by Judith Curry
Talk about perverse incentives! It appears that Chinese coolant manufacturers have been producing an excess of a harmful greenhouse chemical in order to dispose of it responsibly under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). – Walter Mead
Walter Mead at the American Thinker has a post entitled Chinese Spring ‘Climate Bomb’ on Greens. It’s a short piece, I reproduce it in its entirety below:
By using incinerators to cleanly burn off the chemical, HFC-23, these manufacturers were earning emission credits that they would in turn sell to developed world companies in order to help them hit their targets under the Kyoto protocol.
This chicanery didn’t go unnoticed, however: the European Emissions Trading Scheme banned trade in those credits in May, and other working climate exchanges have said they’re going to follow suit. A very lucrative business for Chinese manufacturers is drying up very quickly, and they’re not taking it sitting down. As the FT reports, this has set up a stand-off that would be delicious to behold if the stakes were not quite so high:
The EIA said an undercover investigation had shown that most of China’s non-CDM facilities were emitting HFC-23 already. “If all of these facilities [under the CDM] join China’s non-CDM and vent their HFC-23, they will set off a climate bomb emitting more than 2bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2020,” it said. [...]
An executive at China Fluoro Technology, one of the largest Chinese CDM plants, told the Financial Times: “Our company is still incinerating the HFC-23 now. If the money is used up, we can stop incineration. We can’t go on doing this, we can’t afford it and we have no duty to do it.”
The language used by the Chinese manufacturers is classic gangster talk—pure extortion. But the ultimate responsibility for this scandal lies with the doe-eyed greens who came up with the utopian global carbon trading system in the first place. Emissions trading was supposed to harness the profit motive and the efficiencies of markets to get greenhouse gas reduction to work on a global scale. But the scheme also assumed an effective global enforcement mechanism and a level of public-spiritedness among everyone involved that obviously never was there.
This will be one stand-off to watch closely. Some kind of pay-off is likely, as the Chinese manufacturers don’t appear to be bluffing. Will the ransom come from Beijing, with President Xi making good on the pledge he made to President Obama to phase out HFC’s at their recent “shirtsleeves summit”? Or will this end up being another lever for getting further concessions out of the West on any number of other issues?
And finally, keep this mess in the back of your mind as you watch President Obama announce a number of ‘bold’ new green initiatives early next week. The intellectual and policy foundations of the green worldview are buckling just as the President is about to set America down that very path.
Unfortunately, the Financial Times article is behind paywall (this happens to me alot, I wonder if I should subscribe).
IPCC on CFC’s
Can someone check the leaked AR5 doc to see if the IPCC has anything new to say on the subject?
Qing-Bin Lu is a Professor of Physics at the University of Waterloo [link]. Several weeks ago, he sent me an email attaching his recent papers on the topic of CFCs. In the meantime I have been communicating with a journalist over the past week, and the journalist brought up the issue of Lu’s papers and asked me to comment. Here are the relevant papers, all of which are available online:
What is the major culprit for global warming: CFC’s or CO2?
Abstract. A recent observation strikingly showed that global warming from 1950 to 2000 was most likely caused by the significant increase of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the Earth atmosphere (Lu, 2010). Here, three key questions are addressed: (1) How could CO2 play a negligible role in recent global warming in view of its extremely high concentrations of >300 ppm? Is there other evidence from satellite or ground measurements for the saturation in warming effect of CO2 and other non-CFC gases? And could the greenhouse effect of CFCs alone account for the rise of 0.5~0.6 K in global temperature since 1950? First, the essential feature of the Earth blackbody radiation is elucidated. Then re-analyses of observed data about global temperature change with variations of halocarbons and CO2, the atmospheric transmittance of the infrared radiation and the 1970-1997 change in outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth are presented. It follows by new theoretical calculations of the greenhouse effect of halocarbons. The results strengthen the conclusion that humans were responsible for global warming in late 20th century, but CFCs, rather than CO2, were the major culprit; a long-term global cooling starting around 2002 is expected to continue for next five to seven decades.
published in Journal of Cosmology, 2010, Vol 8, 1846-1862. [link] to full article.
