Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Environmentalism as hysteria

A short but totally crazy video here. I wonder who is the guy behind it. Another Jim Jones, I suspect.

As Mike Pechar said: "It displays complete, unadulterated, idiocy by people with too much time on their hands and in dire need of a new circle of friends.

It's sad comedy, a burgeoning genre, at its finest. It's also a reason that mental health counseling is always in demand.

By the way, after viewing the video, you'll have a better understanding about the three dozen Heaven's Gate people who committed mass suicide in preparation to embark on an imagined space ship that was following the Hale-Bopp comet.

An honest (sort of) post on "Real Climate"

"Real Climate" is the Warmist theological seminary so I had better reproduce the post below before they delete it. The author, Spencer Weart, points out how difficult it is to quantify climate phenomena and how multifarious are the factors involved -- meaning that any final numbers produced are inherently shaky. He is trying to convey that it is all too difficult for you peasants to understand so trust us experts and our mysterious calculations -- but he gives far too much away in the process

I often get emails from scientifically trained people who are looking for a straightforward calculation of the global warming that greenhouse gas emissions will bring. What are the physics equations and data on gases that predict just how far the temperature will rise? A natural question, when public expositions of the greenhouse effect usually present it as a matter of elementary physics. These people, typically senior engineers, get suspicious when experts seem to evade their question. Some try to work out the answer themselves (Lord Monckton for example) and complain that the experts dismiss their beautiful logic.

The engineers' demand that the case for dangerous global warming be proved with a page or so of equations does sound reasonable, and it has a long history. The history reveals how the nature of the climate system inevitably betrays a lover of simple answers.

The simplest approach to calculating the Earth's surface temperature would be to treat the atmosphere as a single uniform slab, like a pane of glass suspended above the surface (much as we see in elementary explanations of the "greenhouse" effect). But the equations do not yield a number for global warming that is even remotely plausible. You can't work with an average, squashing together the way heat radiation goes through the dense, warm, humid lower atmosphere with the way it goes through the thin, cold, dry upper atmosphere. Already in the 19th century, physicists moved on to a "one-dimensional" model. That is, they pretended that the atmosphere was the same everywhere around the planet, and studied how radiation was transmitted or absorbed as it went up or down through a column of air stretching from ground level to the top of the atmosphere. This is the study of "radiative transfer," an elegant and difficult branch of theory. You would figure how sunlight passed through each layer of the atmosphere to the surface, and how the heat energy that was radiated back up from the surface heated up each layer, and was shuttled back and forth among the layers, or escaped into space.

When students learn physics, they are taught about many simple systems that bow to the power of a few laws, yielding wonderfully precise answers: a page or so of equations and you're done. Teachers rarely point out that these systems are plucked from a far larger set of systems that are mostly nowhere near so tractable. The one-dimensional atmospheric model can't be solved with a page of mathematics. You have to divide the column of air into a set of levels, get out your pencil or computer, and calculate what happens at each level. Worse, carbon dioxide and water vapor (the two main greenhouse gases) absorb and scatter differently at different wavelengths. So you have to make the same long set of calculations repeatedly, once for each section of the radiation spectrum.

It was not until the 1950s that scientists had both good data on the absorption of infrared radiation, and digital computers that could speed through the multitudinous calculations. Gilbert N. Plass used the data and computers to demonstrate that adding carbon dioxide to a column of air would raise the surface temperature. But nobody believed the precise number he calculated (2.5§C of warming if the level of CO2 doubled). Critics pointed out that he had ignored a number of crucial effects. First of all, if global temperature started to rise, the atmosphere would contain more water vapor. Its own greenhouse effect would make for more warming. On the other hand, with more water vapor wouldn't there be more clouds? And wouldn't those shade the planet and make for less warming? Neither Plass nor anyone before him had tried to calculate changes in cloudiness. (For details and references see this history site.)

