Hurricanes and Global Warming

I try to avoid certain topics which the media has covered in excruciating detail such as the current series of  hurricanes.   The Russian probe and chaos in the White House would also be included in this group.

However,  I wanted to add a bit more on the topic of  the recent series of hurricanes and global warming which deserves repeating.  There is a connection as there is ocean warming as well as average air temperature warming.   It was an early conclusion of scientists that global warming would result in more extreme weather events.   Certainly, the images of the immense hurricane Irma followed by Jose in the Atlantic ocean and Katia in the Gulf of Mexico would suggest that something way out of the ordinary is going on.

Saying that global warming caused Hurricane Harvey or Irma is way too simplistic.  The severity of a hurricane depends on where it lands.   If Harvey had dumped tons of water in the Gulf of Mexico instead of Houston or Irma had taken just a slightly less turn to the north and missed Florida,  nobody would have cared.  Warm Caribbean waters are an essential element for the formation of catastrophic hurricanes, and is a trend associated with global warming.  Perhaps scientists are a bit reluctant to make  more definitive statements on this relationship because there are so many other impacts of global warming such as increasing sea levels which are directly linked to global warming.

See link:

Hurricanes and Global Warming

The denial of global warming by the White House is truly a sad situation.  My heart goes out for the residents in the Caribbean islands.   I suggest everyone consider making a donation to charity organizations helping them to rebuild.

Stay tuned,



How much of Trump’s speech on exiting the Paris Accords was true?

It was an amazing concoction of false statements and misleading or invalid statistics.   Of course, this is Trump’s style.  The transcript of the speech is shown below:

Transcript of the speech

In fact, it is hard to find anything remotely honest in the entire speech.  All the dire economic consequences of the Accords were from an outside consulting study (NERA)  based on  highly unrealistic set of assumptions. The NERA study had other scenarios with more realistic assumptions.  It was produced in March 2017 and paid for by a conservative political organization.    None of the economic projections were  based on EPA studies.  Other studies  have repeatedly shown many positives to our economy, including  investments in clean energy will  create many high paying jobs.

It would have been a simple  2 minute speech if it were a honest one, as it would read, “Steve Bannon and the extreme conservatives don’t like the accord, because like the UN itself, we spend money to help solve the world’s problem.  Plus, global warming isn’t like crime in the streets; it doesn’t make big headlines in the news.”

Trump began his speech by mentioning the  casino attack in the Philippines as  a terrorist attack.  It was a botched robbery according to police.  But, at the time of the speech, ISIS had claimed responsibility, as they are prone to do with almost  any mass killings.  So, Trump has as supporting evidence, only ISIS.

Trump mentioned a long list of achievements, which really overlap with the Obama administration.    The job increase was really inline with gains in employment seen from about October 2016 until now.  Nothing remarkable.

The word “Global Warming” was not in Trump’s speech, nor is there any admission of a problem of our carbon emission.  His line, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh not Paris” received applause from those gathered in the Rose Garden.   The Paris Accord is a world agreement of 193 counties which could have been agreed upon in Pittsburgh.

It is a voluntary agreement, where each country makes pledges or commitments to reduce their own emissions.  Some environmentalists were disappointed at how low the targets were, but at least there were these basic elements (1) Admission that a global problem exists (2) Carbon emissions by the 193 countries can be monitored and reported to the United Nations (3) Each country is free to determine how they will reduce their emissions and (4) Developed countries will each set up a “Green Fund” to assist undeveloped countries in developing technology and programs to produce clean energy.

The citizens of Pittsburgh will pay more for food,  along with the rest of the US, as flooding and violent storms increases due to global warming. To keep our farms functioning,  taxpayers will continue to subsidize crop insurance, right now about 26 billion dollars.  It’s going to get a whole lot worse.  Sea levels will rise and places like Florida will have a difficult time with their fresh water supply.

With the dismantling of the Clean Power Act, solar energy investments will slow and jobs will be lost.  Coal employment (~60,000 employees) is not going to recover because power plants will use natural gas.   A good example is Cloud Peak Energy, which had a market cap of 500 million on November 7, 2016, now is reduced in half to 250 million.   Peabody Coal came out of bankruptcy on April 10, 2017 and so far has lost about 10% in market value  (market cap losses = 235 million dollars).

