The Week That Was: July 6, 2019, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Beauty in Physics: On his web site, The Reference Frame, string theorist Lubos Motl had a long post reporting his search for the terms beautiful, beauty, and pretty in the Feynman Lectures on Physics (1963). Richard Feynman was a co-recipient of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in Quantum Electrodynamics and an exceptional lecturer who insisted on teaching students introductory physics. Perhaps it is his expression of finding exceptional explanations of complex problems beautiful that makes Feynman’s lecturers so memorable. Fortunately, they are available to read online. One of the many examples Molt gives is on Kepler’s laws:
Here are the promised Kepler’s laws.
He made voluminous tables, which were then studied by the mathematician Kepler, after Tycho’s death. Kepler discovered from the data some very beautiful and remarkable, but simple, laws regarding planetary motion…
Six years later a new measurement of the size of the earth showed that the astronomers had been using an incorrect distance to the moon. When Newton heard of this, he made the calculation again, with the corrected figures, and obtained beautiful agreement…
If a law does not work even in one place where it ought to, it is just wrong. But the reason for this discrepancy was very simple and beautiful: it takes a little while to see the moons of Jupiter because of the time it takes light to travel from Jupiter to the earth…”
“It is hard to exaggerate the importance of the effect on the history of science produced by this great success of the theory of gravitation. Compare the confusion, the lack of confidence, the incomplete knowledge that prevailed in the earlier ages, when there were endless debates and paradoxes, with the clarity and simplicity of this law—this fact that all the moons and planets and stars have such a simple rule to govern them, and further that man could understand it and deduce how the planets should move! This is the reason for the success of the sciences in following years, for it gave hope that the other phenomena of the world might also have such beautifully simple laws.”
What is of particular note is that initially, the moon did not fit into Kepler’s laws. As Feynman stated: “If a law does not work even in one place where it ought to, it is just wrong.” After the distance to the moon was corrected, it fit beautifully.
Feynman begins his Nobel Lecture by stating:
“We have a habit in writing articles published in scientific journals to make the work as finished as possible, to cover all the tracks, to not worry about the blind alleys or to describe how you had the wrong idea first, and so on. So, there isn’t any place to publish, in a dignified manner, what you actually did in order to get to do the work, although, there has been in these days, some interest in this kind of thing. Since winning the prize is a personal thing, I thought I could be excused in this particular situation, if I were to talk personally about my relationship to quantum electrodynamics, rather than to discuss the subject itself in a refined and finished fashion.”
Later in the lecture, describing his experience as an undergraduate trying to tackle the fundamental problems in quantum theory of electricity and magnetism at the time (1947), Feynman states:
“At the young age what I could understand were the remarks about the fact that this doesn’t make any sense, and the last sentence of the book of Dirac I can still remember, ‘It seems that some essentially new physical ideas are here needed’” So, I had this as a challenge and an inspiration. I also had a personal feeling, that since they didn’t get a satisfactory answer to the problem I wanted to solve, I don’t have to pay a lot of attention to what they did do.”
Identifying problems properly (puzzles) in science and solving them seems to be a common characteristic of many who make significant advances in science. Ignoring the problems in science does not result in significant advances. See links under Other Scientific News.
The Greenhouse Effect – Models: As John Christy and others have published, there are significant problems with the global climate models used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others including the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which published the Fourth National Climate Assessment Report (NCA4, November 2018) (According to the website on NCA4, one of the purposes of the NCA4 is: “Analyze current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and project major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.”)
Except for the climate model designed by the Institute of Numerical Mathematics in Moscow, Christy and others have found the climate models used by the UN-IPCC and the USGCRP greatly overestimate the warming trends in the atmosphere, thus do not properly work in the one place they should. In the words of Feynman: They are wrong! Rather than addressing the problem correctly, it appears that the UN-IPCC is reinforcing the wrong solutions.
Now we have the UN Human Rights Commission insisting that the problem the UN has failed to identify correctly will result in “climate apartheid” if the world does not follow its wrong solutions.
