Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

Global warming and the Sun

February 17, 2007

Hey Grit

I have been told in the past that I should change the UK newspaper that I use to do research on the Global Warming issue, so this week I did just that, moving up to the highly respected UK Sunday Times, a broadsheet paper that prides itself on the educational, intellectual and scientific approach to most issues, and what did I find? Nothing less than another article dealing with a cautionary message to those in the IPCC who remain dogmatic regarding their findings.

I have to say from the outset that the author of the article, Nigil Calder, is also the co-author of the book that illustrates the cosmic ray effect on Global Warming, that I mentioned in an earlier post. However, he is also a former editor of the very prestigious publication “New Scientist.” Therefore, one has to take notice of his views. There are a number of aspects of the article that deserve attention.

Mr Calder mentions the potential error of taking a “90% certainty” as a basis for accurate action, drawing an analogy with the scientifice comment made in 1958 when it was said to be 90% certain that we could control nuclear fusion, a comment that has subsequently proven to be totally wrong. However, as we know, having start on the route of developing nuclear power no-one knows how to stop the effects of it. A similar situation could develop with controlling global warming. If we do not understand fully the implications of the problem, how the heck can we be sure that remedial actions are controlable? 

Mr Calder also confirms that the IPCC are paying too little regard to the sun as a contributory cause of Global Warming and that, if this is not taken into account, the planned man-made adjustments may be too much, causing the reverse of the result sought, in other words, too much cooling. There is a level of CO2 that is necessary to maintain the equilibruium of the planet. If we reduce our emissions by too great a level and then find that cosmic activity does have a significant impact, we may find ourselves sometime in the future yelling “light the fires again!”

What does seem strange to me is, that whilst many are just dismissing this as just a “denialist” view, it is being treated seriously enough in scientific circles for a major research study to be undertaken. Does this not suggest that it is something that those intent on proving man-made global warming have failed to take into account sufficiently in their own researches? It is this lop-sided and unbalanced approach to scientific research that always bothers me.

Unlike the politicians on Global Warming, Mr Calder does not claim to have all the answers, but he reasonably suggests that the issues should be approached with caution. I repeat my previous comment that the problem with mainstream research is the direction given within the original hypothesis. If you say to someone “I want to find out how much global warming is due to man” the sub-conscious inclination is to prove that fact and, to some degree, this tends to blind them to the opposite viewpoint. To get an accurate and balanced view one needs to research the positive and negative at the same time, then compare the findings.

The have been too many instances in past research where findings have been stated as being absolute facts and solutions, only to find later that either they were not, or the remedy produced was more harmful than the original problem. I fear that we are in danger of taking this same route with global warming unless we proceed with care.

the Brit

MP travel expenses

February 14, 2007

Hi Grit

All of the debate about travel costs, its effects on Global Warming and the need to conserve energy is generated by politicians. However, today figures have been published that show just how two-faced these people can be, especially in the UK. You need to bear in mind that there are around 634 MP’s and that the travel expenses are in addition to their salary and other expenses.

The current report reveals that the cost of MP’s travel for 2005-06 was a staggering £4.5 million ($9 Million). Of this £2 million was spent on car travel, £1.5 million on trains and £1 million on Flights. This equates to over £7,000 per MP, or £136 per week, and these figures are rising. However, as can be seen from the report, some MP’s are claiming as much as £44,000 per year, an incredible £850 per week!

There are a number of issues here. Firstly, these same MP’s are telling us to cut down on our road travelling, whilst at the same time failing to take their own advice. On the one hand the government is saying that the congestion on the roads is reaching a gridlock position, yet at the same time over 44% of their own travel is adding to the problem. The difference is that we, as lowly citizens, will not be able to reclaim any “rush hour” mileage cost imposed upon us, whilst the MP will be reimbursed. Every £1 an employee spends on mileage costs them £1.30 of gross income.

Secondly, they keep saying that we need to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption, at the same time as they are increasing their own (or perhaps we should all walk so that they can travel in luxury!). Our tax authorities penalise us for the type of vehicle that we drive. For example, the tax levels on a 4×4 (SUV) are far more stingent than a small saloon. For an MP this is not a problem as they reclaim all of their expenses direct from the government.

Thirdly, there are no budget constraints on MP spending. They do not have to answer to anyone regarding the level of their expenditure. Any family is aware that they have to budget their expenditure to match their disposable income, or they will suffer the problems of escalating debt. Similarly, every employee knows that their expenses will not be sanctioned by their employer if it is considered to be unreasonable, and that continual extravagance will be rewarded with unemployment. A corporation is aware that cost control is vital to attracting business growth. An Mp’s attitude is directly opposite to all of these, safe in the knowledge that Joe public will be made to pay for their representative’s extravagance through the tax system, either directly or by stealth.

