The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 11 in a series

When newly-elected President Donald Trump announced he had picked former Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy, I was suitably impressed. As governor of Texas, Mr. Perry had shown extraordinary interest in science education. I know. I was around when Governor Perry nominated Bryan, Texas, dentist Don McLeroy to be chairman of the Board of Education. In turn, McLeroy’s appreciation for sound science education has been viewed by many as without equal:

In 2003, McLeroy led efforts by proponents of creationism and intelligent design to de-emphasize discussion of evolution in proposed new biology textbooks. He was one of only four board members who voted against biology textbooks that year that included a full account of evolution.

Over objections by his critics in 2004, McLeroy voted to approve health textbooks that stress “abstinence-only” in regard to instruction about pregnancy and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

In 2005, McLeroy conducted a sermon in his church, in which he said naturalism is “the enemy” and questioned: “Why is Intelligent Design the big tent? Because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of Intelligent Design.”

According to a 2008 article in The New York Times, “Dr. McLeroy believes that Earth’s appearance is a recent geologic event — thousands of years old, not 4.5 billion. ‘I believe a lot of incredible things,’ he said, ‘The most incredible thing I believe is the Christmas story. That little baby born in the manger was the God that created the universe.'” McLeroy’s statements regarding science have been criticized. McLeroy and other Board members who want to challenge evolution have received criticism from more than fifty scientific organizations over an attempt to weaken the currently-accepted science standards on the theory of evolution. In particular, biologist Kenneth R. Miller called McLeroy’s statements on science “breathtakingly” incorrect.

While it became clear to all that McLeroy’s appreciation for science is not all that high, none have lower.

Fortunately for us who enjoy a good light show, Governor Perry was re-elected, and when his subsequent re-appointment of Don McLeroy stalled in the Texas Senate, Mr. Perry was wise enough to appoint as DOE chair Barbara Cargill, whose scientific acumen scrapes close to McLeroy’s. I was there to enjoy the spectacle:

I struck up a conversation with Ide Trotter and reminded him of our meeting, nearly ten years previous. He remarked on my keen memory, but he should not have been amazed, because I had taken his photo at the time, so my memory was quite fresh. Dr. Trotter is a noted creationist, and I was very interested in talking to him about any progress his movement has made with Intelligent Design in the past ten years. He assured me Intelligent Design is on solid ground.

Also, Barbara Cargill joined us in our conversation. Dr. Trotter and I were discussing Intelligent Design when she walked up, and I am afraid she was confused and thought I was a creationist. She remarked “I’m one of you,” and gave us a reassuring clap on the shoulder. She conferred for a moment with Dr. Trotter over some notes, and she went off to visit other volunteers.

After Ms. Cargill left us I felt a little embarrassed, and I hoped I had not given the wrong impression. I reminded Dr. Trotter that I had previously headed up The North Texas Skeptics, and we were strongly supportive of the teaching the science of biological evolution in public schools. Dr. Trotter assured me that he, too, wanted evolution taught, only he wanted the correct facts to be taught.

Anyhow, that is water under the bridge. Rick Perry ran for president and came hard up against logic and reality, making him a prime choice for Secretary of Energy. Which brings us to our present Age of Embarrassment:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry says CO2 is not the main driver of climate change

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC on Monday he does not believe carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are the main driver of climate change, joining the EPA administrator in casting doubt on the conclusion of some of the government’s top scientists.

Asked whether CO2 emissions are primarily responsible for climate change, Perry told CNBC’s “Squawk Box”: “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

“The fact is this shouldn’t be a debate about, ‘Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?’ Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?” he said.

Allow me to interpret what the Secretary just told us. The primary driver behind climate change is the ocean waters and the environment. By environment we can assume the Secretary means the natural  environment, because if it’s not the natural environment, then it must be that human activity is the cause. So he means the natural environment. That is to say, the natural environment that has been around for millions (billions?) of years. The natural environment that has not seen fit to raise global temperature averages for hundreds (thousands) of years, and just waited until people started raising the CO2 concentration  in  the atmosphere from 300 parts per million to 400 ppm.

Or else it’s the ocean waters. Yes. The ocean waters are getting warmer. Ocean waters getting warmer is a manifestation of climate change (global warming), and that’s what’s causing global warming. Global warming is causing global warming. We needed former Texas Governor Rick Perry to tell us this.

And now I am embarrassed.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Tenth of a series

I may have mentioned this before, but as a way of supporting real news I obtained a digital subscription to The New York Times, for which I am being pleasantly rewarded. I get to read prior issues, going back to 1851. That was before most of us were born. Anyhow, I consider the NYT to be a reliable news source, certainly compared to a raft of other spigots adorning the wires these days.

Conservatives, and also the newest President, consider the Times to be a liberal fire hose. Many liberals, as well, claim to notice a leftward slant. My thinking is this appearance is due to the paper’s contrast with concerted right wing outlets. Readers should look to a source’s editorial section to pick up any scent of tip to one direction, and in this respect the Times asserts some balance. We see, or have seen:

  • David Brooks
  • Maureen Dowd (an equal opportunity agitator)
  • Mark Shields
  • Paul Krugman
  • Thomas L. Friedman
  • George Will

Now there is Bret Stephens, and his first column appeared today, 28 April. He opens with the following:

When someone is honestly 55 percent right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60 percent right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God.

But what’s to be said about 75 percent right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100 percent right? Whoever says he’s 100 percent right is a fanatic, .

— An old Jew of Galicia

We soon learn he is talking about the scientific consensus supporting anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and he is cautioning against certainty. In fact, the headline of his opinion piece is “Climate of Complete Certainty.”

My first take on his column’s epigraph is that it is overly general. Supposing the old Jew of Galicia is right, in which case I am “a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.” And so is columnist Stephens. And I added my comment to that effect to the on-line piece. I (Stephens, as well) am 100% certain the Earth rotates counterclockwise as viewed from above the North Pole. Equally certain are we that the sun rises in the east. So, the old Jew notwithstanding, 100% certainty is not a mark of thuggery.

But Stephens spreads his message thinner:

There’s a lesson here. We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris. From Robert McNamara to Lehman Brothers to Stronger Together, cautionary tales abound.

We ought to know this by now, but we don’t. Instead, we respond to the inherent uncertainties of data by adding more data without revisiting our assumptions, creating an impression of certainty that can be lulling, misleading and often dangerous. Ask Clinton.

The Clinton reference is thought to be regarding Hilary Clinton’s strong stand on AGW during her campaign, a factor that cost many votes in conservative areas.

But surely certitude does beget hubris, and if you want to appear warm and fuzzy (as when you are seeking somebody’s vote) it may be better to be less certain. In politics.

I’m not a politician, and I have no need to please anybody. At this I am immensely successful. Take the screen shot gracing the head of this column. That’s from a Facebook dialog I had with a friend named Dan. He opened with:

I guess Algor is coming out with a sequel to his “Inconvenient ‘Truth'” film.

I hope the film will answer these questions:

  1. How does CO2, which is 1.4x the weight of air get up above the Troposphere to  form a greenhouse? What is its density there, given that CO2 is less than 004 of 1% (= four ten-thousandths or 40 PPM) of all gasses in the atmosphere?

Followed by items 2 through 8 in a similar vein. Others chimed in, including Mark. As one who studied some science in college (also high school) I have to say Mark’s understanding of science does not bode well for the American educational system. Details on request.

Again, forgetting the politicians, Bret Stephens can forgive scientists for some hubris if he will pause for a moment to examine the complaints made by the AGW deniers. These arguments generally boil down to something like those of Dan and Mark. Many are steeped in a gross misunderstanding of basic science plus ignorance (or denial) of available data.

Stephens attempts to avoid this trap with qualifying language:

Well, not entirely. As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

He’s not disputing the data. The problem is what are advocates for remedy postulating. On this point Stephens and I are in agreement. A sweltering summer day in Chicago (people dying). A devastating tornado rips through a Mississippi town. It’s the doom of global warming! There is no doubt boosters for remedy are overstating the case.

Let them. Put them in their place. The science still stands. Human activity is producing increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (CO2 concentration currently exceeds 400 ppm). Global temperature averages are increasing in correspondence with increasing concentrations of  CO2. Polar ice is melting. The mean sea level is rising. Coastal areas are being affected. All else is bull shit. The need for human intervention is manifest on this issue alone.

The cadre of politicians and vocal citizens may like to take heart from Stephens’ analysis, but they need to appreciate that he is only showcasing their own agenda. Attacks on the science may not be successful, but the political ploy of gaming the statements by AGW fanatics is a quiver full of ammunition for the deniers. In the end it will not matter.

Stephens quoted a (mythical?) old Jew of Galicia. Another quote from way back goes, “Man proposes. Allah disposes.” Think what you want, Nature will have its way.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Ninth of a series

I’ve been a serious skeptic since 1988, at which time I joined up with The North Texas Skeptics. It’s been a lot of fun. We looked into claims made by astrologers, graphologists, faith healers, psychics, and ultimately creationists. It has been skepticism well spent We continually found the claims of these groups to be baseless at best and fraudulent on the extreme side. Generally, rational skepticism has been based on the following:

  • You have to follow the facts.
  • Assertions made in the face of vast experience are worth a very close look.
  • Loyalty and personal bias are often the basis for false belief.
  • Verify, verify, verify.

A lot of bad science has come and gone in recorded history. The four basic elements—fire, water, earth, air—have been superseded by more useful concepts. Phlogiston turned out to be a useless idea for describing the flow of heat. N-rays turned out to be a figment of an experimenter’s expectations, and Nobel chemist Irving Langmuir figured the same thing was happening in experiments carried out at Columbia University.

More recently, some valid science has come under scrutiny. First the correlation between tobacco smoking and lung cancer was strongly denied by companies that marketed tobacco products. Executives even lied under oath at congressional hearings. Then rigorous studies demonstrated the relationship was causal. Smoking in this country decreased dramatically since, and so have new cases of lung cancer. Scientists determined that chlorinated fluorocarbons released into the atmosphere were contributing to the destruction of the ozone layer in the stratosphere, and laws were passed to restrict the use of these chemicals. There was much push back against this science—it was viewed as supporting government meddling and therefor bad science. Some members of The North Texas Skeptics were among those who spoke out against the science. Then two chemists won the Nobel prize for their studies related to the destruction of the ozone layer, and restricted use of CFCs has correlated with a healthier ozone layer.

One bit of science that has been around for decades is global warming caused by greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect in the atmosphere is likened to the way a planter’s greenhouse works. The transparent covering allows in energy from sunlight in but traps the resulting heat. Calculations projected a rise in average atmospheric and ocean temperatures, the result being melting of land ice and significant rise in ocean levels, among other consequences. Again there is vocal resistance. This resistance has come from both genuine disbelief that human activities can have a significant effect and from political resistance to any actions taken to curb the use of fossil fuels.

That brings us to the current discussion. Dan, a friend on Facebook, from time to time posts items hostile to the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW). From interchanges with Dan, I know he has a free-market bent and is a champion of personal liberties. Government action to combat AGW is anathema to Dan, and an ignorance toward some basic science teams up to make for some interesting exchanges. This is about one of them.

