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I have been saving bits of misreported statistical string about Venezuela’s inflation over the past couple of months, and it has become a giant ball. The bits all come from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The IMF’s World Economic Outlook (April 2016) forecasts inflation to rise to 720 percent by the end of 2016. This number, which is nothing more than a guestimate, is now carved in stone. The media, from Bloomberg, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, to countless other ostensibly credible sources, repeats that guestimate ad nauseam.

Instead of reporting pie-in-the-sky estimates for future inflation rates in Venezuela, the press should stop worshiping at the IMF’s altar and, instead, stick to reporting current inflation rate. These are updated regularly and are available from the Johns Hopkins-Cato Institute Troubled Currencies Project. The current implied annual inflation rate is 140 percent; while it is currently the world’s highest, it is well below the IMF’s oft-reported forecast of 720 percent.

Not all government takings of private property proceed by condemnation or regulation (or taxation).  In February the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Taylor et al. v. Yee, a case challenging California’s practice of seizing unclaimed property after only three years of idleness with relatively minimal efforts to contact owners. Unclaimed property can consist of such things as “forgotten security deposits, uncashed money orders, unused insurance benefits, idle shares of stock, and even the undisturbed contents of safedeposit boxes,” for starters, to quote the Court. In a concurrence, Justice Samuel Alito joined by Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the majority in denying review, saying the “convoluted history” of the California dispute made it a poor candidate for a clean review under constitutional principles. But the trend among self-interested states in unclaimed-property, or escheat, law – such as truncating dormancy periods to a mere three years, from as long as 15, while “doing less and less to meet their constitutional obligation to provide adequate notice” to owners – inevitably raises constitutional questions, because the Due Process Clause “undoubtedly requires that, before seizing private property, the government must give ‘notice and opportunity for hearing appropriate to the nature of the case.’” In revamping escheat practices in ways that grab more money for their budgets, states might well be overstepping this bound.

Another part of the picture, while not mentioned in Alito’s brief opinion, adds practical importance: states have creatively expanded their definitions of what they consider abandoned property, to include such things as unused minutes on calling cards (for which they seek a cash equivalent from the phone company) and gift certificates (make the retailer pay). Three years ago I wrote a post at Overlawyered titled “Delaware: Your Escheating Heart.” Excerpt: 

…The revenue [from these laws] looms peculiarly large for the state of Delaware, because it is the state of incorporation for so many businesses. In recent years friction has been growing between the state and its corporate citizens as the state government has taken an increasingly aggressive stance in auditing corporations for unreported escheatable property. [WSJ] So far, perhaps, so routine (except for the parties to the dispute), but some accounts omit one of the most salient angles, summed up by one critic [Douglas Lindholm, IBD via Volokh] as follows:

“Last year alone, Delaware seized $319.5 million from liquidated property while returning only $18.9 million of unclaimed property to its rightful owners.

“Delaware does this through an unfair, onerous and expensive audit system that ‘looks back’ to 1981, and contrives unclaimed property if the company doesn’t have records for all those years. This process often costs companies millions of dollars, mires them in years of audits, and forces them to deal with third-party auditors who are motivated by contingent fees to invent unclaimed property where none exists….”

Again and again – whether in forfeiture laws entitling law enforcers to a share of the booty seized, or percentage awards for informants under whistleblower laws, or traffic camera systems in which the operators of the cameras get a share of ticket revenue, contingency fees for participants in law enforcement prove deeply problematic. … Delaware seems to have gotten its image in trouble through a variant on tax farming.

As for the argument that if you didn’t want to have your pockets rifled by a given state, you shouldn’t have done business there, it’s not really any stronger than the argument that if you didn’t want to have your property seized for private use at a big knock-off from fair value, you shouldn’t have done business in a state with poor eminent domain laws.

In the closing paragraph of my last entry I offered two hypotheses about the post-2008 US economy. The first is that “real GDP has shifted to a lower path because of a shrinkage in the economy’s productive capital stock — a problem that better monetary policy (not feeding the boom) could have helped to avoid, but cannot now fix.” It is reasonable to suppose that the capital stock has shrunk, I argued, because the housing boom diverted investible resources from more productive capital formation into housing construction. The second is that potential output, as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office’s method, “is currently overestimated because capital wastage has not been fully recognized.”