Standing alone, the MP’s travel expenses are bad enough, but when you add to this their other annual expenses, which on average work out at £110,000 ($220,000) each, and their salary of between £57,000 and £150,000 depending upon their position, it all adds up to an enormous public cost. What is worrying is that this represents just a small fraction of the cost of our government and civil service. In my view the time for “accountability of government” is NOW!

the Brit 

   

Global Warming and cosmic rays

February 12, 2007

Hi Grit

Yet again, hard on the heels of a report saying that humans are creating Global Warming and it is nearly too late to do anything about it, we find another contradictory report. This time it is in the Sunday Telegraph (11 Feb).  To be fair this report is not saying that man is not contributing to Global Warming, just that, because of the effects that cosmic rays are having, the extent of man’s effect, and its growth pattern may have been seriously miscalculated.

The theory behind this research is that the cosmic rays activity affect the cloud cover that the earth experiences. The higher the cosmic ray activity, the lower the cloud cover and the more warming occurs. At present we are in such a high cosmic ray activity period. If correct, this research means that the calculations used in the IPCC report need to be adjusted. Although there are some scientists who dismiss these claims, it is important enough for a group of at least 60 to conduct tests to check its validity. 

You will hardly be surprised to note that this report was relegated to page 16 of the newspaper in question, rather than the front page. However, this is not my main criticism. It is obvious from the comments of the scientists in question that they are not “denialists.” They accept that man does contribute to global warming, just that the rate is significantly different than has been reported. My problem is, as I have mentioned before, the lack of full research when addressing an issue such as climate change. Three points I would like to make, which I have probably covered before.

Firstly, if one is researching a subject, it is encumbent upon the researcher to fully address and study issues that contradict the findings. This does not appear to have been done in the case of cosmic activity, as the fact that only now 60 scientists are going to do research suggests.

Secondly, in environmental issues the accuracy of numerical findings is paramount. This is important so that one can accurately measure the impact and the level of remedy needed. In this case, if cosmic rays are proved have a significant effect it means that man’s response can be more controlled, accurate and less damaging both to the environment and the economic structure than has been suggested by the IPCC. As has been mentioned in other posts, overkill responses to these issues can be just as damaging to the environment as the global warming itself.

Thirdly, the habit of labelling people because they do not fully accept ones findings, in this case as denialists or sceptics, is becoming boring and counter-productive. There are no absolutes in science. The scientists who have come up with this current research cannot be labelled as sceptics or denialists, because they accept the concept of Global Warming and man’s contribution. All they are saying is get the facts straight. I wonder if those who support the IPCC report will respond positively to this challenge?

It is time to stop the media dramatics and hype and approach this subject on a sensible, factual discussion basis.

the Brit

Look before you leap.

February 5, 2007

Hi Brit,

One of my favorite sayings is, “look before you leap.”  In this instance, the Environmental do-gooders in Europe should have taken this advice, Seeing Red: Palm Oil Biodiesel.  As it turns out, the rush to move to alternative “green” fuels in the EU, has caused massive damage to the ecosystem in Indonesia and Malaysia.  Next time, read the label.

By the way, I’ve added this blog to our reading list.

the Grit

Global Warming 2007

February 4, 2007

Hi Grit

I believe our first post on the issue of Global Warming was getting on for three months ago. Since then I have participated a few times and read with interest all of the comments from both sides of the divide, along with studying all of the literature that people who have commented have posted have directed us towards. I hasten to add here that I am not a scientist, so there are aspects that I would not understand. However, I consider myself an intelligent person capable of assimilating sufficient data and making a reasoned judgement. Therefore, I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the issues so far made available. A rider to this of course is that, in view of the enormous amount of data on the subject, both for and against, it is impossible for any one individual, scientists included, to be able to assimilate it all and I would be no exception to that rule.

I do not intend this post to become embroiled in detailed scientific argument, as that will produce just a series of scientific counter arguments from both sides. It is my intention to comment on the structure and management of the analysis and the way the global warming issue is being handled.

1.) IPCC REPORT
With the IPCC report being published this month (February 2007) and it being one of a series being produced this year, many are claiming that this puts beyond doubt all of the global warming issues, particularly with regard to this being a “man-made” phenomena. However, whilst I accept that global warming exists, there are several factors that I would take issue with, both in terms of the report itself and the general reaction.

