Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Will we get smarter about global warming?


Philipp Blom’s “Nature’s Mutiny” (Liveright, 2019) looks at the Little Ice Age of 1560-1700 and demonstrates that, whereas the first generation afflicted by unexpected cold weather sat around moaning about God not loving them, after about 40 years more intelligent responses occurred, such as improvements in agriculture, a massive growth in international trade and the birth of modern capitalism. Since it is nearly 40 years since the world started worrying about global warming, can we hope for an equivalent improvement in response IQ?

The Little Ice Age involved a decline in global mean temperature of about 1 degree Celsius, between about 1560 and 1700 (its onset appears to have preceded the sunspot “Maunder Minimum of 1640-1700). Blom’s thesis is that the climate change was a stimulant to political, economic and social changes in Europe, which propelled what we now know as the “Enlightenment”.

In its first few decades, until about 1600, the reaction to unexpectedly cold winters was almost entirely gloomy and negative. European society at both the elite and mass level was used to regarding natural changes as evidence of God’s will, so the unexpectedly cold winters and poor harvests were taken as evidence of God’s wrath, caused by the sinfulness of Mankind. Numerous leaders focused on casting out human sin, which had no effect on the climate, but resulted in the emergence of various extreme religious manifestations. One especially cruel manifestation of this was a spate of witchcraft trials, over 110,000 in Europe between 1588 and 1600, resulting in over 50,000 burnings of unfortunate and presumably mostly innocent ladies, as well as a few “warlock” men.

Around 1600, responses to the Little Ice Age became more constructive. In the Netherlands, a spate of land reclamation projects with windmill-powered drainage hugely increased the amount of arable land available for farming, while throughout northern and western Europe the enclosure movement and more effective farming techniques increased crop yields by some 50%. Another such development, primarily in the Netherlands and Britain, was the commercialization of agriculture, so that grain came to be sold through centralized wholesalers with international distribution rather than through local markets.

A third change, essential to the financing of increasingly costly government, which could no longer extract enough surplus revenues from the agricultural sector, was the development of long-distance trade routes and exotic products that could be taxed on their way to consumers. The British and Dutch East India Companies (spices, tea and coffee), both started around 1600, were key to this change, as was the development of North American and Caribbean colonization (tobacco and sugar) in the early 17th Century. The English had been first with this innovation, founding the Muscovy Company in 1553, but the Muscovy Company founders, seeking a North-East passage to “Cathay” around the north of Russia, were unwitting Deniers of the Little Ice Age, and hence ended with a lot of frozen ships and mariners and not very much useful trade.

We are still not 40 years into the climate change debate – James Hansen’s Congressional testimony, which can be judged as starting it, took place in 1988, so the 40th anniversary will not occur until 2028. We are thus still at the “God does not love us” stage in our response to it. Most of the proposed government remedies so far, notably the “Green New Deal” have been attempts to wipe out our sin, in this case the sin of running a carbon-emitting industrialized modern economy.

We have also had innumerable witchcraft trials, in our modern world attempts to close down disfavored energy producers such as coal mines and oil companies, or to silence those whose opinions on “climate change” are unattractive to the consensus. Fortunately, the fatality levels from the modern witchcraft trials have been much lower than in the 16th Century, but that is not for want of trying among those acting as prosecutors.

However, in the next few years, we are due to see some better solutions if the pattern of the “Little Ice Age” is repeated. Indeed, some of those solutions are already apparent, and should make our “clean energy” picture much brighter than seemed likely only a few years ago.

For one thing, the disgraceful crony capitalist 2007 legislation passed by the Nancy Pelosi-led Congress and signed by George W. Bush that banned incandescent light bulbs has done less damage than it might have. Instead of the unpleasant, expensive and environmentally vile CFL light bulbs, that GE and other crony capitalists were trying to force us into using, we now have LED bulbs, that have the blissful advantage of lasting a couple of decades, so to offset their higher capital cost bring a genuine consumer benefit of not having to be replaced every few months. I have not noticed any significant lowering of electricity bills from using LED bulbs, but I hate changing light bulbs, so the new LED bulbs leave me ahead of the game.