It kicks off with a posting by Dan. He’s talking about an opinion piece that ran in the 3 November 2013 issue of Forbes:

Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype

I write about aerospace, environment, energy, Second Amendment policy

Here is what Dan posted:

I guess Algor is coming out with a sequel to his “Inconvenient ‘Truth'” film.

I hope the film will answer these questions:

1. How does CO2, which is 1.4x the weight of air, get up above the Troposphere to form a greenhouse? What is its density there, given that CO2 is less than 0.04 of 1% ( = four ten-thousandths or 40 PPM) of all gases in the atmosphere?

2. If Global Warming is really happening, why have the central researchers of it (East Anglia Univ.) been caught at least three times faking the statistics?

3. If GW is really going to flood the seacoasts in another 2 years, why did Algor buy TWO ocean-side mansions, one on the East Coast and one on the West?

4. If Global warming is real, why have the purveyors of it changed their warnings from “Global Cooling” in the 70s, to “Global Warming” in the 1990s – 2010s, to “Climate Change” in the Obama years, to now, “Climate Disruption?”

5. If Global warming is real, why is one of the temperature stations atop a building near an air conditioner’s WARM air outflow, and another atop an ACTIVE volcano which spews heat and CO2 (Moana Loa).

6. Since we’re still emerging from an Ice Age, what is the PROPER temperature for the world, and how do you arrive at that number?

7. How will paying a tax which largely benefits a firm owned by Algor* save us from the alleged Global Warming? Is he going to use the money to save the world? How?

(* Gore & Blood is the only approved “Carbon Exchange” mentioned in the proposed US legislation. formerly, the Chicago Carbon Exchange was the official repository, until Barack Obama was found to have a material stake in the firm)

8. If Humans cause Global Warming, why and how are our neighboring planets warming, and how was this variable removed from your secret climate model?

That takes some digesting. I exchanged a few comments with Dan and hoped to elicit his acknowledgement he was serious, and this was not some kind of spoof. What alarmed me was a lack of knowledge and logic. I will get to some of the additional exchanges, but first the forgoing needs some analysis. Start with Dan’s point 1, if you will pardon the repetition:

1. How does CO2, which is 1.4x the weight of air, get up above the Troposphere to form a greenhouse? What is its density there, given that CO2 is less than 0.04 of 1% ( = four ten-thousandths or 40 PPM) of all gases in the atmosphere?

His first question, “How does…” is an example of begging the question. This is manifest when a question is asked, but the wording of the question presumes a premise, something the speaker wants to assert. There are two parts here.

First, asking how CO2, being denser than air, makes it into the stratosphere and beyond. The implication loaded into the question is that it does not. This is not true. The gases in the atmosphere are well mixed below 90 kilometers altitude, and that is close to the fringes of the atmosphere. The second implication is CO2 must reach into the stratosphere before it produces a greenhouse effect. There is no basis for this. In fact, CO2 close to the Earth’s surface absorbs infrared radiation as effectively, just closer to the surface. The answer to Dan’s question, “What is it’s density there…” is answered by any reference to the composition of the atmosphere. There is little variation, and the concentration of CO2 above the troposphere is still approximately 400 parts per million.

2. If Global Warming is really happening, why have the central researchers of it (East Anglia Univ.) been caught at least three times faking the statistics?

Dan is going to need to elaborate on this. Again, it’s a loaded question. The question presumes the East Anglia University researchers were caught faking the statistics.

3. If GW is really going to flood the seacoasts in another 2 years, why did Algor buy TWO ocean-side mansions, one on the East Coast and one on the West?

Really. Really? Global warming is going to flood the seacoasts in another two years? Get serious. I will address one of Dan’s concerns here. Purchasing a house on a cliff overlooking an ocean would be a safe investment. By “Algor” I presume Dan means Albert Gore, former Vice President of the United States. Al Gore is not a young man, and by the time the land ice melts and the oceans rise 200 feet, he, plus Dan and I, will be long dead.

4. If Global warming is real, why have the purveyors of it changed their warnings from “Global Cooling” in the 70s, to “Global Warming” in the 1990s – 2010s, to “Climate Change” in the Obama years, to now, “Climate Disruption?”

The science behind global warming has not changed. Based on history, the Earth is due for another ice age in the northern hemisphere in the next few thousand years. AGW is another issue, and it is AGW. Climate change will be an offshoot of AGW, and you may want to call it climate disruption if you want.

5. If Global warming is real, why is one of the temperature stations atop a building near an air conditioner’s WARM air outflow, and another atop an ACTIVE volcano which spews heat and CO2 (Moana Loa).

Dan is going to need to provide some facts to back this up. Again there is a loaded question—the presumption being that these vital measurements are made at inopportune locations. In case Dan is confused about one item, the station at Mauna Loa Observatory is a major location for taking measurements of CO2 concentration. Great care is taken to ensure that CO2 from the volcano does not contaminate the measurement. It is obvious Dan is pulling his information from unreliable sources. It would have been better had he done some on-line research before posting some of this stuff.

6. Since we’re still emerging from an Ice Age, what is the PROPER temperature for the world, and how do you arrive at that number?

Dan should have been able to answer this one for himself. The answer is there is no “proper” temperature. The Earth has, in the past, been hotter, and it has been colder. Evidence is that at one time the oceans were frozen over. That is, perhaps, why the terms climate change and climate disruption are used. We have built our cities where they are, we live where we do, and our crops flourish as they do because the global average has been stable for thousands of years. Relatively stable. People did experience the previous ice age. The problem is that some cities, Miami and New York City being two examples, were constructed very close to the level of the current ocean. Miami is already combating ocean level rise, and New York City is making preparations for ocean rise. A rise in the order of 50 feet within the next 100 years would be very disruptive. Bottom line—it would be best for world economies if the global average stayed about where it is right now.

7. How will paying a tax which largely benefits a firm owned by Algor* save us from the alleged Global Warming? Is he going to use the money to save the world? How?

Dan has me on this one. Maybe he can answer that, either in the affirmative or in the negative.

8. If Humans cause Global Warming, why and how are our neighboring planets warming, and how was this variable removed from your secret climate model?

It would be nice if I could treat this one as some kind of joke. However, Dan has refused to disavow his comments, so I must take him seriously. Venus, as is well-known, is an extreme case of greenhouse warming. The planet’s atmosphere is a different composition from the Earth’s, and it has created a furnace, compared to Earth. Also, Venus is 20 million miles closer to the sun. Mars, not so much so. It’s farther from the sun and barely has an atmosphere. If Mars is warming, Dan will need to give me some evidence.

Dan posted an additional comment:

John: You told me the Periodic Table was irrelevant. That CO2 was denser at Sea Level than the average of air. That didn’t refute my statement, only attempted to muddy it.

A balloon filled with CO2 would not rise, on Earth, correct?

I told you I’m not going ’round with you. It’s your religion and you are stuck with it. I’m sticking with facts as we know them, e.g. molecular weight of air vs CO2 means CO2 won’t rise by itself at normal conditions on Earth.

But… we both know where each other stand.

Yes, the periodic table is not relevant to this. The periodic table only associates elements according to their similar chemical characteristics, which characteristics having been determined to be predicted by quantum theory. No properties of individual elements (atoms) are involved in the greenhouse process, since only argon and helium are the atomic gases that exist in quantities in the atmosphere.

Yes, CO2 and all other gases are denser at sea level, this being due to greater atmospheric pressure at sea level (than higher up), that coupled with Boyle’s Law.

True, a balloon filled with CO2 will not rise. What does this have to do with the discussion at hand?

Dan continues to insist, in defiance of all known facts, that CO2 does not mix in the atmosphere.  CO2 is about equally represented in the stratosphere as it is at lower altitudes. Dan needs to read some basic science.

Mark, apparently a Facebook friend of Dan’s, added the following bit of wisdom:

Chemistry 101: CO2 is not a Greenhouse Gas, nor is it a “pollutant”, nor has the quantity of CO2 changed on Earth for many hundreds of millions of years. Water vapor in the atmosphere is many times (close to 100X) more capable of capturing the Sun’s ion radiation than CO2. One single volcano spews more CO2 in one day than all of the CO2 emitted by Human activities in their ENTIRE existence. Finally, it’s the weather, which is constantly changing in reaction to the Sun spot activities. That is the end of the class kiddies.

Yes, that’s weird. CO2 is a greenhouse gas due to it’s molecular structure, which causes it to absorb long wave infra red radiation. Details on request. This can get lengthy.

The quantity of CO2 has changed significantly within the past few decades. Here is the Keeling Curve, the concentration of CO2 since about 1958:

Yes, water vapor is a major greenhouse gas. Without the water vapor we presently have in the atmosphere, temperatures would be about 20C lower. The difference is that water vapor was already built in when humans first appeared, and we have done nothing to change that. Nor could we likely. Water vapor has a mechanism for removal that CO2 does not have, and that mechanism is called “rain.” Rain continually cycles water from the atmosphere back to the surface, maintaining a steady state condition, globally.

Mark further says, “One single volcano spews more CO2 in one day than all of the CO2 emitted by Human activities in their ENTIRE existence.”

No. Look at the Keeling Curve. This time period includes several major volcanic eruptions, and these do not show up on the graph. Here is another graph:

No, it is not volcanoes.

Nor is it solar activity. Here is another graph:

Mark concludes, “That is the end of the class kiddies.” Yes, it is the end of the class for Mark. I suggest somebody read a science book.

Peter is another of Dan’s friends. He posted:

This area of science is not my specialty but I would speculate that C02 is distributed in the upper atmosphere by airplanes. I know some fly as high as 60K ft. and their exhaust contains C02. The upper jet stream can carry it higher. It can account for it with all the military and commercial planes up there.

Peter, read the above. CO2 is distributed naturally.

Dan has asked me why I am not skeptical of AGW. The interchange I just analyzed illustrates why I am skeptical of assertions made against AGW. They are all of this quality. Nobody, even any serious scientists, has ever made arguments against AGW that did not have a level of prevarication or misinterpretation of the facts.

It’s up to Dan and his friends to provide some kind of realistic argument, of which the ones so far presented are not. Fetching imaginary facts out of the air will not do. It would help if these people would research the subject and verify assertions they are about to post. There seems to be little to no evidence any of them are doing that. Scientific explanations concerning the greenhouse mechanism and details of the nature of the atmosphere abound on the Internet. Even a brief check before posting would have avoided the failures manifest in these postings.

Dan, Mark, and Peter are charged with heading to a library or at least to the Internet and coming back to me with something to back up what they have posted. This is the end of class, kiddos.

The Dumbest Kind

You wanna embrace the golden calf?
Ankle, and thigh, and upper half?
Here it is!
I mean, here it is!

That’s one way to get it started. Here’s another way.

