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  1. Lol, the route avoids administration building and the chemistry labs.

    [Response: Yeah, I noticed that. I just went with the walking route Google Maps picked out. Google doesn't know about where you can walk through campus, evidently. And also tends not to take shortcuts routed through buildings. --raypierre]

    Comment by jyyh — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:15 AM

  2. I actually laughed out loud at this. Too good. Dr. Levitt had best skedaddle to an ethics class, along with a sizable portion of his quasi-denialist peers, and try to remember what integrity was. Or is. It’s one thing to play loose and fancy with facts in the sale of a used car. It’s quite another to fiddle with facts when the fate of a planet is on the line.

    Comment by Steve Missal — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:16 AM

  3. It’s always great when really important things can be demonstrated with
    simple arithmetic. Wonderful post!

    Comment by Geoff Russell — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:31 AM

  4. Hm, carefully picked the long-way-’round route to avoid any risk he’d accidentally get to that circle and just keep going ’round and ’round, eh?
    But seriously, I hope the fellow listens to you, and then counts to ten.
    Several times. “You may very well be right” is one of the smartest responses I know of to this kind of lecture, when anyone cares enough to give it.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:55 AM

  5. Thanks. Given the importance of the issue, your tone was very civil.

    Should you have included instructions on how to read the map?

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:04 AM

  6. Thank you, professor Pierrehumbert. I would add that the present temperature of the Universe is 2.7 degrees Kelvin [2.7 degrees above absolute zero Centigrade or 270 Centigrade below zero]. This gives the Earth a very cold resevoir in which to dump excess heat forever. And the Universe as a whole is cooling off. The temperature of the Earth is regulated by greenhouse gasses.
    The problem is, how to get your letter above the same or greater publicity and distribution as your opponent got.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:19 AM

  7. What an embarrassing predicament for Prof. Levitt! To be flayed in such a precise and devastating manner. I (sadly) agree with Prof. Pierrehumbert’s public reproach; the offense is too flagrant. I have read Freakonomics, but not Superfreakonomics. I felt Freakonomics was shallow in treatment of topics in which I have no background. Prof. Pierrehumbert’s analysis in a field of which I do have a background leads me to question anything that has been written by Dr. Levitt! How sad. I enjoy Real Climate and thank the authors for their articles, analysis and explanations. I thank the participants, too, for lively conversation if not communication. Cheers. JG

    Comment by Jonathan — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:26 AM

  8. I wouldn’t reference Wikipedia. Its not peer-reviewed.

    Comment by pt — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:31 AM

  9. Arguably, it gets worse: On the Diane Rehm show a couple of days ago Levitt addressed the ocean acidification problem by claiming that all we would need to do is dump a bunch of base into the oceans.

    [Response: That's another arithmetic assignment then. How much Drano do you have to dump into the ocean? What fraction of the world's shipping is that? How much CO2 do you emit schlepping that around? What does it add to the costs of geoengineering? What if you do it with limestone instead of Drano? --raypierre]

    [Response: Given the bulk required, you could only use limestone. The white cliffs of dover would do nicely. Roughly 20 Gt CaCO3 every year is required to neutralise 2 Gt C (at current rates). (according to the Royal Soc report (p45)). - gavin]

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:52 AM

  10. Now perhaps we know how most American economists missed the greatest housing bubble/ derivatives superbubble ever unleashed on the American public.

    Comment by ubrew12 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:58 AM

  11. That was definitely worth more than the price of admission!

    Excellent.

    BJ

    Comment by BJ_Chippindale — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:01 AM

  12. Well, there’s nothing wrong with looking for simple, cheap, and easy fixes, there are some to find, but not many. Of course, geoengineering isn’t going to provide any of that, as this site and others have well documented.

    But we already have some easy, simple fixes that don’t require lifestyle changes or even sacrifice. Number one, at Copenhagen, if they do nothing else, they should sign an international agreement to ban the mass production and sale of plastic water bottles. I wrote an article about this today:

    http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/2009/10/water-bottle-manifesto.html

    This is low-hanging fruit. The biggest sacrifice anyone might endure is going back to what they used to do 10 or so years ago. Yet this would produce substantial savings of energy and resources and would result in a real global reduction in carbon emissions.

    This wouldn’t be close to enough, of course, but this is the easy stuff. We also need changes to transporation infrastructure and industry on a global scale (and especially in the US.) That will be more difficult. But if we can’t even do the easy stuff, how do we expect to tackle the hard stuff?

    Comment by Canada Guy — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:12 AM

  13. Merci beaucoup pour votre article. Je le transmets autour de moi dès à présent.

    Thank you so much for your contribution. I’ll transfer it to my english speaking relatives and friends right away.

    Comment by Joëlle LEROY — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:14 AM

  14. As always, nice thorough work! It’s a pleasure to read, and unfortunate it’s even necessary…

    Comment by Ian — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:32 AM

  15. It surprises me when serious academicians do not do the arithmetic properly and that includes scientists. The thing to do the arithmetic for is the mining of Li or whatever new tech for batteries and the Cd/Si/Ga/As/In/Se etc for the panels. Also their safe disposal..the energy requirement for their disposal after the 20 years or whatever of use, their pollution of ground/water etc . It is these that must be weighed in the balance before embracing total solarisation of the power segment. However, my layman vote is still for solar power.

    Comment by L — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:47 AM

  16. One more thing, what about never wearing dark clothes. Increase your reflectiveness by only wearing white clothes… maybe we can cook up numbers to prove that if everyone wore only white clothes, we can reverse global warming! The population is growing afterall!

    Comment by L — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:54 AM

  17. So what the map tells us is that economics is a lot closer to theology than climatology is ;-)

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Substance, style, education value, gentle humour… this is the way to do it.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 30 Oct 2009 @ 4:14 AM

  18. #16 Despite the close proximity of the economics and theology, I suspect not even God knows how the global economy operates….

    Comment by Chris — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:19 AM

  19. “Also their safe disposal..the energy requirement for their disposal after the 20 years or whatever of use, their pollution of ground/water etc”

    Why throw these valuable materials away?

    Why not recycle them.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:26 AM

  20. Very vivid and clear. Personally, I prefer to see these sorts of arguments raised when objecting to the rather baseless claims made by the well-known denierati. For people without much scientific background, I think they would especially appreciate the picture of the world with the little black rectangle on it – it makes the whole argument you are putting forward resonate, and hopefully sways the still skeptical to at least follow your argument through to the end.

    At the end of the day it is the simple comparisons of scale, energy, cost, and emissions that will convince people that attempting to reverse CO2 emissions growth rate is not catastrophic to the economies; indeed, a rapid transition will involve employment opportunities that were lost in the recent global finanical crisis.

    Well done.

    Comment by Donald Oats — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:27 AM

  21. Steve Levitt: thanks for provoking Ray Pierrehumbert into posting again.

    Comment by CM — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:28 AM

  22. When reading Myhrvold’s original comment I did wonder whether the efficiency was relevant, since the 15% will end up behind the fridge. The efficiency does, of course, matter when calculating the coal-generated electricity substituted and the CO2 therefore saved.

    Comment by Iain Inglis — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:41 AM

  23. If all humans wore whites and laid down in Saudi-Arabia would it make a difference? Should try to get back to work.

    Comment by jyyh — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:54 AM

  24. Donald, the problem is getting that small black square in the public eye.

    Fox won’t show it.

    The BBC would have to have “balance” and post both the black square and any unrebutted mumblings of how that black square is all wrong from the denialists.

    Sky won’t show it.

    ABC won’t.

    etc.

    What you can do is get that black square mentioned as often as possible and maybe it will get picked up when it becomes well known enough to be unignorable.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 6:23 AM

  25. Dear Realclimate,

    It is with immense relief that I read the above, clear and logically stated argument that puts this issues into very easily understandable perspective. Thank you so much. I just hope Steve Levitt can read this and offer a reply. Realclimate does the world a real valuable service. Thank you.
    ML

    Comment by ML — 30 Oct 2009 @ 6:32 AM

  26. Ray,

    An interesting post. I hope that the following is sufficiently on-topic because I would welcome your opinion of my arithmatic.

    One number from your post caught my eye as it related to a calculation I had done myself; that of 0.012 Watts per square meter of waste heat from electricity production. I made a calculation for total fossil fuel production (and therefore released energy) and obtained a figure of 0.026 Watts per square meter for the year 2000. This seems reasonable given your figure.

    My interest was to compare the possible effect of waste heat on the temeperature of urban areas. To do this I made some (wild!?) assumptions that 50% of the world population lived in urban areas but 90% of waste heat was released in urban areas (power stations, industry and residential vs residential/low tech in rural areas). I used world population and a an estimate of urban population density to calculate an estimate for the area of the earth’s surface that was “urban”.

    Using this method I obtained figures for waste heat in urban areas of 7.7 W/m^2 in 1900 and 20.6 W/m^ in 2000. These seemed like fairly significant numbers to me.

    Would you expect such changes in waste heat to have a significant effect on the instrumental record of urban temperature records? Are the adjustments made to urban temperature records sufficient to account for such a large release of waste heat? It makes me wonder whether urban temperature records are of much use.

    Comment by Tony Rogers — 30 Oct 2009 @ 6:54 AM

  27. Given that the emissions due to manufacturing solar cells figured pretty heavily into the assertion in Superfreakonomics, it’s perhaps worth more than just a passing mention. Perhaps somebody (need not be this author) should write a follow-up on that.

    Comment by tharanga — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:13 AM

  28. “Would you expect such changes in waste heat to have a significant effect on the instrumental record of urban temperature records? Are the adjustments made to urban temperature records sufficient to account for such a large release of waste heat?”

    Oh dear.

    We have another surfacestations acolyte here.

    Look at the NOAA use of the 72 “good or excellent” stations that Watts noted in the same analysis of temperature trends and you’ll see that whatever correction is made to those other “UHI affected” stations is good enough to make the unaffected stations read the same trend.

    If the corrections made were not enough, then there would be a difference when you include the corrected records of these sites.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:20 AM

  29. I just finished the book yesterday, and was expecting Real Climate to get its collective panties in a bunch over Super Freakonomics. The most important point in the book – that 1) it is difficult-to-impossible to actually implement the kinds of hippie changes people like Al Gore advocate (nearly every zero-carbon advocate is a horrible hypocrite on the matter) and 2) There can be approaches that will solve the problem without plunging the world into a permanent economic depression, which is more unethical than emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

    Also, his points on the anti-scientific claims that a lot of Al Gore clones make (“CO2 is a poison!” “Our lifestyle is unsustainable!”) are all perfectly valid.

    Hell, if we really want to stop global warming, all we really have to do is get our coal plants to start belching tons of particulate matter into the air again. Of course, acid rain will start making a comeback, but you can’t have it all, right?

    [Response: If Levitt is unable or unwilling to do basic energy accounting when thinking about solar cells,why do you trust him to get the economic arguments right? I certainly don't. His claims about economic catastrophe from carbon mitigation are just economic alarmism. --raypierre]

    Comment by Foobear — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:42 AM

  30. The changes of Mr. Levitt replying to this are even lower than the effect of waste heat on global warming.

    But hey, let us not allow science to get on the way of selling books

    Comment by yomismo — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:57 AM

  31. Ah, foobear is panty-bunching.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:03 AM

  32. Another little back-of-the-envelope calculation, just for fun.

    This summer the arctic sea ice area was about 1.0 million km2 less than the average for 1979-2000, (http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/) which is 17 times more than the PV area calculated by Ray.

    Assuming albedo=0.45 for ice and 0.1 for water gives the same difference as between sand (0.45) and PV modules (0.1, actually) (http://www.eoearth.org/article/Albedo).

    The average irradiance at 80deg.N 20deg. W is about 83W/m2 (see http://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov/sse/), which is about one-third that used by Ray.

    The net result is that the contribution to the heating of the earth from missing sea ice is about 6 times greater than using PV to generate 100% of our electricity.

    Comment by Thomas Huld — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:03 AM

  33. When you have no argument to make…invoke Al Gore’s name as often as possible. It’s the Godwin’s law equivalent for climate change.

    Comment by Fubar — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:06 AM

  34. Gee, foobear, haven’t you ever read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”? BTW, CO2 is a poison for air breathing animals last I checked, and it has an LD50 (is lethal to 50percent of the population) of about 100,000 ppm and starts causing various problems well below that level. And its great to hear from you that our current lifestyle is sustainable. What, by the way, is our current lifestyle? And for how long? Cheers.

    Comment by Stephen Pranulis — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:08 AM

  35. It’s not like there’s no easily accessible research on this topic:

    Nemet, G.F. (2009). “Net radiative forcing from widespread deployment of photovoltaics.” Environmental Science & Technology 43(6): 2173–2178.

    Surprise! Albedo impacts are generally very small.

    http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/facultystaff/nemet/research.html

    Comment by BCC — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:21 AM

  36. You’ve done it again! I can’t help and chuckle, but it is also so sad that people are walking around believing the garbage that they read in these books — which seem a last ditch effort to thwart the science — and what is touted in the media.

    Comment by Todd Albert — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:23 AM

  37. Great post – small, picky point: “250 Watts per square meter of sunlight”: Technically, you’re probably placing your solar cells at the equator, so 1000 W/m2 divided by pi = about 320 W/m2 of sunlight for your solar cell, right? (eg, rather than the average solar for the planet which is 1370/4*0.7 = 240)

    Comment by Marcus — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:34 AM

  38. Foobear: Who claims “CO2 is a poison”? A google search on the claim brought 65 hits, all of them from somebody claiming that someone else has claimed it. The “Al Gore clone” claiming CO2 is a poison is a mythical creature, as rare as the yeti…

    Comment by Polarbear — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:51 AM

  39. I emailed this to Dr. Levitt’s university email address, which I’m sure the author also did. Interesting to see if he replies. Thanks again, RealClimate! Keep up the great work!

    Comment by Jeff in Cincinnati, OH — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:56 AM

  40. @37 you get more W/m^2 at the surface in the tropics than you do at the equator.

    Comment by jr — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:58 AM

  41. Re: #15… I suspect Levitt did indeed do his basic artithemtic properly. Let’s see, that’s 3 million copies, selling at an average of $20 per…

    Comment by robert — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:07 AM

  42. Levitt also ignored the possibility of recovering the waste heat (i.e., solar co-generation) for hot water and air heating applications.
    So he flunked the basic math of waste heat and global warming and he also treated WH as a worthless product.

    Comment by Lucas — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:11 AM

  43. Marcus @37: Your last formula giving G=240W/m2 is the radiation absorbed by the earth. But some of does not reach the ground (absorption in the atmosphere). The average irradiance at the ground is around 198W/m2.

    The radiation is not necessarily highest at the equator. Have a look at our site: http://re.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pvgis/apps3/pvest.php?map=africa .

    If you try a place in the desert, say 27.4degs.N 13.5degs.E (Libyan desert) you get average yearly G=252W/m2 (annual average daily irradiation divided by 24 hours). It’s not the absolute highest value (eastern Chad is nearly 300W/m2), but it’s a location where large-scale solar energy plants could supply the European market.

    Comment by Thomas Huld — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:16 AM

  44. I’m curious about this statement….”All means of generating electricity involve waste heat” and how this applies to hydro-electric power generation.

    [Response: Good point. The 'waste' heat in hydro is actually the same as you would have had anyway as the rivers ran to the sea, so this is not contributing. Wind power as well is probably close to 'waste heat' neutral. - gavin]

    Comment by Rando — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:17 AM

  45. Thank you very much for this quite thoughtful and well-done examination of this element of deception and shallowness in the book. Both appreciated and learned from it.

    Sadly, Superfreakonomics is now getting 593,000 google hits. This tremendous open letter has 2400. That is a gap worth filling.

    By the way, re ‘geoengineering’, they could have tried to make an argument that ‘we don’t see emissions being driven down fast enough, therefore we should be working on geoengineering as part of the solution sets’. That sort of reasoned discussion, however, wouldn’t have been such a book seller and made them heros in the anti-science syndrome suffering community.

    As long as I’m on the subject of geoengineering, seems that a question is what are core principles that should govern examination and prioritization of geoengineering options (after, of course, energy efficiency, clean energy, and other steps to reduce emission levels). As postulated here, it seems that ‘win-win-win’ techniques are the most valuable to pursue. For example, cool roofing makes sense for energy efficiency, urban heat island, comfort levels, and financial reasons — and a very large global cool roofing program could help lower global temperatures. A significant biochar/agrochar program globally could contribute to enrichment of soil & increased agricultural productivity while sequestering significant amounts of carbon. Etc … Note that Levitt/Dubner failed to lay out such principles to guide any potential investments in / pursuit of geoengineering paths.

    Comment by A Siegel — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:35 AM

  46. “For example, cool roofing makes sense for energy efficiency, urban heat island, comfort levels, and financial reasons — and a very large global cool roofing program could help lower global temperatures.”

    Yup, a great idea. Not so great painting the roads etc or even the pavements (which in the UK would quickly become dog-doo-brown and pavement-pizza-orange in no time anyway).

    But still people complain “But it gets really COLD here! I want as much warming of the roof!”. And then complaining that it’s not the same when you point out that their roof is generally covered with snow which tends to be white anyway and is, in any case, a good insulator.

    All it needs is roofing tiles to be made white.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:50 AM

  47. Raymond,

    I enjoyed your intentional misreading of my chapter
    on global warming! I think it has really contributed
    to moving towards a solution to these important problems.

    Myrhvold’s *main* point was about the energy required
    to produce the solar cells, not the radiated heat.
    He has expanded on it here:

    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/are-solar-panels-really-black-and-what-does-that-have-to-do-with-the-climate-debate/

    His view is simply that solar panels are not a
    *short-run* solution to cooling the planet. I doubt
    you could disagree with that, given the arguments
    you make in your own blog post.

    So he, and we, thought it made sense to explore
    some solutions that DO cool the earth in the short-run.

    That doesn’t mean you don’t work on long run solutions
    as well.

    I’m not sure why that is blasphemy.

    Steve Levitt

    [Response: Steve, glad to see you're reading this. Something I have found rather bizarre about your responses to the criticisms of your climate chapter is the way you continually try to change history about what you actually wrote, which is plainly there for anybody to see. I found it so unbelievable that you included the "black solar cell" meme when I first heard it that I actually went over to Borders and stood there and intentionally read (not misread) the chapter to see if it was true. Anybody reading what you wrote would never, ever guess that the waste heat effect was so trivial unless they already knew the subject from some other source. And as for the "short term vs. long term" issue, here's something to chew on: if you instantaneously built a solar array big enough to meet the entire world electricity demand, you would only have to wait something under a year before the avoided CO2 radiative forcing paid back the waste heat effect. The payback time for recouping the carbon cost of manufacturing solar cells is somewhat longer, but still substantially less than the lifetime of the solar cells -- and coming down as technology improves. So, there is really no sensible construction I can put on your statement.

    Now regarding geoengineering, your "global warming quiz" in the NYT Freak blog had the main danger of geoengineering laid out right in front of you, but you failed to see it. Namely, you see the rapid recovery time after Pinatubo as evidence that geoengineering is harmless because you can reverse it any time. However, the bigger implication of that fact is that if you rely on geoengineering to allow the economy to burn up all the coal and raise the atmospheric CO2 to high levels, then if you ever have to stop, you are hit with the full effects of maybe a century or more of global warming practically all at once. What's more, you don't even get to know how much it will warm after stopping until you actually stop. That's because of the uncertainty of predictions of climate sensitivity. Even if we take a long time to bring down emissions, at least we'll know what state the planet is in because the warming can be monitored as we go along and work towards zero emissions. The Atlantic Monthly writer, who interviewed both me and Ken pretty extensively, did a good job of bringing that sort of thing out. --raypierre]

    Comment by steve levitt — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:57 AM

  48. Re: 43: Thomas, thanks for the additional information. My original calculation, using 1000 W/m2, was meant to take into account the atmospheric absorption… but obviously, I missed some other correcting factor. Does your number include cloudiness? I guess that would make a difference for equator vs. tropics…

    Comment by Marcus — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:00 AM

  49. I read Freakonomics but I won’t be reading Superfreak. I will be posting about that black square and emailing it to all my contacts though, because I can bet this errant thinking will be hauled out as evidence by both denialists and just plain misinformed readers. It needs to be countered.

    Comment by Susann — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:15 AM

  50. Well done Ray! I was writing a piece on this myself (and had just emailed Gavin for advise on reasonable albedo change –> CO2-eq conversions), but it would probably be superfluous now.

    That said, there does seem to be some lingering misconceptions in the general public about the role of different “stock” and “flow” forcings. For example, the whole effort to paint roofs white touted by Chu and his LBNL colleagues comes with some impressive numbers, but albedo-related mitigation is less important than GHG mitigation right now simply because it would be just as easy to paint those roofs white in 2050 as today, which we cannot easily remove the forcing from CO2 emitted in the interim. Indeed, given the turnover rates of housing stock and the fact that the economic impacts of climate change grow exponentially with forcing, it might be possible to model the relative benefits now and later of “flow” mitigation (e.g. albedo changes) and GHG “stock” mitigation.

    [Response: The issues of green roofs vs. white roofs is pretty fascinating. I looked into this closely when I was on Mayor Daley's climate task force. Part of the advantage of green roofs is that they have a pretty high albedo but don't require much maintenance to stay that way in a city, which is an advantage over white roofs. On the other hand, their biggest cooling effect comes from evaporation, and that just takes energy out of the building and puts it into the atmosphere, so it's a wash so far as the planet goes. But, for either green roofs or white roofs, the big climate impact comes from the reductions in air conditioning needed, which reduces the CO2 emitted. --raypierre]

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:17 AM

  51. #32 Thomas Huld
    As indicated by your reference, the albedo of water approached 1.0 with a low sun angle, as is the case in the artic. Think of the beauty of the sunlight reflecting off of the water at sunset.

    Comment by B Buckner — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:21 AM

  52. I loved Levitt´s first book. It´s mostly based on his own (et al.) respectable academic research.

    But I received this last one with sadness. It does sound like they did a poor fact-checking.

    Comment by Alexandre — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:21 AM

  53. Re: #29 Foobear: classic emotional trigger word post: “collective panties et al”; “Al Gore” (two varieties) twice; “hippie changes”; “horrible hypocrite” (alliteration to boot); “permanent economic depression” ; “belching tons of…” etc. A lot squeezed into a modest-sized post.
    The old canard about economic interests trumping actually doing something about global warming has finally given me, (speaking of permanent), everlasting mental heartburn. Dr. Levitt’s ‘solutions’ aren’t, as the post so clearly shows. I might pay more attention to Foobear’s thoughts if he (she?) didn’t slather on the endless ad hominem junk, with insinuations that all climate change advocates are marginal personalities, anti-business, etc. After all this, Foobear then manages to avoid addressing the actual facts stated in the post. An endless methodology of denialist argumentation.
    Is there some way we can get the rebuttal letter online in such a manner that it would receive the several hundred thousand hits too? It can’t be that impossible. Someone here has the expertise. Help.

    Comment by Steve Missal — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:30 AM

  54. Professor Pierrehumbert is glossing over the fact that that extra heat that is absorbed is not the problem, the problem is the forcing – the positive feedback – caused by the warming of the air. And that forcing is the controversial point in the global warming theory. Some even believe that the feedback is negative, so that a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere would cause much less than 1 C warmer earth. And observations since 1998 seemingly support that opinion. Time is the mother of truth…

    Comment by Knut Witberg — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:35 AM

  55. @47 Yes, evaporation of water over sea and cloud cover over land at the equator is the main reason for lower irradiance at the surface there than you might expect. From the tropics the irradiance level then tends to decrease as you move further from the equator (either northwards, or south).

    Comment by jr — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:42 AM

  56. Thanks, Raypierre, I’ve loved your posts for a long time. Very cogent, and devastating. It leads me to this question:

    This error, and others, were pointed out to Levitt and Dubner two weeks before publication. All they had to do was perform a mea culpa and agree to make corrections for the next edition, or possibly include a separate insert with addenda when they shipped the book.

    Instead, they defended themselves on their blog and on talk shows, and called serious critics such as Joe Romm character assasins. What happened?

    Apparently, as in bad commercial movies, the book and this chapter in particular were road tested with a sample reading audience. The reviews came out very positive. The test audience was composed of more people than qualified scientists who previewed the chapter. Then, the chapter leaked, and the storm hit.

    By then, the authors were already counting the money from the book sales, and became alarmed at the messiness of having to make last minute corrections. We’re talking about millions of dollars here. They made a common calculation: money is more important than truth or personal integrity, and it is certainly more important than the kind of fate that awaits our grandchildren. Their attempts to parse the factual errors in their book became the stuff of comedy, if there were ever a late night show for scientists.

    This attitude could be what results in our doom. No sense being too hard on Levitt and Dubner, they are just morally ordinary human beings. Unfortunately, the stakes here call for bringing out our best.

    Comment by Mike Roddy — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:43 AM

  57. You talk about CO2 trapping the heat. Does not water vaper trap most of the heat. I thought freakeconomicts silly but I do have a question.
    Who builds the solar panels and wires them up. Minor detail I know but it seems to me someone needs to start to build them and find out how to pay for them. Whats the cost of repairs when rain storms damage them.
    I am glad money is such a minor detail.

    Comment by Jim22 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:43 AM

  58. Marcus @43: The numbers at our web site include the effects of clouds, which is why irradiation in tropical Africa is so much lower than Sahara (or the Kalahari desert).

    B Buckner @50: That’s true, but as the sun angle goes to zero so does the horizontal irradiance, plus a lot of that reflected light will be absorbed on its way out of the atmosphere again. The roughness of the sea (waves) will have an influence too. I also took only one radiation value for a single location. All this makes it a back-of-a-BIG-envelope calculation.

    Comment by Thomas Huld — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:45 AM

  59. Jim22. Who builds the concrete walls of the steam generators and wires the generators up?

    Minor detail I know but it seems to me someone needs to build them and find out how to pay for them. What is the cost of repairs when road access floods and they need their fuel?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:18 AM

  60. “Think of the beauty of the sunlight reflecting off of the water at sunset.”

    Ah, but then the light is being intercepted by your eyes, and they will heat up and cause global warming!

    SEE! It’s not CO2 after all! It’s those EYES. Those eyes, always watching me. Hiding in the shadows…

    AAAARRRGGGHHH!

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:23 AM

  61. Zeke: note that the “paint roofs white” solution actually is _both_ a stock and flow solution: there’s the direct albedo benefit, and there’s the indirect reduction in air conditioning use in the summer, and therefore CO2 emissions (both for the house in specific, and for the general urban area due to a reduction in heat island effect).

    (also, since this is a common objection: my understanding is that in winter white roofs do not significantly add to the cost of heating, because there’s a reduction in insolation so less reflection, there’s occasional snowfall where the color doesn’t matter, and the white roofs actually reduce emissivity at night which is much longer in the winter).

    Comment by Marcus — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:27 AM

  62. Digression into opinion leads to argument and more digression. Look it up.
    Please. If you don’t look it up your memory only works backward.

    New: color-changing roof tiles; white when it’s hot; black when it’s cold.
    web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/madmec-roof.html Next to be developed, color-changing roof paint. Think ‘electronic ink’ in e-book readers.

    Albedo: actual water isn’t a plane surface at the important wavelengths. “The average albedo of ice-free water was 4 per cent (based on 55 observations) with a standard deviation of 2 per cent.”
    http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic14-3-188.pdf

    Test for yourself: use Polaroid glasses, look at glare reflected from water; Look (kids, don’t!) at the Sun through those glasses, and it will blind you.
    The difference?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:31 AM

  63. Re #9 and the lime fix for ocean acidification, there is one serious proposal that merits attention: Cquestrate.

    First, you heat limestone to a very high temperature, until it breaks down into lime and carbon dioxide. Then you put the lime into the sea, where it reacts with carbon dioxide dissolved in the seawater. The important point is that when you put lime into seawater it absorbs almost twice as much carbon dioxide as is produced by the breaking down of the limestone in the first place.

    The proposal is pretty well thought out, but we haven’t heard from these folks in awhile…

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:59 AM

  64. #61, Jim Galasyn: This still doesn’t address the fact that you’d need to be crushing gigatons of limestone every year. Also, is the source of heat carbon free? If not, that reduces the “carbon reduction yield” per ton of limestone. If the source of heat _is_ carbon free – why not use it to reduce carbon emissions in the first place?

    Comment by Marcus — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:11 PM

  65. @61 and the energy used to heat the limestone produces how much CO2?

    Comment by Justin Ciderbottom — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:11 PM

  66. I suspect that the author of “Corn-pone Opinions” would have a negative opinion about the usefulness of open letters like this.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:15 PM

  67. If the efficiency of a coal power plant is 33%, shouldn’t producing 2 units of power result in producing 4 units of heat, not 6? Or is this a different definition of efficiency?

    Your point stands even if you use more pessimistic figures (e.g., 200 W/m of sunlight, Earth albedo of 1, solar panel albedo of 0, solar panel efficiency of 10%).

    [Response: The heat that is successfully converted to electricity eventually is released as waste heat as well after it does its work. There are a few things you can do with electricity that don't ultimately release all the energy as heat, but not many. --raypierre]

    Comment by JP — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:17 PM

  68. It would be great if the Steves read this and replied but they’ve talk shows to visit. Thank you for an interesting analysis.

    Comment by Chas — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:21 PM

  69. re: 10

    “Now perhaps we know how most American economists missed the greatest housing bubble/ derivatives superbubble ever unleashed on the American public.”

    Most people who eyeball the $13 trillion loss that lack of government oversight and regulation produced would scuttle the notion of Efficient Markets and Rational Actors. In comparison, Tulip Mania was a headache while the over-leveraged derivatives market losses was a ward full of stroke victims. An entire year’s GDP. Gone.

    Don’t expect an apology from UC economists.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:23 PM

  70. “and the lime fix for ocean acidification”

    We put the lime in the coconut?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:28 PM

  71. I’m an economist, and I was embarrassed on behalf of my profession when I read this, having had to work through the “waste heat” argument for a friend just a few weeks back. As you said, it’s not as if it’s hard to do.

    You’ve already noted elsewhere that other prominent economists such as Paul Krugman have mentioned the deficiencies in the Freakonomics analysis.

    But there is definitely a strain of thinking within my profession that says, in effect, I don’t need to understand the technology in order to pontificate about the economics. I call it the “one size fits all” model of economics. Back when I taught industrial organization, I made sure my students understood at least the rudiments of the underlying technologies in the industries studied. As far as I could tell, no one else did. Cars, farms, electricity, trains — pretty much all of a piece beyond the abstraction of a production function.

    For what it’s worth, economists at the U.S. Congressional Budget Office have said that an 80% reduction in GHG emissions in the US by 2050, for the fixed, large-scale industrial sources accounting for perhaps 75% of US GHG output, would knock perhaps 2 percent off US GDP in that year. (That’s the target of both the current Senate Kerry-Boxer bill and the House Waxman-Markey bill.) With some uncertainty around that estimate. The CBO is as close to a truth-telling organization as you can find in the US these days, and I would accept their estimate as being plausible. Right now, we spend about 5% of GDP on energy, so that estimate says, roughly, that we’d double the real cost of the energy for the sources covered. That seems quite conservative (high) as an estimate of eventual cost of this transition. But certainly more plausible than a prediction of “permanent depression”, which would of course be unprecedented in US economic history.

    My point is that only some economists are idiots. This is a profession where we have no conservation laws but we use sophisticated math. (Figure that one out if you can. Most economists don’t even know what a conservation law is or why it matters that economic quantities don’t obey them.) So, you tend to get kind of a sloppy attitude toward the numbers. Which, when you are talking about will-o-the-wisp quantities such as stock market values, might be justified. But which is jarringly out of place when applied to actual physical quantities for which basic conservation laws hold.

    Comment by Christopher Hogan — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:33 PM

  72. Ah, speaking of inattention to numbers, try 50% increase instead of doubling of cost.

    Comment by Christopher Hogan — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:38 PM

  73. Jim22 (#55, 30 October 2009 @ 10:43 AM):

    My silicon PV panels are very robust in rain, wind, and hail. Their expected life is 50 years. Amorphous panels are being made into roofing.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:40 PM

  74. Bravo Professor Pierrehumbert! Now if only your letter could get as much exposure as Freak-o-garbage, we’d be much safer.

    Comment by P. McCann — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:53 PM

  75. Jim22 #55: read this.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:14 PM

  76. Hank Roberts #60: The difference is that the sunlight reflected off the water is polarized. What was your point?

    Comment by John N-G — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:30 PM

  77. Once again, glad to see some teeth coming into the renunciation of skepticism/cornucopian B.S.

    ‘Bout time.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:36 PM

  78. Foobear

    “I just finished the book yesterday, and was expecting Real Climate to get its collective panties in a bunch over Super Freakonomics. The most important point in the book – that 1) it is difficult-to-impossible to actually implement the kinds of hippie changes people like Al Gore advocate (nearly every zero-carbon advocate is a horrible hypocrite on the matter) and 2) There can be approaches that will solve the problem without plunging the world into a permanent economic depression, which is more unethical than emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

    Also, his points on the anti-scientific claims that a lot of Al Gore clones make (”CO2 is a poison!” “Our lifestyle is unsustainable!”) are all perfectly valid.

    Hell, if we really want to stop global warming, all we really have to do is get our coal plants to start belching tons of particulate matter into the air again. Of course, acid rain will start making a comeback, but you can’t have it all, right? ”

    CO2 in large concentrations is a poison, and our lifestyle is unsustainable. Anyone who believes that exponential growth is sustainable is mathematically ignorant. And our current lifestyle depends upon exponential growth.

    Comment by EL — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:46 PM

  79. On the white roof tile thing–and specifically the “lost solar heating” in winter–maybe someone should also point out that even when it is snowless, applying heat to the *outside* of your insulation is not going to be the most effective way to go.

    Great post!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:47 PM

  80. Good letter. To the point. Trouble is that a whole lot more people will read (and believe) Levitt, then your open letter. Perhaps we (as in us professionals concerned with climate change) should write very successful books for the masses. Can we?

    Comment by Matthias Jakob — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:03 PM

  81. Literary digression: Like a memory of the future, that image above has been nagging me all day — an area of darkness covering an appreciable fraction of the planet, like a hole punched through the clouds; where have I seen this before? … Oh yes, what year is it next year?

    Comment by CM — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:03 PM

  82. I dug up some Calvin & Hobbes cartoons that I think say it all – Levitt and Dubner talking about geoengineering is about as reasonable as having a six-year-old fix your sink instead of a plumber:

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/ 2009/ 10/ what-do-superfreaks-and-calvin-hobbes.html

    Comment by WAG — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:16 PM

  83. Great article!

    Quote: “A more substantive (though in the end almost equally trivial) issue is the carbon emitted in the course of manufacturing solar cells, but that is not the matter at hand here.”

    True, but the concept of solar breeders was proposed in the late 1970s and has been updated today. A solar breeder is a silicon ore-processing and solar panel manufacturing facility powered entirely by wind and solar.

    The main issue with such a facility is that hours of operation coincide with maximum sunlight, which is not so much of a problem, really.

    The original reference (as far as I know) on the solar breeder concept is J. Lindmeyer, 1978:

    It was pointed out that a photovoltaic panel manufacturing plant can be made energy-independent by using energy derived from its own roof using its own panels. Such a plant becomes not only energy self-sufficient but a major supplier of new energy, hence the name solar breeder. The reported investigation establishes certain mathematical relationships for the solar breeder which clearly indicate that a vast amount of net energy is available from such a plant for the indefinite future. It is pointed out that if solar electric plants would be built according to the solar breeder principle, their operation as a net energy source would be automatically assured.

    Such projects were shut down in the early 1980s as the Reagan-era DOE slashed all funding and support – and were never restarted. The initial upfront cost of such a facility is large, and thus requires large-scale financing via Wall Street and the major banks, who refuse to back such projects. They do back fossil fuel projects on an immense scale, but over the past few decades most mega-projects are undertaken with government support, credit guarantees, and IMF/World Bank financing – that’s true for Canadian tar sands, the Nabucco gas pipeline, the Chad-Cameroon Exxon/World Bank oil pipeline, etc., etc., – but large scale government support and bank financing for renewable energy megaprojects remains non-existent in the U.S.

    I’d like to see Levitt conduct a side-by-side economic analysis of current externally-financed fossil fuel and renewable energy projects in Africa, for example – or take a look at the level of government subsidies in the U.S. for fossil fuel projects vs. renewable energy projects – but I’m not holding my breath.

    P.S. Please forward this RealClimate article to Jon Stewart at the Daily Show – his interview with Levitt was mind-bogglingly uninformed, and he pretty much swallowed everything Levitt had to say. He and his staff might benefit from reading this article – at the very least, a dissenting opinion should also be allowed.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:22 PM

  84. The dear Professor Pierrehumbert will then care to explain how a global warming world is supposed to offer more extreme weather?

    [Response: I don't think I ever said that, but there are are several kinds of extremes that have fairly robust physical underpinnings. First, by the Clausius Clapeyron relation, a warmer world will have more water in it, certainly at low altitudes where most of the vapor storage is. That means that the strongest possible rain events increase (roughly exponentially) with temperature. Second, the additional water vapor and higher sea surface temperature can energize more severe hurricanes (that's Emanuel's work). Third, when land dries out, the typical summer temperature can be hotter than the hottest summer on record in many places, and lead to severe crop failures. See Battisti and Naylor's article on this recently in Science magazine. That should to for starters. The one point that some people loosely make about severe weather, which is not justified, is to say that "storms" will get more severe. That depends on what kind of storms you are talking about. Conventional midlatitude synoptic weather systems live off the temperature gradient between pole and equator, and insofar as that gradient tends to go down in a warmer world, the winds (though not the rain) in the storms is expected to get somewhat weaker. The actual behavior in models and theory is a subject of intense investigation right now. --raypierre]

    Comment by Antonio San — 30 Oct 2009 @ 2:41 PM

  85. http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Arealclimate.org+antonio+san
    Another red herring misdirecting attention from the topic. Tag team at work?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:06 PM

  86. Cool! I like that you put your ‘example square’ right where I’ve been bugging certain people (I sort of helped some one to NOT get themselves, well, killed; so they humor me, by listening – sometimes) to put them; the ‘Empty Quarter’.
    I tell them Allah will Bless the first Arabian Nation to CAP IT’S WELL’S, by taking up the responsibility of fixing the damage they’ve done in making all of those Gazillions of Dollars.
    To Dr. Levits defense; he DID indicate, when appearing on The Daily Show, that he was NO SCIENTIST and that he didn’t understand – nor did he pretend to understand – Global Warming; stressing, instead, that he was ‘just an Econimist’, blah, blah, blah.
    Now, I’ll have to add his book to the dozens of others on my ‘Future Reads List’ (Darn You! I wasn’t planning for that one – but you make me feel the need for ‘loyalty’ and ‘solidarity’!)

    Comment by James Staples — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:22 PM

  87. Well skewered!

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:31 PM

  88. Many many thanks for this thread. I was pleased to see the author appear among the posters, even though he apparently could not defend his book very well.

    The posts here, with the possible exception of Mark, who always seems to speak from a position of assumed moral and technological superiority, and is quick to label a new possibly innocent question as “trolling,” have also been very useful.

    I heard on NPR the other day that the percentage of Americans who think AGW is “real” has dropped precipitously in the past couple of years; once over 70%; now only slightly more than 50%.

    I have also noted some here to say “educating the public is not my job.”

    If not the job of those who know what’s really going on, who is going to do it? We get stuck with George will and jokes about fat Al Gore. I hear a lot of this.

    This site is not the solution. A year ago I suggested to three of my colleagues, one a geophysicist, another a professor of statistics and a third recently retired from a top engineering job at GM. All three have since expressed to me their rejection of the site BASED ON THE COMMENTS. Too much nastiness and put-downs. I kept on telling them to just read the articles; that anyone could post about anything in the discussions. But I was too late — these three are now firmly in the opposing-IPCC camp. If they are typical, and of course I will not claim that on a sample of three, this site might be, because of the discussions, turning more people against the IPCC reports than gaining adherents.

    At the very leeast, Gavin, you might put up a disclaimer at the beginning of the discussion section, as well as every 50 posts, that anyone at all can post here and that some posts are not necessarily to be taken seriously.

    Including this one, of course.

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:45 PM

  89. Levitt responded in free verse. Does anyone else find that odd?

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:53 PM

  90. Change the topic from climate-science to history here, and you could have a scene out of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (Mr. Arnold Hand vs. Jeff Spicoli).

    This is certainly not an entirely fair comparision, though: I’m certain that Dr. Pierrehumbert is nicer than Mr. Hand, and that Dr. Levitt is more sober than Jeff Spicoli.

    Comment by caerbannog — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:57 PM

  91. The issue of carbon emissions during the manufacture of solar cells was, in the not-too-distant-past, a serious objection:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaics#Energy_payback_time_and_energy_returned_on_energy_invested

    Levitt wasted a couple sentences on the waste heat, when he could have instead given some numbers behind the current life cycle analysis of solar cells. This would have been rather more educational. Given the current life cycle analysis, solar is still fine, but it would have highlighted the need for doing the life cycle analysis.

    Comment by tharanga — 30 Oct 2009 @ 4:02 PM

  92. Excellent analysis, but it could go even further. The small black square in the middle of the desert is a vivid illustration of the small scale of the problem. But in the real world of course this small square is fragmented into millions of pieces, mostly spread over surfaces already quite dark, and certainly variable. I have panels on a green roof, my daughter has them on a grassy hill. I suppose I could spread a piece of white material on the ground of the same area as our panels, but I don’t need to – in building her house my daughter has created a drive way of light colored material many times larger than the panels. And just up the road, extensive road works are scraping away vegetation on the sides of the roads and spreading white material. This kind of variation goes on all the time, and to imagine that the resulting impact of dark surfaced panels is great is foolish. Even in the case where all the panels of the world were placed in one spot, on an otherwise light surface like a desert or, say, Greenland, Ray’s analysis shows that even that effect is trivial. In addition of course few people would suggest that all energy can or should be derived from solar panels. If you add wind, geothermal and tidal sources this further reduces the dark panel impact. Or do the freaky authors think that because wind turbines are usually painted white we should instead only use them?

    A moment’s reflection (hah!) would have shown Dr Levitt that the proposition was nonsense. The fact that he proceeded to make it suggests (a) contrarianism gone mad and (b) a search for media stardom.

    Comment by David Horton — 30 Oct 2009 @ 4:14 PM

  93. Steve, it’s a fair cop- you should change your mind to fit the facts.

    On the other hand, why has Freakonomics been lambasted so, while Malcolm Gladwell gets a pass for similar geoengineering coverage ?

    [Response: Reference? Be happy to take a look. - gavin]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 30 Oct 2009 @ 4:31 PM

  94. Ray,

    Most of the numbers I’ve seen on white roofs (e.g. http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/events/2008_conference/presentations/2008-09-09/Hashem_Akbari.pdf) focus a lot more on the albedo forcing than the energy reduction from cooling.

    Based on his numbers it would take 39 years of cooling reduced by 30% to match the albedo forcing for a sample white roof. This is based on a quick model:

    roof_size = 2700.0 / 10.764 #assumed roof square footage divided by square meters per square foot
    kg_per_meter = 100.0 #via Akbari, 1 ton CO2-eq per 10 square meters
    annual_cooling_use = 1831.56 #kwh US average based on 2005 RECS
    white_roof_savings = 0.3 #30 percent
    electric_ef = 0.5 #kg carbon per kwh, rough US average

    white_roof_albedo = roof_size * kg_per_meter
    white_roof_cooling = annual_cooling_use * (1 – white_roof_savings) * electric_ef

    years_needed = white_roof_albedo / white_roof_cooling

    So people touting white roof programs as a carbon reduction strategy are indeed relying on the modeled CO2-eq reductions from albedo as a big chunk of it. Some folks are even considering selling carbon offsets from painting roof white, which has some fun implications in terms of trading “flow” albedo for “stock” GHG forcings :-p

    [Response: An interesting set of numbers. Just to make things even more interesting, I'm going to follow Polya's dictum in How to Solve It, which says that one way to solve a new problem is to reformulate it so that it looks like one you already solved. Doing that here, we can think of the white roof as a kind of solar cell that generates "negawatts" by reducing the cooling demand. For the ten square meter roof, using the stated typical cooling and averaging over a year, the power saved is (.3 X 1831 kw-hr * 1000. W/kw)/(24*365 hours).
    That works out to an average of 62.7 Watts. Using a 250 Watt per square meter incident solar flux, the 10 square meters receives energy at a rate of 2500 Watts. That means the white roof is like a solar cell with an efficiency of 2.5% . That low efficiency increases your payback time, but depending on the details of what you assume about the albedo of the white roof and the original roof, the "waste heat" part of the calculation is similar to my solar cell example, at least the version where I neglect the waste heat due to coal burning. Taking into account the low effective efficiency of the white roof, I can maybe get the payback time up to around 10 or 12 years, but 39 is a stretch. If you take into account the waste heat of the fossil fuel that would be burned to make the 30% of electricity the white roof saves you, the payback time goes down somewhat. So, I think there must be something amiss in the calculation you refer to, and I'll leave it to the readers to have the fun of sorting through it and trying to identify the assumptions that yield such a long payback time. --raypierre]

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:04 PM

  95. Two important references for Steve Levitt:
    1) Classic children’s songs: http://www.poppyfields.net/poppy/songs/oldwoman.html

    2) Futurama: http://www.tvtdb.com/futurama/transcripts/5×01.php “Thus solving the problem once and for all!”

    Comment by Marcus — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:09 PM

  96. With respect to Steve Levitt’s comment above, it’s worth pointing out two things. First, that the issue is not whether he and his co-author are blasphemous, but whether they are competent. And secondly, that Mr. Levitt pointedly failed to respond on our earlier thread which directly tackled the issue of geo-engineering with the kind of commentary, he has claimed elsewhere, the book chapter was designed to encourage. Instead, his comment will mostly be understood as an attempt to play the Monty Python card instead of dealing with the issue. – gavin

    Comment by gavin — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:12 PM

  97. Raymond in #67,

    It is an important point that nearly all fossil fuel use leads to heat entering the environment, the exception being radio waves from our FM stations and stray street lights escaping to space directly. There is really no distinction regarding waste heat. In the case of solar power, the albedo is not really going to be different from what is covered up, roof shingles, but applying the concept of waste heat is even more misplaced. There is no waste since PV is intercepting a flow. We would not consider wind that is not intercepted by a wind mill to be waste wind. The same is true of PV. In fact, if a solar panel is used to run a cell tower, it may well have a cooling effect should its albedo be the same as the background since the Sun’s light is sent directly back out to space as radio signals. The idea of waste heat has been misapplied by the freakers for both the fossil fuel plant and the solar panel.

    It is worth noting that Nanosolar’s cells have energy payback times measured in weeks and the glass in panels made with their cells is a larger cost component than the cells themselves. The bulk of solar power is going to have to have similar characteristics to be competitive with itself. Thus, the question of accumulating carbon debt is completely bogus for annual growth rates less that 600% or so.

    There are people who feel very threatened by renewable energy who inject this sort of spurious stuff into arguments. Thanks for knocking it down.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 30 Oct 2009 @ 6:19 PM

  98. #9 – How do you make the CO2 in the ocean react with the limestone from the White Cliffs of Dover, rather than the limestone in coral and mollusc shells?

    [Response: Actually you are making the CO3-- react with the H+ to make HCO3-. basically (ha!) you are making the ocean dissolve the added carbonate instead of the carbonate in corals and molluscs. - gavin]

    Comment by David Allen — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:01 PM

  99. That small square on the globe reminded me of similar in the book “The Hot Topic” by Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King. Their reference was Nathan S. Lewis of the California Institute of Technology who has a neat 73 page pdf “Powering the Planet” on the web. It has similar calcs to raypierre so Zeke, don’t be shy – multiple confirmations are always welcome.

    But my favourite is “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air” by David JC MacKay. In electronic format on the web and plenty of darn good calcs in it.

    Comment by Mike Donald — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:05 PM

  100. #50 Hang on. Green rooves are green beacause they reflect green light and absorb [infra]red thus increasing the building’s temperature and air-cconditioning demand.

    I expect I’m wrong but can you please tell me why?

    [Response: The albedo effect of green roofs is somewhat advantageous because vegetation typically has a higher albedo than the roofing they replace. Green vs. black, so they at least reflect something. The biggest effect of a green roof, according to John Frederick's studies here at U. of C., come from evaporative cooling, and that accords with my own back-of-the-envelope calculations. That does mean that green roofs are not so good in a dry place, since you'd have to irrigate them to keep them fully functional. --raypierre]

    Comment by David Allen — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:16 PM

  101. I tried searching “Superfreakonomics and climate change” and found scores of entries pointing out errors in the book. Perhaps the balance of misinformation and useful discussion and learning that comes from this incident will not be as bad as one might fear. Am I naive to think that a good proportion of people reading the book will know that the chapters on climate have been widely and forcefully debunked?

    [Response: I'd like to think that, but it depends a lot on how many people read blogs, the NYT and AP, vs. how many people watch Jon Stewart. --raypierre]

    Comment by Bill D — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:24 PM

  102. Another way to look at the direct heating effect. How much would it cost to offset the extra absorption due to the solar cells? Well, paint is pretty darn cheap, $10 of white paint should be able to offset the heating from a $10,000 dollar PV array. And it is easy to apply, just mix with water and dump into the tank of a street sweeper machine. So if direct heating from dark solar plants is ever deemed to be an issue, the cost of offsetting that effect is something like .1% of the cost of the solar plant!

    Raypierre, the point about white roofs is that they are a cost effect negawatts BB. I.E. for say a tile roof like I have, add $5 worth of white paint to ten gallons of water, and apply with a mop. The net cost is so small, that the cost effectiveness is high. If you got to replace tiles, or shingles, then it will be very expensive.

    Comment by Thomas — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:37 PM

  103. I don’t know whether to commend Levitt for responding here – where science, not PR, reigns – or to note his despicable utter disregard for the truth, history, reality, etc.

    I guess a little of both. He’s gutsy but sociopathic. Or just so fuzzy on the concept of science that he really DOES think it’s a subset of his economic cult, for practical purposes.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:46 PM

  104. Oh and Raypierre. This is one of the most amazing posts on realclimate, ever. It’s as solid as, say, Jeff Severinghaus’s post on “CO2 leads Temperature” but it avoids the pitfalls of expressing yourself in sciencese which weasels can spin into great uncertainty.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:48 PM

  105. #54 Knut Witberg at 10:35 AM:

    Professor Pierrehumbert is glossing over the fact that that extra heat that is absorbed is not the problem, the problem is the forcing – the positive feedback – caused by the warming of the air. And that forcing is the controversial point in the global warming theory. Some even believe that the feedback is negative, so that a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere would cause much less than 1 C warmer earth. And observations since 1998 seemingly support that opinion. Time is the mother of truth…

    If you felt like that was left hanging in the air, it’s because no science I am aware of says anything remotely like what you posted, and it’s so bizarrely distant from anything anyone else is talking about that it would be hard to make a meaningful reply. For example, I personally am not even aware of anyone on the fringe of the denialist community that would say that.

    My best guess is you misunderstood that the warming of the oceans is a positive feedback because the water absorbs less CO2 as its temperature increases, and probably also something about water vapor – which is not air – as a feedback to the various forcings.

    As for the idea that either warming the air or doubling CO2 would have a negative feedback on temperature, again, no one says that. It’s as impossible for Raypierre to be glossing over that as he is to be glossing over a theory that feeding children cyanide tablets makes them better at sports. No such theory exists, or even hypothesis. And if it’s a conjecture, you’re likely to be the sole proprietor.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:58 PM

  106. Gavin : In an articles in the New Yorker last march , Gladwell described sitting on geoengineering sessions with many of those whom Superfreakonomics cites .

    Much of the same technical ground was covered , but the New Yorker piece evoked a response as mild as that afforded a John McPhee essay.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 31 Oct 2009 @ 1:35 AM

  107. Gavin :
    I git the mont wrong- Malcolm Gladwell’s Annals of Innovation piece on geoengineering , entitled ” In The Air” appeared in the May 12 2008 number of The New Yorker

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/12/080512fa_fact_gladwell

    [Response: Hi, Russell. I hadn't seen this article when it first came out, but I just gave it a hasty read right now. I didn't see any specific mention of geoengineering in it amongst the many invention ideas discussed, but I think that even if that had been one of the examples Gladwell picked (and maybe I missed something in the 9 pages of the article) it wouldn't be noticed as much because the article is really an observers profile of how Intellectual Ventures works, doesn't take much of an advocacy stance, and makes it pretty clear that while some of these ideas are patentable most of them have no real chance of working. It was a very interesting and relevant profile, though, particularly as to the connection between Lowell wood and Myhrvold. That's no doubt where Myhrvold got on his geoengineering kick, as Lowell has been a long-time geoengineering evangelist, going back to his days with Edward Teller. He talks about things like "engineering to correct the deficiencies of natural sunlight," or "giving the entire world a Mediterranean climate," i.e. he's so into that he seems to think it would be something you should do even if there were no global warming looming.

    Actually, maybe the best thing that could happen to put the breaks on aerosol geoengineering would be for Myhrvold's company to get its hands on it and lock it up with patents making it prohibitively expensive for anybody to try. There are at least some that say that Intellectual Ventures is not an innovation company but just a patent troll, and has been if anything an impediment to adoption of technological innovations (e.g. this article) It's not clear yet whether they are trolls or not, but it's something to watch. --raypierre]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 31 Oct 2009 @ 1:49 AM

  108. Knut Witberg posts:

    Some even believe that the feedback is negative, so that a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere would cause much less than 1 C warmer earth.

    For “some” read “Richard Lindzen.” The vast majority of studies find net feedback to be positive, not negative. And time since 1998 is not enough to prove anything, since you generally need 30 years to test a climate trend.