Fritz Moeller followed up with a pioneering computation that took into account the increase of absolute humidity with temperature. Oops. his results showed a monstrous feedback. As the humidity rose, the water vapor would add its greenhouse effect, and the temperature might soar. The model could give an almost arbitrarily high temperature! This weird result stimulated Syukuro Manabe to develop a more realistic one-dimensional model. He included in his column of air the way convective updrafts carry heat up from the surface, a basic process that nearly every earlier calculation had failed to take into account. It was no wonder M”ller's surface had heated up without limit: his model had not used the fact that hot air would rise. Manabe also worked up a rough calculation for the effects of clouds. By 1967, in collaboration with Richard Wetherald, he was ready to see what might result from raising the level of CO2. Their model predicted that if the amount of CO2 doubled, global temperature would rise roughly two degrees C. This was probably the first paper to convince many scientists that they needed to think seriously about greenhouse warming. The computation was, so to speak, a "proof of principle."

But it would do little good to present a copy of the Manabe-Wetherald paper to a senior engineer who demands a proof that global warming is a problem. The paper gives only a sketch of complex and lengthy computations that take place, so to speak, offstage. And nobody at the time or since would trust the paper's numbers as a precise prediction. There were still too many important factors that the model did not include. For example, it was only in the 1970s that scientists realized they had to take into account how smoke, dust and other aerosols from human activity interact with radiation, and how the aerosols affect cloudiness as well. And so on and so forth.

The greenhouse problem was not the first time climatologists hit this wall. Consider, for example, attempts to calculate the trade winds, a simple and important feature of the atmosphere. For generations, theorists wrote down the basic equations for fluid flow and heat transfer on the surface of a rotating sphere, aiming to produce a precise description of our planet's structure of convective cells and winds in a few lines of equations. or a few pages. or a few dozen pages. They always failed. It was only with the advent of powerful digital computers in the 1960s that people were able to solve the problem through millions of numerical computations. If someone asks for an "explanation" of the trade winds, we can wave our hands and talk about tropical heating, the rotation of the earth and baroclinic instability. But if we are pressed for details with actual numbers, we can do no more than dump a truckload of printouts showing all the arithmetic computations.

I'm not saying we don't understand the greenhouse effect. We understand the basic physics just fine, and can explain it in a minute to a curious non-scientist. (Like this: greenhouse gases let sunlight through to the Earth's surface, which gets warm; the surface sends infrared radiation back up, which is absorbed by the gases at various levels and warms up the air; the air radiates some of this energy back to the surface, keeping it warmer than it would be without the gases.) For a scientist, you can give a technical explanation in a few paragraphs. But if you want to get reliable numbers - if you want to know whether raising the level of greenhouse gases will bring a trivial warming or a catastrophe - you have to figure in humidity, convection, aerosol pollution, and a pile of other features of the climate system, all fitted together in lengthy computer runs.

Physics is rich in phenomena that are simple in appearance but cannot be calculated in simple terms. Global warming is like that. People may yearn for a short, clear way to predict how much warming we are likely to face. Alas, no such simple calculation exists. The actual temperature rise is an emergent property resulting from interactions among hundreds of factors [meaning that you have to quantify ALL those many factors correctly to get a correct answer. He has already shown above that getting the inputs wrong can produce spectacularly wrong answers]. People who refuse to acknowledge that complexity should not be surprised when their demands for an easy calculation go unanswered.


Report: Cool temperatures and frost to wreak havoc on U.S. agriculture?

Forecasts based on actual current data are talking about cooling, not warming

Cooling temperatures are going to wreak havoc on agriculture for the remainder of the growing season with the threat of an early frost greater than in years past, according to the latest research from Storm Exchange. Storm Exchange, Inc., a weather-risk management service based in New York, said in their Fall 2008 Weather Risk Outlook that in a 90-day projection based on a combination of atmospheric climate trends, advanced computer-driven seasonal prediction models and analog forecasts, this fall presents a classic weather hedging scenario.