 

Yes, that’s Texas’ own Congressman Joe Barton, representing District 6, just south of Dallas. He’s been in place for 32 years and appears to be well-entrenched. Something about Congressman Barton’s district favors his odd mentality, and he’s likely to stick around for awhile. The topic of the featured meme epitomizes his thinking:

At a 2009 hearing on renewable energy, Barton asserted that large-scale wind power projects could slow down God’s method for cooling the earth and possibly contribute to global warming.

 

A reference to the source comes from Newsweek, as reported 17 June 2010:

Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.

Forget for a moment that Congressman Barton has just referenced a mythical being, what does the remainder of his statement say about the thoroughness of his thought processes? Some diagnosis:

  • Regarding wind being a finite resource, like many things, it is. Also, Barton made his relevant comment in a Congressional sub committee hearing. He started by citing university research that asserted wind is a finite resource, and he ended by summarizing in his own words, invoking God. Snopes has a complete discussion.
  • Regarding wind being a way of balancing heat, this is essentially true. It gets hot somewhere, the wind blows, heat gets distributed. Fact is, heat is what makes the wind blow.
  • Regarding less wind contributing to global warming, university research may or may not make this claim, but my own authority, being a certified physicist, is that less wind will amount to less global warming. The reasoning is this. If less wind causes heat to remain accumulated in a spot, the rise in  temperature at that spot will increase radiative loss of heat. The affected spot will lose more heat, while unaffected regions will not accumulate additional heat to make up the difference. Run the numbers for yourself.

Notably, Barton has also stated he does believe there is global warming, but he attributes this to natural causes. For Joe Barton, natural causes are documented in the Bible:

“I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don’t deny that climate is changing,” he added. “I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural. I think there’s a divergence of evidence.”

Barton then cited the biblical Great Flood as an example of climate change not caused by man.

“I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

Hint: Congressman Barton receives considerable campaign support from the petroleum industry. A video uploaded to YouTube on 25 March 2009 elaborates on his thinking. People, he says, should be prepared to adapt to global warming as they have adapted to climate change in the past. He proposes we cease useless attempts to forestall efforts at ameliorating non-existent human causes and devote our immediate attention to accommodating the inevitable.

Congressman Barton is likely correct in thinking we will not be able fix global warming in time to avoid its impact on our lives. In his talk, presented in the video, he does not specify any steps we need to take to accommodate global warming. Among steps he fails to address is the need to protect coastal areas from the rise in sea level, already being observed. Miami, Florida, is a city currently dealing with sea level rise, and its projected cost to mitigate the problem is impressive:

From his sunny corner office on the sixth floor of Miami Beach City Hall, the engineer has spent the past two and a half years working on one of the hardest jobs in the country: trying to keep this city of 90,000 above water.

This is, of course, Miami Beach, which is strictly not Miami. I visited the area a few weeks ago and can attest the city is situated on a barrier island, separated from Miami and the mainland by a lagoon. These barrier islands exist all along the east and Gulf coasts, from New Jersey to Brownsville, Texas. They are not now and never have been permanent, being continually obliterated and reformed by wave action over cycles that last in the order of a thousand years. It was foolish for people to build facilities on these islands and expect them to be permanent.

Miami is on the mainland, on the coast of a state whose highest point is around 300 feet above sea level. It would not take much of a rise in sea level to erase much of Florida’s present coast line. Is this the kind of global warming problem Congressman Barton expects us to accommodate as though it were a hot summer day? The dumbness is strong in this one, Master.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Eighth of a series

politics-scienceglobalwarminghoax

I’m sure I saw this coming.

politics-trumpglobalwarmingchinesehoax

That was during the campaign. Donald Trump is now President of the United States. This has consequences:

Leading candidate for Trump’s science advisor calls climate change a cult

In January, the Trump transition team arranged for two scientists to meet with Trump. Since then, both have been considered front runners to become the new presidential science advisor, a position that typically heads the Office of Science and Technology Policy. While the two—Princeton’s William Happer and Yale’s David Gelernter—have radically different backgrounds, they have a couple of things in common: strong support for science in general and extreme skepticism of climate science in particular.

The above appeared in Ars Technica on 15 February, written by John Timmer. The subtitle is Both picks support science, doubt its conclusions. I keep getting  the idea that Professor Happer has the lead here, and I’m going with that for the time being. Either way, what we are likely to have is a presidential science advisor who does not consider anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to be a serious concern.

To be sure, Professor Happer is a legitimate scientist. From Wikipedia, “He is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University, and a long-term member of the JASON advisory group, where he pioneered the development of adaptive optics. From 1991-93, Happer served as director of the Department of Energy‘s Office of Science as part of the George H. W. Bush administration.” That he may soon lend his opinions on AGW at the highest levels of government science is worrisome. Some background is worth a notice.

politics-sciencewilliamhapperinterview

YouTube has a short interview, and it illuminates the core of his thinking:

Published on Oct 26, 2012

Professor of Physics at Princeton, William Happer debunks, then destroys global warming alarmism & hysteria in 7 minutes.

This appears to show testimony at a government hearing. Some of Happer’s remarks are worth noting. From the video. These are not verbatim quotes:

  • Global warming has been going on for the last 200 years.
  • There have been periods, like the last ten years when warming has ceased. In fact there’s been a little bit of cooling the past ten years.
  • We have experienced substantial cooling from the period 1942 to 1970.
  • Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have increased from about 280 to 390 parts per million over the past 100 years.
  • The combustion of fossil fuels has contributed to this increase in the atmosphere.
  • Increases in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause some warming of the Earth’s surface.
  • The key question is whether the net effect of the warming and any other effects of  CO2 will be good or bad for humanity.
  • I believe the effects of CO2 will be good.

That covers the first minute of a seven-minute clip. At this point Professor Happer has conceded that AGW exists, and he takes the assumption that he has proved his case against the dangers and forges ahead. He now transitions out of the field of physics, in which he holds a Ph.D. from Princeton.

He leaves the scientific realm entirely and begins by comparing the movement against AGW with the temperance movement of 100 years ago. Prohibition, we learn seemed like a good idea at the time, and we passed the 18th Amendment to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. That resulted in massive resistance to the laws that were put in place, and it led to an unprecedented crime wave, the beginning, he says, of organized crime in this country.

Professor Happer’s retelling of American history is accurate on that point, but it stretches a point to compare environmental activism with the Prohibition Era. In sum total, he advocates that attempts at government regulation, as it relates to AGW, will have adverse effects with no redeeming benefit. Again, this is an area where his training in physics is of little use.

He touts the benefits of increased CO2 concentration in  the atmosphere. Green plants receive a boost when more CO2 is available, which seems logical and which is borne out. The obverse is also true. Too much CO2 can kill green plants. What Professor Happer fails to tell is one of the downsides of this increased greening.

He rightly refers to a side effect of CO2 concentration in  the atmosphere, but he does not completely elaborate. With additional warming, the atmosphere will take up more water, and water vapor is a significant greenhouse gas. One concern of climate scientist is the possibility of runaway warming due to water vapor. The warmer the air, the more water vapor the more warming the more water vapor and so on. This is likely ameliorated by increased cloud formation, which will reflect sunlight, increasing the Earth’s albedo, keeping warming under control. He cites satellite data.

The Happer video was published in 2012, when his remarks regarding satellite data would have had more credibility in some circles. Not so much anymore:

Climate change doubters may have lost one of their key talking points: a particular satellite temperature dataset that had seemed to show no warming for the past 18 years.

The Remote Sensing System temperature data, promoted by many who reject mainstream climate science and especially most recently by Sen. Ted Cruz, now shows a slight of about 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit since 1998. Ground temperature measurements, which many scientists call more accurate, all show warming in the past 18 years.

“There are people that like to claim there was no warming; they really can’t claim that anymore,” said Carl Mears, the scientist who runs the Remote Sensing System temperature data tracking.

In that regard, Happer’s more recent thoughts may be more pertinent:

In July 2014 Happer said, during a CNBC interview, that “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

In December 2015 Happer was targeted in a sting operation by the environmental activist group Greenpeace; posing as consultants for a Middle Eastern oil and gas company, they asked Happer to write a report touting the benefits of rising carbon emissions. Concerned that the report might not be trusted if it was known that it was commissioned by an oil company, Happer discussed ways to obscure the funding. Happer asked that the fee be donated to the climate-change skeptic organization CO2 Coalition, who suggested he reach out to the Donors Trust, in order to keep the source of funds secret; hiding funding in this way is lawful under US law. Happer acknowledged that his report would probably not pass peer-review with a scientific journal.

In February 2017 Happer said “There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult … It will potentially harm the image of all science.”

This excerpt from Happer’s Wikipedia entry contains links to the sources.

Jews under Hitler:

“The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” said Princeton University professor William Happer while being interviewed on “Squawk Box” on CNBC. Before host Andrew Ross Sorkin could respond in incredulity, Happer went on to say, “Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”

There is scientific objectivity, and then there is scientific objectivity. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.

The Greenpeace sting:

The proposed report for the fake consultant was intended to highlight the negative aspects of the climate agreement being negotiated in Paris, he was told in the email approach. The physicist was receptive to the commission, and asked to donate his fee to the CO2 Coalition, a group founded this year to “shift the debate from the unjustified criticism of CO2 and fossil fuels”.

“My activities to push back against climate extremism are a labor of love, to defend the cherished ideals of science that have been so corrupted by the climate change cult,” he wrote in an email. He did not respond to a request from the Guardian for comment.

This is not a case of a scientist selling his soul for grant money. Taking Happer at his word that he did not pocket the payment.

Regarding climate science as a cult, a Guardian article says much the same as the excerpt at the top of this post, and it says more:

“There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult,” Happer told the Guardian. “It’s like Hare Krishna or something like that. They’re glassy-eyed and they chant. It will potentially harm the image of all science.”

Trump has previously described global warming as “very expensive … bullshit” and has signalled a continued hardline stance since taking power. He has nominated the former Texas governor Rick Perry, a staunch climate sceptic, as secretary of energy and hopes to put the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who has been one of the agency’s most hostile critics.

John Holdren, Barack Obama’s science adviser, said Happer’s outspoken opinions would be a “substantial handicap” for a job that has traditionally involved delivering mainstream scientific opinion to the heart of policymaking.

“Every national academy of science agrees that the science is solid, that climate change is real,” he said. “To call this a cult is absurd and … an insult to the people who have done this work.”

Happer also supports a controversial crackdown on the freedom of federal agency scientists to speak out about their findings, arguing that mixed messages on issues such as whether butter or margarine is healthier, have led to people disregarding all public health information.

Jesus, I am so glad he’s not blaming the Chinese.

The National Center For Science Education

The NCSE is the premier organization in this country promoting legitimate science in public schools and in the public forum. They are a 501 (c) (3) organization, deserving of your contributions. I give money to the NCSE. You should, too.

Following is a recent notice from the NCSE:

1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600 Oakland, CA 94612-2922

510.601.7203 • www.ncse.com

With the unprecedented 2016 election finally behind us, we can all turn our attention back to issues that haven’t been in the spotlight lately. Like science education. As you’ll read below, there’s plenty to be concerned about. But NCSE has not taken its eye off the ball, and our new programs are really starting to pay off. I hope that you’ll consider joining our effort to help teachers cover evolution and climate change confidently and completely.