My first point of concern here is the secret nature of parts of the process building up to the report issue. In letters to Governments and Organisations in December and October 2006, although having made these letters public, they have deleted text within them, which appears to be access to the draft report. This raises two issues. Firstly, as the report is intended to benefit all of mankind, why is there a need for withholding any information? Secondly, does one presuppose that, by virtue of some deletions there could be changes of significance that the IPCC would rather the public did not see? In my view, transparency in this above all issues facing mankind is of paramount importance. Anything less is unacceptable.

Terminology
(Un)Certainty – In a document issued in July 2005, the IPCC issued guidance notes regarding the ways the lead authors should address uncertainty. It could be construed that some of these guidance are of a leading nature as it is asking that all issues to be consistent with the approach determined in the document. Another issue related to this document, which I will come to later is Table 4 – Likelihood Scale (on page 4.)

Consensus – My understanding of the term consensus is that it is the agreement of the majority, after having mitigated the objections of the opposing views. I read somewhere that, in this report it was to be a consensus of 300. I believe this needs more clarification. Bearing in mind that the report was produced by over 2,500 scientists, plus 800 contributing authors, plus 450 lead authors, I have difficulty in equating the consensus of 300 with these figures and feel they need further explanation.

Confidence – The levels of confidence are divided into five sectors, as can be seen on page 3 (table 3) of the summary report. On the other hand, the likelihood scale is divided by seven. In my view, this inequality between the two scales is confusing. Surely, it would have been more rational to have equal divisions on the two scales.

2.) The Response
In a number of areas, the immediate response to the report has not been rational. The hype concentrated on the term moved from “likely” to “very likely.” As you say Grit, the latter term relates to 90% probability. However, this also does not accurately reflect the findings of the report.

On the summary for policymakers, page 3, there is a chart of human influence on trends. The chart lists seven areas of influence under three references. The term “very likely” only appears in two instances. In media and other responses, there is no reference to other aspects of this table. Whilst I do not blame the scientists for this, it does appear that the “powers that be” are guilty of misrepresentation in this instance. Again, this raises suspicions in the minds of the public and questions as to the agenda for the report.

Is it thought that the public is not intelligent enough to understand the full information or was the hype deliberately directed by politicians?

3.) Remedies
It is disappointing to learn that a detailed study on remedies will not be available from the IPCC until later in the year. If, as has been reported, we only have ten years to address this problem, I fail to see any conceivable reason why the research on remedies was not designed to produce results in the same timescale as this current report. Six months or more has been lost. The argument that the scale of the problem has only just been defined does not wash as this report follows on from one that was issued six years ago.

Of the remedies that are being put into action, there are some issues as well. Firstly, there is serious concern regarding the consequences on remedies and cooperation between agencies. The case of Basel in Switzerland as I reported earlier is a classic example. Looking to achieve global warming saving measures, people began drilling into the earth’s surface starting a chain tremor reaction that they cannot possibly control, potentially unleashing more harm than good. How many more projects are being mishandled in this way?

In addition, there is the problem that has been raised regarding the potential danger from energy saving light. Has anyone evaluated the potential future harm of following this route, if not, why not?

Only a few weeks I posed the question how do we know that remedies can be controlled. The above are two obvious examples of that not being the case.

Another contentious issue is nuclear energy. Scientists say that this will go a long way to addressing the global warming issue, and I agree that this is one of the most efficient ways of producing energy. However, it is almost impossible to use this option within a volatile world, where there are countries such as Iran and North Korea who could not be guaranteed to utilise this method for peaceful purposes. Similarly, accidents happen as we saw in Russia, and that can be equally damaging.

In the UK, the go ahead has been given to build two huge wind farms off the coast. All of the reporting on this has concentrated on the benefits, which is admirable. Nevertheless, little has been written about the downside of such action. The effect on the bird life needs to be identified, an area where naturalists have raised concerns. But what about the effect on tides and wave patterns?

Finally, in this section, I would like to ask why existing remedies, which require little cost, are not being used. For example, with the airline issue there is a “greener” fuel available, but is currently only being used in military aircraft. The emission levels are significantly lower than normal aircraft fuel and there is, as I understand it, no cost differential. I have heard that the argument against it is safety, which I find incredible. Are we saying that the lives of the military are of less value than other citizens? If not, take the step and change the fuel.

4.) The Carbon Footprint
Much is being made of the need to reduce the global footprint. However, there seems to be a great deal of double standards in this area. The media, the UK BBC organisation being a case in point, are saying that their contribution is by publishing the issues and that, in some way, this seems to exempt them from responding to the carbon footprint limitations. At the same time, the IPCC, governments and other NGO’s are spending millions of dollars transporting thousands of people to conferences and meetings all over the globe. Yet, these organisations are asking us, airlines, and other sectors to reduce our carbon footprint. Surely, one should lead by example. Whatever happened to the ability to achieve video and Internet conferencing?