I saw on the news last night, a wonderful woman from West Virginia saying, “I’m not a climate change denier.”

Now the fact checking:

The  economic statistics were generated in March 2017 by a consulting firm, which Trump pulled some statistics based on some extreme assumptions.

The Paris Accords were terribly miss  characterized by Trump.  Each country has pledged targets for carbon emissions and it is up to each country to develop programs or technologies to achieve these goals. Some countries are doing well in achieving their target goals.

I like how described the economic statistics:

Trump cited a number of negative statistics about the predicted economic impact from the climate deal, including a $3 trillion drop in gross domestic product, 6.5 million industrial sector jobs lost and 86 percent reduction in coal production, all by 2040.

Take these statistics with a grain of salt.

It’s just more BS, to be honest.  and  websites found very similar dishonest statements.

Economic statistics:  Based on a flawed study

The statement, “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. But, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.”  is not in the agreement.

Statement, “At 3-4% growth, as I expect, we will need all forms of American energy, or our country will be at grave risk of brownouts and blackouts.”

A growth rate of 3 to 4% hasn’t happened in the last 12 years.  The red hot economy of 2005 ended with the collapse of housing market in 2007, and the recession lasting through 2009.  What seems immensely absent in the speech, is that fossil fuels are non-renewable fuels. Their extraction is becoming more expensive not because of regulation, but because we have used up so much of the easy to extract fossil fuels.

Global warming needs carbon emissions monitoring and goal setting.  Obama set this in motion.  Trump just denies the problem exists.  Trump is not making the country great.  He is making China great by sacrificing our technological leadership in clean energy.   June 1, 2017 was a disgraceful day, as we exited the world accord on global warming with a speech with a rapid fire series of flawed statistics and dishonest conclusions.

Stay tuned,










Paris Climate Agreement

This international agreement was signed in April 2016, by President Obama.   A short summary of the agreement is given in Wikipedia as follows:

Paris Climate Agreement

Critics immediately charged that the agreement is really a treaty and requires 2/3 vote from the Senate to become binding.   IF what  the conservative Heartland Institute said was true, then Obama should have been impeached:

“It is an absolute disgrace that President Obama would assume powers found nowhere in our Constitution to sign a treaty that has never been considered by our Congress — which would reject it if given the opportunity,” said Jay Lehr, science director with the outspoken free-market group Heartland Institute. “To take such a hollow and illegal step as he ends his presidency should tarnish his legacy forever as a man who thought himself king, not president.”

So, President Trump can declare this Agreement to be a Treaty,  and send it to the Senate for approval.   But, he would be opting for a quiet burial in the Senate and that would be pretty obvious.

But,  Trump likes Executive Orders and the agreement seems really to fall into this category because the agreement does not legally compel the US to cut back carbon emissions.

The real zinger is that three of the major coal companies (Arch, Cloud Peak, and Peabody)  want the US to stay in the agreement, as they see the advantage of having  a major pro-coal power  “at the table.”  Otherwise, European leaders will lead the show, not good for the international interests of US companies.

Pulling out of the accord will not go over well with Chinese leaders, who are aggressively cutting their own emissions.  The smoke from coal burning has created a real health concern in many Chinese cities.  We need Chinese cooperation desperately to reign in North Korea’s nuclear program.

Right now, our new Secretary of Energy seems most content with cleaning house, removing any global warming believers as possible.  With the new, ineffective DOE, a policy change to do nothing, seems likely.  I believe Trump has said he is studying the options on climate change and our commitment to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement.

The smaller countries who have signed the agreement, are likely looking to the US to help them with alternative energy sources.  This doesn’t mesh well with Trump’s hyper nationalistic themes.

A meeting is scheduled for May 18, 2017 in Bonn.   Four top polluters, China, India, US Japan and the EU have ratified the accord.    Russia looks like the major climate change denier as it has not ratified the agreement,

   List of carbon emissions by country 

Does Trump really want to join Russia and be the world’s second climate change denier?

Stay tuned,


A Seat at the Table for the Devil

The Paris Climate Agreement was considered a major breakthrough by most environmentalists.  The US was e in a leadership role recognizing  carbon emissions reductions requires international agreements, particularly from Brazil, India and China.

