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  • Score another for Niven & Pournelle

    Posted by ken on January 27th, 2005 (All posts by )

    As you may know, these are the guys who wrote a novel about a comet-strike disaster – before anyone had a notion that such a strike might have killed off the dinosaurs, and more than 20 years before observations of comet strikes on Jupiter pretty much confirmed their predictions of its effects. (Update: I’m speaking of Lucifer’s Hammer)

    Now a new study suggests that another of their works (with Michael Flynn), Fallen Angels, is much closer to the truth than one might have assumed when it first came out. In the novel, the ecofanatics prevail, the use of technology and particularly energy is severely restricted, and the emission of greenhouse gases by human activity is successfully curtailed – and as a result, a new ice age grips the Earth, with parts of the US and most of Canada covered by thick sheets of ice.

    According to the article, “there is evidence that changes in solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations should have driven the Earth towards glacial conditions over the last few thousand years. “, but such a disaster was prevented by the release of those dreaded greenhouse gases by humans over the last 8000 years.

    Now those favoring severe restrictions on the use of energy have spent the last couple of years insisting that the evidence for global climate change is pretty rock-solid and leaping from there to the notion that their favored restrictions need to be enacted without delay to head off disaster, without ever pausing to consider the question of whether human-caused climate change represents a degradation or an improvement of the environment. If it’s caused by humans, and especially if it’s caused by humans acting to solve their own problems and make their own lives better instead of wagging their tails and waiting for their betters to give them what they need, then it must be bad. Now this assumption that H. Sapiens and all his works are a blight upon the Earth is receiving closer scrutiny, and so far it’s not looking good for the prosecution.

    I highly recommend you read both novels if you haven’t already. It’s nice to read stories and writings by people who believe that human beings using their minds and building progressively more powerful tools for solving their problems is fundamentally a good and noble activity rather than a desecration of some mythical benevolent “nature”.

     

    44 Responses to “Score another for Niven & Pournelle”

    1. Paul Says:

      I gather that the first book you are talking about is Lucifer’s Hammer, allthough there is a similar event in Footfall.

    2. Ken Says:

      Oh yeah, it’s Lucifer’s Hammer – forgot to mention that.

    3. Fredrik Nyman Says:

      Note that Fallen Angels is available free online through the publisher here.

    4. Dennis Heimbigner Says:

      Actually, Niven and Pournelle
      and all the rest got the idea
      from an article in Analog
      in the mid 60’s.

    5. chattr Says:

      Fallen Angels is interesting if you’re the kind of science fiction fan who goes to the Cons. Much of it is about the Sci-Fi fans, not the envirowackos.

      Larry Niven’s site translates the book’s characters into the real-life identities.

      If you’re not part of the ‘fen’, it drags.

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      I don’t think I would put much stock in this study. It seems to track fairly small changes in CO2 levels (10-15ppm against a background of 300ppm).

      Can’t find the original paper but I’m thinking there is probably not much there.

    7. Yehudit Says:

      I’m on an email list where it turned out after 9-11 that many acquaintances of mine were moonbats. I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. Anyway, someone posted a URL to an article on this topic last week. One of the moonbats replied to the list: “Why would an ice age be a bad thing?”

    8. John Farren Says:

      Interesting, if correct. But it implies that anthropogenic climate change is operative on a major scale.
      If so continued emissions increasing “greenhouse” atmospheric levels might have a damaging efect, eventually.
      Could as easily be used to back up the restrictive case as to counter it.

      My vote for the best Niven/Pournelle work:
      The Mote in God’s Eye, followed by Inferno.

    9. Angie Schultz Says:

      One of the moonbats replied to the list: “Why would an ice age be a bad thing?”

      I thought all moonbats had to view The Day After Tomorrow. It’s, like, in their contract or something.

    10. Ken Says:

      If humans cause an ice age, it’s bad.

      If an ice age happens on its own, then that’s what nature intended, and so it’s obviously good.

    11. Engineer-Poet Says:

      I think we all agree that a new ice age would be bad for many things, including real-estate values in Sweden.  From this, it follows that a return to historic atmospheric CO2 levels would be bad if human CO2 contributions to date have so far prevented this.  It does not follow that huge increases beyond the current level of atmospheric CO2 will have only beneficial effects, any more than ten tablets of aspirin will be better for your headache than two.

      I don’t see how we would damage our economy if we taxed releases of long-term fixed carbon, in lieu of some other taxes (I suggest payroll taxes).  Economies would have the same amount of money overall, and would chug along quite nicely even if no reduction in CO2 emissions was possible.  On the other hand, there would be a powerful incentive to find efficiency improvements and even replacements for processes which emit carbon – but only if they cost less per unit than the amount of the tax.  Unlike a cap system, the impact is strictly limited.

      We’ve got some amazing possibilities in the laboratory today which could have a huge impact on human carbon emissions.  What better way to get the good ones into the field than by making them profitable for those who can turn them into products?

    12. Anonymous Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      “I don’t see how we would damage our economy if we taxed releases of long-term fixed carbon, in lieu of some other taxes (I suggest payroll taxes).”

      The damage is that we might spend trillions of dollars (which merely represent real resources) in a totally wasted effort to head off a cataclysm that does not exist.

      Raising the cost of energy raises the cost of EVERYTHING including food clothing and shelter. It won’t be trivial. It will cause a significant drop in the standard of living in developed countries and it will kill people by the millions in the developing world.

      Its not about revenue or taxation. It is about taking a sledgehammer to planetary economy.

    13. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Nameless writes:

      Raising the cost of energy raises the cost of EVERYTHING including food clothing and shelter.

      If the taxes are eliminated on sales and raised the same total amount on energy, the difference is what, exactly?

      It will cause a significant drop in the standard of living in developed countries and it will kill people by the millions in the developing world.

      You’re assuming that there is no alternative and that the money will just vanish.  Neither of these assumptions is true.

      The damage is that we might spend trillions of dollars (which merely represent real resources)

      Ridiculous.  The people who would be stupid enough to pay $50/ton to avoid a $40/ton damage fee (tax) wouldn’t be in business anyway.  If the cost of avoidance is less than the damages, people move to cut emissions and the problem fixes itself.  Entrepreneurs would have incentives to find every feasible way of reducing emissions, and slashing the costs on all of them.  It would be another example of creative destruction in action as people find the least-cost option.

      If there was no way to eliminate the emissions for less than the cost of the damage, nobody would do it.  The tax would be paid, and life would go on as normal.  Again, people would have found the least-cost option.

      But to make this work AT ALL, you have to internalize the costs.  Externalities result in uncompensated damages and unrealized profits.

      in a totally wasted effort to head off a cataclysm that does not exist.

      Tell me, did you oppose the Montreal protocol which brought about the ban on CFC’s?  Do you deny the phenomenon of the polar ozone holes?

      We are about to have one of the worst arctic ozone holes that we have ever had.  The combination of halogens and weather are going to eat a lot of our springtime UV protection.  But as bad as it is going to be, it would have been worse if we hadn’t enacted the Montreal protocol and replaced CFC’s with less-damaging materials.  Are you arguing that the disaster of ozone destruction wasn’t averted, it was illusory?

      It was quite real, yet nobody lost their shirt in the effort to avert it; car A/C recharges cost a bit more, but the new stuff works just fine (European refrigerators went halogen-free and switched to isobutane).

      You say this looming disaster “does not exist”.  Okay, you’ve asserted a positive:  prove it.  Long ago, researchers quantified the greenhouse contributions of the various gases which cause Earth to be a relatively comfortable blue 283 K marble instead of a 250 K iceball.  Adding CO2 (and CH4, and SF6, etc.) to the atmosphere increases the optical depth at IR wavelengths and increases the climactic forcing; that’s simple physics, undeniable as long as you admit to the laws of nature.  Exactly what is going to offset that and forestall e.g. the wholesale deaths of entire forests because the climate zone where they can live has retreated further north than their northernmost edge?

      Be specific.  What do you know that the climate scientists don’t?  This is important; I’m sure there’s a Nobel prize in it for you if you would only publish.

    14. Shannon Love Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      I know that global warming cannot be happening because oil is tremendously rare and disappearing resources. Oil currently cost in excess of $100 dollars a barrel. That is why we all drive electric mopeds to work. The idea that we actually have enough oil to burn to create enough C02 to alter the earths climate is completely silly.

      At least, thats what all the expects in 1980 would have told you about the year 2005.

      Experts, even scientific experts are often wrong especially about long range forecast.

      “re you arguing that the disaster of ozone destruction wasn’t averted, it was illusory?”

      Yes, it was an illusion. The ozone holes in the Arctic regions are most likely natural phenomenon, we just never had the equipment to measure them before. The first time anyone looked for them they found them.

      Let me tell you an ugly secret about the entire ozone hole hysteria. Nobody ever measure an increase in UV radiation in any atmospheric layer underneath the ozone layer. No increase in UV was measured anywhere outside of Antarctica. If CFC were actually degrading the Ozone layer we should have measure increased UV at least at high altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere (where the 90% of the CFC were used.)

      Besides, if the Antarctic hole is generated by primarily by CFC’s, the size of the hole should be decreasing should it not? If changes in circulation can swamp the effect produced by the CFCs that means the holes are primarily natural phenomenon.

      Last time I look, none of the expected measurements of the ozone layer following the banning of CFCs has demonstrated the expected positive results.

      The banning of CFCs was a pointless waste of time and resources. I think it was basically a scam that runs like this:

      1) Declare that an great danger will soon occur.
      2) Convince people to make changes intended to forestal the great danger.
      3) When the danger fails to materialize, announce to everyone that the changes saved everyone from doom.

      This scam works regardless of whether there is an actual problem or not.

    15. Wade Says:

      Shannon,
      Are you aware of any studies that try to quantify the economic cost of diverting resources to unproductive areas like Global Warming prevention? I have had simliar arguments to yours with the Engineer-Poet where my opponent claims the diverted resources stay in the economy so nothing is lost, like, for example, the costs of lawsuits in the US. Thanks for your posts/comments, very interesting as always

    16. Shannon Love Says:

      People like Engineer-Poet think that the economy is about people exchanging money. As long money keeps changing hands then the economy is healthy.

      However, money is just a mechanism for allocating resources. Real wealth comes from shaping and moving matter. You grow food, build shelter, make clothes etc and then route those products to people who need them. The better you match the material needs of humans, the wealthier your society is in absolute terms. Anything that causes a diversion from those material needs causes everyone to experience a increase in poverty in absolute terms.

      For example, group of air crash survivors on a desert island might find a suitcase full of drug dealer money and use it as a medium for exchange. They might be paying each other $10,000 per coconut and, on paper, they would have an economy as “large” as small town but in absolute terms they would be starving.

      Restricting CO2 works something like the following thought experiment:

      Powerful aliens called the Zorg come to earth and proclaim, “A hail the Zorg! The puny humans will construct numerous huge statues of the Zorg in every community on earth or we will vaporize the planet!” Out gunned, the governments of Earth raise taxes and spend the money on building the giant statues In the process they consume significant percentages of their GNP’s.

      Now, according to Engineer-Poet and similar thinkers, blowing all these resources won’t hurt the economy because, hey, all the money “stays in the economy.” But all the steel, concrete, energy and human time and talent that went into building the statues would be diverted from constructing and maintaining buildings for use by humans. The more statues we built, the poorer we would become.

      If you like a more real-world example, consider what happened on the home front during WWII. From Engineer-Poets view, the economy was very health. There was full employment and lots of money changed hands. From a material perspective, however, everybody suffered a decrease in their standard of living. They could not build or maintain housing, they couldn’t get new clothes, automobiles, bicycles or even maintain the ones they had. Resources where diverted to making machines for destruction, not construction. If the war had continued for a decade or more, America would have been an impoverished country, much to the surprise of people like Engineer-Poet.

      Wealth and poverty aren’t functions of money, they are functions of stuff. The more stuff the more wealth.

    17. Shannon Love Says:

      Wade,

      Another good example would be the practice of many empires of the past to divert people away from growing food and instead put them to work on status projects like Pyramids, hanging gardens, etc. The same resources could have been used to build roads and irrigations systems that would have made the entire society materially better off.

    18. Jonathan Says:

      A more recent example than pyramids would be the steel mills, national airlines and other fiscal sinkholes created by post-independence third-world governments. The capital to fund these wasteful projects would have been much better invested by individuals and private businesses in pursuit of profit. Indeed, since most of the productivity gains in a society come from a few exceptional individuals (Reuven Brenner’s “productive few”), any diversion of a nation’s investment capital to centrally-planned prestige projects almost guarantees great destruction of wealth, compared to what might have been.

    19. Wade Says:

      Thanks Shannon and Jonathan, your explanations make a lot of sense.

    20. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Shannon, it pains me to say this, but I have to question either your information or your bona fides.  I really, really hope it’s your information.

      This scam works regardless of whether there is an actual problem or not.

      Unfortunate (or revealing) choice of words; you assume that there is a scam even if the problem is real.  (Of course, people with an interest in denying the problem will often do so as long as they suffer no individual penalty for being wrong.)

      I know that global warming cannot be happening… [hyperbole elided]At least, thats what all the expects in 1980 would have told you about the year 2005.

      How old were you in 1980?  Were you reading the scientific literature, or the popular (“if it bleeds, it leads”) treatments?  Of late, people have been quoting the “imminent ice-age” magazine headlines and contrasting them with the actual scientific literature of the period.  The experts weren’t saying what people commonly supposed.

      It helps to go to what the experts are actually saying, because they are often right.

      “re you arguing that the disaster of ozone destruction wasn’t averted, it was illusory?”Yes, it was an illusion. The ozone holes in the Arctic regions are most likely natural phenomenon, we just never had the equipment to measure them before. The first time anyone looked for them they found them.

      Both of those statements are false.  The October ozone measurements at the Halley Bay Station in Antarctica show a steep decline at about 1975; the Antarctic ozone hole did not exist for the first 75 years of the 20th century (more data here).  You will note that the measurements begin in 1956, roughly 3 decades before the acceleration of the decline.  We have also found the mechanisms responsible for the decline, and they involve anthropogenic halogens; the decline is assuredly not natural either.