Dr. Lu’s newest paper “Cosmic-Ray-Driven Reaction and Greenhouse Effect of Halogenated Molecules: Culprits for Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Global Climate Change” was published in International Journal of Modern Physics B Vol. 27 (2013) 1350073 (38 pages), available online at: www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S0217979213500732 ; an earlier version was published at http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.6844 .
Abstract. This study is focused on the effects of cosmic rays (solar activity) and halogenated molecules (mainly chlorofluorocarbons-CFCs) on atmospheric O3 depletion and global climate change. Brief reviews are first given on the cosmic-ray-driven electron-induced-reaction (CRE) theory for O3 depletion and the warming theory of CFCs for climate change. Then natural and anthropogenic contributions are examined in detail and separated well through in-depth statistical analyses of comprehensive measured datasets. For O3 loss, new statistical analyses of the CRE equation with observed data of total O3 and stratospheric temperature give high linear correlation coefficients >=0.92. After removal of the CR effect, a pronounced recovery by 20~25% of the Antarctic O3 hole is found, while no recovery of O3 loss in mid-latitudes has been observed. These results show both the dominance of the CRE mechanism and the success of the Montreal Protocol. For global climate change, in-depth analyses of observed data clearly show that the solar effect and human-made halogenated gases played the dominant role in Earth climate change prior to and after 1970, respectively. Remarkably, a statistical analysis gives a nearly zero correlation coefficient (R=-0.05) between global surface temperature and CO2 concentration in 1850-1970. In contrast, a nearly perfect linear correlation with R=0.96-0.97 is found between global surface temperature and total amount of stratospheric halogenated gases in 1970-2012. Further, a new theoretical calculation on the greenhouse effect of halogenated gases shows that they (mainly CFCs) could alone lead to the global surface temperature rise of ~0.6 deg C in 1970-2002. These results provide solid evidence that recent global warming was indeed caused by anthropogenic halogenated gases. Thus, a slow reversal of global temperature to the 1950 value is predicted for coming 5~7 decades.
Critiques of Lu’s work
Grob and Muller published a critique of Lu’s 2010 paper (behind paywall), and this is discussed in a post at RealClimate:
Undaunted, Lu continued to publish his ideas, though without really dealing with the criticisms, and indeed extending his scope to the issue of climate change as well as ozone depletion. He made a new claim that since CFC concentrations correlate better with temperature change, and that implies that CO2 can’t have an impact on climate. Very odd logic indeed. Unsurprisingly, his newest contributions have ended up in less and less mainstream publications. His last paper (Lu, 2010) was in the “Journal” of Cosmology – a recent online production that has been associated with a number of ‘fringe’ ideas (to be polite).
The paper before that Lu (2010, Phys. Rep.) has now come in for a real spanking from Grooß and Müller (2011) in “Do cosmic-ray-driven electron-induced reactions impact stratospheric ozone depletion and global climate change?”. From the abstract:
… Here we show that these arguments based on the CRE mechanism are inconclusive. First, correlations of satellite data of CFC-12, N2O and CH4 from ACE-FTS show no evidence of significant loss of CFC-12 as predicted by the CRE mechanism. Second, conclusions drawn about a possible CRE impact on the atmosphere, based on correlations of different observed atmospheric parameters, do not have a physical basis. Finally, predictions … based on these correlations are not reliable for either the ozone hole or global surface temperatures.
In my opinion the term ‘inconclusive’ is very polite indeed. The paper shows very clearly that there is no loss of CFCs through interactions with cosmic rays since if there was you’d see a change in the ratio of CFCs to CH4 or N2O (relatively long-lived gases) in the stratosphere. And you don’t. This was exactly the same (and completely valid) point made by the same authors in their rebuttal of Lu’s earlier paper (Müller and Grooß, 2009). However, since Lu obviously took no notice of that earlier criticism, it is impressive that Grooß and Müller took the trouble to rebut his claims even more thoroughly.
ClimateScienceWatch posts a review by Climate Nexus [link]. Excerpt:
Lu argues that CFCs are responsible for causing global warming. He uses a complicated chain of logic starting with the premise that it is cosmic rays, not UV rays as most scientists think, that break down CFCs, and ending with the finding that after his calculations, the estimated warming impact of CFCs matches up closely with actual measured surface temperatures. He concludes that it must be CFCs, not CO2, that are causing surface temperatures to rise.