"For the season ahead, we see agriculture still struggling to gain traction with an increased risk of frost threatening an already unstable corn crop while that same cool weather pattern is going to drive consumers into the mall for seasonal apparel," Paul Walsh, Storm Exchange Chief Strategy Officer, said in a press release. "This cooling trend will be set against the backdrop of a very active hurricane season that will continue to drive price volatility in the energy sector."

The Storm Exchange corn yield estimate stands at 144 bushels/acre. This number represents a 6% cut below trend and a sharp reduction from the USDA's August monthly prediction of 155 bushels per acre. The drop is attributed to delayed planting across the Corn Belt caused by the severe flooding that occurred in the Spring 2008, according to the Storm Exchange report. The flooding permanently impacted 10-12% of US corn, meaning that bumper crop yields would be needed to make up the difference, Storm Exchange analysts say.

It also means that the corn will require an extended warm growing season to mature safely before the first fall freeze. In Iowa, the likelihood of a severe freeze is 30% higher than historical average, according to Storm Exchange research. Across the corn-growing region of the U.S., approximately 15-25 percent of the U.S. corn crop is at risk of frost damage.

"With the crop going in the ground so late and not maturing quickly enough, we now have the double jeopardy situation of immature corn and cold weather on the horizon," Gail Martell, Storm Exchange Senior Agriculture Analyst, said in a Storm Exchange statement. "Whether we encounter freeze damage or not, there is simply no avoiding the fact that shallow kernels will develop in late-maturing corn with cool temperatures that hinder ear-filling."


Green activists 'are keeping Africa poor' by promoting traditional farming

And it's King of climate change saying it

Western do-gooders are impoverishing Africa by promoting traditional farming at the expense of modern scientific agriculture, according to Britain's former chief scientist. Anti-science attitudes among aid agencies, poverty campaigners and green activists are denying the continent access to technology that could improve millions of lives, Professor Sir David King will say today. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Europe and America are turning African countries against sophisticated farming methods, including GM crops, in favour of indigenous and organic approaches that cannot deliver the continent's much needed "green revolution", he believes.

Speaking before a keynote lecture tonight to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, of which he is president, Sir David said that the slow pace of African development was linked directly to Western influence. "I'm going to suggest, and I believe this very strongly, that a big part has been played in the impoverishment of that continent by the focus on nontechnological agricultural techniques, on techniques of farming that pertain to the history of that continent rather than techniques that pertain to modern technological capability.

Why has that continent not joined Asia in the big green revolutions that have taken place over the past few decades? The suffering within that continent, I believe, is largely driven by attitudes developed in the West which are somewhat anti-science, anti-technology - attitudes that lead towards organic farming, for example, attitudes that lead against the use of genetic technology for crops that could deal with increased salinity in the water, that can deal with flooding for rice crops, that can deal with drought resistance."

Sir David, who stepped down in December as the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, will use his presidential address to the BA Festival of Science in Liverpool to accuse governments and NGOs of confused thinking about African development. "Solutions will only emerge if full use is made of modern agricultural technology methods, under progressive, scientifically informed regulation," he will say.

"The most advanced form of plant breeding, using modern genetic techniques, is now available to us. Plant breeding needs to meet a range of demands, including defences against evolving plant diseases, drought resistance, saline resistance, and flood tolerance. The problem is that the Western-world move toward organic farming - a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food - and against agricultural technology in general and GM in particular, has been adopted across Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences."

His remarks will place him in direct opposition to former Whitehall colleagues. The Government endorsed recently the International Assessement of Agricultural Science and Technology, a report from 400 scientists and development experts published in April, which championed small-scale farming and traditional knowledge. The exercise was led by Professor Bob Watson, the chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Sir David said that its findings were short-sighted. "I hesitate to criticise Bob Watson, who I admire enormously, but I think that we have been overwhelmed by attitudes to Africa that for some reason are qualitatively different to attitudes elsewhere. "We have the technology to feed the population of the planet. The question is do we have the ability to understand that we have it, and to deliver?"

