The Week That Was: August 29, 2020, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Quote of the Week: “In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable: and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.” – Karl Popper
Number of the Week: 50%
Popular Delusions: Last week, TWTW discussed the problem of the California Blackouts (also called greenouts) and the failure of California politicians to properly prepare for the simple fact that as the sun goes down Photoelectric Power declines and other means of electric power generation must be increased significantly (ramped-up). The state constitution places the ultimate responsibility on the legislature.
The TWTW discussed a lecture “The Energy Storage Delusion” given by physics Professor emeritus Howard Hayden at the annual meeting of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP). The only storage system proven on a utility scale is pumped-hydro storage. There is no proof of concept that wind and solar can replenish pumped-hydro or any other utility scale storage system in a timely manner. The largest pumped-hydro system in the world, Bath County (Virginia) Pumped Storage Station is replenished by nuclear and coal-fired power plants and is used for peak shaving (producing power at the time of day it is needed the most). It can run at peak capacity for only three hours, then declines to zero in eleven hours.
The meeting at which Hayden spoke, addressed many issues which can be considered popular delusions. In her welcoming address DDP President Jane Orient, M.D., discussed some of them and former lecturers who formerly graced DDP meetings including Edward Teller and the late SEPP Chairman Fred Singer. For this meeting many of the talks related to COVID-19. See link under Science, Policy, and Evidence.
Common Sense: In his talk to DDP, Physicist William Happer focused on common sense. Happer is an authority on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (AMO) including spectroscopy which is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation as it varies with wavelength (frequency). This provides the basis for understanding the greenhouse effect, particularly how it may increase as more greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, many “experts” on climate ignore this discipline. Amazingly, some commentators and reporters have criticized Happer by saying he is not a climate scientist.
In his talk, Happer states that common sense has submerged in the fury of the day. He cites the farewell address by President Eisenhower who stated concern not only that public policy will be overtaken by the military-industrial complex; but, as importantly, captured by a scientific technological elite. This may be happening today.
“In appealing to common sense, Happer quotes William Pitt the Elder (1708 to 1778) who supported the American Revolution and for whom Pittsburgh is named (suggested by historian John Robson):
“THERE is one plain maxim, to which I have invariably adhered through life; that in every question, in which my liberty or my property were concerned, I should consult and be determined by the dictates of common sense.
“I confess, my lords, that I am apt to distrust the refinements of learning, because I have seen the ablest and the most learned men equally liable to deceive themselves and to mislead others.
“The condition of human nature would be lamentable indeed, if nothing less than the greatest learning and talents, which fall to the share of so small a number of men, were sufficient to direct our judgment and our conduct.
“But providence has taken better care of our happiness, and given us, in the simplicity of common sense, a rule for our direction, by which we never shall be misled.”
Happer uses graphs from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to demonstrate that in the US about 50,000 to 60,000 die each week, more in the winter than in the summer, and there have not been many more deaths from COVID-19 than happen in a bad flu year. Further, death rates are strongly separated by age groups with people dying from COVID-19 predominately over the age of 65.
Happer goes on to say that hysteria over climate, COVID, the cancel culture, etc. are contemporary examples of a human failing described in the “Extraordinary Popular Delusion and the Madness of Crowds” by Charles MacKay (1841). Also, there is nothing new about saving the planet. The Bible mentions Baal, who controlled agriculture. The Aztecs sacrificed thousands of slaves captured from local tribes to appease the gods and keep the end of the world at bay. Reverend George Burroughs was hanged at the Salem Witch Trials, on a decision by judges educated at Harvard because he was not a proper minister.
About 30 minutes into the lecture Happer discusses what may be of particular interest to TWTW readers. He presents the work of Karl Schwarzschild and Max Plank. Plank devised a smooth curve showing intensity of outgoing radiation as a function of wavelength. (This work led to quantum mechanics.) The curve, called black body radiation, shifts for different temperatures and as used by Happer provides the theoretical value for the earth’s outgoing radiation at a surface temperature of 288.7 K (15.6 ºC, 60 ºF) if there were no greenhouse gases to interfere with outgoing radiation. It appears as if one were measuring it from space looking down on earth. This is shown by Happer as a blue smooth curve.
