Apr 10

The April 10, 2012 dead-tree edition of The Oregonian lead with a big dose of global warming realism.

This is what I was greeted with when I trotted out to fetch my dead-tree edition of The Oregonian this morning:  “Global warming without warming” – above the fold!  I’d seen the on-line version of this story last night with its own headline – “Global warming ‘hiatus’ in recent years helps spur skepticism” – but to see it lead the dead-tree edition was even more satisfying.

To his credit, reporter Scott Learn points out some facts that Joe Romm would characterize as “long-debunked denier talking points”.  And yet, The Oregonian is nobody’s idea of a global warming denier :

For people who want more action on global warming, an inconvenient truth has arisen over the last decade: Annual average temperatures stayed relatively flat globally — and dropped in the United States and Oregon — despite mankind’s growing release of greenhouse gases.

The hiatus in temperature increases may be contributing to higher public skepticism about warming, particularly in the United States.

Computer climate models didn’t predict the hiatus, notes Portland meteorologist Chuck Wiese….

Climatologists, and climate models, are overestimating the impact of greenhouse gases on warming relative to natural climate cycles, they say, and aren’t being held accountable when warming projections don’t pan out.

“They just keep moving the goalposts to where you can never get a satisfactory answer,” Wiese says.

Kudos to The Oregonian for having the guts to report the truth, rather than just regurgitating the blathering coming from “the consensus”.

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Mar 03

We’re told that wind is free energy.  130,000 Google search results prove that this is an incontrovertible fact, right?

Wrong:


The newspaper’s web edition of this story didn’t contain the wind farm photo that my dead tree edition did (as pictured above), which juxtaposes so inconveniently the truth about the cost of wind power.

Company officials acknowledged that it’s a terrible time for rate increases, but said the investments were in many cases being driven by state and local mandates for more renewable power and pollution controls.

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Feb 18

There’s been much hand-wringing going on in the Pacific Northwest over snowpack levels in recent years due to Al Gore’s continual assurance that climate change is happening “faster than we thought”, and this year the tension has been ramped up even more with the mild temperatures and low snowpack levels at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC.

So, The Oregonian wades into the snowpack issue again, and finds that there is no easy answer:

With spotty snow at the Winter Olympics and snowpack down across much of the Northwest, it would be easy to see this balmy winter as the opening act in our warmer-world future.

Don’t.

It turns out the Northwest’s snowpack climbs and drops more than a cross-country skier, making it especially tough to predict.

Snowpack trends are the subject of a continuing scientific snowball fight among climate researchers, underscoring the hazards of jumping to quick conclusions.

Scientists agree that a future drop is likely at some point if global warming proceeds as expected. But they differ on how much snowpack has decreased, whether any of that was due to man-made climate change and how far and fast it’s likely to drop in coming years.

An example:

The researchers who made predictions last year for Washington’s climate change report figured that the state’s April 1 snowpack will drop nearly 10 percent a decade into 2040 because of climate change.

But three other University of Washington researchers just completed a study that puts the potential loss in the Cascades, including Oregon and Washington, at about 2 percent a decade, a far more manageable rate.

Cliff Mass, a UW atmospheric sciences professor and one of the recent study’s co-authors, said there will be a “profound” decrease in snowpack but much later in the century than others predict.

“The scientific community is pretty unanimous this is a serious issue,” Mass said. “But there are a lot of uncertainties in our modeling system that we’ve got to be honest about.”

As of Wednesday, snowpack in the Willamette River basin was 45 percent of normal. Washington snowpack is about three-quarters of normal.

The Northwest’s snowpack is particularly sensitive to temperature changes. The Cascades and Washington’s Olympics include a lot snow that falls at close to freezing temperatures — the highest fraction of “warm snow” in the continental United States.

“In the Cascades, a lot of the snow is on the edge of melting,” said Eric Salathé, a UW professor and senior research scientist with the university’s Climate Impacts Group. “That’s why these numbers are so touch-and-go.”

Climate cycles

Complicating matters for scientists, reliable snowpack numbers go back to only about 1950.

The region also experiences climate cycles that make it tough to cull the effects of man-made global warming from natural variations. The short-term cycle is El Niño, when warmer waters off South America result in drier, warmer Northwest winters.

This year’s El Niño is the strongest since 1998, said Phil Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University.

Long term, the “Pacific Decadal Oscillation” shifts ocean temperature in the North Pacific about every 20 to 30 years, with corresponding ups and downs in snowpack. No one knows exactly why it happens.

“The noise can make it look like there’s a trend that’s not really there,” said Mark Stoelinga, who co-authored the latest study with Mass and Mark Albright of UW.

The 1950s had high snowpack to begin with. In the latest study, Stoelinga, Mass and Albright took their estimates back to 1930 by tracking stream flows and temperature and correlating it to snowpack.

From 1930 to 2007, snowpack dropped 23 percent, their study for an American Meteorological Society journal estimated.

From 1976 to 2007, when global temperatures were increasing, snowpack actually increased 19 percent, they concluded. That figure is not statistically significant because of the short time frame, but it illustrates that there aren’t “obvious, huge declines related to global warming,”

Many of the changes were due to natural variations in climate. Some — about a 2 percent loss per decade — were unexplained by climate cycles and could be due to man-made global warming, Stoelinga said.