      Let me tell you an ugly secret about the entire ozone hole hysteria. Nobody ever measure an increase in UV radiation in any atmospheric layer underneath the ozone layer[1]. No increase in UV was measured anywhere outside of Antarctica[2]. If CFC were actually degrading the Ozone layer we should have measure increased UV at least at high altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere (where the 90% of the CFC were used.)[3]

      Wrong on all three counts.Large increases in UV have been measured in southern Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands.See 1.You’re assuming that the atmosphere is not mixed by circulation (hah!), yet a steady year-over-year drop in ozone has been measured at the station in Caribou, Maine (daily graph).  These declines in ozone would be accompanied by increases in UV, but they are not listed on the same page.
      I found this with very little effort, which raises the question:  did you come by your certainty because of some mass of data I have not found, or despite what I have?  “It’s not the things we don’t know that hurt us, it’s the things we know that ain’t so.” — Will Rogers

      Besides, if the Antarctic hole is generated by primarily by CFC’s, the size of the hole should be decreasing should it not? If changes in circulation can swamp the effect produced by the CFCs that means the holes are primarily natural phenomenon.

      Rainfall patterns can change the distribution of fallout from an atomic bomb, but that doesn’t make the radioactivity a natural phenomenon.  The generation of the ozone hole depends on cooling of the stratosphere enough to produce polar stratospheric clouds; the ice crystals are catalytic when coated with halogen compounds.  It’s true that the polar vortices which allow PSC’s to form are natural phenomena, but the halogens are not.

      I’m quite surprised to find you using such a pure non-sequitur.  I thought you were both smarter and more honest than that.

      Last time I look, none of the expected measurements of the ozone layer following the banning of CFCs has demonstrated the expected positive results.

      I wasn’t even looking, but I recently read news that atmospheric levels of CFC’s had stabilized and perhaps was beginning to drop.

      Did you seriously expect the ban to change things overnight, when third-world countries (like Mexico and China) could continue to produce CFC’s for years and the existing inventory of CFC-using hardware might not be discharged for decades?  Did you think that the CFC’s in the atmosphere are cycled that quickly?  Here is a short, non-technical account of the life-cycle of the halogens in CFC’s; you will note that transport to the stratosphere, diffusion to the altitude where high-energy UV breaks them down, and return to the troposphere are processes which all take considerable time.

      The banning of CFCs was a pointless waste of time and resources.

      I hope that you have now discarded that opinion in the face of evidence to the contrary.

      Note that the Montreal Protocol began when some scientists noticed that we were making millions of tons of CFC’s and releasing them into the atmosphere, and that the compounds were too stable to break down in the troposphere; where were they going?  The answer to that question led to discovery of the connection with falling ozone levels, and we fixed the problem before it got really bad.

      Lessons for global warming?If the experts have their physics and chemistry right, they are very probably right.Just because you notice and fix a problem soon enough to avoid disaster, it does not mean that the warning was a sham.

    21. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Regarding ozone recovery, I found this paper:

      As a result of the Montreal Protocol regulations, the long-term increase in effective chlorine slowed, reached a peak, and began to decrease in the 1990s. This small and continuing decrease means that the potential for stratospheric ozone depletion has begun to lessen as a result of the Montreal Protocol….Significant reduction requires decades because the lifetimes of halogen source gas molecules in the atmosphere range up to 100 years (see Table Q7-1).

      I hope that resolves the questions you might have had about the slow pace of progress.

    22. Shannon Love Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      “question either your information or your bona fides”

      I have no bona fides on the internet. Nobody does. I don’t make arguments from authority.

      “you assume that there is a scam even if the problem is real”

      No, I simply point out that the generic scam I outlined works regardless of whether the actual phenomenon feared occurs or not. It works even if everybody promulgating the fear is a con artist, or is everyone promulgating the fear is utterly honest and sincere, or if its a mix of the two.

      “the Antarctic ozone hole did not exist for the first 75 years of the 20th century (more data here).”

      The link you provided does not support that assertion. It only shows a drop off in ozone measurements. Systematic measurements of the ozone have only been made since the late 1950’s (IIRC).

      “Large increases in UV have been measured in southern Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands”

      That is part of the general antarctic thinning as the link itself makes clear.

      “These declines in ozone would be accompanied by increases in UV…”

      No, the decline in ozone SHOULD be accompanied by increases in UV. That is rather the crux of my argument. If the ozone layer is actually being thinned by halogens from any source then the theory says we will measure more UV penetrating. Outside of the area effected by the antarctic thinning, no such measurements exist.
      “I recently read news that atmospheric levels of CFC’s had stabilized and perhaps was beginning to drop”

      Yes, but I specifically said that expected improvements to the ozone layer had not been measured. Proponents of banning CFC made numerous predictions in the 80’s about the effect of banning CFCs would have on ozone measurements. Those predictions have not come to pass.

      ” PSC’s to form are natural phenomena, but the halogens are not”

      Actually, volcanos loft significant amounts of halogens into the atmosphere. (In theory, volcanic halogens should have slightly different isotopic ratios than those extracted from surface sources. I haven’t been able to find out if anybody has bothered to check.)

      “Just because you notice and fix a problem soon enough to avoid disaster, it does not mean that the warning was a sham.”

      Likewise, just because we took action to head off a theoretical danger and the danger never materializes doesn’t mean that the danger ever actually existed. (Its the magic tiger pebble problem.)

      “Significant reduction requires decades because the lifetimes of halogen source gas molecules in the atmosphere range up to 100 years”

      “The magic bean you sold me don’t work!”
      “They work, they just take a long time.”

      Anthrogenic ozone depletion is a plausible hypothesis, I am just not sure it is correct. Don’t you find it odd that the major harm advanced, more UV reaching the biosphere, was never measured outside the Antarctic? Should not that have been the primary and most easily available evidence for the effect?

      What I do know for an absolute fact is that measurements to date do not confirm that the hypothesis is correct. Perhaps we will have to wait a hundred years to know for sure but at the moment we still await confirmation.

      Switching to a different class of CFC had little economic impact in the grand scope of things, I had to pay three times the usual amount to recharge my car’s air conditioner and Dupont made millions selling their new patented CFC replacements. If the effort was wasted then, oh well. Maybe it was better to be safe than sorry.

      Drastically cutting CO2 emissions significantly and suddenly will kill millions of people and condemn millions of others to wrenching poverty. This is entire orders of magnitude different than the cost of replacing CFCs. If we are wrong will have committed a great wrong.

      We have to get it right.

    23. Engineer-Poet Says:

      It’s very obvious that you don’t know what I think the economy is about.  No, I don’t subscribe to the “broken windows” theory, though I do subscribe to “the tragedy of the commons”.

      As for “getting it right”, two and a half days ago I said

      there would be a powerful incentive to find efficiency improvements and even replacements for processes which emit carbon – but only if they cost less per unit than the amount of the tax.

      To sum up,Take a stab at quantifying the damage from each ton of CO2 emitted.Shift some taxes from productive behavior to CO2-emitting behavior, with the tax level set uniformly by international treaty. (Really poor people use almost no fossil fuels, and wouldn’t be affected.)Let the markets sort it out.
      As for “disaster”, I would like you to keep claiming that after having a look at the work that Primary Energy is doing (Hat tip: Knowledge Problem).  Our energy providers have been far less efficient than they could have been for quite some time, and we have plenty of existence proofs of ways to do much, much better even with legacy technology.  Increase the potential profits and that technology will get better, faster.  Or don’t you believe in human ingenuity?

    24. Jonathan Says:

      Engineer-Poet wrote:

      Lessons for global warming?
      1. If the experts have their physics and chemistry right, they are very probably right.
      2. Just because you notice and fix a problem soon enough to avoid disaster, it does not mean that the warning was a sham.

      The track record of “experts” and even experts at making long-range predictions, particularly about topics like climate where data are imperfect, is poor. Your argument is not only inherently weak as an appeal to authority, it is an appeal to authority that doesn’t exist.

      Shannon is right on the other point as well. Just because you did something that you believed would head off a problem, it does not follow, if the anticipated problem fails to materialize, that your action was effective — e.g., by throwing salt over my shoulder I have prevented attacks by unicorns.

      As for “getting it right”, two and a half days ago I said
      there would be a powerful incentive to find efficiency improvements and even replacements for processes which emit carbon – but only if they cost less per unit than the amount of the tax.
      To sum up,
      1. Take a stab at quantifying the damage from each ton of CO2 emitted.
      2. Shift some taxes from productive behavior to CO2-emitting behavior, with the tax level set uniformly by international treaty. (Really poor people use almost no fossil fuels, and wouldn’t be affected.)
      3. Let the markets sort it out.

      You seem to be arguing that any attempt to remedy a situation which you view as a problem is justifiable as long as 1) people whom you consider experts think that there really is a problem, and 2) the costs of the proposed “solution” are imposed by taxation rather than fiat.

      But costs are still costs, even if you jigger the incentives to allow participants in the economy to find the least-bad solutions for themselves. If this weren’t true, govts could impose taxes without hurting GNP. There may be better and worse ways to impose costs, but you can’t escape the reality of the costs by saying that market participants retain the ability to adjust their own behavior. Given the plainly huge costs of all proposed schemes to reduce global warming, it is irresponsible to tax people merely because someone “took a stab” at calculating environmental damage. What Shannon is arguing, correctly IMO, is that the cost of being wrong in these matters may dwarf the other costs, and that you are overconfident about the state of our knowledge.

      The existence of alternatives does not imply optimality. If it did, socialism would be as productive as free enterprise, stock in one company would be just as valuable as stock in any other. Decisions are no more interchangeable in the economic scheme of things than people are. Some rule sets are much more conducive to productivity than are others.

    25. Shannon Love Says:

      “eally poor people use almost no fossil fuels, and wouldn’t be affected.”

      This is the kind of shallow economic thinking I am criticizing. The worlds poorest people will be effected the most by the changes. The more drastic the cuts in CO2 emission the worse the effect.

      First, as the developed world devotes resources to reducing CO2 emissions, everything will get more expensive, food, clothing, shelter, everything. Poor countries must import virtually all advanced materials like medicines and machinery. All this will suddenly cost more.

      If you doubt this effect I would strongly urge you to study the impact of the “Energy Crisis” on economies of 3rd world nations in regards to their imported items.

      Second, although poor people use far less fossil fuels than do rich people, the fuels they do use have a far greater impact on their standard of living. Five gallons of gas that runs pump of village well suppling clean water to 60 people has a far greater positive impact than five gallons of gas would every have on 60 people in the developed world.

      Decreasing fossil fuel use in the first world would have eventually have the paradoxical effect of raising fossil fuel prices in the 3rd world. The 3rd world rides on the coat tails of the 1st taking advantage of the vast economies of scale in fossil fuel production. Short-term they have lower prices (encouraging them to consume more and build more systems around fossil fuels) but long term they will pay more as the coat tails disappear.

      If you look at the history of the West for the last 200 years, there is always somebody advocating some radical change to the system. They also advance the notion that the radical change will be essentially costless. They are always wrong.

    26. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Shannon Love wrote (1-Feb-2005 23:25):

      I have no bona fides on the internet. Nobody does. I don’t make arguments from authority.

      You’re making assertions of fact and basing further claims on them.  As I’ve shown and am about to show further, most of your assertions are wrong.  Perhaps “bona fides” means something else in financial circles, but in discussion circles I frequent it means using facts instead of falsehoods and reason instead of fallacies.

      No, I simply point out that the generic scam I outlined works regardless of whether the actual phenomenon feared occurs or not.

      If the phenomenon exists, you still label it a scam.  Were the people warning about sliding pertussis vaccination levels trying to “scam people” when they warned about a resurgence of the disease?  Has the ensuing proof that they were right still not removed the “scammer” label from them?

      Does, say, a 30% probability that someone could be correct still make them a scammer?  How unlikely does a possibility have to be before a warning becomes a scam?  How much of a likelihood do you need before it becomes prudent to take insurance?

      Language reflects thought.  If you write “scam” about phenomena which are real or likely real, it can only be because you are misled yourself, or you are attempting to mislead others.  Deliberately misleading others isn’t good, and isn’t that what scammers do?

      Back to ozone depletion.

      The link you provided does not support that assertion. It only shows a drop off in ozone measurements. Systematic measurements of the ozone have only been made since the late 1950’s (IIRC).

      There have been direct measurements by the British since 1956, and by many others during and after the International Geophysical Year (IGY, 1957-8).  We have proxies for ozone going back further, such as data about abundances of marine organisms (some of which are sensitive to UV).

      Outside of the area effected by the antarctic thinning, no such measurements exist.

      You said “populated areas” before, which I showed was false (Argentina and Chile are populated).  The effect extends to New Zealand (and Australia).  Winter and spring ozone levels in the Northern hemisphere (which not even you can argue isn’t populated) are down about 4% over historic levels.  Each 1% drop in stratospheric ozone leads to about a 2% increase in UV.

      I specifically said that expected improvements to the ozone layer had not been measured.

      Improvements over what?  It’s obvious that we’ve already seen an improvement over the declining trend from the 1970’s; flat is an improvement over a drop.  Increases over current levels will require the rate of stratospheric halogen removal to outstrip the rate of halogen release, which in turn requires the tropospheric reservoir of CFC’s to be drained; that’s going to take time.  This page says “a decade or so”, so if the authors are right we should be seeing unequivocal results around 2010-2015.

      volcanos loft significant amounts of halogens into the atmosphere.

      Volcanoes produce acids such as H2SO4 and HCl which rain out quickly, not the highly-stable halocarbons such as CFCl3 which break down to elemental (as opposed to ionic) chlorine.  If you look at the mid-latitudes ozone curve here you’ll see a short dip at about the time of the Pinatubo eruption, followed by a recovery.  Volcanoes are clearly not responsible for the decades-long ozone trend.

      Don’t you find it odd that the major harm advanced, more UV reaching the biosphere, was never measured outside the Antarctic?

      I would have found it not merely odd, but grounds for discarding the theory behind it.  But that is not what has been observed.