There is a lot of pressure being placed upon airlines to cut their carbon footprint, yet unless I have missed it, no one has answered the question of why, in the 24 hours post 9/11 when most air travel was grounded, there was an increase in earth warming for that day. Has anyone analysed what effect reducing the carbon footprint, particularly in air travel, will have in this respect? In other words, has the downside of the equation been quantified?

In my view, one of the largest and most expensive carbon footprints is laid by governments nationally and globally. Yet, we see no clear picture of measures that these people are taking steps to address this. In the UK, politicians are asking us to reduce our carbon footprint, and even putting pressure on the Royal family to do so. All well and good, but what do we see the politicians doing? The answer is very little. Do not ask me to do something unless you are prepared to match it and lead by example Mr Government.

5.) Political
I have to admit that I was amazed at the token gestures made by some governments by calling for an hour without lights. This seems to me to have been counter-productive. Did anyone monitor the results of these actions? As I have said, I am no scientist, but from what little I know the resultant surge from it, with all electrical compliances being switched on again more than counteracts the benefits of the gesture in the first place. Has there been a study made of this and is it a responsible response? Surely, such theatricals should have been left until the position was well known by the public and they could have been advised about the cost.

In respect of the above, the political response is similar in many ways to the media reaction. It is uncontrolled, irrational and without serious thought as to how to present the issue in a way that will generate the right response. The political response between nations is also not harmonious, which does little to engender confidence.

6.) The media Circus
Unfortunately, the media circus has continued, even on the latest event. I watched a news programme in the UK, which was designed purely to entertain the public, rather than get the message across. In this programme, they spend the time passing a copy of the report through screens to reporters in different countries, such as Europe, Australia, India and the US. No attempt is made to explain the message properly.

In addition to the previously mentioned carbon footprint of this situation, I noticed also another problem. The report they were passing was a fake. They were wads of blank paper with just the title cover printed. It was obvious from the reporter’s comments that none of them had read any of the documents and it was just a publicity stunt to show how clever the network was.

Can this be the right approach to what is meant to be a serious matter? I seriously doubt it.

7.) The Cost
Another issue that really annoys me is cost, and here I am talking about the financial side. Every aspect of the global warming issue in terms of conservation and remedies always seems to be followed by additional cost to the individual. What happens to the resultant savings from change? Who gets those?

Leaving aside the dangers of energy efficient light bulbs discussed earlier, one of the main reasons their use is limited is the cost. In the UK, they are over 6 times the price of current bulbs. If politicians and scientists are serious about this issue, then use some of the billions of waste to reduce the cost of remedies to a competitive level. It is a short-term commitment. Then demand will grow and the effective change desired will be achieved with far more speed and fluency. Another example is public transport service. Raising prices and cutting services on what is considered a “greener” method of transport does not seem to me to be an approach that will increase its usage.

Every time someone mentions global warming, it seems to result in the public having to put their hands in their pockets. Is it any wonder that this meets with resistance?

8.) Kyoto Agreement
There have been arguments about the effectiveness of the Kyoto agreement, mainly centring on those countries that have not signed up to it. However, there are countries within the agreement that have not met their targets, such as Canada. Before the world goes off trying to find another agreement, we need to know how effective this one has been, and that information has not been publicly forthcoming.

How many countries met the targets set? What effect has it had on carbon emissions? How much worse would it have been were the agreement not in place? Surely, we are entitled to this information in the public arena. If it has not been effective, even with those countries that signed up, then it is the wrong answer or structure and we need to look for another resolution.

The other matter here is the developing countries, which has still not been properly addressed in my view. All this documentation seems to be indicating that the only way they can help is to deprive themselves of the advances in technology that the developed world has. Is this going to be acceptable to them? I cannot see this being the case. Therefore any agreement needs to take their situation into account, without placing an untenable burden on the developed world. 

9.) Nation, NGO Bashing and fairness
Why is it that every time there is an issue of global importance there is an automatic nation, NGO or business witch-hunt? This posturing does nothing to confirm the validity of the situation, in fact the opposite. The French attack on the US is a prime example. It is almost as if it is just a fight amongst politicians to see who can be top dog, rather than a serious issues that requires global accord. Besides, there are other countries that have taken the same stance as the US, so singling out the big boy on the block is not only unfair, it smacks of this will get me the biggest headline. Countries antagonising each other will lead only to one conclusion, namely that nothing constructive will be done.

Other sectors are also being bashed, in my view sometimes unfairly. Business is always a favourite. Whilst I accept that, in some cases their response is not good on some issues, they are generally responsive to consumer demands. In the case of global warming, it is fair to say that in many cases business is being far more positive in their actions than politicians are. For example, the supermarket industry in the UK is taking active reduction measures, whereas politicians are looking at costly offset programmes, which in the end are second best options.

