV batteries? See URL
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/poor-economics-of-electric-vehicles-in-new-england

    NOTE:
    Denmark installed the first offshore wind system in 1983; Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, etc., followed.
    National grids were connected with high-voltage DC lines. Electricity is distributed/curtailed, during high winds, as needed.
    European companies have installed more than 25,000 MW of offshore wind systems during the past 35 years, about 1,000 MW per year.
    Contracts for about 1000 MW of NE offshore wind systems have been signed with European companies.
    Almost all of the NE offshore wind systems would be supplied and installed by European companies, during the next 20 years.
    See URLs and Appendix

    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/having-fun-watching-wind-and-solar-failing-to-step-up-to-power
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/high-costs-of-wind-solar-and-battery-systems

    NOTE: Maine RE folks ideating about building thousands of MW of offshore FLOATING wind turbines would be much more expensive per MW, than normal offshore wind systems, including the very expensive extension/augmentation of the grid. At present, there are no major wind companies in the world with any experience, other than minor experience by Norway, See URL
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/deep-water-floating-offshore-wind-turbines-in-maine

  4. EXCERPT from:

    WIND AND SOLAR TO PROVIDE 30 PERCENT OF NEW ENGLAND ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION BY 2050
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-provide-50-percent-of-future-new-england

    China, India, etc., to Continue High Levels of Coal Burning

    Each year, China burns about 4 BILLION metric ton of coal, more than the rest of the world combined. China is planning to build 43 new coal-fired power plants and 18 new blast furnaces. Do you really believe that China can afford to stop burning coal? Do you think they want to? Of course not.

    Chinese reliance on coal is increasing, and it is expanding its mines to produce an additional 220 million Mt of coal in 2021, up almost six percent from 2020.

    The Chinese and the Indians are not going to throw away their economic progress on the altar of global warming. The Indians made it perfectly clear at the beginning of the Glasgow COP26, the developed nations should de-industrialize first, before asking developing countries to follow suit.

    India: India declared it would not sign the statement of COP26 goals regarding coal burning. Instead of reading “close down coal by 2030”, India insisted on “phase down unabated coal”. Unabated refers to the common practice of Indian households, etc., cooking over open fires with coal, a major source of local air pollution. It would be phased down (no time limit was stated).

    All this means, the burning of coal in power plants, with air pollution abatement systems, would be unaffected (no time limit was stated). The major coal burning countries, such as China, India, Australia, Brazil, the US, etc., would continue to burn coal in power plants.
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cop26-caves-on-coal-phase-down-rather-than-phase-out

    China: Despite various RE boosters, such as financial adviser Bloomberg, bragging about China’s wind and solar efforts, the reality is, almost 80% of China’s electricity growth is from fossil fuels, almost entirely coal.

    Because China is so big, that fossil growth is worsening its own air pollution, plus the air pollution around the world; the soot falls on snow/ice-covered areas; melting of snow/ice is much quicker.

    In one year, China added 460.2 TWh of fossil electricity, which is 3.9 times the annual electricity supply of NE, or 76.7 times the annual electricity supply of Vermont.

    From third qtr. 2020, to third qtr. 2021:

    Total electricity production growth was 586.9 TWh, up 10.7%, of which 460.2 TWh, or 78.4%, was from fossil fuels, mostly coal.
    Wind growth was 89 TWh, up 28.4%, from a low base
    Solar growth was 12.6 TWh, up 10.2%, from a low base.
    Nuclear growth was 33.2 TWh, up 12.3%, from a low base

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/11/03/china-still-burning-more-more-coal/
    https://chinaenergyportal.org/en/2021-q3-electricity-other-energy-statistics/

    China plans to build 200,000 MW of near-zero-CO2 nuclear plants; about 150 units, each 2,350 MW, at about 75 sites, at a cost of $440 billion, by 2035

    Amortizing the capital cost at 3.5%/y over 60 years would be ($17,556,485,920/y) / (200,000 MW x 8,766 h/y x 0.90, CF) = $0.01113/kWh, about one third the cost of EU and US nuclear plants.

    https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/uranium-stocks-soar-market-discovers-chinas-plans-150-nuclear-reactors
    https://www.myamortizationchart.com

  5. Remember this; in the last election 3 or more prominent members of the Legislature were removed from office, including speaker Johnson , for the underhanded manner they were approaching climate change issues and the impacts to the taxpayers.
    These same practices applied going forward, in the next election may well be met with similar or same results. The voters have the last word, something to remember.

  6. John raises a number of important points that should not be ignored.

    Over the many years that debate over global warming/climate change has raged, I don’t recall any consideration of John’s or similar points being argued by the Vermont Legislature.

    It seems to me that before the overwhelming, disruptive and costly proposals that the Climate Council is expected to unleash, an exhaustive debate of points such as John’s should have been completed by the Legislature. Such debate is even more critical in that it’s questionable if the Climate Council’s proposals will have any mitigating impact on climate change at all……..Billions could be spent in Vermont with no mitigation of climate change ever achieved.

    Does anyone know, if there has ever been such a debate by the Legislature before passing the Global Warming Solution Act?

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