Briefing Report: What Does the Brown Administration's Report on Indicators of Climate Change Really Indicate?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

“I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

“Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period. In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of.”
- Michael Crichton, in 2003 speech, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”

Governor Jerry Brown has a warning for you: “Whether you live in California, Texas or Timbuktu, climate change is real, and it’s long past time for action.” With that, he has asked policy-makers to look to science as they implement programs intended to stall global warming and save the very existence of California. However, recent data suggests that global temperatures are stagnant or with very little appreciable change and the climate forecasting models are significantly off in their dooms-day projections.

Since predicting the future has proven to be hazardous to the reputations of the purveyors of anthropogenic (i.e. human caused) global warming, officers from the Brown Administration in the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and in the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment looked to the past in their report, “Indicators of Climate Change in California,” to justify future costly and irrelevant policy-making decisions regarding climate change for years to come. Thus, CalEPA’s report retrospectively tracks 36 “indicators” associated with the impacts of climate change from a compilation of scientific reports found in state and federal agencies, universities and other likeminded institutions.

Upon closer inspection, many may wonder if the selected indicators in this report were the best evidence that CalEPA could conjure up to support their claims of the impacts of anthropogenic global warming or even if the indicators indicated much at all. Indeed, a keen observer will notice that CalEPA’s report consistently undermines or downplays their own assertions. With that, this briefing report is not a scientific critique, but rather a sampling of the most suspect caveats, exceptions, nuances and stipulations documented in CalEPA’s report not addressed in its elusive executive summary.

In an effort to conserve trees, we present only the most relevant sections of CalEPA’s report, remove specific scientific references that can be easily found within the original document and direct the reader to the corresponding page linked here: Everything presented below in quotation marks and italics is copied directly from the reports. We have bolded the most intriguing sentences.

Without Further Ado, “Indicators of Climate Change in California”

The Role Of Natural Climate Variability And Other Factors

“The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) are important cyclical climate phenomena that influence many physical and biological processes in the Pacific Ocean. It is difficult to establish when ocean-related influences on marine populations are due to climate change or natural variability in ENSO and PDO processes. The lack of long-term monitoring of ocean conditions and concurrent marine population changes often limits the ability to discern real trends and possible links to climate change… In fact, researchers may have been at times misled to interpret climate change impacts as those of local environmental changes. As one scientist notes, ‘The difficulty of disentangling multiple stressors within poorly sampled systems has stymied the discovery of marine climate change impacts.’” (page 3)

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

“California cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and high global warming potential (High-GWP) gases, expressed in CO2 equivalents, have seen an overall increase between 1990 and 2011. In the past five years, however, emissions have generally been declining.” (page 7)

Annual Air Temperature

“Urbanization appears to primarily raise minimum temperatures while irrigation appears to both cool maximum temperatures and warm minimum temperatures.” (pg.42)

Extreme Heat Events

“Station coverage is not uniformly distributed geographically and coverage can be quite sparse in mountainous regions such as the Sierra Nevada, therefore there is a bias towards populated areas and lower elevations. Elevation is accounted for in the interpolation; however, choice of interpolation scheme can affect correlation and bias with respect to point measurements. Recorded temperatures in urban areas can also be affected by the urban heat island effect due to land surface modification and other human activities.” (page 52)

Annual Precipitation

“Annual precipitation in California has been variable from year to year, particularly since the 1930s, with consecutive dry or wet years at many times during the observational record. No clear trend is evident.” (page 63)

Annual Sierra Nevada Snowmelt Runoff

“This decreased runoff was especially evident after mid-century; the recent two decades seem to indicate a flattening of the percentage decrease. There is no significant trend in total water year runoff, just a change in timing of runoff. (page 71) Snowmelt and runoff volume data can be used to document changes in runoff patterns. These changes are likely due to increased air temperatures and climate changes such as winter storms. Other factors, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and, possibly air pollution, probably contribute to the patterns observed. (page 73) Over the years, instrumentation has changed and generally improved” (page 74)

Snow Water Content

“The average total water stored in the state’s snowpack on April 1 of each year has stayed roughly the same in recent decades for the state as a whole (page 76)… No overall trend in the statewide averages is indicated during the past several decades (page 76)… A potentially confounding factor in the variation and trends in April 1 snowpack is the effect of dust and other contaminants on both the initial formation of mountain snowpacks and on snowmelt timing.” (page 78)