A second emerging solution is that solar panels, mostly manufactured in China, have become so cheap that solar power is now cost-competitive with other power sources, provided it is being used in a region with abundant sunlight. It still makes no sense to assemble gigantic solar power grids in Germany, for example, where heavy cloud cover, high latitude and high land costs make them uncompetitive, but in Arizona, solar power is a genuinely competitive alternative.

Now a third better solution to climate change has appeared. The efforts of Elon Musk and Tesla to make electric vehicles cost-competitive have so far been futile. However the demand from electric vehicle makers for high capacity low cost batteries has brought down the cost of battery storage so far that it is now a viable solution to the main problem preventing the adoption of solar and wind power as a principal power source: that they provide no power when the sun is not shining or the wind not blowing. Florida Power and Light is building a 409 megawatt battery farm alongside a solar power project in Manatee County, which will come on stream in 2021 and provide 24-hour power in a way not previously possible from solar and wind sources.

If battery storage is now a solution to the intermittent power problem, then renewables can now provide a much higher percentage of the electric power grid, and one of the major bottlenecks to “clean” energy production will have disappeared. Tesla may not have solved the problem of electric automobiles and may indeed find that the major auto companies are about to eat its breakfast in that business, but it may have solved the storage problem for renewable energy sources in the electric power grid.

Solutions to the global warming problem are thus beginning to appear, in plenty of time to prevent an excessive artificial heating of the planet by 2100 – we are after all not yet at 2020. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Green New Deal are beginning to seem like the citizens of the German town of Nördlingen, who in 1590 entered on a program of witch burning that resulted in wiping out, not just marginal old crones but the wives of some of the city’s wealthiest leading citizens. God ended by punishing Nördlingen in the following generation, by subjecting it to one of the nastiest sieges of the Thirty Years War – irrational cruelty such as the Green New Deal would impose is generally punished later.

It is becoming apparent that the solutions to global warming propounded since 1988 are like the witch burning and religious pessimism of the late 16th Century – harmful in themselves and irrelevant to the real problem, in that case of declining agricultural production. We do not need draconian government controls, expensive “green” boondoggles or massive new carbon taxes, all of which will destroy the economy’s productivity while doing nothing to solve the global warming problem.

The Little Ice Age should teach us another lesson: that sudden changes in global temperature can happen naturally, and that we should be ready to meet them in a way that avoids wiping out a high percentage of the world’s population. The huge increase in global population since the Industrial Revolution, from 1 billion to 7.5 billion, must be halted and then reversed as soon as possible. Population must be kept far below the carrying capacity of the planet, so that natural and man-made environmental problems and even catastrophes can be solved without mass global tragedy.

For the carbon emissions problem, whatever the severity of its impact on climate, we need new technologies and massive declines in the cost of technological solutions. Scientific advances, brought by the magic of the private sector’s market forces, are beginning to solve this climate problem as they solved those of the Little Ice Age. Regulation, taxation and political denunciations of business will simply get in the way, just as did religious admonition and witch-burning the last time around.


Here we go again: UN, Media recycle climate species ‘extinction’ fears – Dredge up discredited Paul Ehrlich

The UN has now officially expanded its mission now to include the “climate change” species extinction scare. The UN is once again calling for putting itself in charge of “solving” the newly hyped species “crisis.” “A huge transformation is needed across the economy and society to protect and restore nature, which provides people with food, medicines, and other materials, crop pollination, fresh water, and quality of life,” according to the new UN report. The AP quoted one of the activist scientists claiming “this is really our last chance to address all of that.”