      Let me say here that arguing with you about ozone is not unlike arguing with a young-earth creationist about radioisotope dating.  You have certainly not studied the matter (or you’d have better command of the facts than I do, and ready rebuttals for everything I’ve brought up), and you don’t seem to accept that we already understand and can analyze and project most of the physical phenomena involved.  It’s as if you’ve got the conclusion you want and anything which calls it into question Cannot Possibly Be Right.

      just because we took action to head off a theoretical danger and the danger never materializes doesn’t mean that the danger ever actually existed.

      And if you’ve got excellent reasons, based in physics and chemistry as well as measurements in the real world, that it does happen and is happening?

      It’s a given that we can’t run controlled experiments to achieve certainty before committing ourselves.  How much evidence do we need before it’s prudent to act?    (Don’t you diversify your investments?)  Shouldn’t we take all “no regrets” measures immediately, no matter what?  You seem to be arguing that all likelihoods less than 100% certainty should be ignored, and I’d like you to clarify what you actually do mean.

      Next post deals with global warming.

    27. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Picking up on Shannon Love’s 1-Feb-05 23:25 response.  Paraphrasing to create an analogy:

      “Don’t you find it odd that the major harm advanced, higher temperatures in the mid and high latitudes, was never measured outside some unseasonably hot spells in Europe? Should not that have been the primary and most easily available evidence for the effect?”

      Thermometric measurements show that things are getting warmer in general, bore-hole measurements show that the phenomenon is neither isolated to “heat islands” nor is it of brief duration, and spring is coming earlier over most of the northern hemisphere; the evidence for widespread warming is iron-clad.  The question is, what should we do about it?

      Drastically cutting CO2 emissions significantly and suddenly will kill millions of people and condemn millions of others to wrenching poverty.

      Of course that’s true… for certain values of the ill-defined terms “drastic” and “sudden”.  But suppose for a minute that we cap the cost ahead of time, and see what that will buy?  That’s what I proposed above.

      There are plenty of cuts that we could achieve for negative cost (yes, less than zero).  Some of this is due to inertia, which can be overcome; technology moved on, but practice stayed the same.  Among the Primary Energy papers you’ll find documentation that utilities continued to install simple gas-turbine powerplants long after combined-cycle plants were more cost-effective even at the fuel prices of the day (let alone expected and actual 2004 prices).  There are regulatory barriers to efficiency, which prevent industries from co-generating electricity as a byproduct of their other operations because they cannot sell except to the utility under conditions which do not allow recovery of their investment (the utility is not so handicapped).  Inertia can be overcome by a kick in the pants, either in the form of further economic pressure or outright regulation.  Bad regulations can be replaced by better ones.  Primary Energy projects a possible 50% cut in fuel consumption for the same net output, and a net cost savings; this isn’t going to occur suddenly, but I think “drastic” is not an inappropriate description.

      Things start getting interesting if you begin combining advances.  Suppose that you repower a pulverized-coal powerplant at a heat rate of 10236 BTU/KWH (33% efficiency) using a second-generation IGCC front end, and you get the heat rate down to 7582 BTU/KWH (45% efficiency).  The efficiency improvement cuts the carbon output by 26%, BUT… roughly half of the carbon is converted to CO2 in the gasifier and can be captured at near-zero cost in the sulfur-scrubbing step.  If the plant is sited near an old oil field, liquid CO2 from the scrubber could be disposed of into it AND used for tertiary oil recovery, delivering another profitable product.  Per-KWH carbon emissions from the repowered plant would be about 37% of the original.  If you can find a way to exploit the waste heat from the combined-cycle plant you can replace the fuel used for heat and achieve a net reduction upwards of 70% from current practice.

      Did I mention that this would come with near-elimination of sulfur and particulate emissions, and the potential for radical (90% or more) cuts in mercury emissions?

      Transport has huge potential for reductions.  Plug-in hybrids can replace on the order of 80% of motor fuel requirements with electricity, which could be generated by wind, solar or nukes (no carbon) or new cogeneration (large net reduction).  The remaining amount can be edged out by methanol blends; gasoline yields about 18640 BTU/lb lower heating value, and if the formula is about C(n)H(2n) it gives about 21750 BTU/lb carbon.  Methanol has a heat of combustion of 9612 BTU/lb but gives 25630 BTU/lb carbon (not sure if that’s HHV or LHV so I could be off).  A plug-in hybrid burning M85 for long-distance travel could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 83%, depending on the source of the electricity.  It would probably have better emissions, too.

      Is that “drastic” enough for you?  You wouldn’t be able to do it suddenly, but I can see how a concerted effort could lead to all new vehicles and powerplants being at least that good ten years from now, and the existing plant being retired at several percent a year.  IGCC roughly triples the output of a steam plant, so you could retire two plants for each one you repower and maintain the same output.  As a filip, extra syngas from the coal gasifier can be tapped, purified and used for methanol synthesis.  The electric utility gets another revenue stream from motor fuel, and the price of oil takes a hit.

      Then you could rethink architecture a bit.  An Energy-Star rated house uses about 70% of the energy of conventional construction, but the Solar Decathlon contest houses showed how to get that down to 40% before the energy from the solar features is added.  Energy you don’t require is carbon that isn’t needed to maintain your lifestyle.  Cutting future needs in homes yields a 50-year-plus reduction in carbon emissions.  Just think of how far along we’d be if we had adopted these principles before the current building boom began!

      If the powerplants cut down to 50% of their former emissions and the efficiency of the architecture cuts demand by 60%, carbon emissions drop by 80%; if the powerplant can get down to 37%, the potential emissions reduction is 85%.  Same lifestyle.

      Speaking of third-world poor people:  lots of them pay through the nose for lamp oil so they can read and work at night.  Solar-electric light is already cheaper than petroleum lamp oil in many places, with a payback time on the order of a year (ONE YEAR!).  Consider how much these people could save with solar-charged plug-in hybrid transport compared to current fuel prices.  Now consider that new technology is about to cut the cost of solar PV in half.  What we need to do for them is to start building the drivetrains in million quantities, so that they’ll be cheap enough for them to buy.

      If we are wrong will have committed a great wrong.

      We have to get it right.

      Okay, I’ve got a proposal:  let’s commit to the stuff that will reduce fuel costs, clean up the air and cut our dependence on OPEC oil, with some CO2-emission cuts in the bargain but not as the primary focus.  We select the technologies so that we can make far greater CO2 cuts if the evidence for global warming continues to get stronger.  Even if that evidence never appears, we’ve reaped worthwhile benefits for our costs.  Is that close enough to right to satisfy you?

      Jonathan Gerwitz wrote (2-Feb-2005 07:30):

      The track record of “experts” and even experts at making long-range predictions, particularly about topics like climate where data are imperfect, is poor. Your argument is not only inherently weak as an appeal to authority, it is an appeal to authority that doesn’t exist.

      Thirty years ago you could say the same thing about the weather, but we now have fairly good weather predictions for several days out.  That’s an “authority” that did not exist, but does now.  We’re not sitting still.

      In the case of climate, we have no ability to run controlled experiments on the Earth.  All we can do is build models and test them against the record, then see what they say about the likely results of our current course of action.  The latest round of models, using the most computing power ever concentrated on the issue, indicates that we may get as much as 10 degrees C warming from a doubling of atmospheric CO2.  This is well into the range which has produced mass extinctions in the past, and would render much of the tropics uninhabitable.  Such changes would inevitably displace hundreds of millions of people and kill millions in the resulting wars over the remaining habitable territory.  (Snarky comment about Siberia and Canada becoming undeservedly temperate elided.)

      Are you denying that this is possible, or arguing that we should take no action until we are certain something is happening?  If we should act on likelihoods rather than certainties, what should we be willing to spend as “insurance premiums” for different projections of risk?

      Just because you did something that you believed would head off a problem, it does not follow, if the anticipated problem fails to materialize, that your action was effective — e.g., by throwing salt over my shoulder I have prevented attacks by unicorns.

      Unicorns don’t exist, but I defy you to say the same about heatstroke and keep a straight face.  If I tell you “It’s a hot day, take off that heavy coat or you’ll get heatstroke” do you think that denial is going to save you if the day is indeed going to be hot, or that my warning was somehow irrelevant if you took your coat off?  This isn’t magic, it’s physics (with a bunch of difficult-to-model feedback loops, but physics regardless).

      You seem to be arguing that any attempt to remedy a situation which you view as a problem is justifiable as long as 1) people whom you consider experts think that there really is a problem, and 2) the costs of the proposed “solution” are imposed by taxation rather than fiat.

      Excellent rhetoric, poor logic; I doubt you’d characterize anything that you favor using such terms, which you could use to make anything look bad.  You’re generalizing (with hilarious inaccuracy) about my views rather than deducing consequences of my specific statements, to give just one logical fallacy you’ve committed.

      After reading that I doubt very much that you’re willing to give a fair appraisal to anything I say.  Further, I doubt that you apply the same reasoning to problems such as endemic and epidemic disease (which is why we have water treatment systems and mandatory vaccinations for children in public schools); you are perfectly willing to rely on experts in these areas, probably with even less thought about whether they are right or not.  Your position devolves to special pleading:  “We know the physics of radiative and convective heat transfer and that the Earth’s temperature is largely controlled by them, but I’m not willing to accept the results of models which show what may happen due to our changes to the atmosphere because I won’t accept anything less than certainty in this particular case (actually, I don’t like the fiscal or moral implications).”

      This issue is not going to go away, and the cost of dealing with it is going to go up the more we delay.  At the very least, we should be doing three things:Implementing all “no regrets” options 100%, as soon as practicable.Setting up the framework for further reductions should they prove necessary.Making certain that there are no free riders, especially the third-world countries which would reap the most benefit.

      Last, Shannon Love wrote (2-Feb-2005 12:04):

      First, as the developed world devotes resources to reducing CO2 emissions, everything will get more expensive, food, clothing, shelter, everything.

      How would that happen under “no regrets”?  Further, the third world WILL bear the greatest per-capita cost from climate change; faced between having expensive industrial products and a habitable country, the industrial products would be the easiest to sacrifice if it came to that.

      I would strongly urge you to study the impact of the “Energy Crisis” on economies of 3rd world nations in regards to their imported items.

      Not apposite.  The “energy crisis” (actually, an OPEC money-grab) left the oil-importing third world with bad trade imbalances.  Paradoxically, acting to cut CO2 emissions would cut their oil imports and their foreign-exchange requirements.  Petroleum products such as lamp oil are already more expensive than carbon-free options such as solar PV in places like rural India, and it seems likely to me that plug-in hybrid vehicles could extend the substitution and cost savings to motor fuel as well.  If we build the vehicles, the third world will have the option of choosing them or not.

      Five gallons of gas that runs pump of village well suppling clean water to 60 people has a far greater positive impact than five gallons of gas would every have on 60 people in the developed world.

      Solar panels and electric pumps are already cheaper and more reliable than diesel pumps in most of the third world (where they get plenty of sunshine).  Most water-pumping systems don’t even need batteries.

      The 3rd world rides on the coat tails of the 1st taking advantage of the vast economies of scale in fossil fuel production.

      Then they’ll follow us wherever we go.  I fail to see how our continued mass-production of systems which rely on inefficient use of fossil fuels are in our interests or theirs.

      If you look at the history of the West for the last 200 years, there is always somebody advocating some radical change to the system. They also advance the notion that the radical change will be essentially costless. They are always wrong.

      We did pay a huge price in smog for the automobile, but we also saved the odor, disease and hauling costs of millions of tons of horse dung and eliminated countless trillions of flies.  Changing what we do is going to cost money, but we’ll save a great deal of direct and indirect costs currently incurred as part and parcel of the status quo.

    28. Shannon Love Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      From Dictionary.com:
      bona fi·des
      1. (used with a sing. verb) Good faith; sincerity.
      2. (used with a pl. verb) Information that serves to guarantee a person’s good faith, standing, and reputation; authentic credentials: “Sakharov’s bona fides within the Soviet system… have given added weight to his message”

      The “S” suffix is important. “bono fide” functions as an adjective, “bono fides” functions as noun. Saying “I have to question either your information or your bona fides” means you questions a person credentials especially in the context of a technical matter. You might want to be careful with that, questioning a fellow engineers bona fides might be you punched.

      “You said “populated areas” before”

      I think you have me confused with another discussion. The phrase “populated areas” appears nowhere in my post. The UV measurements you listed are associated with the ozone thinning over the Antarctica which I argue is most likely largely or wholly a natural phenomenon.

      “Volcanoes produce acids such as H2SO4 and HCl which rain out quickly…”

      Actually, in a relatively dry environment, in presence of a strong oxidizer such as, oh ozone, HCL and other halidic acids will degrade into H2O and the covalent halide. (
      Ask your friendly neighborhood chemist) Volcano’s primary effect on ozone is not chemical per se but rather more mechanical by providing particulate surfaces on which a large number of O3 destroying reactions take place.

      “I would have found it not merely odd, but grounds for discarding the theory behind it.  But that is not what has been observed”

      I am still awaiting your reference to that measurement. Something taken in the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere would be ideal.

      “And if you’ve got excellent reasons…”

      As I said, it depends on the cost or more specifically the ratio of the cost to potential harm. If the cost of changing is low and expected benefit high then by all means go ahead. I think that the CFC ban falls under this heading. CFCs are a trivial component of the worlds economy while the significant erosion of the ozone layer would prevent a far worse problem than even the most dire of global warming predictions.

      From a purely scientific point, I remain unconvinced the effect was actually significant. I think ozone depletion is related to solar magnetosphere activity that follows a pattern unrelated to events on earth. From an economic perspective I am untroubled by the cost of replacing CFCs. From a political perspective I am concerned that people will use the exact type of argument your originally made i.e. “we were right about CFCs therefor we are right about Global Warming.” which is scientifically nonsense but politically very compelling.

      I think that overall the cost to harm ratio of the CFC issue justified its ban even if the problem turns out to be a mirage.

      Global Warming presents the exact opposite cost to harm ratio. (Let me just cut to chase and say that I ultimate measure both harm in terms of dead people.) Carbon emitting fuels are central the world economy and not easily replaced. Without them people die even price spikes and temporary shortages cause significant harm. The changes required to prevent all but the most trivial of projected harm from Global Warming are entire orders of magnitudes higher. For example, cutting CO2 emissions by just 1% for a single year would cost more than all the CFC conversion cost combined.

