Category Archives: World Politics

A Three Question Climate Change Knowledge Test

Climate change is a scientific discussion that has been hijacked by political considerations.  Many people have strong opinions about climate change and too many of those opinions are based on political rather than scientific reality.   Politics are here, there and everywhere.  And the UN, a strangely political place, is the recognized world expert.  Need I say more.

With that in mind I have developed a simple 3 question test.  If you already know all the answers, congratulations!

Question 1. —  What is Climate Sensitivity and how does it impact the global climate debate?

Most people have never heard of Climate Sensitivity.  Some will be well aware of the idea, but not know the name.  Others are simply unaware of the arguments.  A general knowledge of how climate sensitivity is used by the global warming doom crowd is important.

Carbon dioxide is a weak greenhouse gas.  Water vapor and methane are strong greenhouse gases.   As carbon dioxide changes in the atmosphere, it is predicted to make changes in other climate variables.   IF the model assumes a high climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide then small changes in carbon dioxide cause big changes in climate.  Low sensitivity produces much less change.   Many UN modelers assume a fairly high carbon dioxide sensitivity.  This high sensitivity leads to “tipping points” and gloom and doom.

Climate models are run by computers. These computers use carbon dioxide as a key input variable.  They then predict temperature years and centuries into the future.   UN approved climate models do not agree with each other.   Models can vary by as much as 5 degrees C by the year 2100.

As time goes by computers get faster, more information becomes available and the models are adjusted.  Predictions made just 10 years ago have proven to be wildly high.  Either the climate sensitivity was too high or … they have failed to properly consider natural climate variation.

Question 2. — What is natural climate variation?

If you don’t get this one right, you’re really not paying attention to the science.

We live in an ice age time.  We have been in an ice age for the last 2.5 million years.  For the last 11,000 years we have been in the Holocene, an oddly steady period of climate history.  Climate during the Holocene has been warm and stable.  Ice cores go back about 700,000 years.  The Holocene is the only climate period during that time that has stayed warm for 11,000 years.   The norm is colder.  Much colder.

Here is a copy of a Vostok Antarctic Ice Corps showing climate variations at the drill site.

This chart starts in the present time and then goes back 400,000 years.  Another widely used chart displays the last 50,000 years of the chart beginning at the oldest with the newest dates at the right:

It’s easy to see the Holocene.  20,000 years ago New York City was covered in ice…and 130,000 years the world was warmer than it is right now.   This wildly changing climate is called natural climate variation.

Now lets look at the last 10,000 years using a Greenland Ice Core:

This chart ends with year 2009.  Man has only been able to influence climate for perhaps 200 years.  Any variations seen before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (the blue on the chart) must, by definition, be something that man did not cause.  Three times in the last 10,000 years it has been more than a degree warmer than it is right now.

What change is natural and what is man caused?  This is one very difficult science problem.

Question 3 — How is electricity stored?

This is a bit of a trick question.  Generally, electricity is not stored.   Power generation is an on demand business.  You turn on the light switch, the utility provides the electricity and the lights go on.  The utility grid has a bit of excess capacity running all the time so that it can maintain a stable grid.

A small amount of electricity is stored in batteries, but batteries are expensive and have manufacturing and disposal problems.  Batteries are not now a viable option.  People are working hard to solve this problem.   But in science, wishing doesn’t make it so.  When the solution is found…we can consider it, but for right now we have to look at what is available today, not what might be there in 10 or 20 years.

Electricity is not stored, any electricity provided must be immediately used by the grid.  Electrical demand varies throughout the day and the electric utility has to vary production to meet that demand.  Demand usually peaks just before sunrise and again in the early evening.  Wind and solar are only available when mother nature feels like it.  Germany, the largest solar power market in the world is so far North that solar provides almost no power in the winter.   Munich, which is in Southern Germany, has the same latitude as International Falls, Minnesota.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) releases statistics every month on power generation in the USA.  Here is the data for a 12 month rolling average including October 2015.