Trump vigorously campaigned against the Paris  Climate Agreement.   He said repeatedly the Agreement  was against our national interest, and was a job killing/ coal industry destruction plan.  The Democrats were trying to put the coal industry out of business.

Now, two of the largest coal companies,  Peabody and Cloud Peak are urging Trump to break his promises and stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.     Murray Energy,  a private company which bills itself as America’s largest coal company, wants Trump to pull out.  Robert Murray was at the signing of the Executive Orders to rescind the Clean Power regulations.

The reasons to stay in, is to keep EU leaders from taking control and setting tight international  environmental standards on the burning of coal.    This would hurt US export of coal, which declined by 23% in 2015.  The 2016 figures have not yet been released, but I don’t expect any better numbers. Our exports are around 74 million short tons.  Major declines in exports were from UK, Italy and South Korea in 2015.

It is also quoted in the article below that pulling out of the Accords might affect World Bank funding for international coal projects, which would hurt only the very large coal companies. Most of the coal companies operate only in the US.   Peabody coal owns coal  mines in Australia.  It may be there is concern with World Bank financing new coal generating plants.  Being part of the Accords can give the major platform to promote “clean coal technology.”

US Coal Companies ask Trump to stick with Paris Climate Deal

Trump’s campaign rode on Republican rhetoric and the highly simplistic theme of  America First.   The most pro-coal industry president we ever had, may end up doing more harm than good to his supporters.

Stay tuned,







Coal Companies and Jobs

For those who watch Jim Cramer’s Mad Money show, one might thing the coal producers would be the perfect “Trump stock” as the EPA is set to reverse course on air pollution standard regulations, enacted during the Obama era.

But coal stocks are not doing well at least in the last 3 months.  Since the beginning of 2017, Arch Coal (ARCH) is down 16% and Cloud Peak Energy (CLD) is down 27%.

We have plenty of coal resources, but declining demand.  See prior post, “Coal Craziness” for more details with links.   The decline in employment over the last 70 years or so, is due to a high level of mechanization in the mines as well as less demand for coal.  The electric producers will use the lowest cost fuel, and natural gas is a very competitive alternative to coal.

I suggested in my last post, that coal miners might be able to retrain for the more lucrative area of the manufacturing of  solar energy photo-voltaic panels.  A recent university study suggests this is possible, and the benefits would be enormous:

Coal to solar transition

The coal industry is not disappearing (sorry Al Gore) but the solar energy industry is likely to be booming in the next 5 to 10 years.

Investing in solar energy has been a bumpy ride.   I would never think “green energy” and Trump policies go together.  But based on  year to date, investing in a solar power fund  (KWT)  would have made about 10%, better than the market average of 6%.    Pulling out the international agreements to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and subsidies for the solar industry are among the worst plans of the Trump administration.

Stay tuned,





Clean Power Plan

I’m afraid under Gov Rick Perry as head of Department of Energy and Scott Pruitt as head of EPA, the Clean Power Plan will soon to become history.    It is a real shame.  The Clean water and Air Acts were signed into law by Richard Nixon, and stood strong through Reagan, Bush (H.W.),  Bush (W), and 16 years of democratic party  presidents.

Scott Pruitt is a horrible choice.   The mantra of Republicans is regulation is bad for business and business will make America great again.  However, it is  a giant step backwards for international cooperation for environmental needs.

We can not expect other countries around the world to work with us in curbing carbon emissions, if we are not doing our part.

China and the US produce the most CO2, accounting for 45% of emissions:

The top ten producers, include India and the EU, and account for 68% of carbon emissions.

Carbon emissions cause global warming, and serious breathing problems, particularly with those suffering from asthma.

The Republicans don’t have a plan- except if you consider downplaying the problem and delaying any real solutions as a plan.  Energy generated by coal typically generates twice the carbon emissions than natural gas.  Cleaning  up of CO2 emissions from coal fired plants increases costs.  The decline in coal usage has occurred as more operators prefer natural gas (also a polluter).