Glacier Change

“Despite warmer temperatures during the past few decades, Mount Shasta’s ice volume has remained relatively stable and its glaciers have continued to advance due to a large increase in winter snow accumulation. (pgs. 85-86) This indicator relies on data on glacier change based on photographic records, which are limited by the availability and quality of historical photographs.” (page 86)

Sea Level Rise

The measurements at San Francisco Bay and La Jolla show a leveling off of sea level rise in the past two decades. This is in contrast to the trends observed globally showing continued rise at the rate of 3 mm/year (0.12 inches/year). The reasons for the discrepancy are not clear (page 90)…Due to astronomical forces, such as the lunar cycle, it is difficult to isolate possible changes due to global warming by looking at short periods in the sea level tidal record.” (page 91)

Coastal Ocean Temperature

“Natural fluctuations in temperature and other physical factors that characterize ocean conditions and affect the marine ecosystem, make it difficult to isolate the magnitude of anthropogenic climate change.” (page 112)

Oxygen Concentration in the California Current

“It should be noted that the observed [dissolved oxygen] levels could be influenced by both local thermodynamic or biological processes, as well as remote, large-scale, changes. The oxygen concentrations can vary with the depth, temperature and time of year of the water being measured. While both factors are important, quantification of their relative influences is not feasible at this time.” (page 116)

Mosquito Borne Diseases

“Warming temperatures are likely to increase the abundance of vectors in time and space, and therefore the incidence of vector-borne diseases. Although there is some evidence that the abundance and distribution of vectors in certain regions of the world may be changing, the evidence supporting changes in the distribution and incidence of vector-borne diseases is less clear and confounded by changes in human-related factors such as landscape change.” (page 120)

Heat Related Mortality and Morbidity

“Although both meteorological and health outcomes data are presently available, no reliable indicators showing trends in heat-related mortality and morbidity over time can be presented. Existing data collection systems in the state do not fully capture the health impacts of heat exposure…(page 124) No conclusions can be drawn from the data, given the number of years with “unreliable” death rates; in addition, as discussed above, the reported values reflect the narrow definition of “heat-related” deaths.” (page 125)

Large Wildfires

“High annual variation -- largely attributed to weather conditions and lightning events that result in dispersed ignitions in remote locations -- makes it difficult to determine long-term trends. (page 137) Formerly open woodlands have become dense forests, increasing the risk of large, difficult-to-control fires… In these ecosystems, it is difficult to ascertain the relative contributions of management factors versus climate change… long records that document wildfire activity are often not readily available and older records are less comprehensive than recent records, meaning fires can appear to be increasing merely because of improved reporting.” (pgs. 141-142)

Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)

“HAB monitoring programs have traditionally been regulatory in nature, and not designed to determine temporal and spatial trends of HAB events. Hence, long term datasets showing possible links to climate change are not available. Furthermore, it is difficult to separate the possible effects of climate change from anthropogenic impacts, particularly increased discharges of nutrients in developed coastal areas, sewage releases and ballast water introduction into the ocean.” (page 223)

Changing Pattern of Extreme Events

“…[C]limate scientists generally cannot directly attribute a particular event to global warming.” (page 226)

Read Past the Executive Summary

Few would argue that a changing climate does not have any impacts on California’s natural resources. Those who report on the collected studies should do more than simply cut and paste talking points from the executive summary, especially when those statements do not comport with the actual study. While the disregard of such facts is not highlighted, they certainly cannot be ignored. To not question studies with such glaring contradictions would be irresponsible and that is the ultimate purpose of this report.

Sadly, the narrative supporting anthropogenic global warming has less to do with protecting the Earth, but more to do with redistributing wealth through climate change policies. If life, liberty, property and the environment are to be best protected, rather than take the indicators’ report at face value, policy-makers would be better served to ask whether the indicators referenced in the report are accurate, relevant to our current environmental remedies and if they provide for reproducible results in the future.

For more information on this report or other Environmental Quality issues, contact Lance Christensen or Brittny Garcin, Senate Republican Office of Policy at 916/651-1501.