    Read and learn:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/ClimateSensitivity.html

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Ball.html

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Reber.html

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/VV.html

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Oct 2009 @ 4:45 AM

  109. The posts here, with the possible exception of Mark, who always seems to speak from a position of assumed moral and technological superiority”

    Says Burgess in a position of assumed moral and technological superiority…

    If you can’t attack the words, attack the man, hmm?

    Comment by Mark — 31 Oct 2009 @ 6:01 AM

  110. Dear RC, a little question about your coal CO2 numbers. 420 gigatonnes of Co2 (present rates with no yearly increase?) in 100 years and sinks not failing is purely from coal burning as it presently stands is it not ?

    If we add in oil and gas contribution and everything else its still around 29-30 billion tonnes of CO2 added to the atmosphere per annum with no global increase per annum factored in.

    If I add in that 2-3% per annum increase then its a doubling of co2 emissions in (log 2 = 70) divided by 2 and 3 respectibvely or 23 to 35 years which is just a little frightening for accorsding to my rough spreadsheet calculations its an additional 1.5 trillion tonnes of CO2!!!

    With sinks potentially faltering and emissions incresing 1 trillion tonnes of CO2 could be added to the 200 billion tonnes already emitted by the middle of the century!! Thats a 5 fold increase !!

    I then looked into a 2-3% per annum decrease then it makes a lot more sense and Co2 emissions are reduced to around 500 to 600 billion tonnes which is far less alarming but still will incur some additional warming and double our present additional atmospheric emissions to >450 ppmv.

    Am I on the right track here? If so then can’t we combine geoengineering in some way with carbon mitigation to put a ceiling on temperature rises in order to even stand a chance of mitigating AGW to manageable levels ?

    Comment by pete best — 31 Oct 2009 @ 6:08 AM

  111. “A year ago I suggested to three of my colleagues, one a geophysicist, another a professor of statistics and a third recently retired from a top engineering job at GM. All three have since expressed to me their rejection of the site BASED ON THE COMMENTS.”

    Odd how so many people seem to have been “believers” (and they do use that phraseology) but turned off because the idiots spouting rubbish were shown they were spouting rubbish and called idiots.

    Yet NOT ONE has gone the other way…

    It would seem if this story (for this is all this tale is: a story to frighten) is true then denialism is much like the Church of Scientology or indeed any other cult.

    Comment by Mark — 31 Oct 2009 @ 6:09 AM

  112. In the calculation:

    (4 Watts per square meter) X log2(1.3)

    where does the 1.3 come from?

    [Response: That's the ratio of the amount of CO2 in the "final" atmosphere to the amount of CO2 in the pre-industrial atmosphere (it comes from my very rough estimate of an increase by 30% from the base value). It comes The "4" out front is from the stat that each doubling gives you 4 Watts per square meter of radiative forcing. So, log2(2) = 1, and
    you get 4 Watts per square meter, another doubling takes you to 4X preindustrial CO2, which yields log2(4) = 2, and hence 8 Watts per square meter, etc. You can think of the log2 in there as a way of interpolating between even doubling values, respecting the radiative physics of CO2. --raypierre]

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 31 Oct 2009 @ 7:47 AM

  113. Re Knut Witberg @54: “Some even believe that the feedback is negative, so that a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere would cause much less than 1 C warmer earth.”

    Some also believe in fairies.

    That same low sensitivity would also apply to any other forcing, including an increase in solar insolation.

    So how, exactly, would these “some” explain known episodes of much higher temperatures in Earth’s history, desite a weaker sun?

    Oh, right, these “some” don’t do explanations, just assertions and hand-waving.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 31 Oct 2009 @ 8:07 AM

  114. You’ve just raised the bar on fisking. In fact you’ve jumped right over the stand out of the stadium.

    [Response: Thanks, but technically, this isn't a "fisk." At least in the original usage, a "fisk" is where you have the original article in a quote level (like the quote you get when somebody responds to email) and interpolate witty and devastating remarks in between. Quite like LeMonde did with the response Courtillot got to publish as part of his "droite de reponse." --raypierre]

    Comment by Alex — 31 Oct 2009 @ 8:08 AM

  115. Many thanks for Ray Pierrehumbert for this. It would be even better if he could cut it down to 500 words or so, the length needed for an op ed article in the dead tree media and we could all work to get it placed in our local papers and maybe even the national media with a reference to the longer version at the end.

    For example,

    Using only simple arithmetic and Google we find that all the world’s electricity use could be handled by solar cells covering only one ten thousandth of the Earths surface. Details and instructions for Prof. Levitt and others can be found at realclimate.com//. For the US, we would only have to cover an area x miles square, which would easily fit into Arizona.

    covers a lot of this.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 31 Oct 2009 @ 8:40 AM

  116. What’s that word? Ah, yes: Oh snap!

    Comment by Sili — 31 Oct 2009 @ 9:14 AM

  117. Personally, I plan to achieve zero CO2 emissions around the day I die.

    (Altho some cheapo relative will probably ruin it by burning me.)

    [Response: Don't fret too much. The human body is only about 18% carbon by mass, which is something like 30 kilograms. That's like the CO2 in the atmosphere above 10 square meters (in round numbers), or 0.6% of the annual fossil fuel emissions of a typical American. So, whatever your relatives do in this regard, it's not a big factor in carbon sequestration. --raypierre]

    Comment by ScuzzaMan — 31 Oct 2009 @ 9:21 AM

  118. Solar cells don’t collect energy 24 hours a day. Should that number be multiplied by 3, or is that accounted for in the efficiency number?

    Comment by Paul — 31 Oct 2009 @ 9:51 AM

  119. Excellent response and I second the “good skewering” comment. I hope that before composing this letter, you took the 1/2 mile walk yourself for a face-to-face meeting and an offer of dinner. That would present the possibility of a more effective outcome, however uncertain.

    Comment by The Wonderer — 31 Oct 2009 @ 10:04 AM

  120. Re your statement: “A typical coal-fired power plant only is around 33% efficient, so you would need to release 6 trillion Watts of heat to burn the coal to make our 2 trillion Watts of electricity.”

    Doesn’t 33% efficiency mean that of a total 6 trillion Watts of energy produced, 4 trillion would be waste heat and 2 trillion electricity?

    [Response: See the answer at #67. But this kind of thinking is great. It shows how having assimilated the simple principle of energy conservation you can readily spot all sorts of things that need to be checked. --raypierre]

    Comment by Hugh McLean — 31 Oct 2009 @ 10:04 AM

  121. #84 Thank you for your thoughts.

    Comment by Antonio San — 31 Oct 2009 @ 10:31 AM

  122. Hey, I just watched Levitt on the Daily Show. Jon Stewart basically called
    you and your colleagues a bunch of religious zealots.

    Could you please try to get on his show with a rebuttal?

    Josh

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/104974/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-tue-oct-27-2009?c=Talk-and-Interview#s-p1-so-i0

    [Response: Yeah, hey you have any ideas of how to get on? I do play a pretty nifty bunch of jigs and reels on my accordion, but I don't know how far that will get me. --raypierre]

    Comment by Josh — 31 Oct 2009 @ 11:19 AM

  123. This is beautifully written. It’s what Jon Stewart should have done.

    [Response: Thanks, Bill. Coming from a writer of your calibre, that's a compliment I'll remember for a long time. --raypierre]

    Comment by bill mckibben — 31 Oct 2009 @ 11:51 AM

  124. Burgy #88, consider that the reasons people give you for holding a certain position are very often not the real reasons — if they are even aware of those. You don’t know that these three folks weren’t already holding the positions they now blame the RC comments for… few people respond well to being called ignorant, even implicitly, even appropriately (Scientists being the rare exception, as that’s what continued functioning as a scientist requires). This is something you just cannot win.

    I agree though that handle ‘mark’ is a disresource for this site — but what do you propose? ‘Censorship’? Hear the outcry?

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 Oct 2009 @ 11:55 AM

  125. “Solar cells don’t collect energy 24 hours a day. Should that number be multiplied by 3, or is that accounted for in the efficiency number?”

    The sun puts ~1kw of energy on the earth. It’s quartered because the ground doesn’t get energy 24 hours a day.

    Hence using 250W includes that feature.

    Comment by Mark — 31 Oct 2009 @ 11:56 AM

  126. “I agree though that handle ‘mark’ is a disresource for this site — but what do you propose? ‘Censorship’? Hear the outcry?”

    disresource, Martin?

    And if you attack the delivery not the message, that is an ad-hom.

    And how many “skeptics” claim to be scientists..?

    “…few people respond well to being called ignorant, even implicitly, even appropriately (Scientists being the rare exception, as that’s what continued functioning as a scientist requires).”

    I would suggest (as I have to Burgess and his “friend”) that if they don’t want to be called a fool, stop talking like one.

    Being a PITA means I don’t get invited to parties much, but it doesn’t make my comments wrong.

    Comment by Mark — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:12 PM

  127. Marcus, I just saw your reply. The Cquestrate people spend quite a bit of effort dealing with your questions. They envision mining the Nullarbor Plain in Australia for limestone:

    …to remove a billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere would require the disposal, through this process, of approximately 1.5km3 of limestone (assuming the carbon dioxide generated in the calcination of the limestone is successfully sequestered). Given that there are approximately 10,000km3 of limestone in the Nullarbor Plain and that humankind have emitted a total of 305GtC between 1750 and 2003, it would require the consumption of approximately 5% of the limestone in the Nullarbor Plain to return the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back to pre-industrial levels.

    (305GtC seems like a low estimate — isn’t it closer to 1Tt?)

    They plan to power the operation my using “stranded” energy, in the form of solar or natural gas that’s way in the desert and uneconomical to transport. Carbon released during the calcination process could be captured or not — they propose using it for desert greenhouse agriculture.

    Would it work? I don’t know, but it’s the only geoengineering scheme that looks at all plausible or desirable to me.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:33 PM

  128. Why not take the suggested journey in reverse and stop by Levitt’s office?

    Perhaps he would be more receptive to your corrections in person.

    [Response: I haven't specifically gone knocking, but I did give a talk at the Graduate School of Business (where his office is located, according to his web page) and that talk covered some aspects of geoengineering. Many of the economists, like Gary Becker, showed a good interest in and comprehension of the physical issues, but if Levitt was there at all nothing I said seems to have rubbed off on him. But maybe some lines of communication will open up now. He has a bully pulpit with the Freak Franchise, and I may be living in a fantasy world but if he can be brought around to use it to spread truth instead of confusion, the world will be better off. --raypierre]

    Comment by Joseph — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:40 PM

  129. Just a thank you and a quick note. I wish I understood the science of this stuff better but then we all have our areas of interest and knowledge.

    I saw that Professor Levitt used the word “blasphemy” in his weird response. If you’re at all familiar with the internet crank/crackpot scale, you know that’s like a plus 10 because only a crank portrays his work and his views as being persecuted by some religious orthodoxy.

    Comment by jonathan — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:41 PM

  130. Levitt’s defensiveness toward his critics – particularly those who are better informed than he is – has been really surprising. It almost does more to damage his reputation than the original error. One might have considered his reputation salvaged if he’d apologized for the erroneous emphasis in the book, instead of (as you point out) bizarrely denying that hwe wrote what he wrote.

    He misrepresented the people he interviewed, he was too lazy to do basic math, and he doesn’t seem to know what was in the book that has his name on it.

    This whole episode is a stunning indictment of Prof. Levitt, and casts a pall over the rest of the body of work that represents his career.

    Comment by Al Petterson — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:42 PM

  131. Fantastic and on-point takedown; funny as well. I am neither a climatologist nor an economist, but I believe in looking at the numbers any time you can.

    Comment by Lisa Hirsch — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:43 PM

  132. “They plan to power the operation my using “stranded” energy, in the form of solar or natural gas that’s way in the desert and uneconomical to transport”

    And how is it easier to transport limestone?

    Weird.

    Comment by Mark — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  133. I’m not fully up on the science of radiant heat, but it’s my layman’s understanding that a large part of the heat absorbed by a supposedly black solar panel would be radiated right back into outer space without heating the atmosphere. The infrared rays emitted would have to collide with atoms in the atmosphere to warm them up – an effect that I presume would be increased to the extent that heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide are present.

    In contrast, the waste heat created by burning coal is in the form of hot gases (mainly carbon dioxide and some water vapor plus some sulfur dioxide) which mix directly with the gases of the atmosphere and directly contribute to warming them up. Waste heat from power plants is also commonly discharged as warmed-up water into rivers and ultimately the ocean.

    In sum, if the waste heat effect were in fact significant, it seems to me that how the heat is discharged would make a difference. I’d like to hear from someone more scientifically sophisticated, but my guess is that a given amount of radiant heat emitted by solar cells would have much less atmospheric warming effect than the same amount of waste heat generated by coal-burning plants in the form of hot gases and warmed water.

    [Response: Again, this is good thinking about physical principles, though since waste heat as a totality is a non-issue on the global scale one doesn't need to go into this level of detail to answer the original question posed. Nonetheless, it's interesting. You are only partly right about the fate of the sunlight absorbed by solar cells, but only partly. If you put them in a desert, which is clear, dry and cloud free most of the time, it is true that a a significant portion of the absorbed energy will be radiated directly to space (maybe a third of the infrared part of the surface energy balance, depending on how much water vapor there is in the atmosphere). But a lot of the heat transfer out of the surface will be from turbulent heat transport, and that's maybe a half the total, depending on wind speed. That part, plus the absorbed radiant heat, works just the same way as fossil fuel burning. So, the radiant effect would be at most something like a sixth of the energy absorbed, and you'd need to offset some of that against the fact that a bit of the coal plant's heat is also radiated away. The numbers are small, but they do provide a good opportunity to think quantitatively about surface energy budgets. (see the surface budget chapter of my book for the death-by-theoretical-physics version of how you do this stuff). --raypierre]

    Comment by Dan Preston — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:52 PM

  134. It was actually Dubner who stepped up to the plate to offer a response to all the criticism:

    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/global-warming-in-superfreakonomics-the-anatomy-of-a-smear/

    Except for the “wrong villian” quote, which is unashamedly says he “just missed”, he is still claiming the book accurately represent the position Caldeira’s communicated to them. Completely dodges the solar cells bit and their strange logic. Do you plan to take on this too?

    [Response: Ken and I have our differences, but they are tiny compared to the difference between the plain meaning of what Ken has written and what Levitt and Dubner said in their book. Basically, Ken thinks albedo engineering may someday be needed as insurance and that it would be justified to spend about one percent of our climate research money on it. I think that "insurance" is the wrong word for it, and that even a percent would divert scarce talents from more important efforts that are more likely to pay off. Levitt thinks that albedo engineering is the preferred solution, ignores all the downside, and thinks that the existence of albedo engineering means we can just burn all the coal and fix the temperature with aerosols. He has certainly misrepresented Ken's views, but even that is beside the point. What is more important is that he has dishonestly portrayed albedo engineering as a harmless and desirable fix, suppressing any mention of widely available research as to why it is not. Some of that research actually comes from Ken, but even if you left out what Ken has done, theres' plenty that Levitt and Dubner should have mentioned. The problems with ocean acidification are just one of these. --raypierre]

    Comment by Mark Green — 31 Oct 2009 @ 2:52 PM

  135. I have some problems with the accuracy of some of your assumptions and math — some pretty big. Though on reflection I would guess they all added together still fall easily within your “rough estimates suffice to make the point here” — your main point has a lot of room for internal variances. It would have been nice to see the accurate stuff for side learning purposes; but I can do that myself, I guess — not your yob. :-)

    [Response: The nice thing about laying out the arithmetic is that if anybody disagrees with any of my assumptions, they can just re-do it and find the consequences. I deliberately stuck with round numbers because I wanted to show how you could start with knowing almost nothing and arrive at the right answer. That means skipping some of the finer points. --raypierre]

    Comment by Rod B — 31 Oct 2009 @ 2:55 PM

  136. Stephen Pranulis (34), sidebar: what substance, in the correct concentration, is not poisonous to us humans?

    Comment by Rod B — 31 Oct 2009 @ 3:08 PM

  137. To mark:

    To some extent I agree with your post. My three friends probably were predisposed to deny what seems to me and you to be the obvious facts. What I might have written is this: “I persuaded some colleagues to look at this site and the nastiness and assumed moral/intellectual superiority of some posters led them to throw out the good science in the articles with the posts. Whatever — they are now quite firmly in the anti-AGW camp, and I no longer try very hard to bring the data to them that would lead them to question their position.

    Like so many many people, they have now taken a position and will not back down because it would lead them to “lose face.” And that is sad.

    My ONLY concern is that by sarcasm, “superiority” and being quick to spot trollers that more enemies are made than friends.It’s like the war in Iraq — the claim was made by some that by engaging in that war we were making enemies faster than killing them.

    The good stuff you sometimes post gets lost in the nasty packaging. That’s how I see it. Your mileage may differ.

    Burgy (not “Burges”)

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 31 Oct 2009 @ 3:13 PM

  138. “Like so many many people, they have now taken a position and will not back down because it would lead them to “lose face.” And that is sad.”

    And weird.

    It’s like noticing that every time you smack your head with a brick, it hurts but because someone else said it would hurt you’re damn well going to keep doing it just to prove them wrong.

    “The good stuff you sometimes post gets lost in the nasty packaging.”

    I have no problem with someone saying that when they apply it wherever needed. However what I have only ever seen is someone saying it about one side.

    Generally a denialist saying “you’re all so mean and that is why I don’t believe it any more”. Or people like yourself who ignore the worse antics of the denialosphere.

    While it’s applied lopsidedly I feel no compunction whatsoever to moderate my tone.

    PS Re: Burgess, yup, noted that just now when the “latest comment” held your name on it. Maybe I think you really look like the Penguin (from the REAL TV series, not this comic drawing carp…). Not sure if that helps, though.

    Comment by Mark — 31 Oct 2009 @ 3:36 PM

  139. Ray,

    I’m happy to see you took a mathematical argument because I enjoy reading mathematically founded arguments that have good math. I think they cut through more stuff then tit for tat arguments that most people rely on.

    I, however, have one disagreement. I believe disappointment was too weak of a word; instead, I think unethical would have been a better choice.

    Take a look at this:
    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/09/biodiversity-is-always-a-goal-right/

    I think such a portrayal is unethical.

    Comment by EL — 31 Oct 2009 @ 3:37 PM

  140. PPS I only say that someone is wrong, give the reason, then tell them they are an idiot.

    If they don’t like it, they can try not appearing to be an idiot.

    And it’s very unlikely that someone will get the idiot tag until they’ve had ample time to prove it.

    As opposed to some on the denialist side who get a bye who say “you’re wrong because you’re an idiot/defrauding/religious/…”.

    Leading the statement veracity from the personal appearance rather than leading the personal appearance to the veracity of the statement is ad hominem.

    Comment by Mark — 31 Oct 2009 @ 3:40 PM

  141. #34 and #136, to a chemist, the dose makes the poison. I always point out that old synthetic papers include that scary description “tastes like” for some of the most toxic stuff ever made (then again, there are the papers dedicated to the technicians who made and tasted).

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 31 Oct 2009 @ 3:51 PM

  142. Thank you for the great article and discussion. It, and most of the comments are very approachable by non-scientists like myself.

    I noticed a comment or two regarding ‘your numbers’ and since I’ve worked in the PV industry for several years, I thought I’d work through the 16.83T kWh yearly worldwide demand relationship to the 53,333 square kilometer area required metric to see if it matches with our experience in the day-to-day world of solar panel installation.

    To keep it simple, I’ll only count the space required for the panel itself and not the space between rows required to mitigate shading issues. I’ll also assume a nearly ideal South facing installation, tilted at latitude in the Southwestern US with a standard 6″, 60 cell, 230 watt poly silicon solar panel measuring ~1.6 square meters. There are a dozen brand name examples.

    If we use NREL’s PV Watts calculator to estimate output we arrive at an average of 1.82 kWh per year for every PV watt installed. This is the average for Southeastern CA, Southern AZ, NV & NM. Energy delivered per watt installed continues to move up as technology improves, but the relationship described by PV Watts is roughly consistent with our observations over the last year.

    Using the above, I calculate that this solar panel will produce ~262 kWh per square meter, (230*1.82)/1.6. And, unless I’m about to, or already have blown the math, this panel will produce 262 million kWh per square kilometer. To satisfy world wide demand we’d need 64,237 square kilometers of solar panels. Using a high end, energy dense solar panel we can produce ~20% more energy per square meter and bring our required space directly into the area the author describes.

    Comment by Eric Rowland — 31 Oct 2009 @ 4:51 PM

  143. This is kind of beside the point of the letter considering the randomness of the example, but I was just
    stunned by the amazing usage which deserts could be put to; solar cells “plants” I guess we could call them this way ,could power up a whole continent if implemented on a large scale within such inhospitable areas as deserts , with extremely minimal effect on GHG heat trapping and yet even lesser effect on heat waste than coal power plants.

    Comment by Cremenoire — 31 Oct 2009 @ 4:53 PM

  144. I’ve gone and posted the link to this Open Letter to my wall in Facebook, fwiw.

    Comment by Warren Hoskins — 31 Oct 2009 @ 5:04 PM

  145. This reminded me of Carl Sagan’s priceless deconstruction of Velikovsky’s “Worlds in Collision.” Was that in “Dragons of Eden?” Anyhow, he noted by way of preface that usually scientists have a habit of just letting this sort of crank theory go unanswered, but a disproof using science is so much more educational and even, on occasion, fun. I laughed aloud and learned something at the same time. Carl would have laughed too.

    Comment by Jason Tondro — 31 Oct 2009 @ 5:24 PM

  146. I wish belatedly to second the thought of CM way back at post #21: As much as I admire Gavin’s hard work at keeping RealClimate going (and also his recent responses, which, like that of the oceans, are growing more acidic with increasing CO2), there are few people who have raypierre’s combination of scholarship and expository skill. It’s always a joy to read him.

    [Response: Thanks, Steve. But remember that all RC posts (this one included) benefit from suggestions made by the whole bunch of RC bloggers. As for my relative absence recently, it's only been because I've been making a real push to finish the never-ending climate book. It's finally done now, except for some housekeeping chores like finishing the index, so I imagine you'll be hearing more from me again, especially on the things I enjoy writing -- the pieces on interesting new science. --raypierre]

    Comment by S. Molnar — 31 Oct 2009 @ 5:33 PM

  147. I admit that I haven’t read through all the comments, so this may already have been pointed out:

    “A typical coal-fired power plant only is around 33% efficient, so you would need to release 6 trillion Watts of heat to burn the coal to make our 2 trillion Watts of electricity.”

    4 trillion, not 6 trillion.

    Nice article, though.

    [Response: This point has been answered twice already. Look through the comments. --raypierre]

    Comment by Clifton — 31 Oct 2009 @ 5:49 PM

  148. Regarding Eli’s post about dose making the poison, and old synthetic papers having comments like ” tastes like “. I worked as a chemist in a plant that manufactured precious metal cyanide salts for a number of years ( yes, that explains a lot…). While I can’t tell you much about the taste of cyanide, I can assure you that the classic bitter almond smell is only one of a multitude of odors that cyanide can manifest, depending on its concentration in air.

    Regarding Rod B’s question as to what substance in the “correct concentration” ( my God, what a telling choice of words, Rod… correct to whom… an executioner???) is not toxic to us humans. My mention of the LD50 of carbon dioxide was merely a response to the writer named “foobear” expressing the idea that carbon dioxide is not a poison. It is most definitely a poison, and not merely for its ability to displace oxygen. Saying it is not a poison is the kind of foolishness that can get someone killed (e.g. “Isn’t that ton of dry ice in a small room dangerous? Heck no, its not toxic.”). And the AGW skeptics have been propagating just that meme as a “scoring point” of late. How irresponsible is that? I think it’s somewhat irresponsible, but orders of magnitude less irresponsible than claiming that there is no evidence of anthropogenic global warming.

    Comment by Stephen Pranulis — 31 Oct 2009 @ 5:49 PM

  149. I’m not sure why that is blasphemy.

    It’s not, but I must say that the purely rhetorical trick of switching from being accused of stupidity to being accused of blasphemy is as effective as it is pathetic. That is to say, it seems to be working for you, but you are pathetic for doing it. You are allowed to say whatever you like, but you are not above criticism; that is the domain of the religious.

    Comment by pough — 31 Oct 2009 @ 6:26 PM

  150. Hugh McLean #120.

    I know 33% efficiency sounds low, but an EU report at EurActive.com states; “According to Hans-Dieter Schilling (Energie-Fakten), the average efficiency of all coal power stations in the world currently stand at around 31%, leaving a vast potential to reduce coal consumption and CO2 emissions.”, which is worse!
    http://www.euractiv.com/en/energy/analysis-efficiency-coal-fired-power-stations-evolution-prospects/article-154672

    If we take some ‘off the cuff’ ‘optimistic’ efficiencies through the various site plant:
    Boiler system ~80%.
    Steam turbine ~60%.
    Electricity generator ~90%.
    Substation to the grid ~95%.
    (ignoring ancillary equipment)

    Gives, 0.8 * 0,6 * 0.9 * 0.95 = 0.4104 Thus 41% Efficiency. That sounds better!

    But the story doesn’t end there. To get to the consumer’s terminals in the UK, the power has to find its way through our national grid. I understand that we currently (pardon the pun) only get out about half of what goes into the grid.

    Can we rehash that to 20.5% efficiency, or 16.5% for the given post, at the consumer’s terminals?

    Best regards, suricat.

    Comment by suricat — 31 Oct 2009 @ 6:28 PM

  151. I don’t know why I wasn’t aware of this blog before, but you can count me among your regular readers now. Just really excellent. Thanks for doing this.

    [Response: Welcome aboard! ]

    Comment by jeffro — 31 Oct 2009 @ 6:54 PM

  152. Pough (do you mean Poe?)
    IF not, you should use the search function for the word, starting at the top.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Oct 2009 @ 7:25 PM

  153. Well done raypierre.

    I remember the demolition job you did on Allegre some years ago, which I have since used on a number of occasions to dissuade people I know to have anything to do with the gentleman. His name recently came up as a possible adviser in Mr Sarkozy’s last mini reshuffle, fortunately M. Allegre was left in the pack (deck ? for USians).

    Mr Levitt should really die of shame for his latest effort.

    An economist friend of mine, who teaches at a UK business school, recommended, after it was reviewed in the UK press, that I read the chapter. I got hold of a version through Mr Connelly’s site (I think, or maybe a link from there). My friend asked me what I thought of it and I said that I thought that the science was wrong, the economics was junk, it was badly written and assuming he correctly reported the views of his interviewees (which I doubted) I didn’t think much of Mr Gates’ crowd either. He agreed with me.

    Mr Hogan’s point in 71 about ignoring fundamental physical relationships is well made.

    Unfortunately many professional economists tend to ignore physical and behavioural relationships. It is probably this which has led many to fail to forecast the financial mess, and for poor advice to be given on the so-called costs of mitigating and adapting to global heating (after a number of years reading your site and others, I am well off the alarm-o-meter). Mitigation, if started early enough (including today), costs nothing : it will have a non-negative impact on living standards in developed countries.

    Comment by Eachran — 31 Oct 2009 @ 7:32 PM

  154. Regarding #127

    Jim, there are several other carbon sequestration plans I’ve seen that make at least as much sense as liming the oceans. The advantage of liming the ocean is that it increases pH some, though that change can’t last until atmospheric levels of CO2 decline.

    The terrestrial equivalent of liming the ocean is spreading of olivine on land or pumping air through a variety of minerals which will react with CO2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_sink for a good rundown on different sinks.

    One sink I’m rapidly growing fond of is the production of biochar to be added to agricultural land. It acts as a nutrient sponge, lowering nutrient runoff and providing an ideal home for the biota that make soil more productive. It appears to have the potential to sequester carbon for centuries to millenia, reduces fertilizer and water requirements for crops, probably makes food grown on biochar amended soil more nutritious, and increases the amount of carbon pulled from the air by the crops. A very good thing all around. Biochar can be produced from wood waste (think pine bark beetle damage before forest fires get it), agricultural “waste” like corn stover and wheat straw, or municipal waste (leaves, grass clippings, pet waste).

    Comment by David Miller — 31 Oct 2009 @ 9:37 PM

  155. If you include cogeneration (using the heat) natural gas systems can get above 75% (seem to recall that about 55% of that is in the form of electricity.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 31 Oct 2009 @ 9:43 PM

  156. I would not want to put anyone off reading Mr Levitt’s first book, Freakonomics, which I understand is quite entertaining. It may also be right about claims it makes in areas where I have no knowledge (such as professional sumo-wrestling). However, a quick skim showed it to be very shallow, not to say wrong, on a few things where I do have some knowledge, such as the economics and sociology of drug-dealing. I would advise, if you quote it at parties, to check the credentials of your listeners carefully first.

    Comment by Peter T — 31 Oct 2009 @ 11:28 PM

  157. I hadn’t intended to go into this much detail, see below, but circumstances have overtaken me.

    World energy consumption per capita (US DOE[?]) 150 kw-hrs/day

    150 kw-hrs/day/person x 365 days/year = 54,750 kw-hrs/year per person

    54,750 kw-hrs/person/year x 6.5e9 people = 355,875,000,000,000 kw-hrs

    355.875 trillion kw-hrs/year x 2.388 (1.022 growth per annum over 40 years)

    849,829,500,000,000 kw-hrs/year(2050)

    If everyone consumes at US/Australia rates, 250 kw-hrs/day/person (A), multiply by 1.66, giving total energy consumption 1,415.8 trillion kw-hrs by 2050

    Some of this will be renewable, of course, and perhaps some of will be non-carbon producing, eg., French nuclear reactors, but the remainder is considerably more than the 16.83 trillion kw-hrs/year quoted in this rebuttal

    In this instance, using the numbers above, total area required would be 84 times larger, i.e., 4,479,972 sq kms.

    Pedants can argue all day about the relative carbon emissions of diesel, or petrol, or gas, or whatever, and the albedo of sand versus rooftops. I do not intend to do that here.

    What seems clear is that Professor Pierrehumbert has made the same mistake he accuses his colleague of, over simplification and not addressing the numbers. The problem isn’t simple, as he appears to state, and as soon as everyone recognizes that one basic fact the better off we will all be.

    [Response: No, you have made the mistake of only looking at the number that supports your preconceived notion and ignoring any number that upsets your world view. If you scale up the electricity usage, you increase the warming due to the albedo effect of the solar cells, but you also increase the warming due to the effect of the CO2 released burning coal to make the same amount of energy. The latter is still overwhelmingly dominant. It is true that under exponential growth you eventually reach the point where waste heat even from carbon free energy becomes an issue (think about Trantor) but we're nowhere near that point yet. Further, you can do the arithmetic to show that if you reach the point where waste heat becomes a significant warming effect on the global scale, then your energy has to be coming from some source other than fossil fuels anyway. (Hint: there are only about 5000 GTonnes in carbon in coal resources. Make a reasonable supposition of the time span over which that is all burned up and converted to energy. Clathrates are a harder target to estimate, but try assuming clathrate carbon is 10X coal and see what you get) --raypierre]

    Comment by George Blahusiak — 1 Nov 2009 @ 1:46 AM

  158. Re: 8 – Funny you should say that. I looked up sea level rise in Wiki and found that almost all of sea level rise is (allegedly) due to thermal expansion, 3 mm (more or less) in the last year alone. Yet I looked up JPL and found that sea level temps haven’t changed during the last 4-5 years. Someone not checking their facts?

    [Response: This is getting off-topic, and moreover is a pretty egregious misreading of the facts. Take it somewhere else. --raypierre]

    Comment by George Blahusiak — 1 Nov 2009 @ 2:36 AM

  159. jonathan at 129:
    “I saw that Professor Levitt used the word “blasphemy” in his weird response. If you’re at all familiar with the internet crank/crackpot scale, you know that’s like a plus 10 because only a crank portrays his work and his views as being persecuted by some religious orthodoxy.

    I’m sure it’s some side effect of being physically located so close to the theology department ;-)

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 1 Nov 2009 @ 7:04 AM

  160. raypierre and gavin,
    From raypierre’s response to Levitt at 47:

    “Now regarding geoengineering, your “global warming quiz” in the NYT Freak blog had the main danger of geoengineering laid out right in front of you, but you failed to see it. Namely, you see the rapid recovery time after Pinatubo as evidence that geoengineering is harmless because you can reverse it any time. However, the bigger implication of that fact is that if you rely on geoengineering to allow the economy to burn up all the coal and raise the atmospheric CO2 to high levels, then if you ever have to stop, you are hit with the full effects of maybe a century or more of global warming practically all at once.”

    Is this not itself confusing “stock” and “flows”? What I mean is that the climate is in large part determined by the surface ocean heat content. That is why if we stopped adding CO2 to the atmosphere immediately we would still endure an additional 0.6 C warming as the planet settled into heat balance. So sulphate aerosols would buy time to the extent that they turned off the heating of the oceans. If removed, we would then resume heating but from a lower ocean heat content. This heating would be faster due to greater CO2, but that is not the same as being “hit with the full effects of maybe a century or more of global warming practically all at once”.

    That said I think this form of geoengineering would be a disaster for other reasons. It would likely produce catastrophic changes in weather patterns by reducing thermal gradients and destroy much of the ocean’s ecosystem as acidification would be unchecked.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 1 Nov 2009 @ 7:14 AM

  161. Keep this kind of thing up. The most powerful arguments you guys can make are ones that lay people can understand themselves (as long as they remember some high-school science and a bit of logic).

    Comment by HappySkeptic — 1 Nov 2009 @ 7:16 AM

  162. Aerosol cooling would ruin crop yields through lowered sunlight, destroy forests via acid rain, kill people outright who are sensitive to emphysema. That’s why these pollutants were limited by the Clean Air Act. I’m not completely against it, but there are consequences beyond merely dimming the planet to combate AGW.

    Per the fossil energy cost of manufacturing solar cells, it seems to me that one could design a solar cell manufacturing plant, self-contained, that did little more than take in sand and raw iron/Cu ore, take in sunlight, and spit out solar panels. Locate it in the desert. So now your solar panels take zero fossil energy to manufacture.

    Comment by ubrew12 — 1 Nov 2009 @ 8:56 AM

  163. George Blahusiak #157

    Where did you get your figures.

    Total world energy production is about 5 x 10^20 Joules per year.(1)
    This is equivalent to 1.39 x 10^14 KWH per year. About 80 to 90% is derived from fossil fuel. ie about 1.2 x 10^14 KWH.
    With a population of 6.5 billion this equates to 18460 KWH per capita per year from fossil fuel, which is equal to 50.5 KWH per day per capita from fossil fuel(58 KWH for all energy production). Definitely not 150 KWH per day as you suggested. This factor alone cuts your result by a factor of three.

    You then compounded the error.

    Professor Pierrehumbert was addressing the specific point with regard to total current annual electricity production which, most recently,
    was calculated to be 16.8 trillion KWH for 2008(2). At an efficiency of about 35%, electricity production represents about 40% of total fossil fuel use.

    You based your final figure on the current (incorrect) energy production and assumed that the world needs to produce that amount of energy from solar power. However the amount of energy quoted is the total thermal energy produced by burning fossil fuel; not the amount of useful energy used. For example electricity production is only about 35% efficient, so for the 40% of the energy used in electricity production you only need to produce 35% of that amount by solar panels to completely replace 40% of total current fossil fuel use. (One could probably make a similar argument regarding replacement by solar power of fossil fuel use in even less efficient internal combustion engines etc). Another factor of 3 at least.

    In any case a back of the envelope calculation might have suggested a problem. Your “849,829,500,000,000 kw-hrs/year(2050)” might need 4 – 5 million square Km of solar panels, but it would need a formidable amount of fossil fuel too. At a rate of 250 grams of Carbon per KWH, (35% efficiency) this equates to about 212 GT of carbon (784 GT CO2) released into the atmosphere per year, almost 30 times the current rate. Not impossible, but atmospheric concentrations of CO2 would be increasing at rather more than the current 2 ppm per year. What one could call an interesting scenario.

    And, as for unhindered growth as understood by some economists, at current population growth rates, the earth will be 2 metres deep in humanity by 2600, and by 4000 we will be expanding out into space at the rate of about 1 km per hour.

    (1)”Energy – Consumption’, Statistical Review of World Energy 2009, BP. http://www.bp.com/statisticalreview

    (2) CIA World Fact Book. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 1 Nov 2009 @ 9:17 AM

  164. John Burgy (137),
    Well said. We should be careful not to “make more enemies than friends” in the way we respond to others (including ‘the enemy’, if there even is one).
    (I guess I’m at risk being called a left wing pacifist having said these things more than once lately, but so be it)

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 1 Nov 2009 @ 9:30 AM

  165. Re 157 George Blahusiak says:
    1 November 2009 at 1:46 AM

    Why would you assume the world would necessarily follow US & Australia’s rather excessive and inefficient energy use? (Not sure many countries would support law banning use of washing line in garden to dry clothes forcing community to use tumble dryers and the like) And given there is a problem, support / progress to make buildings better insulated etc reduces energy consumption.

    Comment by kejr — 1 Nov 2009 @ 9:39 AM

  166. You have to factor in local solar radiation as well as economics when thinking about green & white roofs and solar roofs, as well as local water issues. Here’s the U.S. solar irradiation map:

    http://www.azsolarcenter.com/arizona/images/solmap.gif

    Now, the same point made about the black solar roofs absorbing heat also applies to the white roofs – how much roof space is there, and how does it compare to the size of the necessary photovoltaic space? In other words, if we paint all the roofs white, and then subtract the space needed for the photovoltaic array, what % remains white? What then is the radiative effect on a global scale?

    I’m guessing the analysis would show that painting roofs white has a similarly minimal effect when it comes to cooling the planet – it’s more of an economic argument aimed at reducing air conditioning costs in the summer. This is also what raypierre says:

    “But, for either green roofs or white roofs, the big climate impact comes from the reductions in air conditioning needed, which reduces the CO2 emitted. – raypierre (#50)”

    You can add that a solar-powered roof combined with good building design can actually eliminate all fossil CO2 emissions related to air conditioning. It’s clearly the best choice for reducing fossil CO2. The only argument against it is the relatively high up-front cost, similar to that of a new automobile.

    However, if the argument is economic, what’s a better deal: setting up a solar PV roof under a financing arrangement that allows for a 10 year repayment (as with vehicles) and eliminates your utility bill payments, or painting your roof white? Paint is cheaper than solar panels, but if you own your own power station, and it runs on free fuel, that’s a better long term payoff. Of course, this argument is more convincing in Arizona than in upstate New York, because there’s more free sunlight in Arizona (where keeping a green roof would be implausible due to water limits).

    It would be nice to see the DOE Secretary, who is in charge of the planning for the nation’s energy future (along with the many DOE National Labs, such as LLNL & LANL), work this question out on a blackboard in front of the cameras:

    What are the effects of white vs. solar roofs, from the global radiative perspective, the energy-to-CO2 ratio perspective, and the economic perspective?

    Maybe Steve Levitt and the main go-to think tank on electricity for the U.S. press, the Electric Power Research Institute, could do the same.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 1 Nov 2009 @ 10:12 AM

  167. #108 BPL:

    You can also add these to your list of climate sensitivity values and sources:

    Knutti and Hegerl (2008) and IPCC (2007) conclude a climate sensitivity value of about 3 oC, with a likely range of about 2 – 4.5 oC.

    Knutti, R. & Hegerl, G. (2008). The equilibrium sensitivity of the earth’s temperature to radiation changes. Nature Geoscience, (1), 735 – 743.

    Comment by Scott A. Mandia — 1 Nov 2009 @ 11:23 AM

  168. We have now entered the era of snarly wiki science.

    It’s about time. The planetary and space sciences are your friends.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 1 Nov 2009 @ 11:30 AM

  169. 162. In addition,

    “355.875 trillion kw-hrs/year x 2.388 (1.022 growth per annum over 40 years)”

    A 1.022 growth rate per year does not double in 40 years; instead, it doubles in 68.1686 years; Thus, 534 instead of the 849.

    Comment by EL — 1 Nov 2009 @ 11:50 AM

  170. Australia oil well catches fire, after the fourth attempt to cap the well failed.

    A director of the company, Jose Martins, said the only way to stop the fire was to plug the leak.

    “The measures which we have been able to take so far can only mitigate the fire. They will not stop the fire.

    “The best way to stop the fire is to complete the well-kill and stop the flow of gas and oil at the surface from the H-1 well, cutting off the fuel source for the fire.”

    This thing just goes from bad to worse.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 1 Nov 2009 @ 11:54 AM

  171. Burgy, when your friends are idiots who fail to listen to reason and admit their mistakes, they are your enemies.

    These people are are not amenable to reason and they are not our friend, and thus should be treated with the respect that they deserve – none, thus the sarcasm.

    Even satire doesn’t seem to work on these people, and honestly, Burgy, you are indeed one of these people.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 1 Nov 2009 @ 12:35 PM

  172. “World energy consumption per capita (US DOE[?]) 150 kw-hrs/day”

    GB – Please check this sum –

    150kWh/day/person means:

    150/24 kWh/h/person = 6.25kWh/h/person = 6.25kW/person continuous consumption worldwide

    Is the input data correct?
    Is the maths correct?
    Is the answer reasonable?
    What can you cross reference it to as a check and balance?

    Comment by slow to follow — 1 Nov 2009 @ 1:09 PM

  173. Nice post. I was lucky to be able to attend some talks on geoengineering at the KITP in Santa Barbara last year, which were fascinating (I’m a physicist, but have only an amateur’s interest in climate science). Ray, I seem to remember the punchline of your talk on “Damocles Earth” being that in a simplified model, tuning the sulfate aerosol concentration to cool the tropics to a reasonable temperature led to an ice age on most of the planet. Has there been more work along these lines? It seems intuitive to me — sulfates give you one knob to turn, but there’s a lot more to climate than just “average global temperature”, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if lowering the average temperature with this strange cocktail of CO2 and sulfates in the atmosphere led to vastly different climate patterns. This seems like it could potentially be a very strong argument against this sort of geoengineering strategy, but the counterarguments I’ve seen cropping up lately have been mostly about the geopolitical problems or ocean acidification than the effects of climate itself….

    Comment by Matt R. — 1 Nov 2009 @ 1:17 PM

  174. Burgy, distinguish the people posting comments from the Contributors, capital-C, listed in the sidebar and the About info.

    They don’t keep this place polite, though it seems to me they do work hard to keep pointless anger and flaming out of the discussion.

    There are places where screaming and abusing people is effective educationally. Well, one place — Army drill sergeants indoctrinating new inductees apparently do it quite effectively.

    But — imagine if they tried it using text messaging only.

    That’s what you get here sometimes, people who imagine they can be effectively convincing using drill-sergeant abusive behavior via text message.

    If you can sit back and find it amusing, it works better. If you’re a naive reader — especially a new one — and you read that kind of stuff, you don’t have the context to know who’s typing, what the history is, nor whether the person being abused ‘deserves it’ or not. So it’s a detriment.

    But — look at CA or WTF and see the same kind of stuff done by true believers there who are sure they’re right, abusing people they’re sure are idiots. It happens; if your ‘friends’ don’t see it there and only see it here, then they’re supplying the emotional tone themselves based on their own beliefs.

    All there is here is ASCII text. The feelings are supplied by the reader.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Nov 2009 @ 2:19 PM

  175. 231 Kilometers on a side provided you have no access between cells and no repair access roads.

    Because you will need access, I dare say that this number is a bit misleading. I would put the size at least larger by a factor of four.

    The next question is, how fast will it need to grow to keep up with human needs?

    Then, I must ask, why do we keep destroying the planet to obtain planet-destroying paradigms?

    Why not use this intellectual wattage to figure out how to get rid of the need for planet-destroying paradigms?

    Why must we keep using?

    This is not solvable using scientists and engineers. It is like using dynamite to prevent the production of dynamite factories. Any solution they offer will suffer the inevitable cycle of unintended consequences: first, invent a technology that is poorly understood (Everything is poorly understood), second, commercialize it and create a financial incentive to keep it going even when it is discovered to be just another planet-destroying paradigm, create a techno-fix to remedy the first cock-up, commercialize it to create a financial incentive to keep it going when it is discovered to have its own problems, create a techno-fix for the techno-fix, commercialize it….rinse and repeat.

    Technology will solve the problem of technology. Nature will solve the problem of technology. It is called die-off. The only question is will we decide to destroy the planet in an attempt to save it.

    I’m guessing the answer is a resounding yes.

    Comment by Cherenkov — 1 Nov 2009 @ 2:24 PM

  176. raypierre,

    First, my compliments, truly outstanding. You are my idol :).

    I am curious though, why you limited your discussion to photovoltaics and no mention of concentrator systems, such as Sterling Energy Systems use of sterling engines, or even solar towers? I believe Sterling claims they can produce at about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour now. Was your intent to focus on distributed, rather than on concentrated sources or was this simply intended to provide but one example out of many possible options in the solar arsenal?

    Comment by Sene Bauman — 1 Nov 2009 @ 2:41 PM

  177. Thanks, Scott!

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Nov 2009 @ 2:54 PM

  178. Matt (173)

    You are quite right! Even if you somehow keep pace with the rising CO2 by raising the albedo of the planet (e.g., with sulphate aerosols) the average global temperature can stay roughly constant with much larger regional changes in precipitation or temperature. You can imagine some of the political tension that would be raised between countires, if say, China or India or some other country were to have an anomalous drought or other storm event. It would become that much easier to blame whoever was controlling the knob on climate. This is just one of the many problems of Solar Radiation Management outlined in Alan Robock’s 20 Reasons Geoengineering may be a bad idea.

    Really, the whole raising of the albedo thought experiments (in their many forms) are all unconvincing. They cannot tackle the problem of ocean acidification, they all must be managed on timescales similar to that of the perturbed CO2 residence time in the atmosphere (which is not practical), they all involve a lot of regional climate responses not necessarily correlating with the global mean, you have the ‘unknown unknowns’ component, and many other reasons. The climate system is not a game where you can just turn different variables up and down simultaneously and hope to get the pre-industrial (or current) climate regime as a result.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 1 Nov 2009 @ 3:07 PM

  179. EL (169)

    The growth rate is not 1.022 per year, but 2.2% per year. Doubles in 32 years.

    Comment by Brian Brademeyer — 1 Nov 2009 @ 3:44 PM

  180. From http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Freakonomics.html

    “Levitt’s style of research emphasizes asking questions to understand the economics of real-life issues.”

    Really?

    Comment by Beast Of Bodmin — 1 Nov 2009 @ 4:47 PM

  181. @47: “Blasphemy”? Still going with the “religion” meme, I see, Steve. Religious faith is “belief without evidence”. The only people practising that around here are you and Myhrvold.

    Comment by Greg — 1 Nov 2009 @ 4:49 PM

  182. Bruce Tabor, you’re getting some things backwards here, but so is Levitt:

    “What I mean is that the climate is in large part determined by the surface ocean heat content…”

    That is wrong – the climate (assuming a given land-ocean configuration) is mainly determined by the long-term atmospheric forcing, and the surface ocean responds to that forcing. If the atmosphere is warming, the ocean lags but eventually heats up – and if the atmosphere cools off due to a draw-down of CO2, the ocean’s heat lingers on for some time, until cooling sets in. Don’t confuse response and forcing.

    The ocean acts as a thermal buffer for changes in atmospheric forcing, especially the deep ocean, which is distinct from the surface mixed layer. The thermal buffering also creates a CO2 buffer effect – and that, in turn, also helps explain CO2 patterns in glacial cycles – CO2 increases initially lag behind the temperature increase, because the ocean outgases CO2 as it warms (think of a thawing freezer full of food – first it warms up, then it begins to smell).

    Levitt and others are trying to use this fact to argue for ocean-based geoengineering based on pumping warm water down below the thermocline, or vice versa. However, their argument is without much physical basis. To understand why, see Mark Denny’s 2008 Princeton textbook”>How the ocean works: an introduction to oceanography”, pg170:

    “…With this background, we now can tackle our original question: how much energy is required to increase the depth of the thermocline by mixing water up from below?….Let’s suppose we stir the ocean’s surface, and as a result, high-density water from a thin stratum of the lower layer is mixed with the water of the upper layer… After this mixing, the surface mixed layer is thicker than before and the ocean has a new potential energy. In effect, some of the dense water from the lower layer has been lifted upward, and that requires an increase in the potential energy of the system.”

    Now, we can start to consider surface ocean cooling via cross-thermocline pumping – for some details, see Levitt as paraphrased by Newsweek in their review of Superfreakonomics:

    “Large, floating cylinders in the Gulf of Mexico could cheaply push warm surface water deeper, cooling the ocean and disrupting the conditions in which hurricanes are born…”

    The energy calculation diagram for a simple case is found in Denny 2008, pg 170. Any responsible geoengineering scheme would begin there, but reliable answers require full scale models. If someone wanted to build a skyscraper, and offered to do the necessary calculations on a napkin, would you be impressed or skeptical? However, there aren’t even rough calculations – Levitt is “not a scientist” – so who did he rely on for this disinformation? Hard to say.

    For a good rebuttal to the claim, see Scientific American, Oct 23, 2009:

    “If you take 20 gigawatts of heat away from surface, you think that has to cool it, but that is not necessarily true,” Smyth says. “What it’s actually going to do is raise the base of the mixed layer. If the base is at 50 meters, and you pump away the upper meter of the ocean, the mixed layer will then extend down to 49 meters. It’s not that the 20 gigawatts disappear into thin air. It’s just that it’s not doing anything useful in terms of changing sea-surface temperature.”

    It is true that a shallower mixed layer can inhibit hurricanes – the strongest ones form over deep warm cores – but what about the engineering scale needed? How many pumps per square kilometer? You also have your mechanical engineering issues, ocean currents, replacement costs…

    Thus, geoengineering schemes based on pumping water across the thermocline appear to be little more than arguments for maintaining the status quo. Like the other ocean-based bio-geoengineering scheme, iron fertilization, the whole thing falls apart when examined closely.

    Similarly, no quasiperiodic-or-chaotic oceanic fluctuations (ENSO, for example) will have much effect on the long-term atmospheric forcing induced by fossil CO2. Ocean heat content continues to rise, as the models predicted – and yes, there are fluctuations, but that’s expected:

    http://www.leif.org/research/Ocean-Heat-Content-1955-2004.png

    P.S. In terms of “fair and balanced” media coverage and book reviews, try searching Google News for mentions of “Climate Cover Up” (32) vs. “Superfreakonomics” (826)…

    Comment by Ike Solem — 1 Nov 2009 @ 5:04 PM

  183. Science writer Carl Zimmer (The Loom)labels this post as his entry to the mythical category “The Best Pwnage of 2009″.

    Comment by Deech56 — 1 Nov 2009 @ 5:10 PM

  184. The world total energy use quoted above (@163) 5E20 J per year is roughly the same amount of energy as the globe receives from the sun in one hour.

    If all this energy is eventually turnes into waste heat it still is tiny in comparison with the numbers in the annual energy balance of the globe. (There are 8760 hours per year).

    The fact that we are using about one hour of total solar energy per year has however, implications for the Trantor limit that (see Raypierre reply @157). With reasonable efficiency assumptions and growth rate for energy use you can start estimating long time would pass until when human energy usage becomes a significant fraction of total solar.

    [If the energy use grows by 1.5% per year, the doubling time of energy use is slightly less than 50 years]

    Comment by Halldór Björnsson — 1 Nov 2009 @ 6:11 PM

  185. 180:

    His exact quote: (1.022 growth per annum over 40 years)

    0.o 1.022 growth = 102.2% growth or 1.022% growth

    I see what you are saying though. Apparently he is attempting to state the units are 100% and they grow 2.2%.

    Comment by EL — 1 Nov 2009 @ 6:24 PM

  186. This is not solvable using scientists and engineers.

    Actually it is, but since that is roughly equivalent to evolution, you have to keep going. That involves embracing science and technology, as opposed to Hollywood CGI movies and religion, moving off the planet, and not looking back. Humans and in particular Americans, judged by the behavior of NASA these last four years, and the US government the last eight years, apparently aren’t even ready to take the first steps of that process in any substantive or rational way.

    Nine billion people all demanding and striving for a quality of life of 350 million in America alone? Give me a break. Develop low Earth orbit or die. That’s your immediate choice. Nobody can predict how this will play out, but unless you come up with multiple Manhattan style projects in both condensed matter and quantum physics (not high energy or nuclear physics or fusion crap – real everyday physics from absolute zero to 1100 K or so) AND low cost earth to low Earth orbit transportation and LEO development (RLVs, closed ecological life support systems, Earth observation and observatories) then you simply don’t have a chance here. The choice is very stark and it is yours alone, but most Americans are so dumbed down by substandard education and the main stream media now they just drink the koolaide and believe any old crap. Don’t even get me started. You’re breaking up, I can’t read you … over.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 1 Nov 2009 @ 7:48 PM

  187. Thanks Ike Solem at 182,

    I’m quite happy to get things backwards or plain wrong, and be corrected. I find I learn more that way and (hopefully) am wiser the next time around.

    I’ve not read Superfreakonomics (and won’t bother), but I have read Freakonomics and as a statistician (and engineer) I found the arguments facile – often lacking insight into the complexity of the issues. It’s as if an economist suddenly discovered you can use statistics to study subjects other than economics – when other researchers (such as epidemiologists, social scientists etc.) have been doing this for generations. But Levitt ignores the shortcomings and inbuilt biases in such analyses. (I guess not questioning the assumptions of your model is stock in trade for an economist.)

    My issue was not with geoengineering to stop hurricanes, but with the injection of SO2 into the stratosphere, which was obliquely referred to in Raypierre’s reference to Pinatubo.