      Continued in next post

    29. Shannon Love Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      “Thermometric measurements show…The question is, what should we do about it?”

      Well, nothing unless the problem is anthrogenic in origin. If it is correlated with solar activity, like the current warming trend and the preceding cooling trend then most likely anything we do will pointless anyway.

      “There are plenty of cuts that we could achieve for negative cost (yes, less than zero).”

      No, there is not. Even if the lifetime cost of project turns out to be negative, for example isolating your house will return the cost to you in energy saving before the insulation must be replaced, the upfront cost of the project are sunk and must be paid. To create, new non-carbon emitting energy systems we must divert resources in the short-term for a hope for long-term payback. It is that short term diversion that kills people.

      “Among the Primary Energy papers you’ll find documentation”

      Please don’t refer me to a companies PR pages for a serious assessment of potential technology. I have been reading overblown promises about energy production and efficiency since I was a child in the energy crises. If these claims were anywhere consistently true we should currently be able to electroplate every sun bearing surface with 50% efficient photovoltaic systems for the cost of nickel an acre.

      The idea is repeatedly advanced that there exist cheaply available technology that the greedy corporate bastard that make all such decisions could adopt which would let them rake in huge profits but they refused to because…. Well it all gets a little vague at that point but it usually has something to do with Satan.

      Companies don’t adopt such technologies because (1) they are unproven on large scales of both size and time (2) the upfront cost are large, immediate and definite while payoff is small, long term and not guaranteed.

      I lived through this an hysteria nearly exactly like global warming as teenager and young adult during the energy crisis. I was told by every scientific, econonmic and political expert that (1) oil was physically scarce and would forevermore be so until it ran out complete early in the 21st century (2) that easy alternatives to oil existed which where cheaper, cleaner, better for environment, better for national security and generally caused you break out in grins like a box full of puppies. Needless to say all of these promises fell short. The nuclear power people might have pulled it off but look what happened to them.

      “Okay, I’ve got a proposal: ”

      Attach some concrete numbers as to upfront cost, time span of implementation, projected CO2 reductions, the expected environmental impact of such reductions etc. and we can talk. Until then your are not serious.

      “Thirty years ago you could say the same thing about the weather, but we now have fairly good weather predictions for several days out.”

      Funny you should say that because the history of weather modeling is a text book example of why we should be dubious of computerized climate models. In the beginning weather models where garbage. Experienced meteorologist going by gut produced far more accurate predictions. The models improved overtime do partially to better weather measurements and better computers but the main factor was repeated and rapid failure.

      The faster an area of science can create hypothesis, test them and then discard the failures the faster the science progresses. Meteorologist created hundreds if not thousands of major weather models in the era from the late 50’s to present day. All but a few died young. Weather predictions extend over time periods of hours,days, weeks and months. If a model failed, the scientist knew it and could quickly make changes and try again. It took nearly 20 years of this rapid testing before computerized models broke the 50% accuracy mark. The same rate of testing for climatology models even those as little as ten years out would take over a millennium at least.

      At this point in time, climatological models are untested and therefore not fully scientific. If we make decisions based on them we must admit we are just guessing.

      continued in next post

    30. Shannon Love Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      “Unicorns don’t exist…”

      You have a really hard time understanding this particular logical fallacy so let me try again with a pop culture example. On an episode of the Simpsons a bear wanders into to Springfield, ambles harmlessly about before be tranked and taken away. The citizens of Springfield are terrified and immediately conclude that Springfield faces a bear invasion. After raising taxes through the roof to pay for implementation of the “Bear Patrol” the following exchange occurs:

      Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a
      charm.
      Lisa: That’s spacious reasoning, Dad.
      Homer: Thank you, dear.
      Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
      Homer: Oh, how does it work?
      Lisa: It doesn’t work.
      Homer: Uh-huh.
      Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.
      Homer: Uh-huh.
      Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
      [Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
      Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
      [Lisa refuses at first, then takes the exchange]

      Does any of this sound familiar in the least? Bears definitely existed, a bear definitely came into town but no bears came into town after the creation of the Bear patrol, therefore the Bear patrol headed off the bear invasion.

      Just because the citizens of Springfield perceived a problem, created a response to the problem and the problem never materialized does not logically mean that there perception of the problem was accurate because the outcome is exactly the same whether the problem existed or not! If the problem did exist the response prevented the problem from occurring so you experience no harm. If the problem didn’t exist, you experience no harm. In either case, you experience no harm.

      It is the very action you take in response to the predicted problem that destroys your ability to access whether problem ever existed. You can only logically determine if the problem existed if the problem occurs regardless of how you respond.

      This may seem like a humorous example but the real logical fallacy is a real world problem. You see it in business all the time. People predict a problem, implement a response to the problem and then take credit when the problem doesn’t arise. Whether the expected problem was real or significant can never be determined.. Meanwhile, the business burned time and resources on what might have been a unicorn hunt. (Things like this are one reason business is an art not a science).

      “How would that happen under “no regrets”?

      Regrets are emotions you have in future about the past. Labeling a plan for the future “No Regrets” is actually saying “No Risk” . No one but a snake oil salesman would make that claim.

      Frankly, I think this is the nub of the entire issue. You are so convinced that the cost of change will be so minimal that you are largely uncritical of the science. On an emotional level, you believe that if you are wrong about the science it will cause no harm so why worry. I find this mindset almost universal among Global Warming proponents. Your incredulity and frustration with people like myself springs from you belief in the low cost of change. I must be morally or intellectually stunted not to be willing to make trivial changes to avert a major catastrophe.

      I am the inverse. I think the cost of change is likely to be so high that I am highly critical of the science that purports to predict the catastrophe. I fear we will stand to do real harm to real people immediately in order to head off a possibly nonexistent catastrophe. It is this mindset that impels most critics of Global Warming. Business people, for example, don’t resist the changes out of mindless greed but rather because they understand first hand what the cost will be. People who actually build power plants have no illusions about the cost, risk and benefits of unproven technologies for they have seen it all before.

      In the end, it is not your grasp of the scientific matters that drives you but your misplaced faith in your skills economic analysis. You are ignorant of the gritty details of large scale, long term technological implementation. Most people are regardless of their innate intelligence, education or experience in other fields. These are matters of such complexity and dynamism that no one can predict their actual outcome. Anyone who could would be filthy rich, yet you think you have such a grasped of such issues that you can advocate massive sweeping changes in the planetary economy.

      You exhibit the killing hubris, the same arrogance that drove people to support the communist assertion that replacing the capitalist system would be both beneficial and costless. I fear, I truly fear, that if you and your fellows ideologues do not learn intellectual humility you will leave a trail of death through 21st century like the communist did through 20th.

    31. Jonathan Says:

      Unicorns don’t exist, but I defy you to say the same about heatstroke and keep a straight face.

      Why would I say that about heatstroke? There’s plenty of evidence for the existence of heatstroke, including my own experience. Not so for global warming or for the human causation of global warming.

      You’re asking us to accept, essentially on faith, not only the accuracy of the current global-warming models but the wisdom of your proposed remedies. Why should we? Those models aren’t very good, which is why they keep changing. It’s a lot like macroeconomic analysis, where comparable models have predicted 10 of the last 2 recessions (as a common witticism puts it).

      Shannon is right about hubris. Your overconfidence about the state of human knowledge, and about your own knowledge, is troubling.

    32. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Just as an FYI, the ozone hole is on tour and coming to a hemisphere near YOU!

      The protective ozone layer is thinning dramatically above the North Pole and could pose a health risk to residents in northern countries like Scandinavia. If the layer gets thinner, the risk could spread to central Europe and the United States, experts say….The thinning is exacerbated by cold temperatures in the stratosphere, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the Arctic.Concern began last November when scientists noted the presence of characteristic polar stratospheric clouds, which indicate ozone depletion. The clouds are larger than those seen in 2000, a record year for northern ozone depletion….Temperatures at 12 miles altitude have dropped to an average of minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees Celsius), the lowest over the Arctic in half a century. Oddly, greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere near Earth’s surface cool the stratosphere.

      (Emphasis in bold added.)

      Shannon Love wrote (4-Feb-2005 14:49):

      Actually, in a relatively dry environment, in presence of a strong oxidizer such as, oh ozone, HCL and other halidic acids will degrade into H2O and the covalent halide.

      Great!  Now tell me how much of the stratospheric atomic chlorine burden this can account for, especially given that the emissions of HCl by volcanoes are always accompanied by steam and the fallout process begins almost immediately.

      I am still awaiting your reference to that measurement. Something taken in the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere would be ideal.

      Are you dishonest, or just sloppy?  I cited mid-latitude ozone references (TOMS data) before you asked.  But since you asked for the northern hemisphere, here’s the data recorded by an instrument in Arosa, Switzerland from 1926 to 1997:
      Graph of ozone(caption for graph).

      I think that overall the cost to harm ratio of the CFC issue justified its ban even if the problem turns out to be a mirage.

      I don’t see how anyone could look at the evidence and use either of the words “mirage” or “scam” to describe it.  The combination of laboratory-confirmed mechanisms with real-world measurements is as conclusive as you are going to get without controlled experiments, and you can’t run controlled experiments on the Earth.

      If you’re wondering why the tone of these posts has been getting more and more angry, it’s because you’re either not reading, not reasoning or dissembling.  For instance, you forgot what you said on 30 January:

      Nobody ever measure [sic] an increase in UV radiation in any atmospheric layer underneath the ozone layer. No increase in UV was measured anywhere outside of Antarctica. If CFC were actually degrading the Ozone layer we should have measure increased UV at least at high altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere (where the 90% of the CFC were used.)

      I conflated “outside of Antarctica” with “populated”, but your claims were nevertheless all false and all the reasoning you base on them is, at best, unsupported.  Your attempt to assign the cause to solar effects raises the question of why ozone does not track the sunspot cycle; you’re just grasping at straws there.

      From a political perspective I am concerned that people will use the exact type of argument your originally made i.e. “we were right about CFCs therefor we are right about Global Warming.” which is scientifically nonsense but politically very compelling.

      Yes, that is a non-sequitur… unless the two phenomena share causes and mechanisms.  (Tropospheric greenhouse gases cause stratospheric cooling, more PSC’s, and thus more ozone depletion.)  But you don’t see the other political use of reactions to the Montreal Protocol:  anyone who denies the evidence supporting the CFC ban is certainly not open-minded enough to consider the case for global warming.  (Whether or not the Kyoto treaty was a reasonable response is another matter entirely; my own appraisal is that it was a political hack-job and was too badly compromised by third-world rent seekers and entrenched interests to have achieved its ends at any reasonable cost, thus it was rightly doomed even before the Senate put the kibosh on it.  It does not mean that the problem can be ignored.)

      Global Warming presents the exact opposite cost to harm ratio. (Let me just cut to chase and say that I ultimate measure both harm in terms of dead people.) Carbon emitting fuels are central the world economy and not easily replaced. Without them people die even price spikes and temporary shortages cause significant harm. The changes required to prevent all but the most trivial of projected harm from Global Warming are entire orders of magnitudes higher.

      If we’re measuring harm in units of dead people, let’s consider the cost of submerging the fertile river deltas of Bangladesh, coastal lowlands worldwide and all the Pacific atolls.  The bayous from Texas to Mississippi and much of the Florida peninsula, submerged along with major cities on both coasts.  The lowland Dutch, flooded out.  Coasts are the most heavily populated parts of the world, and the displacements of people would cause battles over territory the likes of which we have never seen.

      If we do things right, we don’t have to worry about energy; we can replace carbon in time, and probably more quickly than we think.  Ponder the example of England.  At one time wood was central to England’s energy economy, and its forests were disappearing under the axe.  But England never ran out of trees, and it didn’t stop when the axes stopped ringing; it switched over to coal.  Today the coal pits are idle, and England is running largely on nuclear and North Sea oil and gas; the latter switch took what, 30 years?  Gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plants have driven down the price of electricity in England so far that even the nuclear plants are having a tough time making it, and CHP cuts carbon emissions by roughly 50% over separate power and heating plants.  That’s an example of reducing carbon emissions while saving money.

      If a rapid ramp-up in investment kills people, consider the merit of reducing investment by harvesting waste.  Pressure drop in steam systems is one example.  If a steam system throttles pressure from 50 PSI for distribution to 5 PSI for use, you can drop the pressure across a turbine instead; if there are negligible heat losses from the turbine you will generate power at perhaps 3500 BTU/KWH instead of the 10200 BTU/KWH of the average coal-fired plant.  On top of that, you’ll avoid the investment in a new boiler.  (This is an example of a “no regrets” action; it pays off regardless of the externalities.)

      This paragraph of yours makes me wonder if you think about your words, and how much cognitive dissonance you can endure:

      No, there is not. Even if the lifetime cost of project turns out to be negative, for example isolating your house will return the cost to you in energy saving before the insulation must be replaced, the upfront cost of the project are sunk and must be paid. To create, new non-carbon emitting energy systems we must divert resources in the short-term for a hope for long-term payback. It is that short term diversion that kills people.

      But any investment diverts resources in the short term in the hope of a long-term payback.  It follows from your last two sentences that any investment in anything kills people… which is the most patently absurd thing I’ve seen posted on chicagoboyz.net, ever.  How many $200,000 mortgages do you have to take out before you become a murderer?

      Investing in the right things saves money overall (you don’t need to invest money in the supply chain).  As of a couple of years ago, the average gas-heated home in the USA used 50 million BTU of gas per heating season, plus cooking and DHW.  Retail prices of natural gas are running about $.80/therm where I am; they were over $1.00/therm in California not long ago.  If prices remain stable and interest rates are 7.5%, cutting my heating needs from 50 million BTU to 25 million breaks even if I can do it for $2666; if gas prices rise to $1.50/therm, it breaks even at $5000.  The breakeven point is much higher if gas is not available and I have to heat with oil, propane or electricity.  My investment is up front, but it eliminates other required investments in energy production and distribution.  Primary Energy’s papers indicate that electric transmission and distribution (T&D) systems cost about as much as the plants themselves, so investments in electric efficiency may be less costly than feeding the additional load.  A 20 watt CF costs about $5 and replaces a 75 W incandescent costing a buck, so you’re paying about 7.2 cents per watt saved.  The plant to run the lamp costs about $1/watt, and if T&D costs another $1/watt and the lamp has a 20% duty cycle the CF saves roughly 40 cents/watt * 55 watts = $22.00 in infrastructure investment.  Not bad for five bucks at Kmart, is it?  (What fraction of a person does that save?)  It also cuts carbon emissions by nearly 75%.