Similarly, I object to some of the rhetoric and language that is used by the various lobbies on global warming, from both sides of the divide. To call someone a denialist or sceptics because they do not accept ones argument is as bad as calling someone an “eco-nut” for proposing the argument in the first place. Serious issues demand serious discussion and conversation and this requires patience. At present, the stance taken by some scientists and many politicians on the issue of global warming is too dictatorial, dismissive and impatient. All it does is make both sides more entrenched in their views, which is counter-productive.

The problem with a divide of this nature is that both sides lose. Both sides spend so much time attacking the other that they do not a) fully understand the argument of the other and b) do not gain from the potential valid points within the others cases, validity that could be of significance to their own studies.

I do not consider myself a denialist or a sceptic on this issue. However, I am also not going to be sat down and told this is the problem and anyone who disagrees is wrong. I need to understand the full facts supporting the issue, including analysis of assumptions; explanations of provable facts and honest acceptance and discussion on those that cannot be proven. I want risk assessment on all aspects of the issue, including remedies and I want acknowledgement of and discussion regarding opposing views.

As I said previously, one of the things that infuriate me about the current IPCC/Political situation is the piecemeal approach. In my years as a business consultant any report that I produced did not only identify and make conclusions about the problem, it was also required to provide recommendations that had been expertly evaluated. If it did not I was failing in my task. Governments and the scientific world have taken six years to prepare this report. I fail to see why, at the same time, and for publication at the same date, the remedial data could not have been produced.

the Brit

BBC double standards

February 2, 2007

The BBC, a UK media organisation that has been at the forefront of the issue of Global Warming, has come under attack from one of its own presenters. He says that, despite all their talk about the need to reduce the danger from things such as carbon emissions, the corporation is doing exactly the opposite.

Jeremy Paxman says the the BBC are guilty of double standards. On the one hand they are promoting restraint and conservation to members of the public, whilst still sending journalists around the world in jets and other so-called “damaging” transport, making no attempt to seek to reduce their “carbon footprint.” Why is this not a surprise? The term “do as I say, not as I do” springs to mind.

The BBC’s response when Paxman asked the questions was that their programmes were helping by airing the issue. As he says, you don’t solve the problem by just talk!

Situations like this devalues the argument significantly when someone or body pontificates about what we as individuals should be doing on issues such as Global Warming, relying on the underlying guilt factor to press home the message, whilst at the same time they are ignoring their own advice and warnings.

To me this type of action only confirms that the media is in Global Warming for the money and increase market share. Such reports are not likely to persuade people that the issue is to be taken seriously.

the Brit

Look out! The light bulb police are coming!

January 31, 2007

Hi Brit,

Besides being a sign of the end of the world, it’s also one of the most ridiculous things I’ve read lately, California may ban conventional lightbulbs by 2012.  (notice the target date)  Of course, since this will leave the poor in the dark, the State will, no doubt, pass out the free bulbs along with free condoms.  However, considering the eco-freak attitude of California’s population, this also proves that they are either poorly informed or insane.  You have read the packages on those fluorescent bulbs, haven’t you?  They contain mercury.  That is, they contain it until they break.  You can’t even throw them in the trash, least they contaminate the local landfill.  So, between all the extra hazardous material clean up teams, the cost of special disposal on a grand scale, and the expense of a light bulb police force to make certain no one smuggles an evil incandescent bulb into the state, I’m not even sure it will save energy.

the Grit

Ethanol, evil, evil ethanol

January 28, 2007

Hi Brit,

As I’m sure you know, our environmentalist wackos have pushed our political wackos into pushing, by law, the use of ethanol combined with gasoline as an “environmentally friendly” and “anti Global Warming” fuel.  As I always figured, being a farmer and a heavy consumer of distilled spirits, growing crops to turn into combustible fuel is stupid, The new gold rush: how farmers are set to fuel America’s future.  Besides the inefficiency involved with producing this “green” fuel, it also, obviously, reduces the available food supply.  The first signs of the damage this will do are in Mexico, A Culinary and Cultural Staple in Crisis.  You should note that, even if they switch from using corn as the base for ethanol production, there is only so much good farming land, but an ever increasing number of mouths to feed.  The only acres left to plant rest under forests so …

the Grit

Another Olympics, another sign

January 28, 2007

Hi Brit,

Sorry, but I’ve got bad news for you.  It looks like Blair doesn’t have a ticket to the secret moon base, London 2012 ‘to be greenest ever’, else why waste all that effort?  Or, could this just be a ploy to divert attention from the coming global doom?  I wonder how many can squeeze in up there?