Here again is the chart that frames the common account of our recent macroeconomic history, showing the paths of actual real GDP and of the CBO’s estimate of potential real GDP, this time in natural logs so that a constant growth rate corresponds to a straight line with constant slope:

This picture of the estimated “output gap” suggests no unsustainable boom in the US economy before 2007. There was no bubble. There was merely a return to full employment after the previous “dot-com” recession of 2001 pulled output below potential. The Great Recession of 2007-09 then appears not as a reaction to an unsustainable path, but as a bolt from the blue, an exogenous shock. The initial drop in real GDP has to be explained by going off chart, e.g., by reference to the bursting of the housing bubble. But the housing bubble is itself unexplained by macro data, not part of any general malinvestment-and-overconsumption boom.

Next, as Market Monetarists have emphasized, households responded to the start of the recession by hoarding money, reducing aggregate demand. As I showed last time, there was indeed a jump in hoarding (as measured by the ratio of M2 balances to GDP) during 2009. The Fed failed to increase the quantity of M2 in response, so aggregate demand did fall, which in a sticky-price world brought down real output. (In 2009 the CPI and PCE price indexes also fell, but in this view not enough to clear the markets.) This nominal shock helps to explain some part of the severity of the recession, but it can’t be the whole story. It can’t explain why the economy has remained below its potential output level for more than six years. It cannot explain why recovery to potential output has continued to fall short for so long. That remains a puzzle. The “output gap” has shrunk only because the potential output path has been revised downward, a revision explained by shrinking labor force participation.

The account of macroeconomic events that I prefer can be framed by taking the same path for actual real GDP, but instead contrasting it with a simple constant growth-rate path that extrapolates from the 2000-2003 trend, as follows:

This picture suggests that, between 2003 and 2008, real GDP rose unsustainably above its old trend. The recession brought a return to reality, and then some. Consistent with the view that the unsustainable boom was fueled by Federal Reserve credit expansion, here is the bulge in real M2 before and during the period:

Since 2009 the economy has followed a lower real GDP path, with no tendency to return to the old dashed path, let alone to the bubble path of potential output as estimated by the CBO. To explain that, I suggest, we need to recognize a drop in the stock of productive capital goods due to the misallocation of investment to housing construction during the housing boom.

Consistent with capital shrinkage, the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows gross private domestic investment making a negative contribution to real GDP for nine consecutive quarters, 2007Q3 to 2009Q3 inclusive. The CBO method of estimating potential output does not recognize any capital wastage during the period, however. The CBO’s data website reports a continuously rising value for its capital services index, an input to its estimate of potential real GDP, during 2000-2014. This is of course consistent with its continuously rising estimate for potential output.

I don’t know the literature on econometric estimation of the size of the capital stock well enough to criticize the CBO’s method in any detail, or to propose an alternative method that would give us a better way to estimate whether the path of capital accumulation has been shifted downward. I would be grateful for pointers to any sites that use a method distinct from the CBO’s to provide explicitly derived estimates of the path of productive capital.

[Cross-posted from Alt-M.org]

As Republicans fall in line behind Donald Trump, despite their misgivings, many of them are urging him to “change his tone” as he moves toward the general election. But is a change in tone sufficient or even honest?

Last Thursday, announcing his endorsement, Speaker Paul Ryan said, “It is my hope the campaign improves its tone as we go forward and it’s all a campaign we can be proud of.” Former Republican nominee Bob Dole says, “I can already see sort of a shift with Trump. He needs to start talking (like) he is about to be president.” Asked about Trump’s repeated comments that offend Hispanic voters, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says, “I hope he’ll change his direction on that.” Republican chair Reince Priebus says, “I think there’s work to do, and I think that there’s work on tone to do. I’ve been clear about that…. I think he gets it…I think you’re going to see the change in tone.”

But what does “change his tone” mean? These pleas don’t ask him to change his policies. He has proposed, among other things, building a wall on our southern border, deporting 11 million Mexican-Americans, banning Muslims from entering the United States, blowing up U.S.-China trade, forcing American companies to stop manufacturing products overseas, torturing suspected terrorists and killing their families, not touching entitlement benefits, ending our 200-year-old policy of birthright citizenship, “loosen[ing] up” libel laws to make it easier to sue newspapers, and much more. He has also supported, in the recent past, single-payer health care and the largest tax increase in world history. Are Republicans OK with those policies as long as Trump changes his tone?