      Cogeneration can also slash investment while saving energy, but the example I had in mind takes too much space to illustrate well (and needs tables) so I’m going to leave it for another day or a blog post.

      I have been reading overblown promises about energy production and efficiency since I was a child in the energy crises.

      I’ve been taking apart the overblown claims since the second oil-price shock; it doesn’t take a PhD (or even a diploma) to apply the law of conservation of energy.  Have you studied the record of the techniques which actually work?  I’m thinking of things likeLight shelves to reflect outside light off ceilings, replacing electric lights.Passive solar architecture.State-of-the-art insulation practices.Cogeneration.Waste-heat reuse.It’s hard to argue that the claims for a particular technique are overblown when there are people out there doing it.  Why doesn’t everyone do it?  Probably because everyone has their own little bailiwick based on historical practice, and inertia plus the fragmentation of responsibility means the end-to-end systems design is never optimized properly.

      The idea is repeatedly advanced that there exist cheaply available technology that the greedy corporate bastard that make all such decisions could adopt which would let them rake in huge profits but they refused to because….

      It’s far more prosaic than that, but the gist is true in many areas.  For instance, it takes a lot of paperwork to run a cogeneration system which can feed electricity back to the grid.  Utilities have no incentive to pay more than the “avoided cost” (fuel cost) for the electricity you sell them, even if you feed the grid during the peak demand period for the year.  Regulated utilities get a fixed ROI and have a monopoly, so they have every incentive to invest as much as they can; they do this by maximizing the amount of power they generate.  Even if consumers can generate their own power more cheaply, the utility’s rules mean the utility reaps most or all of the profits for any power backfed to the grid.  This leads to misinvestment.

      There are some exceptions to this, such as states with net-metering laws.  There is at least one home generator whose solar panels feed the grid during the peak hours of the day (and is credited at retail rates), and buys grid electricity at night (Home Power #95, p. 22-).  This obviously won’t work at full scale, but it’s obvious that a proper distribution of costs and profits will lead to more efficient investment than we have now.

      Companies don’t adopt such technologies because (1) they are unproven on large scales of both size and time (2) the upfront cost are large, immediate and definite while payoff is small, long term and not guaranteed.

      You forgot (3) the system is structured so they can’t recover their investment.

      Have you heard of backup generation fees?  These are charges, authorized by regulation, that utilities bill to cogeneration outfits to pay for reserves to be available if their generator fails.  But consider how absurd it is to collect this for dozens or hundreds of generators, when the probability of even 10% of them failing at once is vanishingly small.  Taken together such fees are anti-competitive and anti-efficiency, leading to misinvestment.

      Such regulatory regimes have been in place for decades, and the cogeneration and efficiency businesses which would have sprung up in their absence have been stifled.  This has led to a large gap between technological capability and current practice.  Narrowing that gap can give us all kinds of gains.

      Attach some concrete numbers as to upfront cost, time span of implementation, projected CO2 reductions, the expected environmental impact of such reductions etc. and we can talk.

      I did some analysis back in November (clicky), but it was focused on displacement of foreign oil rather than carbon emissions.  This is particularly difficult to do because I do not have figures for the throughput efficiencies of oil refineries, and failing to account for the carbon emissions from the petroleum supply chain would yield faulty conclusions.

      Last, you wrote on 4-Feb-05 14:51:

      You have a really hard time understanding this particular logical fallacy…

      No, you have difficulty understanding why it isn’t present.  Naming it proves nothing unless you can show that the same mistaken reasoning processes are at work.  You’ll notice that you cited nobody who asked “Where did the bear come from?  What made it come here?  Are there more bears likely to do the same thing?  What can we do about them?”, et cetera.  In the cases of ozone depletion and global warming, the questions are “What is causing the phenomenon?  Where did it come from?  Is it likely to continue?  What can we do about it?”  The answers are (respectively)The ozone is being depleted by excess chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere, particularly on the ice particles of polar stratospheric clouds.A large part of the warming is being caused by historically high and increasing levels of CO2, CH4 and N2O.The high levels of chlorine and bromine came from halocarbons.The high levels of CO2, CH4 and N2O came from human activities.The problem will continue as long as emissions exceed the rate of removal.We can cut our rate of emissions (or perhaps even find ways to achieve removal) and keep the concentrations to a level which does nothing that we do not find acceptable, or at least remediable.
      By the way, in some areas there is a serious and on-going problem with bears in cities.  They are even becoming couch potatoes.

      I think the cost of change is likely to be so high that I am highly critical of the science that purports to predict the catastrophe.

      Which is faulty thinking; if the cost is unacceptably high even if the projections are correct, you should be making that argument instead of attacking the science.  But you go further than that, Shannon.  I proposed to cap the cost, and let whichever alternative is cheaper (cutting emissions or eating the cost of the resulting damage) win out.  You rejected it out of hand.

      I take this as being mean-spirited of you, because cost is a strong driver of technology and many other trends.  The choice of CAFE regulations instead of fuel taxes led to the mess we have now, to give just one example which ought to be familiar to you.  If we truly have external costs from carbon emissions, let’s charge them back to the emitters so that they have the incentive to develop the technologies to minimize them.  If we had done this at the beginning of the Clinton administration, we’d be a good ways along by now.  This is effectively what the Bush administration is proposing with regard to other pollutants, with the “cap & trade” system.  There’s no reason not to apply something similar to carbon, except that a cap simply isn’t workable; a straight per-unit fee is as close as can be.

    33. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Jonathan G ewirtz wrote (4-Feb-2005 15:55):

      Why would I say that about heatstroke? There’s plenty of evidence for the existence of heatstroke, including my own experience. Not so for global warming or for the human causation of global warming.

      There’s ample evidence for the greenhouse effect, for climate change, and for the influence of greenhouse gases in the production of climate change.  What more could you want, God coming with a host of angels to hand down stone tablets with rules for the environment?  His Own global climate model written on the backs?  Only if it was in FORTRAN?

      You’re asking us to accept, essentially on faith, not only the accuracy of the current global-warming models[1] but the wisdom of your proposed remedies[2]. Why should we? Those models aren’t very good, which is why they keep changing.[3]

      False on all accounts.I’m not asking anyone to take the accuracy of the models on faith, but on physics.  The magnitude of effects are uncertain due to feedback loops, but the existence is a certainty – and the uncertainty is going down.Anything which saves money by way of saving fuel is a good thing in its own right.  Better efficiency and productivity is how the economy grows, and it astounds me to see anyone on this site making a statement which could be construed to the contrary.  I expected better economic literacy here.The models have been fairly consistent in predicting a 1.5-4° C average warming from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 equivalent.  So far the models have not had the computing power to model the complexity of the actual earth, but if you had been paying attention you would have noticed that Moore’s Law and the Internet have made radical changes in both the power of individual simulation platforms and the number of them which can be brought to bear on a problem (e.g. SETI@home).  The first massively parallel run of climate simulations has just been completed.  Give this a little bit of time and that objection will lose what remaining credibility it has.Neither do you recognize that choosing not to decide is still choosing.

      Your overconfidence about the state of human knowledge, and about your own knowledge, is troubling.

      Yet you use this lack of knowledge as an excuse to continue a massive and uncontrolled experiment, with results that even I have the honesty to admit are uncertain, upon our one and only atmosphere.  You even oppose measures to buy time and create options; damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

      And you call my attitudes troubling.  Oh, the irony.

    34. Jonathan Says:

      I’m not asking anyone to take the accuracy of the models on faith, but on physics. The magnitude of effects are uncertain due to feedback loops, but the existence is a certainty – and the uncertainty is going down.

      The magnitude of the effect is everything, and remains highly uncertain.

      Anything which saves money by way of saving fuel is a good thing in its own right.

      It’s only a good thing if it yields higher net benefits than do the alternatives. To give an extreme example that makes this point, if Bill Gates had to travel everywhere by bicycle he would save a lot of money on fuel but his overall economic output would be much less than if he traveled by plane.

      The models have been fairly consistent in predicting a 1.5-4° C average warming from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 equivalent.

      The difference between 1.5’C and 4’C is huge (nevermind that the actual lower estimate now may be lower than 1.5’C). Not only that, but nobody knows how long it will take human activity to double atmospheric CO2, or even whether it will happen. The best anyone can do is extrapolate from a snapshot of current trends, and that method of prediction has a poor record of accuracy generally.

      You are arguing predictions, which is on the same level as arguing that your fantasy basketball team can beat mine. There’s nothing wrong with doing that per se, but when the stakes are high and the risks uncertain, as in this case, such arguments aren’t enough to justify “remedies” that will certainly be extremely expensive. And I don’t care how authoritative you think your computer models are — they are no substitute for evidence.

    35. Shannon Love Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      The thinning at the poles is most likely caused by the ionizing radiation from the unusually strong solar storms of the last 30 years. The earth’s magnetic field funnels the ionizing radiation down onto the poles creating the auroras. The ionizing radiation causes an increase in particle size and frequency in the upper atmosphere. The particles form reactive surfaces which become the loci for ozone destruction. When the suns activity dies down around 2010, the ozone thinning should abate.
      The thinning in the rest of ozone is caused by ozone circulating back into arctic areas from other parts of the world.

      “Great!  Now tell me how much of the stratospheric atomic chlorin…”

      You asserted that HCl could not be a source of covalent chlorine in the stratosphere. I explained how it could. If your chemistry is to weak to understand the reaction consult a chemist who you trust. Again, volcano’s primary effect on ozone in via particulate, not chemical process.

      “Are you dishonest, or just sloppy? ”

      Right back at you. I keep asking for measurements of increased ULTRA-VIOLET RADIATION somewhere within the troposphere outside the arctic regions. You keep providing measurements of OZONE levels. You cannot use ozone levels as a proxy for UV when the entire point under debate is why the supposed decrease in ozone is not accompanied by an increase in UV radiation as theory would predict.

      You should be able to provide me with direct measurements of UV THAT IN NO WAY REFER TO OZONE i.e. that is none of the measurements are actually measurements of ozone but rather measure the changes in UV directly. I will not accept any ozone measurements for proxies for UV.

      “Your attempt to assign the cause to solar effects raises the question of why ozone does not track the sunspot cycle”

      The sun’s magnetosphere has been unusually active producing more sunspots in the cycles trough than in the peak points in previous decades. Fact of the matter is, the thinning in the arctic areas does follow the activity of the solar storms in a general pattern. This last year was a particularly rough one and it also showed high levels of ozone depletion.

      “anyone who denies the evidence supporting the CFC ban is certainly not open-minded enough to consider the case for global warming”

      What evidence? We have banned CFCs for over a decade and the ozone layers appears to be getting worse, not better, as your own posting shows. Since the supposed decrease in CFC use has not led to any improvement in ozone levels you have no scientific basis for saying that the CFC hypothesis was indeed correct. I suggest the inverse of your assertion: Anybody willing to claim the CFC hypothesis vindicated is to much an ideologue to make a dispassionate assessment of the risk of anthrogenic global warming.

      “If we’re measuring harm in units of dead people…”

      Again, you are comparing hypothetical deaths in the long term to virtually guaranteed deaths in the short term. We can plot a graph matching increases in mortality in the developing world to economic down turns in the developed world. If you put a brake on the world economy by restricting energy use you will kill people.

      There are many different models of the severity of global warming. (This begs the question: if the models are so good how come they give so many different answers as to the degree and pace of the warming?) Which model should we use to pace our phase out of carbon emitters? This is something requiring hard numbers and it exactly those hard numbers the climatologist cannot give us.

      “If we do things right…

      Well, we won’t. The planet does not have the political systems to address such an issue. Nobody understands the economic system well enough. The more rapidly we try to change the worse we will fail.

      “we can replace carbon in time”

      Agreed, I think that carbon emitting fuels will disappear via market forces over the next 30 years. The history of energy sources has been one of increasing power density. Fossil fuel power density has stalled, although gasoline remains the highest density mobile fuel. The question is, do we rely on the market to drive the changes or do we use the coercive power of the state and force people to change. The history of forced change has been one of failure and often severe unintended consequences.

      “it pays off regardless of the externalities”

      Then it will be implemented as part of the natural profit seeking behavior of private companies. You seem to imply that power companies and the like actively resist using new technologies which would save them money. This is not true. Corporations do not make money by avoiding efficiency. Increased productivity always leads to increased profits. Government interference is usually the source of a failure to adopt new tech. For example, the infamous “new source review” policy implemented in the 70’s makes it very expensive for power companies to implement new technologies like waste heat recovery incrementally.

      You also need to examine the data on which you base you projects. Be honest are you using the upper range of projected benefits or those in the middle of the curve. What happens when you run projects in the middle or when you used highly conservative estimates of benefit and cost i.e. low benefit and high cost. I have been following the literature on alternative energy now for 25 years and I have seen nothing but over promising and under delivering. While this prepared me a career in the computer industry it has made me extremely dubious about such claims. I recommend you dig up articles about similar technologies from circa 1980 and compare the claims made to the actual results.

      “How many $200,000 mortgages do you have to take out before you become a murderer?”

      This is a strawman argument. The question should be “how many $200,000 mortgages can you force other people to take out before you become a murder?” The resources represented by a mortgage loan are resources that the lender has deferred consumption of voluntarily such that other people can use them. Voluntary exchanges represent the optimum use of resources. No other system creates the mix of economic prosperity, social equality and political freedom as the free market. The question is, do jettison the free-market and resort to a command economy were people are coerced into using technology they would not otherwise use. If you aren’t advocating coercion, then we really have no disagreement. People will voluntary adopt new more efficient technology without having a gun held to their heads.