Schwarzschild devised the method of calculating the actual absorption of outgoing radiation by different greenhouse gases. Happer shows it as a jagged curve below the Plank curve, covering the same frequencies. The Schwarzschild curve used by Happer is based on calculations for the present concentration of greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect suppresses the outgoing radiation to space and is demonstrated by the difference between the two curves. Observations from satellites confirm the calculations.
Happer shows the interference for zero CO2, 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 and 800 ppm of CO2. Removing CO2 will have a dramatic effect on the cooling of the earth (increasing loss of heat). Doubling CO2 to 800 ppm or even 1600 ppm will have little effect in warming the earth because the increase in interference with outgoing radiation is small. The physicists define such a condition as exists for CO2 as saturated.
Happer states that the amplification by increased water vapor [asserted in the Charney Report (1979) and considered to be the dangerous effect of global warming] is nonsense. This water vapor amplification was carried forward into the reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is not being observed.
Also, Happer quickly demonstrates why claims that adding methane will cause dangerous warming are nonsense. Happer discusses the Brave New Decarbonized World by citing Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Voyage to Laputa (1726). The owner of a fine house and farm, while the rest of countryside is in ruins, explains what happened:
“The sum of his discourse was to this effect: “That about forty years ago, certain persons went up to Laputa, either upon business or diversion, and, after five months continuance, came back with a very little smattering in mathematics, but full of volatile spirits acquired in that airy region: that these persons, upon their return, began to dislike the management of everything below, and fell into schemes of putting all arts, sciences, languages, and mechanics, upon a new foot. To this end, they procured a royal patent for erecting an academy of projectors in Lagado; and the humour prevailed so strongly among the people, that there is not a town of any consequence in the kingdom without such an academy. In these colleges the professors contrive new rules and methods of agriculture and building, and new instruments, and tools for all trades and manufactures; whereby, as they undertake, one man shall do the work of ten; a palace may be built in a week, of materials so durable as to last forever without repairing. All the fruits of the earth shall come to maturity at whatever season we think fit to choose, and increase a hundred-fold more than they do at present; with innumerable other happy proposals. The only inconvenience is, that none of these projects are yet brought to perfection; and in the meantime, the whole country lies miserably waste, the houses in ruins, and the people without food or clothes. By all which, instead of being discouraged, they are fifty times more violently bent upon prosecuting their schemes, driven equally on by hope and despair: that as for himself, being not of an enterprising spirit, he was content to go on in the old forms, to live in the houses his ancestors had built, and act as they did, in every part of life, without innovation: that some few other persons of quality and gentry had done the same, but were looked on with an eye of contempt and ill-will, as enemies to art, ignorant, and ill common-wealth’s men, preferring their own ease and sloth before the general improvement of their country.”
After demonstrating that many of the problems of today have long been part of the human condition, Happer concludes his presentation by giving reasons for optimism:
- Many ordinary Americans have not lost their Common Sense
- History shows that people get tired of corrupt (sanctimonious) elites and eventually overthrow them: Cromwell’s Puritans, bloodthirsty radicals of the French Revolution, communist dictatorship of the Soviet Union, etc.
- “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.” [Abraham Lincoln]
From Happer’s presentation, it becomes evident that the current efforts by climate modelers to calculate the increasing greenhouse effect with increasing carbon dioxide by estimating temperatures hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago are nonsense. We have the evidence today to make such calculations more accurately than can be given by geological records. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Changing Climate.
That’s Bias, Not Uncertainty: Writing in Judith Curry’s web site, Climate Etc. Ross McKitrick explains that even though it was demonstrated almost 15 years ago that the models overestimate atmospheric temperature trends, climate modelers continue to overestimate the warming of the atmosphere. Using a paper by Mitchell et al. and another by Christy and him, McKitrick states that the overestimates in the latest round of models, CMIP6, have increased, not decreased. The prize goes to the Canadian model which overestimates the warming of the troposphere (the bulk atmosphere below the altitude where water freezes out) by about 7 times.