    Let me put the issue in more stark terms. To me the phrase, “…if you rely on geoengineering to allow the economy to burn up all the coal and raise the atmospheric CO2 to high levels, then if you ever have to stop, you are hit with the full effects of maybe a century or more of global warming practically all at once” implies the following (to me at least).

    Say humanity immediately began injecting enough SO2 into the stratosphere to cancel any net forcing due to GHGs. Say we did this until 2100 and continued business as usual (BAU) with CO2 emissions. In contrast, say that if we had not done this the world in 2100 would be on average 6 degrees hotter. Our clever use of SO2 injection has avoided 6 degrees of warming and saved a lot of sea level rise! (At enormous cost to ocean biodiversity and important weather systems like the monsoons and probably many other “unknown unknowns”.)

    Now the plain reading of the phrase, “…you are hit with the full effects of maybe a century or more of global warming practically all at once” used by Raypierre (a similar expression by Gavin in an earlier post) would suggest to me that if we suddenly stopped the SO2 injection, we would instantly go into a world 6 degrees hotter that practically identical in climate to a world where we had followed BAU with no geoengineering.

    My contention is that, yes, we would suddenly be exposed to warming at a much greater rate than in 2009, as the forcing would be so much greater. But I also contend that it would still take some time – not “all at once”, but perhaps decades – to get to a +6 degrees world.

    You are virtually saying this yourself: “…the climate…is mainly determined by the long-term atmospheric forcing, and the surface ocean responds to that forcing.” That is it is not the instantaneous forcing – the heat flow – but its integral – the heat stock or energy. The main place that heat energy is stored on the planet (over the medium term) is in the surface ocean – the ocean heat content. Thanks for the graphic.

    My final contention is that the ocean limits the effect of a transient forcing on the climate (it must be heated to drive change climate), but also is the main source of the enormous momentum in climate change, which is why the world would continue warming even if we add no more CO2, and why if you suddenly switch off geoengineering you don’t go through a step change to a new climate state. I still takes time.

    I have absolutely no dispute with your arguments against Levitt’s hurricane mitigation proposal. Nor do I dispute Raypierre and Gavin’s criticisms of Levitt’s book. Raypierre’s analysis was very informative and insightful. Thanks Raypierre. And I am not a proponent of this form (SO2 injection) of geoengineering.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 1 Nov 2009 @ 8:30 PM

  188. I’m a big fan of Ludiwici clay roof tiles. They are making a barrel style that come in a glaze of semi-gloss matte white. Maintaining it with a garden hose in gleaming matte white for a few centuries would be very easy. Surely matte white, in Texas anyway, is greener than green. If not, would a mix of light beige and tans and grays be better compromise for both summer and winter? That way I could have a scratched shake look, which is what I prefer looks wise.

    Comment by JCH — 1 Nov 2009 @ 9:29 PM

  189. In the most literal sense, highly concentrated nonrenewable energy has shaped today’s economy. In order to maintain the existing institutional superstructure, we would have to continue to rely on a highly concentrated flow of energy through the system. Solar energy, however, is not concentrated like nonrenewable energy. because solar radiation is diffuse, it must be concentrated to do work. Since the laws of thermodynamics tell us that work can only be performed when there is a temperature difference between two places, and since solar energy falls essentially equally on each square foot of land in any given geographical area, the solar flow must be collected. If electricity is desired, the stored solar energy must be transformed from one state into another. The nature of the flow and the economies of scale indicate that in order to run our current industrial superstructure we would need to cover between 10 and 20 percent of the total U.S. land area with various types of solar collectors. Manhattan daily consumes more than six times the energy that could be provided by a 100 percent efficient collector of all the solar flow that falls on the city. To power New York City through various solar techniques, an area many times the city’s mass would have to be given over entirely to solar collectors. While New York is obviously unique in its consumption of energy, other major urban areas will be subject to similar strictures in the solar age.

    The sheer size of the solar infrastructure that would have to be erected to maintain society is mind-boggling. So too is the amount of time and labor that would be required to build and sustain it.

    Although the evidence suggests otherwise, let us assume that new collecting techniques could be discovered that would allow us to very efficiently concentrate the flow of solar radiation far beyond the capacity now available or even deemed conceivable by many engineers. If this remarkably efficient recovery process were somehow possible, we could then support an urbanized, industrial-technological society through solar flow. But what would be the result? Simply this: we would continue to witness the exponential increase of entropy here on earth as solar energy is used to convert more and more of our limited terrestrial energy resources (matter) into the production process, transforming them from a usable to an unusable state. It is not, then, just the form of energy a society uses that is critical; it is also the amount of energy. If solar energy actually could flow in highly concentrated forms for industrial use, we would experience many of the same economic and social dislocations that result from our high energy use now. That is because the use of solar energy cannot be divorced from the stock of fixed terrestrial matter that it interacts on and converts. In living and an industrial processes, solar energy must always be combined with other terrestrial resources in order to produce a product. That conversion process always results in the further dissipation of the fixed stock of terrestrial resources on the planet.

    Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen of Harvard University pointed out the obvious flaw in current approaches to the harnessing of solar energy:

    The truth is that any presently feasible recipe for the direct use of solar energy is a “parasite,” as it were, of the current technology, based mainly on fossil fuels. All the necessary equipment (including the collectors) are produced by recipes based on sources of energy other than the sun’s. And it goes without saying that, like all parasites, any solar technology based on the present feasible recipes would subsist only as long as its “host” survives….The intensity of solar radiation reaching the ground level being extremely weak, a large material scaffold is needed for its collection….It is highly plausible that the difficulty may not be superable at all, given that the intensity of solar radiation is a cosmological constant beyond our control.

    Comment by gregory — 1 Nov 2009 @ 10:19 PM

  190. Oh the Super-Schadenfruende!
    Now the chapter on prostitution is starting to kick up some dust. This in the Guardian.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/oct/21/superfreakonomics-prostitution-dubner-levitt

    Good news, ladies. You, too, can make millions by
    charging for sex! And you’ll just have a slam-bang, gee-
    golly splendiferous time doing it, too — at least if
    you absolutely adore the sort of men who pay for it. Be
    warned, however: Disliking those men will consign you to
    the minimum-wage ranks of sex professionals, forever
    longing for the big bucks you could be earning, had you
    only an appropriately chipper attitude.

    Such is the advice of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner,
    of Freakonomics fame…. — snip–

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 1 Nov 2009 @ 10:28 PM

  191. Your article states that solar panels can produce 15% X 250 watts per square meter = 37.5 watts per square meter.

    How did you arrive at this amount? My work with solar panels at 33 degrees North between February and June generated about 5 watts per square meter.

    Is your 37.5 watts verified by any real world numbers?

    Comment by Mike — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:02 AM

  192. Re 175 Cherenkov says:

    “231 Kilometers on a side provided you have no access between cells and no repair access roads”

    The area between the actual collectors would not generally also experience reduced albedo, and might actually have an enhanced albedo if so decided. What matters is the albedo of the solar panels or other devices, and the insolation that falls on them.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:06 AM

  193. I find it disturbing that other people have to lie when it comes to the fate of the planet.

    Comment by Richard — 2 Nov 2009 @ 1:19 AM

  194. There seems to be a constant confusion here between the terms
    ‘denialist’ – someone who denies AGW is a problem – and
    ‘skeptic’ – someone who questions or doubts whether it is.

    Comment by Rene — 2 Nov 2009 @ 5:30 AM

  195. gregory:

    The nature of the flow and the economies of scale indicate that in order to run our current industrial superstructure we would need to cover between 10 and 20 percent of the total U.S. land area with various types of solar collectors.

    US energy consumption was 1.05 x 10^20 joules in 2005. This translates to a mean power of 3.30 x 10^12 watts. Mean sunlight absorbed by the climate system is 237 watts per square meter. Therefore, at 10% conversion efficiency, you would need 1.40 x 10^10 square meters of solar cells (an area 119 km on a side). The area of the United States is 9.63 x 10^12 square meters. The fraction needed is therefore 0.0015 or 0.15%. Your estimate is too high by two orders of magnitude, a factor of about 100 (67-133).

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 Nov 2009 @ 5:34 AM

  196. Re #186: Putting people into space is an old idea that also fails the energy analysis test, or what we used to call “running the numbers” on a problem. If you take this blog article as an exemplar on how to do simplified accounting of energy, then it just doesn’t work out.
    A discussion of Gerard O’Neill’s “Islands in Space” may be found in Robert Park’s book “Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science”, Chapter 12. He also gives a description of one of his physics examples for students, that of getting humans to another star. To quote a little bit:
    “On the first day of class, I ask how many believe that someday in the future humans will be able to travel to another star and its planets. Weaned on Str Trek, most of them—sometimes all of them—raise their hands. So we set aside a few minutes of every class period to plan the trip. Each class period I ask for volunteers to come to the next class with number we will need for the next step in planning the mission, such as:
    * How far is it to the nearest star?
    * How long would they be willing to spend traveling?
    * How fast must they travel to make the round trip in that time?
    * How many people should be in the crew?
    * How big must the spacecraft be?
    * What would they need to take along?
    Finally, as we approach the end of the semester, we agree on a conservative estimate of the total mass of the spacecraft. I tell them to come to the next class with a number for the annual energy consumption of all humans on Earth to use as a reference point. We are now ready for the final calculation. A few in the class begin to twitter, having figured out where we’ve headed, they’ve already done the calculation. Using simple Newtonian mechanics, we calculate the the energy required to accelerate a spacecraft of that size to the velocity needed to make the trip in that period—one-half the mass times the velocity squared—and compare that with annual human energy consumption on the entire planet. The energy needed for a trip to the nearest star in the lifetime of a human—by now they’re all tittering—is many thousands of times greater than all the energy that is expended on Earth in a year. So great, in fact, that there is no point in quibbling over the assumptions. It’s just out of the question.”

    Great book. I recommend it.

    Comment by Donald Oats — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:11 AM

  197. “In the most literal sense, highly concentrated nonrenewable energy has shaped today’s economy. In order to maintain the existing institutional superstructure, we would have to continue to rely on a highly concentrated flow of energy through the system. Solar energy, however, is not concentrated like nonrenewable energy”

    Gregory, today we have technology.

    Cut out the 19th century thinking and get into the year 2000.

    (PS our electrical grid is a concentrated form of energy. And we can connect many solar plants to it.)

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:37 AM

  198. “231 Kilometers on a side provided you have no access between cells and no repair access roads. ”

    Who says that the tiles can’t be conveniently off the ground so you can repair from underneath?

    Or do you prefer to think up problems and hope nobody thinks whether they exist?

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:44 AM

  199. Wow! That take down certainly ties if not tops this one of an evolutionary biologist, Dr. Lenski vs. a creationist.

    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2008/06/lenski-gives-co.html

    Unfortunately the uncritical and lazy thinkers of the world far outnumber scientists and educated laymen…

    Go Ray! You rock!

    Comment by Fred Magyar — 2 Nov 2009 @ 7:25 AM

  200. Renee:
    “‘denialist’ – someone who denies AGW is a problem – and
    ’skeptic’ – someone who questions or doubts whether it is.”

    Incorrect and you have just demonstrated WHY you and others are called denialist rather than skeptic.

    A sceptic is someone who questions an assumption NO MATTER WHERE IT IS ON THE CLAIM OF AGW.

    And the confusion is the deniers like you who have got this wrong and therefore erroneously justify your label to yourself as “skeptic” where it really IS “denialist”.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 7:31 AM

  201. 200 Mark : your putative definition of ‘skeptic’ makes it the same as ‘denialist’, which just muddies the waters(a great polemic of course, withi its associations of holocaust denial). But then what word would you use for use for ‘skeptic’ as defined above?

    Comment by Rene — 2 Nov 2009 @ 8:31 AM

  202. Mike #191

    At 5W there is something wrong with your panels.

    I use a solar panel of 1.28 square metres at about 32 South and it typically produces about 160 watts for about 5 hours per day (averaged over the year) when it is sunny. About 800 WH per day. Less in winter, more in summer. It is tilted at about 30 degrees so strictly speaking it shades about 1.47 square metres of ground. This equates to about 34 W continuous or about 22.5 W per square metre. However it is a fairly ancient solar panel and I am sure more modern panels would be more efficient. I suspect the estimated 37.5 W is reasonable for sunny climates, especially nearer the equator.

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:06 AM

  203. Rene, the waters are already deliberately muddied by denialists claiming to be skeptics, hence the term “climate sceptics.” Or perhaps one should always use quotes and refer to them as “skeptics.”

    Comment by Radge Havers — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:11 AM

  204. Your inerrant definition of skeptic was making a similarity that doesn’t exist, Rene.

    How many “skeptics” have said “I don’t think it’s GCRs”?

    None of those called deniers but skeptics by themselves.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:17 AM

  205. PS I gave my definition of skeptic.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:17 AM

  206. Putting people into space is an old idea that also fails the energy analysis test, or what we used to call “running the numbers” on a problem. If you take this blog article as an exemplar on how to do simplified accounting of energy, then it just doesn’t work out.

    Running numbers on obsolete paradigms of space development is bound to give you idiotic results.

    The reason we go into space is to DRIVE scientific exploration and technology development on the GROUND.

    LEO is the ideal place to do this, its easily accessible radiation shielded environment is safely escaped from.

    Space colonization in this paradigm means relatively short stays by rotating crews, using cyrogenic hydrogen powered reusable launch vehicles, for continuous habitation in closed ecological life support systems.

    Once you approach those capabilities you will approach the level of scientific and technological MATURITY to be able to solve your inarguably EXTREME problems on Earth.

    The space paradigm only works in conjunction with a condensed matter and quantum physics program of exploration here on Earth. Even Obama and his staff gets it, he held a star party just before he won his Nobel Peace prize where he specifically cited the relationship between quantum physics and astrophysics. You need to get up to speed because there is no way you will pay off a public debt of tens of trillions of dollars on the path you are taking now. You have no choice – it’s required for any further progress on a planet with soon to be nine billion souls all competing for now limited resources.

    Honestly, your lack of critical thinking skills is your own worst enemy.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:22 AM

  207. Rene (#194. 2 November 2009 @ 5:30 AM):

    To continue from what Mark has said (#200), a skeptic doesn’t just say- “that can’t be.” To be a good skeptic one must present a plausible alternative explanation for a contested idea or theory (emphasis on plausible).

    Gregory (#189, 1 November 2009 @ 10:19 PM):

    I live quite well with a PV (photovoltaic) array that is about 8 feet square. How can this be?

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:54 AM

  208. I am still waiting to hear
    - a good reason to conflate ‘denialist’ and ‘skeptic’
    - a replacement for ‘skeptic’ as I defined

    Comment by Rene — 2 Nov 2009 @ 10:03 AM

  209. “- a good reason to conflate ‘denialist’ and ’skeptic’”

    There isn’t. Then again there isn’t any conflation between them except with the denialists.

    “- a replacement for ’skeptic’ as I defined”

    I’ve given it, Rene. See post #200.

    [Response: Please, all of you try to stick to the topic. I have a habit of closing off threads when they turn into a free-for-all brawl, and I'd hate to do that for this one since we need a place to discuss things related specifically to Superfreak. --raypierre]

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 10:09 AM

  210. “The space paradigm only works in conjunction with a condensed matter and quantum physics program of exploration here on Earth.”

    Whenever I hear someone use the word “paradigm” my Bullshitometer goes ding.

    Space releif from overpopulation (for this is the ONLY climate effect that the space race to LEO can address) relies on energetically cheap access to LEO.

    And what is it with the “condensed matter and quantum physics”? It means nothing. No more than “polycarbonate and semiconductor theory” would in the same place.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 10:13 AM

  211. Andrew, this: “It is tilted at about 30 degrees so strictly speaking it shades about 1.47 square metres of ground”

    Is irrelevant.

    You have to compare the size of the solar array *as seen from the sun*, not how much ground is hidden, when you’re trying to work out power consumption.

    After all, the amount of *vertical* ground shaded is quite a bit less.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 10:16 AM

  212. ‘denialist’ – someone who denies AGW is a problem
    ‘skeptic’ – someone who questions or doubts whether it is.

    Let’s recap.
    - I put forward these definitions, noting that many here conflate the two.
    - Mark responds that they are indeed the same, thus agreeing with the conflation.

    Given his support of this conflation, I asked Mark for a replacement for ‘skeptic’ as defined above. He has not done so, despite his repeated claims to the contrary.

    Comment by Rene — 2 Nov 2009 @ 10:21 AM

  213. Rene, there’s a third category, try “disrupters” — who will take any climate conversation off the rails; one good way is starting or feeding any argument about definitions. Leads to excessive recreational typing. E.g. http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=728#comment-133389

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Nov 2009 @ 11:23 AM

  214. Hank (174)
    “…don’t see it there and only see it here…”
    Use of agressive language is happening on both sides. I think the side that diminishes abusive language first may have the best chance of engaging newcomers to this debate to their side. For the public, it’s not just about the facts. It’s about the packaging just as well (or even more so).

    As I wrote to Mark over at Deltoid: There’s more chance that they listen to me when I’m nice than when I’m nasty. Read or look at some Greg Craven for a great example on how to communicate constructively.
    http://www.gregcraven.org/

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 2 Nov 2009 @ 11:29 AM

  215. Disrupters– now that I think about it, that’s a pretty good term for Levitt and the general pandering to middle brow resentments and yearnings for grandiosity. The result: belligerent sophistry, the last refuge of status quo extremists.

    I think this article should be e-mailed to congress critters with a short cover on the state of political dialogue in this country.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:11 PM

  216. “Donald, the problem is getting that small black square in the public eye.”

    You’re joking, right? Looks about the size of Delaware.
    Now add a battery the size of Rhode Island and cables and towers from Saudi Arabia to Kansas.

    This is the same kind of math that puts all of humanity in a 1 mile by one mile cube. It can be done but it is senseless.

    How about putting the 1,000 Nuclear reactors that produce the same amount of electricity with no carbon emission on the same scale. They would be invisible.

    Comment by KevinM — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:12 PM

  217. Rene,

    I’d also add an unsceptical but not scared category. What is bad for Arizona might be great for Manitoba.
    If I were Swedish I’d be subsidizing Chinese Coal plants.

    [Response: This is a pretty short-sighted comment. It is an interesting historical note that Arrhenius thought of global warming as a good thing for Swedish agriculture, and a possible means of restoring some of Sweden's former position as a world power. However, I have spent a great deal of time in Sweden, and the Swedes haven't seen the issue this way for a long time. For one thing, they actually like their country the way it is, for the most part. They don't want to see the wildlife and sweeping tundra landscapes disappear. For another, there are various aspects of global warming that impose serious problems in Sweden. Loss of cold winters increases survival of insect pests like Oporinia,and it increases the mosquito and warble fly season up North, which is a threat to herding. Sweden has a huge investment in hydropower, and shifts in rainfall patterns threaten a lot of that. On top of that Swedes and their government tend to have a lot of compassion for the suffering of the rest of the world. Thus, it's no surprise that Sweden has taken quite strong efforts toward mitigating emissions. On top of that, Swedish scientists have played a lead role in advancing the scientific underpinnings of the need for action. Think of Bert Bolin's pioneering role in ocean carbon uptake, and in the first IPCC report. --raypierre]

    Comment by KevinM — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:15 PM

  218. Stephen Pranulis (148), CO2 is nowhere near poisonous in the concentrations AGW is fussing about; so throwing the pejorative “poison” in the AGW debate is disingenuous. You do make a good point, however — that CO2 is much more poisonous and dangerous than the common man considers.

    Comment by Rod B — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:18 PM

  219. In the context of discussing anthropogenic global warming, a “skeptic” is someone who unquestioningly believes everything that Rush Limbaugh has to say about the subject, and is also certain that hundreds of climate scientists who have studied the issue diligently for decades are either so stupid and oblivious that they have missed the simple, obvious reasons why they are all wrong about it, and/or are possessed of such evil, powerful Machiavellian intelligence that they have successfully engaged in perpetrating a massive hoax on humanity in order to advance their “liberal” agenda.

    [Response: OK, enough of this discussion of skeptics and deniers. I'm going to delete any further comments I catch on that subject. --raypierre]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:21 PM

  220. Following Raypierre,s inline admonition (#209. 2 November 2009 @ 10:09 AM), Hank Roberts’ comment (#213, November 2009 @ 11:23 AM) reminds me of his previous discussions of how serious online conversation is easily disrupted by outrageous off topic posts.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:34 PM

  221. George B (157), World energy consumption per capita of 150 kw-hrs/day seems way out of bounds; that’s about 4500 kw-hr/month per capita which is near twice the per household use in my environs, and (I’m guessing here) this is likely 10x or so the world average. Would a few aluminum and steel plants and the like drive up per capita use that much?

    Comment by Rod B — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:40 PM

  222. #221 Rod B,

    Are you not confusing electrical energy with all energy?

    Comment by Brian Brademeyer — 2 Nov 2009 @ 12:59 PM

  223. File this next to Easter Island.

    Logging caused ‘Nazca’ collapse. It was more than an el nino flood that destroyed this South American culture.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8334000/8334257.stm

    Comment by catman306 — 2 Nov 2009 @ 1:16 PM

  224. I’m just stopping by without have read many comments here, but something that may not have been considered:

    Assuming zero albedo to the utilized solar radiation* (see below), the local effective albedo is the efficiency of conversion to electricity, the electricity will then have the same heating effect as any other electricity where it is used or lost. Of course, in one way or another, this point has already been made.

    But consider then what happens if efficiency rises above the albedo of the surface being replaced. There would then be a local cooling effect (except for any changes in evapotranspiration), and the heating in electricity consumption would be more than the total effect.

    Now consider:

    Flat panels which are tilted to get the most insolation would benifit by having the surface (and back of the next panel) having much diffuse reflection, which would also reflect some more solar radiation back up.

    * Geometric concentrators only concentrate direct beam solar radiation. Thus, parabolic troughs, parabolic dishes, and mirror arrays for central recievers, can have an albedo approaching the ratio of incident diffuse solar radiation to total insolation (concentrator systems being at their best when clear skies are common, I’m curious what that ratio tends to be under such conditions). And then, the conversion efficiency of the concentrated radiation tends to be higher in these systems (in the case of CPV can justify higher costs per unit area of the PV device).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 2 Nov 2009 @ 1:19 PM

  225. raypierre (219), thanks. Saves me a lot of impossible effort…

    Comment by Rod B — 2 Nov 2009 @ 1:29 PM

  226. Brian (222), hmmmmm. Maybe…

    Comment by Rod B — 2 Nov 2009 @ 1:31 PM

  227. Rod B: “Stephen Pranulis (148), CO2 is nowhere near poisonous in the concentrations AGW is fussing about; ”

    Go back and read, Rod.

    1) The poisonous concentrations ARE relevant to someone who states CATEGORICALLY that CO2 isn’t poisonous

    2) The toxicology of CO2 isn’t the issue with AGW and you know it, it’s the heat entrapment.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 2:14 PM

  228. “This is the same kind of math that puts all of humanity in a 1 mile by one mile cube. It can be done but it is senseless.”

    The human capacity in 1mile cube is senseless, but the small square IS doable.

    The UK are investigating Jordan (I think) as a power generator for UK electricity:

    1) UK companies rent the land,
    2) build and maintain the solar panels
    3) sell the electric to the UK
    4) Profit!!!

    Remember: that little square is all that’s needed to keep our (well, YOUR, if your USian) profligate lifestyle unchanged by solar alone.

    And please prove the battery size will be needed.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 2:18 PM

  229. “As I wrote to Mark over at Deltoid: There’s more chance that they listen to me when I’m nice than when I’m nasty.”

    And will Roy Spencer listen to you explain how evolution by natural selection is true and his book is wrong just because you’re nice?

    You seem to be labouring under the impression that the chance they’ll listen to you is greater than 0%.

    But I guess you can always blame me if you’re not being listened to, can’t you.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 2:22 PM

  230. Rene, please read post 200.

    Your demand is answered there.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 2:23 PM

  231. Re 189 gregory -

    Energy payback times are short enough that even if fossil fuels were continually used to support solar power and related infrastructure, it would still be a huge, huge, huge improvement in terms of climate-changing emissions per unit energy. Of course, as solar or other clean energy takes over, more of that would be used in the support of its own infrastructure. By the way, fossil fuel energy is today used in part to support it’s own supply – this isn’t unique to the renewables (or nuclear, etc.).

    Yes, of course, other resources besides energy are used. But better to only have that problem than have the climate problem as well, and also, the mineral resource constraints are not really a problem unless you restrict yourself to a subset of the technology. Land use is not entirely inconsequential but it should be manageable. Anyway, why assume that any solution must come along with continued exponential growth?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 2 Nov 2009 @ 2:30 PM

  232. Rod B. Average American ENERGY (not just electricity) is 250kWh/p/d. Average
    European or Japanese is more like 125 kWh/p/d

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 2 Nov 2009 @ 2:58 PM

  233. Mark (229),
    If you’re so sure the chance they listen to you is absolute zero, then why do you bother? Perhaps it’s better indeed if you don’t bother.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 2 Nov 2009 @ 3:20 PM

  234. #207 Steve Fish : “To be a good skeptic one must present a plausible alternative explanation for a contested idea or theory (emphasis on plausible).”

    No, one need only find fault with the presented theory.

    [Response: Not if you want it to be replaced with something else. All theories are approximate in some sense - and the current conventional wisdom is usually the approximation that best fits the multitude of observations. But since it isn't ever a perfect fit, and the approximations are, well, approximate, it is certainly not sufficient to repeat these two facts in order to dislodge the existing paradigm. - gavin]

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 2 Nov 2009 @ 3:21 PM

  235. To find fault with a given theory does not require you to first have a better one. The best available theory may still be hopeless, so if the truth is we just don’t know, or have only a poor grasp, we should just say so.

    [Response: But where you have a theory that does work for a wide area of the observations, it is clearly a step backwards to reject it in favour of throwing up one's hands up in despair. All aspects of any theory can of course be challenged and that generally prompts more careful workings out of those issues if there is anything valid or constructive in the challenge. But simply saying it's approximate! or it's not perfect! is not going to advance anything (since this is already understood). - gavin]

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 2 Nov 2009 @ 3:41 PM

  236. Mark,

    “The human capacity in 1mile cube is senseless, but the small square IS doable.”

    I think I spoke unclearly. I meant literally fitting all of humanity into a cubic mile.

    Give each person 2 feet by 5 feet by 1 foot on average (accounting for most people being skinnier than me) and you get 10 sqft per human. One cubic mile is 5280ft x 5280ft x 5280ft = 147 billion cubic feet.

    Thus every living human on earth could be packed into a one mile cube. We would fit into just about any small town in the USA.

    This is a demonstration of how back of the envelope calculations can go wrong.

    Comment by KevinM — 2 Nov 2009 @ 3:46 PM

  237. “To be a good skeptic one must present a plausible alternative explanation for a contested idea or theory (emphasis on plausible).”

    I’de start with: Both sides agree that the world has several times been covered with ice, at least once near the equator, and subsequently melted back to something like its current state.

    I believe that is an immensely more drastic change than anything we’ve seen during the instrumentation period, which contains the only scientific data I trust.

    Comment by KevinM — 2 Nov 2009 @ 3:50 PM

  238. “If you’re so sure the chance they listen to you is absolute zero, then why do you bother?”

    I think the chance they listen to YOU is absolute zero.

    People have tried education. I do that too if someone asks a good question.

    People have tried satire. I do that too if someone asks a bad question.

    Neither have worked.

    If anything the sounds of a “loud consensus” (which doesn’t require a consensus of a large number of people, they just have to be loud about it) increasing shows it’s having no effect.

    So I try scorn.

    You don’t have to.

    Gavin, Ray and others do on occasion.

    But the idea of scorn is to use it where deserved.

    It’s not to get them to listen to the arguments, it’s go get them to think before they open their big fat gob and spout the same old fishheads over and over again.

    It’s not like they even have a theory themselves.

    On the BBC Climate blog one poster has listed 82 differing claims of skeptics.

    In doing so he’s not had anyone saying which ones are wrong (several are incompatible with each other). Instead he’s had

    “Why are you listing your silly arguments?” he isn’t, he’s listing those of others

    “All you’ve done is raise good reasons why AGW is wrong” but they can’t ALL be right, so which are right and which wrong?

    “It’s silly and you’re silly and it’s all silly.” Thanks

    “Why are you saying they’re my arguments” when several have been the argument against AGW by the interlocutor asking this question

    They have no goal except to throw down AGW.

    But if we treat these farcical idiots to the contempt they so clearly and emphatically deserve, maybe they’ll stop yakking in shame.

    If they don’t, why would someone consider such ludicrous and easily countered arguments (with scorn!) irrelevant because you just want to concentrate on the “why did you have to be so *mean*!”?

    Take a look at this open letter.

    It is scorn personified.

    But he’s got more time and space (and pictures) where I have to get it done in a few short paragraphs.

    And we’ve had Steve Levitt come on and wail “why are you all so mean!” at us.

    They act contemptibly, I will treat them with contempt.

    NOTE: I have agreed with Rod B on several occasions. Jim has sometimes given good advice. Both are definitely “skeptics” (i.e. deniers) because they haven’t learned no matter what they have been told.

    Likewise Hank has pulled a few whoppers out and Ray likewise.

    I call them on it despite being behind AGW science.

    Hank et al get a modicum of scorn (a scornette, maybe) when they’re being dumb because they haven’t built up the level of unthinking that Rod B has managed to hoard so eloquently here many times before. The actions of some of the bigger denialist names are contemptuous and they earn contempt. But if one were to say something sensible I would agree not because I’m being even handed but because they say something sensible. Past performance will judge whether I start off thinking “lame” or not, but when I’ve read, I forget the source and consider the words.

    Try it.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 3:51 PM

  239. Re KevinM – “This is a demonstration of how back of the envelope calculations can go wrong.”

    Yes, if the point was to justify putting all people into a cubic mile.

    No, if the point was to use volume * density to calculate the total mass of all people (except you have to account for packing efficiency), and/or come up with a visualization for the total volume of people compared to … say, an ice berg or a mountain…

    Saying that all solar power needs an area x of panels equal to a square z x z doesn’t require actually putting all the panels together in a continuous stretch of space. Total area is total area.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 2 Nov 2009 @ 4:26 PM

  240. Your reluctance to discuss exaggeration and bias wrt mainstream AGW is duly noted.

    And the general complaint with AGW is not thats it’s merely approximate. There are gaping problems – airbrushing out the MWP, failure to account for the two long periods of cooling in the last century despite CO2 increases, the need to treat of natural forces as random. All it really has is the period from ~1980 ending in the nineties, just prior to the plateau of the last decade or so it also fails to account for.

    [Response: There I was thinking that we could have a conversation about generalities without irrational views about climate science coming to the fore. As I recall we were talking about the role of critics to a dominant paradigm and the task they have to dislodge it. Let me assure you that this task is not achieved by people making up accusations of supposed failings and setting up strawman fallacies to knock down. The idea that the argument that the global mean temperature is not a perfectly correlated to CO2 amounts is any kind of challenge to mainstream climate science is simple nonsense (since no-one believes that should be the case). You will have to do much better (and you will have to do it elsewhere since all of this is OT). - gavin]

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 2 Nov 2009 @ 4:35 PM

  241. Bravo, Prof. Pierrehumbert! The deniers seem disinclined to let science-based facts clutter up their political agenda. Yours is a voice of delightful scientific reasoning in a cacaphony of nonsense. The power of simple calculation is a thing of great beauty.

    Comment by Chuck Doswell — 2 Nov 2009 @ 4:37 PM

  242. Re 234,235 Julia Isaak -

    To put it another way, increasing levels of understanding often come by way of successive reductions of error.

    For example, Newtonian mechanics still works quite fine for many purposes; relativity is required for various spatial-temporal and mass scales wherein the Newtonian mechanics errors are large.

    The Earth can be approximated as a sphere of radius of about 6371 km. Okay, if I said 6400 km, how wrong would that be? Would that error disprove the shape of the Earth – would we now think the Earth is flat?

    But of course, the Earth isn’t a sphere. First, you have to know what I meant by Earth – in this context I am refering to the shape enveloped by the solid/liquid surface, not the tropopause, not the magnetic field lines. Second, the Earth is really an oblate spheroid – wider at the equator than at the poles. Except not quite. And so on. Yet, for many purposes it is just fine to use a perfect sphere to approximate the shape of the Earth (as defined by the continuous surface bounding the solid/liquid portions).

    A complex system as the atmosphere (and ocean) may be studied in some ways by considering the largest factors and then working up to the details. For example, for large-scale motions not too close to the surface or too close to the equator and not with too much speed relative to flow curvature, the two largest forces acting horizontally on air are the pressure gradient force and the coriolis effect, and when acceleration itself is small, as it general is in large-scale motions, equations of motion can be solved for a velocity field that is geostrophic. Geostrophic winds are often a good approximation for reality in much of the atmosphere. With that, one can then consider the effects of imbalances in those two largest forces, or additional forces, that cause acceleration. To a first approximation, products of relatively small values can be set aside, as is done when using a linear approximation. Key aspects of baroclinic instability can be understood in this way, without even considering any diabatic (radiant and latent heating/cooling) or viscous (friction, turbulent momentum mixing) or mesoscale (fronts, narrow jets, thunderstorms) processes. But once some of the basics are understood, the additional effects can be added in. And so on.

    Climate modeling is approximate because of the grid-scale limitations. So, what kind of error do you expect to find when the computers allow grid-scales to shrink by a factor x? Would it be anything that significantly alters the seriousness of the issure of global warming? What does the paleoclimatic evidence suggest?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 2 Nov 2009 @ 4:44 PM

  243. Re: 197. Its clear you know nothing about technology. As if technology didn’t exist in the 19th century, what a stupid notion. Technology has existed since man first used fire. You’re electrical grid runs on the same fuel as the steam engines of the 19th and 20th and 21st centuries; coal, oil. But it uses a great deal more of these nonrenewable resources then steam engines do, to get the same amount of work. Just because human labor isn’t being utilized doesn’t mean less work (energy) is being used. An electrical grid isn’t energy at all, its a transformer of energy, that’s all any technology is. Fire burns the carbon stored in trees, etc. Saying solar converters can run on an electrical grid is just lapsed reasoning. Solar converters are made through the exploitation of highly concentrated nonrenewable energy, i.e., coal and oil. As is the electrical grid.

    Comment by Hank Smith — 2 Nov 2009 @ 4:52 PM

  244. #242 Patrick
    I quite accept the notions that
    * the climate system is highly complex
    * approximations of this are the way to approach it.
    My reservations relate to the following comments to Gavin.

    #240 Gavin
    I set up no strawmen; the simple fact is there is an extremely poor correlation between AGW and widely accepted measurement data. This I suggest is reason enough to be skeptical, certainly of the claim that the science is ‘settled’.

    [Response: Sorry, but you are not being clear. What measure of 'AGW' do you think should correlate with what? Do you mean CO2 concentrations with global temperature? the radiative forcing of CO2? the radiative forcing of all the factors changing atmospheric composition? And where is there a prediction that these things should be perfectly correlated? How can mainstream theory be faulted for not matching a prediction it never made? And not credited for the predictions it did make? And when did I ever say that 'the science is settled'? Every statement you have made is to criticise a strawman argument that we have never made. How is that useful? If I might offer some advice, stop reading whatever it is you are reading, and start off with the IPCC FAQ. Then come back and discuss. - gavin]

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 2 Nov 2009 @ 5:05 PM

  245. Re Mark #238:

    I think if your objective is to stop any skeptics posting here then you will probably be successful with your approach. I’m surprised that you or those who set up RC would want it to work like that.

    If the objective is to convince and persuade then I can tell you that your approach doesn’t work.

    Comment by Tony Rogers — 2 Nov 2009 @ 5:49 PM

  246. Re Thomas Lee Elifritz #206:

    Perhaps I misunderstood your original point in #186. I read your statements – the pertinent extract is below – as implying a move of a lot of people into space to live. The bit about “Develop low Earth orbit or die.” was what set me on that line of thought.

    The quote from Thomas Lee Elifritz #186:
    “Nine billion people all demanding and striving for a quality of life of 350 million in America alone? Give me a break. Develop low Earth orbit or die. That’s your immediate choice. Nobody can predict how this will play out, but unless you come up with multiple Manhattan style projects in both condensed matter and quantum physics (not high energy or nuclear physics or fusion crap – real everyday physics from absolute zero to 1100 K or so) AND low cost earth to low Earth orbit transportation and LEO development (RLVs, closed ecological life support systems, Earth observation and observatories) then you simply don’t have a chance here.”

    From #206, you state something that I agree with:
    “The reason we go into space is to DRIVE scientific exploration and technology development on the GROUND.”

    However, I don’t understand why it is necessary for you to then impugn my critical thinking skills :-(, again from #206:
    “Honestly, your lack of critical thinking skills is your own worst enemy.”

    Please, let’s keep to a discussion with clarifications where needed, I wasn’t intending any offence with my original post.

    Comment by Donald Oats — 2 Nov 2009 @ 5:49 PM

  247. I think Levitt et al. should see the Steve Martin movie, THE JERK. There’s another pertinent source, the book WHY THINGS BITE BACK re unintended negative consequences of our “solutions” to problems.

    Better yet, read what Rappaport (an ecological anthropologist) has to say about economics. Here’s what I wrote on another RC geoengineering topic last August, starting with an excerpt from my “Food Rights and Climate Change” paper:

    I find the position economics plays in Western thought to be inflated, even usurpatory, obscuring people’s awareness of their dependence on the environment or the ecosystem, and this is due to people conflating the environmental/subsistence dimension [of the human condition] with the economic (social), subsuming the environmental/subsistence into the economic as “resources,” valueless unless processed and (in capitalistic society) exchanged for money….economics cannot ultimately solve or rectify environmental harms…[E]king out a living from the environment…is considered in anthropology more within the realm of “subsistence activities” or ecological anthropology; this is distinct from economics, in that it has to do with the human-nature relationship, involving biological and other material exchanges between the nonhuman material world and humans, while economics, part of the social dimension, more narrowly involves human interrelationships and interactions — tenure and ownership rules, the division of labor and production of goods involving materials extracted from the environment (an environment which is held constant or deleted from the equations), and the exchange of goods and services…

    One way to understand the distinction between the environmental/subsistence and economic dimenions is that both humans and non-human animals engage in subsistence activities in the environment, but only humans engage in economic activities. As environmental anthropologist Roy Rappaport (1993) states the biological-ecological systems are fundamental, the economy is contingent and instrumental.

    From Roy Rappaport’s “Anthropology of Trouble” (1993, American Anthropologist 95(2):295-303):

    The world upon which the monetary metric is imposed is not as simple as the metric itself. Plants, animals, and societies are complex beyond full human comprehension. To remain healthy, each requires a great variety of distinct materials, generally derived from a variety of sources….Monetization, however, forces the great range of unique and distinct materials and processes that together sustain or even constitute life into an arbitrary and specious equivalence. Phenomena that relate to each other essentially in terms of their qualitative distinctiveness are represented and understood in terms of a logic that reduces all qualitative distinctions to mere quantitative differences, a logic that, as it were, attempts to “bottom line” the world. This logic is especially destructive of ecological systems.

    So that’s my view of economics — often useful as a facilitator in a limited sphere of activities, but totally blown out of proportion in the Western imaginaire.

    The other issue from a more purely economic perspective is why should we spend money on big geoengineering projects that do not save us or make us money the way nearly every other solution to GW does, such as energy/resource efficiency/conservation, alt energy, and biochar (the only carbon negative solution – that saves/makes money and enhances agricultural productivity — see http://www.re-char.com ).

    Or is that what “freak” means in freakonomics — totally uneconomical and crazy, not to mention harmful to the environment and our livelihoods.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:01 PM

  248. Re KevinM, #216.

    In my original post #20, I wasn’t joking.

    My original post #20 stated:
    “For people without much scientific background, I think they would especially appreciate the picture of the world with the little black rectangle on it – it makes the whole argument you are putting forward resonate, and hopefully sways the still skeptical to at least follow your argument through to the end.”

    I was simply stating that the little black rectangle on the globe gives some indication of the order of magnitude of the area consumed by the solar panels themselves, and since the heat/albedo impact is what Ray-Pierre was analysing in his article, I see no problem with that.

    As you point out KevinM #216, distribution networks and things are required. However, an awful lot of the distribution network is there right now. Ray-Pierre is not suggesting that the global solar power generation is to be situated in the one place – it’s just convenient to show it as a single area on a map for purposes of comparison. Secondly, for those people who install solar at home, or at the office, the distribution network is extremely short, and the area consumed by the solar panels was already consumed as a roof on a house. Batteries or some equivalent storage mechanism are something that should be added to the resource footprint; I agree with you on that.

    I do not see the maths as being on par with your example of those who “demonstrate” that humanity could fit in a one mile cube; indeed on other blog sites I have tried to demonstrate failures of this kind of calculation, especially concerning land area required per person supported, but to no avail. Some people just like the idea of living cheek to jowl, I guess :-d

    Comment by Donald Oats — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:21 PM

  249. OT but interesting…

    I found the following article by Charles Krauthammer:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/29/AR2008052903266.html

    I think this article is interesting, in particular, the following quote:

    “Only Monday, a British parliamentary committee proposed that every citizen be required to carry a carbon card that must be presented, under penalty of law, when buying gasoline, taking an airplane or using electricity. The card contains your yearly carbon ration to be drawn down with every purchase, every trip, every swipe. ”

    I think the above quote is interesting because it illustrates that some people are concerned about the government perspective of global warming. In a basic nutshell, ideologies are likely an important factor in the global warming debate; as a result, the ideologies need to be addressed in order to make progress.

    Comment by EL — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:44 PM

  250. So if the world needs 53,333 square km of solar panels and it costs $150 million dollars to build 180 acres of solar panels, does this mean your project costs $11 trillion dollars?

    Largest solar panel plant in US rises in Fla.
    http://www.bradenton.com/180/story/1800249.html

    180 acres for 25 megawatts and $150 million.

    180 acres equals 0.728 sq kn
    53,333 / 0.728 * $150 million = $11 trillion

    [Response: Imagine yourself back in 1880 trying to figure out the cost of replacing all the world's horses with internal combustion engines. -raypierre]

    Comment by Mark Baker — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:56 PM

  251. Re 246 Lynn Vincentnathan -

    Okay, good points, and maybe a lot of people have this problem. But a truly good economist should be able to avoid the pitfalls of economic analysis.

    We ultimately have to bottomline things to make decisions when we compare apples to oranges. If we are choosing some combination to have of apples and oranges – for example, if the production possibilities curve is, when graphed in value-proportional coordinates, convex everywhere (decreasing returns), then we will want to choose the point on the curve where the marginal value of x apples equals the marginal value of y oranges when the physical constraints allow x apples to be exchanged for y oranges. If the production possibilities curve has concave portions (increasing returns) than there will be multiple optimal, and evolution of the choice by small changes and trial and error could easily miss the best optimum.

    Of course, such a two dimensional production possibilities curve (PPC) is just a slice through a multidimensional curve; the whole slice can be changed by adjusting some other thing (number of bananas), and then, there may be different such PPCs at different times which are slices of a PPC that encompasses all potential decision pathways (with later being contingent on earlier, but the value of an earlier decisions being in part contingent on the value of subsequent decisions made possible by that earler decision).

    But the point is, we ultimately have to equat apples to oranges in some way, by their ‘value’, in order to make decisions.

    On an individual level, that value is not entirely money-based, at least not in an obvious way, for example, when I actually have fruit on hand and I’m deciding whether to have an apple or an orange, or when I decide to go for a walk verses watch TV verses have a conversation. But the economic value of something not explicitly given such value is implicit in the trade-offs that people make (though any given decision might only imply an inequality, where we know something is valued more or less than something else, and also, the scarcity of decision making resources makes it rational to not always be perfectly rational…). So long as it is realized that the same item will have different economic values to different people at different times and will be contingent on the presence or absence of other items (more vitamin C isn’t worth much to keep you healthy if you already have enough vitamin C or if you don’t have air). Another way to look at it is to consider that all economic value exists because of the combination of aesthetic value and scarcity.

    As for natural resources, there is value in the state of nature, via ecosystem services, tangible and aesthetic. Thus natural resources can be utilized without actually being used-up.

    Which of course, you know. My point is that it isn’t necessary for an economical analysis to ignore it.

    Of course, there is morality – it is good, all other things being equal, for a person to have what s/he wants, and besides that, economic wealth can confer an ability to enhance the moral value of available choices (this isn’t to say that rich people can be better people, not at all – what it means is that the same persons’s good intentions can have magnified effect depending on the person’s resources).

    But even making a moral decision will very often require an apples to oranges comparison. Even with what we do with the environment. If there is something we should do, it is because of the greater moral value in that path than in the alternative. What we should do is maximize (at least, given decision-making resource scarcity, maximize in a probabilistic sense) the moral value, which in some ways will involve maximizing economic value, though with potential qualification.

    So if there is something we should be doing, or if path A is better than path B, there is bottom-lining of some form or another.

    Animals and plants also ‘make decisions’ in effect – the rational decision making process might be trial and error honing of instincts or habits or rules of thumb in genetic evolution or in cultural evolution or in the learning processes of a single individual – nonetheless there is an implied bottom-lining for the costs and benifits for the reproductive success of a gene or the pleasure verses pain of a sentient organism, etc (weighing attempting to mate now verses go eat now and mate later, etc.).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 2 Nov 2009 @ 7:11 PM

  252. @Don248

    Yeah, you’re right. I actually do like the idea of solar power for water heating and suplementing grid power for appliances. At least I think it makes a lot more sense than wind farms.

    But you have to admit thats a huge area of solar panels.

    And nobody took the bait on a comparison to nuclear. The physical area occupied by nuclear plants required to generate the same electricty really would fit in ane city. It would be less than a pixel in the diagram.

    I’m not sure why hard core environmentalists continue to hate nuclear.

    Comment by KevinM — 2 Nov 2009 @ 7:28 PM

  253. 150 suricat,

    Your guessing about the boiler system and the steam turbine sounds like you are not aware of the effects of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and a lot of other problems. The amount of heat discharged by our system of central power plants is indeed enormous. Most fossil fuel plants run close to 30% efficiency with combined cycle natural gas plants getting close to 50%. In some years the combined cycle systems bring the average for USA natural gas efficiency close to 40% efficiency. Old natural gas systems and relatively inefficient “peaking” natural gas plants work the other way. Coal varies also but the USA average is about 31%. I worked this out for EIA data where the efficiency I calculated was for electric energy produced versus fossil fuels burned. (See the analysis page at http://www.miastrada.com/analyses for details.)

    Probably the electric generators are a lot more efficient than you guess and the total loss for transmission averges 7% to 8% (92% to 93% efficient ) As far as I was able to find, the data reported to the EIA only allows us to know the amount of fuel burned based on the amount of CO2 produced and the amount of electricity produced at the power plants.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 2 Nov 2009 @ 7:31 PM

  254. Other ways to calculate:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earth-talks-residential-geothermal-power

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=powering-a-green-planet

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/48586/title/Report_tallies_hidden_energy_costs

    The last one estimates the costs in added CO2, air pollution, etc. that aren’t part of the utility bill.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Nov 2009 @ 7:36 PM

  255. Raypierre,

    I actually think that $11 trillion is not too large when you divide it over 10-20 years and ~20-30 major countries. Somewhere on the web I saw the interstate highway system cost $500 billion in today’s dollars.

    Mark

    Comment by Mark Baker — 2 Nov 2009 @ 7:39 PM

  256. For those who follow such matters, at the Johan… conference it was said that fully 1/4 of the world’s population has no access to electicity at all. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Add that factor into the calculation of solar collector area. By the way, I calculated energy growth over the next 40 years. I see the Professor used 2005 and it was only estimated at that. I should have used 45 years. Add that to the calculation.

    On another matter, I despair of people, even highly qualified scientists, who quote the energy falling on the Earth in 1 hour, day, or whatever, saying it is enough to supply the world’s energy needs for a year, or whatever. The fact is that fully 98 percent of the energy falling on the Earth, if not more, is already being used, either to evaporate water from the oceans or grow crops, or give us a nice tan on the beaches, or to light our cities, or whatever.

    Those who count only domestic energy/electricity consumption and claim that once they have solved that the there won’t be problem are worse.

    Those who claim that using low energy lights will help haven’t done the numbers. Lighting consumes, on avearge, only 7 percent of dometic electricity consumption, and domestic elctricity consumption is only 7 percent of total average energy consumption. Ergo, even if every low energy light was replaced it will save only 0.5% of total energy consumption, an amount that will be exceeded by world energy growth within 3 months (at 2.2% p.a. growth).

    By the way, my domestic energy consumption is only 2.5 pecent of average total energy consumption. Please don’t ask me to cut back or else I will be living in a tent.

    Comment by George Blahusiak — 2 Nov 2009 @ 8:25 PM

  257. Mark #211
    With regard to tilted solar panels you suggest is irrelevant.

    “You have to compare the size of the solar array *as seen from the sun*, not how much ground is hidden, when you’re trying to work out power consumption.”

    (I presume you meant power production).

    This depends upon where your interests lie. If you are interested in the area of the solar panels, ie the area of panels required for a specific output, then that is true. If however you are interested in the area of ground required to produce a specific amount of power then it isn’t necessarily true. At the equator it is. But not at higher latitudes. At higher latitudes you can tilt the panels to get maximum power per area of panel. This will shade the area behind the panel which means the area of solar panels will be smaller than the area of the solar panel farm. Alternatively you lay all the panels flat, using 100% of the area but at a cost in terms of requiring greater solar panel area for the same power output.

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 2 Nov 2009 @ 8:34 PM

  258. Encouraging words:
    http://www.ecogeek.org/

    Encouraging, funny, instructive video on light bulb energy:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv-mr3VLW34

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:17 PM

  259. KevinM, #252. There’s a good economic reason why nuclear power couldn’t be built on that scale: uranium ore. It’s already predicted that uranium is going to shoot up in price over the next decade as new nuclear power plants are built in several countries. The uranium-exporting countries aren’t likely to be able to increase extraction enough to cope with demand, not for a decade at least.

    I don’t know much about the other options but it seems to me that the long-term economic benefit of setting up electricity generation which *doesn’t need fuel*, will outweigh the current cost within a few decades. Those countries that bite the bullet now will be at a big advantage 20-30 years down the line.

    Comment by Paul L — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:47 PM

  260. One more thing, I don’t think anyone has posted a link to this article in today’s/yesterday’s Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/nov/01/solar-power-sahara-europe-desertec

    Solar power from Sahara a step closer

    “A $400bn (£240bn) plan to provide Europe with solar power from the Sahara moved a step closer to reality today with the formation of a consortium of 12 companies to carry out the work.

    The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) aims to provide 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050 or earlier via power lines stretching across the desert and Mediterranean sea.

    The German-led consortium was brought together by Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, and consists of some of country’s biggest engineering and power companies, including Siemens, E.ON, ABB and Deutsche Bank.

    It now believes the DII can deliver solar power to Europe as early as 2015…”

    So it seems like this article has been giving people ideas!

    Just one other thing, someone said that the UK government plans to buy solar energy from Jordan. I can’t see how – they’d need to build a helluva a lot of batteries to transport it. Even the proposed Sahara deal might not benefit Britain, we’d need high-power lines running to the continent. But to be honest, wind and tidal power make more sense for us anyway.

    Comment by Paul L — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:50 PM

  261. #251, Patrick, I only took a few courses in economics, but I did learn about the “production possibilities curve or frontier,” and my thinking is that first of all we have to get out there onto the curve. It seems to me (see http://www.natcap.org and http://www.rmi.org ) that we are way way within the pp curve. That is, given our current knowledge and off-the shelf technology, we are terribly terribly inefficient.

    I’m thinking first of all we have to do all the low-hanging fruit stuff (that saves money or doesn’t cost), which should keep us busy for 10 or more years down to an 80% reduction in GHG emissions (and why we haven’t already done this over the past 20 years is a total absurd mystery). Within 10 years biochar could be readily available on the market for city yard waste, carrizo cane control along the Rio Grande Valley, and each farm could have these money-making or saving, productivity enhancing, carbon draw down biochar pyrolisis units. By that time, the expensive geoengineering schemes will seem even more crazy than ever.

    It seems to me the only thing lacking in this picture is “rational, economic man” — upon which the whole of economic theory is based, like a house built on illusory sand.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Nov 2009 @ 9:54 PM

  262. Why are people taking the illustration here so literally? The point was to show that waste heat can’t possibly be a significant issue with solar cells – even in the extreme case where all the world’s current electricity needs came from PV solar cells.

    That hypothetical illustration does not mean raypierre actually thinks all the world’s electricity should come from solar cells anytime soon, or that those cells should be clustered in Saudi Arabia, or that he thinks electricity consumption will not change over time. Perhaps he does think these things; I don’t know, but this blog post alone would not tell you that. The post was just proving a physical point, not making a policy recommendation.

    Finally, while we’re talking solar, don’t sleep on concentrated solar. If solar ends up playing a bigger role, I would not be surprised if the scale comes from thermal solar, not photovoltaics.

    Comment by tharanga — 2 Nov 2009 @ 10:55 PM

  263. 256 George Blahusiak

    - “Please don’t ask me to cut back or else I will be living in a tent.”

    Better to live well and efficiently then simply give stuff up, but at any rate, good for you. You shouldn’t have to cut back the same as others who are using far more. (This is part of the problem with people suggesting that China and India should reduce emissions or else it’s not fair – or maybe that’s not what they meant? I think a lot of people really have no idea what the word ‘fair’ is supposed to actually mean.)

    Lighting might be small, okay. But it’s part. Every end use is only one part; increasing the efficiency whereever it can be done is good. After CFLs will come LEDs. But passive solar lighting (and heating) should not be forgotten. PS in air conditioning season, more efficiency within buildings reduces energy use for cooling. (If we were to start replacing old inefficient appliances while they’re still useful, they might be best resold in Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia – well, maybe.)