He remains, as George Will puts it, an “impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man.” He insults Mexicans, women, disabled Americans, Muslim Americans, and so on. Are Republicans comfortable with that man having the nuclear codes, as long as he tones it down?

For the past 11 months Donald Trump has been making his character, temperament, and egotism very clear. I wrote in January that “not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign,” and that “he’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat,” and I have seen no reason to change that assessment. Indeed, I don’t think Trump’s endorsers disagree with it. They just seem to value party above the future of the republic and their own complicity.

There’s a folk tale that goes something like this: A scorpion asks a frog to carry him across the river. The frog is reluctant because he’s afraid the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion assures the frog that he would do no such thing, pointing out that then they would both drown. The frog agrees. As they are crossing the river, the frog feels a searing pain in his side. “What did you do that for?” the frog demands. “Now we’re both going down!” The scorpion replies, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.” 

When Republicans say that Trump must change his tone, they are saying that they want him to conceal his character for the duration of the election. But he’s a scorpion, and they knew that when they picked him up.

Footnote: If anyone reads this as an endorsement for Donald Trump’s principal opponent, they should check out my references to her in The Libertarian Mind.

You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger.  While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic.  Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.

We’ve put together an interesting collection of articles this week for your consideration.

First up is a shout out to lukewarming from Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle. In her piece “Global Warming Alarmists, You’re Doing It Wrong,” McArdle suggests that lukewarmers have a lot to bring to the climate change table, but are turned away by the entrenched establishment and tarred with labels like climate “denier”—a label which couldn’t be further from the truth. McArdle writes:

Naturally, proponents of climate-change models have welcomed the lukewarmists’ constructive input by carefully considering their points and by advancing counterarguments firmly couched in the scientific method.

No, of course I’m just kidding. The reaction to these mild assertions is often to brand the lukewarmists “deniers” and treat them as if what they were saying was morally and logically equivalent to suggesting that the Holocaust never happened.

In her article, McArdle calls for less name calling and less heel digging and more open, constructive discussion:

There is a huge range of possible beliefs that go into assessing the various complicated theories about how the climate works, and the global-warming predictions generated by those theories range from “could well be catastrophic” to “probably not a big deal.” I know very smart, well-informed, decent people who fall at either end of the spectrum, and others who are somewhere in between. Then there are folks like me who aren’t sure enough to make a prediction, but are very sure we wouldn’t like to find out, too late, that the answer is “oops, catastrophic.”

These are not differences that can be resolved by name calling. Nor has the presumed object of this name calling – to delegitimize thoughtful opposition, and thereby increase the consensus in favor of desired policy proposals – been a notable political success, at least in the U.S. It has certainly rallied the tribe, and produced a lot of patronizing talk about science by people who aren’t actually all that familiar with the underlying scientific questions. Other than that, we remain pretty much where we were 25 years ago: holding summits, followed by the dismayed realization that we haven’t, you know, really done all that much except burn a lot of hydrocarbons flying people to summits. Maybe last year’s Paris talks will turn out to be the actual moment when things started to change – but having spent the last 15 years as a reporter listening to people tell me that no, really, we’re about to turn the corner, I retain a bit of skepticism.

How was this bit of advice from McArdle received by some of the loudest name-callers? Not well, as she describes in this follow-up:

In response, climate scientist Michael Mann tweeted this:

Then he blocked me. You will correctly infer that I was also inundated with other interlocutors on social media and e-mail. Many of them were respectful. Others were … less so. At worst, they suggested, I was a paid shill for fossil fuel interests. (Not so. I accept no pay from anyone other than Bloomberg.) At best, they said, I was a fool who was giving aid and comfort to the enemy. My editor was thusly chided for the column: “shame on you for publishing it, especially if you have children.”

This should come as a big surprise to no one.