      “Investing in the right things saves money overall…”

      Well, duh. Again the question is, does FORCING people to invest in the “right” things save money over all? Who gets to decide what the “right” investment is? By what nuts-and-bolts mechanism to actually make that decision? The history of such forced economic decision is poor at best and horrific at worst. I would point out that the energy crisis in the 70’s began when the people decided that the government could set the price of oil by fiat. We generate probably 30% more carbon today than technologically we should due to political interference, both pro and con, in in the development of nuclear power. In the seventies, when global warming wasn’t even a blip on the screen. Politics shut down the nuclear industry in America. Now America generates far more carbon dioxide in generating electricity than say France, which gets 80% of its power from nukes. Are you really sure you want the political system heavily involved in energy decisions? They royally screwed it up before, what makes you think they will do better this time around?

      I am not impressed by Primary Energy because waste heat recovery has been the name of the game in steam technology since James Watt. The Watt engine replaced the Newcomb engine purely because it had superior waste heat recovery. Each new generation of steam power technology has become more and more efficient in extracting more and more watts from each unit of fuel. You write as if this is a new concept of some sort. If Primary Energy’s claims hold up, then the market will adopt them of its own accord unless the government prevents them from doing so.

      “It’s hard to argue that the claims for a particular technique are overblown when there are people out there doing it”

      Wrong, anybody can make a small system work. These things break all the time when we try to scale them. We can make small batches of highly effecient photovoltaic for example but all attempts to mass produce them have largely failed. Moreover, all attempts to integrate them into the existing power grid have proven to cost more than they save. I sure you have some limited counter example you could provide but again I ask you, if these technologies are so great and will obviously save people so much money, then why must we coerce people into adopting them?

      “t takes a lot of paperwork to run a cogeneration system which can feed electricity back to the grid.”

      I’m sure it does. The information cost for a process is part of legitimate cost of a that process, a fact that Karl Marx missed completely causing no end of trouble for people who followed his prescriptions.

      The major cost of co-generation comes from trying to integrate tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of generators into the giant electrical circuit that is a power grid. Its a technical nightmare and it scales poorly. The bigger the power grid and the more generators the more problems it has.

      If you think that government regulation slows the pace of new technology adoption then I agree with you whole heartily, as would virtually all Chicago Boyz. Texas has highly deregulated electricity system, probably the most deregulated in the world. Consumers can buy power from any power provider. If you want to pay a premium you can even get all your power from solar and wind sources. The system has encouraged a higher percentage us alternative power sources than California’s command and control system.

      “Have you heard of backup generation fees”

      Actually, no we don’t have such things in my neck of the woods. Again, this government interference preventing the market from seeking a more efficient solution.

      “No, you have difficulty understanding why it isn’t present”

      The fallacy is almost always present when dealing with hypothetical problems.It is in fact a subset of the “correlation does not prove cause.” axiom. But upon reflection the Bear Patrol example doesn’t really fit because of one simple reason.

      If it did Springfield would be over run with bears.

      By your own links about you have shown that the ozone thinning is worse than before the CFC ban. Its “on tour and coming our way” By analogy that means that Springfield’s bear problem would be worse after the institution of the bear patrol. So Homer and Lisa’s conversation should go something like this:

      Homer: Yep, the Bear Patrol is working like a charm
      Lisa: Dad, how can you say that we have more bears than ever. There is one now.
      Homer: Lisa, Professor Fink studied the bears and created a plausible hypothesis on why they were coming to Springfield. The Bear Patrol took action based on that hypothesis so therefor the Bear Patrol is working like a charm.
      Lisa: That is specious reasoning Dad.
      Homer: Thank you Lisa
      Lisa: If the Bear Patrol was definitely working we should see fewer bears but see more bears than before. Therefore either the Bear Patrol hasn’t had enough time to work or it isn’t actually working at all and Professor Fink was wrong. We can’t tell one way or the other.
      Homer: Yep, Professor Fink was right about the bears so he must be right about replacing all the food and water for children of springfield with Duff beer! Here help me rub on my honey flavored sun block.
      Lisa: I don’t think that is good idea Dad the bear is still over there.
      Homer: Lisa, I explained to you that the Bear Patrol is working and…Oh my god get it off, get off.
      Bear: Hmmmmmm, honey flavored human.

      Since ozone depletion continues apace we cannot say yes or no whether the hypothesis was correct. Perhaps insufficient time has past. Perhaps the political controls were not sufficient. Perhaps the hypothesis was just flat wrong and ozone thinning is a natural phenomenon which will correct itself without human action.

      Let me put this another way. How would you know for absolute certain when the theory of either anthrogenic ozone depletion or global warming were definitely wrong? What measurement could we make right now, that if positive, would prove anthrogenisis completely wrong? You can pick either phenomenon. The test cannot take the form of, “If unicorns don’t exists then I won’t find one in this closet when I open it,” if must take the form of, “If unicorns do exist then I will definitely find one when I open this closet.” You must define a phenomenon that if measured will destroy the hypothesis.

      This is called falsification. If you can’t in principle falsify an hypothesis, then you can never really confirm it. If you can’t know when your wrong, you can’t know when your right.

      “Which is faulty thinking;”

      No, it is a statement of of biases and prejudices on the matter. Believing the cost of adapting to be high, I set a very high bar for the quality of the scientific work. You are willing to act on the basis of a plausible hypothesis. I would prefer to act only upon a failed falsification or baring that, to make minimal economic changes.

      “If we truly have external costs from carbon emissions, let’s charge them back to the emitters”

      It’s the “If” that’s the rub.

      ” If we had done this at the beginning of the Clinton administration, we’d be a good ways along by now. ”

      Unless the sudden spike in electricity and fuel prices drove the economy into a depression, causing their to be far less money available for investing in new technologies. The rate of change is critical. To slow and we get slammed by the negative consequences of Global Warming, to fast and we cripple the economy. We need to know if anthrogenic warming is occurring and at what intensity and rate.

      To sum up:

      (1) Your original assertion was that we should believe in the Global Warming models and solutions because similar scientist had correctly predicted anthrogenic ozone depletion and that the political solution of the Montreal agreement had solved the problem. By your own evidence, this assertion has been proven false. Despite the ban the ozone continues to thin. The hypothesis and the effectiveness of the political solution remain unproven.

      (2) You believe the cost of significantly reducing CO2 emissions are very low, so low that we might as well do them just to save time and money. I think the cost of significantly reducing CO2 emissions will be very costly. enough so that the reduction itself could cause more harm than the CO2 itself could cause.

      If you can provide with a point of falsification for either phenomena I will revaluate my stance.

    36. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Jonathan G ewirtz writes:

      It’s only a good thing if it yields higher net benefits than do the alternatives.

      For equivalent goods, of course (distance @ speed, size & comfort of space, etc.)  Bicycles and jetliners are not commensurable, and your implication that I was equating them is just another straw-man argument.

      The difference between 1.5’C and 4’C is huge…

      Yes, but even a 1.5 ° C increase is huge compared to the changes we’ve seen in the past, and some of the changes we’re seeing so far are none too appealing.

      Not only that, but nobody knows how long it will take human activity to double atmospheric CO2, or even whether it will happen.

      Are you arguing that something (that does not kill millions of people by itself) will come about to radically change the trend shown by the Keeling curve?  (Click through and ponder before answering.)  The current concentration is what, 380 ppmv and rising?  The historic value was around 280 ppmv, so doubling that requires only another 180 ppm; if the rate of increase can be held to 16 ppm/decade, that’s only 110 years.  However, the rate of increase is accelerating.

      You’re implying doubt that such a doubling would occur.  What realistic events could, in your opinion, come about to prevent it?

      You are arguing predictions, which is on the same level as arguing that your fantasy basketball team can beat mine. … I don’t care how authoritative you think your computer models are — they are no substitute for evidence.

      You’re implying that we should just wait and see, no?  You must realize that we can only see the results of the course we actually take, and the outcome of the road not taken – whatever it is – will forever be known only through modelling.

      If you are arguing that we should take a course that we have good reason to believe will be damaging and destroy many things we currently value just to see if the results will really be that bad, I’d like you to say so.

      And Shannon Love wrote:

      “Your attempt to assign the cause to solar effects raises the question of why ozone does not track the sunspot cycle”The sun’s magnetosphere has been unusually active producing more sunspots in the cycles trough than in the peak points in previous decades.

      So why doesn’t ozone fall during the peaks?  Why didn’t ozone take a serious dip during the solar peak of 1957?  There is no phenomenon which could produce the 1973-1997 slide, and the 1937 sunspot peak is associated with a local ozone maximum as measured in Switzerland.

      Man, that’s weak even by the standards of the denialists.

      “anyone who denies the evidence supporting the CFC ban is certainly not open-minded enough to consider the case for global warming”What evidence? We have banned CFCs for over a decade and the ozone layers appears to be getting worse, not better, as your own posting shows. Since the supposed decrease in CFC use has not led to any improvement in ozone levels you have no scientific basis for saying that the CFC hypothesis was indeed correct. I suggest the inverse of your assertion: Anybody willing to claim the CFC hypothesis vindicated is to much an ideologue to make a dispassionate assessment of the risk of anthrogenic global warming.

      It’s strange, I could have sworn that I mentioned the facts thatProduction was allowed to continue in the third world for some time,Existing systems aren’t vented to the atmosphere for years to decades, andThe stratospheric concentration is determined by tropospheric inventories, which are depleted only slowly.
      Wait, I did:  “February 1, 2005 06:30 PM”, some six days before you repeated your mistake.  Your inability to read and refusal to post any data contrary to what I claimed above are noted.

      Or am I the only participant here who has any obligation to cite facts in support of his position, and you get off stating – and repeating – anything you want to believe, despite what has been shown or reasoned to the contrary?

      I should remind you that when reason fails, the next step is force.  The American people want to support the environment, and when your side loses power you can expect the pendulum to swing VERY hard as a consequence of the credibility you’ve thrown away so carelessly.

      I don’t have time for the rest of this, and probably no time for blogs for the next week.  I want to leave you with one last example of your gross and unrepentant ignorance:

      You should be able to provide me with direct measurements of UV THAT IN NO WAY REFER TO OZONE i.e. that is none of the measurements are actually measurements of ozone but rather measure the changes in UV directly. I will not accept any ozone measurements for proxies for UV.

      You never bothered to learn what a Dobson spectrophotometer is, did you?  I’ll quote the relevant section:

      The Dobson spectrophotometer measures ultraviolet light from the Sun at 2 to 6 different wavelengths from 305 to 345 nm. By measuring UV light at two different wavelengths, the amount of ozone can be calculated. One of the wavelengths used to measure ozone is absorbed strongly by ozone (305 nm), whereas the other wavelength is not absorbed by ozone (325 nm). Therefore the ratio between the two light intensities is a measure of the amount of ozone in the light path from the sun to the observing spectrophotometer.

      Your demand for “direct measurements of UV THAT IN NO WAY REFER TO OZONE” are exposed as the ignorant rants that they are.  ALL ground-based Dobson readings are direct measurements of UV; that’s how the instrument works.

      Maybe you’ll take a few days to mull this over before responding, and keep your ideology from getting ahead of your reasoning.  I can only hope.

      I’m out of here for a week.

    37. Shannon Love Says:

      Engineer Poet,

      You originally made the assertion that we should trust the models on Global Warming because a similar scientific methodology had proven the existence of anthrogenic ozone depletion and the the political solution of the Montreal protocol averted our impending doom. You said:

      “The combination of halogens and weather are going to eat a lot of our springtime UV protection.  But as bad as it is going to be, it would have been worse if we hadn’t enacted the Montreal protocol and replaced CFC’s with less-damaging materials.  Are you arguing that the disaster of ozone destruction wasn’t averted, it was illusory?

      It was quite real, yet nobody lost their shirt in the effort to avert it…”

      The only possible proof that anthrogenic ozone depletion was “quite real” would come if we reduce CFCs and the ozone begins to recover. By you own evidence, we have neither deceased the levels of CFC nor have measured any improvement in the ozone layer. Therefore the hypothesis of anthrogenic ozone depletion is not proven and therefor we should not use it as scientific role model for global warming. All our other scientific discussions were incidental to this central fact.

      Since anthrogenic ozone depletion is not proven, it follows that the Montreal protocol cannot be used as a political model either. Indeed, by your own evidence, if we apply the same model to global warming, it will fail to curb CO2 emissions and indeed could actual elevate them.

      Having said that I then presented evidence that showed that ozone depletion could be driven by natural phenomenon whose signal swamped (are more predictive) that of anthrogenic ones. Let me lay it out more clearly.

      (1) Unlike the predictions of the models in 80’s, local stratospheric halide concentrations do not correlate directly with ozone depletion. Halide concentrations are uniform by latitude i.e. the concentration at the equator is the same as the mid-latitudes which in turn is the same as those over the poles. Yet the rate of ozone destruction in polar regions is much higher than that in non-polar regions. Therefor, natural phenomenon that occur at the poles must be the major driver of ozone depletion. Changes in these natural phenomenon swamp the presence of halogens.

      (2) The primary driver for ozone depletion is particulate formation, especial particulate formation in the stratosphere. Volcano’s rip open “gashes” in the ozone layer through the particulates they emit, not though the halogen they emit. Likewise, changes in the ozone over polar regions track particle density and size, not the concentration of halogens The size of the hole changes significantly from year to year but the halogen concentration changes only over a period years, usually decades. The is definitely no short-term ( even if, as is likely, halogen levels continue to increase.

      The polar ozone depletion represents not a confirmation of science of ozone depletion that the political decisions to ban CFC’s were based on but rather a repudiation of significant parts of them. Those models held that anthrogenic CFC’s would be the primary drivers of ozone depletion and that halogen concentrations would be the primary predictors of ozone depletion. They were wrong.

      The best you can say about the entire CFC issue is that, given sufficient time, they mightbe proved right on all counts but right now, Feb 9 2005 we have no proof that is so. We have no proof the problem was “quite real” and we have no proof that if it was real that the political solution “averted” the potential disaster. All the disaster scenarios of CFC driven ozone depletion could be quite real but to date the political solution has not delivered on any of its promises. Indeed, by creating a competitive advantage for those using CFC outside the developed world, the Montreal Protocol may have created incentives for the 3rd world to increase its use of CFCs.

      I don’t think at this time we can use the CFC as any kind of scientific or political role model for either predicting global warming nor averting the negative consequences of it.

      Some more specific response to details in your last post.