    However, ‘I have a problem’ with this:

    “The fact is that fully 98 percent of the energy falling on the Earth, if not more, is already being used, either to evaporate water from the oceans or grow crops, or give us a nice tan on the beaches, or to light our cities, or whatever.”

    If you sacrifice some area of ecosystem (or roof and equatorward-facing exterior space, etc.) to make room for solar power devices (PV, CSP, CPV, luminescent concentrators, water heaters, hybrid systems, or skylights), then the resulting subtraction of solar energy from nature (or buildings) is not an issue – the nature isn’t there anymore. The solar heating is still an end result – maybe a little more or less than before, not enough to be significant on the global scale (maybe locally?). The water runoff still evaporates from somewhere – water runoff management should mitigate any large effects by keeping it from getting farther than otherwise. Except for presumably minor local/regional feedbacks (like the same kind you’d see around conventional power plants, cities, … irrigated croplands and deforested lands), the solar energy available on remaining land would be little affected. Photosynthesis will go on outside the panels, just as it does on suburban lawns (biofuel source?) and the wooded plots outside of cities, etc. Agriculture is already far more disruptive than anything solar power plants would ever do – make of that what you will (maybe we need to cut back on the meat… by the way, solar power plants on semi-arid lands could concentrate the water resource onto neighboring plots or the spaces in between panels, potentially boosting vegetative productivity there).

    Global energy use now is a bit over 10 TW (maybe 12 TW ?) of primary energy equivalent, which is 3 or 4 TW electrical equivalent. If the total array average panel/collector insolation is 200 W/m2, 10 % efficient conversion gives 20 W/m2 or 20 MW/km2, so 1 TW requires 50,000 km2 (well, now I’m just approximately repeating the post – but this continues). US electrical equivalent energy use would use a bit over 50,000 km2 (just under 0.5 % of U.S. area); global electrical equivalent energy use roughly 200,000 km2. How about this – multiply by 50,000 by 30 to bring 9 billion people up to US energy usage: 1,500,000 km2. Now let’s cut that in half for efficiency increases (can we do that? I’m not sure, but consider many people living at low latitudes won’t need as much energy for building and water heating, though they will want air conditioning): 750,000 km2. Global land area is roughly 150,000,000 km2, so 750,000 is 0.5 % of land area. Maybe 5 % of cropland, or 1.7 % of desert (depending on the definition of desert). Okay, we might have to multiply it by 2 or 3 to get actual land area used, but that doesn’t really affect the albedo change. (Bear in mind, global warming affects 100 % of the land surface and 100 % of the ocean surface.) By the time we get anywhere near this point, I’d expect solar PV efficiencies to have gotten significantly larger (which would allow greater generation on rooftops). Decreasing device costs would allow greater packing of collectors per unit land. Can most energy use be replaced by electricity? With transportation, mostly yes. A lot of building heating can be fulfilled with passive solar and maybe geothermal heat pumps (large buildings often don’t need any space heating). A significant portion of industrial processes can use heat supplied by parabolic trough concentrators – the heat will be larger than it’s electrical equivalent, but conversion of solar radiation to heat is considerably more efficient than 10 %.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Nov 2009 @ 12:29 AM

  264. Re 261 Lynn Vincentnathan

    “and my thinking is that first of all we have to get out there onto the curve.”

    Another way of looking at that is that we are on a slice through the PPC curve that doesn’t pass through the actual optimum – low hanging fruit will get us there. But investment in technology R&D actually reshapes the PPC, but then again, another way of looking at that is that the PPC over time has an optimum that we would miss (ending up on another point) if we didn’t make any such investments (or the capital goods investments associated with clean energy, etc.).

    “It seems to me the only thing lacking in this picture is “rational, economic man” — upon which the whole of economic theory is based, like a house built on illusory sand.”

    Well, another way of looking at that is that decision making resources are themselves scarce – rationality and information (in economics, information is part of rationality, correct? – but I mention it specifically because rationality could also be taken to refer to the ability to follow logic from given inputs to given outputs) has to be allocated to where it is most benificial, etc. – which is not to say that the supply of rationality and information cannot be changed by investments (rationality, etc, being a capital good of sorts).

    The bigger problem, I think, is the need for a public policy. Right now, we have a big unregulated externality, and individuals can behave as rationally as they want and still the whole suffers. (PS if you can get through my ‘rambling’, my thoughts here – and I’d be curious what you think of it (I’m just proposing a basic structure – I wouldn’t dare at this point to attempt to assign numerical values from the little I know):

    Big policy commnet 1 (MC1)
    261
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-139621

    Big policy comment 2 (MC2) (with a beginning portion focussed on technological issues outside the focus of this set of comments)
    293
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-139784

    Big policy comment 3 (MC3)
    307
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-139904

    additional points, clarifications/corrections, and summary:
    317
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-139994

    Summary of Summary:
    340
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-140126

    AND thoughts on the mathematical relationships between tax, public cost, mitigation spending, etc. (I was going through a reasoning process as I wrote this, whereas most of the previous parts I had thought of earlier in a broad sense – this isn’t to say any of this is necessarily original thought (except maybe point 13 ?), though it is what I would advocate – and not that I’m at all close to being an expert in any way in economics, but I understand some basics and I understand some concept of fairness and I was trying to put forward a basic structure, not filling in any numbers)

    353, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-8/#comment-140195

    362, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-8/#comment-140279

    and the comments immediately following (363, 364, 365), and

    372, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-8/#comment-140320

    374, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-8/#comment-140332

    376, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-8/#comment-140335

    and immediately following, 377, and

    382, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-8/#comment-140402

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Nov 2009 @ 12:59 AM

  265. Mark (238),
    You wrote: “But if we treat these farcical idiots to the contempt they so clearly and emphatically deserve, maybe they’ll stop yakking in shame.”
    No, they won’t. They’ll only become more idiotic and strong-headed as a result, and you give them a reason (not that they need one, I know) to taint all of us ‘AGW proponents’ as extremists, so the net effect of doing so is damaging. Perhaps the most vocal people out there in the discussion cannot be persuaded to abandon their opinions, but a lot of people are watching who may be more or less on the fence. Don’t push them to the other side. That’s what I’m worried about.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 3 Nov 2009 @ 3:25 AM

  266. Mark (230)
    To clarify let me repeat the question not addressed by your message 200:
    - what word would *you* then recommend to describe someone who questions or doubts that AGW is a serious problem ?

    Comment by Rene — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:39 AM

  267. @Pranulis: “My mention of the LD50 of carbon dioxide was merely a response to the writer named “foobear” expressing the idea that carbon dioxide is not a poison. It is most definitely a poison, and not merely for its ability to displace oxygen.”

    Yeah, and water has been known to kill people when they inhale it at much lower levels. Therefore, we should slap a hazmat label on the local Sparkletts truck, right?

    As one of my chemistry professors put it, everything is poisonous; it’s just the concentrations that matter. At 100,000 ppm (1%), you’re talking about levels hundreds of times over our current atmospheric concentrations. And that’s not even a “poisonous” amount, just the lowest level signs of CO2 can be detected. You need to double or multiply 5-fold the concentrations to get into “poisonous” territory.

    So yeah, you’re not really helping the cause much by agreeing that CO2 “is a poison”.

    Comment by Foobear — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:48 AM

  268. EL (#249), re Krauthammer on the UK personal carbon-card proposal: Yes, it’s clear how the columnist’s ideological opposition to a policy design (which I think is fair game) colors his view of the science (which is not). But blurring the ideological lines a bit, note that it was a Tory MP that fronted the idea after the Labour government had already put it on the back burner citing cost and unpopularity. Giving individuals ownership to their emissions and letting them trade, as an alternative to taxation, might appeal to the more cerebral free-marketeers on the right.

    Comment by CM — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:55 AM

  269. Lynn (261)
    The “rational, economic man” you imply is mythical, is someone who acts in his own best interests as he perceives them. Can you identify anyone at all who does not conform to this model?
    The reason the “low-hanging fruit” ideas you champion have not been adopted, is that people do not believe your analysis of their benefits, and maybe don’t even believe there is a real problem. And perhaps they’re right on one or both counts.

    Comment by Rene — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:50 AM

  270. “Those who claim that using low energy lights will help haven’t done the numbers. Lighting consumes, on avearge, only 7 percent of dometic electricity consumption, and domestic elctricity consumption is only 7 percent of total average energy consumption”

    So removing a small amount will not help?

    Afraid you’re wrong.

    It’s not *enough* by itself, but then no one thing will be.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:31 AM

  271. “Why are people taking the illustration here so literally? The point was to show that waste heat can’t possibly be a significant issue with solar cells – even in the extreme case where all the world’s current electricity needs came from PV solar cells.”

    True.

    It’s easy to get sidetracked when such dumb complaints about the square comes in though.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:35 AM

  272. “Just one other thing, someone said that the UK government plans to buy solar energy from Jordan. I can’t see how – they’d need to build a helluva a lot of batteries to transport it”

    Uh, I don’t think they’ll use batteries, then.

    Strawman on fire!

    Maybe they’ll use some sort of lenticular conducting material at high potential to transport this electrical energy.

    But that’s just a hunch. We’d have to invent something like that first…

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:37 AM

  273. “The fact is that fully 98 percent of the energy falling on the Earth, if not more, is already being used, either to evaporate water from the oceans or grow crops, or give us a nice tan on the beaches, or to light our cities, or whatever.”

    Care to prove this?

    Because I think MOST of the radiation falling on the earth is reflected back (because we aren’t a perfectly absorbing body…).

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:39 AM

  274. [Response: Imagine yourself back in 1880 trying to figure out the cost of replacing all the world's horses with internal combustion engines. -raypierre]

    And worrying about all those buggy whip manufacturers whose livelihoods depend on the horse trade…

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:45 AM

  275. “I think if your objective is to stop any skeptics posting here then you will probably be successful with your approach.”

    You think that is my objective, but you’re wrong.

    I don’t want skeptics to stop posting.

    Denialists would stop posting until AFTER they’ve thought it through.

    Since their arguments are so tenuous and flawed, this would result in their tenuous and flawed argument not being posted and I can’t see anyone being made worse off if that happens.

    Do you disagree?

    Or should any old cockamamie story be allowed?

    ” I’m surprised that you or those who set up RC would want it to work like that.”

    Maybe because you’re thought is wrong.

    Just a guess.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:47 AM

  276. Tony Rogers, read Julia’s waste of space “argument” just before yours (#244).

    Do you think that gavin’s time was well spent there?

    It HAD to be spent, but was it *well* spent?

    Now do you think if Julia had given even one single thought to what she was rambling on about gavin would have had to ask the extremely basic queries that sum to pretty much “what they hell are you on about???” ?

    But if you treat barnpots who don’t think but parrot like sane people rather than barnpots parroting, will you teach them to think? Or do you think they’ll learn that sort of unthinking is acceptable?

    That is the stick.

    Gavin and others are much better at laying out a carrot but I praise even the dumbest previous commenter on asking a good question when they ask it.

    Carrot only doesn’t work.

    And that’s what you seem to want to see.

    PS See this from earlier:

    “Saying solar converters can run on an electrical grid is just lapsed reasoning. Solar converters are made through the exploitation of highly concentrated nonrenewable energy, i.e., coal and oil. As is the electrical grid.”

    Hank Smith here, streamofconsciousnessbabbling his way to insanity.

    WTF is he talking about???

    Anyone know?

    It’s even poor grammar which if his same was Schmidt may be acceptable (English not his native tongue is then a possibility).

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:54 AM

  277. I have been looking at other sites while putting together a reading list for a friend of mine (Who is an accomplished artist and language teacher,not well versed in science and resident in China), that deals with trying to explain the facts behind what appears to be accelerated climate change. I came upon this contribution in “How to talk to a climate skeptic”
    Indeed, Real Climate is an extremely disappointing site. I’ve seen poor saps come there trying to legitimately understand the science behind AGW and they are treated rudely and shouted down the deities on the site. I tried to post a comment, just to say “lay off the guy”, and it was never posted. I was very disappointed, especially after I saw they continued to pile on the poor guy until he said “This is my last post”. I haven’t visited the site yet. Personally, I’m just trying to get information on this complex subject and am looking for a truly neutral site, not some place where high IQ scientists reveal why most people don’t take them seriously.

    you can see that while some scientist contributors to this site feel tired of being polite to the collection of crooks, shysters and those “on the take” who for their own reasons cannot or will not admit what is now becoming obvious we must NOT fall into the trap of treating them with contempt in print or “In the Media” in general. We must be polite and unflustered and if we get them to lose their cool well and good.We must never lose ours. It is like teaching a calf to drink from a bucket instead of from its mothers teat, care and some patience in acalm atmosphere will get you there. Swearing and pushing its nose into the milk in a bucket means total failure. Something I learned as a student of agriculture many years ago.
    I am sure Dr. leavitt and other academics are used to vigorous debate but ordinary people, not all of whom are used to written debate can be put off from following up and discovering for themselves important information.

    Comment by David Kidd — 3 Nov 2009 @ 7:28 AM

  278. “The “rational, economic man” you imply is mythical, is someone who acts in his own best interests as he perceives them. Can you identify anyone at all who does not conform to this model?”

    The rational economic man also requires free choice and be fully informed.

    Can you please tell me one single instance of this applying?

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:08 AM

  279. “I’ve seen poor saps come there trying to legitimately understand the science behind AGW”

    Really, David?

    I’ve seen people come here with canned leading questions that have been discussed for the past 30+ years.

    Other people have answered them with far more civillity than they deserve, but they still don’t listen or learn.

    You see what you want to see.

    PS read this link. It is about tech questions, but pretty much applies to ALL queries.

    http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

    Or try googling it before asking.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:14 AM

  280. “Personally, I’m just trying to get information on this complex subject and am looking for a truly neutral site”

    What makes you say that this isn’t?

    Here is where you go for the neutral information:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/

    It’s where the science is done.

    If you want a potted history go to the “Start Here” button (weird how you saw so much yet missed that obvious answer to your quest whilst obsessing over the postings).

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:16 AM

  281. Uh, Foobear, 100,000 ppm would be 10%, not 1%.

    Pretty toxic, actually.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide#Toxicity

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:26 AM

  282. Mark (278)
    Since noone can ever be “fully” informed, a rational man in the real world is one who acts logically on whatever information he does have, in ways he believes will best advance his aims, within whatever constraints he faces.
    Do you have any instances of this not applying?

    Comment by Rene — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:28 AM

  283. Therefore you agree with Lynne: they don’t exist.

    “Do you have any instances of this not applying?”

    I don;t have to because that rational man is not the rational man that economic theory relies on.

    The rational man that economic theory relies on must be fully informed. This is not possible since there is a huge workforce DELIBERATELY crafted to post misinformation: marketers.

    The rational man that economic theory relies on must have free choice. This is not possible since there are many laws that enforce limited choice. For example, and not limited to: copyrights, patents, trade secrets, grey import laws and trade restrictions.

    I do not have to show that your “rational man” exists because your rational man is not one that partakes in economic theory.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:52 AM

  284. Interesting to contemplate the back-of-envelope estimate above of $11 trillion for solar development needed.

    Off the top of my head, I’d agree that it’s not too much; global GDP in 2008 was pretty close to $61 trillion, according to WIki. So could we spend 2-3% of GDP on a clean energy future?

    Well, in 2008, we–meaning the world as a whole–spent about $1.5 trillion on defence. So clearly we could. Which brings up the question, I suppose, of accurate threat assessment.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:52 AM

  285. @tharanga: Why are people taking the illustration here so literally?

    I think the idea of a giant solar farm in much more interesting than the actual subject.

    The thesis of the piece seems to be that a best selling economics author tried to speak outside of his area of expertise and got a lot of parts wrong. He’s just a big boring easy target.

    The interesting questions to me are:
    1) Is it reasonable to propose we start adding enough solar panels to be meaningful? Last I checked, solar was making less than 1% of US electricity.
    2) How many square meters of panels would it take, what would they cost, and what would the limitations be?
    3) Are there any interesting side effects?
    4) Are there better options? I like nuclear, and advocate that as a pet agenda. Someone commented there’s not enough Uranium, but with breeder reactors and ocean harvesting there would be enough for centuries. I could never effectively defend all of the pieces of the argument, I just try to mention it often enough that someone new might take time to investigate.

    Would you really have read 280 comments abnusing poor Dr Levitt?

    Comment by KevinM — 3 Nov 2009 @ 9:12 AM

  286. Mark, 273
    “Because I think MOST of the radiation falling on the earth is reflected back (because we aren’t a perfectly absorbing body…).”

    Global albedo is about 30%, maybe a bit higher. Hardly “most”.

    George Blahusiak’s idea (256) that using solar energy will somehow displace some other useful function of sunlight is muddled enough on its own. If you’re worried about crops, lighting and suntans, simply don’t place the solar cells above your crops, beaches or windows.

    Comment by tharanga — 3 Nov 2009 @ 9:21 AM

  287. Mark (283)
    To deny the rational man of economics you need to show people acting against their own perceived best interests, using whatever information they have, acting within whatever constraints they face. Until you do you are ducking the issue.
    Your other ‘requirements’ of perfect information etc, however desireable, are quite irrelevant to the concept.

    [Response: Oh let's see... umm... people selling CDOs and mortgage tranches they know will not perform but do so 'because everyone else is'? Banks lending money to people they know have no chance of paying it back? People anticipating that bubbles will continue to inflate without end? None of this behaviour is long-term rational. Why did they do it? For short-term reasons based on complete ignorance (some of it wilful) of what the long term consequences would be. So, yes, absence of perfect information distorts idealised 'rational behaviour'. - gavin]

    Comment by Rene — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:02 AM

  288. “Global albedo is about 30%, maybe a bit higher. Hardly “most”.”

    And about 12% doesn’t get down to the earth’s surface, IIRC.

    OK, so not “most” but a lot more than 2%.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:12 AM

  289. “4) Are there better options? I like nuclear, and advocate that as a pet agenda. ”

    We guessed.

    :-)

    “Someone commented there’s not enough Uranium, but with breeder reactors and ocean harvesting there would be enough for centuries.”

    And in two centuries we have how much to clear up and no uranium left. The sun will still shine, the winds will still blow and the tides will rise and fall.

    Solve the bulk of our problems with renewables first.

    By then some of the reactors will have to be decomissioned and you can work on making them breeders. Though you WILL have to let Iran have breeder nuclear power without threatening to invade them. If not, give them all the free electricity they want. I.e. pay them NOT to persue their own power systems. We’ll also have a better hold on what works and what doesn’t. and maybe *safe* microgeneration so that nuclear doesn’t fall foul of the transport losses that it has at the moment and solar can largely avoid.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:16 AM

  290. re #9

    “Ocean acidification is “utter nonsense” said Piers Corbyn.”

    This was one of the ‘news items’ described here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2009/10/climates_magnetic_attraction.html

    That assertion alters the a posteriori probability of Corbyn being correct about the rest of his climate theory, which he was promising to announce at his conference, now summarised by the BBC’s Richard Black. If you remember that was the conference announced recently in a naive report by Paul Hudson who is very different from Richard Black. I hope that Black got in first this time.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:29 AM

  291. Mark recommends above one of my long-favorite references, on how to ask questions the smart way. Here’s the part relevant to giving good answers.
    He sets a high bar, worth reaching for:
    _________
    How To Answer Questions in a Helpful Way

    _Be gentle._ Problem-related stress can make people seem rude or stupid even when they’re not.

    Reply to a first offender off-line. There is no need of public humiliation for someone who may have made an honest mistake. A real newbie may not know how to search archives or where the FAQ is stored or posted.

    If you don’t know for sure, say so! A wrong but authoritative-sounding answer is worse than none at all. Don’t point anyone down a wrong path simply because it’s fun to sound like an expert. Be humble and honest; set a good example for both the querent and your peers.

    If you can’t help, don’t hinder. Don’t make jokes about procedures that could trash the user’s setup — the poor sap might interpret these as instructions.

    Ask probing questions to elicit more details. If you’re good at this, the querent will learn something — and so might you. Try to turn the bad question into a good one; remember we were all newbies once.

    While muttering RTFM is sometimes justified when replying to someone who is just a lazy slob, a pointer to documentation (even if it’s just a suggestion to google for a key phrase) is better.

    If you’re going to answer the question at all, give good value. Don’t suggest kludgy workarounds when somebody is using the wrong tool or approach. Suggest good tools. Reframe the question.

    Help your community learn from the question. When you field a good question, ask yourself “How would the relevant documentation or FAQ have to change so that nobody has to answer this again?” Then send a patch to the document maintainer.

    If you did research to answer the question, demonstrate your skills rather than writing as though you pulled the answer out of your butt. Answering one good question is like feeding a hungry person one meal, but teaching them research skills by example is showing them how to grow food for a lifetime.
    ——-

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:33 AM

  292. 285, Kevin:

    Those are indeed interesting questions, but they’re pretty comprehensively discussed elsewhere. I don’t think any reasonable person expects 100% of electricity or energy to be generated in the same manner; different technologies will have wedges of market share, just as they do now. Ultimately, it all comes down to dollars and cents, and whether you are optimistic that solar will soon be cost-competitive, or not.

    I suppose this topic does speak to your #3 point, about perverse side effects. At the risk of belaboring the point, I remain a bit disappointed that the discussion has not gone into the life cycle analysis very much. The energy payback period is currently maybe 2 years, which is pretty good, but worth keeping in mind. Renewables are great, but if the financial payback period is too high, they won’t be built, and if the energy payback period is too high, they shouldn’t be built.

    Comment by tharanga — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:36 AM

  293. Slightly off topic, but has anyone any thoughts on the latest Arctic sea ice trend? http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
    It’s tracking very closely the Autumn section of the minimum record curve set in 2007, and I was just wondering what this might bode for the coming year. For example, our own Met Office (UK) is forecasting a milder than normal Winter (mainly bsed on sea temps, I think, and NAO patterns, but I confess I didn’t look into it that closely), so does that mean we should be watching for the trend to dip below the 2007 curve fairly soon?

    Also, any news about the Wilkins and Pine Island Bay areas recently, anyone?

    Comment by Nick O. — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:58 AM

  294. Rene:

    I am still waiting to hear
    - a good reason to conflate ‘denialist’ and ’skeptic’
    - a replacement for ’skeptic’ as I defined

    1. In practice, denying that AGW is an extremely serious problem is as counter-empirical as denying that it exists, so there is no reason not to use the terms interchangeably.

    2. “Denialist who wants a more respectable name.”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 Nov 2009 @ 11:19 AM

  295. KevinM:

    How about putting the 1,000 Nuclear reactors that produce the same amount of electricity with no carbon emission on the same scale. They would be invisible.

    But a hell of a lot more expensive, requiring much more time to deploy, and much more potentially dangerous in a variety of ways.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 Nov 2009 @ 11:23 AM

  296. I would like to make a further comment about my original post #26 about urban waste heat. I appreciate that it is not about solar panels and that the inference of the question irritates some here but I had hoped for some comments about how wild my assumptions may have been, whether my calculations were in the right ball park and if the answer was “interesting” in terms of urban temperatires.

    Further Googling seems to indicate that my assumptions/calculations were actually pretty close. For 2000, I calculated worldwide fossil fuel energy as 4.26 x 10^20 J. I estimated that 50% of the population was urban. I estimated population density as around 4750 / km^2 (based on London) and used that to calculate worldwide urban area.

    The final assumption was that 90% of energy was used in urban areas. Clearly, this has to be in the range 50-100% and is closer to 100% than 50% so 90% seems not unreasonable.

    So, based on 90% of the worlds fossil fuel energy use and the urban area estimated from population density, I get a figure for urban waste heat of around 20 W/m^2.

    So, I ask again, how significant is that much waste heat to an urban area?

    Comment by Tony Rogers — 3 Nov 2009 @ 11:32 AM

  297. KevinM:

    I’m not sure why hard core environmentalists continue to hate nuclear.

    They think radioactive contamination of the environment and the prospect of terrorists getting hold of nuclear materials to be bad things.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 Nov 2009 @ 11:32 AM

  298. Bart #265

    I often wonder about the fence sitters and the deniers and the culture at large. It’s hard to get a handle on.

    Concern about tone often assumes that the “battle”, while not logically equal is waged on psychologically equal terms, and that each side is causing the other to escalate and would otherwise be arguing in good faith. I don’t think this is the case. Much of what you see posted by deniers amounts to a sort of ad hoc psyops campaign. If you’ve noted the rise of right wing radio, you know that this sort of thing has potency. Pushing back may well have some effect in taking a bit of the windy triumphalism out of wingnuttia’s glorious sails. This may be distasteful to some people’s better instincts, but it throws a spanner in the works regarding fence sitters who might be otherwise be swept up in denialist hysteria.

    This is far from an ideal situation, but I don’t see this de-escalating until it’s in the denialists ideological or economic interest to take a different tack. Having said that, I would never try to dissuade someone from taking the high road. The whole point of all this is to keep the light alive as best we can.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 3 Nov 2009 @ 11:40 AM

  299. “I’m not sure why hard core environmentalists continue to hate nuclear.”

    Don’t know what “hard core environmentalists” means.

    For me, off the top of my head, the impediments to wide spread substitution of nuclear energy in the grid seems to include: the amount of water required, the hazardous waste it produces, the hidden expenses that have dogged the industry in the past, the absence of trained workers, and the susceptibility of the cores to be weaponized.

    Environmentalists have been blamed for the lack of widespread adoption of nuclear in this country, but look at issue through the eyes of Iranians. We simply won’t let them develop their own nuclear industry. I imagine the same would be true for 90% of the countries on the planet.

    “Would you really have read 280 comments abnusing poor Dr Levitt?”

    Poor Dr. Levitt (or someone else interested in selling his book) has sent me spam. Apparently the poor doctor’s last book sold in the millions and people are interested in a repeat. A little controversy sells books. I don’t think poor Dr. Levitt is crying over the abnuse. The abnuse seems to be working out very well for him.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 3 Nov 2009 @ 12:01 PM

  300. I work for a real estate developer/investor in California. I have looked into solar for our properties (mostly shopping centers) and it’s still not going to happen – too expensive to attract private investors, and the banks aren’t giving out any money right now. And that’s after including all of the subsidies/incentives we have here in California.

    As far as the albedo/waste heat issue, that’s the stupidest argument against solar that I’ve ever heard. The proposed solar cells for our shopping centers, for example, would be arrays in the parking lot. They would provide shade for cars, and I seriously doubt they would heat the earth any more than the black asphalt they would be covering. Maybe if you calculated that they would normally have white cars parked there all day.

    But… for a small shopping center (50K-75K sq ft) you’re looking at a $2M investment when the annual electric bill is only about $50K. Even after selling electricity back to the grid during peak hours, the minimum return on costs is 10 years. I don’t expect solar to take off until the government incentives get better, the costs of solar installations come down and/or the cost of otherwise cheap electricity shoots up. A combo of all three will eventually bring a boom in commercial solar installations. This recession isn’t helping, that’s for sure.

    Comment by Steve — 3 Nov 2009 @ 12:19 PM

  301. #264, Patrick, I’m glad you brought up externalities. If we could only internalize these (taking into account harms well into the future), gasoline and coal-based electricity (and all other products) would be quite a bit higher in price.

    Another thing I learned in Economics 101, TINSTAAFL (there is no such thing as a free lunch). We ARE paying for these, at least to some extent, in other ways (health bills, etc), tho future harms will rack up bigger bills. The injustice is that the ones who cause the harms are not mainly the ones suffering and will suffer from them (including both humans and other life forms).

    I like Marx’s idea (he too was an economist) of seeing the blood, sweat, and tears of the laborers in products (products, not commodities). As an environmentalist I can envision also the environmentally harmed and starving people and other creatures in products. As a religious person, I keep a picture of a drought-starving African madonna and child in my mind’s eye, to remind me to do the EC (environmentally correct) thing.

    As an anthropologist while taking the economics course, and presented with a circular flow diagram of goods, services, resources, & money circulating between households* & business, I came back the next day with my own diagram:

    That circular flow diagram was a tiny slice at the top of a huge, solid mountain — the mountain representing nature and the environment. And above that tiny economic diagram, with broken lines eminating upward like an inverse of the mountain below, was the rest of the dimensions of the social sciences & humanities — cultural, social, psychological (including the irrational, sometimes quite perverse subconscious).

    So, yes, economics has its place, but it is a relatively small place in the greater scheme of all things considered from all perspectives.

    I do agree that one could, esp from a formalist economics perspective, view all in economic terms. But the same goes for viewing all in Freudian psychological terms, or cultural terms, or in the terms of any other analytic (not concrete) dimension or subdimension. That is, the various analytic dimensions interpentrate the whole. This makes each seem to be the sole determinant of all else, or the most important perspective. That leads to lots of debate in academia.

    It’s my view and perspective, sort of fuzzy ecological in an abstract, but with allowances for conflict and incongruties within and among the dimensions.
    ________________
    *BTW, some here may know that “eco” or “oikos” in “economics” means house or home. Economics – “management of the home” (and for most of history there were no separate businesses; production was done in and around the home). So it’s all about, as ET said, “home” — ecology, economics, our home.

    One can only wonder where “superfreakonomics” really fits in.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 3 Nov 2009 @ 12:42 PM

  302. I’m a bit confused about how we could put all the solar cells needed to meet the world’s energy supply in sunny, clear (and low latitude?) locations that receive the above-average 250 watts per square meter. What sort of infrastructure (wires) would be required to transport that electricity to the average and below average areas of the earth? Is this realistic?

    Comment by William — 3 Nov 2009 @ 12:53 PM

  303. William, 298: “I’m a bit confused about how we could put all the solar cells needed to meet the world’s energy”

    Again, don’t take the example so literally. Solar energy currently accounts for a tiny fraction of total electricity; an even smaller fraction of total energy. Simply getting that fraction up to 10% in the near term would be a significant contribution by solar, and unexpected by many, due to the current cost of solar.

    As with wind energy, some new transmission lines will have to be built if you build the capacity in isolated sunny or windy areas, as well as a smarter grid to manage it all, and cost estimates of all that can be found. Too many people on here have some emotional attachment to solar, or wind, or nuclear, or whatever; take them with a grain of salt and find projections by people who don’t have a horse in the race.

    Jeffrey Davis, 295:
    “We simply won’t let them develop their own nuclear industry. I imagine the same would be true for 90% of the countries on the planet.”

    Untrue. If you sign the NPT and follow its rules, there are no problems. Beyond the high up-front costs of building a nuclear plant.

    Comment by tharanga — 3 Nov 2009 @ 1:39 PM

  304. “have looked into solar for our properties (mostly shopping centers) and it’s still not going to happen – too expensive to attract private investors,”

    Because the subsidies for renewables isn’t at the level of other (entrenched) power sources?

    “But… for a small shopping center (50K-75K sq ft) you’re looking at a $2M investment when the annual electric bill is only about $50K.”

    Do you have to install every square foot with solar panels?

    “Even after selling electricity back to the grid during peak hours, the minimum return on costs is 10 years.”

    Hang on, your malls sell us stuff like double glazing which doesn’t pay back for over 25 years!!!

    10 years is far longer than I believe, but even then it’s still a decent ROI for 2 million.

    “I don’t expect solar to take off until the government incentives get better,”

    Which should happen, but is already being screamed at by the alarmists as unwarranted interference in the Free Market and an attempt by the politicians to kill the fossil fuel industry.

    “This recession isn’t helping, that’s for sure.”

    Then reconsider whether it will cost 2 million now. After all, labour is cheaper now and there’s little else that will get you a ROI like this. And the price of electricity from fossil fuels is still rising, making the free sunlight a more valuable resource if you pay out to farm it.

    Hell, if you can’t be bothered, why not just paint your rooftops white and clean them occasionally? It should reduce your cooling bills considerably.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 1:55 PM

  305. Radge, #298:

    “This is far from an ideal situation”

    ^^^ This. ^^^

    Well said.

    I would not disagree it would be ideal if people listened to reasonable and reasoned arguments.

    This world hasn’t reached such paradise.

    Yet, I hope.

    Hankm, #291:

    “_Be gentle._ Problem-related stress can make people seem rude or stupid even when they’re not.”

    As true for the answerer. I get shorter with the barnpot the harder work gets.

    “Reply to a first offender off-line. There is no need of public humiliation for someone who may have made an honest mistake.”

    There’s no way to do this on a weblog unless I own it.

    I doubt whether the owners on RC would trust me with that power… >-)

    And it’s hugely unlikely that I’ll be rude or humiliate a first-offender anyway. It’s usually taken either known prior elsewhere (Max Anacker) or several posts of not listening to make me slap their arses for them in public.

    But if on the second post, they post something vitriolic I will return it to them with gusto if necessary.

    “If you don’t know for sure, say so! A wrong but authoritative-sounding answer is worse than none at all.”

    Every single flipping one of us has done this, Hank.

    In fact, the only way scientists can talk to non-specia lists is to avoid the uncertainties.

    This one is absolutely bloody useless with denialists on the hound, though, as Latif found out recently. ANY proclaimed uncertainty has been yelled from the rooftops as proof that even the IPCC don’t know there’s any truth to AGW. (whilst still complaining that the IPCC are wrong because they avoid saying anything about the errors and shortcomings of their work ***and*** ignoring that their side doesn’t even in the main bother with error bars, never mind where their “paper” could be wrong).

    So a really bad one for the politicisation that has happened to AGW.

    Works great when it’s a technical question because your OS doesn’t go canvassing what people think before deciding if changing os.backbuffer=2 will solve the problem.

    “Ask probing questions to elicit more details.”

    Which wastes Gavin’s time. Time and time again.

    And in the main ignored by those who want delay rather than enlightenment. Again, the OS has one single idea of what it does. Asking whether you have IE6 installed is a fact and won’t change if the asker finds out you’re not agreeing with him.

    Those tips on how to answer require good faith on the part of the seeker.

    Such faith is in short supply.

    You fell for it with Max Anacker when he arrived, remember.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:11 PM

  306. Mark, 304: “Because the subsidies for renewables isn’t at the level of other (entrenched) power sources?”

    You’ve said this before. How is it possibly true? The total amount of subsidy given for extraction or usage of fossil fuels might be higher than the total amount of subsidy given for renewables, but what’s relevant is the amount of subsidy per kWh or BTU. Or rather, what the price would be without the subsidy. You’re making it sound as if without subsidy, coal would cost 15 cents per kWh. If you think this is the case, then please provide some analysis. (For the moment, don’t price in the externalities of CO2 or other pollutants; I’m just talking about explicit production subsidies).

    Comment by tharanga — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:15 PM

  307. PS Hank:

    “Help your community learn from the question.”

    I do.

    It’s just that “if you’re an obvious idiot you’ll get a public bitchslap from mark” isn’t one that’s appreciated.

    >-D

    To be honest, not even by me.

    If I were smarter, I’d be able to think of something better, but I’m stumped. Too many DO NOT WANT to know. They want the convenient lie. The comforting fantasy. The easy way.

    And they hate that comfort is taken away from them.

    For noobs, read the IPCC reports. There’s an art to skim reading but anyone can manage it. It won’t give you everything, but it WILL give you the shape of what you’re putatively questioning.

    If you come on RC, click the “Start Here” button. The windows-crowd should be well on that idea.

    If you don’t understand, TRY FIRST. Something just given to you isn’t valued and with thoughts, that means you’ll forget. Even if you’re wrong, or can’t find out, having looked you’ll learn WHERE you went wrong. And you’ll know what to avoid next time.

    There’s more to learning than rote memory. Learning HOW to learn is far more important.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:17 PM

  308. Tharanga:

    “Untrue. If you sign the NPT and follow its rules, there are no problems. Beyond the high up-front costs of building a nuclear plant.”

    Why must they be bound by a treaty that they haven’t signed?

    No matter what Iran do, this is wrong.

    And if we countenance wrong in a greater good, we countenance others to make the same mistakes. And good/evil become again points of view.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:19 PM

  309. From #244

    Me: [snip] the simple fact is there is an extremely poor correlation between AGW and widely accepted measurement data. This I suggest is reason enough to be skeptical, certainly of the claim that the science is ’settled’.

    Response: Sorry, but you are not being clear. What measure of ‘AGW’ do you think should correlate with what? Do you mean CO2 concentrations with global temperature?
    Yes – only about 15 years in the ~130 year instrumental period.

    [Response: Just FYI but AGW stands for anthropogenic global warming, and CO2 concentrations - while related - are not the same thing. However, you are still confused. Firstly, there is a pretty good correlation between annual CO2 levels and temperatures over the last 150 years (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to come up with the actual number). Secondly, you don't have a good idea for what should be expected. An expected correlation of 1.0 is nonsense (since that would imply there is no internal variability, no uncertainty in the data and no other factors in climate - three claims we can all agree are untrue), but exactly what is expected? Only once you know that can you decide whether the actual correlation is supportive or not of a connection. Thirdly, the concern that exists on carbon emissions is not due to any such correlation - since indeed this was predicted in the 1950s before any of this data was available. - gavin]

    [snip] And where is there a prediction that these things should be perfectly correlated?
    I do not ask for anything like perfection. But 15 out of 130 seems pretty hopeless to me. To say nothing of ignoring that we are still cooler than 1000 years ago.

    And when did I ever say that ‘the science is settled’?
    I did not mean you in particular, and I take on board your comment. It is though certainly the line that has been heavily pushed in the worldwide political and media feeding frenzy around AGW in the last five or so years.

    [Response: That is a misreading of the media - what you do see is plenty of people who don't want to look at the science claiming that scientists go around saying this and then pointing to some uncertainty as rebuttal. But this is just a strawman. There are a number of things that are agreed beyond reasonable doubt, but no-one has ever claimed that all that could be known is known. Why would we be scientists in that case? - gavin]

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:23 PM

  310. “That assertion alters the a posteriori probability of Corbyn being correct about the rest of his climate theory,”

    Although Piers Corbyn’s predictions have been much like those of astrologers: The UK will see high winds in January and heavy rains in autumn!” Well DUH.

    And given he doesn’t wear the collar like she does:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystic_Meg

    I don’t know if I can trust his predictions…

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:24 PM

  311. When did I ask for this:

    “Your other ‘requirements’ of perfect information etc, however desireable, are quite irrelevant to the concept.”

    Perfect information?

    No fully informed.

    And it is a requirement for the rational man in economic theory.

    That you say such elements as full information and free choice doesn’t exist shows that such a man is imaginary as Lynne says and you (for some idiotic reason) demand is false.

    You can’t have both.

    Either your rational man doesn’t exist or the full information and free choice required of him does.

    Which is it?

    a) rational man doesn’t exist

    b) fully informed and free choice is available

    a or b?

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:28 PM

  312. Mark #272. *sigh*

    What I said wasn’t a strawman: if the UK is in discussions with Jordan about buying solar energy from them, then they’d better have a damned good plan to transport it back to these shores. You might want to take a look at a map of the Mediterranean and Europe to get an idea of how unfeasible that is. My point was that there’s no likely scenario in which Britain would put up power lines from Jordan to blighty – if anything like that were to happen then the first step would be a link into a European supergrid (which doesn’t exist yet).

    *If* Britain wanted to buy solar energy from a hot, sunny country, then it would make far more sense to hitch-hike on the German proposal to pipe in electricity from the Sahara. They aren’t gonna build a power line all the way from Jordan, just to bring in a few percent of our electricity needs.

    Comment by Paul Levy — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:31 PM

  313. Tharanga, you say

    ” but what’s relevant is the amount of subsidy per kWh or BTU”

    Why is this true?

    The subsidies of the past enabled greater projects to be undertaken without risk. The lack of risk ensured people who like money, like gambling, but don’t like losing money (otherwise known as “investors” or “VC”) paid in.

    Such enabled far more effective utilisation that was an ongoing benefit to the endeavour without returning the part of the benefit due to the underwriters (the government of the US).

    You state it must be so.

    I counter: it must be the subsidy of the industry that is important, not the per-kWh figure.

    After all, until the first watt is produced, the subsidy for ANY energy production with even one cent of subsidy is infinitely subsidised.

    Which is insane.

    Add to that the subsidy of appreciable size for renewables has been going on for a few decades whilst fossil fuel subsidies may go back well before WW1 (see Robert Newman’s “History of Oil”).

    Subsidies that the entrenched monopolies can outspend on frivolities like lobby groups and partisan blogs to ensure their continued survival.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:36 PM

  314. Mark, does your boss know how much time you’re spending on this web-site? Gotta be a civil servant.

    Comment by Rando — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:38 PM

  315. 308, Mark: This is getting very off-topic, so briefly: Iran has signed the NPT, so they’re indeed bound by its rules. Anybody who has not signed the NPT can do as they please, but they are locked out of the global trade in nuclear materials and technology; this is an inducement to join the NPT. India has recently been made an exception to the rule. As this is off-topic, I’ll leave it there.

    Comment by tharanga — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:55 PM

  316. From #309
    there is a pretty good correlation between annual CO2 levels and temperatures over the last 150 years
    Only if you call 15/130 “pretty good”.

    [Response: I have no idea what you are referring to. What is the correlation coefficient? (that's how you tell whether something is correlated - hint). - gavin]

    the concern that exists on carbon emissions is not due to any such correlation
    If you want to argue CO2-induced AGW, then Yes it does, surely?

    [Response: No. The reason why we care is outlined in this post and is based on the physics of the problem not correlations. ]

    []the ‘science is settled’ has been heavily pushed in the worldwide political and media feeding frenzy around AGW in the last five or so years.

    Response: That is a misreading [] – what you do see is plenty of people who don’t want to look at the science claiming that scientists go around saying this []

    Are you seriously suggesting it has not been ceaselessly drummed into citizens worldwide by virtually all politicians and media, that the science is settled, ie AGW is serious and needs massive political and physical action?

    [Response: AGW is serious and needs substantial action (in my opinion), but that is not predicated on 'all science being settled'. Read about what the consensus is and is not. - gavin]

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 3 Nov 2009 @ 3:22 PM

  317. “Iran has signed the NPT, so they’re indeed bound by its rules.”

    OK, so why did you say “If you sign the NPT and follow its rules, there are no problems.”

    Where does the “if” apply? To the signing or the problem?

    And IIRC the NPT allowed Iran to do what it said it was doing (it wasn’t going to be able to generate weapons grade fissile material) and were letting international inspectors (and I’ll give an aside on this later) in to check.

    Hence when the US got their panties in a bunch and you said “If” I drew a conclusion.

    But still what they said they were doing was acceptable to the NPT.

    On that, the US said they were allowed bunker-buster nukes under the NPT, so you can see how strict the representation is there…

    And the aside: WMD inspections was going to be enforced by arms if necessary on any country by the UN signed to the treaty.

    The US vetoed because they couldn’t get the corollary “unless the country you want to inspect is the US”. They were afraid it would lead to their expertise being exposed.

    They then complained that the UN inspectors were ineffective and that was why they had to go to war over WMDs in Iraq.

    The reason for their ineffectiveness was the US had blocked the instrument that would have given the inspectors the powers the US complained they didn’t have.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 3:26 PM

  318. Rando:

    “Mark, does your boss know how much time you’re spending on this web-site?”

    I’m off ill.

    Suck it.

    ” Gotta be a civil servant.”

    Why?

    Are you unemployed or a civil servant?

    How about max? Rod?

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 3:27 PM

  319. “What I said wasn’t a strawman: if the UK is in discussions with Jordan about buying solar energy from them, then they’d better have a damned good plan to transport it back to these shores”

    And “batteries would be heavy” is a strawman.

    For definition:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

    “My point was that there’s no likely scenario in which Britain would put up power lines from Jordan to blighty – if anything like that were to happen then the first step would be a link into a European supergrid (which doesn’t exist yet).”

    So maybe they will.

    Still no need to worry about the batteries.

    “You might want to take a look at a map of the Mediterranean and Europe”

    Take a look at how far the Gas pipelines run across Russia to deliver gas to the UK…

    “*If* Britain wanted to buy solar energy from a hot, sunny country, then it would make far more sense to hitch-hike on the German proposal to pipe in electricity from the Sahara”

    Yeah. OK. Maybe they did.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8337735.stm

    (Note: “Jordan IIRC”, Hank. Go look it up)

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 3:33 PM

  320. From #311
    I think we can all agree that Mark’s straw rational man does not exist.

    Real ones do of course – Mark is one himself – since it is simply not the case that “full information and free choice [is] required of him”.
    What do “full information” and “free choice” mean anyway? Is there some criteria for determing the fullness of information and the freedom of choice?

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 3 Nov 2009 @ 3:39 PM

  321. “What do “full information” and “free choice” mean anyway? Is there some criteria for determing the fullness of information and the freedom of choice?”

    When you’re talking about economic theory?

    Yes.

    With the theory itself.

    Example:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_economicus

    In the criticism section they even accept such a man doesn’t exist:

    “They stress uncertainty and bounded rationality in the making of economic decisions, rather than relying on the rational man who is fully informed of all circumstances impinging on his decisions. They argue that perfect knowledge never exists, which means that all economic activity implies risk.”

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:08 PM

  322. “Real ones do of course – Mark is one himself”

    I doubt many agree I am.

    I definitely don’t.

    If my brother was in harms way I would defend him. If a child were in danger, I (hope!) I would intervene.

    These do not rely on rational decision. They will be done. Now if I found my brother had deliberately put a child in danger, I may lay into him myself, but that’s not rationality: it’s compounding the irrationality.

    Heck, almost the entirety of the sexual progression of the species requires irrationality abound in the decision making process. Abusers RELY on it.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:16 PM

  323. RE rational man v. irrational man, I think, it seems people are both. We tend to think we ourselves are rational and others irrational or wrongly motivated in debates with others, but psychologists from many schools of psychology could supply us with how people have an irrational side to them…or at least rationality isn’t the only operative principle.

    Take deniers, for instance. Anyone using rationality and Pascal’s wager framework in general — of making decisions about avoiding harms and gaining benefits in face of some uncertainty — would surely want global warming mitigated in every way possible that saves money, benefits the economy, or at the least doesn’t cost. That is a no-brainer, but only IFF we’re talking about RATIONAL decision-making.

    It seems to me that the deniers and contrarians not connected to the fossil fuel industries are refusing to accept what respected, peer-review publishing scientists have to say, and are clinging to any weak anti-GW straws not-as-well-respected-climate-scientists (or dentists, anything with “Dr.” attached, or even Rush Limbaugh) come up with, precisely because they (like the rest of us) not soley rational beings, like Mr. Spock and other Vulcans.

    It seems to me there are various irrational (perhaps with a thread of reality-based) fears that drive them not to accept AGW. One, I think,is the (mostly irrational) ECONOMIC FEAR – that their wealth and even livelihood will be diminished if they mitigate GW. They are so afraid, they won’t even consider that we can reduce GHG emissions quite a bit cost-effectively without lowering living standards, even improving them. They won’t even give it a try, so tied into their world view & culture (which also contains irrationalities and an imperfect match with reality). It’s like if they buy one compact fluoresecent bulb, they fear they might slip down the slippery slope into economic disaster. They are so stuck in this fear that they can’t even look beyond it to consider the FALSE NEGATIVE, of an economic and life-threatening hell through global warming harms caused by our GHG emissions and failure to mitigate. It should be a no brainer that even if this were a 5% possibility, we’d strive to avoid it.

    The others, I’m thinking are those with POLITICAL FEARS, that if they admit AGW might possibily be true, they’ll wake up in Orwell’s 1984. They are so stuck in this fear, that they can’t even consider what might happen politically IF AGW is indeed true. 1984 (and I don’t even think we have to go anywhere near there, in fact I think we could go in a direction of greater freedom thru mitigating AGW) will look very good by comparison. Just think about our world political/conflict problems now when there are enough resources hypothetically to go around to all and let everyone live nicely, and imagine how very much worse the political/conflict situation will be when we’re down to playing vicious, killer musical chairs with ever diminishing life-sustaining resources. I’m imagining both totalitarianism AND bloody anarchy & chaos, and warlords. I don’t think even Hollywood can imagine the horror of such a dystopic, dying world. Even if there were a 5% chance of this being the case and it even being within Hollywood’s imaginaire (and I, for one, think the chances are much much greater for this, given the obstinance of the denialists), it would be a no-brainer for a rational man who loves freedom to start mitigating AGW.

    We are rational to an extent and in certain contexts within world views and within a context of psychological drives and conditions (perhaps much subconscious) and the reality of the situation (which we can only comprehend thru cultural-tinted glasses).

    The field of economics alone (or in the lead) just doesn’t cut the muster for this problem we are facing.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:22 PM

  324. From #321
    From that url: “Economic human is the concept [] of humans as rational and broadly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments towards their subjectively defined ends.”
    Your basic error is reading into it that being a rational actor requires you to have “perfect knowledge”. It doesn’t, hence all economic activity does involve risk, which the rational actor takes into account.

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:24 PM

  325. “Untrue. If you sign the NPT and follow its rules, there are no problems. Beyond the high up-front costs of building a nuclear plant.”

    Iran is in compliance with NNPT.

    We’re insisting that they be extra-compliant.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:37 PM

  326. Thanks for the post. It motivated me to read the discussion in the book and I now see that you have mis-represented the argument, as Levitt pointed out. You also fail to take on emissions required for solar plant construction, which is really the compelling issue.

    [Response: No it isn't - that is also a complete red herring. - gavin]

    BTW, in your response to #117 you stated that 18% of a typical body mass is about 30 kg. Either you hang out with some big dudes or your calculations are a bit sloppy as well.

    [Response: Probably meant pounds. - gavin]

    Comment by Tom C — 3 Nov 2009 @ 4:44 PM

  327. #319 Mark.

    I know perfectly well what a strawman is, and this wasn’t one of them. The UK isn’t gonna build power lines to transmit electricity from Jordan, no matter what developments in technology there are in the next several decades. It wouldn’t make any sense for too many reasons to list – I’ve given you some already. So the point about batteries should have been obvious: if Britain were to directly negotiate an electricity deal with Jordan, then the only way they could get that electricity home would be in a load of batteries, i.e. *it isn’t gonna happen*. (I missed the “I think”, but to be honest I’m judging this from a British perspective. Perhaps you didn’t realise that Jordan is a long, long way away from here.)

    Gas pipelines are not the same as electricity lines. You have to get gas from source, there are lots of places to get electricity. In any case, Britain didn’t negotiate directly with Russia to pipe in gas before there was already a pipeline passing through all of the intermediate countries. Such an electricity line from Jordan through the Med, through Greece then the Balkans etc. doesn’t exist yet, and even if it were to be built it would take another 20 years at least, and would be the result of a collaborative effort of all of the countries concerned, not a bilateral deal between Britain and Jordan.

    You’ve linked to the bbc version of the same story that I linked to yesterday.

    Comment by Paul L — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:03 PM

  328. “Your basic error is reading into it that being a rational actor requires you to have “perfect knowledge”. It doesn’t”

    Your basic error is not reading.

    I even quoted for you.

    The reason WHY “rational man” is a bad theory for economy is given by some other economists who say that since rational man has to be fully informed of all factors affecting his choice to be able to MAKE choices as a rational man, and that such full information is not possible, the economic theory that uses rational man (the reason for the original query, and please, let me know if you’re in a a tag team here), that is “rational man” cannot in fact exist.

    Which is Lynne’s assertion that Rene derided so unsupportedly.

    See also:

    http://www.thersa.org/fellowship/journal/archive/spring-2009/features/descent-of-rational-man

    “The old model dictated that policy should merely ensure that consumers were adequately informed about products and prices – the market would look after the rest. We now know this to be wrong.”

    or

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/2024665

    But if we mean by ‘a rational man’, ‘a fully informed man’, as Brandt does…

    (this being R B Brandt. Google.

    and another:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/q451804505466356/

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:04 PM

  329. Lynne, indeed the problem is that “Rational Man” has not the information to make rational choices and therefore any choice made has irreducible risk and that risk is definitely but unboundedly higher than the risk assessed by rational decision.

    (this is in the section about criticism of the rational man given in the wiki link earlier).

    Therefore the element that comes to the fore is the risk averse man.

    This is not a rational man. They avoid risk.

    Most often they are the ones “better than average” (and since, by definition, the USA is the best darned country IN THE WORLD!!!, this means every single darned USian who knows this self-evident truth) because in any change the change could mean “you have less than before”.

    No rationality about whether it could be “more than before”: there’s no *risk* there. Aversion to risk is not a factor.

    Similarly a future uncertain gain is unwanted by the risk averse, even if the likelihood is much better than the status quo. The risk is not that it will be better on average but that it may be WORSE.

    Balance that against a current loss and you have risk-averse man in permanent shock. Definitely worse now is worse than definitely better in the future because the risk is it might not be definitely better because its in the future..!

    Even expectation values won’t fix him.

    Irrational man.

    See, for example, the refusal of the insurance industry to underwrite nuclear power station insurance. The risk is a nearly unbounded upper limit. MUST AVOID.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:13 PM

  330. “The UK isn’t gonna build power lines to transmit electricity from Jordan,”

    And I bet the Titanic will never sink.

    Or that heavier than air flight will be possible.

    Go back and reread the original post.

    “Jordan IIRC”

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:31 PM

  331. should have been “never be possible”.

    Hey, it WAS impossible until the invention of the ICE.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:31 PM

  332. This:

    “if Britain were to directly negotiate an electricity deal with Jordan, then the only way they could get that electricity home would be in a load of batteries,”

    doesn’t mean this:

    ” i.e. *it isn’t gonna happen*.”

    From the BBC article: “The electricity will then be transported great distances to Europe, using hi-tech cables that suffer little conductive loss of power.”

    If it’s coming all that way, how much further is it to Jordan?

    You *do* know where Jordan is, don’t you? Based on how far it already has to go, what’s the big deal with “never”?