Coal   Natural Gas    Nuclear    Hydro     Solar     Renewable (inc. wind)

35%         32%              19%           6%           0.6%                          7%

Natural gas burns much cleaner than coal but does create some carbon dioxide when burned.  Hydro and Nuclear are clean (from a carbon dioxide perspective)   All four are unpopular with environmentalists for various reasons and they represent about 92% of all power production.

Wind is the most difficult to predict alternative fuel, and it’s the least reliable.   Places with lots of wind relative to other sources of power have odd things happen from time to time.  When the wind really blows, Germany gets so much power from wind that they have to pay neighboring countries to take the energy.  A US utility made news a few months ago when it gave away electricity during peak wind production.  A  cheap reliable battery network would fix this problem.  Unfortunately none exists right now.

Whenever I encounter a global warming true believer I ask them the same simple question.   What is your opinion on Nuclear Power?  Coal represents 35% of total load now and most environmentalists want that at zero.   Where is that capacity going to come from?   There is only one currently available source that can bridge the gap to a better world with wind, solar and cheap batteries and that choice is Nuclear.

Which of course begs the question.   What do you fear more, Nuclear Power or global warming?  I myself am skeptical about the science that touts global disaster, but they could be right.  On the chance that they might be at least partly right…. I support more Nuclear Energy.  How about You?

 

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Climate — The Good, the Bad and the Stupid

Wow.  What a week.

On Saturday the Wall Street Journal published a feature article on the current state of climate science that was probably the best detailed article I have ever seen on global climate change. (the good).

On Sunday my local paper reprinted a New York Times article that featured a night photo of the UN building featuring the 2 degree C goal on the face of the building (the bad) and …

On Monday climate protestors amassed on Wall Street (the stupid).

The Good

If you haven’t read the Wall Street Journal article, Climate Science is Not Settled, read it now.  It is simply the best article on the subject I have seen.   The first paragraph is an excellent introduction:

The idea that “Climate science is settled” runs through today’s popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. It has not only distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment. But it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.

The article begins by acknowledging that the world is warmer and that man is probably responsible for some amount of warming.  It then details all the shortcomings in the science.   Discussions items include our limited understanding of the Oceans, the wild variability of computer models and the societal desire to have a precise answer when science cannot give us one.

Precise answers are beyond our abilities at this time and yet the UN has been providing precise answers since 1997.

A quotation courtesy of Mark Twain and/or Will Rogers:

It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.

The Bad

The UN (when discussing global climate) has always been a political association trying to solve an extraordinarily difficult science problem.  Political solutions don’t work well in science.   The UN has been making specific predictions about future climate for some 20 years now.  Those predictions have been wrong because they have not been willing to admit to the scientific shortcomings listed in the WSJ article just referenced.

Natural climate variation and flawed computer modeling have made many predictions in the 2007 synopses report wrong.   The recently released 2014 Synopses Report modified those predictions to include climate variation.   Some changes in climate that were predicted for our immediate future now might not show up for centuries.  But the predictions persist.

The Wall Street Journal article referenced earlier had this to say about specific climatic predictions:

Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole. For example, human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere’s natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%. Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.

The UN needs  a specific identifiable goal to motivate people to act.  So they give them one.  The following photo accompanied an article about the New York warming protests in my local Sunday paper:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1.2017169!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg

Keep global temperature increases to_less_than 2 degree C is plastered across the UN building encouraging protestors.  This goal was a part of the 2007 Synopses report.   The UN is supporting the notion that society can control temperature and can keep the change to less than a 2 degree C change since the beginning of the Industrial revolution.   The world has already changed more than a degree C since 1750 so the goal is to keep  temperature in a very tight range.

Natural climate variation makes the goal virtually impossible.

A few less sunspots, a volcanic eruption, a change in short term weather patterns.  A Little Ice Age here, the Medieval Warming Period there, or perhaps the next ice age cold cycle.