The Clean Power Plan isn’t perfect.  Critics abound who can tell you the flaws in the program in an instant.  However,  the alternative (see Republican Plan) is horrible, so going from a horrible situation to a flawed one, is a step in the right direction.

Without a real US plan,  we likely lose support from China, India, EU countries, Japan and Russia.

Stay tuned,







Ranking Presidents

There is still one full year left in Obama’s administration.  I’ve heard a lot about how Obama will go down in history as the worst American president. I disagree.

This “worst president in history” stuff  comes from those who listen to television and radio commentators, who make a very good living out of finding fault with Obama on every day of the week.  Conservatives would rank all Republican presidents at the top of the list, and all Democratic presidents at the bottom.  Liberals would do the opposite.

But, let’s face it,   everything that goes wrong in Washington is not the president’s fault. Also, presidents  who sink in popularity polls at least during some part of their term,  are not necessarily ranked poorly by academic scholars.    Case in point is President Truman, whose Gallup approval rating dropped to 27% during the Korean War, yet on balance, is considered one of the best president by  a series of selected scholars or historians:

Wikipedia’s Ranking 

Take a close look at the far right column, with the aggregate ranks, and you will see, some very familiar names as the top ranked presidents-  Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington, and Jefferson.  And the 5 worst ones are Buchanan, Harding, Pierce, Johnson, and Fillmore. Although, Harrison is ranked as one of the 5 worst presidents, it is clearly unfair as he served only one year before his death.

When there is a truly good or bad president,  then there is a great deal of agreement among historians.   The highest ranked presidents in recent times are Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan.

The top quartile presidents are colored in blue.  The 30 year period from 1933 to 1963, marked a period of only top quartile presidents, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.   So, were these presidents so successful because of the times and mood of the country, or because they were all individually great leaders?   I believe it was a combination of good judgments and in most part, the backing of congress.

No- Obama will not go down as the worst president, nor the best president in the history of the US.  It is likely that a strong positive to his presidency was he made strong efforts to fulfill his campaign promises.  His inabilities to push his programs forward,  in many areas including global warming and immigration reform, were due to the intransigent conservative  Republican faction in Congress.

Stay tuned,







Lamar Smith on the Warpath

Lamar Smith, Congressman from Texas  is in battle with Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator.  He is conducting a fishing expedition of unprecedented scope.

At the heart of all this, is the contention that climate change is based on bad science- namely hasty judgments from incomplete data.   Sometimes, distinguishing between good and bad science is not easy, because the results do not lead to simple conclusions.  But, climate change  is not one of these areas.  Our planet’s average temperature is going up at an alarming rate.   It is no longer conjecture.  It is back up by massive data and computer models.

Science publishes new NOAA Study

Good science has certain traits.   First,  all  original data that went into calculations are made public to the scientific world.  Second,  the methodology is so abundantly clear, that the man in China could reproduce the same results.  Next. the researchers who do the work should be recognized experts in their  area.  Also, research must be published in highly respected scientific journals, which allow others to comment on the work.

Technical  questions which arise from the work should be answered directly by the scientists involved in the research.   Allegations of  scientists or supervisors which purposely biases the results for political purposes or to further their professional ambitions  should be taken seriously.

All these traits of good science are found in NOAA’s research. Scientists from around the world are finding similar results- our planet’s climate is changing due to emissions caused by  fossil fuels consumption.    Some islands are at risk of disappearing.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released in June 2015 on their website, the conclusions of a new study showing no slowdown in global warming. It was published online in Science journal.

Lamar Smith, a Congressman from Texas  has created a fictional scandal- that scientists manipulated data to hide the fact there is no global warming.  It is total nonsense.

There may be some grain of truth to the claim that administrators urged researchers to publish their data as soon as possible.  Having worked in a research center,  there is generally a point where the data evidence is strong enough to share with the rest of the world and it is a trait of a good administrator, to get valid studies published.

It is surprising the kind of political stunts that Chairman of a House committee can pull, including meetings which excludes the Democrats (a minority on the committee) and issuing subpoenas without notifying  the committee.  It is a circus.  The minority leader finally pushed back.

Eddie Bernice Johnson’s Letter 

For his contribution for a declaration of war against NOAA researchers,  Congressman Lamar Smith was awarded the Flat Earth Foundation of Texas award.