Perhaps a major problem is that the Greenhouse Effect is not well understood and that it is not easy to understand. As Professor William van Wijngaarden stated: The “Simple Physics” Slogan is exactly that – a slogan. A possible excuse for failure to model the greenhouse effect is that it’s too hard. The theoretical molecular physics is not sufficiently well understood to create elegant equations describing the tens of thousands of molecular transitions that are involved with infrared radiation (photons) moving from the surface to space. Further, the atmosphere changes significantly with latitude and with altitude. In the troposphere (roughly from 18km (59,000 feet) at the equator to 8km (26,000 feet) at the poles), convection plays a major role in heat transfer, phase change of water (evaporation at the surface absorbing heat and condensation in the upper troposphere releasing heat) plays an important role. Of course, no one understands the role of clouds which, at lower altitudes, may have a cooling effect while the higher cirrus clouds at altitudes above 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) may have a warming effect.
Adding to the complications is the optical depth or optical thickness of the (clear, noncloudy) atmosphere as altitude changes. The depth is measured in terms of a natural logarithm and, in this instance, relates to distance a photon of a particular frequency can travel before it is absorbed by an appropriate molecule (one that absorbs and re-emits photons of that frequency).
Unlike other natural greenhouse gases, water vapor is not well distributed in the atmosphere. That may be why the IPCC and others exclude it from their models, only to add some effect later in the calculations. However, water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, and it can significantly reduce the optical depth when it is present and change the influence of other greenhouse gases on outgoing infrared radiation. (Dry air only exists in laboratories.) One can say that above the tropopause, where water vapor freezes out, the atmosphere becomes optically thin. This is where, on a per molecule basis, the influence of CO2 becomes more important.
However, one should remember that the climate models fail to properly describe the greenhouse effect and they should not be used for government policy, especially for government policy on regulating greenhouse gases. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Defending the Orthodoxy.
Green Fantasies: Previously, Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute provided a detailed report on many of the unrealistic assumptions and ideas involved the political dreams of replacing fossil fuels and nuclear with alternative energy, namely wind and solar. As he previously stated:
“This ‘new energy economy’ rests on the belief—a centerpiece of the Green New Deal and other similar proposals both here and in Europe—that the technologies of wind and solar power and battery storage are undergoing the kind of disruption experienced in computing and communications, dramatically lowering costs and increasing efficiency. But this core analogy glosses over profound differences, grounded in physics, between systems that produce energy and those that produce information.
“In the world of people, cars, planes, and factories, increases in consumption, speed, or carrying capacity cause hardware to expand, not shrink. The energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, mass, and thermodynamics—not clever software.”
It continues to amaze how many people believe that what occurred in miniaturization of electronics will apply to all, or most, manufacturing of physical objects. This is similar to the number of proposals that assume that the decline in costs that occurred when Henry Ford applied standardized parts and production line techniques to automobiles will occur in other types of industries even though the techniques are already known and in use industry wide.
Mills has provided a 41-point summary of some of the highly questionable assumptions involved in making a new economy. The current politicians in California and New York may be gone before they discover to what absurd lengths their emotions took them. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Lowering Standards: Increasingly, becomes clear that NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (NASA-GISS) on Broadway in New York City is becoming more of a political entity than a scientific one. A NASA press release announced:
“The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values are likely accurate to within 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit (0.05 degrees Celsius) in recent decades, and 0.27 degrees Fahrenheit (0.15 degrees C) at the beginning of the nearly 140-year record.” [Boldface added]
These announced values of small error ranges are astounding and cry out for verification. In 1880, the US was the only large country that had a comprehensive system for measuring temperatures – with few stations in many of what became the 48 states. Those records have been heavily manipulated by those entrusted with them – namely NOAA in Asheville. Through mathematical manipulation, earlier high temperatures have been cooled. Record highs for many states occurred in the 1930s but have disappeared from the national records kept by NOAA and from NASA-GISS. Even before the 1920s, there were vast land areas in Eurasia, Africa, Canada, and South America that were not covered. This is not to mention the lack of coverage of the surface areas of the oceans, 71% of the globe.
According to the IPCC, the earth’s surface is divided into 2,592 grid boxes, each 5 degrees latitude and 5 degrees longitude. Each grid box should have a maximum and minimum temperature each day. As documented by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC, 2008 p. 9), the greatest number of grid boxes covered with a maximum and minimum temperature reading occurred in the 1970s, with about 1200 boxes. By 1998, the number covered was 600, about 23 percent. By contract, satellite coverage is comprehensive, except for extreme polar regions.