McKitrick concludes his discussion with:
“I get it that modeling the climate is incredibly difficult, and no one faults the scientific community for finding it a tough problem to solve. But we are all living with the consequences of climate modelers stubbornly using generation after generation of models that exhibit too much surface and tropospheric warming, in addition to running grossly exaggerated forcing scenarios (e.g. RCP8.5). Back in 2005 in the first report of the then-new US Climate Change Science Program, Karl et al. pointed to the exaggerated warming in the tropical troposphere as a ‘potentially serious inconsistency.’ But rather than fixing it since then, modelers have made it worse. Mitchell et al. note that in addition to the wrong warming trends themselves, the biases have broader implications because ‘atmospheric circulation trends depend on latitudinal temperature gradients.’ In other words when the models get the tropical troposphere wrong, it drives potential errors in many other features of the model atmosphere. Even if the original problem was confined to excess warming in the tropical mid-troposphere, it has now expanded into a more pervasive warm bias throughout the global troposphere.
“If the discrepancies in the troposphere were evenly split across models between excess warming and cooling, we could chalk it up to noise and uncertainty. But that is not the case: it’s all excess warming. CMIP5 models warmed too much over the sea surface and too much in the tropical troposphere. Now the CMIP6 models warm too much throughout the global lower- and mid-troposphere. That’s bias, not uncertainty, and until the modeling community finds a way to fix it, the economics and policy making communities are justified in assuming future warming projections are overstated, potentially by a great deal depending on the model.” [Boldface added] See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
He’s Back! Probably no environmentalist or economist has outraged the environmental establishment, at least in Washington, as much as Bjorn Lomborg. When “The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World” came out in 2001, many in Washington refused to believe it. The retiring president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) spent much of his retiring address condemning the book as did articles in Scientific American, National Geographic, etc. The experts for the Scientific American were Stephen Schneider (who claimed that exaggeration is necessary to be effective in communicating to the public (the Schneider Syndrome), John Holdren (to be President Obama’s science adviser), John Bongaarts and Thomas Lovejoy. The Economist declared about Lomborg: “As any sensible person would expect, his facts are usually fallacies and his analysis is [sic] largely non-existent.”
The problem for the critics was, that except for a few minor errors, the book was based on solid data, much of which he presented in easy to read graphs. Contrary to what many readers of the reviews were led to believe, Lomborg did not deny human involvement in global warming, only the extent to which it is taking place. Lomborg referred to the extensive exaggeration as “The Litany” of doom and gloom. He demonstrated that many things were getting better, particularly in the part of the world enjoying prosperity. Prosperity can lead to environmental improvement – how shocking!
Lomborg has now written a book addressing global warming specifically: “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.” SEPP Chairman Tom Sheahen reviewed the book and the review was posted on WUWT. See link under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Saving Nature? In 2007 Indur Goklany’s book, “The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More comfortable Lives On a Cleaner Planet” was published. In some ways this may be more scholarly than Lomborg’s book. It is a thorough presentation of the improving status of the human condition. Well researched, Goklany’s book discusses the importance of technological change and economic development.
Now, Goklany has a paper being published in Conservation Biology, the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, titled: “Reduction in global habitat loss from fossil‐fuel‐dependent increases in cropland productivity.” It focuses on habitat lost to agricultural uses, which is generally considered to be the major cause for global biodiversity loss. Currently, about 35 to 40% of global land area is in agricultural uses.
The paper demonstrates that: [from Goklany]
- Over 60% of “global food production is due to increased agricultural productivity from fossil-fuel-dependent technologies.
- Absent fossil fuels, at least another 20% of global land area would have to be converted to cropland to maintain global food production, further threatening global biodiversity.
- This exceeds the total amount of land currently set aside globally for conservation in one form or another (15%), which some have called the world’s greatest conservation success story (or words to that effect).
- Global food supplies would also drop, at least temporarily, to levels about a quarter below those experienced by the Chinese people during their last Great Famine of 1959-61. Food prices would skyrocket to balance supply and demand.”
Those who are anxious to ban the use of fossil fuels probably never considered its positive effects on agriculture. Further, calculating the “social cost of carbon” is foolish without estimating the positive impacts of CO2 on agriculture productivity and the use of fossil fuels in reducing acreages needed for planting. See links under Social Benefits of Carbon Dioxide.