Lamar Smith Award 

Congrats to the Flat Earth Foundation for finding a worthy recipient for their award, showing once again the mouth is greater than the mind.

Stay tuned,



Solutions to terrorism

No short term solutions.   There is no single action the US can do to defeat ISIL.   Eliminating ISIL or similar groups with the jihadist philosophy is likely impossible, in that it only takes a couple of fanatics to pull off an act of terrorism.   What Obama and the rest are focused on, is helping Iraq and Syria take back their control of cities and cutting off access to resources.  This is what I concluded after listening to President Obama on Sunday, December 6 and Susan Rice on CNN, which aired on the same day.  What began, at least for the US, under George Bush, and continued under Obama, will continue to be a problem for the next president as well.

Susan Rice is President Obama’s National Security Advisor.   The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, CA made this interview very timely.  She was interviewed by Fareed Zacharia, as part of his normal weekly program, CNN-GPS.

The lack of US troops in Syria is being construed as a) a lack of leadership, lacking in resolve,    b) not being in touch with reality, delusional  (Lou Dobbs prefers the latter) or  c)  ignorant of the facts.   The strategy is actually a result of being very informed of the facts, on a daily basis.   McCain has blasted Obama for not sending in large numbers of troops into Syria, saying the US has not plan.  Truth is we don’t have his plan.

Susan  Rice was asked if the Obama administration underestimated the force of ISIL.   She sidestepped the question by responding that  since mid-2014, the Obama administration has been considered ISIL a major threat to both Iraq and Syria, and  steps have been taken to destroy their organization.   But, it’s clear, Obama underestimated the threat.  The infamous “Junior Varsity  comment” occurred in January 2014, shortly after Fallujah fell in Iraq.     This year, ISIL has  shown to be incredibly resourceful and organized  in establishing new bases in other countries.


Rice did not want the interview to focus on  prior mistakes.  The list of mistakes is long and goes back George Bush’s administration.  But, it is not likely in late 2013 and early 2014, there was much the Obama administration could have done.

The question of whether we are winning or losing the war against terrorism, is another one that Susan Rice chose not to directly answer.  There are a number of scorecards.  Since San Bernadino, there is a real gut feel that we’re losing to terrorism.   It particularly hit home, when they were showing the stockpiles of arms and bullets these two terrorists had accumulated.  But, this is not my scorecard.  I see it more as the cities under their control and the growth of the organization world wide.  A major defeat occurred when Boko Haram pledge allegiance to ISIL.

I agree with President Obama, that putting troops in Syria, beyond the small special op’s group, would be counter-productive.   It would be seen as an invasion force by both the Syrian  government and ISIL, and recast the fight against terrorism as a fight against the Muslim world, which we must avoid at all costs.  There are 1.6 billion Muslims in this world,  obviously outnumbering us 5 to 1.   We have far more latitude in Iraq, and may be able to increase are presence there- but it must be a multinational presence.

Susan Rice in her interview, was asked if the world is becoming less stable place to live.  This clearly open the discussion to go beyond ISIL.  She responded to the many initiatives taken by the Obama administration to lower tensions and help solve world problems.  The Ebola epidemic is one success.   The Iran deal is another one- yet it is way to early to know if this succeeds in the end.   The end of a policy of containment of Cuba, is another initiative to lower tensions- and hopefully create a more durable relationship with our neighbor.   A lot of crises which are hardly resolved, including Libya were not discussed.   Conflicts with Russia are a colossal regional  destabilizing threat, and Rice simply stated that the US is looking for common ground.

I was thinking how much opposition the Obama administration has gotten with each of these initiatives.  I remember how much flack Obama got when he sent 3,000 troops to Africa to help with the Ebola crisis in the transport of supplies.   Fox News commentators acted like Obama was insane- saying there will be 3,000 infected troops coming back to the US,  and pretty soon the numbers will be be 3 million or 30 million Americans with Ebola.   Ebola is a case where international cooperation produced incredible success.

Most of the really important efforts will take enormous  international cooperation.  This includes the international climate change accords, likely to come from the Paris summit.   It’s a tough road ahead, to find unity abroad, while there is so much division in the US.

Stay tuned,