the Grit

I do believe we predicted this…

January 23, 2007

Hi Brit,

It would seem that we have ESP, Business smells whiff of money in climate change – Global Warming, Big Government, and Big Business.  OK Brit, concentrate on this weeks lottery numbers…

the Grit

Liberals, living in the past

January 17, 2007

Hi Brit,

While my favorite musical group, Jethro Tull, didn’t specifically target liberals in that song, they are trying desperately to be its target: Court will not hear nuclear plant threat case.  Try to keep up liberal folk.  CO2 bad!  Nuclear power good!  For that matter, didn’t you get the talking points memo?  Terrorism isn’t really enough of a threat to worry about.  Go have a chat with Nanny Pelosi.  Of course, she’ll probably give you a good spanking, but, then again, you might like that.

the Grit

Media bias alert!

January 17, 2007

Hi Brit,

Here we go with the media bias again.  This time it’s leaning in favor of “green” technology, Solar power eliminates utility bills in U.S. home.  Of course, this has been possible for years, but this story touts it as a breakthrough, hiding the tiny catch in the middle of the article.  It turns out that this dream scenario, and who doesn’t want to tell the local electric monopoly to kiss their ass, costs $100,000 up front for a very modest size home.  For those of us who don’t have that kind of cash stuffed in the sock drawer, this means almost doubling the borrowed cost of a new home, and the mortgage payment.  I’ll leave the comparison of your monthly check to the bank and your electric bill to you.  Oh, and don’t forget to add in the maintenance costs of keeping the bird droppings off your generating system.

the Grit

Global Warming politics heats up.

January 13, 2007

Hi Brit,

Once again, I told you so 😉  Six senators back mandatory greenhouse gas cuts, and it’s not just liberals playing the climate crisis card, conservatives are in on this one as well.  And, of course, the liberal press won’t report just how much this is going to add to our utility bills, which are not insignificant at the moment, thank you very much.  It would also stifle attempts to expand our electric production, so California can look forward to more rolling blackouts in the future, which, I have no doubt, will be blamed on President Bush, who will deserve it if he signs any such legislation into law.  I’m going to save the list of Senators sponsoring this bill, and the list of those who vote for it, and can promise them now that my vote won’t tally under their names, unless the electronic voting machines are, as suggested, rigged.

the Grit

Power from space.

January 13, 2007

Hi Brit,

There is a way to power England with solar power, and only take up a tiny bit of your island: Whatever happened to solar power satellites?  This concept, putting the solar cells in space and beaming the energy to Earth as microwaves, has been around for a long time.  It would have been almost practical back in the early seventies to establish a lunar colony to do the manufacturing of parts.  This was discussed, but the political situation made it impossible to divert the investment capital needed away from social and military programs.  There was also a bunch of chatter from environmental groups, claiming that the SPSs would heat the Earth too much, use too much land for the microwave collectors, and potentially get out of control and destroy all life as we know it.  As I recall, the deciding factor against even putting up a test version was that the USSR would have seen it as a weapon system.  Of course, as energy costs rise and space flight gets cheaper…

the Grit

Global warming

January 13, 2007

Hi Grit

The issue of global warming seems to create so many arguments and the media particularly appears to be embarking upon a “fear-mongering” campaign. However, there are still some questions in my mind that need to be addressed, so I hope you don’t mind me posting a rather long item on the subject.

Is global warming as bad as it is made out to be?

In truth, no one has produced a definitive answer to this question. Scientific evidence is divided on the issue and the basis for much of the argument put forward in support of global warming can be questioned. Although I agree that we should take protective measures to care for the environment, in my view there are not enough facts to make a judgement as to how bad global warming really is. Similarly, the effectiveness and suitability of measures being taken to address the issue have not been adequately researched. To illustrate these points, it is worth looking at a sample of the specifics in more detail. 

GLOBAL WARMING INDICATORS 

1) Manmade. 

Whilst there is evidence that carbon dioxide has an impact upon global warming, no one has yet been able to determine the exact level of impact that human activity has upon it. Are we responsible for 10% or 100%? Surely, it is important to know this because it is difficult to control something that we cannot quantify. 

Even carbon dioxide is not totally to blame. If you look at the graph produced at http://www.giss.nasa.gov, entitled “Global Temperature v CO2 1940-1970, it will be noted that whilst CO2 rose consistently during that period, temperatures actually fell on a consistent basis.    

2) The Melting of icecaps and glaciers. 