“But if you try to spin it that all of the loss we’re seeing is evidence of what global warming is doing, you really risk undermining your credibility,” he said.

In some cases, he [Salathé] said, “we’ve been pushing too hard,” citing worst cases and not highlighting uncertainties.

Hmmmmmm. Despite scads of research by highly educated scientists (many with the letters Ph.D. after their names), they still cite uncertainties in their modeling system, only sixty years of snowpack records, El Niño, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, statistical noise, and natural variations all as reasons that the Pacific Northwest snowpack is virtually impossible to predict.

So, the take-away message here is that these guys don’t have a clue! And yet they assure us that “the scientific community is pretty unanimous this is a serious issue”. Yeah, right ;)

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Nov 01

Harry Esteve of The Oregonian reports:

State officials deliberately underestimated the cost of Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s plan to lure green energy companies to Oregon with big taxpayer subsidies, resulting in a program that cost 40 times more than unsuspecting lawmakers were told, an investigation by The Oregonian shows.

Records also show that the program, a favorite of Kulongoski’s known as the Business Energy Tax Credit, has given millions of dollars to failed companies while voters are being asked to raise income taxes because the state budget doesn’t have enough to pay for schools and other programs.

The incentives are now under intense scrutiny at the Oregon Department of Energy, which is scrambling to curb their skyrocketing costs.

What’s the Business Energy Tax Credit?

A renewable energy company can receive a credit on its Oregon taxes worth half the cost of building a new facility, up to a limit of $10 million, or $20 million for solar manufacturers.

The credits are better than tax deductions — $1 of tax credit means $1 less paid in taxes. If a company has little or no tax liability, the credits can be sold at a discount to another Oregon taxpayer.

Energy officials were worried about the impact on the state budget in 2006, when Kulongoski and his staff proposed a dramatic boost in tax breaks to woo wind and solar companies to Oregon — upping the subsidies from a high of $3.5 million per project to as much as $20 million.

According to documents obtained under Oregon’s public records law, agency officials estimated in a Nov. 16, 2006, spreadsheet that expanding the tax credits would cost taxpayers an additional $13 million in 2007-09. But after a series of scratch-outs and scribbled notes, a new spreadsheet pared the cost to $1.8 million. And when energy officials handed their final estimate to the Legislature in February 2007, they pegged the added cost at just $1.2 million for the first two years and $4.1 million for 2009-11.

The higher estimates were never shown to lawmakers. Current and former energy staffers acknowledged a clear attempt to minimize the cost of the subsidies.

“I remember that discussion. Everyone was saying, yes, this is going to be a huge (budget) hit,” recalled Charles Stephens, a former analyst for the Energy Department who left in 2006. “The governor’s office was saying, ‘No, we need a smaller number.’”

Dave Barker, an analyst who is still with the agency, told The Oregonian that the initial cost estimates started high but got lower after he was told by his superiors to plug in smaller figures.

“What I would hear pretty consistently was, ‘We want to keep it conservative,’” Barker said.

The official estimates turned out to be absurdly low. In 2007-09, the business tax credit cost the state $68 million, of which about $40 million can be attributed to the bigger subsidies. The latest estimate for 2009-11 puts the tab for subsidies at $167 million in lost revenue, which is projected to grow to $243 million for 2011-13 — about what Oregon spends now from its general fund on the entire state police budget.

Is this about a sincere and urgent need to “save the planet”? Or to lower the earth’s temperature a fraction of a degree? Heck no, it’s just part of Gov. Kulongoski’s selfish and opportunistic effort to build his green legacy:

The program has become the centerpiece of Kulongoski’s legacy-making effort to turn Oregon into a center for environmentally friendly industry.

Read it all at The Oregonian.

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Jul 29

energy use vs wind gen_Oregonian

The Oregonian reports yet another inconvenient truth:

Utility customers gulped power at record levels Monday and Tuesday as the Portland area entered the longest stretch of 100-degree days in nearly three decades.

Supply is another story.

Hydropower accounts for about 40 percent of the region’s electricity, and global warming could have a significant impact on river flows. The consensus among scientists is that climate change will cause more of the Northwest’s precipitation to fall in the form of rain versus snow. A lesser snowpack means a smaller bank of stored water, and an earlier spring runoff, when the resulting hydropower is less valuable.

Greenhouse gas limits may also force utilities to close some of their coal-fired power plants, which provide a cheap and reliable source of power year round. Meanwhile, utilities are investing heavily in renewable resources such as wind to meet state mandates. But they can’t count on that power when they need it most, as the same high-pressure systems that create heat waves tend to come with low wind.

“There seems to be a lot of evidence that when you get extreme cold or heat events, you don’t see very much wind generation, at least at the east end of the gorge,” said Wallace Gibson, a generation and transmission analyst with the power planning council. “Right now, we’re pretty much not relying on wind to meet peak loads.”