Further, the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) and its replacement the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) in the US are not precise instruments. According to its User’s Guide specifications, the maximum error for recording ambient temperature is plus or minus 1.8°F for temperatures between minus 58°F and plus 122°F, and an error of plus or minus 3.6°F beyond that range. If temperatures are below freezing the dew point error may be up to 13.9°F. (See Table 1, “Temperature Sensor—Range, Accuracy Resolution”, page 12 in the link below.)
Further, NASA-GISS’s 140-year global record purports to cover areas where there never have been thermometers for any length of time, including vast stretches of Antarctica. As others have expressed, it is very difficult to accept any increased confidence in NASA-GISS’s temperature number, or any confidence in NASA-GISS. It seems self-evident that such claims by NASA/GISS need justification, and clarification if errors have been made. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC, Measurement Issues – Surface and https://www.weather.gov/media/asos/aum-toc.pdf
SEPP’S APRIL FOOLS AWARD
SEPP is conducting its annual vote for the recipient of the coveted trophy, The Jackson, a lump of coal. Readers are asked to nominate and vote for who they think is most deserving.
Top vote getters include, but are not limited to: U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio Cortez [Always-On-Camera]; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; John Schellnhuber, [Director of Potsdam Center for Climate Impacts, advisor to Pope Francis and Angela Merkel]; Pope Francis; Theresa May [retiring as UK PM, leaving huge presents]; Paul Krugman [NYT columnist and public “intellectual”]; and Greta Thunberg [“the young thing”]. Voting will close on July 15, extended from June 30, with the winner announced shortly thereafter.
Number of the Week: 2012. Previously, TWTW expressed that the latest report of the USGCRP, NCA4, November 2018, misled the public as to the vulnerability of US agriculture to rising temperatures. The report concluded that major crops would fail from increasing temperatures. TWTW stated that the main US crops being exported are soybeans (number 1) and maize (corn) (number 2) and that tropical Brazil is a major competitor in both crops. An article in the Wall Street Journal presents a graph of the history of soybean exports, based on numbers from the US Department of Agriculture.
According to the graph, in 1996 the US share of global market in exports of soybeans was 73%, Brazil 11%, and other 16%. In 2018 (projections) it is US 32%, Brazil 52% and Other 16%. In 2011, US soybean exports were 41% of the world market, Brazil exports were 40%. Thereafter, soybean exports from Brazil exceed those of the US. In 2012, US soybean exports were 36% of the world market, Brazil exports were 42%. Brazil has since expanded its lead over the US in soybean exports. [For maize in 2018, US had 38.4% of world exports, Argentina 12.6%, and Brazil 12. 2%.
This discrepancy between the claimed effect of high temperatures on soybean production and the reality of surging production in Brazil even at high temperatures appears wrong on its face and requires explanation. It describes the false rigor of the reports by the USGCRP which claims to represent the Department of Agriculture. Brazil is hotter than the US, but soybeans and maize grow well thanks to the use of fertilizer and lime to reduce the acidity of the soils. The USGCRP does not know what is occurring today but makes false predictions into the future. See Article # 1 and http://www.worldstopexports.com/corn-exports-country/
1. Farmers Built a Soybean Export Empire Around China. Now They’re Fighting to Save It.
Trade tensions have hammered sales of soybeans to the Chinese, a major export market it took U.S. agriculture decades to create
By Jesse Newman, WSJ, July 4, 2019
SUMMARY: The article begins with:
“The U.S. Farm Belt is fighting to prevent an industry nightmare—the loss of its best customer for its biggest export.
“The customer is China and the export is soybeans, of which the U.S. shipped $21 billion abroad in 2017, far more than anything else farmers grow. That marked a tripling in two decades, the fruit of a sweeping effort, by nearly every arm of U.S. agriculture, to build a once-obscure crop into a blockbuster.
“Then last year, sunk by a bitter trade dispute, American soybean exports to China plunged 74% by volume. Brazil raced to fill the gap, while prices paid to U.S. farmers recently slid to a seven-year low.”
The article goes into details of the trade dispute, then continues with:
“Because two main crops, soybeans and corn, dominate the U.S. farm economy, unwinding a large part of the system established over decades would entail real difficulties. Pioneer’s Mr. Schickler said long-lasting tariffs would spur U.S. farmers to plant fewer soybean acres and agricultural companies to divert resources from them.