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:42 PM

  333. BTW, I was wrong about Iran’s compliance with the NNPT both in my original assertion and in my follow-up.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:44 PM

  334. Re: Steve (300): Perhaps splitting the project into a few stages might improve the IRR and/or other related financial analysis of the solar panels. A smaller investment now might shave $10-15K from the electricity bill and get the first stage completed much quicker – which means projected returns start sooner as well. If the initial stage is part of a bigger project, you might be able to persuade some combination of government and Solar companies to assist by treating the first stage as a public demonstration of what can be done. A bit of marketing here may help align your interests (get electricity costs down, shade, less dependence on CO2 emitting sources, etc) and the government’s, perhaps enough to get some additional funding for demonstration purposes.

    If successful, the later stage(s) may use the next generation of solar power cells, or cheaper current generation cells should they drop in price. Price drops typically happen as newer versions of a technological product come out and the previous versions peak, then start to be displaced.

    Kudos for at least checking it out.

    Comment by Donald Oats — 3 Nov 2009 @ 5:47 PM

  335. Unanswered questions for Levitt and Dubner:

    ….”The trouble here, as Joe Romm and William Connolley have already detailed on their respective blogs, is that Levitt and Dubner clearly have virtually no understanding of atmospheric science. As such, they fail to account for some of the other planetary woes their proposed scheme – a sulphur-spewing 18-mile-long hose pipe – would engender. Ocean acidification? Ozone depletion? Alan Robock’s latest paper
    http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/10/injecting_sulphates_into_the_s.html
    gives a more complete list.

    “We could end this debate and be done with it,” Levitt says, in Monday’s Guardian, “and move on to problems that are harder to solve.”

    Sorry guys, but it looks like we’ll still need to redefine our energy system and the global economy too….
    ———
    – Olive Heffernan,at http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/10/superfreakonomists_spout_off_a_1.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:11 PM

  336. Lynn Vincentnathan wrote: “RE rational man v. irrational man, I think, it seems people are both.”

    The problem with this discussion is that the terms “rational” and “irrational” are not defined.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:14 PM

  337. Julia Isaak – “To say nothing of ignoring that we are still cooler than 1000 years ago.”

    If we only have 15 years or 130 years of data, how could you possibly know that? And by the way, it’s likely not true.

    Aside from all the other points that might be raised, and then clarified or dismissed, the case that:

    add CO2 to atmosphere -> global average surface and tropospheric temperatures rise

    is so obvious given the basic physics that the burden of proof is more on the side that would claim otherwise.

    Studies of the complexity of the system have only increased that level of burden to a very high level. Positive water vapor feedback and ice-albedo feedback are very likely. Various other feedbacks, and regional effects, are known or uncertain to varying degrees. That it is possible for feedbacks to occur is firmly established, so the ‘default’ position that doesn’t hold the burden of proof is essentially that which is expected to occur: a range of climate sensitivity values enveloping 3 K per doubling of CO2 or it’s equivalent in efficacy*tropopause-level radiative forcing after stratospheric equilibration. The remaining uncertainty does not set the burden of proof all the way back to square one with all scientific findings up to this date; that would be like (albeit not quite as extreme as) insisting that the roundness of the Earth needs to be proven after every time an error is discovered in satellite altimetry, etc.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:21 PM

  338. Re NPT. The wiki link has more. Read that, see how confused it all is and how you can pretty much get any answer you want if you didn’t keep 100% up to date. Including how having a different source for your information can reasonably lead to a different view on the results.

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:30 PM

  339. Julia Isaak — I strongly recommend that you click on the “Start Here” at the top of any RealCLimate page. Read all that first, please.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:37 PM

  340. “The problem with this discussion is that the terms “rational” and “irrational” are not defined.”

    They are for economists.

    If you’re going to poke your oar in, please check the safety manual (ie read up before you jabber).

    Comment by Mark — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:38 PM

  341. 317 Mark and 325 Jeffrey: The NPT requires a country to disclose and submit for inspections any nuclear sites. Iran had not disclosed certain sites until some exiles spilled the beans. Hence, they were not in compliance, and this is not in the least bit disputed: even the Russians and Chinese agree. This is the basis for extra safeguards, asking them to cease activities which would otherwise be allowed. All of this is well documented by the UN and IAEA; you need not parse my language strangely to find it.

    But I fear this is massively off the topic of Superfreakonomics.

    Back somewhat closer to the topic: Mark, despite all that verbiage, you have not supported your notion that coal would be as expensive or more expensive than solar, in the absence of all subsidies. I really don’t see how you can argue that coal would cost 15-20 cents/kWh, if it weren’t for subsidies. This really is important; you have to understand the inherent costs of things when you try to design a carbon price that would tilt the scales in favor of alternatives.

    Comment by tharanga — 3 Nov 2009 @ 6:59 PM

  342. Re 301 Lynn Vincentnathan -

    “I came back the next day with my own diagram:”

    Cool. Thanks.

    “I do agree that one could, esp from a formalist economics perspective, view all in economic terms. But the same goes for viewing all in Freudian psychological terms, or cultural terms, or in the terms of any other analytic (not concrete) dimension or subdimension. That is, the various analytic dimensions interpentrate the whole. This makes each seem to be the sole determinant of all else, or the most important perspective. That leads to lots of debate in academia. ”

    Freud didn’t really achieve a complete and still intact account of all psychology, did he?

    But in more a more general sense, one could view the whole world as it relates to the measures applied in any one discipline. But any decision making with goal of seeking the best of options requires assigning some value, and thus becomes economic (whether it is the economics of aesthetics, material things, morality – of course, the value of any choice tends to be contingent on other choices and all the different value measures must inevitably interact – an ‘amoral person’ would persue some optimum by the economics of his/her decisions; a moral person uses moral value as the ultimate value of all values, but the decisions still involve economics – costs and benifits, returns on investment, production possibilities curves, supply and demand, etc.).

    Perhaps what I should end with there is that economic value or value of any sort doesn’t simply exist as a number – it is the value of something, potentiall a function of physical, causal, ecological, geological, biological, cultural, social, mental, neurological, nutritional, psychological, cognitive, medicinal, informational, thermodynamic, kinetic, kinematic, geometric, logical, philosophical, meaniningful, historical, imaginative, topological,colorful, musical, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, sensual, romantic, relational, emotional, conscious, subconscious, relativistic, esoteric, etherial, evanescent, eternal, material, natural, supernatural, spatial, temporal, creative, intelligent, metaphorical, metaphysical, rational, metarational, irrational, illusory, realistic, aesthetic, moral, transcendental, cosmological, and any other types of characteristics.

    And ignoring all of that renders any analysis void of purpose or meaning.

    But we still find ourselves in situations where apples must be weighed against oranges.

    ———————
    Re 322 Mark -

    Actually, I don’t think the behaviors you identify as irrational are necessarily irrational. When a person acts apparently altruistically, for example, you have to consider what payback they might be instinctively counting on, relative to risk, and if that is a justified expectation.

    Also, copyright/IP law is a matter of ownership. This violates freedom of choice no more than laws that prevent a person from parking their car on someone else’s lawn without permission without legal consequences. This is not to say, of course, that the merits of any particular aspect of IP law could not be debated. (Private property that is not recognized as private property is no longer private property, so far as I would imagine.)

    ——————–
    Re 323 Lynn Vincentnathan –

    For people who only care about themselves and will not live much longer, ignoring AGW may be perfectly rational – in the absence of fair policy.

    ——————–

    Re 324 Julia Isaak –

    I would guess this could be extended to risk assessment – the rational person in a probabilistic world has the relevent knowledge of risks at hand in decision-making.

    ———————-

    Another point of view: when rationality is not available in ever decision, then the consequences of those irrational decisions become like the conditions imposed on the economy – weather events, locations of ore bodies, etc.

    In the entire network of decisions, some rational decisions might be made about how to allocate the decision-making resource among the decisions in order to make the most of it’s use. Investment can also increase the decision-making resource availability to make the most of the entirety of resources.

    There is also metarational – see “Traveler’s Dilemma”

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Nov 2009 @ 7:09 PM

  343. #330-332, Mark.

    Please stop misreading what I said. You claimed that Britain had been involved in negotiations with Jordan (you thought) – this wasn’t true. I pointed out why. What’s so hard to accept?

    Blimey, you are frustrating. I’ve been on here for five minutes and you’ve already started having a go at me. There was nothing particularly controversial in my point – that Britain has not been in talks with Jordan to buy solar energy from them because there is no infrastructure for getting it from there to here, and even if there is in the future then it won’t be for decades, and even if said infrastructure is built then it won’t be built by the British alone – was entirely correct.

    As for there being a possible future link between Jordan and Britain – just think about the logistics of it. If there is a connection then it won’t be as a result of a bilateral deal between the UK and Jordan, it will be due to a massive cooperative effort of many countries. It wouldn’t make sense to run cables across north Africa unless you were also including Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco in the scheme. Then Western Sahara and Mauritania are still much closer then Jordan so they would probably be linked up before Jordan was considered etc. etc. Of course, in the end Jordan might well be part of it but I’d be surprised if the cables were built that far before two decades had passed at least – the Desertec plan envisions providing 15% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050, so this isn’t going to be happen quickly.

    By the way, the reason Jordan may have stuck in your mind is that Prince Hassan of Jordan was one of the first people to push the whole Desertec idea. However, most of the corporations involved in it are German; none are British. If you read the Desertec website, they say that HVDC transmission lines lose 4-5% of electricity per 1,000km of line – Jordan is about 3,000km east of Morocco and the straits of Gibraltar where (presumably) the main entry point to the European grid will be located. Even if the grid is constructed and goes as far as Jordan, it would make more sense for their electricity to go north to Turkey and Greece, and Britain can buy electricity from much closer countries like Morocco and Algeria.

    Comment by Paul L — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:14 PM

  344. Re: 277 David Kidd: “…I’ve seen poor saps come there trying to legitimately understand the science behind AGW and they are treated rudely…”

    David, if you are still with us there is a tremendous amount of useful knowledge contained in this site. The FAQ section is an excellent place to start. I agree that some commentators are unconstructive in their approach, particularly given the complex nature of climate science, the level of confused reporting in the media, the disparity of scientific training amongst readers and the difficulty of formulating clear written communication at the best of times. (I am no saint in this regard either.) I find the in-line commentary from the climate scientists a useful sieve.

    Best regards.

    Comment by Ammonite — 3 Nov 2009 @ 8:57 PM

  345. Since New York City depends entirely on oil for it’s food supply as everyday trucks ship hundreds of tons of beef, and dairy products, and fruits and vegetables from the farm-belts in the Midwest and other parts of the world, that source of global warming will always remain. And it’s not a small amount either. Solar energy can’t do anything about it. And only petrochemical based farming can produce the high yields needed to feed the growing number of urban dwellers. At the expense of massive soil erosion.

    Comment by Jack Smith — 3 Nov 2009 @ 9:11 PM

  346. Paul L: Anybody can simply draw lines on a map and dream, but one super-grid backer does envision connecting grids as far out as the Arabian Peninsula.

    http://www.claverton-energy.com/european-super-grid-2.html

    I don’t know what a reasonable timeline for building any of that would be. Getting all the different countries to cooperate will be as much a challenge as any financial or technical ones, I fear.

    Comment by tharanga — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:20 PM

  347. This might be slightly off-topic for which I apologise, but I simply have to get it off my chest.

    I have just had the most surreal blog exchange with a guy with a PhD in Physics and 10 year science background (allegedly), who says that we can’t possibly know anything about global temperatures more than 80 years ago because no-one measured them, and that all data prior to that is completely speculative rubbish.

    I’m not joking.

    Comment by Mike of Oz — 3 Nov 2009 @ 10:26 PM

  348. #342, Patrick & “Freud didn’t really achieve a complete and still intact account of all psychology, did he?”

    I’m not a psychologist (and certainly not into psychoanalysis), but I from what I understand, Freud used the “eros” drive (sex, life) to explain almost every thing (of course, the context of the conflict between the id and superego, etc etc). But I think near the end of his career he realized “eros” couldn’t explain everything, so he introduced “thanatos” or the death wish.

    That sort fits in pretty well here….at least in re to those who don’t want to mitigate GW.

    And, of course, economic man nearing the end of his life and only concerned about 4th quarter profits, hating his ungrateful, nasty children, would not have much stake in mitigating GW.

    So it’s really up to ecological woman to do the job, just as soon as she can get economic old cogger out of her way.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 3 Nov 2009 @ 11:37 PM

  349. Hey, Mike, we feel your pain. But I’m pretty sure–as I expect you are, too–that thermometers and the organization to deploy them systematically were widespread a lot longer ago that 80 years, and that temperature proxies are not entirely codswallop (wherever that undeniably colorful word comes from.) Your blog buddy’s qualifications, on the other hand. . . though I had a number of blog conversations with a physics PhD (ret’d) who gave credence to the “iron sun” idea.

    “Smart” and “delusional” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 3 Nov 2009 @ 11:49 PM

  350. I thought that international electrical power sales are managed like securities markets. You buy the right to draw power from a grid or get paid for dumping power into the grid.

    If that’s right, then Jordan/England/Germany don’t need to build a transmission line to their customer/vendor. They only have to connect to the European Grid. And I believe that Jordan is already linked to the Grid through Turkey.

    Although there would be capacity issues with something as big as the Sahara project.

    Comment by George H. — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:29 AM

  351. RE: rational/economic man
    Mark : If my brother was in harms way I would defend him. If a child were in danger, I (hope!) I would intervene.
    These do not rely on rational decision.
    They will be done. Now if I found my brother had deliberately put a child in danger, I may lay into him myself, but that’s not rationality: it’s compounding the irrationality.

    They are all examples of you as a rational actor, making judgments towards your subjectively defined ends. Hail, fellow homo economicus of the real world.

    But if we mean by ‘a rational man’, ‘a fully informed man’, as Brandt does…
    That is the straw rational man again, not a real-world one. Rationality does not require full information; you can rationally pursue your ends to the best of your ability making do with what incomplete information you do have.

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 4 Nov 2009 @ 1:08 AM

  352. Re tharanga re Mark – “in the absence of all subsidies. I really don’t see how you can argue that coal would cost 15-20 cents/kWh”

    I don’t know how far this would go in monetary costs, but what if the coal mining industry had to pay people off to destroy their homes rather than just come in like a thief (granted, that may not be so much a subsidy as it is yet one more in a litany of externalities, but…).

    I’ve also read something about fossil fuels getting tax breaks. There’s a problem with taxing fuel differently than solar panels (aside from externalities) – solar panels are economically like the fuel, if fuel is taxed differently than infrastructure, it seems fair that some components of fuel-less energy resources be taxed as if they were fuel, because I don’t see any inherent logic in fuel being taxed differently than any other thing (Actually that might be part of a much larger conundrum – what is a fair balance between property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, etc.? Why should one be at higher or lower rates… etc. … I couldn’t begin to go into that mess – that might be a case where evolved behavior should be assumed to be not entirely wrong, but…).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Nov 2009 @ 1:11 AM

  353. Thanks for the comments on my #300.

    Sorry, but splitting the project into smaller portions only makes the return worse. You get more bang for your buck by doing the project in bulk. Ideally, a ground-up shopping center development with solar panels planned from day one would be the best return on costs.

    I have been able to get LEDs into our parking lot lights, though! I’ve only found one company that does it. They retrofit existing boxes, since manufacturers still aren’t cranking out pre-made LED parking lot lights. That project was a no brainer – payback is under 5 years. But our poor parking lot lighting service company lost our service contract – the lights won’t burn out for about 15 years!

    I’m working with guys who have been doing real estate development for over 30 years. They know all the angles, and right now there just isn’t a profit to be made in commercial solar installations for existing shopping centers. As soon as there is, you’ll start seeing them pop up everywhere. And if you don’t believe me, get your investors together, call a solar installation company and start making some money (i.e. put your money where your mouth is).

    It will happen eventually, just not yet. As long as there are other investments with a better return on costs, commercial solar installations are going to be at the bottom of the list.

    Comment by Steve — 4 Nov 2009 @ 1:21 AM

  354. From #316
    Gavin : there is a pretty good correlation between annual CO2 levels and temperatures over the last 150 years

    There is only a CO2-temperature correlation for 15 out of the last 130 (instrumental) years. For the other 115 years other (apparently not explained) factors dominate.
    Is 15/130 really “pretty good”?

    [Response: I have no idea why you think this or what this even means. Correlation is a property of the whole time series, not a subset of individual years within it. As shown at the link I gave you, there is a strong correlation over the last 150 years and it is at the same level that one would expect (given the internal variability and other forcings). What is your source for this bizarre 15 out of 130 years claim? - gavin]

    Gavin : the concern that exists on carbon emissions is not due to any such correlation…(it) is based on the physics of the problem not correlations
    If you want to argue CO2-induced AGW, you do have to take heed of correlation to back up your claim of getting an approximation of the overall climate physics right.

    [Response: But there is much more evidence that we have the overall physics right - the climatology, seasonality, response to volcanoes, responses to El Nino, paleo-climate tests, etc. etc. Temperatures have risen as they were predicted to do 30 or even 50 years ago and so the correlation now is supportive, but it was neither defining nor inspiring to the overall AGW theory (which has existed for far longer). Plus it should always be stressed that CO2 is not the only issue here (though it is the biggest component). - gavin]

    it has [] been ceaselessly drummed into citizens worldwide by virtually all politicians and media, that the science is settled, ie AGW is serious and needs massive political and physical action
    Gavin: AGW is serious and needs substantial action (in my opinion), but that is not predicated on ‘all science being settled’.

    I nowhere said it is widely claimed all the science is settled. It has though – and still is – constantly pushed that the science of ‘AGW being a serious problem’ is settled. But I take the point that there may well be serious be a breaks in the broad science->ipcc->journalism->politics->generalPublic information chain.

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 4 Nov 2009 @ 1:46 AM

  355. 347
    Mike of Oz says:
    3 November 2009 at 10:26 PM

    “who says that we can’t possibly know anything about global temperatures more than 80 years ago because no-one measured them, and that all data prior to that is completely speculative rubbish.”

    I would suggest that if he is talking about GLOBAL temperatures, he is completely right. Whilst we have been measuring local temperature accurately for over 200 years, extrapolation to a global temperature is a relatively recent phenomenon.

    I do stand to be corrected if I am wrong.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 4 Nov 2009 @ 4:28 AM

  356. Julia Isaak,

    2 November 2009 at 4:35 PM

    Perhaps you should read into the theory of chaos and learn about the difference between state and behaviour. The Earth is a chaotic system (in the scientific sense of the word), and although it is (I’m inclined to say fundamentally) impossible to predict the state of such a system, still valid predictions can be made about its behaviour.

    Take a flag. Even if you put it in a wind tunnel with a perfect, steady, turbulenceless wind, it will sway back and forth in a chaotic fashion, it is absolutely impossible to predict the movements of the flag. However, we can observe that there is a clear relationship between the wind speed and the amplitude and frequency of the movements.

    That simplified system shows that if you can not predict state, it is possible to predict behaviour. And if you can only predict the behaviour of a flag and not its state, that doesn’t automatically disqualify it as a tool to see how the wind blows.

    The climate system is also full of those chaotic elements that make its state inherently unpredictable. But that doesn’t automatically mean we can not analyze and predict its behaviour with regards to influences like the increased amount of atmospheric CO2.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 4 Nov 2009 @ 4:51 AM

  357. “Since New York City depends entirely on oil for it’s food supply as everyday trucks ship hundreds of tons of beef, … that source of global warming will always remain”

    Oh dear. So certain?

    Have you not heard of the 20th century answer: electric transport?

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:08 AM

  358. “Please stop misreading what I said. ”

    I’ll try.

    “You claimed that Britain had been involved in negotiations with Jordan (you thought) – this wasn’t true. I pointed out why.”

    Uh, no you didn’t. You said

    “Just one other thing, someone said that the UK government plans to buy solar energy from Jordan. I can’t see how – they’d need to build a helluva a lot of batteries to transport it.”

    This isn’t “this is not true, it’s europe and the sahara”.

    ” What’s so hard to accept?”

    What’s so hard to accept when I say “Uh, I don’t think they’ll use batteries, then.” when batteries have nothing to do with it and accepting this is right?

    If you don’t want me to misread what you write, don’t write what you apparently now meant to say “this is wrong” and instead write what you don’t mean “I can’t see how – they’d need to build a helluva a lot of batteries to transport it.”

    M’kay?

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:13 AM

  359. “Also, copyright/IP law is a matter of ownership. ”

    No it isn’t.

    You cannot own an idea.

    See your founding fathers discourse on this. It would show you how very wrong this is:

    “This violates freedom of choice no more than laws that prevent a person from parking their car on someone else’s lawn without permission without legal consequences.”

    Because I can take from you an idea and am enriched by it and you sill have the idea of which you first owned.

    It is more like telling people who bought their own lawn that they can’t park their car on it because someone patented that idea.

    [edit - please calm down]

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:20 AM

  360. “Back somewhat closer to the topic: Mark, despite all that verbiage, you have not supported your notion that coal would be as expensive or more expensive than solar,”

    IIRC Hank did that ages ago.

    California was what he used to show how much California pays per kWh for solar, wind, coal etc power since they have had appreciable amounts for long enough to get the initial inequalities out of the way.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:25 AM

  361. PS Tharanga, I don’t see any proofs that renewables are more expensive than coal.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:55 AM

  362. #349

    It is quite common for busy and ambitious researchers to rely on the media for their knowledge of science outside their expertise.
    That applies independent of seniority.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:59 AM

  363. Jack Smith:

    Since New York City depends entirely on oil for it’s food supply as everyday trucks ship hundreds of tons of beef, and dairy products, and fruits and vegetables from the farm-belts in the Midwest and other parts of the world, that source of global warming will always remain. And it’s not a small amount either. Solar energy can’t do anything about it.

    The trucks could be powered with biodiesel or switch-grass or cane-sugar ethanol. They could be electric, in which case they could be charged from a grid powered by solar. And we could ship more in on rails, which would cut the energy requirements substantially. For that matter, I’d like to see dirigibles come back. Helium or steam to prevent explosions, solar cells on top, uplinks to weather data so they can be grounded when storms are coming.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Nov 2009 @ 6:36 AM

  364. Julia,

    Here’s a study of the correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Correlation.html

    Here are some studies which conclude that the Medieval Warm Period was NOT warmer than today:

    Bradley, R.S., Hughes, M.K., and H.F. Diaz 2003. “Climate Change in Medieval Time.” Science 302, 404-405.

    Goosse H., Arzel O., Luterbacher J., Mann M.E., Renssen H., Riedwyl N., Timmermann A., Xoplaki E., Wanner H. 2006. “The Origin of the European ‘Medieval Warm Period’.” Clim. Past, 2, 99–113.

    Osborn, Timothy J. and Keith R. Briffa 2006. “The Spatial Extent of 20th-Century Warmth in the Context of the Past 1200 Years.” Science 311, 841-844.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Nov 2009 @ 6:38 AM

  365. Skecsis: “I would suggest that if he is talking about GLOBAL temperatures, he is completely right. Whilst we have been measuring local temperature accurately for over 200 years, extrapolation to a global temperature is a relatively recent phenomenon.”

    Nope, it’s quite an old theory:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_(statistics)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estimation_theory

    Take lots of scattered measurements and work out what real average could give you the same sample average.

    This requires that even if your measurements have no error that you have error bars because many different real averages could give the same sample average. This may be why denialists have problems: they never use error bars and don’t seem to understand them.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 8:58 AM

  366. “Sorry, but splitting the project into smaller portions only makes the return worse. You get more bang for your buck by doing the project in bulk. Ideally, a ground-up shopping center development with solar panels planned from day one would be the best return on costs.”

    But only if you are really doing the smaller portions serially and contiguously, thereby wiring up solar panels until they can be connected and moving then on to more panels.

    I note that you haven’t answered whether you need all that roof space covered.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 9:01 AM

  367. “They know all the angles, and right now there just isn’t a profit to be made in commercial solar installations for existing shopping centers.”

    Then they aren’t up to speed.

    1) I genuinely do not think 2 million is required
    2) I genuinely don’t think 10 years is the ROI (other current systems get payback in 5)
    3) I genuinely do not think you must convert the entire rooftop (which is why #1 even if the roof conversion would cost 2mil)
    4) You can still paint the roofs white: i.e. who says you have to install PV?

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 9:04 AM

  368. Julia: “That is the straw rational man again, not a real-world one. Rationality does not require full”

    Indeed. Therefore the rational man of economic theory doesn’t exist. As Lynne said and you and Rene demand is not so while concurrently saying it doesn’t exist.

    You and Rene seem to be arguing that since rational man as defined cannot exist then rational man does exist because that definition cannot exist.

    A contortion of illogic that is impossible to penetrate.

    “That’s a strawman” is not correct. Rational Man must be fully informed and have free choice is part of the definition of rational man. What you want is Not Rational Man. Who isn’t Rational Man because Rational Man cannot exist.

    Well, the man you keep calling rational isn’t Rational Man.

    Analogy time:

    Infinity cannot exist as a number. You and Rene would therefore define infinity as a million billion. When told this isn’t infinity because there’s the next countable number one million billion and one, you say “no! your infinity is a strawman because it doesn’t exist! whereas a million billion does, so that is infinity!”.

    Rational Man is defined. That that definition doesn’t exist doesn’t mean you get to unilaterally redefine it.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 9:22 AM

  369. Julia Isaak

    You said:

    It has though – and still is – constantly pushed that the science of ‘AGW being a serious problem’ is settled.

    Risks are a problem. The non-negligeability of those risks are settled i.m.h.o.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 4 Nov 2009 @ 9:36 AM

  370. Everyone here seems to bristle at the term ’skeptic’, but still noone will offer an alternative word for : someone who questions or doubts whether AGW is a serious problem.

    Comment by Rene — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:04 AM

  371. I note that you haven’t answered whether you need all that roof space covered.

    Read my original post #300. Specifically about the solar panels going in the parking lot. I need zero roof space covered.

    But only if you are really doing the smaller portions serially and contiguously…

    There are major startup costs that only have to be expensed once. Design, permit approval and installation of the new electrical systems themselves that the solar panels will tie into (you can’t just plug them into an outlet in the wall). Doing all that and then installing fewer panels makes the return worse, not better.

    #367… OK, think what you want. Like I said, put your money where your mouth is if you don’t believe me – apparently you’re gonna make a fortune selling solar panel installations to shopping centers. And are you really going to suggest “painting the roof white” is comparable to a solar panel array that generates electricity? A white roof doesn’t cut a shopping center’s electric bill by any appreciable amount. It does make the roof last longer! (less UV deterioration over decades, longer roof life, fewer leaks during that lifetime) And just so’s you know, you don’t “paint the roof white”, you purchase a white roofing system to replace your current roof waterproofing. Paint wouldn’t last more than 5 years on a shopping center roof, and all the while your roof runoff would be putting paint chips into the city’s storm drains. I’m not even sure that’s legal.

    Comment by Steve — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:16 AM

  372. “And are you really going to suggest “painting the roof white” is comparable to a solar panel array that generates electricity?”

    No I’m not and never had.

    But painting them white will, especially in California, save so much on cooling bills whilst ALSO reducing the amount of solar radiation thermalised (not much, but every little helps) that you should see enough improvements in your bottom line to make this go.

    Who has said you HAVE to make PV?

    All you have to do is better.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:23 AM

  373. PS: “Paint wouldn’t last more than 5 years on a shopping center roof,”

    You know, with the savings on reduced energy bill, you could, oh, PAY someone (and taking a few people off the welfare state, turning them into generators of wealth rather than sinks) to clean and repaint your roofs.

    And after that STILL end up better off financially and with the lowered CO2 burden helping the state reach its target reductions.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:25 AM

  374. “someone who questions or doubts whether AGW is a serious problem.”

    Yes, it’s denier.

    Your position isn’t “skeptic” it’s “directed credulous”. Easily willing to doubt that AGW is wrong but unwilling to doubt that proposition is false.

    And in addition in this case, denying that there’s anything needing to be done, since you aren’t convinced.

    Denier.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:27 AM

  375. Mark:

    “PS Tharanga, I don’t see any proofs that renewables are more expensive than coal”

    Are you serious? That’s the basis of all discussion on the topic. Production costs are around 3-4 cents/kWh for coal; a bit more than that for wind, depending on where you are, and anywhere from 10-30 cents/kWh for solar. Nuclear is a bit of an unknown, until somebody completes a new plant. These differences aren’t due to production subsidies; they are the inherent production costs.

    If you add in a carbon price, then coal loses its edge.

    Comment by tharanga — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:30 AM

  376. Rene, as to definitions — there are lumpers, splitters, and stirrers.
    You’re just stirring. Please do something useful. Like finding out where Julia is getting her ideas, since she’s been asked repeatedly and been unable to answer where she gets them. Can you find her source?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:40 AM

  377. Granted this is off-topic, but here’s one that just showed up on another blog, by a serial AGW denier. I must admit, that if this is an official NOAA temperature measuring station, it’s a boon to the deniers.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/11/20/how-not-to -measure-temperature-part-75/

    You’ll have to close the gap in the URL.

    Comment by Jack Roesler — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:47 AM

  378. “Are you serious? That’s the basis of all discussion on the topic. Production costs are around 3-4 cents/kWh for coal; a bit more than that for wind, depending on where you are, and anywhere from 10-30 cents/kWh ”

    You’ve never put those figures down before.

    So it’s hardly fair to say “Are you serious?” because the answer is “yes. why wouldn’t I be?”.

    Here are California’s figures which disagree completely with your coal figures:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Comparative_electrical_generation_costs

    I suspect this is where Hank got them from.

    Lazard analysis (which seems to include the cost for creating the generating capacity) are:

    * Gas peaking: 22.1 – 33.4
    * IGCC: 10.4 – 13.4
    * Nuclear: 9.8 – 12.6
    * Advanced supercritical coal: 7.4 – 13.5 (high end includes 90% carbon capture and storage)
    * Gas combined cycle: 7.3 – 10.0

    * Solar PV (crystalline): 10.9 – 15.4
    * Fuel cell: 11.5 – 12.5
    * Solar PV (thin film): 9.6 – 12.4
    * Solar thermal: 9.0 – 14.5 (low end is solar tower; high end is solar trough)
    * Biomass direct: 5.0 – 9.4
    * Landfill gas: 5.0 – 8.1
    * Wind: 4.4 – 9.1
    * Geothermal: 4.2 – 6.9
    * Biomass cofiring: 0.3 – 3.7
    * Energy efficiency: 0.0 – 5.0

    prices in cents per kWh.

    Just bus-generation (a generator equivalent of Brake Horsepower)

    * Coal Supercritical: 10.554

    * Biogas: 8.552
    * Wind: 8.910
    * Concentrating solar thermal (CSP): 12.653

    * Nuclear: 15.31

    again c/kWh.

    “Production costs are around 3-4 cents/kWh for coal;”?

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:04 AM

  379. 365
    Mark the lip says:
    4 November 2009 at 8:58 AM

    “Nope, it’s quite an old theory:”

    Wrong, wrong wrong. I know what averaging is. Please don’t be facetious. The fact is that average global temperature values have only been used in climate science relatively recently. The global climate data sets we use (e.g. GISS, HadCRUT, NOAA) have only been available for about three decades.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:21 AM

  380. By the way Mrk,

    We were discussing available datasets not statistical methodology.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:25 AM

  381. > I suspect this is where Hank got them from.

    Mark, you’ve started to pepper your postings with references to me that lack any basis, and I don’t have time to clean up after this kind of thing. Nor to look things up for you. Please stop. Look things up for yourself, don’t handwave and then attribute to someone else. It’s an imposition.

    Get well soon.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:27 AM

  382. Re: Mark 377

    * Gas peaking: 22.1 – 33.4
    * IGCC: 10.4 – 13.4
    * Nuclear: 9.8 – 12.6
    * Advanced supercritical coal: 7.4 – 13.5
    * Gas combined cycle: 7.3 – 10.0
    * Solar PV (crystalline): 10.9 – 15.4
    * Fuel cell: 11.5 – 12.5
    * Solar PV (thin film): 9.6 – 12.4
    * Solar thermal: 9.0 – 14.5
    * Biomass direct: 5.0 – 9.4
    * Landfill gas: 5.0 – 8.1
    * Wind: 4.4 – 9.1
    * Geothermal: 4.2 – 6.9
    * Biomass cofiring: 0.3 – 3.7
    * Energy efficiency: 0.0 – 5.0

    There’s my friend nuclear again. The cheapest way to produce huge amounts of energy without the carbon. None of the less expensive options on the list can be added as readily.

    By that subjective statement I mean miles of for wind farms, or herds of cattle on miles of land for biomass, or miles of rooftops for solar. Works in rain or sunshine, windy or still.

    The list does indeed include the cost for creating the generating capacity. The Shearon Harris plant near where I live has a marginal cost of 3-4.

    Comment by KevinM — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:29 AM

  383. http://abstrusegoose.com/strips/ignorance.PNG

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:37 AM

  384. Julia, trying to figure out your source; are you relying on one of these?

    CO2 – Temperature Correlation The temperature of the Earth has warmed slightly, …. northern hemisphere temperature during the past 130 years. …
    http://www.friendsofscience.org/…/Climate_Change_Science.html

    The CO2-temperature correlation works well for the last 30 years or so, …
    http://www.swamppolitics.com/…/but_could_gore_win_tennessee.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:41 AM

  385. “There’s my friend nuclear again. The cheapest way to produce huge amounts of energy without the carbon.”

    except for these:

    * Energy efficiency: 0.0 – 5.0
    * Biomass cofiring: 0.3 – 3.7
    * Geothermal: 4.2 – 6.9
    * Landfill gas: 5.0 – 8.1
    * Biomass direct: 5.0 – 9.4
    * Wind: 4.4 – 9.1
    * Gas combined cycle: 7.3 – 10.0
    * Solar PV (thin film): 9.6 – 12.4

    “None of the less expensive options on the list can be added as readily”

    Uh, definitely wrong in the case of:

    * Energy efficiency: 0.0 – 5.0
    * Landfill gas: 5.0 – 8.1
    * Wind: 4.4 – 9.1

    But extremely unlikey to be true of any the others in the above list.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:50 AM

  386. “Get well soon.”

    It’s only a cold, but a bad one.

    Worse emotionally are the ones where you’re sneezing and icky. DON’T go to work because you won’t be 100% and you’ll pass it on to lots of others unnecessarily.

    But because you’re not at work, you feel (or I do) that you can’t go out to the shops or do the garden because

    1) you’re sick. That’s why you’re off work. Ergo you should not strain yourself and slow the healing process

    2) How can you tell you’re not malingering and making it up because you’re sick of work? Self deception is the hardest thing to spot.

    So with a worse cold I’m sitting about bored out of my skull because to do something with my time off seems wrong.

    At least this time I spent all of sunday in bed sweating this out.

    Ta.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:58 AM

  387. Well, the good professor Pierrehumbert has a little error of his own. You need to at least double the land area, since the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day. But don’t worry, I won’t get sarcastic with you as you did in this post.

    [Response: Already included in the 250 W/m2 number. Daytime averages would be twice that. - gavin]

    [edit]

    Regards,

    Robert

    Comment by Robert — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:00 PM

  388. Julia Isaak,

    I am having a difficult time following your logic. In particular, I am having a hard time following the whole “15 out of 150 years” argument, because it makes no sense. As gavin noted, correlation is a property of the whole time series.

    Now you can break up a 150 year time interval into small sub-intervals and run a correlation on each one between some explanatory variable and some response variable (in this case CO2 and temperature). If we do this, your claim sounds like you achieve an r^2 value of something greater than zero during one of these 15 year intervals and an r^2 value of exactly zero during all other sub-intervals. This is of course wrong. However, I cannot think of any other way to interpret your argument.

    Finally, for whatever reason, you insist on thinking that temperature rises as a function of CO2 alone. Instead, we know that dT = dT(log CO2, TSI, aerosols, CH4, volcanoes, …) plus the fact that the system has a non-zero amount of “noise.” You also have to figure that measurements of global temperature are imperfect. This involves a multiple regression problem if you’re only interested in correlation, and if you do that, you’ll find CO2 is the dominant explanatory variable. This is not why the modern temperature rise is actually formally attributed to CO2, but it’s something to chew on.

    Finally, you’ll note that models do a very good job of simulating the time-evolution of the 20th century temperature trend when you include all forcings. See Figure 2 in Meehl et al 2004 for example of how models fail to simulate the observed warming without anthropogenic influence. This is also not how formal attribution is done, but it’s at least a good test.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:15 PM

  389. Mark,

    You are arguing on every single thread in this commentary: persistently, shrilly and ineffectively.

    You skipped the part where I qualified.

    “By that subjective statement I mean miles of for wind farms, or herds of cattle on miles of land for biomass, or miles of rooftops for solar. Works in rain or sunshine, windy or still.”

    Like all other people you correspond with to here, I’ve now degenerated to reposting statements and arguing on context instead of content.
    [edit]

    Comment by KevinM — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:18 PM

  390. Steve, #300, I sure do hope it all comes together soon (cost down, etc) to install solar panels sort of as carports in the parking lot. I saw some scheme years ago before Calif (and the powers that be) killed the EV, of using those solar carport parking lots to power EVs. So that’s a fourth thing — keep a few choice slots, very close to the stores, to sell the electricity directly to the EV owners at a higher rate than the utilities will give.

    The future looks a bit brighter already!

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:31 PM

  391. Re Jack Smith @345: “Solar energy can’t do anything about [transport]”

    False assertion. Solar and other non-fossil fuel-based electrical generation can be used to 1) charge electrically powered highway transport, and 2) electrically powered rail transport. The latter is hardly a new idea, seeing as the Washington DC-Boston rail corridor was electrified for much of the 20th century.

    “only petrochemical based farming can produce the high yields needed to feed the growing number of urban dwellers”

    You might want to check on the veracity of that statement as well.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:33 PM

  392. I realised Kevin (388) which is why I went on to show how they were really quite silly reasons.

    If after evviciency reductions and lifestyle change reductions we had about enough nuclear capacity to supply the remaining needs, then I would be more “how about improving the effectiveness of current nuclear power” rather than “make wind farms”. Mostly because in that scenario wind farms would be an unnecessary expense.

    Do you think the US will manage such a huge cut in energy needs?

    I don’t think France could. Even though they are less energy intensive and have a large proportion of energy already nuclear supplied.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:34 PM

  393. PS Kevin, how do you have to build out miles of cattle to bring energy efficiency benefits?

    landfills just need building to exploit, just as you would demand nuclear power stations need to be built (you can’t just pop more U238 into an existing reactor and hope to get more kW’s out).

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:38 PM

  394. #383, Hank, yep.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:39 PM

  395. To all commenters: I am getting tired of editing out unsubstantive playground shouting matches. If you want to post on substantive points, ask for clarification of ambiguous statements or argue based on actual evidence, go ahead. But we’ve had enough of people simply sniping at other people and the tit for tat noise that provokes. Please stop. Note this is not up for discussion.

    Comment by gavin — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:40 PM

  396. Mark, 378
    “You’ve never put those figures down before.”

    Because they’re so commonly repeated. I didn’t think anybody didn’t realise coal was dirt cheap, besides being dirty.

    First off, you misrepresented what the Lazard numbers are (I suggest you get the original document). They don’t exclude subsidies; they specifically say they include them, which is what brings their solar costs down. Exclude subsidies, and the renewables shift back up.

    I’ll allow that 3-4 cents per kWh would be for an old-style, dirty coal plant, like what a developing country might build. Those costs probably also reflect previous, lower prices of steel and other building materials; sorry about that. Various sources give anywhere from 5 to 7 cents for a new, modern supercritical pulverized coal plant. (Here’s an analysis for a specific project at 6.3 cents http://www.netl.doe.gov/energy-analyses/pubs/deskreference/B_PC_SUP_051507.pdf)

    Lazard comes in at the high end of that, starting at 7.8 cents. I don’t know why their numbers are higher than others. The Lazard range goes up to 14.4 cents/kWh, but that includes the cost of capturing and compressing 90% of the CO2. The latter price actually sounds too low to me.

    What’s getting lost in the mix is also the substantial cuts in carbon emissions and other pollutants that can be had by switching from coal to natural gas, while other alternatives are being scaled up.

    Comment by tharanga — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:51 PM

  397. Rene #370: ‘suckers‘?

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:52 PM

  398. “Mark, 378
    “You’ve never put those figures down before.”

    Because they’re so commonly repeated. I didn’t think anybody didn’t realise coal was dirt cheap, besides being dirty.”

    OK, but why are they so different?

    3-4c/kWh is far FAR lower than the figures for california. And I really don’t buy the explanation that it’s dirty coal that is so cheap. I would propose it is more likely that that 3-4c/kWh isn’t the busbar-generation so your 40% efficiency means 2.5x 3-4 c/kWh. That would make it 7.5-10c/kWh which is much more in accord and a much simpler explanation.

    And using the one report to cross-compare seems a much sounder method than comparing different reports separately. As the link says, coal expense has been elsewhere predicated on coal costing $6000/ton where 8+ is a better result (and note: prices are higher yet whilst PV has gone down) another reason to use the same report.

    Which makes wind cheaper, solar and coal about the same (but see above on the cost of raw materials).

    And even greater cuts in carbon emissions would be realised by using tide, wind or solar as opposed to gas.

    “They don’t exclude subsidies; they specifically say they include them, which is what brings their solar costs down. Exclude subsidies, and the renewables shift back up.”

    They don’t include tax benefits as George H proposes as an unequal difference.

    And again I do not think you should work that way with subsidies. Most of the subsidies are to reduce the setup costs or investigating new methods of capture. This doesn’t go to underwriting the cost of solar or wind.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 1:17 PM

  399. to Gavin, or anybody else (off topic):

    Any thoughts on how the new Smos satellite will increase understanding of the water cycle, as it relates to climate modeling?

    Comment by tharanga — 4 Nov 2009 @ 1:52 PM

  400. Here we are. This is what Levitt is after: “If nothing else, getting an economics Ph.D. should teach someone how to complicate and obfuscate the issue so that it isn’t so obvious to outsiders that the argument makes no sense.” http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/04/guess-what-the-initials-nada-stand-for/

    That is what he learned in economics school I guess. Now he needs to learn the corollary: If you have an economics Ph.D., don’t try to complicate and obfuscate if you are the outside since everyone will know you make no sense.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 4 Nov 2009 @ 1:57 PM

  401. KevinM (382) — THe generation costs for old plants, paid off long ago, is much less than for new construction for two reasons: (1) investors must earn interest and return of capital (like a conventional house mort-gage) over the first 20 years (typically) of the life of the plant; (2) construction costs have soared over the last several years. Therefore estimates of the costs for contemplated power plants will always compare unfavorably with the costs associated with existing power plants.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:03 PM

  402. An additional thought on electricity generation: comparing ‘levelised’ energy costs (including building the plant as well as running and maintaining it) is appropriate for deciding what kind of new plant to build.

    However, we’ll want utilities to shutter already existing coal plants before their expected lifetime, and replace them with newly built alternatives. There, the economic comparison is different: the initial costs of the existing plant have already been sunk, so the utility will really want to continue operating the coal plant for the duration of its expected lifetime. It’ll really take a carbon price to get that switch to happen. As it is, production does tend to swing between coal and natural gas, depending on the relative costs of the two fuels, so I think we’ve seen that pricing can get a utility to slow down the use of an existing plant. Whether it be cap-and-trade or a simple tax, some sort of carbon price is needed.

    Comment by tharanga — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:09 PM

  403. I read this post as: “How dare you propose a solution (to alleged AGW problem), not endorsed by us!”

    [Response: You are misreading it completely. It is actually saying that if you want to propose solutions, do your homework first. The idea that there is something trivial that none of the professionals have ever thought about is.... optimistic, to say the least. - gavin]

    Comment by Tegiri Nenashi — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:13 PM

  404. Rene, since “denier” is such an emotionally satisfying word for the group (even if not recognized as a word in this context), there is no motivation to come up with a “skeptic” replacement.

    Comment by Rod B — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:29 PM

  405. Martin, #397, the proposal that old people tend to be denialists at a greater rate due to their fear of death and denial of such, esp in the context of reminders of death (news about GW, etc), and making them even take greater life-threatening risk is a good example of what I mean by (subconscious) psychological drives leading to denialist perspectives.

    I myself have focused on the self-esteem need in people, and that would also make GW ideas push the elderly into greater denialism….since they’ve contributed much more to the problem & are more guilty than younger people.

    So it could be a combo of less stake in the future, fear of death & its ramifications, AND threats to self-esteem in AGW is correct. Plus the economic & political fears I noted above, plus they might be more reliant on their mutual funds (than work-based income), etc. and tied into the economic system as is, and cannot afford even slight down-turns.

    It’s sort of like a hypothetical women with cancer caused by Corportation X’s pollution, but esp needing those dividends from Corp X to pay medical bills for her cancer, and not wanting Corp X to put the expensive anti-pollution devise on that may prevent furthering her cancer with more pollution bec it would lower her dividends. I guess this is the story of many global warming denialists. They’re like trapped rats. Reality is the cage. And they’re too afraid to address it or even try to imagine a way out, so they lash out irrationally.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:38 PM

  406. Mark,
    Here’s another table for comparison.
    http://earthhour.ice4.interactiveinvestor.com.au/CSIRO0702/The%20Heat%20Is%20On%20Report/EN/body.aspx?z=1&p=42&v=1&uid=
    Look at page 42/136, labeled as page 28. You’ll see costs for coal in line with what I originally said. The costs are given in Australian dollars.

    I don’t think you’re on the right track saying I’m quoting fuel costs, not final costs. Coal is currently US $2.20/MMBTU. That comes to 0.76 cents/kWh. Taking an efficiency of 35%, one gets to 2 cents/kWh.

    The *retail* price of electricity in the US averages 10 cents/kWh; 11.6 for residential use. If you hope to make any profit, your production, transmission and distribution costs must be lower. Solar just isn’t there, yet, unless you offer tax credits galore.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html

    Just think about what you’re saying. It doesn’t pass any sniff-test. If fossil fuels were actually as expensive as renewables, then fossil fuels wouldn’t have the dominant market share, worldwide. If fossil fuels were being made artificially cheaper than wind/solar/etc by subsidies in every single country, then the policy thrust would be to remove those subsidies, not add a carbon price. In reality, it’s the alternatives that pretty much live and die by the availability of subsidies.

    Comment by tharanga — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:41 PM

  407. Mark : the rational man of economic theory doesn’t exist.

    He does. It’s only the straw rational man that doesn’t exist – the one with the straw requirement of perfect information. The real-world one persues his objectives making the best of whatever info he does have. Time for us to move on.

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:47 PM

  408. Rod B, since skeptic is already defined as

    someone who questions an assumption NO MATTER WHERE IT IS ON THE CLAIM OF AGW.

    (all the way back in 200, which Rene in 201 had read but then forgot he had), why do we have to come up with another definition?

    You are not a skeptic since you are uncritical of papers purporting to prove AGW wrong.

    Rene likewise.

    So in neither case would skeptic fit. Yet denier does.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:53 PM

  409. ” is appropriate for deciding what kind of new plant to build.”

    Good. Agree.

    “However, we’ll want utilities to shutter already existing coal plants before their expected lifetime, and replace them with newly built alternatives.”

    Don’t see how that turns up as a reason to make new coal power stations, however.

    “the utility will really want to continue operating the coal plant for the duration of its expected lifetime. It’ll really take a carbon price to get that switch to happen.”

    Yup. Probably will. It’ll be held up as proof that this is all a scam to tax people and concern trolls with go “what about granny who can’t afford to heat her house this winter”.

    “As it is, production does tend to swing between coal and natural gas, depending on the relative costs of the two fuels”

    I don’t know what you mean by prediction here because any form of interpretation makes no sense with the previous statements.

    How about “production should swing to renewables”?

    Example why:

    Old Smokey Coal Station: CO2: 5 boggles a year.
    3 Boggles to reduce to 4 boggles a year.

    New Sleek Coal Station: CO2: 3 boggles a year + 5 boggles to make

    New Spiffy Renewable Station: CO2 0 boggles a year + 2 boggles to make

    You:

    Build new Sleek Coal Station and improve Old Smokey:

    CO2: 8 boggles build, 7 Boggles a year CO2.

    Me:

    Build New Spiffy twice and remove Old Smokey who paid for this (1 year)

    Build: 5 (Old Smokey)+4 (Spiffy) = 9 Boggle Build
    CO2: 0 Boggles

    Cost per kWh: pretty close to same in 2008.

    Isn’t that better overall?

    Wind is cheaper than Gas, Solar about the same as Coal (probably now cheaper).

    Cap-and-trade will get the money down now rather than later. Carbon tax can fund development of future renewables technology (including fusion, why not).

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 3:06 PM

  410. “The *retail* price of electricity in the US averages 10 cents/kWh; 11.6 for residential use. If you hope to make any profit, your production, transmission and distribution costs must be lower”

    What does it average in California?

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html

    Funny how California can manage Solar and Wind power so much more cheaply than anywhere else.

    Lets just say you have your figures I have mine and nobody goes building wind farms out of spite.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 3:10 PM

  411. Another psychological perspective that might give insight is Adler’s. He suggested that people strive for perfection and to overcome their sense of inferiority (which we all have as little, incompetent children)…which accorindg to him is what led to sociocultural evolution, industrializion, and this GW fix we’re in now (which Adler didn’t know about back then).

    Accoring to Adler, psychologically healthy and well-adjusted people have “social interest” and the welfare of society as their ultimate goal, but the abnormal don’t have this social interest and are overly sensitive to self-esteem threats; they violate reason and live in fictions.

    Maybe the “freak” in freakonomics at some subconscious level is referring to this — the psychologically abnormal mind that violates reason and refuses to mitigate AGW.

    I know some people suffering from various personality disorders — borderline, narcissistic. You meet them, they seem normal, but when you get to know them, you find out they are not in touch with reality, and are illogical — all as defense mechanisms to protect and enhance their self-esteem. They treat people who suggest they might have some problem or flaw very badly, and the people respond even more negatively to that, and the BPD of NPD person retreats all the more into a fiction that they are right and those upset with their unreasonableness are wrong. It’s almost impossible to cure such people, bec they never will admit they have a problem.

    Some anthropologists in the 1940s were into national character studies (which were little more than stereotyping), so with all sorts of caveats, perhaps the American character is suffering from borderline or narcissistic personality disorder, and that’s why Americans are denying global warming. The more other peoples try to point out the threats of GW, the more the denialists retreat into their fictions and illogicalities.

    Later, I’ll get into more social and cultural causes, if I get some more time & Gavin allows…something beyond a perverse economic perspective. Because the real driver to climate change is US, and we’re not only economically rational beings.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 4 Nov 2009 @ 3:13 PM

  412. 388 Chris Colose:

    we know that dT = dT(log CO2, TSI, aerosols, CH4, volcanoes, …) plus the fact that the system has a non-zero amount of “noise.” … This involves a multiple regression problem if you’re only interested in correlation, and if you do that, you’ll find CO2 is the dominant explanatory variable. This is not why the modern temperature rise is actually formally attributed to CO2, but it’s something to chew on.

    OK. I do accept there are many factors, with CO2 perhaps comparatively small in scale, but ongoing. But “noise” here just means “factors we do not understand”. And since we don’t know what they are, how can we rule out that it is not they that are behind the 150-year rise currently attributed to CO2? Isn’t picking CO2 just like the drunk who only looks for his lost keys in the area just below the streetlight, since that’s the only place where he can see anything? Why are the unknowns/”noise” just assumed to be random – ie have no trend?

    Finally, you’ll note that models do a very good job of simulating the time-evolution of the 20th century temperature trend when you include all forcings. See Figure 2 in Meehl et al 2004 for example of how models fail to simulate the observed warming without anthropogenic influence. This is also not how formal attribution is done, but it’s at least a good test.

    As far I know, with no significant temp trend for almost the last 15 years now, the “noise”-assuming models no longer an anthropogenic influence at all.

    [Response: 'noise' doesn't mean unknown - it means something that isn't related to the forcings. El nino, NAO, AMO and all the other causes of internal variability. etc. And the temperatures over the last 30 years (even the last couple) are well within the envelope of the models over the same period. See upcoming post.... - gavin]

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 4 Nov 2009 @ 3:25 PM

  413. There _is_ a word for it:
    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2007/04/science-budget-talking-point.html?showComment=1176168060000#c8609221574833228051

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Nov 2009 @ 3:31 PM

  414. > 3-4c/kWh is far FAR lower than the figures for california.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=california+electric+generation+coal

    finds much pertinent. For just one example from the first page of hits:

    “California took the lead on this, effectively banning the importation of coal-fired electricity unless the carbon dioxide emissions were captured and sequestered.”
    http://www.thepolicyinstitute.us/highwood.php

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Nov 2009 @ 4:07 PM

  415. Mark : skeptic is already defined as someone who questions an assumption NO MATTER WHERE IT IS ON THE CLAIM OF AGW.

    The general topic being AGW, a skeptic is surely here taken to be an AGW skeptic. And you obscure that
    - doubting proposition X (X-skepticism), is not the same thing as
    - believing proposition ~X (~X belief, or X-denialism).
    X-skeptics need no necessary relation to X-denialism; they could equally be or not be X-deniers.

    Comment by Julia Isaak — 4 Nov 2009 @ 4:12 PM

  416. It’s time to be a little more serious about climate change. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehMs9MHo-W4

    Comment by Scott — 4 Nov 2009 @ 4:36 PM

  417. Julia Isaak (412)

    Internal variability is not synonymous with “things we don’t know.” It is not synonymous with measurement error. It has a real physical meaning and it exists in nature! Such is the climate system, with specific examples given in gavin’s response (e.g., ENSO, NAO, etc). A fundamental issue related to the detection of a trend, is in fact whether the signal has emerged from the natural noise of internal variability.