      Actual in falls of radiation track only weakly with actual sunspot activity. Sun spots shoot out in jets turning the sun into a giant sprinkler. If the earth gets hit by a jet then the ionizing radiation goes up for a few hours. Its a real hit or miss thing. The short surges of a direct hit from a solar flare are swamped by the day-to-day overall elevation in radiation. Sun spots are an indicator of increased solar magnetosphere activity but they track the general in-fall only over a period of months or years.

      What we are interest in here is the general overall trend of the in-fall. For example, greater solar magnetosphere activity compresses the earth’s magnetosphere letting an overall higher amount of radiation from all sources hit the poles even if we don’t catch a flare. (Contra-wise, the increase in the sun’s magnetosphere knocks galactic source radiation away from earth.) Likewise, most of the ultraviolet radiation produced by the sun comes from the corona whose luminance can change by several orders of magnitude depending on magnetospheric conditions (the frequency distribution changes too which can be important in its effect on ozone).

      Since trends in solar magnetosphere activity correlate with ozone depletion at the poles and the poles are disproportionately effected by changes in the solar magnetosphere it is relevant to ask what connection there is if any. The solar activity should drop off considerably during the next decade. If particulate formation drops as well and halogen levels remain at current or elevated levels but ozone depletion slows significantly, then we will know for sure.

      “Or am I the only participant here who has any obligation to cite facts in support of his position”

      Well remember that your original assertion was that (1) anthrogenic CFC’s were the primary driver of ozone depletion and that (2) the political steps taking had averted a disaster. Just to repeat myself, since absolutely nothing has changed for the better we cannot pronounce the CFC hypothesis confirmed nor can we say that the political movement was successful. The issue is still entirely up in the air. At this point, only time will tell.

      “ALL ground-based Dobson readings are direct measurements of UV; that’s how the instrument works.”

      Wrong. Dobson readings measure the >RATIO of UV at two different wavelengths not the total luminosity of any band. As you may recall from elementary school, ratios are independent of the actual values of numerator and denominator, so a ratio of 1/2 can result from measurements of 2/4,3/6.4/8 etc. The total intensity of the UV falling on the instrument can oscillate widely as but as long as the ratio between the two measured bands remains the same, you will always get the same Dobson number. All chemical spectrometers work this way. (consult a chemist you trust if you don’t believe me) If the Dobsen spectrometer did measure total luminance in UV it would be useless for inferring ozone level.

      When I originally searched for evidence of increase ground level UV in the late 80’s, as I wanted to judge the degree of harm already occurring, I found none. The basic problem is that troposphere phenomenon, both natural and anthrogenic, can mask any changes in total UV. Measurements from high altitude aircraft were apparently to costly and technically challenging to be done over any significant period of time. Ditto for ground observations. I did, just today find one page at NOAA from a report from 1998 stating that in the 90’s higher UV-B levels were measured, episodically under ideal conditions. outside the polar regions. This is confirmation that as ozone levels go down, UV-B goes up (not unexpected by anybody) but it is not confirmation that as halogen levels go up so does UV-B at ground level, which is the correlation we really want.

      Remember, the models we took political action on predicted a largely uniform erosion of ozone due to the uniform distribution of halogens in the stratosphere and a correspondingly uniform increase in UV. That is not what is actually happening. There isn’t a correlation between the amount of halogens in an atmospheric column and the degree of UV-B penetration through that same column. The ozone layer is a much more complicated phenomenon than we thought back in the 70’s and 80’s.

      If we consider CFCs as a test run for Global Warming we can say predict: (1) The models we currently use will prove overly simplistic and massively incomplete and will require the elapsing of decades before their accuracy can be authoritatively assessed . (2) The political system will produce responses to Global Warming that will be either largely ineffective or possibly even highly counter-productive. (3) Large numbers of political entities and individuals will take credit for “taking bold decisive action to solve the problem” while the planet bakes like a clam.

      “keep your ideology from getting ahead of your reasoning”

      Sound advice. Let suggest the following exercise. Create an internet alter-ego. Use that alter-ego to poise as a skeptic of anthrogenic ozone depletion or anthrogenic global warming (or both). Got pick fights online. Really get into the role. View all research with a skeptical eye. If you do this enough you can create internalize the view-point of the alter-ego and pull it out at will to help you critique new information.

      I was educated as a biologist and spent rather a lot of time debating with “scientific-creationist.” Much of the time was wasted in re-educating people in basic science but over time I learned how to adopt their point of view so much so that when I learned something new about evolutionary theory I immediately began to question it as would creationist. This led me a far better understanding of evolutionary theory than I had before because I really had thrashed out the ideas in my head, instead of merely absorbing them as I had before.

      I would also recommend a study of scientific history with a special emphasis on how political and cultural pressures can distort the institutional scientific process. I recommend, N-rays and scientific racism in the late 1800 early 1900s as places to start.

    38. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Okay, I’m back and I’ve got a little time to comment.

      I would also recommend a study of scientific history with a special emphasis on how political and cultural pressures can distort the institutional scientific process. I recommend, N-rays and scientific racism in the late 1800 early 1900s as places to start.

      Neither of them ever passed peer review (N-rays are a particularly interesting example in that regard).  Global warming has earned its credibility.

      You originally made the assertion that we should trust the models on Global Warming because a similar scientific methodology had proven the existence of anthrogenic ozone depletion and the the political solution of the Montreal protocol averted our impending doom.

      No, that’s not true.  I said that the example of anthropogenic ozone depletion was proof that models can be trustworthy guides; I did not say that the accuracy of any one model was proof of that of any other.  I do assert that anyone who denies the accuracy of a proven model is not to be trusted to judge any other.

      The only possible proof that anthrogenic ozone depletion was “quite real” would come if we reduce CFCs and the ozone begins to recover.

      If the model predicts that we would see an end to the previous downward trend relatively quickly, but we wouldn’t see an unambiguous beginning of recovery for 15-20 years (due to noise), would you judge the model (and the initiative) a failure if it didn’t yield results in 10?

      If not, you ought to change your tune because that’s what you’re doing.

      Since anthrogenic ozone depletion is not proven, it follows that the Montreal protocol cannot be used as a political model either.

      You argue “P, ergo Q” when P (“anthrogenic ozone depletion is not proven”) is false.  If e.g. ionization from aurorae was responsible we’d be able to measure effects related to them on the time scale that they occur (hours to weeks for storms and sunspot groups, cycles of 11 years or so for the sunspot cycle).  You’ve cited nothing but your unsupported speculation in favor of this hypothesis, yet you deny a conclusion supported by far better evidence.  This is special pleading, and not honest.

      You keep repeating the claim that surface-level UV increases have not been measured.  I gave a geologist friend a rundown on that argument of yours.  She was frankly incredulous that any knowledgable person could believe such a thing.  I’ve sent quotes for specific comment but I haven’t received a response yet.

      Time to bury it.  Aside from the ridiculous nature of the argument required to reach that conclusion (relative UV-B increases are measured at many Dobson stations, but they are miraculously offset so that total UV does not) it appears to be contradicted by measured fact: “Many measurements have demonstrated the inverse relationship between column ozone amount and UV radiation, and in a few cases long-term increases due to ozone decreases have been identified.”  (Aerosols decrease total UV, and light as well – air pollution giveth what ozone depletion taketh away.)  You’ve long passed the point of reasoned, or reasonable, disagreement.

      Indeed, by your own evidence, if we apply the same model to global warming, it will fail to curb CO2 emissions and indeed could actual elevate them.

      Elevate CO2 levels?  How could decreases in fossil-fuel emissions possibly do that?  That’s as ridiculous as the more-diluted-is-stronger claims of homeopathy.

      I only care about CO2 insofar as it has untoward effects; if adding CO2 to the atmosphere did nothing but make plants grow more luxuriantly, days at the beach more pleasant and the whites in my wash whiter, I’d be all for it.  Unfortunately, the thinning of the Greenland ice cap, the Ross ice shelf and glacier shrinkage and drought in many places argue for less beneficial consequences.

      I can’t see how the consequences of a small carbon tax could be worse.  A $10/ton tax on CO2 would roughly double the price of coal, and add about 1.6 cents/KWH to the cost of power from the average coal-fired plant.  It would increase the cost of gasoline by less than ten cents per gallon.  At $50/ton you’d be talking more serious money, but even $10/ton makes wind power (and most well-run nuke plants) cheaper than fossil.  At $50/ton it would run about 8 cents/KWH and 48 cents/gallon, but an IGCC plant with CO2 sequestration at the fuel-gas scrubber would slash almost 60% off that premium and solar PV would be quite competitive at afternoon rates.  Emissions per KWH and per mile would go onto a steep downward trend.

      And for thousands of opportunities for savings, the payoffs would go from marginal (and largely ignored) to handsome (and eagerly sought).  Production per KWH would head up just as steeply.

      You said yourself that you expect fossil fuels to be retired within 30 years.  Fine; let’s make certain that it happens as quickly as possible by making it pay, concentrating more brains on changes which mitigate future damages rather than the next generation of gewgaws.

      If you still want to argue otherwise you’d better read On Bullshit first, because I’ll be quoting it at you extensively.  Heck, I’ll start now because this is so apt:

      Both in lying and in telling the truth people are guided by their beliefs concerning the way things are. These guide them as they endeavor either to describe the world correctly or to describe it deceitfully. For this reason, telling lies does not tend to unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way that bullshitting tends to. Through excessive indulgence in the latter activity, which involves making assertions without paying attention to anything except what it suits one to say, a person’s normal habit of attending to the ways things are may become attenuated or lost. Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

      I think it’s time you looked to see what the corrosive effects of BS have done to you.

    39. Jonathan Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      Your rudeness and arrogance are impressive, but as far as I can tell your arguments still consist of elaborate appeals to authority. The main quirk in your style is that you appeal mainly to the authority of quantitative models rather than human experts (though you cite supposed experts too).

      You keep telling us that B must happen because A is happening or will happen, and because a model tells us that A leads to B. You also assert that A is bad, that we can do something to prevent A, that you can predict the costs of doing that something, and that these costs will not exceed the costs of A. You are recklessly certain that you are right on many dimensions of a hugely complex multi-disciplinary controversy, but you wish to convince us that we should abandon our own cautious positions. You make basic errors of economic reasoning. You accuse us of dishonesty.

      Please excuse me if I do not accept your assertions and prefer to wait and see if the supposed problem really is a problem. And please excuse me if I trust my understanding of economics and history over yours, and prefer that Americans invest their resources in productive ways that will ultimately leave us far wealthier, and better able to handle environmental problems, rather than piss away our precious investment capital in what is likely to be a giant boondoggle. If you are so confident that global warming is happening, that it’s bad, that people cause it and that people can mitigate it, why don’t you invest your own capital in global-warming abatement schemes? Put your money where your mouth is. You should make a fortune if you are right, as of course you are.

    40. Engineer-Poet Says:

      Jonathan G ewirtz wrote:

      Your rudeness and arrogance are impressive

      Says the guy who denies established fact and raises his hackles when called on it.  Pot, kettle, black.

      but as far as I can tell your arguments still consist of elaborate appeals to authority. The main quirk in your style is that you appeal mainly to the authority of quantitative models rather than human experts (though you cite supposed experts too).

      My appeals are to the evidence (peer-reviewed and getting more solid every day); the human authorities are secondary to the facts behind them.  If you ever got the impression that I ever believed “X said Y, therefore Y is true” rather than “Y is far more consistent with the facts than competing explanations, and X’s account of Y is convenient to cite”, you misunderstood everything I meant, and probably most of what I said.  (I see lots of denialists, but not one of them is standing on the data.)

      Neither are models invalid in and of themselves.  If I cite General Relativity (a model) as the foundation for a statement regarding the lensing of light by mass, is that “an appeal to the authority of [a] quantitative model” that ought to be considered controversial, or even debatable as long as I’m using it correctly?  Or is it something that ought to be accepted, and deniers without evidence to offer tut-tutted at and considered to be ignorant rubes or liars?  (You can actually find some pretty good examples of the latter in the young-earth-creationism camp; they fabricate claims which contradict tested fact, such as a decreasing speed of light which has somehow not affected any characteristics of the light-emitting and -absorbing material along billions of LY of travel and has so conveniently stabilized just now that we can make accurate measurements.)

      I expect that you rely on models (formal and informal) a great deal in your own life and work.  To the extent that you’re attacking me for putting faith in a model which explains the available information, you’re being hypocritical.

      You keep telling us that B must happen because A is happening or will happen, and because a model tells us that A leads to B.

      No.  I’m claiming that A (greenhouse-gas buildup) is happening, leading to B (increasing heat-trapping and temperature rise).  Both A and B have been measured, and (here’s the semi-speculative part) the models which agree with the trends thus far predict damaging effects if we continue our current actions.

      You also assert that A is bad, that we can do something to prevent A, that you can predict the costs of doing that something, and that these costs will not exceed the costs of A.

      Wrong again.  I assert that the projected amount of B is bad, that by reducing A we can reduce B (dose-response relationship), and that one alternative is to cap the costs (e.g. carbon tax rather than emissions caps) and let human ingenuity see how much we can buy for them.  Shannon agrees (February 7, 2005 10:30 AM above), so we are only arguing about the timetable.

      I have claimed (and can provide cites) that we can provide energy from non-GHG-emitting sources with a cost increment which is less than even a $10/ton CO2 tax would levy on the average coal-fired powerplant.  I believe I am able to provide calculations backed by published data to show that a roughly 60% cut in CO2 emissions per KWH is possible even from stand-alone, coal-fired powerplants without tail-gas sequestration.  (This comes with extreme reductions in NOx, SOx and particulates, and has potential for extreme reductions in mercury emissions as well; this is all part of the payback from the process.)

      I doubt very much that you could show significant economic damage from a $10/ton CO2 tax offset by cuts in other (e.g. payroll) taxes; the cost increment would be much smaller than the recent crude-oil price increases, and the money would decrease rather than increase our trade deficit.

      You are recklessly certain that you are right on many dimensions of a hugely complex multi-disciplinary controversy…

      Right enough that the current uncertainties don’t matter, such as the 1.6 cent/KWH cost of a $10/ton CO2 tax being greater than the current cost advantage of conventional power over wind power.  (My assumptions were 23 million BTU/ton of coal, coal is 100% carbon (pessimistic), and 10200 BTU/KWH heat rate for the powerplants; feel free to confirm the numbers and conclusion yourself.)