This latest report has been touted as the IPCC for nature by the UN. “The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports. The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations,” the AP reported. Let’s repeat, “The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations.” The same hijacking of science by politicians and UN bureaucrats that has always occurred in the UN IPCC climate reports. See: UN’s alleged scientific process features “government officials” having a say in each line of the report’s summary

But this is not the first time we have warned about species. As early as 1864, “tipping points” about the “extinction of the species” were issued. And it turns out, economic prosperity may help save the species

Yet, despite a massive track record of scientific failure about climate and species “crises” the UN, the media and the usual suspect scientists like failed overpopulation guru Paul Ehrlich, are at it again.

Greenpeace Co-Founder & Ecologist Dr. Patrick Moore challenges specious species claims: ‘That is so 1970s. Paul Ehrlich is pathetic and has been crying wolf for decades. While he pontificated doom for starving millions in the 1970 from his Ivory Tower at Stanford.’

‘History shows that it is the destiny of most species to be destroyed by periodic natural calamities or competition from other species…No species has an assured place on Earth. Some species can adapt and survive – those unable to adapt are removed from the gene pool. Because of Earth’s long turbulent history, most species surviving today are not ‘fragile’ …

Moore, in an interview with Climate Depot, refuted the claims of the species study. “The biggest extinction events in the human era occurred 60,000 years ago when humans arrived in Australia, 10-15,000 years ago when humans arrived in the New World, 800 years ago when humans found New Zealand, and 250 years ago when Europeans brought exotic species to the Pacific Islands such as Hawaii,” Moore explained.

“Since species extinction became a broad social concern, coinciding with the extinction of the passenger pigeon, we have done a pretty good job of preventing species extinctions,” Moore explained.

“I quit my life-long subscription to National Geographic when they published a similar ‘sixth mass extinction’ article in February 1999. This [latest journal] Nature article just re-hashes this theme,” he added. Moore left Greenpeace in 1986 because he felt the organization had become too radical.

This is not the first time Moore has gone to battle over alarming claims of species extinction. In the 2000 documentary “Amazon Rainforest: Clear-Cutting The Myths”, Moore bluntly mocked species extinction claims made by biologist Edward O. Wilson from Harvard University. Wilson estimated that up to 50,000 species go extinct every year based on computer models of the number of potential but as yet undiscovered species in the world.

Moore said in 2000: “There’s no scientific basis for saying that 50,000 species are going extinct. The only place you can find them is in Edward O. Wilson’s computer at Harvard University. They’re actually electrons on a hard drive. I want a list of Latin names of actual species.” Moore was interviewed by reporter Marc Morano (now with Climate Depot) in the 2000 Amazon rainforest documentary:

Environmental activist Tim Keating of Rainforest Relief was asked in the 2000 documentary if he could name any of the alleged 50,000 species that have gone extinct and he was unable.

“No, we can’t [name them], because we don’t know what those species are. But most of the species that we’re talking about in those estimates are things like insects and even microorganisms, like bacteria,” Keating explained.

UK scientist Professor Philip Stott, emeritus professor of Biogeography at the University of London, dismissed current species claims in the 2000 Amazon rainforest documentary.

“The earth has gone through many periods of major extinctions, some much bigger in size than even being contemplated today,” Stott, the author of a book on tropical rainforests, said in the 2000 documentary.

“Change is necessary to keep up with change in nature itself. In other words, change is the essence. And the idea that we can keep all species that now exist would be anti-evolutionary, anti-nature and anti the very nature of the earth in which we live,” Stott said.


We need a grown-up debate about climate change

The celebration of panicked schoolchildren is not healthy

We should not trust Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist who has captured the world media’s attention. Don’t get me wrong: it is not her motives I mistrust. It is the fact that she is a child who, unsurprisingly, gives bad advice on complex political issues and, despite her protestations to the contrary, has not done her homework.

‘I want you to panic’ about climate change, she counsels. But since when has panic ever been a wise response to any sort of crisis? Panicking, particularly in a supposedly doomsday scenario, almost inevitably produces the most inefficient, wrongheaded and counterproductive results. The graver the crisis, the more the need for calm.