Significant media attention is being given to stress the point that the icecaps and glaciers are melting, but is this a reality. Let us take Antarctica as an example, where it is stated that the melting is at an alarming rate. It is possible to produce scientific research results, all conducted in this century that find the opposite to be true. Below are quoted just three. 

P. Doran et.al (2002). Nature 415: 517-20. “From 1986-2000 central Antarctic valleys cooled 7 degrees per decade.”

J.C. Comiso (2000). Journal of Climate 13: 1674-96. “Satellite data and ground stations show slight cooling over the last twenty years.”

D. Thompson and S. Solomon (2002). Science 296: 895-99 “Antarctic peninsular has warmed several degrees while interior has cooled somewhat. Ice shelves have retreated, but sea ice has increased.” 

In terms of glaciers, it has been indicated that these are melting and withdrawing. Is this data correct? In reality, there are around 160,000 glaciers in the world, yet only seventy-nine have been studied in depth over a reasonable period. (H. Kieffer et.al. 2000. American Geophysical Union 81: 265, 270-71). Thus, the truth is that no one knows for sure. One of the prime examples used in support of the glacier melting theory is Kilimanjaro. However, this glacier has been melting since the 1800’s. It is believed by experts that deforestation is the cause of this and that, if they are replanted, the glacier will increase in size. (Betsy Mason (2003). Nature 24, November 2003). 

3) Weather Worsening. 

It is claimed that the weather is worsening and, in support of that claim, phenomena such as El Nino’s and Hurricanes are used as examples. El Nino’s occur about every four years and last for roughly eighteen months. However, they have been occurring for centuries and therefore precede the global warming threat. (Biorn Lomberg (2002). The Sceptical Environmentalist, Cambridge University Press.) With regard to hurricanes, a graph from http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/postdec.shtml, entitled “US Hurricane strikes by decade 1900-2004,” shows that, apart from the 1940’s, which were particularly active, strikes have not increased in number.  

4) Is it global? 

One also has to question where it is right to use the term global in regards to warming. Charts available from the United States Historical Climatology Network casts doubt on this. For example when comparing New York and Albany, both in New York state, it shows that for the period 1820 to 2000, New York temperatures rose 5 degrees (F) and Albany reduced by half a degree. Other data shows that there are sharp differences when comparing temperature data from the US with data from Europe and the same is the position around the world. If this proves that warming is not a global phenomena, then is it right to attack the issue with a global plan? Should it not be addressed on a localised basis? 

There is two other interesting fact to come out of this chart data. One is how different reference points (span of years) can completely alter the picture. For example, if one looks at West Point for the years a) 1931-2000, b) 1900-2000 and c) 1826-2000, the temperature movement is a) a fall, b) a rise and c) no discernable difference. 

The second point addresses the issue of carbon dioxide being responsible for global warming. Albany and New York are only 130 miles apart and they both have the same carbon dioxide levels. If carbon dioxide is the cause, why is it that the temperature movement in these two areas are so diverse? 

5) Predictions.  

There have been a number of predictions in regards to when Global warming will become a problem, how much temperatures will rise by, sea level rises etc. How accurate are these? Not very is the answer. For example, in 1988 James E. Hansen predicted that the earth would warm by .35 degrees Celsius in the following decade. The reality was that it increased by .11. That is a margin of error of over 300 percent. Similar errors have been made in other predictive research. How can we accurately predict the effect of counter measures if we cannot accurately predict the original data that these are based upon? You cannot say that a turn of 90 degrees left from due north will take you west if you do not know whether north is in the first place. 

CORRECTIVE MEASURES 

1) Alternative energy. 

Internationally, there have been calls for changing the energy sources, claiming that alternatives, such as solar, wave etc. can meet our needs. This is not proven and, in addition, reports suggest that energy use will triple by 2050. Martin Hoffert et.al. (2002), in science 298 (1 November 2002) stated, “energy sources that can produce 100 to 300% of present world power consumption without greenhouse emissions do not exist.”    

2) Natural environment management 

Whilst many attempts have been made at managing natural resources, it seems that man has not mastered this sufficiently to date. The Yellowstone Park in the US is a classic example. The intention was to create a natural environment that would last. However, what was not taken into account was the every-changing structure of nature and all that happened was that in this instance the natural environment was made worse. (See Playing God in Yellowstone Park: The destruction of America’s first National Park (1986), New York: Atlantic) 

What does not seem to be allowed for in such instances is the natural balance that nature maintains. If you disturb plant and tree growth or animal population, the is a resultant cost. For example change tree species and it can have an adverse effect on wildlife and the land around it. Similarly, artificially reduce predators and the resultant increase in their prey numbers may damage the plant structure. 

