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In the News
National Climate Assessment Report Raises False Alarm
Paul C. Knappenberger, Washington Times, 7 May 2014
Bird Vaporization at Ivanpah: Solar Enters Wind Territory
Wayne Lusvardi, Master Resource, 7 May 2014
Has Global Warming Made Heat Waves Deadlier in Sweden?
Marlo Lewis, GlobalWarming.org, 6 May 2014
The “Cure” for Climate Change Is Far Worse than the Disease
Nicolas Loris, The Foundry, 6 May 2014
News You Can Use
Defense Department’s Big Biofuel Bill
The Department of Defense (DOD) paid $150 per gallon for 1,500 gallons of alternative jet fuel made from algae, more than 64 times the current market price for standard carbon-based fuels, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on Wednesday.
Inside the Beltway
EPA’s Scandals Go Far Beyond P**nography
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing this week at which it was revealed that one senior civil servant at the Environmental Protection Agency spent much of his office time watching p**rnography over the internet. The career employee admitted to the EPA’s Inspector General’s Office (OIG) that he spent two to six hours a day watching p**nography videos. This included four straight hours at a site called, Sadism Is Beautiful, according to news reports. The OIG discovered 7,000 p**rnographic videos downloaded to the employee’s computer.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked the EPA officials testifying whether this conduct was illegal and whether the civil servant had been fired. Yes, it is illegal, but Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe admitted that he had not been fired and confirmed that he was still being paid over $120,000 a year and in addition had received performance awards in cash.
Deputy Assistant Inspector General Allan Williams also testified about other misconduct that has been revealed by the OIG’s wider investigation launched after the John Beale scandal came to light. For example, the director of the EPA’s Office of Administration, Renee Page, ran a retail business out of her office and had hired 17 family members over the years as paid interns. Page received a $35,000 Presidential Rank performance award.
These are some of the juicy bits, but the really explosive testimony came from Deputy Inspector General Patrick Sullivan:
"The EPA OIG’s Office of Investigations is being impeded from fulfilling its responsibilities by actions of the EPA’s internal Office of Homeland Security (OHS), a unit within the Office of the Administrator. OHS is overseen by Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, who serves as Chief of Staff to Administrator Gina McCarthy."
Sullivan continued in no uncertain terms:
"I would like to go on record today and state that, as the official in charge of internal investigations at the EPA, I am very concerned that vital information regarding suspected employee and contractor misconduct is being withheld from the OIG. Because OHS continues to block my office’s access to information essential to the OIG’s work, I cannot assure the committee that we are doing everything possible to root out other “John Beales” who may be at the EPA or other malfeasance of similar magnitude. I wholeheartedly believe that the current situation represents a significant liability for the EPA, the Congress and the American taxpayers. In short, the actions of OHS violate the IG Act, the very legislation that Congress passed to ensure federal agencies have oversight to prevent and detect fraud waste and abuse. Without a shred of doubt, I can say that OHS is preventing the OIG from doing what Congress has mandated us to do."
[Editorial note: In order to avoid our email system's spam censors, we have had to work around the p-word]
Obama Administration Releases Third National Climate Assessment
The Obama Administration released the third National Climate Assessment on Tuesday, 5th May. White House counselor John Podesta, who now appears to be in full control of domestic policy at the White House, said that he hoped it would change the minds of some Republican deniers. “You see a very real challenge. I think the entire lineup of the House Science Committee on the Republican side voted relatively recently to deny the fact that climate change was even happening,” Podesta said. “So hopefully this report — they might review it and it will change their minds. But we’ve got a challenging context on Capitol Hill.”
There has been a lot of good commentary pointing out shortcomings in the assessment. I link to several of them in my post on GlobalWarming.org. In the Wall Street Journal, Steve Hayward wrote: “[W]e have now reached the junkie’s-craving phase of the climate change story, where bigger and more frequent fixes are necessary to keep alive the euphoria of saving the world. Confronted with polls and surveys finding that the public is tuning out climate change as a matter of vital concern, the climate campaign seemingly persists in thinking that one more report will turn the tide in its favor.”