If an adult were telling us to panic we would react very differently. We would understand that he is either immaturely panicking himself, in which case we would prudently ignore him, or looking to induce an irrational mental state in others, while hypocritically avoiding it himself. But whoever it comes from, it is an intellectually and politically suspect position.

Greta Thunberg is no doubt genuinely scared about what might happen to the world a few decades from now. But why should we attach so much authority to the words of a child? The politicians currently fawning over Thunberg need to explain how they suddenly went from deferring to experts in matters of global warming to deferring to someone who has not finished school.

Thunberg sparked the ‘school strike’ movement, calling on kids to ditch school to protest against climate change. But it will no doubt have been in school where she got this idea that the world will soon be in flames. All around Europe, and particularly in right-on countries like Switzerland and Sweden, teachers have become preachers of green alarmism. This is why many teachers are delighted with protesting children playing truant for a ‘good cause’.

This, incidentally, shows how non-radical these school strikes are. If your teachers agree with it, it’s not likely to be a radical cause. But it is also therefore foolish to just tell these protesting children they should quit waving their placards and go back to school. That would be like asking the guy carrying an ‘End is nigh’ sign to go back to the fundamentalist church he attends.

Teachers, particularly of the sciences, have smuggled political positions into what should be factual and objective subjects. It is of course fine to teach children that rising CO2 is warming the planet. But that fact doesn’t tell us how we should respond to it. The idea that we must reduce CO2 is a political view. But any student who questions reducing CO2 will be denounced as unscientific.

Thunberg uses the same tactic, which she likely learned at school. In the same breath she urges us to ‘unite behind the science’ and work to reduce CO2 emissions to zero. She believes that the science actually dictates how we should act. It doesn’t occur to her that people might completely accept the consensus on climate change while believing that drastically cutting CO2 is not the right way to go.

In his book A System of Logic, John Stuart Mill writes that scientists cannot, if they are to remain scientific, instruct us on how we should act. A scientist, he says, ‘is not an adviser for practice’, and is only there to ‘show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means are the most effectual’. Science, for instance, can tell us what we must do if we wish to build more houses, but it cannot tell us that we should build those houses. Science concerns itself with what is, not with what should be.

The same applies to climate change. The scientific consensus is that global warming is mainly caused by mankind emitting CO2. But it does not follow that we should therefore emit less, any more than it follows that we should emit more or maintain present levels. All of those are political positions that could, reasonably, flow from the science. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

The celebration of Greta Thunberg and the school strikes is a sign of how infantilised political debate around climate change has become. These five-foot footsoldiers of the green ideology have been well coached in the language of environmental doom-mongering. What we need now is a more frank, calm and grown-up debate.


A fracking embarrassment

The restrictions the UK places on shale drilling are ridiculous

Last weekend, the UK commissioner for shale gas, Natascha Engel, resigned her post, claiming in an interview for the Mail on Sunday that fracking had been made all but impossible thanks to government restrictions. In her resignation letter to the energy secretary, Greg Clark, Engel complained that a ‘perfectly viable industry is being wasted because of a government policy driven by environmental lobbying rather than science, evidence and a desire to see UK industry flourish’.

Hydraulic fracturing – ‘fracking’ – is a central part of enabling drillers to extract gas from shale rocks far below the surface of the Earth. In short, drills dig down and sideways into the shale rock, then fluid is forced at high pressure into the rock, creating fractures from which gas is released. Unsurprisingly, the process can lead to geological shifts and earth tremors. These are almost invariably too small to be felt at the surface, but very rarely these tremors are large enough to be detected without instrumentation.

When it gave the go-ahead for fracking in the UK, the government set an upper limit on how large such tremors could be before work would need to be suspended. However, the upper limit is set ludicrously low: just 0.5 on the Richter scale. As Engel told the Mail on Sunday: ‘A 0.5 tremor is much weaker than the rumble you might feel when walking above a Tube train. Yet if a frack unleashes a tremor rated 0.5, operators have to stop what they’re doing for 18 hours… this is making fracking impossible.’