When you consider the state of science education today, it’s easy to be disappointed, disturbed, and dismayed. Consider the following recent incidents.

  • In Alabama, the state board of education voted to continue to mandate a disclaimer about evolution in the state’s textbooks. Such disclaimers date back to 1996. But even after Alabama adopted a new set of state science standards in 2005, that described evolution as “substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence,” the board disappointingly voted to retain the scientifically unwarranted and pedagogically irresponsible message.
  • A national survey conducted by NCSE with researchers at Pennsylvania State University, which asked 1500 science teachers in public middle and high schools about their attitudes toward and practice in teaching climate change, found disturbing gaps in their knowledge. For example, less than half of the teachers realized that more than 80% of climate scientists agree that recent global warming is caused primarily by human activities.
  • In Kentucky, a young-earth creationist ministry opened a Noah’s-ark-themed amusement park. The truly  dismaying aspect of Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter was its invitation to local public schools to flout the principle of church/state separation by bringing students there on field trips, at a special discounted rate. Judging from reports received by NCSE over the years, public school excursions to creationist attractions are dismayingly common.

Dealing, and helping people to deal, with such assaults on science education is all in a day’s work for us at NCSE.

But as you know, that’s not all that we’re doing. A suite of innovative new programs is aimed at reinforcing the confidence of teachers, recruiting scientists to help, and rallying communities to support science education locally:

  • NCSEteach (http://ncseteach.com/), NCSE’s network to support climate change and evolution educators, now includes nearly 6,000 teachers, each of whom receive regular advice and resources from NCSE aimed at improving their scientific knowledge and pedagogical confidence. And they now know that NCSE will have their backs when they encounter challenges to the teaching of evolution or climate change!
  • NCSEteach’s “Scientists in the Classroom” program is bringing eager and energetic early career research scientists into middle and high school classrooms across the country to enrich students’ climate change and evolution learning experiences. Over one hundred teacher—scientist partnerships have already been formed, to the great and continuing benefit of all involved. More are in the works.
  • NCSE’s Science Booster Club project, piloting in Iowa, has provided fun, hands-on, and accurate educational activities on evolution and climate change to over 50,000 participants at local events in the last year, and raised funds to purchase science equipment for the benefit of over 3,000 local students. In 2016, the project not only exhibited at county and state fairs but also hosted a free summer science camp to provide rural low-income students with evolution education.

Are these programs working? Judging from the heartfelt expressions of thanks from teachers who have participated in NCSEteach, from teacher/scientist partners who have participated in Scientists in the Classroom, and from thousands of Iowans involved with a Science Booster Club, yes!

But to science fans like you and me, what’s even more convincing than testimonials is data. The Science Booster Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, administered a twenty-four-question science literacy survey at its public events throughout the year. And voilà:

scienceliteracycedarrapids

That’s significant—literally (p = 0.03) and figuratively. Working with a low budget but a high degree of enthusiasm, the science boosters in Cedar Rapids—and elsewhere in Iowa—are making a measurable difference.

I’m excited about these efforts, and I hope that you are, too. We want to extend these programs to communities across the country. To do so, we need your support. Your gift to NCSE will help us help teachers to present science properly.

You can donate on-line at ncse.com/join. A gift of only $500 will allow us to provide a new booster club with all the materials needed to provide hands-on evolution or climate change activities to 10,000 participants! Or consider a recurring gift of $10 or $20 per month; such donations help make our budget more predictable so we can start new projects with confidence. A gift of any size will go directly to improving science education.

By reinforcing the confidence of teachers, recruiting scientists to help, and rallying communities to support science education locally, NCSE is helping to ensure that science will be taught honestly, accurately, and confidently. Please help us to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Ann Reid

Executive Director, NCSE

 

The Age Of Embarrassment

Seventh of a series

politics-sciencealgoremeltingice

I title this series The Age Of Embarrassment to reflect on our divergence from a different era, which historians now call The Age Of Enlightenment. I mainly concentrate on foolish arguments against anthropogenic global warming (AGW), but I am not required to.

Recently I did an  overview of a book (pamphlet) by conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. The short title is How to Debate Leftists, and it deals with what the title indicates. In my review I bore down on some of Shapiro’s comments on AGW. He’s opposed. Which brings him into focus for this discussion.

From Wikipedia, “On September 21, 2015, Shapiro founded The Daily Wire and started serving as its editor-in-chief.” The result was that The Daily Wire appears to be a likely source to mine for Shapiro’s thinking on AGW. A rich vein it turns out to be:

The Most Comprehensive Assault On ‘Global Warming’ Ever

It made sense.  Knowing that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that our industrialized world is adding a large amount of it to the atmosphere on a yearly basis, I accepted the premise that this would cause global temperatures to rise.  But one day about 7 years ago, I looked at the ubiquitous graph showing the “global” temperature of the last 150 years and noticed something odd.  It was subtle, and as I found out later, disguised so that it would be overlooked.  There appeared to be a period of about 40 years between 1940 and 1980 where the global temperatures actually declined a bit.  As a data analysis expert, I could not ignore that subtle hint and began to look into it a little more.  Forty years is a long time, and while carbon dioxide concentrations were increasing exponentially over the same period, I could not overlook that this showed an unexpected shift in the correlation between global temperatures and CO2 concentrations. Thus I began to look into it a little further and here are some of the results 7 years later.

The author is an adjunct professor of physics and more. From the article:

Mike van Biezen is adjunct professor at Compton College, Santa Monica College, El Camino College, and Loyola Marymount University teaching Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, and Earth Science.

That should be impressive enough. Let’s see what Mr. Biezen has to say about AGW. There are ten points:

  1. Temperature records from around the world do not support the assumption that today’s temperatures are unusual.
  2. Satellite temperature data does not support the assumption that temperatures are rising rapidly:
  3. Current temperatures are always compared to the temperatures of the 1980’s, but for many parts of the world the 1980’s was the coldest decade of the last 100+ years:
  4. The world experienced a significant cooling trend between 1940 and 1980:
  5. Urban heat island effect skews the temperature data of a significant number of weather stations:
  6. There is a natural inverse relationship between global temperatures and atmospheric CO2levels:
  7. The CO2 cannot, from a scientific perspective, be the cause of significant global temperature changes:
  8. There have been many periods during our recent history that a warmer climate was prevalent long before the industrial revolution:
  9. Glaciers have been melting for more than 150 years
  10. “Data adjustment” is used to continue the perception of global warming:

I will go though these in turn, but the reader will need to go to the original article to get the complete wording. Start by noting that Mike van Biezen does not have a Ph.D. in any of the topics mentioned in his connection with his teaching at Loyola Marymount University. In fact, he does not appear to have a Ph.D. in any academic field. His current position is program manager for Raytheon Corporation, a company he has worked for since 1984. He is not a full time professor at Loyola. Not having a Ph.D. is not exclusionary. It is not required that Biezen have a Ph.D. for us to take his arguments seriously. All that is necessary is that he be right. He is not. Start with number 1.

Number 1. Contradictory to what Biezen says, temperature records from around the world support the conclusion that today’s temperatures are unusual, higher than in recent history.

science-globaltemperature

The plot and the following are from NASA’s climate site:

This graph illustrates the change in global surface temperature relative to 1951-1980 average temperatures. The 10 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. The year 2015 ranks as the warmest on record. (Source: NASA/GISS). This research is broadly consistent with similar constructions prepared by the Climatic Research Unit and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mr. Biezen provides his readers with misleading information:

The all-time high temperature record for the world was set in 1913, while the all-time cold temperature record was set in 1983.  By continent, all but one set their all-time high temperature record more recently than their all-time cold temperature records.

Start with the all-time high record:

On 13 September 2012 the World Meteorological Organisation disqualified the record for the highest recorded temperature, exactly 90 years after it had been established at El Azizia, Libya, with a measurement of 58°C. The official highest recorded temperature is now 56.7°C (134°F), which was measured on 10 July 1913 at Greenland Ranch, Death Valley, California, USA.

So, Biezen’s record high was recently eclipsed by a new record, which he failed to notice, but which does not matter in this discussion. Biezen’s all-time low record is still valid:

The lowest natural temperature ever directly recorded at ground level on Earth is −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184.0 K), which was at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica, on July 21, 1983. Analysis of satellite data indicated a probable temperature of around −93.2 °C (−135.8 °F; 180.0 K), in East Antarctica, on August 10, 2010; however, this reading was not confirmed by ground measurements.

After all that has been said, this turns out to be irrelevant. What matters to the global climate is the average taken over the entire planet. Individual highs and lows can occur in contrast to record high and low global averages.

Mr. Biezen has deliberately misled his readers, and Ben Shapiro, as editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, has facilitated this subterfuge by promoting Biezen’s scam.

Number 2. I’m not too sure I want to follow up on Biezen’s number 2. He uses the weasel word “rapidly,” as in “temperatures are rising rapidly” However, assuming “rapidly” means “rising,” here is a plot showing the rise, seemingly in contradiction to Biezen’s assertions:

science-surfacesatellitetemperaturemeasurments

Number 3. Here’s what Biezen has to say:

If the current temperatures are compared to those of the 1930’s one would find nothing remarkable.  For many places around the world, the 1930’s were the warmest decade of the last 100 years, including those found in Greenland.  Comparing today’s temperatures to the 1980’s is like comparing our summer temperatures to those in April, rather than those of last summer.  It is obvious why the global warming community does this, and very misleading (or deceiving).

Again Biezen is being intentionally misleading. If his deception is not intentional, then it is a result of gross incompetence. Had he been reading this blog he would have been better informed and not fallen victim to such false and misleading information. I wrote:

This is interesting. Government agencies, NASA (National Aviation and Space Administration) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), have been tweaking scientific measurements to give the false impression that global temperatures are rising. That would be scientific misconduct at best and criminal misuse of governmental authority at worst. If only it were true.

Besides already knowing the background, I picked up on an obvious clue in the last paragraph above. “[T]he hottest decade in the US was in the 1930s.” Taking first that the statement is true, how does this bear on average global  temperatures over the past hundred years or more? The world wonders.

From that point forward this item from Breitbart needs additional scrutiny. The facts may not be as interesting as Breitbart, but they have the advantage of being facts. The NOAA has posted an explanation of the process so recently assailed by that reputable scientific source, Breitbart. Here is an excerpt:

Monitoring Global and U.S. Temperatures at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

There are several factors that are important in monitoring global or U.S. temperature: quality of raw observations, length of record of observations, and the analysis methods used to transform raw data into reliable climate data records by removing existing biases from the data. An additional process takes the multiple climate data records and creates U.S. or global average temperatures.

Yes, this is the same Breitbart news outlet previously involved with Ben Shapiro. Here is a graphic from the previous posting:

science-agw-smith-and-reynolds-2002-001

Number 4. Biezen writes:

Many places around the world experienced a quite significant and persistent cooling trend to the point where scientists began to wonder if the world was beginning to slide into a new ice age period.