      Shannon agrees that we’re likely to see the end of fossil fuels in a few decades, so if that position is reckless it’s one that shared by at least one of you.

      … but you wish to convince us that we should abandon our own cautious positions.

      Your position amounts to “business as usual” when the expected consequences lie somewhere between extremely regrettable and devastating.  I’m all for not acting recklessly, but for applying pressure where it counts and accelerating the changeover.  For instance, back on Feb. 1 Shannon said “Drastically cutting CO2 emissions significantly and suddenly will kill millions of people and condemn millions of others to wrenching poverty.”  You’ll notice that I never called for anything of the sort, but rather that we establish the market incentives so that the energy systems not yet built (such as nearly all the ones needed to bring the third world up to first-world levels) be insofar as practical constructed without the bias toward atmospheric greenhouse-gas emissions which our older technologies have.

      You make basic errors of economic reasoning.

      But you don’t cite any.  Shannon herself throws up her hands:  “Nobody understands the economic system well enough.”  What could be simpler than a cost comparison based on the equivalent of a fuel-escalator clause?

      You accuse us of dishonesty.

      Using the word “scam” when the strongest term you can legitimately use is “error” or “mistake” isn’t honest.  Using backwards logic such as “From a political perspective I am concerned that people will use the exact type of argument your originally made i.e. “we were right about CFCs therefor we are right about Global Warming.” which is scientifically nonsense but politically very compelling.” (accepting A makes it easier to accept B, I don’t like B, so I’ll deny A regardless of its merits) isn’t honest.  Both of those are “whatever will force the conclusion I want”, which is Frankfurt’s definition of BS.

      If you think I have mis-characterized anything above, show where I’ve done it and I’ll post a correction or apology as appropriate.

      Please excuse me if I do not accept your assertions and prefer to wait and see if the supposed problem really is a problem.

      If the evidence wasn’t already showing up at near-problem levels, and if I didn’t have to sit in the path of the avalanche with you, I’d be more than happy to let you wait and see.  Unfortunately for experiments and wagers, we have no more ability to test and compare climate-management strategies than we do US foreign policies.

      And please excuse me if I trust my understanding of economics and history over yours…

      I’d love to read your analysis of the competition between gas lights vs. electric, and why you think that the comparison to fossil vs. non-fossil energy technologies is inapposite.

      … and prefer that Americans invest their resources in productive ways that will ultimately leave us far wealthier, and better able to handle environmental problems, rather than piss away our precious investment capital in what is likely to be a giant boondoggle.

      You’re assuming that such investment capital will be sufficient to handle environmental problems, or even be available for the purpose rather than being one more thing at risk.  If you look at the behavior of people who invest lots of money to build on barrier islands and flood plains when flood insurance becomes available, I am strongly inclined to doubt this.  Again, I will be happy to read anything you’d like to argue to the contrary.

      One thing that is certain:  if we shift our various technologies to ones which do not emit GHG’s (or don’t need to), we do not have to worry about consequent environmental problems.  We will be in a position to fine-tune GHG levels to suit what we want the climate to be, rather than having to accept whatever consequences fall out as a result of our energy needs.

      I am well aware that several of our ideological enemies, such as the homes of militant Islam and imperial Maoism, are centered near the equator and are likely to be hurt much more by global warming than the United States.  I don’t think that this is reliable enough to use it as a strategic weapon; given the time lags and possibility of positive-feedback loops, it may be only useful as a doomsday device.

      If you are so confident that global warming is happening, that it’s bad, that people cause it and that people can mitigate it, why don’t you invest your own capital in global-warming abatement schemes?

      Because GW-abatement is a public good, and it’s not possible to get paid by all the beneficiaries absent a taxation regime.  You may have noticed that nobody gets rich from smog-abatement measures in the Los Angeles basin either, and that’s several orders of magnitude smaller and under one state government.

      Set up the system to tax carbon emissions (“bads”) instead of productive work (goods), and I’ll have an idea of where to position myself to benefit.  And so will you, I suspect.

    41. Engineer-Poet Says:

      I have to revisit this:

      why don’t you invest your own capital in global-warming abatement schemes?

      I cannot believe that someone who is educated in economics and knows the difference between public and private goods would make such a suggestion.  My question:  should I attribute your statement to carelessness, ignorance or something even less honorable?

    42. sequoit Says:

      Engineer-Poet: Read the entire string and appreciated it. Also admired the patience!

    43. Jonathan Says:

      Jonathan G ewirtz wrote:

      Your rudeness and arrogance are impressive

      Says the guy who denies established fact and raises his hackles when called on it. Pot, kettle, black.

      I dispute that it’s established fact. I suggest that someone who insists that disputed conclusions are established facts is arrogant, and that questioning the honesty of people with whom you disagree is rude.

      My appeals are to the evidence (peer-reviewed and getting more solid every day); the human authorities are secondary to the facts behind them.

      Peer review is no guarantee of accuracy, particularly when the science is politicized, as it is in this case. And the facts are disputed: the amount of warming, the rate of warming, the influence of human activity on warming — all are disputed.

      Neither are models invalid in and of themselves. If I cite General Relativity (a model) as the foundation for a statement regarding the lensing of light by mass, is that “an appeal to the authority of [a] quantitative model” that ought to be considered controversial, or even debatable as long as I’m using it correctly?

      No, because General Relativity has been empirically validated and explains some phenomena better than the alternative models do. This is not the case for global warming, for which there are insufficient data to determine the extent or rate of the phenomenon, much less whether human activity caused it, and for which there are multiple conflicting models.

      To the extent that you’re attacking me for putting faith in a model which explains the available information, you’re being hypocritical.

      I’m not attacking you. I’m criticizing your logic and conclusions and expressing my distaste at your argumentative style. And what does faith have to do with deciding which theory to accept? If you have to rely on faith, maybe you don’t have enough information and should suspend judgment.

      You keep telling us that B must happen because A is happening or will happen, and because a model tells us that A leads to B.

      No. I’m claiming that A (greenhouse-gas buildup) is happening, leading to B (increasing heat-trapping and temperature rise). Both A and B have been measured, and (here’s the semi-speculative part) the models which agree with the trends thus far predict damaging effects if we continue our current actions.

      Your link points to a discussion of a model of atmospheric CO2 buildup. Accepting for argument’s sake that there is a correlation between atmospheric CO2 and warming, the existence of a causal relationship between atmospheric CO2 and warming is speculative. And, as you note, the connection between human activity and “damaging effects” is also speculative.

      You also assert that A is bad, that we can do something to prevent A, that you can predict the costs of doing that something, and that these costs will not exceed the costs of A.

      Wrong again. I assert that the projected amount of B is bad, that by reducing A we can reduce B (dose-response relationship), and that one alternative is to cap the costs (e.g. carbon tax rather than emissions caps) and let human ingenuity see how much we can buy for them. Shannon agrees (February 7, 2005 10:30 AM above), so we are only arguing about the timetable.

      The existence of a dose-response relationship in this case is more speculation. Indeed it is the central speculation here.

      I have great respect for Shannon but I don’t see why Shannon’s agreement or disagreement with an argument necessarily implies anything about the truth of that argument.

      I have claimed (and can provide cites) that we can provide energy from non-GHG-emitting sources with a cost increment which is less than even a $10/ton CO2 tax would levy on the average coal-fired powerplant. . .

      I doubt very much that you could show significant economic damage from a $10/ton CO2 tax offset by cuts in other (e.g. payroll) taxes; the cost increment would be much smaller than the recent crude-oil price increases, and the money would decrease rather than increase our trade deficit.

      The magnitude of the costs is uncertain but the fact that anti-greenhouse measures would impose costs on the economy is not. You seem to be awfully confident that the cost estimates you cite are correct. What if they are not?

      You are recklessly certain that you are right on many dimensions of a hugely complex multi-disciplinary controversy…

      Right enough that the current uncertainties don’t matter, such as the 1.6 cent/KWH cost of a $10/ton CO2 tax being greater than the current cost advantage of conventional power over wind power. . .

      You invite me to check the numbers. Doesn’t the fact that many people disagree with you about the cost of anti-global-warming measures make you wonder if it’s possible that you are mistaken?

      Your position amounts to “business as usual” when the expected consequences lie somewhere between extremely regrettable and devastating.

      No. My position amounts to, “first, do no harm” when the expected consequences lie somewhere between nil and very costly over a long time horizon — i.e., when there is so much uncertainty about the scope of the problem, and when the proposed remedies are so expensive, that it’s probably wiser to wait and see rather than embark on a cure that has a nontrivial chance of being more costly than the disease.

      You make basic errors of economic reasoning.

      But you don’t cite any. . .

      Confusing the existence of alternatives with the existence of an optimal set of alternatives is the big one. The fact that individuals will do the best they can under different systems of costs and incentives doesn’t mean that imposition of new costs (e.g., a carbon tax) will not reduce producitivity.

      You accuse us of dishonesty.

      Using the word “scam” when the strongest term you can legitimately use is “error” or “mistake” isn’t honest. . .

      I don’t speak for Shannon but I think the term “scam” is appropriate here. Global warming theories are dramatic and politically popular, and are used for, among other purposes, political grandstanding, academic grantsmanship and journalistic fear-mongering. Sounds like scam material to me. Even if you disagree with me on this point, your quickness to characterize people who see things differently than you do as dishonest reveals more about you than it does about the people you criticize.

      One thing that is certain: if we shift our various technologies to ones which do not emit GHG’s (or don’t need to), we do not have to worry about consequent environmental problems. We will be in a position to fine-tune GHG levels to suit what we want the climate to be, rather than having to accept whatever consequences fall out as a result of our energy needs.

      Nonsense. It’s a function of costs and tradeoffs. One of the strongest arguments against leaping to “fix” global warming now is that by doing so we would divert investment resources from most-productive uses to less-productive ones. We would be giving up a huge amount of wealth down the road — when we might actually know whether global warming was really a problem, and when the extra wealth could help to do something about it — in exchange for debilitating spending now on highly uncertain remedies for a problem that may not exist.

      If you are so confident that global warming is happening, that it’s bad, that people cause it and that people can mitigate it, why don’t you invest your own capital in global-warming abatement schemes?

      Because GW-abatement is a public good, and it’s not possible to get paid by all the beneficiaries absent a taxation regime. . .

      That’s a fair point.

      I have to revisit this:

      why don’t you invest your own capital in global-warming abatement schemes?

      I cannot believe that someone who is educated in economics and knows the difference between public and private goods would make such a suggestion. My question: should I attribute your statement to carelessness, ignorance or something even less honorable?

      Still beating your wife?

    44. Shannon Love Says:

      Engineer-Poet,

      I think I have discovered the major cognitive difference between Jonathan and I and yourself.

      We have a strong sense of the role that time plays in scientific, technological and economic processes. We view all processes as having a life-cycle and we believe that each process produces different effects at differenttimes in their lifecycle.

      You by contrast, view such processes in a far more static manner, evaluating them only in the context of their entire life-cycle.

      For example, you view anthrogenic halogen-driven ozone depletion (AHOD) as proven even though, as a scientific hypothesis, it is still only in the mid-point of its life-cycle. A scientific idea has roughly stages (1) The development of hypothesis that makes testable predictions (2) the testing of those predictions (3) evaluating whether the predicted.
      observations actually occurred.

      Right now, at this time, AHOD is in stage 2. The hypothesis says that ozone levels should rise or fall inversely to the stratospheric concentrations of anthrogenic halogens. At this time we have taken steps to reduce atmospheric concentrations of anthrogenic halogens but all measurements show that at this time stratospheric halogen levels remain as high or higher than when we began the experiment and ozone depletion is as bad or worse than when we began. No changes have occurred in our observational field to either prove or disprove the hypothesis.

      Since the AHOD hypothesis is at this time unproven and still undergoing testing it is highly dishonest to assert that the scientific and political process were successful in (1) diagnosing the problem (especially the rate of the problem i.e. ozone-depletion/time) and (2) creating a workable solution. If a person makes such an assertion unknowingly they are merely falling prey to the Bear-Patrol logical fallacy. If they do so knowingly, then yes, I would say that individual is consciously running a “scam” of some kind.

      At some future time, perhaps as little as ten years, we will be able to confidently say whether the AHOD hypothesis was correct. If stratospheric halogens either rise or fall significantly and ozone level track that rise and fall inversely then we can check AHOD off as proven. If the halogens levels actually fall when this happens then we can further conclude that the political solutions did in fact work. At that point in time you will be able to honestly say, “the Bear Patrol is working like charm,” but at this time you cannot.

      (On the other hand, if halogens remain high but particulation falls in tandem with solar activity and ozone depletion falls as well then then my pet hypothesis would be proven.)

      The confirmation of a scientific process occurs only through the passage of time. This doubly true for large scale phenomenon that we cannot reproduce at will but must observe them at their natural rate of progression.

      Science cannot always gives us the answers we need at the exact time we need them. We are forced to act on educated guesses. I think that AHOD falls in that category but that is entirely different than saying that it is scientifically proven. The potential harm was high and the actual cost were low so deciding on an hunch was defensible. If we turn out to be completely wrong no major harm was done.

      You also exhibit an insensitivity to time when talking about technological implementation. You seem to evaluate both the financial cost and the carbon emissions of a proposed technological implementation purely on its lifetime cost and emissions. You neglect, however, the reality that implementing a technology requires sunk cost up front, whether we count those cost in money or emissions.

      It it easy to see that if I add insulation and other energy saving technologies to my existing house I can over a 10 to 20 years save a lot of money and energy. The enhancement will eventually pay for themselves over a sufficient period of time but short-term it will cost a great deal of money. I have to pay the cost now and hope to recoup later. If I am coerced into making the enhancements beyond my short-term ability to pay, I could end up losing my house all-together.

      Writ large, this basic dynamic applies to any sort of implementation. Cost right here and now with benefits to come only at a much later time.

      It takes not only money but energy to create new material items. So if we invest in new non-carbon emitting sources of energy we will have to expend more carbon in the short term to build the installations. So more carbon at this point in time to save carbon at a later time.