    The field of understanding yearly to decadal variability is still young, and as such, it’s difficult to say with confidence how the climate system will evolve on short timescales. We know that it is possible to have periods of roughly a decade (or more) which show a flat-line or even cooling in temperatures. Models (e.g., Easterling and Wehner 2009) capture this behavior, and as gavin noted (see the RC post on ‘what IPCC models really say’) there is still no inconsistency between model and observed behavior, at least for global mean surface temperature anomaly. The short term variability all depends on oceanic phenomena, or even the solar cycle. In the long-term, global warming will eventually win out, because excess energy continues to be available to heat up the planet, so you cannot delay the warming forever. You can do so temporarily (for instance, by upwelling some deep, cold ocean water to the surface) but the excess CO2 is going to stick around for hundreds to thousands of years, while things like solar cycles simply oscillate about a mean and show little secular trend.

    Finally, there is still sufficient uncertainty in aerosol forcing and climate sensitivity to make wiggle room for other possible-but-unknown forcings. They probably cannot be very important, but they might exist. But because CO2 will rise significantly in the coming century under business-as-usual emission scenarios, it is pretty easy to say that CO2 will evolve as the dominant forcing agent in the long run. And there’s not much uncertainty in the CO2 forcing, and its effect on climate emerges from basic radiative physics. Things we don’t know about the climate have no bearing on this basic fact, so even if we don’t know everything going on, this doesn’t negate the influence CO2 will have when it keeps rising.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 4 Nov 2009 @ 4:50 PM

  418. Rene:

    Everyone here seems to bristle at the term ’skeptic’, but still noone will offer an alternative word for : someone who questions or doubts whether AGW is a serious problem.

    Sometimes people won’t answer a question because they don’t know the answer. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to answer a stupid question.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:19 PM

  419. Richard Steckis:

    The fact is that average global temperature values have only been used in climate science relatively recently.

    Arrhenius used 15 C (288 K) in 1896, which is the modern estimate (288.15 K in the US Standard Atmosphere of 1976). Hulbert used 287 K in 1931; Hadley CRU agrees with that value. Apparently they’ve been calculating that number for at least 113 years.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:23 PM

  420. Lynn, yes, older people are more skeptical. I’ve heard this GW story in early 80s. In the early 90s AGW was part of Civization game. In the 2000s the same story (and lack of supporting facts) looks tiresome.

    Regarding younger people: Iranian students captured the US embassy in infamous protest against evil americans, and today they protest against their government failing to establish normal relationship with the rest of the world (including americans). It looks like younger people like to protest no matter the cause.

    Comment by Tegiri Nenashi — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:32 PM

  421. Julia:

    how can we rule out that it is not they that are behind the 150-year rise currently attributed to CO2?

    Because we have a physical theory that predicted the correlation decades before it was found. AGW theory came out of radiation physics, NOT statistical studies.

    And your contention that CO2 is a minor factor is not correct. Did you read the links I provided? For 1880-2007, the correlation between ln CO2 and NASA GISS temperature anomaly is r = 0.87, corresponding to r^2 = 0.76. That means carbon dioxide accounts for three fourths of the changes in temperature over that 128-year period. Everything else, known or unknown, can only account for one fourth.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:33 PM

  422. “The general topic being AGW, a skeptic is surely here taken to be an AGW skeptic. And you obscure that”

    Nope, because you have to be skeptical of AGW

    AND ANY REPLACEMENT YOU THINK OF

    Geddit?

    Skeptical.

    Of both the theory AGW and your proposition for replacing it.

    If you have nothing to replace it, you are NOT a skeptic, you’re a denialist.

    The aether skeptics didn’t say “I don’t think there IS an aether”. They said “I think it’s this, so I’ll go ahead and see if it explains things better”.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:36 PM

  423. “Mark : the rational man of economic theory doesn’t exist.

    He does. It’s only the straw rational man that doesn’t exist”

    You just said rational man of economic theory doesn’t exist by labeling the rational man of economic theory a straw rational man. They are the same thing:

    Rational Man in economics is fully informed.

    You call the Rational Man who is fully informed “straw rational man”.

    Your “straw rational man” == Rational Man

    Who you say doesn’t exist. Just like Lynne did.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:40 PM

  424. “Just think about what you’re saying. It doesn’t pass any sniff-test. If fossil fuels were actually as expensive as renewables, then fossil fuels wouldn’t have the dominant market share, worldwide”

    Yes it would.

    How long have coal and oil and gas power been available for industrial scale production?

    100 years? A little more?

    How long for solar power? 20 years less? Wind power? Same?

    So if they were created at the same rate, power production ratios would be 100+ parts coal etc, less than 20 parts Solar etc.

    Or 1/6th or less Solar etc.

    Your sniff test doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    And my alternative sniff would be: Why are China creating so much wind power capability if it were so much cheaper to use fossil fuels?

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:53 PM

  425. Barton Paul Levenson (418) — How about “willfully ignorant”?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Nov 2009 @ 6:08 PM

  426. Hank, 414: I was mainly looking at the Lazard presentation, which does not appear to be state-specific. Its low-end cost for coal electricity is plausible, if a tad high for the fanciest current coal plants (7.4 cents/kWh); the high end (13.5 cents) includes carbon capture, so of course that’s higher than the usual numbers. Presentation found here: http://www.narucmeetings.org/Presentations/2008%20EMP%20Levelized%20Cost%20of%20Energy%20-%20Master%20June%202008%20%282%29.pdf

    I glanced at the spreadsheet of the CA analysis, and couldn’t quite make out what I was looking at. Perhaps it accounts for CA regulations that inflate the price of fossil fuel energy; I don’t know. CA has some interesting rules in electricity markets; read about ‘decoupling’ if you haven’t heard of it – they basically turned the incentives for utility companies upside-down. Utilities no longer get rewarded for selling more electricity.

    Mark, 409

    “I don’t know what you mean by prediction here because any form of interpretation makes no sense with the previous statements.”

    In the US, there is spare capacity in coal-fired and especially in natural gas-fired power plants. Plants are not run at 100% capacity. So if the price of natural gas falls, relative to the price of coal, then utilities buy less coal and buy more natural gas, and ramp up the use of the existing but underused natural gas plants. When coal is cheap, they go back the other way. Adding a carbon price would push them towards natural gas, and away from coal. Of course, not all utilities are in this flexible position.

    I have no idea what you’re trying to say with your Boggles. All I know is coal without CCS is usually the cheapest game in town, though more modern coal plants are more expensive than previous technology. Natural gas is a touch more expensive, wind (in the right places) can be pretty close as well, and then solar is currently bringing up the rear. Nuclear is a bit of an unknown. Adding a carbon price through cap and trade would do wonders by discouraging new construction of coal plants, and shifting usage of current coal plants towards current natural gas plants. Understanding that coal is cheap is requisite for understanding why we’re bothering to implement cap-and-trade.

    Comment by tharanga — 4 Nov 2009 @ 6:46 PM

  427. I’ve used “selectively credulous” before.

    I’ve not trademarked it or anything…

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 6:52 PM

  428. Mark, 423:

    “And my alternative sniff would be: Why are China creating so much wind power capability if it were so much cheaper to use fossil fuels?”

    They’re building more than just wind farms, Mark. You’ve not heard the saying that China builds a new coal plant every week? Well, it’s more than just a saying; it’s roughly true. Their consumption of coal is rising alarmingly quickly, and is expected to continue.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/China/Electricity.html
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/China/Coal.html
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/coal.html

    I think they’ll turn the corner, though – they’ve realised how badly polluting coal is; forget global warming, they’re already suffering all the other drawbacks of coal. What to do about rising emissions in China will be a central topic at Copenhagen.

    As for wind, they’re ramping that up, too, but it’s still more expensive than coal, see here: ““The on-grid price for wind power is about 0.5 to 0.6 yuan per kilowatt-hour compared with about 0.2 to 0.4 yuan per kilowatt-hour for coal,” Shi told reporters. ”
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601072&sid=aX7usNmOCAIE

    Comment by tharanga — 4 Nov 2009 @ 7:04 PM

  429. Remarkable how much the style of Steven Levitt # 47 above in response to being magisterially shown to be red-handed reminds me of someone else – um, , um , yes, that’s it – one Roger Pielke jr.

    The old notion given a new spotlight in the current omnipresent “truthiness” word seems useful here – it is all about you – so it is your truth. So as long as you never engage with the key points of your interlocuter’s case – hey, they didn’t happen!

    Enables you to stay functioning, I suppose but at what cost – to deep inside, and to how you are seen by others than you, that is, to your reputation.

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 7:43 PM

  430. What an over-reaction to Leavitt’s chapter and what he actually said and meant to convey. Much ado about nothing.

    Comment by Shelama — 4 Nov 2009 @ 8:53 PM

  431. Shelama (#430, November 2009 @ 8:53 PM):

    I don’t doubt your sincerity regarding “Leavitt’s” chapter on global warming mitigation, but you haven’t actually said anything about what your concern is. Why don’t you state what he actually said and what he meant to convey. My take on it is that he was pretty fast and loose with supporting facts and, for me, this greatly reduces his credibility in all that he said.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 4 Nov 2009 @ 9:15 PM

  432. Mark, #429, good one, thanks.

    When the Freakonomics authors realized that they had screwed up, it became a matter of damage control. We’re talking about a potential payoff of several million dollars apiece, and they probably had new penthouses picked out already.

    As you said, the best strategy was to bullshit their way out of it. Just as with bankers, it’s about the score: who cares about long term income or reputation, when you’ve got a shot to be set up for life no matter what happens?

    They may have lost their souls some time ago, who knows. Either way, it’s a sad reflection on them.

    Comment by Mike Roddy — 4 Nov 2009 @ 11:31 PM

  433. Re 351 Julia Isaak
    Re 407 Julia Isaak, and Re Mark, others –

    Let’s just say that ‘Rational Man’ is at times an approximation to reality, or alternatively, a person who shows up every once in a while, does some heavy lifting, and then gets tired and goes to sleep to let habits and instincts run the night shift.

    Although, sometimes ‘Rational Man’ morphs into his alter ego, ‘Metarational Man’. And sometimes he makes ‘Metadecisions’, which may include leaving some instructions for habis and instincts to follow before he takes his nap. This can include ‘rules of thumb’. Rational Man will delegate his responsibilities to habit and instinct according to what tasks he thinks they’re up to. He will also occasionally make a decision to shift resources away from his everyday job in order to invest in his own powers so as to do better in the long term. (Meta)Rational Man also leaves special instructions for the ‘snap decision department’ to settle for quick approximations when the value of a decision deteriorates quickly with time, etc.

    But he always gets tired eventually and has to take a nap, and sometimes unforseen circumstances (PS we were actually dealing with Probabilistic (Meta)Rational Man; he doesn’t have all the information but he has information about information – he makes decisions about how to make decisions…) habit and instinct were not prepared for, and they goof up. Sometimes Rational Man encouters a big chunk of Kryptonite and just doesn’t know enough…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 5 Nov 2009 @ 12:10 AM

  434. Re 351 Julia Isaak – Your first paragraph, I somewhat agree. I mentioned earlier that what on the surface appears altruistic can actually be rationally self-interested.

    This can be through calculation (or a delegation of decision making task to rule of thumb, habitual response and generalizations based on experience, instincts) of the potential benifits compared to the costs.

    The potential benifit can be in the form of recip-rocal altruism.

    It can also be something else, though – it can be that the person values someone elses’ welfare. Even that could have multiple underlying factors. A person might simply feel good knowing that someone else is okay; somewhat differently, a person may gain self-esteem through an apparently altruistic act (this wouldn’t fall directly under the category of concern for others though). Or another person’s welfare might feedback to one’s own welfare even without an act of recip-rocal altruism – for example, you might want to do something with the other person that you couldn’t do if the other person is injured or…

    There is another cause of apparent altruism, however, which is the ‘rationally-self interested gene’. Altruism among relatives can be selected for in evolution because the same genetic variation in one person has some higher probability of being found in a relative, so a genetic variation (or a network of them) can act to help its reproductive fitness even when individual organism reproductive fitness is sacrificed. There are specific mathematic relationships that can be used to predict this phenomenon, which have been tested by observations, as I recall.

    And there’s a whole subset of behaviors regarding why babies are so cute, etc.

    Of course, if a person ‘looks like’ a relative, that might concievably trigger the same response. Or it might generalize to all humans. There might be group-selection in some cases that will select for behavior that is altruistic within a given social network.

    On the flip side, there can be fitness benifits to punishing another at one’s own expense.

    Now there is the question of how this might relate to rational self-interest of the person him/herself. If the person’s actual desires are not to achieve greater reproductive success or the same for relatives, friends, allies, neighbors, etc, then genetically-inherited instincts and drives (depending on phenotypic plasticity) may get in the way of rational behavior. (And onw could also consider cultural inheritances via upbringing, and any other inheritance pathway, like how an expectant mother’s diet, which can be passed along to children via culture and location, might act on phenotype. Etc.)

    On the other hand, the selective pressures of biological evolution might also have shaped some of the persons’ own values, bringing his/her rational self-interest somewhat in line with the self-interest of the genes.

    Of course, biological evolution is not forward-looking, and will be ill-equiped to help an organism handle novel situations.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 5 Nov 2009 @ 12:12 AM

  435. This is interesting, but I have one obvious question. If we can power the world (or even a just a meaningful portion of it) with just .01% of the earth’s surface covered in solar cells, why don’t we? It seems too obvious and simple, but if its that easy, let’s just do it.

    Start small and local, no need to call the G-20.

    I guess my real point is…..Isn’t this one of those simple solutions that Levitt writes about? The kind that does not require a mass change in human behavior. I guess I read the post and think it backs up Levitt’s point. Do I disagree that Levitt probably got some of the science wrong? NO, as stated in the book economists are generally net exporters of horse S&%H, but even a broken watch is right twice a day.

    Comment by Josh — 5 Nov 2009 @ 12:12 AM

  436. Re Mark – copyright/IP property is property. The question is how much should be considered property and how much should not; what are the limits. There is the concept of ‘fair use’ in copyright law, for example, and this is considered to have a public benifit. Some cultures (China, at least traditionally) may not treat any ‘IP’ as property, and within such a system, it would not be property. Certainly, it could go to far (people’s names?, people’s DNA…?, short little phrases…?). It makes sense to put time limits based on the probability that another person would have come up with the same idea anyway, for example. There might be cases where eminant domain applies – but there would be compensation offered. But it generally makes sense to protect a person’s right to the benifits of their labor.

    Re 401 tharanga, 402 David B. Benson, – Very good point; Thank you for highlighting it.

    Re 424 Mark – Yes, the mature industries have recieved a history of government support, but the ratio of subsidy to output at the present time or near past is an important consideration. Because whatever the past was, we have the infrastructure that we have and the techlogical development that we have now. We can’t change that. We can’t go back to 1950 and have solar cell investmensts in R&D, etc, increase twice as fast. We have to start where we are. Which is not to say that public investments now combined with the right price signals could get solar and the rest in a good place sooner than later.

    The thing about a lot of clean energy and efficiency is that much of the cost is realized before the benifit. If there were no capital costs (interest rates), and we were a bit less conservative in service lives (a standard for solar PV panels seems to be 30 years, but most of them will likely still be working after 60 years), the price of solar PV right now could send the market through the roof. Coal might be quickly dead and buried except for remnants in cold cloudy places.

    (I don’t know the installation and other costs offhand (I’ve read things but I don’t have perfect memory), let’s say total lifecycle costs, just for example, come to $6 per peak W, including some balance of system, etc., which at 200 W/m2 average comes to $30/average W; if over 100 years you get 60 years of equivalent installed performance, then 60 years * 8.766 kWh/(W-year) = 525.96 kWh/W, $30/525.96 kWh is less than 6 cents per kWh.)

    The cost of capital is real, because a decision to invest more is a shift in the production possibilities curve that reduces supplies of other things, and there is demand for investment, with a scarcity of supply (production possibilities curve), so there is a price and there is competition.

    However, solar PV could be seen as a good investment to make to get back money in the future. Might solar PV be used as a retirement account?

    There is also the possibility of using low interest lo-ans to solar/etc. companies in exchange for funds in the future to help deal with climate changes costs (though there are complexities with that line of thought – see comments in last post on “Superfreakonomics”).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 5 Nov 2009 @ 12:37 AM

  437. Re 420 Tegiri Nenashi

    It sounds like you are not aware of all the evidence there is, not even roughly.

    And people have good reasons to protest…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 5 Nov 2009 @ 12:40 AM

  438. “They’re building more than just wind farms, Mark.”

    This doesn’t counter this:

    “Why are China creating so much wind power capability if it were so much cheaper to use fossil fuels?”

    Although my counter to your sniff test did actually counter your sniff test.

    Since you’re not at all worried about working through an argument and just want to repeat your ASSERTION over and over again, get lost.

    Ta.

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 4:10 AM

  439. “I have no idea what you’re trying to say with your Boggles.”

    It’s a unit.

    And obviously made up.

    “All I know is coal without CCS is usually the cheapest game in town”

    And again that doesn’t make any sense as a counterpoint. Are you saying we should build CCS coal power stations rather than wind farms and solar panels because coal CCS is cheaper?

    “wind (in the right places) can be pretty close as well”

    How? YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY COAL TO OPERATE IT!!!

    How much cheaper can you get???

    When you can figure out how to be logical, please let me know.

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 4:13 AM

  440. Can I ask an open question here?

    Have I EVER said that being nasty was preferable to being nice?

    Because as far as I know I’ve said sometimes it’s necessary.

    But maybe I’ve not been clear and people (from my POV) pick on me about how I respond because they’re under the impression that I think that being nasty is preferable to nice because I see it as sometimes a good thing to get people to stop saying the first dumb crap that comes into their head by making them embarrassed to say it.

    So I see it as somewhat “Someone’s got to shovel shit so that the gentry don’t walk in it” and people see it as somewhat “WHOOPIE! I get to lord it over these targets!”. Not attacking the necessity or unfortunate efficacy of embarrassment as a thought provoker as I see it but attacking the glee in belittling that they see it.

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 4:35 AM

  441. the “because coal CCS is cheaper” should be “because coal sans CCS is cheaper”. Doesn’t make a lot of sense until you figure that part should have been there…

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 4:37 AM

  442. While we are on elementary stuff people get wrong, a claim I’ve seen occasionally is that Venus is so hot because its atmospheric pressure is so high. My feeling is that this is wrong because Boyle’s Law does not create permanent a thermal state, i.e., if someone at some time a billion years ago squeezed a lot of CO_2 into Venus’s atmosphere creating this extremely high pressure, that event would have made Venus hot, but the excess heat would have radiated away until the planet arrived at a new equilibrium with its environment. Or in other words, Venus is not an isolated system, but a body radiating to space.

    If this is not the case, I am at a loss as to how my kitchen refrigerator works.

    A pointer to a reference on to post to sites making this claim would be useful.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 5 Nov 2009 @ 4:53 AM

  443. Hmmm, some natural geoengineering recently took place — did anyone notice cooler weather in N. America or the N. Hemisphere in the past year since?

    http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/2008/08/sulfur-dioxide-from-kasatochi.php

    “… Kasatochi has released quite a large flux of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. What effect this might have on climate is hard to tell, typically large SO2 fluxes will lower global temperature (or at least hemispheric temperature) by a fraction of a degree annually – which can actually still have a perceivable effect on weather.”

    (with a pointer to http://userpages.umbc.edu/~scarn/ )

    Hat tip for the story and pointer to:

    http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/2009/11/tsunamis_climate_seamounts_and.php

    who wrote:

    “… there has been a lot of discussion in the comments by readers about the study have claims that a mystery volcanic eruption might have played a significant role in climate during the early 1800s. It definitely is a quandary how such a prominent SO2 signal could be found both in ice from Antarctica and Greenland yet no obvious candidate for an eruption easily identified. However, remember that even in 1809-1810, great swathes of the world were unpopulated and unseen, so an eruption such as the Kasatochi eruption in the Aleutians, which released huge amounts of sulfur dioxide last year, might have never been recognized due to its remote location….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Nov 2009 @ 5:02 AM

  444. Chiris, #417, good explanation.

    Skeptics would still say, “so long as internal variability and observation error remain, and that non-predictability of nonlinear system exists, future climate could be dominated by these terms.”

    I think we can add one text that “even though uncertain term or factors not formulated yet remain, so long as such ‘noise’ terms show stationary, the long term trend will never be affected by them. The future climate can be predicted within the certain ranges.”

    Is my understanding correct?

    Comment by Mr Sh — 5 Nov 2009 @ 5:43 AM

  445. Julia Isaak,

    “He does. It’s only the straw rational man that doesn’t exist – the one with the straw requirement of perfect information. The real-world one persues his objectives making the best of whatever info he does have.”

    The economic rationality in common-pool resource dilemmas is a bit more complicated than that. The uncoordinated use of the resource, instead of leading to a nice equilibrium like the “invisible hand”, leads to the overuse and destruction of the resource. Even if the destruction is an undesired outcome for all the agents.

    The work of the recent Nobel Prize Elinor Ostrom is specially rich in this field.

    Comment by Alexandre — 5 Nov 2009 @ 7:59 AM

  446. 415–

    Logically all very well & good, but the whole strategy of climate change denialism is to create–you guessed it–doubt. Exxon’s $20 million went for doubt. The US Chamber of Commerce is spending $30 million to create doubt.

    They, and all the other bad actors, are clearly set up to do nothing but systematically create doubt, and doubt where it need not exist based upon the strength of the evidence. That this is the case is pretty clear from their actions: they’ve spent millions on PR, and peanuts on actual research. And where they have spent on research–which they have from time to time done, on an “outsourcing” basis–there’s been a more-or-less clear message as to what the outcome of the research needed to be to receive funding. That’s not how science is supposed to work.

    Perhaps more directly to the point, doubt is not benign in the context of AGW–we have a potentially survival-threatening crisis in the works. Dithering is not a good survival strategy, and neither is denial.

    An analog:

    http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Fear-Gavin-Becker/dp/0440226198

    “They may distrust the fear, or it may impel them to some action that saves their lives.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 5 Nov 2009 @ 8:14 AM

  447. “Re Mark – copyright/IP property is property. ”

    No it isn’t, Patrick.

    It’s copyright. An artificial property created for a separate goal. It isn’t “intellectual property” it’s copyright.

    Why repeat the same old lie? It doesn’t make it any truer.

    Property can only be taken away from you by government act.

    Copyright can be “taken away” by government INACTION. Because it is only the action of government that gives your copyright some property protection.

    It isn’t property.

    “The question is how much should be considered property and how much should not; what are the limits.”

    Fair enough. But it isn’t property.

    “There is the concept of ‘fair use’ in copyright law, for example, and this is considered to have a public benifit.”

    Nope, COPYRIGHT is considered to have a public benefit:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Clause

    > To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

    “But it generally makes sense to protect a person’s right to the benifits of their labor.”

    Why?

    When you flush your toiled the plumber who made this work and from which you benefit (to the tune of not having a whiffy plop in the bowl) doesn’t get paid for the benefits of his labour.

    And note the reason for copyright:

    NOT ONE THING about benefit of labour being the reason.

    If you don’t know copyright law, why are you acting like you do?

    “Some cultures (China, at least traditionally) may not treat any ‘IP’ as property, and within such a system, it would not be property.”

    Or, indeed, the US:

    http://www.perryweb.com/Dickens/work_copy.shtml

    > In January 1842 Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine, travelled to the … to be published in the United States without his permission

    Or in the UK:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/coventry/features/shakespeare/shakespeare-fun-facts.shtml

    > In Shakespeare’s time copyright didn’t exist, so the actors only got their lines as the play was in progress.

    This may help you understand:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_copyright_law

    And through most of the 30,000 years of musical and creative history of modern man, we haven’t had copyright.

    But we HAVE had property.

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 8:19 AM

  448. Oh, and an EXCELLENT essay on how even if you consider copyright a necessary evil, read this man’s essay on why increasing copyrights has only down sides:

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2002/4/25/1345/03329

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 8:23 AM

  449. But maybe I’ve not been clear and people (from my POV) pick on me about how I respond because they’re under the impression that I think that being nasty is preferable to nice

    What I do know is that I believe you when you stated once that you don’t get invited to many parties.

    And you still have know idea what you’re talking about regarding copyright.

    To other posters: don’t bother discussing the issue with him. He’s not interested in learning.

    To the moderators: I would suggest that discussions of copyright are thoroughly OT here and all such posts such be deleted.

    Comment by dhogaza — 5 Nov 2009 @ 8:34 AM

  450. “And you still have know idea what you’re talking about regarding copyright.”

    Says the dude who said “DMCA brought in statutory damages”…

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 8:54 AM

  451. Mark,

    You ask how coal fired generating stations can be cheaper than wind, the short answer is discount rates and relative capital installed costs of the various technologies.

    The wind farm project I am working on will have an installed cost per MW of capacity of $2500/MW.

    If one takes into account the capacity factor, or what one can expect to generate in a typical year which
    for our project is quite good, 35%, the installed cost is more like $7145/MW.

    Installed cost for fossil fuel generating plants is typically around $1000/MW.

    Future operating and maintenance costs are discounted relative to the installed cost to arrive at a total
    project cost, for our projects we use 10%. It takes a fairly significant fuel cost to overcome the high
    initial cost of the wind turbine.

    That is not to say you can’t make money on a wind farm, it’s just the rate of return is lower than the
    equivalent fossil fueled plant. The other significant disadvantage of wind is it can’t be dispatched and
    gets payed the market electricity price when the wind is blowing, rather than being able to be run during
    peak price periods.

    Companies involved in wind farm development that I know of are using it more as a risk mitigation strategy, anticipating future carbon pricing and emission restrictions.

    The final point is proponents of various technologies will use best case scenarios in promoting their
    particular technology whether it’s geothermal or whatever. Hence blanket statements about which option is
    cheaper should be avoided since there are a variety of circumstances that will contribute to costs and not
    all will be applicable to everyone.

    Comment by PHG — 5 Nov 2009 @ 9:15 AM

  452. Philip Machanick (#442, 5 November 2009 @ 4:53 AM:

    There was a good piece on Venus a while back on RC.

    Steve

    [Response: Here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/03/venus-unveiled
    and here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/lessons-from-venus]

    Comment by Steve Fish — 5 Nov 2009 @ 9:41 AM

  453. “You ask how coal fired generating stations can be cheaper than wind, the short answer is discount rates and relative capital installed costs of the various technologies.”

    Discount rates would be: subsidy per kWh, wouldn’t it? And if it makes coal cheaper than wind than it would without, then it has to be a greater subsidy.

    “If one takes into account the capacity factor, or what one can expect to generate in a typical year which for our project is quite good, 35%, the installed cost is more like $7145/MW.”

    But isn’t the installed capacity the capacity expended? I thought so.

    “Installed cost for fossil fuel generating plants is typically around $1000/MW.”

    OK. Like the wind cost I don’t run a power station.

    “Future operating and maintenance costs are discounted relative to the installed cost to arrive at a total project cost, for our projects we use 10%. ”

    But this isn’t true. It’s an assumption, surely. A coal station needs its flue cleaned it needs careful inspection of the high-temperature sections (high pressure and high temperature water is very corrosive).

    And a PV system needs washing.

    So that 10% must be a factor just figured for planning purposes.

    “The other significant disadvantage of wind is it can’t be dispatched and
    gets payed the market electricity price when the wind is blowing, rather than being able to be run during peak price periods.”

    But that’s complaining that you can’t abuse your customers by charging more when you can. Like British Rail charges more for “peak hours” (when you have to start travelling to get to work). You can’t tell your boss that you’ll come in at 12 because the fare is cheaper. So BR have you by the short and curlies. And they squeeze.

    “Hence blanket statements about which option is cheaper should be avoided since there are a variety of circumstances that will contribute to costs and not all will be applicable to everyone.”

    I can accept that. But that “not applicable to everyone” is I feel being used for a cop-out. Nobody wants change when they’re in power: the best they can hope for is they keep power. Most likely they’ll lose some or all.

    So let someone else take the risk…

    World Leaders, huh?

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 10:22 AM

  454. 451, PHG: Thank you for your perspective and numbers. Your lesson at the end actually ties back to the topic of the thread: when you talk to promoters of a given idea, they’ll try to make it sound as cheap or effective as possible, just as Mhyrvold sold geoengineering to Levitt and Dubner. And yes, blanket statements should be made with caveats for local circumstances.

    Mark, various comments:
    “How? YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY COAL TO OPERATE IT!!!”
    You’re forgetting capital costs again. The cost of buying the turbine, installing it, and paying for the financing. Just because the wind is free does not mean the energy will necessarily be cheap, nor the payback period short. See illustration by PHG, 451.

    ““Why are China creating so much wind power capability if it were so much cheaper to use fossil fuels?””

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/China/Electricity.html
    I’d have thought the graph here would speak for itself. They’re building some wind capacity, yes. But they’re building a whole lot more coal or gas. What does that tell you about the relative advantages of wind vs coal, in the absence of overriding concerns about emissions (CO2, mercury, NOx, SOx, etc)? I even quoted for you somebody in China, stating that wind was generally more expensive than coal. Installed wind capacity does eventually pay itself off, and they are a bit worried about pollution, so they’re building an impressive amount of wind capacity. But you have to compare that against the extent of the simultaneous expansion of fossil-fuel capacity. It’s the latter expansion that is so contentious at global climate negotiations.

    “Are you saying we should build CCS[-less] coal power stations rather than wind farms and solar panels because coal [without] CCS is cheaper?”

    No, I’m saying that in the absence of regulations or tax breaks, utilities will generally turn to the cheapest sources, and those are often fossil fuels. That’s the whole point of cap-and-trade or a carbon tax: it would make fossil fuels more expensive, thereby providing incentives for both conservation and alternatives.

    Comment by tharanga — 5 Nov 2009 @ 11:16 AM

  455. Lynn V. (405), let’s see… Am I an elderly (that’s ‘really old guy’ for the folks in SW Texas ;-) ) AGW skeptic in order to maintain my self esteem, or maybe because I wish to avoid death, or maybe I want my mutual funds to maintain their value??? Lynn, get out of the psychological murk — as curiously interesting that it might be.

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Nov 2009 @ 11:38 AM

  456. Mark, why are you being abusive towards somebody who works on wind? Discount rate has absolutely nothing to do with government subsidy; please just review how cash flow calculations are done in order to assess investment projects. Also, pricing based on supply and demand isn’t abusive; it’s perfectly natural. If your turbine is generating power at off-peak times when your added capacity isn’t needed, then you shouldn’t expect to get paid much for it.

    Comment by tharanga — 5 Nov 2009 @ 11:39 AM

  457. Mark,

    “Discount rates would be: subsidy per kWh, wouldn’t it? And if it makes coal cheaper than wind than it would without, then it has to be a greater subsidy.”

    No, discount rate is not a subsidy, it is a factor in determining the present value of a series of future
    payments. It is used in determining project economics and is tied to interest rates, ie: a risk free return
    on the capital you are investing in the project.

    “But isn’t the installed capacity the capacity expended? I thought so.”

    Installed capacity is the nameplate rating on the wind turbines multiplied by the nunber of turbines.
    Capacity factor is a ratio of the expected average output of the turbines divided by the installed capacity
    in a typical year.

    “But this isn’t true. It’s an assumption, surely. A coal station needs its flue cleaned it needs careful inspection of the high-temperature sections (high pressure and high temperature water is very corrosive).”

    As explained above, discount factor is not an assumption but based on actual cost of money. All costs are included in operating and maintenance costs for projects.

    “So that 10% must be a factor just figured for planning purposes.”

    Somewhat, it’s used in evaluating the relative merits of various options. It’s pretty standard
    project economics.

    “But that’s complaining that you can’t abuse your customers by charging more when you can. Like British Rail charges more for “peak hours” (when you have to start travelling to get to work). You can’t tell your boss that you’ll come in at 12 because the fare is cheaper. So BR have you by the short and curlies. And they squeeze.”

    I don’t understand what point you are making here. In the deregulated electricity market a wind turbine
    output varies, hence the expected price you will receive will be lower than a generator which can be
    brought online during peak periods. It has nothing to do with squeezing someone but is related to the way
    the market works. That also needs to be taken into account for wind farms.

    “I can accept that. But that “not applicable to everyone” is I feel being used for a cop-out. Nobody wants change when they’re in power: the best they can hope for is they keep power. Most likely they’ll lose some or all.”

    My only point was that you need to take care in evaluating per kw cost figures as provided by industry sources, for example geothermal proponents will often use installed cost figures from projects which inherently have the lowest costs due to availability and characteristic of a geothermal resource which may not be directly applicable to your project. The same would apply to virtually all types of generation although fossil fueled plants have a longer track record and hence more plants to average out the costs.

    “So let someone else take the risk…

    World Leaders, huh?”

    My intent was to provide a brief overview of why wind generation is in general, more expensive than coal
    fired plants with the present state of fuel costs and relative capital costs not get into political discusssions.

    Comment by PHG — 5 Nov 2009 @ 12:00 PM

  458. [Response to 9: That's another arithmetic assignment then. How much Drano
    do you have to dump into the ocean? What fraction of the world's shipping
    is that? How much CO2 do you emit schlepping that around? What does it
    add to the costs of geoengineering? What if you do it with limestone
    instead of Drano? --raypierre]

    I didn’t see that anyone had done the assignment, so I gave it a shot.
    (I cheated and used the 20Gtons number used in #9, rather than doing the
    chemistry myself :)
    According to the World Shipping Council, the total world shipping
    capacity is: 13.5 million TEU.
    I TEU = 1 Twenty-foot Equivelant Unit = (20 ft x 8 ft x 8.5 ft)
    =1360 ft^3. (Wikipedia :)
    Density of limestone is ~120 lbs/ft^3 (www.natural-stone.com)
    So 20 Gtons/year = 320 Gft^3/year = 0.25 GTEU/year.
    This is 17 x the world shipping capacity.
    Won’t work.

    (CHECK: According to MarineBiz TV [referencing the UNCTAD] world shipping
    capacity is about 1.12 Gtons. So 20 GTons is about 18 x world capacity)
    I timed myself. It took 8 minutes (i.e., this could have been done while
    cooling one’s heels in the green room)

    Comment by David N — 5 Nov 2009 @ 12:15 PM

  459. “In the deregulated electricity market a wind turbine output varies, hence the expected price you will receive will be lower than a generator which can be brought online during peak periods.”

    Doesn’t that mean it isn’t running all the time? Ergo the installed cost is higher.

    Just wanted to point out that.

    The rest fine.

    Comment by Mark — 5 Nov 2009 @ 12:38 PM

  460. Raypierre, regarding the term “Waste Heat”:

    I think the way the term is being used here is not the standard one used by physicists. If I have a heat engine, such as a coal fired plant, and it is 1/3 efficient, then to generate 2 units of electricity I have to use 6 units of input heat, and the remaining 4 units is “waste heat”.

    Now it is true that the electricity will go off somewhere and be used to do something, and by-and-large what happens is that it gets ultimately converted to heat. So the total warming of the environment is the total heat generated. I say by-and-large because it could do other things, such as be converted to light or sent into space as radio waves. That’s presumably a small part of what happens to the electricity, so the ultimate waste heat will match your calculation, even if it’s worded a bit differently.

    (BTW, if the albedo of sand is 50%, don’t you also have to take into account the absorbency of the atmosphere in the visible? If the atmosphere grabs some of the light on the way back, it will increase the effective albedo. Clouds would have this effect.)

    Prof. Levitt:

    I have to say that I was disappointed in the tone of the Myhrvold article to which you linked. If he (or you) believe that someone is making incorrect arguments, then you don’t write 1/2 your article decrying “politicization” in general, you just correct him with facts. So far as I can tell this is the opposite of what Myhrvold does. In fact, Myhrvold fails to mention that it takes energy to build coal (or nuclear) plants as well, and this should be factored into the calculation. We are on the hook for some CO2 emission for the creation of power plants no matter what kind we choose to build. (And we have no choice to build them, because the ones we have won’t last forever even if we wanted them to.) If Myhrvold does a proper life-cycle calculation he can prove Romm (or Raypierre) wrong without saying anything further, the need for invective (or even for decrying invective) is eliminated.

    I for one would be very interested in seeing a reference to the studies on which these assertions are based.

    Comment by Mitch Golden — 5 Nov 2009 @ 1:10 PM

  461. 458 David N

    Capacity in GTons is not equal to GTon/yr. You need some estimate of “turnaround time”, or trips/ship-year.

    Comment by Brian Brademeyer — 5 Nov 2009 @ 1:19 PM

  462. Okay, on to sociocultural factors that could leave neo-clasical economic considerations in the dust. (BTW, the thing about the elderly and GW was brought up by another person thru a link, and I only tried to address it best I could…I’m also a senior :) ).

    I’ve been waiting and hoping for something in anthropolgy called a REVITALIZATION MOVEMENT (“social movement” in sociology), in which masses of people go thru “mazeway resynthesis” (get a new vision of a better world, more in line with reality), and construct a more satisfying culture. I’m hoping people will in this fashion jump on the environmental bandwagon, become part of this great vision for a better future, and dig in mitigating AGW. Other such revitalization movements include the conversion religions; the 60s & 70s civil rights, environmental, and feminist movements; the hippie movement; revolutions; etc. Such movements can happen very rapidly, within months or a few years. I think the internet can help such movements spread even further and faster.

    It does seem as if environmentalism is picking up in recent years, but there are lots of forces against it. For one thing, big biz has become much more savvy in confronting, coopting, astroturfing, and diverting, etc since Rachel Carsons broad-sided them in the 60s with SILENT SPRING. Then there are the economic woes, which I think are causing a retrenchment in environmentalism; people seem to be more magnimous in their concerns for others, future generations, and God’s good creation when there’s abundant surplus in the economy and in people’s pocketbooks (so even increasing inequalities in a strong surplus economy could act against environmentalism).

    But I hadn’t even considered that this revitalization movement sword cuts both ways. Yesterday the news mentioned how few educated urban elites there were in Afghanistan, compared to most being rural, traditional folks. I thought about UNSCIENTIFIC (anti-scientific) AMERICA, and the recent upwelling of the masses against health care, etc (in part orchestrated or at least triggered by bigbiz/politico/media influences). I thought of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge — it was an anti-intellectual, anti-science revitalization movement; they killed people who wore glasses. I’m not saying things would get as bad as that in America….certainly not in the near future. But it is troubling, the rise of the anti-science folks, almost into a national movement. Right now there is some modicum of respect for science, so they promote bogus science, or present their falsehoods and fears in the cloaking of science. And they also seem to make it appear moral and righteous by using the cloak of religion, as well. I’m not saying they actually know the scientific facts, but refuse to admit them; I’m sure they honestly believe Limbaugh (who said Andy Revkin should kill himself, if he believes in AGW) and others, and seem to be champing at the bit to follow. It’s sort of scary, and I thought Halloween was over.

    These are just some random thoughts & I hope I’m totally off track on this. Just waiting for everyone to prove me wrong.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Nov 2009 @ 1:37 PM

  463. Re 453, etc. Mark

    See my 436 – from 457 PHG, it seems my point about the cost of capital is exactly what 451 PHG was refering to regarding discount rates. 456 tharanga has a good point.

    “But that’s complaining that you can’t abuse your customers by charging more when you can. Like British Rail charges more for “peak hours” (when you have to start travelling to get to work). You can’t tell your boss that you’ll come in at 12 because the fare is cheaper. So BR have you by the” [not in front of the kid!] “And they squeeze.”

    The squeezing is more a problem of monopolies and negotiating power and entrenched habits (in the case of rigid work schedules based on mutually-reinforcing feedback between how professional people act and how they are expected to act – which I like to compare to sexual selection in biological evolution).

    Which is not to say such issues don’t deserve attention. But we can set them and other things aside and consider an idealized free market, and note that there are good reasons for supply and demand and temporal price variations. Considering the case of dispatchable power, if more power is needed at certain times, this requires greater generating capacity (or transmission from a region with complementary variations in demand – in which case the rest of this refers to the costs of the capacity of transmission infrastructure). But the greater generating capacity is not used at all times; hence the capacity-proportional costs are not payed back as quickly as they would be if there were no time variation in demand. Thus power used at peak times is more expensive. It has to be in order to make up for the greater capacity costs per unit energy supply, so as to give the incentive to make the investment to provide that power. And note that this provides incentive for demand to smooth itself over time. In the case of variable power sources (solar, wind), the incentives provided by supply and demand price determination are to 1. invest enough capacity to better meet peak usage 2. invest in energy sources that are better matched to the timing of usage, so as to reduce the costs of 1. (optimum reached when the net marginal benifit is zero); 3. invest in transmission and storage so as to reduce the costs of 1 and 2 (optimum reached when etc.), 4. incentive to energy users to adjust their schedules to reduce the costs of all of the above (optimum reached when etc.), Etc.

    PHG -
    “As explained above, discount factor is not an assumption but based on actual cost of money. All costs are included in operating and maintenance costs for projects.”

    Mark – in case it helps, since money itself is a bit abstract, remember it is used to represent something – when money is diverted from ____ and invested in a project, it pulls demand for resources along with it.

    Consider, for example, wheat production and use. The more grains of wheat that are saved from one harvest season, the more (within other limitations, of course – this is just a simple illustration) the potential and likely supply of wheat at a later time. But this comes at a cost; those seeds are invested at the expense of a loss of food supply at that time. The value of supplies at different times must be weighed against each other – the expected future demand, via the motivation to invest in future supply, must compete with the present demand. Etc.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 5 Nov 2009 @ 1:42 PM

  464. David, thanks for the calculation. I would imagine there’s a minimum of shipping involved in the Cquestrate plan. I envision long conveyor belts from the Nullarbor Plain that dump gigatons of CaO directly into the Great Australian Bight.

    One of the questions to be answered with this idea is how well the Bight water mixes with the rest of the Southern Ocean.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 5 Nov 2009 @ 2:37 PM

  465. Brian Brademeyer (460) — Yes. Assuming a very lengthy 3 week turnaround time, that’s 17.3 trips/year.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Nov 2009 @ 3:09 PM


  466. Capacity in GTons is not equal to GTon/yr. You need some estimate of “turnaround time”, or trips/ship-year.

    Good point – what my little calc means is that each ship needs to make a trip to and from Dover every three weeks (52/17 = 3).
    So I guess it’s possible….

    Comment by David N — 5 Nov 2009 @ 3:58 PM

  467. re: pouring base into the oceans

    I love the idea of pouring base into the oceans and trusting the currents to dilute it and get it uniformly mixed. And that it will work exactly as dreamed, that it won’t kill more than it helps.

    Well, I don’t really love it. It terrifies me that a group who don’t have our interests at heart — carbon extraction plutocrats — might be able to bull something like this into practice.

    Yeats’s line that “The worst are full of passionate intensity” is just as valid as it has ever been.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 5 Nov 2009 @ 4:29 PM

  468. In 266, Rene wrote:

    Mark (230)
    To clarify let me repeat the question not addressed by your message 200:
    - what word would *you* then recommend to describe someone who questions or doubts that AGW is a serious problem ?

    Here is the problem. It is a common one. In the US, the church called “Christian Science” has co-opted the otherwise perfectly good term “Christian Scientist” as a descriptor of a person who happens to be both. And the group at ICR co-opted the term “Craetionist,” so that one who beleives in purpose for the universe rather than accident can’t use that term.

    In a similar way, the two terms “Denialist” and “Skeptic” have come to mean, at least on this site, the same thing. The terms “wilfully ignorant” and “selectively credulous” have been suggested as synonyms.

    Those words have been selected by the group — they are not going to change their definition. But there is still another category of poster — that is the person, be he scientist of layperson, who really has not paid all that much attention to the IPCC reports to date. And, face it, most people fall into that category. A year ago that could describe me — I saw no reason to doubt the IPCC reports, but I really had not looked into them at all deeply. Other projects were more important.

    When I did do “heavy lifting,” it became evident that the IPCC is good science and that AGW is almost certainly true. It took awhile; it is not a two week study!

    Now consider someone uneducated in the AGW science looking at this site, and the posts in particular. If he is any kind of thinking person, he will naturally begin asking questions — why is this so? How do you know this? and in many cases will cite a “fact” which has been around awhile and has been refutted — BUT HE DOES NOT KNOW THAT!

    A simple “no, that fact is incorrect,” would probably suffice; a suggestion for a site to visit to learn more might also be useful. But some here take glee in immediately attacking the questioner, and that just turns him off.

    We need a new name for ssuch a person. Any suggestions?

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 5 Nov 2009 @ 4:46 PM

  469. David N @ 458:

    I suspect the volumes involved and the nature of the product make dry bulk carriers the more likely option. World shipping capacity there is 358m deadweight tons.

    Assuming you can unload a Cape Size bulk carrier at sea, you would need about 60 trips for each ship in the world fleet.

    Probably a bit high whether you use containers or bulk carriers.

    Kim Stanley Robinson envisages something similar in Fifty Degrees Below Zero.

    Comment by George H. — 5 Nov 2009 @ 5:07 PM

  470. > We need a new name for ssuch a person. Any suggestions?

    This should not surprise you:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=what+do+you+call+people+who+ask+for+help+before+reading+the+FAQ%3F

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Nov 2009 @ 6:17 PM

  471. This shows that it isn’t all that hard to make good envelope-back calculations about renewable energy and climate. Some material discussed here is also covered in a similarly entertaining way in David MacKay’s “Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air”, which can be read freely at withouthotair.com. It looks at how consumption might be matched with potential renewable resource, using the example of the UK, wry humour and approachable calculations, and suggests how difficult some choices may be in the trend to zero-carbon economies.

    Comment by Arthur Lovell — 5 Nov 2009 @ 6:40 PM

  472. Jeffery, I’m right there with you, but merely proposing that this is the least terrifying of the geo-engineering options.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 5 Nov 2009 @ 7:05 PM

  473. 467 I don’t really know what word(s) could be used to describe the people who arouse themselves by “immediately attacking the questioner”. Some presumably have dug out the sheriff badge from the costume box in the attic and have appointed themselves as a thread sheriff. Others presumably just love to shoot from the hip without wearing any badge. Reminds me of a Monty Python (or similar) skit in which an insane taxi driver put a sticker on the taxi door for each pedestrian that was taken out.

    George Monbiot on his website http://www.monbiot.com has put a very interesting article about why people find the topic so difficult. It is about the psychological screening that people create when facing a situation that is potentially terminal. It is worth reading and thinking about. Hopefully the sheriffs will put their badges away.

    Comment by Chief Marshall — 5 Nov 2009 @ 7:31 PM

  474. What was the topic again? If anyone wants to talk about solar panels, I’m still lurking.

    Sorry, I don’t feel like discussing philosophy, economic theory and intellectual property rights. Not on this thread, anyway.

    Comment by Steve — 5 Nov 2009 @ 7:38 PM

  475. RE #467, I would call such people SKEPTICS, as long as they are sincerely striving to learn the truth, and have some respect for what working scientists who publish in peer-review journals have to say.

    I don’t think there are any (or not many) SKEPTICS in among bonafide climate scientists anymore — only layperson skeptics who have not read up on the science very much.

    DENIALISTS might be defined as people who actually know or highly suspect AGW is happening and its effects could be dangerous, but because they are tied into some other interests — like the fossil fuel industry — in some direct or indirect way, they refuse to admit AGW is happening. This term, however, is often used for those who sincerely deny AGW is happening, based on bogus science, which they perceive as correct. For this latter category, I would use:

    CONTRARIANS: These would be people who refuse to believe in AGW no matter how much evidence, science (observations, theory, principles, laws) there are to support AGW. I think Rush Limbaugh perhaps gets some support from fossil fuels or other sources that want to promote denialism, but I would consider him a contrarian.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Nov 2009 @ 8:09 PM

  476. > We need a new name for ssuch a person. Any suggestions?

    Well, let’s see.

    Can’t do numbers: innumerate
    Can’t do reading: illiterate

    What’s the word for not being able to use reference tools?

    Irreferent?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Nov 2009 @ 9:04 PM

  477. Jim in 471 says:

    merely proposing that this is the least terrifying of the geo-engineering options.

    Proper distribution of a base in the ocean may be less terrifying than running the sulfur hosepipe to the stratosphere, but you need some more imagination, I think.

    An “active” alternative that makes more sense is grinding and distributing olivine waste. That appears to be about as effective as calcining the oceans but to have many fewer potential side effects.

    That said, I believe that land-use changes are by far the lowest cost and most effective means of drawing additional carbon out of the atmosphere. Charring crop wastes and adding them back to the soil sequesters the carbon for centuries AND improves the soil by increasing the cation exchange capacity (less fertilizer required, less runoff of nutrients). Growing cover crops on agricultural soil increases root mass and soil carbon content; both help reduce water requirements. No-till methods lower the fuel required to grow a hectare of crops and reduces CO2 emissions of the soil itself.

    If we charred the crop wastes and sequestered only a ton of carbon per hectare, and had a net ton increase due to increased organic matter we would draw down 3 gigatons of carbon per year (1.5 billion hectares of cropland).

    Building soil fertility seems far less likely to have unintended negative consequences compared to the other geo-engineering schemes we’ve all discussed. And in the coming decades being able to grow more food on the fixed amount of farmland seems like a good thing too.

    Comment by David Miller — 5 Nov 2009 @ 10:42 PM

  478. Burgy:

    > We need a new name for such a person. Any suggestions?

    Why? What’s wrong with ‘uninformed’?

    It’s not a shame to be uninformed. In fact, most of us are uninformed on most things. Life is short. What is shameful, is to loudly proclaim strong opinions on the matters of fact one is uninformed on. For those folks we indeed need a new word.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 6 Nov 2009 @ 2:55 AM

  479. Tegiri Nenashi Says

    Lynn, yes, older people are more skeptical. I’ve heard this GW story in early 80s. In the early 90s AGW was part of Civization game. In the 2000s the same story (and lack of supporting facts) looks tiresome.
    Regarding younger people: Iranian students captured the US embassy in infamous protest against evil americans, and today they protest against their government failing to establish normal relationship with the rest of the world (including americans). It looks like younger people like to protest no matter the cause.

    Two thousand and four hundred years ago, Aristophanes was doing comedic plays about scientists. In one skit, Aristophanes used Socrates as an example scientist. Socrates was sitting in a chair that was connected with a rope and pulley. Men on the stage would lift the chair by rope, and the announcer would declare that Socrates was being lifted higher so that he could think of higher things. In the comedy, Socrates is portrayed as a scientists who traded the gods like Zeus for silly scientific ideas.

    People have been doubting scientists and mathematicians for thousands of years. Once laymen doubted scientific claims that the world was round or the earth revolved around the sun, and now they doubt global warming among other things. If Gavin, Mike, Ray, or others at real climate ever feel down about the global warming effort, they can drawl comfort in knowing that they are taking a part in a very old struggle.

    You are simply spouting the same old laborious nonsense that scientists have had to listen to for thousands of years. You overestimate your knowledge and intellectual abilities, and assume that people are unable to learn something outside of your scope. Most likely, you sat in math and science classes while growing up and said, “What will I ever need this for?” and assumed that it is useless. Even though you are presented with a mountain of evidence by the scientific community, you lack the intellectual tools required to comprehend it.

    And for your information, Global Warming was put forward by a Swedish scientists in 1896. After one hundred years of scientific discoveries, scientists are now confident enough to bring it to the public.

    Comment by EL — 6 Nov 2009 @ 3:42 AM

  480. “Charring crop wastes and adding them back to the soil sequesters the carbon for centuries AND improves the soil by increasing the cation exchange capacity (less fertilizer required, less runoff of nutrients).”

    I’ve heard this before.

    Do you have anything on how carbon sequestered in the active upper layer of the soil can both exist for centuries (though my previous interlocutor on this said thousands of years) AND manage to actively participate in the health of the soil at the same time?

    The previous person didn’t manage to come up with anything other than to repeat it was so.

    For preference, this should be fairly old discussions so that it isn’t tainted by being a back-door-geoengineering paper I won’t be able to go “yeah, but is this right?”.

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:45 AM

  481. “What’s the word for not being able to use reference tools?”

    A tool?

    In Soviet Russia, tools use YOU!

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:46 AM

  482. “I would call such people SKEPTICS, as long as they are sincerely striving to learn the truth, and have some respect for what working scientists who publish in peer-review journals have to say.”

    But that isn’t skepticism. They don’t know what it is, so how can they be skeptical of it?

    After they have learned what AGW is, then they can be skeptical or accepting or undecided (which isn’t the same as skeptical).

    But whilst learning, skeptic isn’t it.

    Noob is the current nomenclature, but neophyte or unlearned (with the accent over the e so it sounds more posh) would mean the same thing.

    How can you have an opinion based on nothing?

    If you insist you have an opinion despite knowing nothing, then that’s denialism again.

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:49 AM

  483. “What was the topic again? If anyone wants to talk about solar panels, I’m still lurking.”

    1) you aren’t lurking if you’re posting

    2) this thread isn’t about solar panels either: “an open letter to steve levitt”

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:51 AM

  484. Raypierre, you usually get stuff right but I am mystified about your waste heat argument. You say

    6.66 trillion Watts is the “waste heat” that is a byproduct of generating electricity by using solar cells. All means of generating electricity involve waste heat, and fossil fuels are not an exception. A typical coal-fired power plant only is around 33% efficient, so you would need to release 6 trillion Watts of heat to burn the coal to make our 2 trillion Watts of electricity

    It seems clear to me that you are equating here the total energy involved in fossil fuel generation to only the “extra” heat from a very pessimistic estimate of the absorption of photovoltaics. The correct figure for photovoltaics, by your argument that all electricity eventually ends up as waste heat, should be 8 TW.

    In any case as you demonstrate this is trivial compared with the Earth’s total energy budget, and a more realistic measure of the heat absorption of photovoltaics would narrow the numbers.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:51 AM

  485. “what word would *you* then recommend to describe someone who questions or doubts that AGW is a serious problem ?”