And more. Again, Biezen wants to point to regional trends, ignoring that the G in AGW stands for “global.”

Number 5.

It has been shown that nighttime temperatures recorded by many weather stations have been artificially raised by the expulsion of radiant heat collected and stored during the daytime by concrete and brick structures such as houses, buildings, roads, and also cars. Temperature records from around the world do not support the assumption that today’s temperatures are unusual.

For the fifth time, what Biezen says flies in the face of known fact:

Many global warming skeptics have long claimed that the urban heat island effect is so strong that it has skewed temperature measurements indicating that global warming is happening. The skeptics argue that efforts to curb global warming pollution are therefore unnecessary, citing their pet theory that surface temperature stations were swallowed by, or moved closer to, cities, thus skewing surface temperature records on the whole.

The BEST papers – which still must go through rigorous peer review – confirm what climate scientists have correctly stated previously, demonstrating without doubt that “very rural” temperature stations miles from any new “UHI” towns or cities have also recorded warming at 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last century.

Number 6.

Contrary to what would be assumed when listening to global warming banter or while watching An Inconvenient Truth, higher temperatures increase atmospheric CO2 levels and lower temperatures decrease atmospheric CO2 levels, not the other way around.  Any college freshman chemistry student knows that the solubility of CO2 decreases with increasing temperatures and thus Earth’s oceans will release large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere when the water is warmer and will absorb more CO2 when the water is colder.

And more. Really? Consider the Keeling Curve:

875px-Mauna_Loa_Carbon_Dioxide_Apr2013

In 1958 Charles David Keeling started keeping a record of CO2 measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This is about 11,000 feet above sea level, out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. That annual cycle in CO2 levels in the atmosphere is due to the greening of deciduous plants in the Northern Hemisphere on a yearly cycle. The Northern Hemisphere land mass is larger than the Southern Hemisphere mass, and has more plant growth. When trees in the north put out leaves in the spring and begin to take CO2 from the atmosphere, the level goes down. When the leaves fall a few months later the CO2 extraction slows down, and the natural introduction (decaying leaves and dead plants) of CO2 into the atmosphere continues. At no point does the Keeling Curve support Mr. Biezen’s number 6.

Number 7. He says:

The CO2 molecule is a linear molecule and thus only has limited natural vibrational frequencies, which in turn give this molecule only limited capability of absorbing radiation that is radiated from the Earth’s surface.  The three main wavelengths that can be absorbed by CO2 are 4.26 micrometers, 7.2 micrometers, and 15.0 micrometers.  Of those 3, only the 15-micrometer is significant because it falls right in range of the infrared frequencies emitted by Earth.  However, the H2O molecule which is much more prevalent in the Earth’s atmosphere, and which is a bend molecule, thus having many more vibrational modes, absorbs many more frequencies emitted by the Earth, including to some extent the radiation absorbed by CO2.

Which is true, but again misleading. Water in the atmosphere accounts for much more of the greenhouse effect than CO2. This planet’s surface (oceans and atmosphere) would be many degrees cooler without the greenhouse effect of water vapor. As a student in college I was once required to compute the difference,, and I recall it was in the order of 40 C—other sources have 60 C. See the Wikipedia article on the greenhouse effect.

The problem with Biezen’s explanation is that it ignores that water vapor in the atmosphere has been a more or less constant factor for millions of years, and certainly throughout human history on this planet. The natural mechanism of rain removes water vapor from the atmosphere as fast as it is introduced, and the atmosphere is in steady-state with respect to water. This is not so for CO2, which does not have such a mechanism for removing it. Human activity is upsetting the natural level of CO2 by removing carbon from the surface (petroleum, natural gas, and coal) and introducing it into  the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane. The greenhouse effect of these gases is added on top of the existing effect of water, and that’s what the concern is all about.

Number 8. Biezen says:

Even in the 1990 IPCC report a chart appeared that showed the medieval warm period as having had warmer temperatures than those currently being experienced.  But it is hard to convince people about global warming with that information, so five years later a new graph was presented, now known as the famous hockey stick graph, which did away with the medieval warm period.

For the record, here are two plots of Earth temperature records:

science-paleoearthtemperatures-02

 

science-paleoearthtemperatures-01

The first of the above shows temperatures going back millions of years. The second is an enlargement of the right-hand part of the first, and it shows temperatures going back a million years (and beyond). Note the spikes, representing the temperature fluctuations concurrent with the history of the ice ages. Note the more recent period, following the previous ice age. There are fluctuations over a 10,000-year period, terminating in a recent up-tic. The spike at the right margin is a projection due to the effects of AGW. The second plot fairly well covers the Medieval Period.

This one, the so-called hockey stick plot, also covers the Medieval Period.

science-agwrecenttemperaturehistory

Regardless of any report from 1990, the best information available shows the up-tic in global temperatures due to human activity. Mr. Biezen continues to be dishonest in his presentation of the argument. He is lying.

Number 9. Biezen says:

The notion of melting glaciers as prove positive that global warming is real has no real scientific basis.  Glaciers have been melting for over 150 years.  It is no secret that glaciers advanced to unprecedented levels in recent human history during the period known as the Little Ice Age.

Let’s assume without verification that the above statement regarding glacier activity is true. Whenever has Biezen lied to us before? Glaciers are melting, but their melting is not necessary to demonstrate AGW. Biezen’s post is advertised as “The Most Comprehensive Assault On ‘Global Warming’ Ever.” His 9th argument hardly fills the bill, and I will stop here without additional comment.

Number 10. Biezen complains:

After years of painstaking gathering of data, and relentless graphing of that data, I discovered that I was not looking at the originally gathered data, but data that had been “adjusted” for what was deemed “scientific reasons.”

And more. Again, this is another issues that has already been addressed in a prior post, and Biezen completely ignores the facts of the matter. Here is what I had to say before:

Oceans make up more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, and NOAA is increasing its attention to sea surface temperatures. In years past temperatures were measured by pulling a bucket of water from the sea and measuring its temperature. Sea surface temperatures are now routinely obtained by measuring water at ships’ engine coolant intake. What was found when the two measurements were compared was that the bucket method produces lower temperatures than the intake method. In years past temperatures had been measured with a bias toward cooler rather than warmer. The plots show what happened when the measurement bias was removed. The heavy-line plot, showing a greater temperature rise, was replaced by the lighter-line plot, showing less warming with time. The plots are linked to a paper published by Smith and Reynolds, for those interested in reading the complete background.

If Breitbart is to believed, the NOAA has been caught fixing the data to make a warming trend apparent. In this case, the opposite has occurred. None of this is mentioned in the Breitbart news item. We can imagine Breitbart felt it unwieldy to burden its unsophisticated readers with a load of fact.

If these were the only data corrections, the evidence for global warming would be undercut. There is more. The NOAA also adjusted for bias caused by a shift from measuring temperatures in the afternoon to measuring temperatures in the morning. Obviously, temperature measurements are going to be higher in the afternoon than in the morning. The plots show a shift in the percentage of stations from afternoon to morning. See the following plots.

An associated plot, repeated from above, was included:

science-agw-smith-and-reynolds-2002-001

In his book, How to Debate Leftists, Ben Shapiro complains about how liberals (scientists?) put down people like Biezen (and Shapiro), who dispute AGW:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.

[Page 24]

Forget about his numbers 1 and 2. Biezen is corrupt. He is lying. By implication, so is Shapiro. With his stewardships of Breitbart and The Daily Wire, Shapiro has abetted the promulgation of lies against legitimate science and the people who support it.

People ask me (maybe they do not) why I am a liberal. My response has to be that one reason, and one only, is that being liberal gets me as far away as possible with what has become a political philosophy underpinned by corrupt thinking. In my younger years I became disgusted with conservative politics, because every time I saw a politician standing in the school house door blocking the entry of a black child, that politician was avowedly conservative. Ever time I learned the identity of racists who killed four black children in an Alabama church or murdered civil rights advocates, those people were avowed conservatives. More recently whenever I have seen a politician promoting the use of tax money and government authority to proselytize for religion, that politician has been an avowed conservative. My personal study of opposition to the modern science of biological evolution has revealed that conservative politicians and those who profess themselves to be politically conservative are the most inclusive of this movement. More recently the conservative contingent in this country has elected a politician who has demonstrated himself to be a habitual liar, and conservatives find no problem with this, even denying he has lied.

What was in the past a political ideal of limited government, individual freedom, and fiscal responsibility, has taken on the baggage of of the lowest levels of American society. Opposition to the science behind anthropological global warming is just the tip of the iceberg.

A pox on your house. Wallow in your ignorance. My aim is to promote your misery as long as I can draw a breath.

And may Jesus have mercy on your souls.

Debating Lefty

howtodebateleftestsanddestroythem

Truth be told, I was searching for a different book on Amazon when I found this one by conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. And what a deal! Only $0.99 in Kindle. The full title is How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: 11 Rules for Winning the Argument, but you are allowed to abbreviate. I recommend just How to Debate Leftists.

But wait. That’s what I said to myself, “But wait!” If Amazon is selling it for 99 cents, it’s possible all 20 pages (as advertised on Amazon) can be found somewhere for free on the Internet. Seek, and ye shall find. It is available in  PDF for free, but running to 34 pages. Here’s a link.

And here’s a review.

My overall take: Shapiro is dead on in his approach. If your aim is to win the argument, get in the first punch and hit hard. That’s Shapiro’s Rule #2:

Rule #2: Hit First. Don’t take the punch first. Hit first. Hit hard. Hit where it counts. Mike Tyson used to say, “Everybody has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”

[Page 12]

As advertised, Shapiro lays out eleven tactics you will find most helpful in winning an argument:

  • Rule #1: Walk Toward the Fire.
  • Rule #2: Hit First.
  • Rule #3: Frame Your Opponent.
  • Rule #4: Frame the debate.
  • Rule #5: Spot Inconsistencies in the Left’s Arguments.
  • Rule #6: Force Leftists to Answer Questions.
  • Rule #7: Do Not Get Distracted.
  • Rule #8: You Don’t Have To Defend People on Your Side.
  • Rule #9: If You Don’t Know Something, Admit It.
  • Rule #10: Let The Other Side Have Meaningless Victories.
  • Rule #11: Body Language Matters.

I am impressed that somebody barely 30 years old has reinvented concepts I long considered personal secrets of my own. But some of them can use explanation.

Walk toward the fire. Don’t avoid the debate. Look forward to it and be prepared. Seek out the fight.

Frame your opponent. Reinvent your opponent into somebody you can beat. If you debating, for example, President-elect Donald Trump, establish him as a person who gropes women before he gets a chance to remind everybody he has just been elected president.

Frame the debate. Establish what the debate will be about before your opponent can cast it in a form you will be unable to assail.

You don’t have to  defend people on your side. I know that one well. Many are the liberals and progressives I would rather not have brought up when I  am having a “friendly” conversation with a right wing nut case. The best thing to do when your opponents brings up a stinking corpse is to immediately throw the body under the bus and move on. This is no time for misplaced loyalty.