Sir David, who was born and brought up in South Africa, added: "I think there is a tremendous groundswell of feeling that we need to support tradition in Africa. What that actually means in practice is if you go to a marketplace in a lovely town like Livingstone in Zambia, near Victoria Falls, you will see hundreds of people with little piles of their crops for sale. "This is an extremely inefficient process. The sort of thing we're seeing existed in this country hundreds of years ago. I don't believe that will lead to the economic development of Africa."

He will cite the example of rice that can resist flooding, which has been developed by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Its development has been held up for several years because scientists felt they could not use GM techniques, such is the scale of Western-influenced opposition to the technology.

He will also accuse green groups such as the UN Environment Programme of agitating against new technologies on the basis of speculative risks, while ignoring potential benefits. "For example, Friends of the Earth in 1999 worried that drought-tolerant crops may have the potential to grow in habitats unavailable' to conventional crops.

The priority of providing food to an area of the world in greatest need appears to not have been noted.For decades, approaches to international development have been dominated by this well-meaning but fatally flawed doctrine."


Brookings Institute Trips over Climate Science

In the most recent edition of its influential ScareWatch series, the Science and Public Policy Institute questions whether the Brookings Institute is familiar with basic geography, to say nothing of climate science.

Says SPPI President, Robert Ferguson, "In an April 28 Washington Post opinion editorial worthy of a London tabloid, the President of Brookings and a resident policy wonk blamed Americans for the approaching reputed climate cataclysm, and listed out specific camp-fire apocalyptics - including the fanciful notion that the land-locked African nation of Mali will sink beneath the seas unless the American economy is shut down within the next seven years."

The co-authors, who are currently working with Stanford University on a "global governance" project, whatever that may be, recite a well-worn litany about the "momentous political challenge" faced by the next US President because of warmer weather.

They say greenhouse gases are warming the Earth; that it will warm by more than 4.5 F by as soon as 2050, causing "vast regions" to "slide towards being uninhabitable"; that arable land will turn into desert; that the sea will rise to flood coastal areas from Manhattan and Florida to Bangladesh, St. Petersburg, and Mali; that the Gulf Stream will be altered; that Nevada will have no water at all; that cap-`n'-trade, windmills, solar panels, biofuels, and carbon-capture are the answer to this "existential threat to civilization"; and that Americans are guilty because the United States emits four times as much carbon per head as the Chinese and 12 times as much as the Indians. SPPI examines each scare in turn. A few examples include:

"The planet will warm by 4.5 F by mid-century": "Here, the authors are predicting that temperatures over the next 40 years will rise by 0.1 F per year. Temperature has been falling throughout the past seven years, so this forecast is already looking over-ambitious. In fact, temperature rose by only 1 F between 1907 and 2007, a rate of just 0.01 F per year. There is no credible scientific evidence to the effect that this long-run warming rate, which began 300 years ago and shows absolutely no sign of increasing despite the extra carbon dioxide in the air, will suddenly accelerate tenfold. Forecasts of this kind are scaremongering plain and simple, and are no longer credible in the least degree.

"Arable land will turn into desert": "It will do no such thing. By the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, of which the Brookings Institute has perhaps not yet heard, in warmer weather the space occupied by the atmosphere is capable of carrying near-exponentially more water vapor than in colder weather. This relation establishes scientifically what has long been observed: that, in general, warmer weather is wetter weather."

"Cap-`n'-trade will Save The Planet": "Not that the planet needs saving: carbon dioxide concentrations were 20 times today's level back in the Cambrian era, and temperatures were only 12 F above today's. The planet survived just fine. The notion that emissions trading will make the slightest useful contribution to the future evolution of the Earth's climate is as absurd scientifically as it is economically. Transferring Western jobs and carbon emissions to China and India, which will be the direct result of any emissions-trading program, will actually increase the planet's carbon footprint. Also, carbon trading, which arbitrarily favors some industries at others' expense, is nothing more than a system of Socialist rationing under the pietistic guise of Saving The Planet."