The third assessment, however, takes a new approach. The IPCC Assessment Reports and the two previous National Assessments rely on signs, omens and portents—that is, predictions of future rapid temperature increases and resulting disasters. The third assessment instead focuses on all the bad stuff that climate change is already causing. Every extreme weather event is attributed to human-caused “climate disruption.” This is a risky strategy. Most people are interested in scary predictions about the future, and by the time those predictions fail to come true, most people have forgotten about them and who made them. But claims that the effects are already happening can be analyzed and refuted. Chip Knappenberger makes a good start in an op-ed in the Washington Times, as does my CEI colleague Marlo Lewis in a post on Fox News.
Obama Evokes Carter Administration, Installs Solar Panels
The White House this week proudly announced that they had kept a four-year old promise to put solar panels back on the roof of the White House. In 2010, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.0rg, and a group of students from Unity College in Maine brought one of the solar-thermal panels that President Jimmy Carter had had installed in 1979 back to the White House. President Ronald Reagan had the panels removed during his second term. McKibben and the students were initially rebuffed by the White House, but soon after then-Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu announced that a new array of solar panels would be installed on the White House roof by the spring of 2011.
The project did not actually get underway until last August. My guess is that some clever person in the Obama re-election campaign advised that they delay until after the 2012 election so that it couldn’t be used to draw attention to some obvious similarities between the Carter and Obama presidencies. The rooftop array has the capacity to produce 6.3 kilowatts when the sun is shining.
Around the World
EU Again Punts on Climate Change Policy
The European Commission on Monday proposed that 175 industry sectors (out of 245) should be entitled to get most of their allowances for free over 2015-2019 in order to help meet obligations under the EU's Emissions Trading System, a cap-and-trade energy rationing scheme, without harming international competitiveness. Of course, this defeats the entire purpose of having a cap-and-trade to begin with. The proposal must be agreed by a majority of EU member states to become law and is expected to be voted on by July. It serves as further evidence that the EU is not interested in any global warming policy that actually entails economic sacrifice, despite EU leaders’ claims to occupy the moral high ground on climate change. I discuss the EU’s all-talk climate policy here.
Skeptics Rebut Study Linking Heat-Wave Deaths in Sweden to Climate Change
Will climate change in the form of more frequent and intense heat waves increase mortality rates (deaths per thousand people) from hot spells? Or will heat mortality rates actually decline as hot weather becomes more common and people anticipate and adapt to it? The U.S. experience supports the latter answer.
Davis et al. (2003) found that as U.S. urban air temperatures increased during the 1960s-1990s, heat mortality rates declined significantly in 19 of 28 cities studied. Cities with the most frequent hot weather – Tampa and Phoenix – had the fewest heat-related deaths, with mortality rates approaching zero. Implication: Climate change spurs adaptation, making people less vulnerable to heat stress.
A study published last October in Nature Climate Change (NCC) reached a conclusion more in tune with the ‘worse than we thought’ crowd. Åström et al (2013) compared average temperatures, hot spells, and heat-related deaths in Stockholm during two 30-year periods, 1900-1929 and 1980-2009. After adjusting for urban heat-island effects, the Swedish researchers concluded that climate change killed 288 people in the later period. Implication: Adaptation is no match for climate change.
And now the news . . . . Nature Climate Change just published a rebuttal by two co-authors of the Davis et al. study, Chip Knappenberger and Patrick Michaels, and Anthony Watts. Watts posts an informative commentary on his blog about the exchange in NCC.
The Knappenberger team finds two main problems with the Åström study. First, the Swedish researchers mistakenly assume that all warming not due to urban heat islands must be due to greenhouse gas emissions. But Stockholm’s climate is also affected by a natural mode of climate variability, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. The AMO was primarily in its negative (cold) phase during 1900-1929 and primarily in its positive (warm) phase during 1990-2009.
Second, Knappenberger et al. found that the relative risk of dying in a heat wave in Stockholm was about 20% in the beginning of the 20th century and had declined to 4.6% in the late 20% century. So while extra heat waves have led to 288 more deaths, adaptations to heat have led to 2,304 fewer deaths during the same heat waves. Adaptation to extreme heat events reduced heat-related mortality by some 8 times more than a greater number of heat waves increased it.
The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.GlobalWarming.org.