Number of the Week: 50%: As hurricane Laura approached the Louisiana/Texas coast, some national newspapers blared that the storm surge would be up to 20 feet (6 meters), ‘unsurvivable’! It was about 11 feet (3.4 meters). More importantly, according to local newspapers, by Aug 29, only 12 people died from the storm. Six (50%) from carbon monoxide poisoning from using electrical generators not properly vented and four from falling trees or limbs. After the storm, many people commented on what it was like to “ride-out” the storm. This episode demonstrates the dangers of continued exaggeration (the Schneider Syndrome) of weather events. People become insensitive to real danger. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Measurement Issues – Atmosphere, Changing Weather, and Communicating Better to the Public – Use Propaganda
California Needs Ideas
The state’s worst blackout is the one on political debate, especially about its climate obsession.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., WSJ, Aug 8, 2020
TWTW Summary: The journalist writes:
“No climate policy is available that would operate on a time scale relevant to California’s hellish wildfire challenge, except throwing enough opaque particles into the atmosphere to cool the Earth.
“Anything that greens might favor, such as subsidizing green energy or taxing fossil fuels out of existence, is irrelevant. The effect would only manifest itself imperceptibly over many decades. To boot, it would require the participation of the world’s major economies, including China’s and India’s, which leaders answerable to California’s voters are in no position to deliver.
“I make these points to underline an absurdity. California politicians spend much of their time obsessing about a climate change problem they can’t fix. Their state accounts for less than 0.1% of global emissions. There’s nothing they can do.
“Last year’s blackouts were theoretically linked to climate change through a dry spell but California has always had dry spells. Asserting a connection between passing weather phenomena and global climate is fraught.
“With this year’s blackouts, at least the connection is easy to draw. Even Democrats agree the outages were partly due to the state’s wind and solar mandates. Yes, there were blunders too. Enough power was technically available to meet a demand surge well short of an all-time high. But the fact remains: With wind and solar, nature controls the “off” switch. Man doesn’t.
“Less noticed is the fact that customers of municipally owned utilities in Los Angeles and Sacramento were spared any outages. Because local politicians are directly in line for blame if the lights go out, the unheralded corollary is that these utilities insist on keeping fossil fuels a big share of their mix. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power gets 48% of its power from coal or gas. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District gets 54% from gas.
“Compare this with 15% to 17% for the giant private utilities, such as Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, that cover much of the state. Why? Maybe because their CEOs and shareholders are more easily bullied into signing up for the state’s green goals. Maybe because political accountability is attenuated across their sprawling, multi-jurisdictional service areas.
“No, this is not a plea for public ownership or small-is-beautiful, but political accountability is needed where market accountability is legislated out of existence by monopoly regulation. If 200,000 PG&E customers across 30 counties lose power, as they did last week, more than five million others don’t. So who is the responsible politician the losers can effectively vote out of office to register their unhappiness? Nobody.
“Which introduces our larger theme. The only hope for the many, many things ailing the Golden State is better governance. California has the costliest and least reliable power of any large section of the country; the highest poverty (thanks to towering housing costs), high taxes, a substantial number of working people living in their cars. In its priciest neighborhoods, residents step around syringes and human waste. A new study finds that, in the general flight of working- and middle-class families, the state’s African-American population has shrunk to 5.5% from 7.7% in 1980
“Last week the environmental writer David Wallace-Wells used the right word when he said that California’s wildfires make an especially superb ‘propagandist’ for climate change. The only problem is that greens aren’t interested in propagandizing for controlled burns or forest management, which might actually help, but for wind and solar subsidies, which wouldn’t.
After discussing carbon taxes rather than mandating fuel choices and some political issues, the journalist concludes with:
“If the state is to dig out of its deepening hole, it will need something else. It will need, you know, ideas. In fact, only a revolution of ideas can save it from the path it’s on. And the first idea is easy to see. The state will have to wake up from the sheer ludicrousness of devoting so much of its politics to a problem its politics can’t fix at the expense to those it can.”
[TWTW: Comment: One California ISO estimated that the state could need up to 15,000 megawatts of energy storage capacity. The Hoover Dam power plant has a nameplate capacity of about 2,080 megawatts. Just build 7 or 8 Hoover Dams and a couple of Colorado Rivers to power them. Lots of empty space in the desert!]