The business about body language is something I  have never been  able to master. When somebody is arguing against the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW), it is impossible for me to  wipe that shit-eating grin off my face.

These are all good things to  know and sound approaches to take, if your aim is to win the debate only. If you aim is to educate and  to put over something of substance, then you need to get serious and take a more pragmatic approach. I’ve done that, as well.

Knowing Ben Shapiro’s approach to wining arguments with liberals, it is additionally worthwhile to appreciate why he needs to use this approach. The fact is, many of the causes he advocates have little or no worth. An example:

When you’re discussing global warming, for example, the proper question is not whether man is causing global warming. The question is whether man can fix global warming – a question to which the universally-acknowledged answer is essentially no, unless we are willing to revert to the pre-industrial age.

[Page 24]

A cold reading of this gives pause to wonder whether Shapiro believes AGW has no basis or whether it is real, and there is nothing we can/should do about it. A video clip from October 2015 seems to show him saying he does not believe it is real.

[After saying that certain aspects of AGW have been  debunked] The idea that the hockey stick graph is anything remotely resembling reality… The hockey stick graph shows that over the last century, and it’s too short a period of time to do climate change statistics like this, it shows that over the last century, century and a half that the climate, along with carbon emissions, go like that [sweeps his hand across and up], and it’s a hockey stick.

The problem is that’s all falsified data. There have been multiple problems with the measurement data, as far as global warming.

He goes on to say this is the reason it’s called “climate change” and not “global warming” now. He asserts the planet has not been warming for the past 15 years.

Despite what Ben Shapiro is trying to get across in his talk, the problem is not that the data have been falsified, and the problem is not that the planet has not been warming. The problem is that Ben Shapiro is lying to his audience. My guess is he has been reading some of his own stuff.

He was in charge of Breitbart.com from 2012 (when Andrew Breitbart died) until March of last year. It was from this period I mined the following:

I have no record of who posted it, but a link showed up on Facebook:

Scientists at two of the world’s leading climate centres – NASA and NOAA – have been caught out manipulating temperature data to overstate the extent of the 20th century “global warming”.

The evidence of their tinkering can clearly be seen at Real Science, where blogger Steven Goddard has posted a series of graphs which show “climate change” before and after the adjustments.

When the raw data is used, there is little if any evidence of global warming and some evidence of global cooling. However, once the data has been adjusted – ie fabricated by computer models –  20th century ‘global warming’ suddenly looks much more dramatic.

This is especially noticeable on the US temperature records. Before 2000, it was generally accepted – even by climate activists like NASA’s James Hansen – that the hottest decade in the US was the 1930s.

The excerpt from Breitbart is noticeable wrong, as I mentioned at the time:

This is interesting. Government agencies, NASA (National Aviation and Space Administration) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), have been tweaking scientific measurements to give the false impression that global temperatures are rising. That would be scientific misconduct at best and criminal misuse of governmental authority at worst. If only it were true.

Besides already knowing the background, I picked up on an obvious clue in the last paragraph above. “[T]he hottest decade in the US was in the 1930s.” Taking first that the statement is true, how does this bear on average global  temperatures over the past hundred years or more? The world wonders.

From that point forward this item from Breitbart needs additional scrutiny. The facts may not be as interesting as Breitbart, but they have the advantage of being facts. The NOAA has posted an explanation of the process so recently assailed by that reputable scientific source, Breitbart. Here is an excerpt:

Monitoring Global and U.S. Temperatures at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

There are several factors that are important in monitoring global or U.S. temperature: quality of raw observations, length of record of observations, and the analysis methods used to transform raw data into reliable climate data records by removing existing biases from the data. An additional process takes the multiple climate data records and creates U.S. or global average temperatures.

And more. Follow the link and get back to me if you still have questions.

Shapiro’s response to fiery criticisms of his stance on AGW and also his stance on a number of other issues is to note the quality of his attackers. Continuing the section quoted from the book above:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt. Sarah Palin is supposedly stupid; Mitt Romney is supposedly mean; Dick Cheney is supposedly corrupt. Take away those lines of attack and watch the discomfort set in.

[Page 24]

Yes, it really is bad form to start calling names and making wild accusations in response to a philosophical affront. In a debate, in a dispute over a point of fact, the person who throws an insult is revealing he has no facts. However…

Shapiro says, “As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.” The last two are way out of line, but number 1 is a valid argument. If you are arguing with a person who says the Earth is flat, then, “You’re stupid” might be an appropriate response. I run into into this at times:

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.

I have highlighted the operative text. Because Dan’s information was ridiculously false, and I pointed this out, I was being condescending and sarcastic. Bad form? When is being honest and forthright being condescending and sarcastic?

Along the lines of stupid, and corrupt, consider Shapiro’s own conduct, not in a face to face debate, but in his description of people who disagree with him.

The problem is that’s all falsified data.

The people who don’t agree with him, the scientist, are lying. They are falsifying data. So much for acceptable etiquette in public discourse.

Rounding out, there is more. By now you might not expect this, but Shapiro is not a supporter of Donald Trump. For this he has come under considerable personal attack from, presumably, Trump supporters:

In May 2016 New York Magazine reported: “Shapiro…has increasingly found himself targeted by the so-called alt-right movement, a loose conglomeration of online personalities — many if not most of them anonymous — currently devoted to tweeting and posting their support for Donald Trump and attacking those who disagree, often in racist and anti-Semitic ways. They have been denigrating Shapiro as a “pussy,” a “cuck,” a “Jew” and a “kike.””

In an article in National Review, Shapiro wrote: “I’ve experienced more pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism since coming out against Trump’s candidacy than at any other time in my political career. Trump supporters have threatened me and other Jews who hold my viewpoint. They’ve blown up my e-mail inbox with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They greeted the birth of my second child by calling for me, my wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber.”

An article in The Washington Post quoted an Anti-Defamation League report that “focused in particular on the anti-Semitic tweets aimed at journalists, frequently those whose writing about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has displeased a large contingent of Twitter users who band together to attack these journalists online. The words most commonly found in the bios of the people who post these anti-Semitic attacks? “Trump,” “nationalist,” conservative,” “American” and “white…The target of the most anti-Semitic tweets, by far, was Ben Shapiro, a conservative writer who formerly worked for Breitbart and who does not support Trump.”  Shapiro stated “I’m honored because being targeted by mouth-breathing idiots is a compliment – you know you’re doing something right if people who tweet pictures of gas chambers on the day of your child’s birth find you unacceptable as a human being.”  He also said: “As the fellow who receives hook-nosed Jew memes more than any other journalist on the planet, I don’t believe that people ought to be suspended or banned from Twitter or Facebook for posting vile garbage, so long as it isn’t openly advocating violence. I make a habit of retweeting these pieces of human feces in order to mock their stupidity and to expose the fact that people like this exist.”

Apparently there is not a massive amount of  personal honor going to waste on the political  front these days.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Update: I fixed some flawed language in this posting.

Sixth of a series

science-agw-scottadamsmodel

This keeps coming up. Makes my day. Dan Kuttner likes to jump on items supporting the denial of AGW (anthropogenic global warming). For that I am thankful.

This time it relates to a post on the Scott Adams blog. Scott Adams, if you recall, is the cartoonist/commentator who has for over two decades ragged American corporate structure and our idiosyncratic social fabric. No scientist, himself, he likes to take on AGW, which he appears to doubt. Here’s the item in question:

SCOTT ADAMS’ BLOG

I keep hearing people say that 97% of climate scientists are on the same side of the issue. Critics point out that the number is inflated, but we don’t know by how much. Persuasion-wise, the “first offer” of 97% is so close to 100% that our minds assume the real number is very high even if not exactly 97%.

That’s good persuasion. Trump uses this method all the time. The 97% anchor is so strong that it is hard to hear anything else after that. Even the people who think the number is bogus probably think the real figure is north of 90%.

But is it? I have no idea.

So today’s challenge is to find a working scientist or PhD in some climate-related field who will agree with the idea that the climate science models do a good job of predicting the future.

Notice I am avoiding the question of the measurements. That’s a separate question. For this challenge, don’t let your scientist conflate the measurements or the basic science of CO2 with the projections. Just ask the scientist to offer an opinion on the credibility of the models only.

Remind your scientist that as far as you know there has never been a multi-year, multi-variable, complicated model of any type that predicted anything with useful accuracy. Case in point: The experts and their models said Trump had no realistic chance of winning.

Your scientist will fight like a cornered animal to conflate the credibility of the measurements and the basic science of CO2 with the credibility of the projection models. Don’t let that happen. Make your scientist tell you that complicated multi-variable projections models that span years are credible. Or not.

Then report back to me in the comments here or on Twitter at @ScottAdamsSays.

This question is a subset of the more interesting question of how non-scientists can judge the credibility of scientists or their critics. My best guess is that professional scientists will say that complicated prediction models with lots of variables are not credible. Ever. So my prediction is that the number of scientists who ***fully*** buy into climate science predictions is closer to zero than 97%.

But I’m willing to be proved wrong. I kind of like it when that happens. So prove me wrong.

I pasted as much as I consider pertinent on the possibility it will be withdrawn in the future.

As you can see above, I posted a response to Dan’s posting on Facebook, inquiring whether he felt safe in venturing into this wilderness again. This considering his performance in a prior exchange:

In a previous conversation Dan made some claims related to atmospheric science. One went something like this (I do not have the exact quote), “Carbon dioxide weighs [some number] more than the rest of the atmosphere.” That statement struck me as odd to the extreme. The German physicists Wolfgang Pauli is noted as having said something like, “Das is nicht einmal falsch,” that is not even false (wrong).” It related to something so absurd that it went beyond not being true. Dan’s statement regarding carbon dioxide and the atmosphere is such a statement. Some explanation.

Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound, not a physical object. The atmosphere is a physical object. Any statement comparing a non-physical object with a physical object is beyond false. In this case there was no way for me to respond to Dan’s statement. The conversation unraveled from there.

So Dan has asked, “Did you answer his challenge?” I responded that I am in the process now, which is what this is. I need to answer Scott Adams’ challenge.

But first, what is his challenge? That may take some deciphering. The critical language is:

So today’s challenge is to find a working scientist or PhD in some climate-related field who will agree with the idea that the climate science models do a good job of predicting the future.

A trivial response to Adams’ challenge would be to find “a working scientist…” who will naively proclaim the models do a good job of predicting the future. I will not go that route. The matter concerning AGW is worth more attention than that. It is also worth more attention than Adams’ challenge. As stated, it would be impossible to address. For example, we would all have to agree on the meaning of the word “good” used to assess the quality of the models. Everything breaks down from there.

If Scott Adams will propose a challenge with more precise, even lucid, wording, it would be something everybody could work with. Something that would have to go would be any requirement that a model predict frequency and severity of hurricanes, future drought or flooding with great accuracy. Once again, an unquantifiable adjective is “great.”