    Which is it:

    Questions

    or

    Doubts

    ?

    With the amount of evidence FOR it being a serious problem (and I note now that it is no longer “doubt whether there is AGW” but has shifted again without fanfare or apology to “doubt whether there is serious consequences for AGW”) one who still doubts is denying the evidence.

    If one questions, then it depends on what the question is, doesn’t it. If the question is really a leading question leading to “I doubt there is any serious consequences to AGW” then you’re back in doubt again and a denialist.

    Someone who says “How will hurricanes act under AGW?” is questioning AGW but not doubting it.

    Someone who says “There’s a lot of uncertainty about how hurricanes act under AGW” is spreading doubt and we’re back to doubt again.

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:57 AM

  486. Arthur, this is not the first time you have advertised that book on RealClimate. The same problems we pointed out with it last time are still there. Were you thinking we would have forgotten by now?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:59 AM

  487. “In a similar way, the two terms “Denialist” and “Skeptic” have come to mean, at least on this site, the same thing. ”

    On this site?

    No.

    You’ll only hear people denying AGW is a problem saying “I’m not a denier, I’m just skeptical”. And you hear it on EVERY SITE where AGW is discussed.

    So your proposition has a honking big hole right in the middle.

    I now doubt that you are legitimate and are instead masquerading as a “moderate” in order to keep the doubt alive.

    “at least on this site” has killed your reputation as a thinking moderate.

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 7:00 AM

  488. It strikes me that we might duplicate the natural course of events when the ocean becomes less acidic by dumping the base, not into the ocean, but into the world’s rivers.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Nov 2009 @ 7:01 AM

  489. “Mark – in case it helps, since money itself is a bit abstract,”

    It doesn’t help. Money has always been a promise of trade and when it stopped being spent and started being mostly hoarded it stopped being even that.

    Thanks for trying though.

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 7:03 AM

  490. PHG, please check out this and let me know whether your figures are old build or new.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power#Growth_and_cost_trends

    Where they have

    Cost per unit of energy produced was estimated in 2006 to be comparable to the cost of new generating capacity in the US for coal and natural gas: wind cost was estimated at $55.80 per MWh, coal at $53.10/MWh and natural gas at $52.50.

    And although it says other reports show it to be higher, fossil fuels will get more expensive as turbines (the only cost is a sunk cost for the lifetime of a turbine) get cheaper.

    Ta.

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 7:09 AM

  491. # 475 Lynn Vincentnathan.

    Quite like your distinctions between sceptics, denialists and contrarians. Would Christopher Booker (of the S.T. in the U.K.) be a contrarian on that basis?

    Also, should there not also be another category, of those people who – generally out of a well-meaning adherence to free speech and fair debate – hold that giving equal weight to the publicity of all arguments is more important than the evidential basis of those arguments?

    Thus, my quibble with Clive James’s talk on the BBC just recently, in which he said in his view not enough had been heard of the arguments against AGW, and that there should be more scepticism. Would “POLEMICIST” or maybe “CONTROVERSIALIST” be appropriate here? My thinking is that to these people, and again however well meaning their intentions, the mere existence of a counter-argument, however feeble it appears to be scientifically, is reason to give it and its proponents equality of air time, publication and so on.

    Any thoughts, anyone?

    Comment by Nick O. — 6 Nov 2009 @ 7:17 AM

  492. PHG I think your figures are old because a bit of looking around seems to suggest build-out cost alone for wind is about $1.30-$1.50 per watt and a new high efficiency coal power station costs about $1.33 per watt

    (the wind power from wiki, the coal power station from http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=75824186023 though there they have wind at $1 per watt)

    This is quite a bit less than your $2.50 per watt for wind.

    Solar’s advantage is that it can be placed somewhere practially free and near the sink for energy needs.

    From that facebook site its conclusion seems to be appropriate: more wind power for baseload and gas for peak reaping of their customers. Gas isn’t on often so it’s build-out cost is high per delivered watt but most of its cost is calculated to be the fuel: gas.

    And note peak reaping of your customer will mean more build-out cost, but obviously not to the extent of allowing for becalmed power generation.

    Coal can’t be used for peak because it needs time to get to speed (I would suppose this is less true for smaller coal generators but the waste of site land and reduced efficiency of the building to house a smaller generator would make it cost more per MW anyway).

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 7:35 AM

  493. Mark,

    Further to the wind power cost, manufacturer’s of wind turbines do not provide a blanket pricing for wind
    turbines, they take your wind information taken from met towers over a several year period and do a revenue
    projection based on their economic model for the electrical system you are connecting to.

    They then price the turbine with the objective to provide an acceptable rate of return for the developer as
    well as provide them with an acceptable price for the turbine.

    With the economic downturn and the resulting low electricity prices they are also considering lower initial\
    capital prices in exchange for a share of the projected increase in revenue as the electricity price and
    economy recovers.

    Since our particular project has a very high projected capacity factor we are in essence paying more than
    average for the turbines. The project hasn’t been built as yet due to transmission line constraints.

    I realize this sounds a bit odd, but it does maximize the overall wind power potential by lowering the
    price for less than optimal sites and increasing the cost for high quality sites.

    Also, keep in mind that although the installed cost we are projecting is around the $2500/MW it does not
    include the $900 million in additional tranmission capacity which is required to upgrade the system. The
    upgrade will allow the connection of up to 700 MW of wind power capacity in the area and will be rolled
    into the tranmission line tariff that will be payed for by all consumers but will not show up in average
    figures for wind power installations.

    Comment by PHG — 6 Nov 2009 @ 9:05 AM

  494. #491, Nick & “Also, should there not also be another category, of those people who – generally out of a well-meaning adherence to free speech and fair debate – hold that giving equal weight to the publicity of all arguments is more important than the evidential basis of those arguments?”

    These would be called JOURNALISTS (or NOT-SCIENTISTS) :)

    But they might be denialists, if they are using the journalistic “pro-con” format to lead people away from scientifically well-established facts, like Ted Koppel did back in 1995 in his “Is Science for Sale” NIGHTLINE show. He had a couple of climate scientists debating contrarians, with the upshot….didn’t look like GW was real. Texaco was the sponsor, so I wrote to Ted that perhaps science wasn’t for sale, but the media sure were.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 6 Nov 2009 @ 10:46 AM

  495. PHG, your $2500/MW number seems really low. As in, should that be per kW?

    Comment by Greg Simpson — 6 Nov 2009 @ 10:56 AM

  496. Greg,

    “PHG, your $2500/MW number seems really low. As in, should that be per kW?”

    Whoops, you are correct. My apologies.

    Thank-you.

    Comment by PHG — 6 Nov 2009 @ 11:10 AM

  497. I had written in #487:“In a similar way, the two terms “Denialist” and “Skeptic” have come to mean, at least on this site, the same thing. ”

    Mark wrote: “On this site? No.”

    I am puzzled by this comment. Perhaps I have missed something. It does seem to me that the two words are used synonymously. If they differ, how would you differentiate between them?

    Mark continued: “You’ll only hear people denying AGW is a problem saying “I’m not a denier, I’m just skeptical”. And you hear it on EVERY SITE where AGW is discussed.”

    I suspect this might be true — although I have hardly visited every site and it seems improbable that you have had the time to do so. But this comment is off point. I want to focus on RealClimate.org only.

    Mark continued: “So your proposition has a honking big hole right in the middle.”

    I did use the words “on this site, at least,” so I politely dissent.

    Mark continued: “I now doubt that you are legitimate and are instead masquerading as a “moderate” in order to keep the doubt alive.”

    It is a matter of indifference to me what opinion you have of me. You earlier accused me of not hollering at the denialists — but this is hardly true; I have done so on a number of occasions, both here and in the articles I have written for a Colorado newspaper.

    Mark continued: “”at least on this site” has killed your reputation as a thinking moderate.”

    I have no idea why you would write this. I think I think, and I am somewhat of a moderate politically, and my “reputation on this site” is clearly not yours to pass judgement upon.

    MArk — very very few people have the depth of knowledge on AGW that either you or I have, and we have both concluded that the scientific case presented by the IPCC is overwhelming. We have also, independently, come to the obvious conclusion that much of the denialist diatribes against AGW are without merit. I haste to say “most,” for nobody has read all of them.

    Here is my concern: A recent Pew poll shows the percentage of Americans who thing AGW is a reality has dropped a lot in the past year. Politicians of all parties listen to their constituents, so it is of utmost importance to gain as many adherents as possible.

    I see civility and tolerance as key to that effort. You see sarcasm and insults as key. On this, we must agree to disagree.

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 6 Nov 2009 @ 11:25 AM

  498. Arguing definitions is an great way to avoid discussing the topic, ya know.
    Though you can go on doing it endlessly with those who like doing that.

    Whatever label you put on the authors of the book, the _content_ is mostly unsupported assertions or missing information needed for it to be understood.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2009 @ 11:53 AM

  499. PHG if your supplier is doing that, shop around. This IS a free market you know. And the turbines from 10 years ago are not as efficient or as effective as the ones rolling off production lines today.

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 12:02 PM

  500. Nick O “My thinking is that to these people, and again however well meaning their intentions, the mere existence of a counter-argument, however feeble it appears to be scientifically, is reason to give it and its proponents equality of air time, publication and so on.”

    It’s more lazy journalism.

    You can either do the groundwork, find out that the evidence is concentrated on the AGW side and be shouted down as “biased to the AGW religion, you eco-freak!” (and note to Burgy, how come that has never kicked someone over from denialism? All that enciro-fascist/enviro-nazi/eco-freak insults and so on? Hmm?) or you can pick up one person pro-AGW and one person anti-AGW and leave it like that.

    Which do you think has the least work?

    James is just trying to get the “I’m a Free Thinker!” badge by bucking the trend. But you’ll never see him “buck the trend” on 90% tax for the earners over 80K. He wants to be seen as a “free thinker” not a “nut” (though he won’t be able to explain the difference).

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 12:07 PM

  501. Hi Mark,

    We’ve been to seven different vendors, all world wide suppliers.
    Because of the way they price the turbines they are all within 5% of each other.

    We were hoping for a reduction in price due to the economic downturn,
    turned out to be fairly minimal. One could get lower prices if you wanted to
    take immediate delivery which was not possible for our project.

    Turbines produced today are quite the impressive machines and are approaching the
    theoretical maximum efficiency in terms of translating wind power to electrical power.

    Most of the ongoing development is in larger machines and improving the reliability
    of things like the gearbox. Of course, larger machines means more noise so siting can
    become a challenge.

    Thanks for your input.

    Comment by PHG — 6 Nov 2009 @ 1:25 PM

  502. PHG, California seems to be able to do better than you’re getting. Someone somewhere is able to repeat that.

    PS you’re welcome.

    Comment by Mark — 6 Nov 2009 @ 1:47 PM

  503. “California seems to be able to do better than you’re getting. Someone somewhere is able to repeat that.”

    cite plz

    If only we could get actual installation quotes for solar/wind based on your beliefs/google searches. Do you have any vendors to recommend? If I can get a quote that shows a 10%+ IRR on 7 years or less for solar panels at my shopping centers, I’ll pay you the commission! Send info to my business address at ss1@rblre.com.

    Comment by Steve — 6 Nov 2009 @ 3:28 PM

  504. Here’s a real deflater to geo-engineering hopes, including possibly biochar (which I’ve been touting lately):

    Geo-Engineering and Biochar: White Roofs, Black Dust and Slippery Slopes, http://www.climateark.org/blog/2009/06/release-geo-engineering-and-bi.asp#more

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 6 Nov 2009 @ 4:10 PM

  505. Philip (#484) said:

    …you are equating here the total energy involved in fossil fuel generation to only the “extra” heat from a very pessimistic estimate of the absorption of photovoltaics. The correct figure for photovoltaics, by your argument that all electricity eventually ends up as waste heat, should be 8 TW.

    I think you missed something. With coal power, the extra heat to the atmosphere is calculated as all the energy in the coal burned, which already includes the 33% that is turned into electricity. With the solar cells, the extra heat to the atmosphere is calculated as the solar energy absorbed by the cells less the solar energy that would otherwise have been absorbed by the surface; the energy absorbed by the cells already includes the 15% that is turned into electricity. Since Raypierre in both cases includes the energy that is converted into electricity, he is in both cases counting all this energy as waste heat, isn’t he?

    Comment by CM — 6 Nov 2009 @ 4:12 PM

  506. Mark, in 480 wants to know more about biochar.

    Credit for discovering the benefits of biochar in the soil generally
    goes to long lost Amazonians with their terra-preta soils. These soils
    were found to be much more productive than surrounding soils, and the
    difference was the addition of charcoal.
    http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/ for more.

    It works because the char has surface area in the range of 500 square
    meters per gram. The surface area and the variety of pore sizes
    adsorbs nutrients and provides an environment for the soil biota that
    fix nutrients. It also helps store water; it’s somewhat more effective
    at that than ordinary organic matter.

    A few sites where you can start learning more:

    http://groups.google.com/group/pnw-biochar-meeting-may-21-22-presentations/web/pnnl-presentations-with-descriptions?hl=en

    http://www.biochar.info/
    http://www.agnet.org/library/eb/430/
    http://climatelab.org/index.php?title=Biochar

    Comment by David — 6 Nov 2009 @ 4:58 PM

  507. Thanks Ray for posting this educational rebuttal.
    I do not think I am alone in holding the University of Chicago to a higher standard than just about any other educational institution, so it was particularly troubling to see a distinguished professor, even if only in Economics, apparently unable able to do sums.

    -m

    Comment by Matthew Huber — 6 Nov 2009 @ 5:06 PM

  508. “…by your argument that all electricity eventually ends up as waste heat…”

    Someone really said that? I guess yeah, if you’re talking about theoretical physics and the lifetime of the entire universe as a closed system, sure entropy wins. But realistically, in our little sliver of existence, no. If I use electricity to move a 20 ton bullet train across 100 miles, electricity was used to move mass, not generate waste heat. Same goes for burning coal in a steam locomotive – energy in the coal is being used to move mass. Extrapolate to gasoline moving all these cars around. I believe that’s called converting chemical energy to mechanical energy, or somethin’ like that.

    [Response: Just think it through. What happened to all that kinetic energy? - gavin]

    “Here’s a real deflater to geo-engineering hopes…”
    Liked the article, Lynn. It takes a crafty politician to turn geo-engineering into an ominous boogieman. Of course they use the good old “slippery slope” argument – white roadways first, and next we’re… what? Only God knows! My only concern is that my wife would end up blind because she’d be staring at a white road every day on her 45 minute commute.

    Comment by Steve — 6 Nov 2009 @ 5:07 PM

  509. 488 BPL

    FWIW, global annual sediment flux into the ocean from all rivers is estimated at 25 GTon/yr.

    Comment by Brian Brademeyer — 6 Nov 2009 @ 5:25 PM

  510. Mark says:

    “I now doubt that you are legitimate and are instead masquerading as a “moderate” in order to keep the doubt alive. “at least on this site” has killed your reputation as a thinking moderate.

    Don’t say things to people you wouldn’t say to their face Mark. Especially assinine things like this that essentially prove John’s point about broad brush characterizations.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 6 Nov 2009 @ 5:26 PM

  511. Gavin (inline at #508, 6 November 2009 @ 5:07 PM):

    Hey, we really made out on the kinetic energy of Voyager. Say…this suggests a geo-engineering project just as reasonable as SO2, white roads and biochar that would also boost NASA’s budget and employ thousands. Someone should do the calculations.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:46 PM

  512. “Just think it through. What happened to all that kinetic energy?”

    It was used to do work. Work = F x d, right? Sure, you can equate that to “heat” on paper, but it’s not the kind of heat that goes into making the system’s temperature increase (thermal energy). Let’s consider the other portion of the mechanical energy equation – potential energy. If I drive the car up a mountain and park it at the top, I’ve converted chemical energy in the gasoline to potential energy, and as long as the car sits up on that mountain the potential energy isn’t going anywhere. Same principle applies if I use an engine to pull a buoyant sphere to the bottom of the ocean and attach it to a hook. As long as the that buoyant sphere is at the bottom of the ocean, that potential energy is locked down.

    Actually, I like that as a geoengineering solution. Everyone, please attach a trailer to your vehicle, fill it up with as much mass as it will haul, drive it to the top of the nearest mountain, park it there and walk away. Carbon energy sequestered – Nobel Prize please!

    Comment by Steve — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:54 PM

  513. Mark (480) wrote:
    “Do you have anything on how carbon sequestered in the active upper layer of the soil can both exist for centuries (though my previous interlocutor on this said thousands of years) AND manage to actively participate in the health of the soil at the same time?”

    Chapter 6 in Biochar for Environmental Management Science and Technology Lehmann, Joseph (2009)

    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=w-CUty_JIfcC&oi=fnd&pg=PT117&dq=biochar+biota+substrate&ots=clh0GWVXB3&sig=TDdagWCnHWam4Po-SI1G2WdjBlQ#v=onepage&q=biochar%20biota%20substrate&f=false

    Comment by arch stanton — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:54 PM

  514. I can’t help but wonder why reasonable people bother responding to Mark. He sometimes hits on-target, and in those instances, good for him. Probably 50% or more of the time, he makes various bizarre misreadings of content or intent, and he becomes increasingly aggressive, irritating and off-topic when these errors are pointed out to him. It seems to me that the only sensible way to deal with this behavior (so long as it isn’t moderated out) is to ignore him, and I would strongly recommend this to others tempted to engage with him in any argumentative context.

    In shorter form: don’t feed the troll.

    Comment by JBL — 6 Nov 2009 @ 6:59 PM

  515. I stumbled across this interview with Graeme Pearman, an ex-CSIRO climate scientist – main expertise is on atmospheric science. It is worth a read as it discusses the psychological issues behind getting action to happen; indeed, Graeme Pearman has moved into researching the psychological aspects of decision making etc.

    Comment by Donald Oats — 6 Nov 2009 @ 7:23 PM

  516. Steve (#512, 6 November 2009 @ 6:54 PM):

    You say- “If I use electricity to move a 20 ton bullet train across 100 miles, electricity was used to move mass, not generate waste heat.”

    I am not a physicist, but I do know that your train emitted heat for 100 miles to maintain speed against friction (which results in heat), and the remaining kinetic energy is turned into heat when it stopped. Otherwise, where did the energy go? This is pretty basic.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 6 Nov 2009 @ 7:24 PM

  517. Steve, 512: You’re losing your energy balance. You have a toy train, sitting still. You push it forwards, applying a force, and it starts moving. You let it go. In the absence of friction or drag, it’ll go forever at the same velocity. F = ma. If F = 0, then velocity does not change.

    But that doesn’t happen. The kinetic energy of the train would be lost over time, as friction and drag forces slow it down. The kinetic energy is lost to heat at the rails and the surface of the train. You have to push the train again to keep it moving.

    So yes, the energy being put into the train is being lost continuously as heat, in a very real way. I agree with Gavin – if you follow through on what where your electricity is going, it’s eventually going to be lost as heat, somewhere.

    Comment by tharanga — 6 Nov 2009 @ 8:02 PM

  518. Re 512 Steve – additional to 516 Steve Fish and 517 tharanga – of course, if you move all your trains uphill, there will be some potential energy stored – likely less than the energy input because of friction. A similar logic applies to regenerative breaking – you might not lose the energy to heat when you stop. But if this pattern continues indefinitely, eventually you’ll have all your trains on the top of Mount Everest, etc. What happens when you want to bring the trains back to complete the loops? If the energy didn’t end up as heat than it ends up in useful form and thus replaces energy input. Almost all energy input must at some point be to balance loss, since over time net storage is small (when metal doesn’t oxydize, it reduces the need to create more chemical energy by reducing oxydized metal).

    Okay, maybe not all loss is heat. Radio waves are lost to space. You brought up a space probe – nice example. Some light energy is also lost to space as light. These are relatively small amounts, though.

    (And of course, attempting to cool the Earth by increasing waste of light would be … well, wasteful, and likely occur with greater heating to supply the greater electricity, unless it is from hydroelectric or wind, etc…)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Nov 2009 @ 10:04 PM

  519. “If the energy didn’t end up as heat than it ends up in useful form and thus replaces energy input.”

    Clarification – some useful energy is not used, but such energy tends to end up as heat (as it is not attended to – there is no incentive to stop if from increasing in entropy if it is not going to be used for a non-thermal purpose).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Nov 2009 @ 10:06 PM

  520. Clarification – “there is no incentive to stop if from increasing in entropy if it is not going to be used for a non-thermal purpose” … AT a lower temperature than it was.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Nov 2009 @ 10:07 PM

  521. Steve (#512),

    I has a fascination as a child with trains and their rails. In the Winter, just after a long train had passed, one could melt snow very quickly on the rails which were heated by the train’s passage. All of the engine’s power in a train moving along at constant speed on the flat is going into heating those rails and wheel bearings and pushing air out of the way. Each vortex of displaced air eventually dissipates as random motions of molecules moving a little faster than they used to (at higher temperature). All the sound transmitted down the rail that lets you know the train is coming also ends up heating the rail. The jingle, and the rumble, and the roar in the air heats the air. It all turns to heat because you can’t destroy energy. It has to persist and heat is its final form.

    Now, you can use electricity, for example, to boost the chemical potential of oxidized silicon or aluminum to make a solar panel or a soda can. But that is just heat delayed since that stuff will oxidize again eventually, releasing heat as it does so. You can build buildings and have potential energy stored in the roof, but that is going to tumble down eventually and the energy will be dissipated as heat. As I said earlier in the thread, really only light and radio waves are able to escape and not heat the environment.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 7 Nov 2009 @ 12:53 AM

  522. Pierrehumbert’s criticism of Levitt & Dubner’s solar panel analysis seems right. This though was a very minor part of their pitch. The major part concerned albedo geoengineering, whose harmlessness Pierrehumbert complains they presented as being settled.

    Perhaps he missed mention on p199 of how Myhrvold, who is “quick to deny that he dismisses global warming itself”, is not “arguing for an immediate deployment of Budyko’s Blanket – but, rather, that technologies like it be researched and tested so they are ready to use if the worst climate predictions were to come true”.

    Comment by Rene — 7 Nov 2009 @ 5:09 AM

  523. “Don’t say things to people you wouldn’t say to their face Mark”

    I don’t Jim.

    Stop putting thoughts into other people’s heads that are actually in yours.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Nov 2009 @ 5:16 AM

  524. David in 506: “Credit for discovering the benefits of biochar in the soil generally
    goes to long lost Amazonians with their terra-preta soils.”

    No, I want to know about how carbon improves the soil without becoming part of the carbon cycle.

    I know that char can improve the soil. I’ve got a garden myself.

    But the statement is that biochar can exist unchanged for centuries.

    The link I’ve been given earlier doesn’t show it:

    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=w-CUty_JIfcC&oi=fnd&pg=PT117&dq=biochar+biota+substrate&ots=clh0GWVXB3&sig=TDdagWCnHWam4Po-SI1G2WdjBlQ#v=onepage&q=biochar biota substrate&f=false

    It turns up that char is helpful but there’s this bit in it:

    “Where sufficient O2 is available, aerobic respiration will be the dominant metabolic pathway for energy generation, resulting in water (H2O) and CO2 as the primary metabolic products.

    So please don’t insult my intelligence and make up what you’d like to answer. Give me the answer I ask for.

    Where is the proofs of biochar in the soil both increasing its fecundity AND lasting without significant inclusion in the carbon cycle (which we are trying to remove CO2 from) and lasts for centuries.

    Not the question you seem to want to answer “Where is the proofs of biochar in the soil increasing its fecundity”.

    Answer the whole question.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Nov 2009 @ 5:27 AM

  525. ““California seems to be able to do better than you’re getting. Someone somewhere is able to repeat that.”

    cite plz”

    FFS Steve, it’s in the freaking previous pages.

    OK, for the hard of thinking, here you go Steve:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power#Growth_and_cost_trends
    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=75824186023
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Comparative_electrical_generation_costs
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power#Growth_and_cost_trends

    All have been given before.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Nov 2009 @ 5:36 AM

  526. Heck, the Danes pay less than $2500 per kW for turbines. Australia doesn’t pay that much.

    Someone is gypping PHG. Probably by spinning “Oh, it’s so risky to have a new style of power source so we need a 2 year ROI rather than 10 that you get from coal…”.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Nov 2009 @ 5:38 AM

  527. A thought if I may.

    Even if I mayn’t.

    I’ve asked before for any evidence or explication of this “mark is just mean” meme. None has been forthcoming but I HAVE recieved even more mealey-mothed “mark’s just mean” comments again.

    It seems to me this meme is as strongly held and as unwarranted as the meme “CO2 lags temperature therefore AGW is false”. Both are immune to any counterintications and seemingly to the idea that any form of proof other than statement again and again is necessary.

    And truly, hands up ANYONE who can say “CO2 never lags temperature”. Therefore isn’t there evidence of that meme “CO2 lags temperature” is actually true?

    But why is it false?

    Consider why. Then transpose.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Nov 2009 @ 6:07 AM

  528. Oh, and Jim B, any evidence or explanation of how you make this assertion “assinine things like this ” in #510 or do you just prefer being rude to people?

    Comment by Mark — 7 Nov 2009 @ 6:13 AM

  529. PHG: “Turbines produced today are quite the impressive machines and are approaching the
    theoretical maximum efficiency in terms of translating wind power to electrical power.”

    There’s actually a heck of a lot to be done making turbines that respond better to low wind conditions.

    There’s a lot of work to make them fit in new niches (e.g. ducted turbines in city streets, to annul the wind farm problem of distance from energy source to energy sink).

    The reason why prices didn’t drop is because wind power is cheap and demand for turbines still outstrips demand. And, being a free-market commodity, you see price increases.

    After all, this is what you do with the energy output, isn’t it.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Nov 2009 @ 6:16 AM

  530. still outstrips supply…

    Grrk.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Nov 2009 @ 6:17 AM

  531. Mark #523 said “No, I want to know about how carbon improves the soil without becoming part of the carbon cycle.”

    I believe that David in #506 has already given at least three reasons for how it improves the soil and none involve metabolism of the charcoal.

    “It works because the char has surface area in the range of 500 square
    meters per gram. The surface area and the variety of pore sizes
    adsorbs nutrients and provides an environment for the soil biota that
    fix nutrients. It also helps store water; it’s somewhat more effective
    at that than ordinary organic matter.”

    And as for the turnover of charcoal in soil. Charcoal is almost pure inorganic carbon. There is no biological process which can metabolize inorganic carbon. The only ways of losing it from the soil has to involve non-biological physical or chemical processes.

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 7 Nov 2009 @ 9:45 AM

  532. “The jingle, and the rumble, and the roar …”

    Okay, a physicist knows the lyrics to the Wabash Cannoball?

    Comment by JCH — 7 Nov 2009 @ 9:52 AM

  533. Try Google Scholar; it’s still being debated how the carbon levels became so increased in those soils. Eliminate ‘biochar’ from the search and you see a different set of possible answers; it’s always worth modifying searches.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=dating+carbon+amazon+preta+-biochar&as_ylo=2007

    For example:

    The material may be soot accumulated inside buildings from cooking fires, rather than charcoal:
    http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/~maa27/Arroyo-Kalin2007_4974_ms.pdf

    “… However, in settlement soils charcoal is concentrated abundantly in the very fine silt to clay sized fraction. This is a size fraction that can be associated with soot particles. How does this concentrate so significantly? There are probably a few ways but I would submit here that an important one we need to envision is a scenario where lightweight particles are buried easily rather than being displaced by human action, rainwater or wind. What is this scenario? Ethnoarchaeological studies, notably Zeidler and Stahl’s work with Achuar house in lowland Ecuador, strongly suggest that abundant ash, charcoal and small fraction bone are accumulated inside walled and roofed structures with earthen-floors, that is inside houses [41, 42]”

    Andrew’s recollection is correct, he’s right that historically char was believed to be that way, but some recent research suggests most char isn’t almost pure inorganic carbon:
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/e501h8h77224w674/

    “… Considering results reported in the pyrolysis literature in combination with those obtained from controlled charring of plant material and soil organic matter (SOM), it has become clear that common models claiming char as a graphite-like material composed mainly of highly condensed polyaromatic clusters may be oversimplified.”

    You know the point I’m trying in my stolid, plodding, boring fashion, to make here — the above are only examples.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Nov 2009 @ 10:30 AM

  534. Mark says (482), “If you insist you have an opinion despite knowing nothing, then that’s denialism again.”

    Here’s an interesting qualifier: what’s a person called who has no scientific knowledge of climatology but whose opinion is solidly supportive of AGW? A “denier,” I suppose…

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Nov 2009 @ 11:35 AM

  535. Mark does highlight an important point in there. You can only deploy wind and solar as quickly as these units can be produced, and both are exposed to swings in materials costs, just as anything else is.

    A look at charts of silicon prices tells the story pretty well: silicon production was geared around the computer industry; with a surge in demand for solar, demand for silicon quickly exceeded supply and prices soared. The silicon supply will adjust to the increased demand over time, but it doesn’t happen overnight. This may give thin-film solar cells an advantage over traditional PV cells, as they will hopefully use less silicon per unit energy produced.

    Mark, the part you are missing from the story is subsidies. Germany subsidises solar at a remarkable rate, and US wind investment follows something of a boom-and-bust cycle as subsidies lapse and then are renewed. I’m not saying subsidies are bad, but you can’t take a subsidised price and then say it’s inherently cheap. And yes, in some applications and areas, wind could well be competitive with fossil fuels, even without subsidy, but that doesn’t mean this is generally true for all users. Finally, it takes a bit of hubris to find very rough calculations on facebook which obviously aren’t equal comparisons nor appropriate cash flow calculations, and think that overrides the experience of people who are actually active in this market and build the things.

    Comment by tharanga — 7 Nov 2009 @ 11:44 AM

  536. Re: #514, which reads

    ” It seems to me that the only sensible way to deal with this behavior (so long as it isn’t moderated out) is to ignore him, and I would strongly recommend this to others tempted to engage with him in any argumentative context.”

    That would take all the fun out of it!

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 7 Nov 2009 @ 11:52 AM

  537. Re the discussion started by Mark’s question “Do you have anything on how carbon sequestered in the active upper layer of the soil can both exist for centuries (though my previous interlocutor on this said thousands of years) AND manage to actively participate in the health of the soil at the same time?”

    Science 9 August 2002: Vol. 297. no. 5583, pp. 920 – 923 DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5583.920
    The Real Dirt on Rainforest Fertility, Charles C. Mann

    “A rich, black soil known locally as terra preta do Indio (Indian dark earth), it sustained large settlements on these lands for 2 millennia…”

    “As a rule, terra preta has more “plant-available” phosphorus, calcium, sulfur, and nitrogen than surrounding oxisols; it also has much more organic matter, retains moisture and nutrients better, and is not rapidly exhausted by agricultural use when managed well.

    The key to terra preta’s long-term fertility, Glaser says, is charcoal: Terra preta contains up to 70 times as much as adjacent oxisols. “The charcoal prevents organic matter from being rapidly mineralized,” Glaser says. “Over time, it partly oxidizes, which keeps providing sites for nutrients to bind to.” But simply mixing charcoal into the ground is not enough to create terra preta. Because charcoal contains few nutrients, Glaser says, “high nutrient inputs via excrement and waste such as turtle, fish, and animal bones were necessary.” Special soil microorganisms are also likely to play a role in its persistent fertility, in the view of Janice Thies, a soil ecologist who is part of a Cornell University team studying terra preta. “There are indications that microbial biomass is higher in terra preta,” she says, which raises the possibility that scientists might be able to create a “package” of charcoal, nutrients, and microfauna that could be used to transform oxisols into terra preta.”

    According to http://www.jstor.org/pss/280517, the soils were seen to be widely distributed in the 1960′s and many studies (Sombrock-1966, Ranzani et al-1970, Vieira et al-1971, Smith-1980) indicated “anthropic origin”.

    “Amazonian dark earths: explorations in space and time,” Bruno Glaser, William I. Woods (partly accessible through google books), shows carbon dating ages older than 1290+-30 years for all samples, up to 2k years, for one site studied. The clustering of dates indicated that most of the production of terra preta took place over a period of a few hundred years.

    “Biochar for Environmental Management: Science and Technology” By Johannes Lehmann, Stephen Joseph (also in google books) states that some terra preta charcoal has been dated to 7k years old.

    A lot of info on carbon in soil – “THE ORGANIC GEOCHEMISTRY OF CHARCOAL BLACK CARBON IN THE SOILS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN BIOLOGICAL STATION”, William Hockaday Phd Dissertation
    http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/send-pdf.cgi/Hockaday%20William%20C.pdf?acc_num=osu1141850676

    “Additionally, the polar surface functionality such as the carboxylic acid groups giving rise to the sharp peak at 172 ppm in the 13C NMR spectrum of the aged charcoal, may act in a manner similar to activated charcoal, chelating growth limiting minerals and polar organics, preventing them from leaching out of the soil. In any case, the fact that these soil charcoal particles are heavily colonized by filamentous microorganisms provides new insight to the role of charcoal in soil ecology, and another mechanism (in addition to cation exchange) to consider as an explanation of the fertility enhancement observed in charcoal amended soils (Glaser et al., 2000).

    “Radiocarbon dating of BC in deep ocean sediments shows that there is a period of several thousand years (2,400-13,900yrs) between the production of BC and its eventual deposition to open ocean sediment (Masiello and Druffel, 1998).”

    “…the data presented here show that a labile fraction of charcoal BC is chemically degraded in forest soil on a timescale of 100 years, and exported to a more transient DOC pool.”

    So, some fraction of biochar is long lived, some fraction enters into the biochemical cycle in 100 years. What fraction goes where and how long it takes depends on what the source material is(woodchips, grass, sewage sludge, olive pits), the parameters of the production process(rate of heating, maximum temperature, duration of high temperature exposure, N2/O2/H2O flow rates; too many leftover volatiles can make biochar toxic to plants), and the environment where it is placed (soil type & pH, rainfall, temperature, crops & cropping system). There is a lot of research being done, and it so far looks promising for being a win, win, win process – sequesters carbon, can provide carbon neutral bioenergy from the volatile fraction, and can be used to better deal with waste currently dumped in landfills to generate methane.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 7 Nov 2009 @ 12:32 PM

  538. Biochar part 2
    I left out another promising “win” – benefits to agriculture.

    As a geoengineering solution, it is attractive because we already know it works, at least on the engineering end.
    Some unanswered questions are:
    can it be scaled up to the “geo” level? (probably)
    how can it be made as safe and effective as possible? (process control-a stone age culture with limited knowledge made it work; even if we aren’t any better at the “how”, we’ll have a better handle on the “why”)
    what are the economics involved? (The value to agriculture and waste disposal alone may support starting small in niche markets, and gathering a lot of useful process control data. Since we don’t know how much AGW could cost, and don’t want to find out the hard way that it’s “too much”, the value of biochar carbon sequestration would have to rely on an insurance model – you don’t know how much burning down your house would cost, but you pay for insurance anyway)

    Converting a reasonable fraction of Net Primary Production of the biosphere to biochar could draw down a large fraction of the CO2 currently emitted and sequester it for a significant number of years at a manageable cost; it won’t be a magic cure that will solve all our problems and allow BAU.

    No doubt the policy spinmeisters and potential profiteers will argue about the meaning of “reasonable” “large fraction” “significant” “manageable” and just what is the probability of “won’t”. People whose knee jerk reaction that anything that might benefit the environment is that it must be just another hippy liberal watermelon(green on the outside, commie pinko on the inside) soc – ialist plot to take away their right to mix beer cans, glass bottles, junk mail, styrofoam fast food containers, food waste, and the odd lot of brass shell casings from the firing range/back deck in THEIR trash will argue “You scientists don’t know X to enough decimal places to prove it to me, and even though I’m not real sure what a decimal place is, or what ‘it’ is you want to prove, I still get to decide.”

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 7 Nov 2009 @ 1:11 PM

  539. Andrew Hobbs (530) — The standard claim for biochar at no more than root depth (in temperate zones) is that about 1/2 of the biochar re-eneters the active carbon cycle within a few decaedes. The remainder persists, it is stated, for many centuries. I don’t know how or why the former occurs, but decadal long experiments demonstate that it does.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Nov 2009 @ 2:16 PM

  540. 526 Mark asks “for any evidence or explication of this “mark is just mean” meme. ”

    Mark, how about your track record for [edited] comments? I suppose you could be saying cheery things that happen to get [edited], but most folks just assume they’re insulting.

    Comment by RichardC — 7 Nov 2009 @ 3:32 PM

  541. “All of the engine’s power in a train moving along at constant speed on the flat is going into heating those rails and wheel bearings and pushing air out of the way.”

    If it were, the train wouldn’t be moving – it would be sitting still.

    “and the remaining kinetic energy is turned into heat when it stopped.”

    That’s why I asked what if the vehicle is going uphill and stops? The kinetic energy goes into potential energy (basic physics).

    Here’s your experiment:

    Drive your train on tracks cross-country, all flats. Drive it till you’re out of coal. Don’t break – we all know it will eventually stop due to friction. Drive the same train along the same tracks, but tilted at a 45 degree angle. Drive it till you’re out of coal. Don’t break… you notice it stops! Turns out, the track was one of them fancy roller coaster tracks, so your train can go one direction but not the other. For both trains, mind you – we gotta have control over our variables!

    One of these systems has coal energy “locked in”, the other doesn’t. How?

    It’s the same principle behind the “locking in” of solar energy within the atomic bonds of the coal. Otherwise, why are we getting so bothered about igniting all the world’s fossil fuels in the first place? Yes, all the heat eventually escapes, from everything. But what we’re concerned about is the when and the where of it. Specifically, not all so fast while we’re around.

    Nature takes a spectacular nano-machine it’s built called a Seed, and heats it. The seed organizes, builds, gathers. It creates an island of order in a sea of disorder. As long as some of that order remains, there is potential. Fossil fuels are the ghosts of many Seeds. As long as we don’t crack them open, Nature’s potential remains locked inside.

    We are of Nature, and in a sense Seeds. We organize, build, gather – build islands of our own. Look around you. All of that order in the things we’ve built is an increase in entropy, and as long as it remains the potential is locked inside. If we cracked open some coal to make what you’re looking at, then some of that coal’s potential is locked inside, still – we transferred it’s entropy. And it isn’t getting out until it returns to the original state that us Seeds found it in.

    So yes, all of the energy of the fossil fuels that have been burned to date will, eventually, be spread continuously and homogeneously throughout the biosphere. You could describe it in terms of an increase in thermal energy, if that’s your fancy. But for that to happen, everything that’s been built with those fossil fuels must return to it’s original state of disorder. We still have canyons upon canyons full of garbage – it’s got a waise to go.

    Entropy – look it up if you don’t believe me.

    Comment by Steve — 7 Nov 2009 @ 5:00 PM

  542. Oops, sorry. Order is a decrease in entropy. Entropy is chaos. I got screwed up by Wiki’s “entropy is the potential for disorder”.

    Comment by Steve — 7 Nov 2009 @ 5:05 PM

  543. Mark, look up http://www.re-char.com to find out how biochar helps the soil, increasing productivity by 20% AND sequestering carbon for a long time….

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 7 Nov 2009 @ 5:48 PM

  544. re 540 Steve,

    You quote: “All of the engine’s power in a train moving along at constant speed on the flat is going into heating those rails and wheel bearings and pushing air out of the way.”

    Are you trying to create confusion by changing the stated premises that the train is moving at a constant speed and on the flat?

    If you want to change the experiment to include energy needed to accelerate and go up hill, that would be a different experiment.

    Looking up entropy in my handy old freshman physics book by Sears (Addison Wesley 1950), I find I am reading about the Second Law of Thermodynamics which Sears says “is the law of entropy.” Sears candidly says, “There is no concept in the whole field of physics which is more difficult to understand than is the concept of entropy, nor is there one which is more fundamental.”

    So I doubt if we will get the concept of entropy thoroughly digested on these comment pages.

    Now that I have the book open I note Sears also says regarding First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, ” –every process that takes place in Nature,— must proceed in conformity with these two laws.” I rely on this to assert that wind and solar power are under this legal jurisdiction, contrary to some assertions. (Nature of course includes an important source like the sun which I will allow that we on earth can count as free of charge.)

    That being said, I leafed back to the beginning of the chapter to find an explicit statement in this, an established reference, that states that “chemical energy can be converted directly to mechanical energy — in an electrolytic cell.” Of course moving electrons are a form of mechanical energy, but it is amazing how many think otherwise.

    Thus, my frequent statement is validated that electrical energy is indeed a carrier of energy, like mechanical energy in form of a rotating drive shaft of a car is a carrier of energy. It most certainly is not a fuel that must be first made into heat and then converted to mechanical energy.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 7 Nov 2009 @ 6:13 PM

  545. I strongly recommend reading “Entropy Demystified” by Arieh Ben-Naim.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Nov 2009 @ 7:10 PM

  546. Steve (540, 7 November 2009 @ 5:00 PM):

    I am having trouble understanding what your point is so, to be clear– All of the energy released from burning a fossil fuel to move a vehicle (your bullet train example in #512) over some distance, stopped at the same altitude as it started from and cooled down, will have been converted to heat. Do you agree with this, and if not please answer the question, where is the non-heat energy stored?

    In #512, you said– “It was used to do work. Work = F x d, right? Sure, you can equate that to “heat” on paper, but it’s not the kind of heat that goes into making the system’s temperature increase (thermal energy).” — But this is not true. Where is the non-heat energy stored?

    Steve (the fish)

    Comment by Steve Fish — 7 Nov 2009 @ 8:38 PM

  547. Rene post, 7 November 2009 @ 5:09 AM, inserted, delayed, as #522 and, thereby, bumping my #545 down to #546 (and everything else from there on down one #) and my response to Steve’s #540 to #541. Such unnecessary complications.

    Rene:

    What you say may be correct, but the main point is that Raypierre’s analysis of Levitt showed a complete disregard for physical reality. This fact makes anything else he said suspect. If you wish to support whatever Myhrvold has said on his own, this should be the subject of another topic.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 7 Nov 2009 @ 10:52 PM

  548. 545 David B. Benson,

    Thanks, it looks interesting. At present, the readily understandable corollaries that in part explain the relations between heat and mechanical energy, whether it is in the form of moving mass or moving electrons, are adequate to establish the degree of our energy problems.

    My main concerns relate to the fact that releasing vast amounts of heat in the process of making electricity is so widely accepted and even promoted by government action.

    First concern is the fact of government promoting “smart grids” which are smart mostly for window dressing but in reality are intended to improve long distance transmission; and though this is fundamentally a good thing, the effect is more like ultimately perpetuating our system of central power plants where heat can not be used. Thus we reduce loss by a few percent, maybe, and continue to throw away 60% to 70%. And heat thrown away is CO2 emitted without benefit.

    Second concern is government promoting of electric cars with associated batteries. This has little effect regarding CO2. However, it will be very effective in shifting from oil to coal, and though this will be important in foreign affairs, it will encourage energy guzzling by vehicles. And it could have a modest effect on CO2 emissions, the fact that energy guzzling will be very affordable will mean that energy will indeed by guzzled. And imagine trying to stop this once we learn that the taste of power is nearly perpetual due to the availability of cheap coal in vast quantities.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 8 Nov 2009 @ 4:21 AM

  549. RodB:

    Here’s an interesting qualifier: what’s a person called who has no scientific knowledge of climatology but whose opinion is solidly supportive of AGW? A “denier,” I suppose…

    “A person with common sense,” since they’re trusting that the experts in the field know what they’re talking about.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Nov 2009 @ 5:51 AM

  550. Thanks Lynne. Getting closer.

    It’s a little light on facts, mind.

    It says that there are papers saying how biochar can last 2000 years, but is this while it is increasing the plant carbon cycle or just left inert sitting there and doing nothing to the soil.

    My concern is that biochar inserted into the soil to improve it will only sequester a relatively small amount of carbon and therefore be useful only as a stop-gap to buy some time.

    As an agent to increase yields without pouring more chemical wonders on the ground it always made sense, but is this the benefit to concentrate on for this?

    Comment by Mark — 8 Nov 2009 @ 6:19 AM

  551. “what’s a person called who has no scientific knowledge of climatology but whose opinion is solidly supportive of AGW? A “denier,” I suppose”

    No, a believer.

    Why do you suppose it would be denier?

    Comment by Mark — 8 Nov 2009 @ 6:27 AM

  552. “Mark, the part you are missing from the story is subsidies. Germany subsidises solar at a remarkable rate, and US wind investment follows something of a boom-and-bust cycle as subsidies lapse and then are renewed”

    And you’re missing the enormous subsidies for coal, oil and nuclear.

    How can you say with a straight face “you are missing the subsidies” when I’ve talked about that all along?

    Comment by Mark — 8 Nov 2009 @ 6:28 AM

  553. Andrew: “Charcoal is almost pure inorganic carbon. There is no biological process which can metabolize inorganic carbon.”

    Please check the links I gave. They don’t say exactly and precisely how CO2 is produced but it does say it is.

    Maybe that’s why David later on goes to say about half goes back into the cycle within a few decades.

    Comment by Mark — 8 Nov 2009 @ 6:32 AM

  554. Professor,

    You are obviously a talented and intelligent person. You also appear to not be questioning the AGW proponents (I prefer language that doesn’t imply religious or Holocaust references), only those who are intent on questioning the agenda of the AGW crowd.

    Your references cited are Google and Wikipedia. Here’s the great thing about Wiki-land: I can make up something and put in on Wikipedia and people will think it is fact.

    The earth is the greatest organism ever created. For sure, pollution is wrong. For sure, we should reduce carbon output. For sure, Al Gore should downsize his house and stop jetting around on his private jet. However, I think it is obvious that the arrogance of the human species knows no bounds. I’m glad to see that you all think we can destroy a planet based on a few years of data (I say “a few” because the earth is pretty old, isn’t it? Even if we had thousands of years of data, would it be enough? As someone who enjoys numbers, the statistics are pretty ridiculous). But, that’s not even what the chapter is about.

    The case made in the book is for cooling solutions that IGNORE, yes that’s right IGNORES the carbon-reduction solutions. This was done purposefully to focus on a narrow idea. It may even have been purposeful to sell more books (if so, bravo to Levitt and Dubner). The simple fact is that both of these guys believe in AGW, and are attempting to think outside of the box.

    [edit]

    Comment by Mike — 8 Nov 2009 @ 7:41 AM

  555. Ray, any response from Levitt you can share?
    (Did you send him a paper copy by campus mail?)
    I realize any conversation may be off the record.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Nov 2009 @ 9:28 AM

  556. Here’s an interesting tidbit:

    A client of mine actually owns a company that installs solar panels. Now, it is in this guy’s BEST INTEREST that solar energy is efficient. But here’s the kicker – he must disclose to all of his clients that it is incredibly inefficient and won’t do 1/3 of the job that it is supposed to. You won’t be selling any energy back to the grid, you won’t be powering your home. The best you will get is a heated pool. This is REQUIRED by the Department of Energy. Nice, huh?

    This man lives and works in central Florida. That is about as micro as you can get. So all of the theorists out there – here’s practical applications and why they are not working.

    Comment by Mike — 8 Nov 2009 @ 9:30 AM

  557. David #539

    I take your point. There could be several reasons.

    Many of the studies I could find are carried out on the pre-existing charcoal present in the soil. Natural charcoal accumulates in many soils as a result of fire in the covering vegetation. Such fires will decompose organic matter to varying degrees; from barely singed through to pure carbon as charcoal, in many cases all in the same branch or lump of wood. In fact one of the problems of such studies is actually defining what you mean by soil charcoal and how do you measure it. Most natural charcoal fragments in soil contains high levels of organic carbon as measured by physico-chemical means, presumably because of incomplete pyrolysis. In that case I would not be surprised if there is significant loss as CO2.

    In terms of carbon sequestration as ‘biochar’ the question of greater importance is, is the result the same with industrial charcoal produced at rather higher temperatures specifically for sequestration.

    However all the evidence is that it would be possible to store large amounts of carbon as charcoal in soils for very long periods of time, plus it makes good agricultural sense.

    Cheers

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 8 Nov 2009 @ 9:48 AM

  558. #556.

    “But here’s the kicker – he must disclose to all of his clients that it is incredibly inefficient and won’t do 1/3 of the job that it is supposed to. You won’t be selling any energy back to the grid, you won’t be powering your home. The best you will get is a heated pool. This is REQUIRED by the Department of Energy. Nice, huh?”

    Out of interest, what job is it supposed to do that it can only do less than 1/3.

    I can see that if you try to tell the customer that they can power their home and sell power back to the grid with a few cheap little panels that would be a problem. However, you only need to look at your electricity bill to see how much energy you use, and there is a pretty simple formula that tells fairly closely how much energy you are likely to produce per panel. Where is the problem.

    And why on earth would anyone want to heat their pool with electricity generated from solar panels. That really would be stupid.

    Cheers

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 8 Nov 2009 @ 10:02 AM

  559. I’ve asked before for any evidence or explication of this “mark is just mean” meme.

    Tim Lambert essentially chased you out of Deltoid by threatening you with being put into his moderation queue, the first step towards being outright banned.

    Comment by dhogaza — 8 Nov 2009 @ 10:27 AM

  560. > all the evidence
    See my note above on looking things up.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Nov 2009 @ 10:46 AM

  561. 558 Andrew asks, ” why on earth would anyone want to heat their pool with electricity generated from solar panels. ”

    Water heating is done with thermal panels, not PV. Heating a swimming pool in Florida is one of the absolute best ways to utilize solar energy. It can be done with seriously cheap rubber panels since it is low pressure and fairly low temperature.

    Comment by RichardC — 8 Nov 2009 @ 12:21 PM

  562. Mike – From your comments about praise for selling more books by focusing on a narrow idea (even though it is misrepresented) and your apparent disgust over the DOE requiring honest disclosure, it would appear that you hold honesty in low regard.

    Your comments about Wikipedia are not new to any of us; it’s interesting that you seem to confuse Google with the CIA factbook though. There are many other professional scientists here that would be quick to correct the Dr. Pierrehumbert if his data were in error. If you have data you consider superior please present it.

    It is also in your client’s best interests to size systems appropriately for the situation. When done so they power homes. To imply otherwise is misrepresentation.

    Comment by arch stanton — 8 Nov 2009 @ 12:22 PM

  563. “I’m glad to see that you all think we can destroy a planet based on a few years of data…”

    This is wrong on so many levels it’s almost breathtaking.

    No, we don’t all think that. In fact, most of the regular posters here are aware that matter can’t be created or destroyed(a teeny bit, under special circumstances, can be converted to energy – I’ll let someone else find what proportion of a nuclear weapon’s initial mass gets converted to energy, or how much less the fuel rods in a reactor weigh at the end of their life.)

    Some of us might say “destroy” as a short form of “alter the bio/geochemical conditions necessary to support the complex ecological interactions which resulted in a stable population of passenger pigeons and allowed some early men to enjoy grilled mammoth.” That doesn’t mean we don’t know and appreciate the difference between precise, accurate, or succinct, either mathematically or verbally.

    Few of us would use “planet” to lump together elements with disparate physical qualities, especially when the physical qualities are important parameters in determining how they interact. For example, the density of ice, water, the atmosphere, or the Limbaugh wing of the Republican Party is an essential parameter for predicting future climate scenarios.

    Our current understanding of climatology isn’t based on statistical models of “a few years of data”; although the data gets sparser as we look back earlier than such events as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, the physics & math that underpin all of science apply to the entire 4+billion year history of earth (except for a brief period when the Indiana House of Representatives set the value of pi to 3.2, “that the ratio of the diameter and circumference is as five-fourths to four” and the square root of 2 to approximately 1.429, “the ratio of the diagonal and one side of a square which is as ten to seven” – perhaps it might be interesting if Gavin Schmidt were to run the climate models with these, er, “fundamental” values).

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 8 Nov 2009 @ 12:40 PM

  564. @Andrew.

    In central Florida, people heat their pools in the winter. Not really that stupid.

    The problem is that you cannot put enough solar panels on a roof to heat the entire house. Not efficient. Two story? Forget it.

    Every house could try to have solar panels on their lot, but there are trees in the way. Maybe we could cut those down? How’s that for conservation?

    Comment by Mike — 8 Nov 2009 @ 12:59 PM

  565. I left, dog.

    And I notice that you’ve been blocked before too.

    But it’s nice to know you worship me so much you follow me around like this.

    It’s cute.

    Comment by Mark — 8 Nov 2009 @ 1:16 PM

  566. “And why on earth would anyone want to heat their pool with electricity generated from solar panels. That really would be stupid.”

    It would be much smarter to use solar heat to warm the water and then if/when needed, solar electricity to heat the water to a higher temperature.

    Comment by Mark — 8 Nov 2009 @ 1:17 PM

  567. “(I prefer language that doesn’t imply religious or Holocaust references), ”

    But denier is the correct term from BEFORE the holocaust.

    Why do you think it got used there?

    Ergo, there’s no implication of holocaust in the use of denier.

    Comment by Mark — 8 Nov 2009 @ 1:20 PM

  568. The world emits about 21 billion metric tons of CO2/yr from fossil fuels. A medium sized Eucalyptus tree contains the amount of carbon to produce 1.85 metric tons of CO2. So in order to offset fossil carbon emissions it would require the harvesting of 11 billion trees, cook them to carbon, bury the carbon, do something (hopefully useful) with the nasty volatiles, and plant another 11 billion trees every year.

    How much arable land would this take? How much water? How much would the machinery and labor cost? And, I think most troublesome, how would the soil be maintained as nutrients are being removed? This is just a rough example, but it looks to be an enterprise that should not be entered into lightly.