Any tremor below 2.0 is unlikely to be felt by anything but seismographic instruments. To cause damage to buildings, tremors need to be of the order of four or five on the Richter scale. The scale is logarithmic – that is, each full point upwards is 10 times larger than the previous one. So the kind of tremor that would cause damage to buildings would need to be thousands of times stronger than the kind of faint vibration that could currently cause work to stop. Thus, setting a limit of just 0.5, despite the opposition of industry and geologists, is ridiculous. As Engel noted in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House news show on Sunday, no such limits apply to other ways of getting stuff out of the ground. The same rules should apply to fracking, too.

Making the limit just 1.5 – still well below US regulation levels – would make things far easier for drillers while still protecting homes and other buildings. Yet Engel claims Clark is unwilling to review the rules – despite promises by the government to do just that once some real-world data on fracking in the UK was available. Instead, she says, there is ‘paralysis’ rather than leadership.

Despite being very concerned about climate change, Engel also offers a dig at some recent high-profile climate campaigners like Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion: ‘I cannot understand why politicians would rather listen to a teenager who tells children not to go to school because they will soon be dead rather than looking at ways of reducing our emissions by taking gas out of the ground here. We should be giving our children a positive and hopeful message: telling them to go to school, go to university, to become scientists and innovators who can find the answers to climate change.’

Perhaps Engel should have known how serious the government was about the issue from her working conditions. Despite being the ‘fracking tsar’, Engel admitted on Broadcasting House that she had no actual office nor any civil servants working for her – it was just her and a laptop. So much for embracing the ‘shale gas revolution’.



Melting Permafrost ‘Crisis’ Debunked By Historical Record

Climate alarmists are resuscitating an old scare, claiming melting permafrost caused by modest global warming will accelerate warming, thus creating rapid and runaway global warming.

Objective historical data, however, conclusively debunk the scare.

An article in the April 30 edition of Nature claims, “Permafrost collapse is accelerating carbon release. The sudden collapse of thawing soils in the Arctic might double the warming from greenhouse gases released from the tundra.”

As a result, alarmists claim, global warming will continue to accelerate and may be irreversible absent dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Alarmists are piling on in response to the article.

“Carbon released into the atmosphere by the increasing loss of Arctic permafrost, combined with higher solar absorption by the Earth’s surface due to the melting of sea ice and land snow, will accelerate climate change,” states a EurekaAlert press release from Lancaster University

“A ‘sleeping giant’ hidden in permafrost soils in Canada and other northern regions worldwide will have important consequences for global warming,” claims the PhysOrg website.

The notion that modest warming will release frozen methane and carbon dioxide that will destabilize the climate is an old and tired scare that is thoroughly debunked by past climate history.

As even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has documented (see page 202, here), many warming periods have occurred throughout the planet’s history, including several substantial warming events that raised temperatures higher than present levels.

Several of these substantial warming events have occurred since the last ice age glaciation ended approximately 10,000 years ago.

Yet each warming period eventually ended and was followed by a subsequent cooling period. If runaway ‘positive temperature feedbacks’ occur due to thawing permafrost, none of the subsequent cooling periods would have happened.

Ultimately, the Earth’s climate is not inherently unstable and subject to self-reinforcing temperature trends.

While scientists theorize about how and why the Earth’s climate self-regulates in response to initial warming and cooling episodes (with subsequent changes in cloud cover being a likely factor), the objective data show quite clearly that the Earth’s climate tends to self-regulate.

Thawing permafrost occurred during each of the past warming events, and yet the impacts from none of the resulting methane and carbon dioxide releases were sufficient to cause runaway, self-perpetuating global warming.

Consider the ‘runaway permafrost thawing’ scare just that – a self-serving and historically debunked climate scare.



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