Archive for the ‘CO2’ Category

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Pop Quiz!

February 11, 2012

Have you seen the video on my previous post?  Here is a pop quiz (and opinion poll) to see if you were paying attention.   You can review the video (or see it for the first time) here.


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Modern Luddites

December 31, 2011

A friend of yours

Suppose a friend of yours believes that the world is facing a dire future because of too much CO2 in the atmosphere.  The problem seems clear to him, he says, and so does the best course of action.  The fossil fuel powering of the world must come to an end.

He knows that bringing that end about is very difficult, but he perseveres.  It will be very expensive.   Many of the worlds assets will be consumed replacing a thriving fossil fuel based economy with a new “cleaner” economy.

The entire world must be convinced to cooperate, so he cajoles and he scolds.  The standard of living of the wealthy nations must be reduced.  The rest who are embracing the benefits of an energy rich society for the first time will have to wait.

Huge administrative changes will be needed, so he manuevers for control.  Great swathes of the planets landscape will have to be altered to accommodate some combination of wind power, solar power and biofuel production.

But he also has faith that the hardships of his solution will be offset by other (perhaps vague) benefits beyond the reduction of CO2.

A new idea

Now suppose along comes somebody who has another idea to solve the problem: an idea that might not result in a huge disruption of the economy. It’s an idea that might not result in all the hardships.  It is only an idea, in its infancy.  He would like your friend to take a look at it.

What does your friend say?  Does he say “Let’s see this new idea, look at the pros and cons.  Let’s run some simple tests.”  Or does he say “Go away!” and stick his fingers in his ears and say “NANANANANA – I can’t hear you – NANANANANA.”

Would you doubt your friends sincerity, or even his sanity, if he chose the latter response?

Suppose the idea was this…

The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) study, which considers the possibility spraying sulphur particles into the stratosphere, like a volcano, to force global cooling.  This is a big idea and it would be no simple feat to accomplish. What are the advantages and disadvantages?  Who knows?

The stratosphere is 20 km above the surface of the Earth.  The amount of material that would be required is enormous.  The idea is that huge balloons would pull hoses up into the stratosphere and particulate material would be pumped up from the ground.   

It is worth at least thinking about.  A small-scale project to test of the concept was planned in the UK for this fall.  A balloon would hoist a hose only one kilometer and water would be pumped into the atmosphere. 

Image is from "Good governance for geoengineering," Nature, 479, November 2011

Modern Luddites

Alas, this experiment may never take place because a lot of people like your friend may have killed it.  In effect, they said “Go away!” and stuck their fingers in their ears and chanted “NANANANANA – I can’t hear you – NANANANANA.”

According to Nature  (the journal where every environmentalist is a saint),

“the EPSRC [UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council], one of the study’s main funders… received a letter and open petition, also sent to UK energy and climate-change secretary Chris Huhne and signed by more than 50 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil-society organizations, demanding that the project be cancelled.”

The source of the letter and petition?  An organization called “Hands Off Mother Earth.”  The 75 or so signatory organizations to the petition include the following organizations: Amigos da Terra Brasil, Earthpeoples, Gaia Foundation, and my favorite, the Gender Climate Caucus.

Their letter states…

We believe the experiment planned to test equipment for injecting particles into the stratosphere with the aim of counteracting global warming through solar radiation management (SRM) should be cancelled…We believe that such research is a dangerous distraction from the real need: immediate and deep emissions cuts.

In other words, they do not want a simple test of an alternative idea.  I believe that makes them anti-science and anti-reason, modern luddites.

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Rahmstorf on peer-review vs. the rabble

January 2, 2011

Stefan Rahmstorf has made a (vague) response to my questions about updated sea level data and groundwater depletion.  His response, which can be seen as the second comment here is …

“Science progresses by peer-reviewed publications, not blogs. We are well advanced in preparing a paper that includes the latest sea level data and groundwater pumping estimates, as well as looking at a number of other factors. That will be up for discussion once it appears in the peer-reviewed literature. (Without giving away too much, I can probably already say that we come to different conclusions from what you claim.)”

The progress of science

”Science progresses by peer-reviewed publications, not blogs.” That’s an interesting position from Rahmstorf, since he is a principal contributor to the RealClimate blog. Perhaps RealClimate is to be seen not as a blog, but as a pulpit from which Rahmstorf can preach to the faithful as they sit at his feet and listen in awe. Science does not progress there, it just gets passed down from on high by the priests. Rahmstorf may even deign to take questions from the faithful, as long as they keep their eyes lowered and remember their station. But the real progress can only be made by authors and peer-reviewers when the room has been cleared of the unwashed.

The striking thing about Rahmstorf’s response is that he thinks he has the authority to dictate how “Science progresses.” Anything that deviates from the comfortable format where he wears the mantle of authority is not worthwhile. This is pretty much the attitude that I expected from him.

Peer-review comfort zone

We all understand the peer-review paradigm. A paper is written for publication, but first submitted it to a group of peers for review. The peers’ criticisms are dealt with in a way to make the paper a stronger piece of work.

This peer-review process evolved when communication was slower, contemplation times were longer, and the participants inhabited small esoteric worlds in which the rabble had little interest and rarely visited. It works well with dry questions of science and engineering.

Scientists are human beings and many, as they age, become comfortable in their way of doing things. They build their careers on the model of publishing papers, reviewing papers, and attending conferences. They have paid their dues and they expect their status to be respected.

In the world of climate science some “experts” have puffed themselves beyond the bounds of their arcane niches and on to the political stage.  The peer review process becomes fraught with intrigue when the science is saturated with politics, or when sycophantic peers become rubber stamps. 

Peers or sycophants?

What does “peer-reviewed” mean to Stefan Rahmstorf? An email he sent me three years ago is enlightening. The Journal Science, probably the most influential journal in the world, had published his widely circulated paper “A Semi-Empirical Approach to Projecting Future Sea-Level Rise” about six months before. He sent me the code used to make his projections of “future sea-level rise” and told me “you are the first outside person to test this code.” In other words, peer-review for Rahmstorf and Science includes sycophants from his group, but not an “outside person.”

Up for discussion

Stefan, I have been pointing out flaws in your work and conclusions for quite a while now.   You say these issues “will be up for discussion” when your encyclical “appears in the peer-reviewed literature.”  This is another place where your are wrong.  They are already very much “up for discussion” whether or not you have given permission.

The fear of sea level rise is being used to influence world-wide political and social movements.  You are at the forefront of the sea level rise scare.  This wrenches all of your work from the ivory tower and places it in the middle of  the town square.

Communication is fast now, the rabble has taken an interest, and many are not inclined to genuflect before the experts curriculum vitae.  It is only beginning to dawn on many of the anointed that the internet may pull the rug out from under their claims of impending climate disaster.  The peasants have breached the gate and are questioning the infallibility of their supposed betters.

I will continue to criticize your past work, and you can bet that I will be dissecting your future work.  And I will not recognize some special status that elevates you above your critics.  So if you want to be considered something other than an overwrought alarmist, you better start getting things right.