Scott Adams’ challenge is really a phony challenge. Less than what he demands would be adequate. All Scott Adams needs to do to challenge the reality of AGW is to refute demonstrate one of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide, methane, and other such gases do not trap heat from solar radiation in the atmosphere.
  • The concentration of these gases is not increasing and has not been steadily increasing for the past 50 years and more.
  • Human activity is not contributing significantly to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Specifically, human activity is not responsible for the increase of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere represented by the Keeling Curve.
  • The temperature of the combination atmosphere and hydrosphere is not increasing and has not been increasing for the past 50 years and more.
  • Events beyond human control are alone responsible for the warming.

An additional point that is not part of the science behind AGW is the following:

  • The increase in global temperatures will have little or no impact on human well-being.

And all of this has nothing to do with models.

Update

As I was in the process of working this up, additional comments came in. Here is one:

David Varner The idea of constructing models without measurements sounds like something Dilbert’s pointy haired boss might have come up with.

As a retired scientist and engineer I  take exception to David’s remark. Properly, constructing a model does not rely on measurements. I have constructed models, computer simulations, that presuppose initial conditions. The idea of the model is to determine the consequence of a set of initial conditions, the measurements.

If by “measurements” David means measurements of the atmosphere and such to assess the validity of models, then he has not been keeping up with the science. Atmospheric/oceanographic models are constantly assessed against progressive measurements.

Update:

Dan posted a comment on the Scott Adams blog:

I challenge your basic assumptions.

1. The term “Fossil Fuels” was coined by John D. Rockefeller. He wanted to emphasize the supposed scarcity of oil in order to inflate its price.

2. Many old “dry” oil wells are filling up FROM THE BOTTOM. There’s evidence going at least back to Immanuel Velikovsky that petroleum has a non-organic origin, probably low in the Earth’s mantle.

What is to be said of this? I hope it is meant as a joke.

  1. What difference does it make who coined the term and for what reason? Petroleum, natural gas, and coal are fossil fuels. Fossil is a well-defined scientific term.
  2. Citing evidence going back to Immanuel Velikovsky is like citing evidence going back to Miguel de Cervantes. Does anybody care to follow up on that?

This post, and the ones in this series are titled The Age Of Embarrassment for a reason. Let’s not take that as a challenge and try to outdo each other.

The Fractured Portfolio

A continuation

politics-sciencealexjonesclimatechange-02

This came up in a previous post (see the link above). As all should know by now, Alex Jones is Texas’ own authority on dealings devious and facts spurious. On Saturday The Alex Jones Channel featured an interview with wannabe scientist Timothy Ball, Ph.D. Ball is a retired professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg. From Wikipedia:

Ball rejects the scientific opinion on climate change, stating that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas.

Before I dive into some of Dr. Ball’s major absurdities, I want to lay out a partial transcript of the interview by Millie Weaver for infowars.com:

Weaver: Reporting for infowars.com I’m here in Phoenix, Arizona, where just this last weekend the Freedom Force International group held a conference here on the subject matter of climate change and the inconvenient lie that’s being perpetrated by the mainstream media and other people, such as Al Gore, that man is responsible for climate change and that we need to hurry up and take action in this. Well, Donald Trump just met with Al Gore, and we have all these mainstream media leftist outlets touting that Donald Trump is going to veer from  his campaign pledges and keep some of these regulations on the basis of man made climate change.

[There is a short clip of Al Gore discussing his conversation with Donald Trump. Weaver continues, aiming to refute any implication that Trump will back off on climate change.]

Weaver: Well, I have information that counters that, and I just met with the man this weekend named Timothy Ball that spoke at that conference, who is scheduled to meet with Donald Trump’s VP. This is very important because this man has evidence that counters the policy opinions of Al Gore. So let’s go ahead and hear what he has to say.

You’re scheduled to meet with Trump’s upside advisor soon. Isn’t that correct?

Ball: Yeah.Well, one of the things that… About 25 years ago I appeared before Congress on the climate issue, and I was also invited to speak at a place called the Competitive Enterprise Institute. I met Myron Ebell and then at the Heartland or climate conferences or around. I met him several times. About a month before the election date he was notified by the Trump people that he was going to be put in charge of deregulating EPA, so and was invited to go and meet with Myron in Washington on the 12th of December and will lay out the issues, and he knows a lot of it. But one of the things I think I can contribute is providing his ways of explaining to the politicians and to the public the complexity.

When you burn ethanol, which of course is plant-produced, and the government was telling people when you burn ethanol there is less CO2 produced than from fossil fuel. Not true. It’s simply not true. When you burn ethanol you get far more CO2 produced, okay. But what they said was, well growing the plants takes CO2 out of the atmosphere, so we’re giving them a net taker. But with the actual car going down the road, so the ethanol car’s putting out far more CO2 than the fossil fuel car.

And of course the government shifted the subsidies to corn-producers, that they got far more money if they produced the corn, and it went to the ethanol plan than if it went to the food plan. That led to a massive increase in basic food costs around the world. And I’ll show you how that links. When corn is basic and the price went up, all the other basic food supplies went up. That led to food riots in Egypt. OK. Obama said, “Oh no, that’s Arab spring. That’s democracy.” No it wasn’t. It was the food riot. But Obama, of course, said we’ve got to get to get rid of Hosny Mubarak, because he wanted to put the Muslim Brotherhood in. So he exploited the situation that his own policies in the corn market had created. But this is the kind of clever and devious games that they use.

Weaver: What are some of the health or environmental effects that these supposed green energy projects can do?

Ball: What did the alternative energies, of course, are in terms of the bird kills, the bat kills, the environmental damage, the noise that they produce, the footprint. And in order to replace a 1000 megawatt coal station you need acres and acres of land. The turbines need to be spread out because they interfere with each other. If you go by a wind farm there is always one turbine turning. That’s being driven by electricity off the grid, because you need that energy to to get the other wind turbines started. Okay. Plus once you’re using wind power as a source of energy into the grid, you can only use about twelve percent of your total energy production from  wind, or solar, because if it disappears, the system will draw on the grid, so the grid has to pick up that power demand instantly. So what people don’t know is when the wind turbines are turning, the coal plant is also running. So again this goes back to this problem of doing proper cost-benefit analysis. And that is just missing in every phase of this whole environmental scam. And that needs to be looked at. And particularly if it’s a project like the wind project, the government don’t want  to hear about the problems with it. They suppress all of that. But there are so many side effects. One of the things that concern me for a long time is noise pollution.

At this point Ball goes on to discuss what he considers to be more matters more critical than CO2 emissions. These include the real issues of flooding and droughts and clean water. He agrees the Flint, Michigan, water crises is real and needs to be addressed. He assures us that the Trump administration is not going to dismantle the EPA. The EPA is still needed, but it needs to be refocused [my words]. Then he concludes with a final shot at CO2 emissions.

Ball: The real issues have been pushed aside by these phony issues. And they talk about fake news, this is fake science. But for a political agenda.

Ball is a real college professor, having taught at a real university. His problem is that he wants to proclaim outside his field of expertise. I am reminded by others, and I agree, that it is not who is saying something that counts, but whether what is said is true. In Ball’s case, a lot of what he says is outside his professional field and also is not true.

Let’s examine what Ball has to say about burning ethanol in an automobile engine. Some Skeptical Analysis is in order. I have college degrees in engineering and physics, and I have taken courses in thermodynamics, chemistry, and physical chemistry. That said, I am going to pull on the Internet for my information here. We all know how reliable Internet sources are. Here is one:

The energy of ethanol relative to gasoline
A. 76,000 = BTU of energy in a gallon of ethanol
B. 116,090 = BTU of energy in a gallon of gasoline
C. .655 = 2/3 = GGE of energy in a gallon of ethanol. A / B. (GGE =energy in a gal. of gas)
D. 1.53 = Gallons of ethanol with the energy of 1 gallon of gasoline. D = B / A.

Let’s take the above as true. I have another source from the United States government that agrees much with those numbers. Yes, your mileage burning  ethanol will be much lower. So, what does that matter? Examine the carbon impact.

Here is gasoline. Assume the octane molecule:

C8H18

Here is ethanol:

CH3CH2OH

Here I am going to make a wild assumption. The density of the liquid form is proportional to the molecular weight. That gives:

Gasoline → 8 carbon atoms
Methanol → 2 carbon atoms

Burning a gallon of gasoline injects four carbon atoms into the atmosphere (in the form of CO2) for every  one carbon atom injected into the atmosphere for a gallon of methanol. But gasoline gives you more miles per gallon. Even so, methanol wins. Where is Dr. Ball getting his numbers? Is Inforwars.com a fake news site?

There’s more. Dr. Ball is shown saying:

But what they said was, well growing the plants takes CO2 out of the atmosphere, so we’re giving them a net taker. But with the actual car going down the road, so the ethanol car’s putting out far more CO2 than the fossil fuel car.

Tadaa! The car running on ethanol is putting more CO2 into the air than the car running on gasoline (not true). Therefore the car running on ethanol is worse. Dr. Ball has either slipped a gear in his thinking, or else he is trying to pull a switch on his listeners. In the case of ethanol, all the carbon the car is putting into the atmosphere was just weeks earlier pulled out of the atmosphere. There is no net introduction of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Others have pointed out to me that ethanol production is not carbon neutral. Restated: planting, raising, harvesting the crops and producing ethanol from the crops requires the use of fossil fuel to the extent of rendering ethanol a net gain in CO2 (more CO2 into the atmosphere). What needs to happen for ethanol fuel to be carbon neutral is for all the fuel used by farm machinery and all the energy used in the production of ethanol from  the crops be carbon neutral. The process must be able to rely solely on its own product. Can this be done?

An examination of Internet sources would confirm that producing ethanol from corn is not carbon neutral. An item from Scientific American magazine is typical of findings:

California regulators, trying to assess the true environmental cost of corn ethanol, are poised to declare that the biofuel cannot help the state reduce global warming.

As they see it, corn is no better – and might be worse – than petroleum when total greenhouse gas emissions are considered.

Such a declaration, to be considered later this week by the California Air Resources Board, would be a considerable blow to the corn-ethanol industry in the United States.

Corn growing has been subsidized for more than 20 years by the mandate to include ethanol in gasoline fuel mixes. This subsidy is not likely to go away soon, due the powerful lobbying interests of regions producing corn.

This is not scientific evidence against ethanol fuel, however. With politics out of the picture, the ethanol solution may still be viable. Brazil is significant:

Brazil is considered to have the world’s first sustainable biofuels economy and the biofuel industry leader, a policy model for other countries; and its sugarcane ethanol “the most successful alternative fuel to date.” However, some authors consider that the successful Brazilian ethanol model is sustainable only in Brazil due to its advanced agri-industrial technology and its enormous amount of arable land available; while according to other authors it is a solution only for some countries in the tropical zone of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

The significant drawback to ethanol production as a substitute for fossil fuels (gasoline) is the ecological impact of farming. Certainly growing corn on farm acreage and then using only the kernels to produce fuel is inefficient. Corn stalks and leaves represent a significant load of carbon that is removed from the atmosphere while the plant is growing and then returned to the atmosphere when these parts are used as animal food, burned, or composted. Using farm  land to produce fuel instead of food impacts the ability of the planet to feed its human population.