One volcanic eruption on the scale of the Mt. Tambora eruption of 1815 would change the world by more than 2 degrees C.  1815 was known around the world as the year without a summer.

Europe in 1709 was a very cold place.  It is guesstimated that Europe was a full 7 degrees C below the 20th century average  that year.  And the Romans built gold mines high in the Alps during a very warm period around 1800 years ago.

Mt. Pinatubo in 1992 changed the world by 1 degree C in only 2 years.  Any notion that man can control climate as specifically as the UN stated on their building last Sunday is poppycock and BAD science.

THE STUPID

Assume the UN is right and all the problems mentioned in the WSJ article are wrong (bad assumptions both).  Gloom and doom is close at hand and immediate action is necessary.  So activists protest on Wall Street? Why?

What would that accomplish?  What do they expect Wall Street to do?  What are their goals?

Carbon production worldwide is growing despite efforts to slow it.  Why?  Four words…China, India and Nuclear Power.  We must find a way to slow the population growth rate and we must construct clean energy plants all over the world.  Plants that will operate on cloudy windless days.  There is only one choice that will work right now (if you believe the UN math), and that choice is Nuclear Power.

Does the world fear Nuclear Power or global warming more?   Right now the answer is Nuclear Power.  Western countries are phasing out of Nuclear because of the Fukashima disaster.   California and Vermont are closing old Nuclear plants and no new ones are scheduled to be built.   That carbon free power is being replaced by power that produces carbon.

China produces more carbon dioxide than the USA and Europe combined.  And in the next 50 years India will become the world’s most populous place, adding half a billion people to its already burdensome population. Each additional Indian that makes it to the middle class wants to use energy to improve their quality of life.  Cheap power is a necessity.

China’s per capita production of carbon now exceeds the average for Europe.  That production is rising at about 8% per year with zero population growth.  India’s use is rising faster than it’s population growth.    The USA, the world’s second largest producer of carbon, has been reducing production, but it gets lost in the mix as China overwhelms everything else.    If India and China don’t change, then it doesn’t matter what the rest of us do.

These are worldwide political problems.   And they involve hard choices and tradeoffs.  Wall Street has very little to do with either.    So why protest there?

Politics of course.  And headlines!

I’d be willing to bet that most of the protestors are absolutely sure they are correct….and I’d also be willing to bet they think all the science issues are settled.   That is a sad reality that has become global warming politics.

 

Mr. Obama and the Flat Earth Society

Last week I became a member of the Flat Earth Society….or so says my President.  He was discussing the urgent need to take action on global climate change.

Come on Mr. President, it’s recycled data.   The IPCC President used that one in 2002.   Al Gore has linked skeptics to people that thought the moon landings were faked.   And in MR. Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, skeptics were equated to the smoking lobby…complete with slides of old magazine advertisements of doctors recommending smoking.    The climate change boogie men have been using this tactic since the 1980’s.  When challenged attack the creditability of your opponent.

It helps to have a thick skin if you going to question the conventional wisdom of the day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the world is a bit warmer than it otherwise would be because of man caused global warming gases.   I simply think the ecosystem is so complex and has so much natural climate variation that it is impossible for anyone to KNOW how much of the recent warming in natural climate variation and how much is man caused.   Everybody is guessing.   And the recognized experts (the IPCC)  have….at least so far….been dead wrong as this chart demonstrates:

This  chart is from a draft of  AR5 (the 5th Climate Assessment) that has been making the rounds at various skeptic sites.   AR5 will be published in 2014. Every few years the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a climate synopses report.   The first one (FAR) was published in 1992.   The reports take a long time to write, so the data is usually about 2 years old when published.