3) Kyoto Agreement 

Many have hailed the Kyoto agreement as the most effective answer to global warming. However, even if the US were to sign up to this agreement, the reduction it would have is to reduce global warming by the year 2100 by between .04 and .28 of a degree Celsius. (See IPCC publications and Bjorn Lomberg). If the predictions of the problem are to be relied on these levels, will not sufficient to address the issue effectively. 

The conclusion from this is that we simply do not know how bad global warming is. Neither can we be sure that the measures being taken to address it are effective. The problem is that if one says to a scientist “there is an issue here, can you look into it?” the natural human tendency is for research to concentrate on finding the issue, without addressing the possibility that it may not exist. Therefore, even if it is sub-conscious, the potential for data to be manipulated to prove the point exists. Similarly, if you do not accurately know the level of the problem, how can you be sure to take the correct measures to address it? 

There is no doubt that more research is required, but it is also important in my view, that the conflicting data is analysed, compared and evaluated in an effort to achieve a more definitive and accurate interpretation of all the facts. Only then can we consider the best and most effective measures, if needed, to address the issues.  

There is one final point I would like to make. If one accepts that there is global warming and the human race can do something about halting or reducing it, will we be able to stop the reversal at the right time? In other words, if we succeed in measures that achieve a year on year reduction of temperature, will we be in a position to stop the process at an optimum temperature level, or will the reducing measures continue, sending us into a period of global cooling that might have equally devastating effects on us and the planet?

the Brit

So the democrats have energy

January 12, 2007

Hi Grit

I see that the lets raise a penny for global warming is catching on, when really what the governments are saying is let’s line our pockets. In fact, if you look at the revenue raised from energy in the western world, it would go a long way to setting up an alternative system. But where does it go? To pay for all the private jets and expensive expenses that keep the politicians in the style to which they want to become accustomed.

Mind you, I read somewhere that we could use solar power. Apparently the US could be self-sufficient in solar power quite easily. All you have to do is cover most of Arizona with solar panels. Now the only thing that bothers me about this is that if we wanted to do the same in the UK, we would have to cover the whole country, because apparently our problem might be greater than yours.

The idea of spending the rest of my life living under a solar panel shield does not appeal

the brit

Democrats solve energy problems!

January 12, 2007

Hi Brit,

Good news!  Our liberal party, the Democrats, have solved our energy crisis.  How, one must be tempted to ask, can they do this in less than a week of legislating?  They’ve fallen back on their tried and true tactics, raise taxes!  Democrats unveil energy package  Simple as that, and the problem is solved.  Assuming that President Bush wouldn’t veto any version of this that lands on his desk, not only will this tax cut Gulf oil and natural gas production, which nasty products lead to Global Warming, but, with convoluted evil genius, it will work to prevent prices on those products from ever falling!  Plus, this will teach Big Oil two important lessons, don’t screw with Nanny Pelosi and start making wind mills because the liberals are going to run you out of business.  Oh, it’s so nice to not have that to worry about any more.

the Grit

Retirement claims another victim!

January 11, 2007

Hi Brit,

Here’s another example of why people in the US work longer hours and more years than y’all over in Europe, Man electrocuted by do-it-yourself mole-killer.  Retirement leads to the big sleep, once boredom sets in and the hobbies start piling up it’s just a matter of time.  Of course, it’s also one of the reasons our highest powered electrical outlets are 240 volts, instead of 380. 

the Grit

UK – EU oil supply problems

January 9, 2007

Hi Brit,

Not to worry for the moment, at least for jolly old England.  It looks like the current problem is only in Germany and Poland:

Russian oil supplies to Poland, Germany caught in Belarus dispute

Doesn’t Britain get its oil from the North Sea? At least there was a Jethro Tull song about that, which is usually a trustworthy source of information.  However, if you just need a worry fix, consider what happened last time Germany and Russia had a dispute in that region.  What was it that comes after II…

the Grit

The lights may go off in the UK

January 9, 2007

Hi Grit

It seems that we have an energy crisis looming in the UK. This time it is not so much to do with Global Warming, as the fact that a significant amount of our supplies now originate from Russia. The problem appears to be that the Energy organisations in Russia are not so public spirited as other countries in the EU. Therefore, they think nothing of cutting off energy supplies as and when it takes their fancy.

In hindsight (what else?), the EU, in the shape of Chancellor Merkel, is saying that perhaps we should not be so dependent on imported energy supplies. It is a little late to start playing that tune, especially as the UK has sold the majority of its energy companies to overseas corporation and relies heavily upon places like Norway and Russia to keep our lights on.

Methinks I need a supply of candles and a generator if it gets much more difficult. Still, I suppose it gives a new meaning to the term “cold-war!”

the brit