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May 26

Here’s climatologist Philip Mote’s full quote offer to wager as reported by The Oregonian:

“I’m willing to bet large sums of money that we will have a bottom in this cool period,” he said, “and we’ll see the long-term trend again.”

The quote was contained in a March 20, 2008 article written by Michael Milstein for The Oregonian titled, “You call this global warming ? Uh, yeah”, which The Oregonian published amidst a particularly cold winter of 2007/2008 to reassure the local global warming alarmists that the world was still going to end at the hands of man-made global warming.

An excerpt:

This winter has been the coldest in the northern Oregon Cascades since 1993. Snow is piling up on Mount Hood. The past two winters in the Willamette Valley have been the coolest in more than a decade.

Globally, it was the coldest winter since 2001, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Sea ice even made a bit of a comeback after a dramatic melt-off last summer.

So is global warming a thing of the past?

Maybe for the time being, scientists say, but probably not over the longer term. One or even two years isn’t nearly enough time to indicate a climate trend, researchers say.

In the short window of a few months, routine shifts in weather such as the one the Northwest is experiencing now –driven by a well-known climate cycle known as La Nina –easily overwhelm whatever trends might be gripping the globe over years or decades.

The cool resurgence is fueling arguments by global warming skeptics that natural forces, not human factors such as greenhouse gases, dominate the climate.

But Northwest climate scientists say it’s a matter of short-term versus long-term perspective. The cool winter doesn’t mean there’s no warming trend, they say. Any trend remains subtle and is simply hidden for the time being.

“As you move to smaller and smaller time scales, it gets harder and harder to see the effect of rising temperatures,” said Philip Mote, a climate scientist at the University of Washington who was lead author of a recent international report on global climate change. “If La Nina goes away and the long-term temperatures are still below average, I’ll eat my hat.”

Mote, Washington’s state climatologist, said the past three months do seem unusually cool, within the perspective of the past 10 years.

Mote said that this winter does not change projections by his University of Washington research group that temperatures will inexorably rise, over the long term, by 0.2 to 1 degree Fahrenheit per decade.

“I’m willing to bet large sums of money that we will have a bottom in this cool period,” he said, “and we’ll see the long-term trend again.”

For the record, Mote is now the director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, and become a professor in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University – which is to say that he replaced man-made global warming skeptic George Taylor, who held the equivalent position until he was forced out by the Green Governor Ted Kulongoski.

There’s no evidence that anyone ever took Mote up on his offer to wager, and fourteen months later we still don’t “have a bottom in this cool period”.

GORE LIED note: No link is available to the March 20, 2008 article from The Oregonian, as the entire article has disappeared from the internet, but still exists on The Oregonian’s archives that I have access to via my local library.  However, the first portion of the article was excerpted on this Oregonian blog, with no link to the entire article.

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Feb 22

Global warming, or climate change, is becoming a crutch. A crutch to cover up just about any scientists’ lack of an explanation for some newly discovered malady that is killing people.

Case in point: Cryptococcus gattii

You’ve probably never heard of it. I hadn’t either.

The Oregonian reports:

A rare fungal disease that has killed 19 in Canada has migrated to Oregon and Washington, where it is linked to five deaths since 2004.

The pathogenic fungus, Cryptococcus gattii, lives in Northwest trees, such as Douglas fir, as well as soil and water. An outbreak began in 1999 on Vancouver Island and eventually spread to mainland British Columbia, where it has sickened about 200 people. A study published this week plots the progress of the fungus into the United States.

And, this icky mess is migrating south on I-5 heading straight for my neighborhood here in Oregon:

During the past decade, it probably has spread down the I-5 corridor from British Columbia on logging trucks, in the tread of car tires or even on people’s shoes, Byrnes said.

“It’s likely going to spread down the coast into California,” he said. “And Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are also areas people are becoming concerned with.”

Eek! I’d better lather up twice in the shower tomorrow morning to make sure I rid myself of any moss or fungussy things growing between my toes.

On the other hand, the risk of actually dying of Cryptococcus gattii is only 1 in 4.4 million/year:

Many people will be exposed to the fungus during their lifetime, but few will actually get sick, said Dr. Paul Cieslak, manager of the Oregon Public Health Division’s communicable disease program. In British Columbia, a province that is home to 4.4 million people, about 25 people fall ill and one dies from the infection each year, according to the province’s Centre for Disease Control.

Which makes me wonder why The Oregonian put this story on the front page (and above the fold) in the first place.

You might be asking yourself where did Cryptococcus gattii come from, and what causes it? The CDC really doesn’t have a clue:

It likely arrived in British Columbia on trees imported from Australia or Southeast Asia, said Byrnes, the Duke researcher. But it also could be native to the region and growing and spreading because of climate change, according to the Centre for Disease Control.

Like I said, they really don’t have a clue, but when they trot out good old “climate change” it’s telling.

It seems of late that the scientists would have us believe that climate change is an omnipotent force that leaves its fingerprints on any happenstance in our environment that cannot be explained with current scientific theories. To the contrary, myself and many others just see it as a crutch for lazy scientists to lean on when they don’t have a clue what else to say.

Or, they could just be in need of a funding grant fix.

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