- This theory has been considered and dismissed before. A 2010 reportby the National Academies of Science was commissioned by Congress to examine all the evidence surrounding global warming including the theory that cosmic rays might influence Earth’s climate. It concluded that “a plausible physical mechanism… has not been demonstrated” and “cosmic rays are not regarded as an important climate forcing.”
- In 2011, a peer-reviewed paper found that Lu’s conclusions “are based solely on correlation… do not have a physical basis… and the findings of the IPCC… remain unchallenged.”
- In response to Lu’s most recent publication, several different scientists interviewed by the Vancouver Sun each said that Lu’s conclusions “[go] against 150 years of very fundamental physics.”
- Critics point out that Lu’s paper fails to make the leap from correlation to causation, one of the most basic and most common scientific failings. This error is simply illustrated in the classic fable of the rooster who believes the sun rises because he crows. Two things may happen at the same time, but this does not mean one causes the other. A “physical mechanism” by which the two events are connected must be known, in order to fully understand causation.
- In contrast, there is strong experimental evidence of the physical mechanism by which CO2 warms the planet, evidence that (as scientists have mentioned already in response to Lu) dates back 150 years.
Lu responds in post at Climate Science Watch, excerpts:
1) “This theory has been considered and dismissed before. A 2010 report by the National Academies of Science was commissioned by Congress to examine all the evidence surrounding global warming including the theory that cosmic rays might influence Earth’s climate. It concluded that “a plausible physical mechanism… has not been demonstrated” and “cosmic rays are not regarded as an important climate forcing.”
Response: This criticism is irrelevant because it does not disagree with one of the conclusions in my paper: “the natural factors have played a negligible effect on Earth’s climate since 1970”.
2) “In 2011, a peer-reviewed paper [namely the 2011 Atmos Environ (AE)paper by Grooß and Müller] found that Lu’s conclusions “are based solely on correlation… do not have a physical basis… and the findings of the IPCC… remain unchallenged.”
Response: Prior to the submission of my manuscript to IJMPB, I had already given a detailed response to the AE paper by publishing a preprint at http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.1498, in which I showed that the “data” reported in the Grooß and Müller AE paper as well as their 2009 PRL paper could not be found in the given data source. And one can find the following paragraph in the introduction (pages 6-7) of my published IJMPB paper:
“It should also be noted that Müller and Grooß87,88 recently criticized the CRE and CFC-warming theories by presenting the so-called “ACE-FTS satellite data”. However, Lu89 has pointed out that there exist serious problems with their presented data because the Canadian satellite carrying the ACE-FTS instrument has essentially not covered the Antarctic vortex in the presented months (especially the winter months when the CRE reactions are supposed to be most effective) and that their criticisms cannot stand from the scientific facts in the literature. Most recently, the pair has published a Corrigendum in one of the journals,90 in which they state “The months for which the data were shown were not correctly indicated. … the data do not cover this complete latitude range especially they do not extend to the South Pole”. Since they now agree that their presented ACE-FTS data for the winter Antarctica cannot be correct, it is surprizing to read their statement that “We note, however, that all conclusions of the paper remain unchanged”. To discern the more data and arguments presented in the papers by Müller and Grooß87,88, the readers should refer to the recent publication by Lu89.”
4. “Critics point out that Lu’s paper fails to make the leap from correlation to causation, one of the most basic and most common scientific failings. This error is simply illustrated in the classic fable of the rooster who believes the sun rises because he crows. Two things may happen at the same time, but this does not mean one causes the other. A “physical mechanism” by which the two events are connected must be known, in order to fully understand causation.”
Response: The physical mechanisms for the CRE theory of the ozone hole and the CFC warming theory have been given in detail not only in my newIJMPB paper but in my 2010 Physics Reports and J of Cosmology papers [see the main content of my paper in the above].
A journalist throws down the gauntlet
I sent these links to the journalist I have been interacted, who was not impressed by the Climate Nexus critique, excerpt from the journalist’s email:
JC comments: This is not an issue that I am prepared to dig deeply into myself (and I definitely wouldn’t touch the ozone chemistry issue), but I’ve read enough to agree with the journalist that Lu’s ideas with respect to global warming haven’t been adequately ‘debunked.’ I told the journalist that I would would open this topic up for discussion in a blog post.
Moderation note: This is a technical thread, please keep your comments relevant.