The good news is that it’s not necessary to grow crops in order to remove carbon from the atmosphere to produce fuel for cars, planes, and trains. While nothing can compare to the efficiency of thousands of square miles of green leaves soaking up sunlight and carbon  dioxide while no human hand is laid upon the process, other means will become necessary in future economies. They are being developed. Here is one:

A pilot project to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into pellets that can either be used as fuel or stored underground for later has been launched by a Vancouver-based start-up called Carbon Engineering.

While the test facility has so far only extracted 10 tonnes of CO2 since its launch back in June, its operations will help inform the construction of a $200 million commercial plant in 2017, which is expected to extract 1 million tonnes per day – the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road every year. It plans to start selling CO2-based synthetic fuels by 2018.

Required for consideration is the total cost of such an operation. What needs to be considered are:

  • Initial construction (total costs)
  • Maintenance of the machinery
  • Cost of operating the process (total cost)
  • Environmental footprint of the process

But this post is about Dr. Ball and his apparently off-track remarks about AGW (anthropogenic global warming). Dr. Ball boasts of his engagements at such scientific confabs as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, and his association with the likes of Myron Ebell. That’s a bit of sarcasm, in case you missed it.

The Heartland Institute I have covered previously:

A big deal with Heartland Institute was global warming. I highlighted the phrase because, as all know by now, it has a special meaning. The term has come to represent the apparent fact that human activities are causing a precipitous warming of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. More specifically, the burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to more effectively trap solar energy. The consequences range from melting of polar ice, which will result in a devastating rise in sea levels—not so devastating maybe to Orlando, Florida, which promises to become a seaside resort—to possible crop damaging climate change. Mitigating action seems to indicate reduced use of fossil fuels, an action opposed to those who own stock in the industry.

A lot of science gets lost in organizations such as Heartland. Here is what fell out of some documents pilfered from Heartland’s inner sanctum:

Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.-Confirmation that Charles G. Koch Foundation is again funding Heartland Institute’s global warming disinformation campaign. [Update: Apparently even the Koch brothers think the Heartland Institute’s climate denial program is too toxic to fund. On Wednesday, Koch confirmed that it did not cut a check for the $200K mentioned in the strategy memo after all. A statement released on KochFacts.com and the charleskochfoundationfacts.org states that “…the Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.”]

The Competitive Enterprise Institute also seems little concerned with real science:

In May 2006, CEI’s global warming policy activities attracted attention as it embarked upon an ad campaign with two television commercials. These ads promote carbon dioxide as a positive factor in the environment and argue that global warming is not a concern. One ad focuses on the message that CO2 is misrepresented as a pollutant, stating that “it’s essential to life. We breathe it out. Plants breathe it in… They call it pollution. We call it life.” The other states that the world’s glaciers are “growing, not melting… getting thicker, not thinner.” It cites Science articles to support its claims. However, the editor of Science stated that the ad “misrepresents the conclusions of the two cited Science papers… by selective referencing”. The author of the articles, Curt Davis, director of the Center for Geospatial Intelligence at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said CEI was misrepresenting his previous research to inflate their claims. “These television ads are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate”, Davis said.

Additionally, Myron Ebell’s science aversion is well  noted:

Myron Ebell is Director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. He is also the chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a loose coalition formed in 1997 which presents itself as “focused on dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis”. In these organizations, Ebell has been central in promoting climate change denial, distributing his views to the media and politicians.[Ebell, who is not a scientist, has been described as a climate change skeptic, a climate contrarian and a climate change denier.

In September 2016, Ebell was appointed by then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to lead his transition team for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This last part is something many find deeply disturbing. Whether Mr. Trump’s coming administration decides to run athwart modern science may depend on whether some level heads get his ear.

Timothy Ball’s scientific standing is another matter. Although Ball has a Ph.D. in climatology, he has never worked in the field. He is a scientist in the sense that geography is a science. Geography rightly deals with human populations and the effects of climate and terrain. This means his comments regarding the economics of ethanol production are within his realm. Clearly his thinking and his commentary regarding the science behind AGW remain contrary to known fact, allowing us to classify him as a fake news source. Some of the controversies surrounding Dr. Ball indicate a person not dedicated to scientific rigor and matters of fact. Again from Wikipedia:

Ball claimed, in an article written for the Calgary Herald, that he was the first person to receive a PhD in climatology in Canada, and that he had been a professor for 28 years, claims he also made in a letter to then-prime minister of Canada, Paul Martin. Dan Johnson, a professor of environmental science at the University of Lethbridge, countered his claim on April 23, 2006, in a letter to the Herald stating that when Ball received his PhD in 1983, “Canada already had PhDs in climatology,” and that Ball had only been a professor for eight years, rather than 28 as he had claimed. Johnson, however, counted only Ball’s years as a full professor. In the letter, Johnson also wrote that Ball “did not show any evidence of research regarding climate and atmosphere.”

In response, Ball filed a lawsuit against Johnson. Ball’s representation in the case was provided by Fraser Milner Casgrain. Johnson’s statement of defense was provided by the Calgary Herald, which stated that Ball “…never had a reputation in the scientific community as a noted climatologist and authority on global warming,” and that he “…is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist.”[45] In the ensuing court case, Ball acknowledged that he had only been a professor for eight years, and that his doctorate was not in climatology but rather in geography,[39] and subsequently withdrew the lawsuit on June 8, 2007.

In February 2011, it was reported that climate scientist Andrew J. Weaver had sued Ball over an article Ball wrote for the Canada Free Press, an article which was later retracted. In the article, Ball described Weaver as lacking a basic understanding of climate science and stated, incorrectly, that Weaver would not be involved in the production of the IPCC’s next report because he had concerns about its credibility.[49][50] Ball contended that the lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt to silence him because of his skeptical position on global warming, despite Ball’s own 2006 defamation lawsuit against Dan Johnson.

Ball found himself at the center of controversy again later that year, when he told an anonymous interviewer that Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, “should be in the State Pen, not Penn State,” due to Mann’s role in the Climatic Research Unit email controversy. Mann then sued Ball for libel, and stated that he was seeking punitive damages and for the article to be removed from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s website, on which it was originally published. James Taylor, senior fellow of the Heartland Institute, defended Ball, arguing that what he had said about Mann was merely a “humorous insult.” Fred Singer made a similar argument in a 2012 article, saying that what Ball had written was written as a joke and that Mann was “improvidently” suing him.

The positions and statements of Dr. Ball are representative of those I see from various global warming deniers. Here is a snippet of a conversation with somebody terribly interested in AGW but owning nary a clue regarding the associated facts:

Daniel G. Kuttner I’ll concede the context, I should have said “as I recall.” I will correct the above comment.
You must be kidding, though, about CO2 not being heavier than air. You’ve used a CO2 extinguisher, right? You have to know molecular weight, right?
Here’s a part of the calculation (didn’t want to buy the paper):
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/…/JZ062i003p00351/epdf…

In any case, most of the air at sea level is composed of mostly N, about 15% O2, and only about 1% being other gases. Its average molecular weight is 28
A molecule of CO2 has a molecular weight of 12 + (16)2 = 44. So CO2 is about 1.4x the weight of air.
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/molecular-weight-gas…
Your rebuttal?

Like · Reply · December 3 at 5:55pm

My rebuttal was this:

John Blanton Dan, I do not deny that CO2 is denser than air. However, you did not say, in your argument, that CO2 is denser. You said that CO2 is so many times heavier than the rest of the atmosphere. It’s not the same thing, and it’s not the kind of statement you want to make when arguing a technical point. Apparently your field has been in communication, and taking care what you say is a big part of communicating clearly. You are a non scientist, and you are arguing technical points with scientists, including me. You need to have at least as much knowledge about the subject as the scientists in order to make a successful argument. I get the impression you are pulling text from questionable sources and passing it off as knowledge. You need to pull from reliable sources if you hope to make headway in this kind of discussion.

Like · Reply · December 3 at 6:40pm

Then the conversation began to get really weird:

Daniel G. Kuttner I never said it was denser. I still don’t. It is heavier. My link shows that.
Density is a function of altitude and temperature.
Part of my proof also involves a thing called Partial Pressure. At altitudes of “greenhouse” effect, CO2 is less abundant, as is Oxygen and other heavier gases. This is one reason why humans require supplemental oxygen at altitude. CO2 is heavier than O2, so it’s even less abundant at altitude, resulting in a lower partial pressure of the CO2.
Just add the molecular weights in the table I linked.
Gosh, I’m beginning to sympathize with that religious guy. Can you please stay on topic and not change the argument each time? Maybe even answer a question or two?
Try to stay off the ad hominem, too. Calling someone a “non scientistt” and oozing condescension while YOU’re being non scientific doesn’t bolster your argument, nor refute theirs.
OK.. You get the last word.

And I did get the last word, but only because at some later point Dan and I  both concluded that further discussion was pointless. Dan came back with additional comments after I had this to say:

John Blanton Dan, calling somebody a non scientist is not ad hominin. It is not an insult. It’s just a fact of life in your case. You never made a serious study of science, and you never obtained a degree in science. I’m merely pointing out this fact as a precaution you need to take when wading into a discussion of matters scientific with one who does have considerable training and experience in the field. When you make these kinds of remarks, such as the ones regarding weight, density, carbon dioxide, the mixing of gases in the atmosphere, the problem becomes apparent. Your discussion of concentration variation illustrates you are not acquainted with principles of gaseous diffusion, for example. It’s high school science. As a result, your assertions regarding the distribution of carbon dioxide are completely wrong, and undermine the remainder of your argument.

Like · Reply · December 4 at 3:43pm

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.
This has not been a learned debate or even a discussion, in my book. Sad, actually, because I’m convinced you DO have the capability. It just appears you have an agenda you accept, and won’t accept anything that conflicts with or undermines that belief.
That’s not Science, that’s Scientism; a religion, of which there are many practitioners on the talking-head box.
Your political positions I’ve seen are supported the same way: Talk down to the opposition and question their credentials according to some amorphous standard.
Again, I await your analytical critique of my numbers. Maybe you can also support why the key members of the Global Warming “science” supporters have been caught THREE TIMES falsifying or cherry-picking their data.
That’s the only type of refutation I’ll answer hereafter on this subject.
PS: I was also hoping at some point you’d reply to my IM about your inventions. I am definitely interested in those!

Like · Reply · December 4 at 5:49pm · Edited

John Blanton Additionally, I am working off-site and am forced to keep my responses brief. Details later.

Like · Reply · December 4 at 3:45pm

John Blanton Once again, I’m on a short leash here. I don’t have access to my computer, so I will respond as I can for the time being. You are conflating weight and density. Keep the two straight. CO2 is denser than air, as you have discovered. You are wrong in concluding that CO2 is unevenly distributed. Below 90 km the gases remain evenly mixed. The remainder of your argument falls apart from there.

It’s much like the dialogues I have had with creationists. Those denying AGW and Darwinian  evolution give all the appearance of being driven  more by ideology than by hard facts. It makes for a weird world when these people get into  the upper reaches of government.

May Jesus have mercy on our souls.