Obama's energy plan does not compute

According to the Energy Information Administration, during the first half of 2008, the United States imported an average of 13.2 million barrels of oil per day. Of that, 6.1 million barrels came from OPEC suppliers and 2.5 million barrels came from inside the Persian Gulf.

So what will Obama do to free the United States from the scourge of foreign oil? Well, let's assume that he plans to replace those 6.1 million barrels of OPEC crude by electrifying a major segment of the U.S. auto fleet. If you assume a fleet of electric power plants operating with 30 percent efficiency, replacing that quantity of oil would require about 1.4 million megawatts of electric power capacity. (The same 30 percent efficiency rating would also apply if the electric supply came from wind turbines, which are available about one-third of the time.)

That's a huge amount of production capability, particularly when you consider that the entire U.S. power grid has about 986,000 megawatts of capacity. Thus, if Obama wants to replace OPEC supplies with electric cars, then, in just 10 years, he plans to: a) more than double America's existing power production capacity; and b) overhaul the power grid so that millions of cars can be recharged without causing blackouts.

Obama said he wants to invest heavily in solar power. That's fine. We're in favor of solar. So what would it take to replace OPEC oil if Obama wanted to just use electric cars supplied by solar power? If you assume a conversion efficiency of 12 percent, the United States would need about 3.5 million megawatts of installed solar capacity. That's more than three times the existing electric capacity in the country. It also translates into about 35.5 million acres of solar collectors, or an area about the size of the state of Illinois. and that assumes no room for roads or power lines or maintenance areas.

In his speech in Denver, Obama - a longtime supporter of the corn ethanol industry - didn't mention ethanol. These days, he prefers to talk about "advanced biofuels." Or, as he did in his acceptance speech, his desire to support "the next generation of biofuels." For people in the industry, that usually means cellulosic ethanol; that is, fuel made from biomass like switchgrass, wood chips or other plant matter.

So let's take a modest approach and assume that Obama wants to use cellulosic ethanol to replace the 2.5 million barrels of oil per day that come from the Persian Gulf. That would mean creating a domestic industry capable of producing 38.3 billion gallons of motor fuel per year. Sounds reasonable, right? Not so fast.

Companies that are trying to commercialize cellulosic ethanol are claiming that they can produce about 100 gallons of ethanol per ton of biomass. (That's about the same yield that can be obtained by using grain as a feedstock.) Thus, to produce 38.3 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol would require the annual harvest and transport of 383 million tons of biomass - enough material to fill 25.5 million semitrailers. Assuming each trailer is 48 feet long and holds 15 tons of biomass, the column of trailers (not including any trucks attached to them) to hold that volume of feedstock would stretch about 231,800 miles. That's long enough to encircle the Earth nine times.

It gets worse. Remember that ethanol's energy content is only about two-thirds that of gasoline. So to produce the energy equivalent of 38.3 billion gallons of conventional motor fuel, the United States would actually need to produce about 49.7 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. (And remember, that's just to replace the oil we get from the Persian Gulf, which supplies about 12 percent of U.S. needs.) What would that mean in terms of biomass? It would require a line of semitrailer loads that would cover some 301,000 miles - a span that would easily stretch from here to the moon, with enough room left over to get about one-fourth of the way back.....

I hope the NY Times Editorial Board looks at these figures and takes back their editorial complaining about the McCain energy plan which makes much more sense. The liberals are so fixed on getting off of carbon based energy they have lost perspective on the cost of doing so. It may happen someday, but forcing us into a lower standard of living to make it happen will not work and politically it is a loser.

It is hard to work numbers into an ad, but the examples given here need to be worked into a YouTube on the energy issue. The McCain team has become very good at riducling Obama positions and there is a lot of material for that in this piece. I hope they get on it. Energy may be the biggest issue in this election and showing how out of touch teh Democrats are would go a long way toward winning.



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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