Next, we point you to Judith Curry’s (herself no stranger to treatment like McArdle’s, and worse) excellent blog post in which she provides a 21st-century update to Michael Polanyi’s 1962 essay titled “The Republic of Science: Its Political and Economic Theory.” Curry delivers an introduction to his work (“Polanyi provides an interesting perspective from the mid 20th century, as the U.S. and Europe were contemplating massive public investments in science.  Polanyi’s perspective was colored by his early years in Hungary, which led him to oppose central planning in the sciences.”) and excerpts from Polanyi’s work and then follows with an offering of comments as to how Polanyi’s perspective stands up some half a century later. For instance [embedded links in original]:

Polanyi’s analogy of the scientific process with markets captures the pure incentives that drive scientists – search of truth, intellectual satisfaction and individual ego. What happens when the externalities of the Republic of Science produce perverse incentives, and careerism becomes a dominant incentive that requires publishing a lot of papers rapidly and producing headline-worthy results (who even cares if these papers don’t survive scrutiny beyond their press release)? (see What is the measure of scientific success?) What happens is that you get increasing incidence of scientific fraud (see Science: in the doghouse?), cherry picking and meaningless papers on headline grabbing topics that don’t stand up to the test of time (see Trust and don’t bother to verify).

And what happens when the ‘hand’ guiding science isn’t ‘invisible’, i.e. science is driven by politics, such as a political imperative to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy?  Federal funding can bias science, particularly in terms of selecting which scientific problems receive attention (link).

And what of Polanyi’s statement:  “Such self-coordination of independent initiatives leads to a joint result which is unpremeditated by any of those who bring it about.”  The ‘result’ of dangerous anthropogenic climate change and the harms of dietary fat were hardly unpremeditated.

We also have our own humble opinion on Polanyi, and how he influenced Thomas Kuhn, who, as a result of Polanyi’s view, noted that the intellectual market may not be all that fluid. From “Lukewarming: The New Climate Science that Changes Everything”:

…Polanyi…recognized the horrors of government intervention in science and the pernicious influence of central planning.  He argued that science should be considered a free market with spontaneous order a perspective akin to [a list of libertarian economist luminaries]. Thomas Kuhn, a physicist and philosopher who attended several of Polanyi’s lectures, went him one better and argued in his classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that order created paradigms, or encompassing philosophical strucures, that lie at the core of science. 

We went on to demonstrate that paradigms must become even more entrenched when the government becomes the monopoly provider of funding for science with political and policy consequences.

Curry offers up these suggestions as to how to improve on the current sad state of scientific affairs [again, links in original]:

So, what should the Republic of Science look like in the 21st century?  The overwhelming issue for the health of science is to reassert the importance of intellectual and political diversity in science, and to respect and even nurture scientific mavericks.  The tension between pure (curiosity driven) science and use-inspired and applied science [see Pasteur’s quadrant] needs to be resolved in a way that supports all three, with appropriate roles for universities, government and the private sector. And finally, the reward structure for university scientists need to change to reward more meaningful science that stands the test of time, versus counting papers and press releases, which may not survive even superficial scrutiny even after being published in prestigious journals that are more interested in impact than in rigorous methods and appropriate conclusions.

Failure to give serious thought to these issues risks losing the public trust and support for elite university science (at least in certain fields).  Scientists are becoming their own worst enemy when they play into the hands of politicians and others seeking to politicize their science.

We urge you to read the whole thing. As always, Curry is insightful, interesting, informative, and right on target.

And finally, we suggest that you ought to have a look at Julie Kelly’s “The EPA vs. Science” in National Review. In this article, Kelly looks at recent developments in the long-running controversy surrounding the use of the herbicide glyphosate (i.e., Roundup) and EPA’s recent released and then withdrawn report on glyphosate’s health effects. Here’s a teaser:

On April 29, the EPA posted a report concluding that glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide and other products) is “not likely to be carcinogenic.” The committee found no relationship between glyphosate exposure and a number of cancers, including leukemia, multiple myeloma, and Hodgkin lymphoma. The 86-page assessment was signed by the EPA’s cancer review committee back in October 2015 and marked “final.”

But the EPA took it down on May 2, claiming the documents were “inadvertently” posted and only a preliminary report. “EPA has not completed our cancer review. We will look at the work of other governments… . our assessment will be peer reviewed and completed by end of 2016,” said an EPA spokeswoman.

Kelly notes “GMO foes are now targeting glyphosate in their ongoing campaign against genetically engineered crops” and “[a]ctivists are also using the court system to punish companies that use glyphosate” and adds “[i]t seems that the EPA may be taking some cues from these anti-GMO activists.”