“Brazil, which overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest soybean exporter several years ago, stands to gain ground. The U.S. share of world soybean exports is expected to drop to 31% this season, the lowest on record, while Brazil’s portion is forecast to swell to 52%, which would be its largest ever.
“At an agricultural forum in Beijing last fall, according to Mr. Schickler, China’s deputy agriculture minister said China would not easily forget the current standoff, and China is building alternatives for soybean imports so it will never again be so dependent on a single source.
“’It was just that black and white,’ Mr. Schickler said. ‘China doesn’t care about this year or next year—they think in terms of centuries.’
He said Brazil’s ambassador to China told the group his country was working to become China’s most reliable supplier.
The article concludes with comments about the tactics being undertaken by the US Soybean Export Council
2. How Bloomberg Pays to Prosecute the Trump EPA
Through NYU, he pays ‘pro bono’ lawyers to advance his agenda in state attorney-general offices.
By Chris Horner and Victoria Toensing, WSJ, July 5, 2019
SUMMARY: The authors give details in efforts to politicize state attorneys general:
The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, a group created by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2017, is hiring and placing lawyers in the offices of state attorneys general. The mission of the group, which is led by a former Interior Department official and housed at New York University’s law school, is to provide ‘direct legal assistance to interested attorneys general on specific administrative, judicial or legislative matters involving clean energy, climate change and environmental interests of regional and national significance.’ At least one of the two Bloomberg ‘special assistant attorneys general’ placed in the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James is involved with the prosecution of Exxon Mobil for its supposed offense of ‘climate denial.’
Emails obtained under a public-records law show that the center submits detailed biweekly reports to Bloomberg Philanthropies. State legal officers taking money from private funders to pursue policy outcomes desired by those funders is inherently suspect. It also raises questions about the laws governing gifts, campaign contributions and bribes. To the extent these Bloomberg-funded lawyers are involved in prosecutions, it raises serious due-process concerns as well.
The NYU law center’s principal focuses are thwarting Trump administration policies and advancing a green agenda. ‘The gist is that Bloomberg is funding through NYU some fellowship positions for midcareer environmental litigators to be farmed out to State Attorneys General to join the fight against Trump’s rollback of our environmental protection laws and regulations,’ wrote Maryland’s Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Quattrocki in a November 2017 email to colleagues. Bloomberg-funded lawyers are currently assisting in dozens of lawsuits against both the Trump administration’s regulatory reforms and private entities involved in any business contrary to the green agenda.
The office of New York’s then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked the NYU center to send two Bloomberg-funded lawyers in 2017 because it was understaffed and wanted to ‘expand’ litigation against the Trump administration and private parties. Without a privately underwritten special assistant attorney general, Mr. Schneiderman’s office claimed, it would have trouble ‘opposing the Scott Pruitt nomination as EPA administrator, advocating for the United States to remain in the Paris Climate Accord,’ and pursuing other green political goals, such as ‘building models for two different types of common law cases to seek compensation and other relief for harm caused by fossil-fuel emissions.’
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s application got straight to the point. His office would use Bloomberg resources ‘to advance the agenda represented by’ the donor. Only the intervention of the state Legislature stopped him from doing so.
After discussing the actions of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh the authors conclude: he has no legal authority to enter into arrangements he has done. They go on:
The scheme is more troubling the closer one looks. Mr. Bloomberg is a major donor to Democratic politicians and causes. He has made electing progressive attorneys general his priority. Two Bloomberg-funded groups, Independence USA PAC and Everytown USA for Gun Safety, put more than $2 million into electing and re-electing Mr. Herring.
The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center has placed at least 11 special assistants in eight attorney-general offices. There could be more, but the center has stopped announcing new placements, possibly as a result of scrutiny from groups like ours. If no other state joins Virginia in standing up to Mr. Bloomberg’s scheme, there is no limiting principle on partisan appropriation of public legal offices other than that the donor and the cause be acceptable in certain polite circles. These agreements to serve a donor-driven agenda threaten the legitimacy and important work of attorneys general offices. This apparent trade in buying and selling official functions demands a full public airing and unbiased reckoning.
Mr. Horner is an attorney and member of the board of directors of Government Accountability and Oversight PC. Ms. Toensing is a partner in the law firm diGenova & Toensing, which represents GAO in its lawsuit against the Maryland Attorney General.