Let’s look at the AR4 data.  The Forth Assessment (AR4) was prepared in 2005 and published in the fall of 2007.  The orange color as depicted on the chart is the probable range of  temperatures the IPCC anticipated.  Every year since 2005 has been low.   The data in the chart stops in 2011 because the draft was being prepared in 2012.   2011 was a cool year by 21st century standard.  2012 was above 2011 but just barely,and so far 2013 has been a bit cooler than either 2011 or 2012.  Every year since 2005 has been cooler than the IPCC predicted and every year since 2011 has been so cool as to be below the minimum range prediction made by the IPCC in 2007.

The First Assessment (FAR)  was prepared in 1990.  Every year except 1998 has been lower than the IPCC predicted.   If there is one pattern that has emerged….it is that the IPCC has been wrong in their predictions.  They have tended to be wild high.   I’m not one of those people that thinks I know how to calculate the right temperature for any given time.  I’d argue that anybody that tries is guessing…..and the IPCC has ….so far…been a lousy guesser.

And a note to Mr. Obama….just because everybody you associate with agrees with you does not mean you are right.

I’m all for making a reasonable effort to limit our carbon footprint, but I question his assertion that there is no time to critically evaluate the science. The track record of the experts suggests that they are guessing….and guessing badly.

Three quotations out of the past sum up my position on this issue.

Sinclair Lewis is credited with the following:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Both Mark Twain and Will Rogers made similar statements that go something like this:

It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.

Another Will Rogers quotation:

Be thankful we’re not getting the government we’re paying for.

Kyoto Protocol Extended to 2020 by UN

Yesterday (Saturday December 8,2012), the BBC’s lead story on my browser feed was Climate talks: UN forum extends Kyoto Protocol to 2020.  Wow, I can hardly contain my excitement.   An agreement that doesn’t work has just been extended.

The Kyoto Protocol has always been a bureaucratic solution to the perceived science problem of man caused global warming.   The UN has put itself in charge of both the politics and the science. How convenient for them.

The Kyoto Protocol divides the world into two main categories, the developed world and the developing world.  Countries in the developed world must limit their carbon emissions, the developing countries have no such limitations.  The three biggest contributors in the world are China (28%), the USA (16%) and India (7%).  China and India are considered developing countries and the USA has not ratified the treaty.

The three biggest contributors in the world with 51% of the total are not required to do anything under the treaty.  Sounds like a recipe for failure to me.  The USA as the only developed country that did not ratify the treaty is frequently blamed for the failure of the treaty.  In this article the BBC keeps up that proud tradition.

The US – a major polluter – has never ratified the original 1997 protocol.

Per capita carbon use in the USA peaked in 1973.   As the Huffington Post noted in a recent article, USA production will be the lowest it has been in 20 years in 2012.  Yes, the USA uses more than it’s fair share of energy, but that’s true of all developed countries and we are improving.

China, according to the Global Carbon Project, produced 28% of the total in 2011 and was growing at 9.9% in 2011.   They alone were responsible for  .28*9.9% or 2.7% of the worlds growth in 2011.  The whole world grew at 3.0% in 2011.

This blog is dedicated to the notion that global warming science is full of guesses and questionable assumptions.  That said, I believe we are impacting our ecosystem and we should try to do better.    We all can do better…and China needs to do more….lots more.

China is the big player in the carbon game.    In 2011 China had about the same per capita emissions level as the average EU country and their population has a much lower standard of living.  China expects to grow their economy rapidly for many more years as their citizens become more affluent.   China needs to become more energy efficient.

I worry more about air pollution and population growth than global climate change.  I consider much of the money being spent by the UN and others to try to control climate, a squandering of our scarce resources.   We have our priorities wrong.   India will pass the USA within 20 years and become the worlds second leading carbon producer simply by growing their population!

The world bank estimates that China has 14 of the 18 most polluted cities in the world.   India will soon become the most populous country in the world and it will have a population density about 9 times that of the USA.    World population growth and the pollution of the planet are immediate problems that need more resources right now.

Saturday the UN extended an agreement that does not work for 8 more years.   Next year the 9th International Carbon Dioxide Conference meets  in Beijing.  So goes the strange world of climate politics.