House Science Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is looking into what prompted the rather unusual move by the EPA. According to Kelly:

Chairman Smith also senses that EPA foot-dragging might be based more on politics than on science: “That the EPA would remove a report, which was marked as a ‘Final Report’ and signed by thirteen scientists, appears to be yet another example of this agency’s attempt to allow politics rather than science [to] drive its decision making. Sound, transparent science should always be the basis for EPA’s decisions.”

Kelly smartly concludes:

If the science indeed shows (again) that glyphosate does not cause cancer, the anti-pesticide Center for Biological Diversity says it will be a “major roadblock” for the anti-GMO movement, which wants to ban genetically engineered crops worldwide. It will be a blow the anti-GMO movement richly deserves.

You can check out her full story here.

“It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits,” the Supreme Court held last year in Michigan v. EPA.It seems that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) did not get the message, with its willy-nilly imposition of significant economic costs when designating “critical habitat” for endangered species.

A California builders’ association is now asking the Court to establish that judicial review is available for individuals and businesses affected by these agency actions that purport to enforce the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA specifically requires federal agencies to take economic impacts into consideration, but the USFWS routinely ignores the costs of designating land as a critical habitat. The San Francisco-based U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the designation of critical habitat is an action fully committed to agency discretion, and that it may ignore any cost implications at its leisure, but this would seem to contradict Michigan v. EPA and other precedent.

The USFWS employs a cost-benefit accounting method called “baseline analysis,” which separates the impacts that would occur absent designation (baseline impacts) from the impacts attributable to designation (incremental impacts). It then only considers the incremental impacts, despite enormous disparities between baseline and incremental costs—one order of magnitude or two—and fanciful estimates that the economic impact of critical habitat designation is often $0.

Cato, joined by the Reason Foundation and National Federation of Independent Business, filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take up this important question of whether courts can even review the government’s Enron-style of cost-benefit analysis. Independent research by Reason’s Brian Seasholes found that in examining 159 of the 793 species that have critical habitat designation, there are at least $10.7 billion in economic impacts, hundreds of jobs lost per species designated, and regulatory burdens affecting 60,169,546 acres of land (11,261,054 privately owned) spanning 37 states and two territories.

And what is the purported conservation benefit to these billions in costs? Nothing. As the USFWS itself has stated, “[i]n 30 years of implementing the Act, the Service has found that the designation of statutory critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species, while consuming significant amounts of available conservation resources.”

Moreover, critical habitat designation is counterproductive for conservation. Again, the federal government is the source for the best material on this: “Mounting evidence suggests that some regulatory actions by the Federal government, while well-intentioned and required by law, can (under certain circumstances) have unintended negative consequences for the conservation of species on private lands.” These negative consequences are caused by the ESA’s regulatory reach and severe penalties—up to $50,000 and 1 year in jail for misdemeanor harm to an endangered fish, bird, or habitat, whether the habitat is occupied or not—coupled with the ability to regulate vast amounts of land, water and natural resources.

As Australian environmental-law expert David Farrier has described, “disgruntled landowners make poor conservationists”—and foisting enormous costs and regulatory burdens onto homeowners with criminal penalties for non-compliance certainly makes them disgruntled. 

The Supreme Court will consider whether to take up Building Industry Association of the Bay Area v. U.S. Dept. of Commerce either right before it goes on summer recess or right when it gets back in September.

Over at Cato’s Police Misconduct web site, we have selected the worst case for the month of May.  It was the case of one Shane Mauger.  Over a period of about 10 years, this former police officer told lies to obtain search warrants and would then falsify police reports by under-reporting any cash that he seized during those raids.

Now, because of his corruption, officials cannot tell how many of his previous cases were based on valid police work and how many were based upon dishonest work.  Many cases are being reviewed and thrown out.

Federal investigators discovered other corrupt officers in the same Reynoldsburg, Ohio police department.  Former officer Tye Downard was arrested in February for dealing in narcotics.  Shortly after his arrest, Downard committed suicide in his jail cell.

Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

Methane is all the rage. Why? Because 1) it is a powerful greenhouse gas, that molecule for molecule, is some 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide (when it comes to warming the lower atmosphere),  2) it plays a feature role in a climate scare story in which climate change warms the Arctic, releasing  methane stored there in the (once) frozen ground, which leads to more warming and more methane release, ad apocalypse, and 3) methane emissions are  also be linked to fossil fuel extraction (especially fracking operations). An alarmist trifecta!

Turns out, though, that these favored horses aren’t running as advertised.

While methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide, its lifetime there is much shorter, even as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change can’t quite say how long the CO2 residence time actually is. This means that it is harder to build-up methane in the atmosphere and that methane releases are more a short-term issue than a long-term one. If the methane releases are addressed, their climate influence is quickly reduced.

This is why methane emissions from fracking operations—mainly through leaks in the wells or in the natural gas delivery systems—really aren’t that big of a deal. If they can be identified, they can be fixed and the climate impact ends. Further, identifying such leaks are in the fracking industry’s best interest, because, in many cases, they represent lost profits. And while the industry says it has good control of the situation, the EPA isn’t so sure and has proposed regulations aimed at reducing methane emissions from new and existing fossil fuel enterprises. The recent scientific literature is somewhat split on who is right. A major paper recently published in Science magazine seemed to finger Asian agriculture as the primary suspect for recent increases in global methane emissions, while a couple of other recent studies seemed to suggest U.S. fracking operations as the cause (we reviewed those findings here).

And as to the runaway positive feedback loop in the Arctic, a new paper basically scratches that pony.

A research team led by University of Colorado’s Colm Sweeney set out to investigate the strength of the positive feedback between methane releases from Arctic soil and temperature (as permafrost thaws, it releases methane). To do this, they examined data on methane concentrations collected from a sampling station in Barrow, Alaska over the period 1986 through 2014. In addition to methane concentration, the dataset also included temperature and wind measurements. They found that when the wind was blowing in from over the ocean, the methane concentration of the air is relatively low, but when the wind blew from the land, methane concentration rose–at least during the summer/fall months, when the ground is free from snow and temperature is above freezing. When the researchers plotted the methane concentration (from winds blowing over land) with daily temperatures, they found a strong relationship. For every 1°C of temperature increase, the methane concentration increased by 5 ± 3.6 ppb (parts per billion)—indicating that higher daily temperatures promoted more soil methane release. However (and here is where things get real interesting), when the researchers plotted the change in methane concentration over the entire 29-yr period of record, despite an overall temperature increase in Barrow of 3.5°C, the average methane concentration increased by only about 4 ppm—yielding a statistically insignificant change of 1.1 ± 1.8 ppm/°C. The Sweeney and colleagues wrote:

The small temperature response suggests that there are other processes at play in regulating the long-term [methane] emissions in the North Slope besides those observed in the short term.

As for what this means for the methane/temperature feedback loop during a warming climate, the authors summarize [references omitted]:

The short- and long-term surface air temperature sensitivity based on the 29 years of observed enhancements of CH4 [methane] in air masses coming from the North Slope provides an important basis for estimating the CH4 emission response to changing air temperatures in Arctic tundra. By 2080, autumn (and winter) temperatures in the Arctic are expected to change by an additional 3 to 6°C. Based on the long-term temperature sensitivity estimate made in this study, increases in the average enhancements on the North Slope will be only between -2 and 17 ppb (3 to 6°C x 1.1 ± 1.8 ppb of CH4/°C). Based on the short-term relationship calculated, the enhancements may be as large as 30 ppb. These two estimates translate to a -3 – 45% change in the mean (~65 ppb) CH4 enhancement observed at [Barrow] from July through December. Applying this enhancement to an Arctic-wide natural emissions rate estimate of 19 Tg/yr estimated during the 1990s and implies that tundra-based emissions might increase to as much as 28 Tg/yr by 2080. This amount represents a small increase (1.5%) relative to the global CH4 emissions of 553 Tg/yr that have been estimated based on atmospheric inversions.

In other words, even if the poorly understood long-term processes aren’t sustained, the short term methane/temperature relationship itself doesn’t lead to climate catastrophe.

The favorite thoroughbreds of the methane scare are proving to be little more than a bunch of claimers.

 

Reference:

Sweeney, C., et al., 2016.  No significant increase in long-term CH4 emissions on North Slope of Alaska despite significant increase in air temperature. Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1002/GRL.54541.

 

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