    On the other hand, I am in the process of making biochar to mix with my 40 cubic yard (starting volume) sheep poop and straw compost pile in order to improve my clay soil for a garden and some fruit trees.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 8 Nov 2009 @ 1:28 PM

  569. Andrew Hobbs (557) — Fast pyrolysis produces mostly pyrolysis oils and very little biochar.

    For long term sequestration, I suggest compressing the biochar (like coal) and burying it deep (like coal). Then, I opine, it will last a very long time (liike coal).

    This review (pdf link in the link)
    http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/node/578
    may be of interest.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Nov 2009 @ 2:28 PM

  570. Brian, some outstanding snark there.

    I’d add that we have more than 150 years now of data on the IR spectrography & radiative physics of CO2 and gaseous H20:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-In-The-Age-Of-Queen-Victoria
    (“backgrounder”, profusely illustrated)

    http://wiki.nsdl.org/index.php/PALE:ClassicArticles/GlobalWarming/Article3
    (reprint of original paper)

    And about the same for the Hadley reconstruction fo the instrumental record, IIRC.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 Nov 2009 @ 2:53 PM

  571. Mark (551), “Why do you suppose it would be denier?”

    ’cause that’s pretty much the way you defined “denier.”

    Comment by Rod B — 8 Nov 2009 @ 3:29 PM

  572. Steve Fish (568) — Here is a proposal to grow enough trees:
    Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/55436u2122u77525/

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Nov 2009 @ 4:00 PM

  573. #568 & #569 are putting their fingers on the problem. It is one of the more bizarre suggestions that we continue to dig up real coal while burying artificial coal. While it seems to me rational to produce some biochar from material such as straw or waste from plantation timber that would otherwise just be burnt, the idea of setting out to produce such material on a large scale, by, for example, cutting down mature trees and then planting more, is bizarre. What effects do proponents imagine this would have on biodiversity? In addition, while biochar at some concentrations in some soils may be beneficial, extending this to other soils in high concentrations is certainly questionable. What effect would it have on many of the thin silty soils of Australia for example? Not only on the structure, but on soil organisms, and on the plants adapted to the original soils. This isn’t some benign environmentally costless proposition (in contrast to the obviously loopy idea of pumping chemicals into air and sea) as some people here have suggested. It isn’t just a case of adding some gentle organic matter to soils. All of these “solutions” are just whistling in the wind – there are NO alternatives to reducing energy use and switching to low greenhouse gas energy producers.

    Comment by David Horton — 8 Nov 2009 @ 4:09 PM

  574. Established coal plant efficiency in Germany stands at 38% with modern plants with reduced CO2 at 46%.

    http://interestingenergyfacts.blogspot.com/2009/04/germany-to-have-coal-power-plants-with.html

    Comment by Bill Hunter — 8 Nov 2009 @ 4:51 PM

  575. > Irrigated afforestation

    This has the same basic problem as many other technofixes — you have to keep doing it, and it costs money and uses energy, and if for any reason either the money, the power, or the will fails, the technofix stops. And the problem explodes, metaphorically if not literally.

    PASSIVE COOLING — set it up and forget about it and it still works.
    ACTIVE COOLING — activity costs money, time, and will; they will fail.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Nov 2009 @ 4:59 PM

  576. David Horton (573) — It has to do with the ecnomies of transportation, so it is actually not so bizarre at it first seems. First off, there are three distinct uses of biochar: (1) burn it in place of fossil coal; (2) use as a soil amendment (down to root depth); (3) bury compressed and deep as a milf form of geo-engineering. For purpose (2), read the review in the link provided in comment #569. You will find that biochar improves soils and yields in Australia as well as other locations. For purposes (1) and (3), but possibly some of (2) as well, do read the proposal linked in comment #572.

    While energy efficiency makes sense (especially in the USA and Australia) one form of “low greeenhouse gas” energy producers is, of course, biochar. But the fact remains that for a long time to come fossil coal will be burnt, and in prodigeous quantities. Ways to offset this are offered in the papers linked as described in the previous paragraph.

    Those who have bothered to actually study the matter conclude that for most temperate and tropical soils the application of biochar is not just beneign, but actually beneficial. As for amounts, don’t add too much. But then, calculate just how much carbon would be removed from the active carbon cycle by the application of a biochar layer a mere 8 cm deep and only on the world’s arable lands. As the main trust of this thread states “do the numbers”.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Nov 2009 @ 5:02 PM

  577. Mike (#554), Raypierre uses Wikipedia for the same reason as I do on blogs: it’s accessible to the public. If he (or I for that matter) used papers in Science or Nature or other high-impact journals that can only be read by subscription, you’d have to take his word for it. You do of course have to take his word for it that Wikipedia is not far off what’s in the academic literature (give or take some that is free to read), but plenty of people reading this site know this and do check.

    If you have a high electric heating bill in Florida (#556), you need to buy better insulation, followed by more efficient heating, before you contemplate buying solar. I live in Brisbane (Qld, Australia), which has a similar climate to the milder parts of Florida, and I spend very little on heating.

    The average year-round consumption of my home (a compact townhouse) is 8kWh per day. This is after I cut consumption about 20% by switching to energy efficient lighting and a heat pump for hot water. If I had a bigger roof, I would have gone for solar hot water. I have space on the roof for 1.5kW of PVs; with an average of 4 hours of full sun per day, I can produce 75% of what I currently consume. Even with a net feed-in tariff as we have in Queensland (instantaneously calculated, based on excess over use, at about 3 times the retail price) I will not only cut my electricity bill but make some extra money.

    Tell your client in Florida to do energy audits as part of the process of selling PV systems. Just reading this page of comments would provide a few good hints.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 8 Nov 2009 @ 5:22 PM

  578. #576 David I appreciate your enthusiasm, but the idea of “a biochar layer a mere 8 cm deep” fills me with thoughts of massive unintended consequences on the kind of soils I am most familiar with on the southern tablelands of NSW. On deeper alluvial soils, perhaps, but even then I would be concerned about long term implications for soil organisms (as well as burrowing animals).

    Comment by David Horton — 8 Nov 2009 @ 5:28 PM

  579. 576 David B. Benson

    I tend to agree with David Horton that burning biochar in place of coal is off the mark as a way of reducing CO2. Basically, the biostuff gets completely burned so CO2 is fully released. It really takes combination of carbon and oxygen to make heat. I would guess you could make coalchar out of coal just about the same as biochar. Hm, lets call it “coke.” And though there might be some quibbling about the texture, biochar is really just charcoal.

    But you seem well supported as to the usefulness of burying charcoal, and I see no fault in the basic process. However, the economics of biochar are highly doubtful, in my estimation. That opinion is based on some understanding of the collection process in agriculture (also called harvesting).

    A real analysis has to fully account for labor costs. That seems to be missing.

    An example from the past might illuminate: Iowa farmers have long been successful in farming corn. Those that survived the consolidation only did so because they were effective in mechanizing to reduce labor on ever larger fields. 50 years ago farms were not so big but even then the corn was planted with planting machines, weeds were scraped out with cultivating machines, and harvesting was done with corn picking machines. The manual labor was left to the hogs which were released on the field to gather, by eating, the corn that was left on the field. Nobody had to get down off the tractor except to open and close the gate. And it was desirable then that hogs got really fat.

    How is it now? Looking at the ethanol farms I imagine that the hogs are not even willing to bother with such large fields, and the lean diets now in fashion for hogs probably would make the style conscious hogs cringe at all that corn starch. So a fair amount of good corn probably is left to rot. This is just to give perspective on what people are willing to do with their time. Pigs as well.

    I can report directly that farmers 50 years ago were not very interested in gathering up corn stalks or corn cobs for purposes of heating or anything else known then. Modern culture being what it is, it is hard to imagine that farmers now are more willing to hop out of their air conditioned tractor cabs and gather up the corn stalks. Note that they would be pulling a couple extra wagons behind their corn pickers. Neither is there a large labor pool of willing workers to walk and gather.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 8 Nov 2009 @ 5:52 PM

  580. re 577 Philip Machanick

    Why would they pay you three times the retail rate for your electricity? Are they having difficulty with their cyphers in Australia? (I am kidding.)

    Do they also pay part the cost of installing the PV array like they do for us in California and USA in general? We have difficulty with arithmetic here as well. Our planning is a little off also. We see it as more important that we have solar and wind systems than to have health care or decent education. But we firmly believe in free money that comes from issuing bonds for later folks to pay for in the future, ah that’s the ticket.

    Is there reserve capacity for producing electricity standing ready in Australia from coal powered systems? You folks need to get some electric plug-in cars so that reserve capacity can be tapped! That’s what we are setting up to do here. Don’t worry about the coal. You have plenty as well. Just divert a fraction of that loading for China, Japan, wherever and put it on a train for Melbourne area. As he is doing here, Warren Buffet is probably buying up railroad and coal mining stocks in Australia as we speak. (He calls me every day to talk about how we can get ahold of BHP Billiton’s coal resources.) And then there will be no limit on how fat folks can get since there is no limit on the size of cars to haul them.

    That is the plan here. Whoopee, lets go to Burger King!

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 8 Nov 2009 @ 6:18 PM

  581. I know someone in Virginia who uses solar to heat their pool, and the thing is uncomfortably warm. And why the big concern over heating a house in Fla.?

    Comment by Paul — 8 Nov 2009 @ 6:51 PM

  582. Hank Roberts (575) — Absolutely. And if one stops maintaining wind turbines or solar reflectors, those will stop working as well. Indeed, if one stops planting and havesting crops, then …

    To reverse global warming will require some means of actually removing carbon from the active carbon cycle; irrigated forests in deserts are one rather inexpensive means of doing so.

    David Horton (578) — Obviously the biiochar is worked into the soil up to root depth when used for the purpose of improving yields. My limited understanding of various trials indicates up to 20% biochar is beneficial. You can read about some of the wheat field trials CSIRO did in the linked report. There may well be more recent information from CSIRO. For small plot applications, look though
    http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/
    for soemthing which might be rather similar to your soils.

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. (580) — Burning any biomass is carbon neutral; no carbon is added or subtracted from the active carbon cycle. Indeed, more and more US utilities are meeting their “renewables commitment” by converting coal burners to biomass burners; peanut shells, paper mill wastes, other forestry wastes.

    Yes, biomass collection for this purpose is one of the cost limiting factors. One way to cut down on the cost is to take otherwise unused wood to a nearby torifaction reactor (a form of pyrolysis). The densified material is even called “biocoal” in The Netherlands. In any case, transportation thereafter is very similar to transporting fossil coal. This scheme appears to pay woodlot owners in South Carolina enough to make it worth their while to pick up limbs otherwise too small for other purposes.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Nov 2009 @ 6:52 PM

  583. #561 Richard C and others.

    I know water heating is done with solar water panels. We have a solar water heater and we have year round hot water at virtually no cost for heating. Only on the occasional day in Winter when it has been cloudy for more than a day do we have to use the booster heater.

    However that is not what was implied in Mike’s (#556) original post. He was complaining about “…. solar panels. ….. incredibly inefficient and …… won’t be selling any energy back to the grid, you won’t be powering your home. The best you will get is a heated pool.”

    That seems to me to imply that having installed solar panels to produce electricity all the person will get is a heated pool *from the panels*. Either someone is trying to sell solar water heaters as electricity producers or they are using the electricity to heat water.

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 8 Nov 2009 @ 7:20 PM

  584. #573 David Horton wrote

    “It is one of the more bizarre suggestions that we continue to dig up real coal while burying artificial coal. While it seems to me rational to produce some biochar from material such as straw or waste from plantation timber that would otherwise just be burnt, the idea of setting out to produce such material on a large scale, by, for example, cutting down mature trees and then planting more, is bizarre.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I was originally responding to suggestions that the elemental carbon in charcoal was being metabolized and hence the person couldn’t/wouldn’t believe that it was relatively inert and could last in soil for 1000s of years, yet still play an active part in soil processes.

    However the situation with regard to soil charcoal in Australia is not particularly simple. The regular fire regimes that have existed in most of Australia for at least the last several tens of thousands of years had built up quite high levels of soil charcoal. Conversion to agriculture seems to result in gradual loss of this charcoal from soil. Presumably this is because of the gradual loss due to soil turnover and wind erosion etc with no replacement due to fire suppression or lack of combustable material to form charcoal. As a result the levels in many Australian agricultural soils tends to be very low. I have seen published results of around 0.2%.

    With about 450 Million hectares of agricultural land, one would only need to increase soil charcoal content to 1% to a depth of 10cm, a fairly modest increase, to sequester one year of global carbon release from fossil fuels. Finding the biomass is another matter.

    However surely such schemes only make sense once the world has actually stopped using fossil fuels. With the denial industry in full swing, and the general populace unwilling to rely on experts or even to understand the simplest of arguments (see Monbiot http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/11/02/death-denial/) it seems that trying to get curbs on fossil fuel use are almost doomed to failure. Hopefully at some point before the situation becomes too unpleasant or irredeemable, the climate system will start delivering results that even the most ignorant denier will be unwilling to ignore. At that point you might get some action, and biochar etc makes sense as a means of drawing down carbon dioxide on a rather faster time scale than the thousands of years expected by natural processes.

    Cheers

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 8 Nov 2009 @ 8:13 PM

  585. 582 David Benson

    I get the carbon neutral part but it is not impressive because of the attached labor non-neutral of it all.

    I wonder if the pay to the woodlot owners is not coming from the government. If you really mean sawmills where there are great piles of sawdust, that might work at the collection end.

    But transportation involves both collection and distribution. Once the biostuff is converted to charcoal it has to be spread on fields, and plowed under I guess. This also costs real money and takes real labor to do it.

    Coal wins because it is scooped up by giant machines and dumped into waiting rail cars, all at one location. Then it goes to a single power plant where it is mechanically conveyed to the burners. This is incredibly efficient.

    Unlike most freight, trains work very well for this. However, in general the reasons why trucks haul far more freight than trains is that a cargo only has to be loaded once and unloaded once and the truck can go point to point.

    This is similar to the reason why mass transit will not really work except in dense urban situations.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 8 Nov 2009 @ 8:22 PM

  586. 582 David Benson,

    Where did we get the idea that carbon neutral was a big deal? It seems that this is a pathetic apology for actually failing to accomplish something. And as I was getting at before, carbon neutral with labor negative and money negative is not worth much at all. Maybe it is worth forgetting about. Improving the soil seems like a stretch to rationalize the process, in the real scheme of things.

    On the other hand we have possibilities of very large carbon negative, labor negative, and money negative. (You know how to sort out the negatives and positives.) Why not throw some thinking into that kind of thing. Cars and trucks do not need to waste so much energy to just go down the road. And power plants do not need to be out in the country where the inevitable discharged heat energy has no use of any kind.

    Just in passing, if trucks rolled with the low rolling resistance of trains, the trains would be lost altogether as a means of transportation. Well, maybe not for coal.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 8 Nov 2009 @ 8:35 PM

  587. Mark says:
    “Oh, and Jim B, any evidence or explanation of how you make this assertion “assinine things like this ” in #510 or do you just prefer being rude to people?”

    Let’s get a few things straight right here Mark, because I’m tired of this crap.

    First of all, when it comes to being rude to people, you have absolutely no room whatsoever to speak, as most people here recognize, notwithstanding the fact their various oblique and direct comments to you on the matter go unrecognized. You are in fact, the king of rude on this site.

    As to your specific comment above, yes I most certainly do have an explanation. I have watched as John Burgeson has asked many legitimate and straight-forward questions about climate change, and how he has not only tried to learn here, but also to educate his less-than-convinced friends. By his statements, he has also spent time with the IPCC reports, which is a lot of work, and is a clear sign of interest in the science. In spite of all of this, you, in one fell swoop of opinionated dismissal, write him off as someone who is trying simply to foment doubt by his questions. You know this for sure do you? You know about John Burgeson’s intentions do you? What are you, related to him, or work with him, that you know this with such conviction, you who constantly ask for proof of others’ statements?

    It’s clear from your many responses that you see this forum as a means to shout down those who in any way, express questions or doubts about the science, for whatever reason. In doing so, you are apparently oblivious to the fact that there are many like John, with legitimate questions. Your mistake is that you take all such questions as the concerted effort of the deniers to plant doubt or undermine confidence in the science. Well, believe it or not Mark, many people have legitimate questions without such satanic motives, including scientists themselves. And it is only when we can provide strong, grounded answers, or references to the literature or websites that do, that these people can gain confidence that we do, in fact, have a strong and legitimate basis for our positions.

    As John B correctly pointed out, you operate primarily by sarcasm and put downs, usually expressed in one-liner bullet form. Do you ever stop to consider for one second, what that does to those who have legitimate questions they want answered and that they are completely turned off by such responses? You appear to have no realization of this whatsoever. It doesn’t matter how correct the science is if you insult people and put them down. They’ll oppose you on those reasons alone. And not without some justification.

    So let’s get something very straight right now. If you think this site is your license to insult people because they have questions, and express them, then I am here to tell you that you are doing more harm than good with the way that you treat people here, and are more concerned with your own ego than the good of the broader cause–that being educating people on the truth and importance of this issue. And I will oppose you because of it. The vast majority of people are curious and just want explanations or good references, and if they don’t get them here they will either go elsewhere, or in many cases, forget it all together, or maybe listen to someone who is wrong but at least doesn’t insult them.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 8 Nov 2009 @ 8:42 PM

  588. David B. Benson (~#572, 8 November 2009 @ 4:00 PM):

    I have seen the Sahara/Australia outback tree farm proposal, thus my Eucalyptus example. This is a BIG project with a lot of admitted unknowns, not the least of which are geopolitical and ecological in nature. Most disappointing is their treatment of my (~#568) concern regarding soil quality. Ornstein et al only say– “Desert sands and soils are depleted of soluble nitrogen. As a result, it will probably be necessary to preplant, or interplant with nitrogen-fixing legumes…” So, get your kid’s sand box, plant some beans, and then you will be able to grow a large tree. Pardon the satire, but I am currently struggling with trying to grow some vegetables in the nitrogen depleted forest soil of the northern California coastal range, and if you scaled up what I am having to do for the Sahara, it would not be economically feasible.

    The whole tree farm idea is much more acceptable to me than SO2 pollution, that doesn’t address ocean acidification, or carbon capture sequestration, which just seems… outlandish, so I put it in the same category as generation IV nuclear reactors. We should develop these power plants for the future when we wish to get rid of all the nuclear waste already produced by generation II reactors. The tree farm plan will be useful for bringing down CO2 ppm as, or after, we deal with switching over to renewables to minimize the post peak oil/coal crash, global cooking, and a dead ocean. We don’t need patches, we need to make this whole enterprise sustainable for my descendants.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 8 Nov 2009 @ 8:49 PM

  589. Mark:

    I really, really enjoy your perception and intelligence regarding the topics discussed here. I also really, really support Jim Bouldin’s comments (~#587) regarding how you treat others.

    Please, I really don’t care about your opinions about other posters. I do care about your ideas concerning the science. Use your intellect to decide what is important.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 8 Nov 2009 @ 9:17 PM

  590. That link to Monbiot should be

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/11/02/death-denial/

    Cheers

    Andrew

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 8 Nov 2009 @ 11:45 PM

  591. Re 563 Brian Dodge – nice. But I had been under the impression that the legislation of numerical values to be other than what they are (pi, specifically) hadn’t actually occured, but was a scenario put forth in parody of the political/cultural aversion to the science of biological evolution. Am I wrong? (PS somewhat related, I have read that once upon a time some people resisted recognizing some cetaceans to be mammals because if they were fish, they could be eaten at various times by various people.)

    —————

    biochar – well, maybe the focus should be on the potential agricultural advantages, which could reduce energy use and reduce emissions indirectly (?)

    PS I have also read that putting lint into soil can increase its ability to hold water.

    —————–

    Biofuels as symbiotic with food production:

    From “The Rise of Vertical Farms” by Dickson Despommier, Scientific American, November 2009, p. 86: “studies show that 30 percent of what is harvested is lost to spoilage and infestation during storage and transport”

    Of course, the point of that, in the context of the article, is that there is something significant to be gained by local production of food in vertical farming. And in general, waste is to be mitigated. But add that 30 % to what cannot be harvested, what must be recalled, the inedible peels and shells, what is thrown away, what can’t be scraped off the muffin wrapper, used coffee grounds and frying oil, etc, and there could be a significant biofuel source. It competes with food to the extent that the incentive to make food production less wasteful is reduced, but it could make food production itself less expensive if that waste can be converted economically to a valuable byproduct (and maybe reduce the incentive to pretend that food is safe when it likely is not); there will always be some waste in food production for the forseeable palatable future.

    (If for ever (*kilo)calorie consumed by humans (not counted the part that goes into the sewer?) were matched by a (*kilo)calorie (~ 4000 J, rounded) of biofuel (possibly including sewage), and people got 2000 (*kilo)calories per day, that would be about 8,000,000/86,400 W ~= 92.6 W (~ 1 % of U.S. primary (fuel equivalent) power per capita), per person, or about 741 W/person during the winter for the half of all people (tropical countries selling biofuel to temperate regions), or about 1481 W/person for half the population for 12 hours (majority of the night) of each winter day.

    Oh, what about the feed for livestock that gets spoiled, etc… (Of course, in order to continue (as if it were being done already – although much hunger now could be avoided if only wars were ended, as I understand it, but I’m not an expert on this) feed everybody, some proportions may need to change…)

    —————–

    Afforestation of the Sahara – I’m concerned about the albedo effect. Aside from global average changes, what would such a concentration of effect (or was this for illustrative purposes, as was the black rectangle representing the area of solar panels) do to atmospheric circulation patterns?

    (I don’t remember what area was given for this. Back-of-the-envelope: A 1 million km2 area with an albedo reduction from 0.3 to 0.15, recieving 250 W/m2, would have a heating effect of 37.5 W/m2, which divided by 500 would approximate the global average effect, about 0.075 W/m2. Okay, that’s small enough. But if you used the entire Sahara, you’d be over half a W/m2, which is small compared to the total anthropogenic forcings, but is significant. *IF* 1 kg of C were fixed (net) per m2 per year, 1 million km2 would sequester 1 Gt of C. So over sufficient time, the benifit could outweigh the cost in terms of global average radiative forcing, provided sufficient time until C storage is steady state, although biochar could be produced at such time.)

    And what about water vapor? If land that was dry, in contact with dry air, is irrigated, this will have a cooling effect at the surface that is balanced by heating elsewhere (increased latent heating in the air or reduced evaporation downwind caused by increased humidity), but this will also tend to increase the water vapor in the atmosphere (while not changing water vapor equilibrium concentration, adding water vapor to air upwind of where it would otherwise have been added from a wet surface should tend to increase the residence time of the water vapor, or if greater spatial extent of humid air results in greater average precipitation, the residence time might not rise so much but the total amount will still tend to have increased. Of course, vertical distribution matters – if the circulation patterns did not change, then – assuming very little dry deep convection from the surface (which makes sense given the tropospheric tendency toward a moist adiabatic lapse rate) the residence time will have increased but mainly just in the boundary layer, since the air still has to move to wherever it would have otherwise picked up water vapor and then to where it would rise higher into the troposphere… But moist convective processes may tend to be pulled back toward the moisture source particularly given the albedo effect of afforestation (vegetation feedback on rainfall) – in that case, would the changing circulation patterns result in drying trends elsewhere (since all upward motion requires downward motion somewhere, which tends to be dry given precipitation of water associated with ascent) to counteract the trend in humidity where vegetation and evapotranspiration were increased (??). I haven’t read of any significant global effect of irrigation before (??), but has irrigation ever occured to cause such a large change over such a large area?)

    (Ballpark figure for desalination (assuming we’re not growing Mangroves): 3 MPa (rounded up from osmotic pressure of sea water)* 1 m^2 * 1 m = 3 MJ/m3. If 1 m evaporated per year, then this is an energy requirement of ~ 0.1 W/m2 (plus some additional energy for inefficiency of desalination, and pumping, etc.); that’s 100 GW of power for a million km2.)

    While some reforestation and maybe afforestation could be advisable, might it be more economical overall to pursue clean energy, efficiency, and for sequestration, carbonate mineral production from accelerated weathering of silicate minerals (in situ or dispersed over the ocean, land, or air, etc.)?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Nov 2009 @ 11:45 PM

  592. Re 580 Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co

    But we don’t have to pursue
    electrification
    …. of transportation
    ………. in isolation.

    Depending on the economics of electric vehicles, it may be more economical to replace the entire fossil fuel mix with renewables than to only replace non-transportation energy with renewables. Okay, you can get economic savings again by just making transportation very efficient, but if you do that, why would there be a significant problem with plug-ins at that point (efficiency would reduce the need for batteries).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 9 Nov 2009 @ 12:10 AM

  593. Thanks Steve. The issue I have is that people seem to think I *prefer* being rude.

    I don’t.

    It would be GREAT not to feel that the only way to drive a point home is with a metaphorical sledgehammer.

    But isn’t complaining about the way I treat others you giving your opinion about other posters (I.e. me) and rather the obverse of what you ask me to do?

    That missing of the obvious is why I am going on about this: it’s another example of a bad argument.

    And as Hank posted here before with a comic link, education which when you’re a grown up is about working out a good argument is the aim and ignorance the enemy. Not pro AGW or anti AGW, but the good arguments for and against.

    And the one-sidedness of the complaints of me are an example of ignorance. Look at what you ask of me and see if you’re doing it too.

    [Response: This conversation, and the style of postings that provoked it, are a monumental distraction. We require a certain degree of civility on this site, and as I indicated above, I'm tired of editing and moderating comments that should have been thought about for more than 1 micro-second before being posted. Here are the rules (for everyone): be nice, be substantive, or don't bother. - gavin]

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 3:46 AM

  594. “I tend to agree with David Horton that burning biochar in place of coal is off the mark as a way of reducing CO2. Basically, the biostuff gets completely burned so CO2 is fully released. It really takes combination of carbon and oxygen to make heat.”

    I think your mistake is thinking this burning is done to produce heat.

    It isn’t. Just char.

    Charcoal is burned in a hut with minimal O2 allowed in and that banked down. But that’s not where charcoal is burned. That’s just where it’s made/prepared.

    Charcoal is burned in a furnace or oven where there’s plenty of O2 and THERE the heat is extracted, this time without any of the water that reduces the temperature you can get.

    So biochar doesn’t WANT heat produced. Lack of O2 isn’t a problem.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 3:59 AM

  595. David B: “For long term sequestration, I suggest compressing the biochar (like coal) and burying it deep (like coal). Then, I opine, it will last a very long time (liike coal).”

    And that was my thought: that biochar buried well outside the active soil area would last the 2000 years attributed to it, even with water leeching but that this doesn’t say it would last 2000 years buried at root depth.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 4:04 AM

  596. Apologies if this is a little off to one side but is their any ready reckoner for differing emissions trajectories and concentrations?

    Bearing in mind the “average” hundred year periodicity of CO2 if, purely for argument’s sake, all anthropogenic emissions of CO2, CH4 were to cease tomorrow, how long would it be before concentrations returned to the 280 level that is probably non-forcing?

    I ask because it seems clear that oceans will continue to heat even if we stabilise at 450 and it won’t be until we get below about 280 that we can expect that accumulated insolation to start dissipating.

    Is this right?

    Comment by Fran Barlow — 9 Nov 2009 @ 4:09 AM

  597. Oh, and Jim, please go back and reread the post made on Burgy’s posts:

    “I am skeptical…I doubt that…”

    Which came up just after Rene started yibbering on about how denier was all wrong and Burgy “bought in” to the idea.

    1) Oddly enough, “skeptical” wasn’t acceptable to John in that case. It HAD to be “because Mark likes being rude”. But surely that is what opens up the difference between “skeptic” and “denier”. The denier is more concentrated on how it couldn’t be. Just as “I am skeptical” from me there was pointing out how John could be fronting for deniers. And just as you and several others are pointing out how I’m just mean
    2) Everyone, and that includes me, missed it. I chose my words with purpose and then got dragged into side arguments off it.

    Oh, and your explanation (to head off that line) is about what YOU see in John’s posts. It’s explaining we have a different opinion but doesn’t explain why yours is right and mine definitely wrong.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 4:27 AM

  598. 595
    Mark says:
    9 November 2009 at 4:04 AM

    “And that was my thought: that biochar buried well outside the active soil area would last the 2000 years attributed to it, even with water leeching but that this doesn’t say it would last 2000 years buried at root depth.”

    Firstly, I think you mean leaching.

    But to the issue of carbon sequestration in soils: there is no need for carbon whether as biochar or as sequestered carbon as a soil improvement to be kept out of the biotic zone. CSS receives a lot of research effort in Australia and the research indicates that improving the soil carbon (whether it is reactive or not) by as little as 15% can account for a greater proportion of Australia’s carbon emissions.

    Just google Carbon+sequestration+soil

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 9 Nov 2009 @ 8:56 AM

  599. “Firstly, I think you mean leaching.”

    Yeah.

    “Just google Carbon+sequestration+soil”

    I did.

    All I got was a mix of half statements.

    Others have posted on here (578, 582 etc) that this isn’t as cut and dried as some on here like to make it and all the references talk about how char can last a long time when buried and that if it’s at root level it can increase fecundity of the soil.

    But nothing really about the long lasting char at root level.

    Hence my point.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 9:27 AM

  600. The other thing about biochar–or, speaking more correctly, terra preta, which includes the biochar, but also microbial cultures and perhaps other soil amendments–is that it apparently regenerates in situ. Seems incredible, but apparently the bacteria sequester carbon, too.

    Here’s a report–it’s actually footnote 7 from the Wikipedia article on terra preta–based on a symposium at the University of Georgia:

    http://www.eprida.com/hydro/yahoo2004.htm

    For those who’d rather not go haring off, here’s the short version from the Wiki article “Terra Preta”:

    “Terra preta soils are of pre-Columbian nature and were created by humans between 450 BC and AD 950. The soil’s depth can reach 2 metres (6 feet). Thousands of years after its creation it has been reported to regenerate itself at the rate of 1 centimetre per year by the local farmers and caboclos in Brazil’s Amazonian basin, and they seek it out for use and for sale as valuable compost.”

    Rather nice to think that humans can also make long-lasting ecological changes for the better once in a while. (Even if the “thousands of years” characterization is a bit hyperbolic–clearly it’s only “hundreds of years.”)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 Nov 2009 @ 9:32 AM

  601. For some sober reading take a look at noaa.gov arctic report card link-http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/atmosphere.html
    Under atmosphere and mean air temps going back to 1900. Take a look at the graphic..am I the only one expecting a new record air temp for the 2010 northern summer and a corresponding record shrinkage of summer ice area. The graphic is pretty convincing isn’t it! This site is my one-stop shop for arctic conditions analysis.
    Congratualtions! Gavin for a timely mention in Science daily re: your greenhouse gasses interactions study.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 9 Nov 2009 @ 9:37 AM

  602. Mark,

    “Heck, the Danes pay less than $2500 per kW for turbines. Australia doesn’t pay that much.

    Someone is gypping PHG. Probably by spinning “Oh, it’s so risky to have a new style of power source so we need a 2 year ROI rather than 10 that you get from coal…”.”

    To give you some further perspective on our project, 35% of the cost of $2500/kw is contained
    in the installation labor and cranes, foundations, grounding, 34.5 kV collector system, 34.5/240 kV
    substation, 240 kV transmission line, fiber optic based SCADA system, wind farm voltage control system,
    cold weather package and extended warranty.

    Now I can also slap a single turbine in a local farmers field, connect to a 25 kV distribution line
    and reduce the installed cost to around $1800 to $1900/kw. One could also select lower cost turbines
    such as fixed blade induction generators as compared to double fed induction generators or full convertor generators albeit with reduced efficiency and loss of certain control features.

    In terms of the ROI, we evaluate projects based on a ratio of the net present value of cash flow generated
    divided by the net present value of maintenance and operating expenses plus capital costs. For renewable projects we would like to just make money, ie: a ratio of 1 to 1.1 which gives at most a 10% ROI or
    roughly a 10 year payback.

    Wind turbines are evaluated over a 20 year period as that is the maximum lifetime the manufacturers will certify. Some will extend to 25 years after inspection of the tower and foundations to ensure there is no
    fatigue cracking etc.

    I’m not familiar with Australian installations but have looked a bit at the wind industry in Denmark,
    primarily because of the high ratio installed wind capacity. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to sort
    out specific pricing because Denmark decided to go the subsidy route to encourage not only local
    installation of wind turbines but also to develop an export market in turbines, which they appear
    to have been very successful at. Also Denmark is geographically small, with a much denser population
    and with strong utility connections to Sweden/Norway and Germany. I would expect them to have a lower
    installed cost for those reasons alone.

    “There’s actually a heck of a lot to be done making turbines that respond better to low wind conditions.”

    Possibly, although it would be site specific. Our wind regime is a Class II category with an average
    wind speed of 8.5 m/s. The turbine is designed to reach peak efficiency at the average wind speed, at
    higher speeds the turbine blades are adjusted to maintain a constant power output up to the cutout speed
    of 20 to 22 m/s where the turbine shuts down to avoid damaging mechanical stresses. The cut in speed
    is 3 to 3.5 m/s but the amount of power and time at those low speeds are minimal. To move to a lower
    speed would require longer rotor diameters and compromise performance at higher wind speeds.

    There’s a lot of work to make them fit in new niches (e.g. ducted turbines in city streets, to annul the wind farm problem of distance from energy source to energy sink).

    There is always arguements about which approach is the best distributed generation close to the load versus larger scale wind farms. To maximize the output of the turbine it needs to be sited away from adverse effects such as local geographic features which may contribute to turbulence. Hence the 65 to 100 m towers and
    spacing to reduce wake losses. Ultimately to reach any kind of high percentage of penetration of wind
    into a generation mix I believe the large wind farm is the best approach although there is nothing
    wrong with smaller scale wind turbine installations as well.

    Comment by PHG — 9 Nov 2009 @ 9:51 AM

  603. > reported to regenerate itself … they seek it out for use and for sale

    That sounds like wishful thinking. A claim that the surface rises slightly isn’t proof even of the observation; it’s certainly no basis to claim that anything “regenerates in situ” by biological activity and shouldn’t be extrapolated into claims that bacteria are doing anything in particular.

    Take off an overburden, underlying material may expand when exposed to more air and water, even by roots growing into the material. Occam’s razor here.

    I vaguely recall the earliest miners believed the metal ores grew back too.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Nov 2009 @ 9:57 AM

  604. Patrick 027, the Indiana legislature did in fact pass a law setting pi at 3.2. IIRC, this was primarily in response to lobbying (and suspected bribery) from a textbook publisher who mistakenly made pi = 3.2 in a textbook destined for Indiana schools, and didn’t want to bear the expense of reprinting. Lasted for a couple of years, as I recall. Not perfectly relevant here, other than another reminder that science is not perfectly shielded from non-science forces.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Nov 2009 @ 9:58 AM

  605. This post mischaracterizes what the book says about the problem with solar cells. Its point is that their production generates lots of carbon dioxide. Note that the post does NOT quote the book— a deliberate omission? For the quote— and its context— see
    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/are-solar-panels-really-black-and-what-does-that-have-to-do-with-the-climate-debate/#more-20177

    [Response: See here, and here. - gavin]

    Comment by Eric Rasmusen — 9 Nov 2009 @ 10:01 AM

  606. PHG I would have thought that, although Australia may be somewhat cheaper for some of those elements, the Danes reckon 1500 euros installed. Average costs is hard to figure out because any tenable period for finding a reliable average is long enough to show some considerable change in the technology.

    But Denmark, if anything, would be higher in those costs than the US.

    PS The ideas put forward have been to place them high up along the mainly rectilinear streets of a US city and use the buildings to duct winds into a more effective and constant flow.

    I’d find that oddly disturbing myself seeing a turbine that’s wide enough to cross the street sitting that high up. But ideas abound.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 10:14 AM

  607. Oh, and some info on gridding up wind power:

    http://news.slashdot.org/story/09/11/08/1911234/Tech-Allows-Stable-Integration-of-Wind-In-the-Power-Grid?art_pos=12

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 10:46 AM

  608. A few comments on biochar-

    I Have found Biochar for Environmental Management: Science and Technology, edited by: Lehman, Joseph, (2009) to be an excellent compendium of well documented essays mostly written to higher standards than what you typically find on the internet. You can read most, if not all of it on line trough Google Books here:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=w-CUty_JIfcC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    General comments:

    In contrast to a couple previous comments biochar (charcoal) is produced by heating wood in the absence of oxygen. It drives of the aromatics which are themselves combustible and leaves relatively pure carbon. This reaction can be done in primitive relatively low efficient ways involving traditional kilns in which the energy for the reaction is derived by directly burning part of the feedstock, or it can be done using any of several rather high-tec methods in which all or part of the energy required is provided by outside sources. By manipulating the temperature and time (heat gradient) the output can be maximized for either biochar or condensate “bio-oil” that can be used as a liquid fuel. If all you want from the reaction is biochar the volatile gasses can be feed back to heat the containment vessel and make the reaction reasonably self- sustaining, possibly also with the collection of a small amount of condensate.

    There are a couple economic analyses given in the book. They are not particularly rosy and the admittedly contain many assumptions. Basically the general conclusions that I got from them was: IF you have a source of cellulose that would be burned anyway (logging debris for example). AND you can process it locally (with 50 km is used as an example) to avoid transportation costs. AND you can use it locally (it is much lighter than the raw material so “locally” in this case is somewhat greater than within 50 km). AND you incorporate it efficiently into fields (that would be plowed anyway). AND you consider the subsequent increase in productivity, it MIGHT be economically feasible if some form of carbon credit subsidy is allowed for the sequestration of the carbon (that would have been burned).

    How long it lasts in the soil is dependent upon many things. It is fairly inert. Some of it breaks down quickly; some of it is very stable and lasts for centuries. Part if it oxidizes directly to CO2, part of it is incorporated into the various humeric acids in the soil that can in themselves last for a century or longer. In one study a couple of years ago in northern boreal forests, biochar’s addition to the (rich) soil was actually found to increase the rate of decomposition of the (carbon rich) humus already in the soil.

    I am by no means an expert on the topic. I do encourage interested parties to review the book however. The essays are written from a variety of perspectives on a variety of topics.

    Comment by arch stanton — 9 Nov 2009 @ 10:50 AM

  609. FYI, nominations for the 2009 Weblog Awards are open, and RealClimate has a few noms for Best Science blog: http://2009.weblogawards.org/nominations/best-science-blog/. You might want to visit and show RC some love.

    Please don’t re-nominate, just click the little + button — this demonstrates that we can read instructions, unlike the WUWT posters.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 9 Nov 2009 @ 11:54 AM

  610. Rod B, 607 I believe it was legislated because the Bible said it was 3.2.

    http://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/humor/pi.htm

    This is the origin of the strange wording by Patrick (The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible shows where it says this in the bible quite clearly)

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 12:09 PM

  611. OK, not 3.2. Wonder where I got that from? Maybe the Alabama hoax legislation or another attempt to show up local legislators lacking clues.

    The Indiana one didn’t get very far anyway.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 12:14 PM

  612. Eric, 605: the book mentions both production emissions and this waste heat issue. A reader of the book would have no idea whatsoever that the latter was such a triviality, so the context of the book does not help your case. The production issues are also not as daunting as a reader might take away from the book.

    The authors felt the need to write a few sentences about this issue. They should have actually given some quantitative analysis on their points, instead of leaving it with some hand-waving, giving the impression that the problems were worse than they actually are.

    Comment by tharanga — 9 Nov 2009 @ 12:18 PM

  613. If you want to reach the same “vote” comment for RealClimate, follow this link: http://2009.weblogawards.org/nominations/best-science-blog/index.php#comment-21078

    Comment by Ben Lawson — 9 Nov 2009 @ 12:22 PM

  614. RE: #609

    As amusing as it was to see a bunch of ‘me-too-me-three-me-seventy-seven’ comments from Anthony’s mob, I’m not keen on the idea of the Best Science Blog becoming a contest on which climate site has the most fans who give a toss about internet polls.

    [Response: Actually, I think it would be most illuminating if it came down to a race between the obvious (denialdepot) and the not-so-obvious (WUWT) parody science sites. It would clearly underline the difference between actual science and populism.- gavin]

    Comment by Bud — 9 Nov 2009 @ 12:34 PM

  615. Gavin, I know it’s house policy not to trumpet your own publications, but the blogosphere is drawing odd conclusions from your group’s paper in Science, “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions.” It gives some interesting analysis of atmospheric chemistry and methane’s interactions with other forcings, but via Al Gore and Newsweek, the blogosphere has turned it into ‘now they say CO2 is not important, after all’. Perhaps some comment is in order.

    [Response: Yes, I noticed. Plus it got both Pielkes and Watts to say something nice about our work with climate models (at least implicitly). I do have a post on various methane related topics in the works (including some discussion of our Science paper), so we can discuss it then. - gavin]

    Comment by tharanga — 9 Nov 2009 @ 1:00 PM

  616. http://www.google.com/search?q=state+legislature+value+pi+equals

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Nov 2009 @ 1:21 PM

  617. Hank, I’m reporting what the source said, not speculating myself (well, maybe a little with the bacterial activity bit.)

    See:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/u33m751062372lr2/

    and

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/081119-lost-cities-amazon_2.html

    Neither specifically addresses the regeneration question. However, the NatGeo link has this:

    The terra-preta charcoal, called biochar, attracts certain fungi and microorganisms.

    Those tiny life-forms allow the charcoal to absorb and retain nutrients that keep the soil fertile for hundreds of years, said Woods, whose team is among a few trying to identify the crucial microorganisms.

    “The materials that go into the terra preta are just part of the story. The living member of it is much more,” he said.

    For one thing, the microorganisms break up the charcoal into smaller pieces, creating more surface area for nutrients to cling to, Woods said.

    Possibly this dovetails with your idea of mechanical expansion via root action. But it definitely goes to the long-term stability–and, more, fertility–of the soil, whether or not it actually regenerates as claimed. (BTW, I was wrong to sniff at the “thousands of years” claim in the Wiki article, too–I’d misread the “450 BCE,” which does indeed give ages of over 2,000 years for these anthropogenic soils.

    But the takeaways ought to be that 1) the terra preta is effective and long-lasting as an amendment for tropical soils, 2) that there seems to be good support for the idea that it can be effective in sequestering carbon over a timescale of centuries to millenia, and 3) that it can be done cheaply and without much technology.

    Or so I read it.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 Nov 2009 @ 1:28 PM

  618. I know this is off topic but I’m not sure when it would be appropriate.

    I’ve been following the discussions here for the past 18 months. Not having any degree in science (100 level biology course) I still enjoy science.

    I first became aware of the issue of Global Warming in a December 1988 edition of Time magazine while I was visiting Australia for its sesqui sentenial. Back in those days, as I remember only a minority of scientists bought into the idea. Over the years I’ve seen the majority of researchers in the different fields come more and more to accept the idea that man made CO2 is playing havoc with our world.

    I think what we need IMHO is an interesting narrative that explains how we got to the point of consensus. There were obviously many scientists in all different disciplines from engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, geology just to mention a few. Those doubting researchers then ran data and experiments that brought them to believe it as well. Make it an interesting and dramatic a story as possible(Sex it up)without using all the scientific facts that make peoples eyes glaze over! It might make it more compelling and easier for people to accept it. Just a thought.

    Comment by Dale — 9 Nov 2009 @ 1:59 PM

  619. Mark,

    “Oh, and some info on gridding up wind power:”

    Yes, being able to accurately predict wind is key to successful integration.

    There is an ongoing program in our area to accomplish the same thing.

    Thanks for the link, a good news story.

    Regards.

    Comment by PHG — 9 Nov 2009 @ 1:59 PM

  620. Dr. Woods’ publication record is here:

    http://www2.ku.edu/~geography/peoplepages/Woods_W.shtml#pubs5

    Certainly a productive researcher. . .

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 Nov 2009 @ 2:05 PM

  621. Dale, I’m at work on such a project, more or less. It’s a series of articles, already familiar to a goodly number of readers on this site. Start here.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 Nov 2009 @ 2:09 PM

  622. Dale, try this.

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm

    Comment by Mark — 9 Nov 2009 @ 2:19 PM

  623. In #609, the following:
    “FYI, nominations for the 2009 Weblog Awards are open, and RealClimate has a few noms for Best Science blog: http://2009.weblogawards.org/nominations/best-science-blog/. You might want to visit and show RC some love.

    Please don’t re-nominate, just click the little + button — this demonstrates that we can read instructions, unlike the WUWT posters.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 9 November 2009 @ 11:54 AM”

    Thanks for the pointer — I went over there and gave RealCimate.org another vote. I was struck by how many votes Wattsupwiththat got!

    Note to Mark: I am not suggesting that latter site is to be taken seriously.

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 9 Nov 2009 @ 2:20 PM

  624. Mark: Rod B, 607 I believe it was legislated because the Bible said it was 3.2.

    BPL: There is no such passage in the Bible. Some people take a verse in I Chronicles to mean the Bible says pi = 3 because the chronicler describes Solomon’s molten pool as being 10 cubits across and 30 around, but there’s no reason to think the chronicler wasn’t simply giving an approximate figure. He was praising his king, not explaining mathematics, which he may well not have known anything about. The Hebrews had lived among the Egyptians, who estimated pi = 3.16, and the Babylonians, who estimated pi = 3.12. They would have used one or the other of those.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 Nov 2009 @ 2:54 PM

  625. Andrew Hobbs (584) — Of course it is not at all bizarre when transportation costs are taken into account. It may make perfectly good sense for the coal user to pay to have carbon offsets done on another continent, for example. If the carbon offsets include the prepartion and burying of biochar, that is a fairly local operation, avoiding significant transportatin costs.

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. (585) — The change in South Carlina does not invovle any payments from govenements. The privately owned utility company, Souther Power(?), pays the woodlot owners for the torrified wood to burn in their 400 MW burner being converted from a coal burner while being relicensed. Sources such as sawdust have largely been in use for decades, at leat in Maine and around here; point sources of fuel are lower coast, so used all the sooner.

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. (586) — Carbon neutral is a h**l of a big deal because right now the world economy is heavily carbon positive. With the hoped-for eventual replacement of coal burners by renewables, afforestation and biochar burial projects then contribute to being carbon negative. The sooner that happens, the better IMO.

    Steve Fish (588) — I believe the lack of soil nitrogen is thought, in the Ornstein et al. paper, to begin by first planting a crop of acacias.

    Patrick 027 (591) — I believe all those issues are addressed in the linked Ornstein et al. paper; the pdf is open access so everyone can read it.

    Mark (595) — THe previously linked report directs one to cases where the buried carcoal has lasted far longer than a mere 2000 years. The one case I recall, possibly not in the report, is charcoal deeply buried in the Ukraine, estimated to be about 40,000 years old.

    Richard Steckis (598) — Then by all means go for it!

    Kevin McKinney (600) — THere is a big difference between biochar, a form of mostly carbon, and terra preta, a soil including a larger than usual fraction of carbon, just from charcoal originally. Yes, it is possible for people to build soils rather than just deplete; good gardiners and farmers do it all the time. Putting some biochar into soils, most soils anyway, certainly helps to build soil amount and quality.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 9 Nov 2009 @ 2:56 PM

  626. To Dale: (#618) — The book by Weart comes close to your wishes; perhaps though it is a bit too technical.

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 9 Nov 2009 @ 2:57 PM

  627. Sorry — the Weart book is THE DISCOVERY OF GLOBAL WARMING, by Spencer R. Weart, 2008. I just looked at it again — I suspect most people high school and above would have no trouble with it.

    Gavin Schmidt’s book, just issued, CLIMATE CHANGE is another possibility. More up to date than Gore’s AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 9 Nov 2009 @ 3:24 PM

  628. Regarding weather changes from an open arctic from Lawrence Coleman in 601:

    You’ve brought up a good pointer to what I feel may be a huge “unknown unknown”. It strikes me that having all the extra energy absorbed “on top of the world” and expressed as warm and humid air that goes *somewhere* has to change normal weather patterns somewhere.

    If anyone has reference to any papers/models/studies on this effect I’d love to see them.

    Comment by David Miller — 9 Nov 2009 @ 3:32 PM

  629. Regarding significant percentages of “biochar” disappearing in the first few years:

    Has anybody seen studies of this? My guess is that the actual carbon would be very stable because it’s not part of any normal metabolic processes and doesn’t oxidize outside a fire.

    What’s usually called “biochar”, however, contains a percentage of ash containing water soluble minerals. These minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium) would either leach out or be taken up by plants; it’s natural they’d be lost.

    Comment by David Miller — 9 Nov 2009 @ 3:36 PM

  630. > Has anybody seen studies of this?

    David, look back in the thread a dozen or two responses, I posted an example of how to search, and an example of one paper from the search results. You can find this, if you use Google or Scholar.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Nov 2009 @ 3:45 PM

  631. I followed up on the terra preta question via an email to Dr. Bill Woods, who is cited as the authority on the subject. I was startled to promptly receive a brief but pleasant note stating, among other things, the following:

    “Basically, the situation is that the microorganisms and fungi in the terra preta thrive, live and die, and produce biofilms on the minute surfaces of the soil particles and thus darken the soil again if 20 cm or so are left after the mining operation. All soils do this if there is sufficient life and nutrients. It’s just not common in the tropics.”

    So there is a regenerative process of some sort; it’s not clear to me just what, exactly, is being regenerated, other than the dark color and the enhanced fertility; nor what that means for the question of carbon sequestration. I’m hoping more information will be forthcoming. If so, I’ll update RC.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 Nov 2009 @ 3:54 PM

  632. 625 David Benson,

    If you owe a bank a million dollars and it is due tomorrow, no one is going to be impressed by you working really hard today to raise $100. Your day will be “money negative” in the sense of the “carbon negative” way of talking. You might claim you did not hurt anything and actually could get credit for the $100 on your, but the money collector will come around just the same.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 9 Nov 2009 @ 9:03 PM

  633. @Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 November 2009 11:45 PM

    According to a reliable source, http://www.doe.in.gov/legal/docs/quarterly_reports/1997_octdec.pdf (and by reliable, I mean “something I found quickly on the internet at a site which probably is maintained by people who don’t have a vested interest in lying to me, and whose statements can actually be easily cross checked”, not “something I’d bet more than a case of beer on”), the House passed the bill, but “According to newspaper accounts, Senators treated the bill as an occasion for frivolity, making numerous jokes and puns at the bill’s expense,” letting it die. But yeah, I woulda used it even if it’s only an urban legend.

    According to “ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND DESALINATION AT THE PERTH SEAWATER DESALINATION PLANT,” Richard Stover, Gary Crisp, the real life energy requirements are 3kwh/m^3. Assuming I got my math right, this works out to ~83m^3/GJ, so your “back of the envelope” calculation is optimistically inaccurate, but within a factor of ~4. “The Water Footprint of Energy Carriers”, Winnie Gerbens-Leenes, Arjen Y. Hoekstra and Theo van der Meer states that the “Water Footprint” of crops in the US averages 60m^3/GJ, and corn only requires 18m^3/GJ, sugarcane 30m^3/GJ.This would imply that some crops could produce the energy required to desalinate the water required to grow them. Gerbens-Leenes figures show a worldwide range of water use from 9m^3/GJ yield for maize in the Netherlands to 356m^3/GJ for cotton in Zimbabwe, so there are clearly places where the crop-biofuel-electricity-desalination-irrigation won’t work, but with the right crop and careful attention to maximizing yield, irrigation effectiveness, and conversion efficiencies, farming could generate its water requirements from biopowered desalination. In “Feasibility of Biomass Energy Production to Support Local Water Self-Sufficiency” from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, they propose using the existing allocation of water to the Imperial Valley to grow crops which would be used to generate electricity which would be used to desalinate seawater for the LA-San Diego area. Their calculations show that the electrical power for desalination would only be about 50% higher than the powered required to pump the water over the mountains, and wouldn’t require construction of new aqueducts, pipelines, pump stations. It would also provide an economic boost to the Imperial valley, not incur job losses which would occur with reallocation of the water to the coast, and reduce the fossil carbon footprint of supplying water for future urban growth.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 9 Nov 2009 @ 9:46 PM

  634. David B. Benson ~#625, 9 November 2009 @ 2:56 PM):

    I have read the proposal, no need to repeat. Acacia was secondary to the suggested legumes. I repeat, Ornstein et al state that growing legumes/Acacia will make “sand” suitable for growing Eucalyptus. Are you defending this?

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 9 Nov 2009 @ 10:36 PM

  635. #633 … and require somewhere to dispose of the salt other than dumping it on land or sea.

    Comment by David Horton — 9 Nov 2009 @ 10:46 PM

  636. Jim Bullis #580: we have some truly
    weird stuff in Australia. First, the feed-in tariff is paid for by a
    tiny increase in general electricity tariffs. Second, the government
    has will lend you up to $10k (AUD, about USD9k) @ 0% for home
    energy efficiency and clean power. Third, they allow you to claim 5
    times the actual energy value of your solar power in renewable energy
    certificates (aka phantom RECS). The first 2 make some kind of sense;
    phantom RECS don’t. Investing tens of billions of dollars in a big
    expansion of coal export infrastructure as is happening here makes
    even less sense.

    As for battery cars, I presume you are talking about vehicle to grid
    (V2G): a nice idea, but the car batteries need to be designed for this
    sort of discharge and recycle pattern, and you need a good fraction of
    the population to have their cars plugged in over peak demand (nice
    for power utilities: the last 1% of demand costs 100x the cheapest
    power). The best way to achieve that is to leave most of them at home
    over the working day, i.e., high use of public transport. That adds
    another potentially nice feature. If you have electric trains and
    buses with battery backup, they can run on the grid when power is
    cheap and plentiful and switch to battery when it’s not.

    If anyone thinks this is totally OT, let me add: this is the kind of
    stuff economists should be talking about, not misinterpreting the
    science to stir controversy as a shabby tactic to sell a book.

    On http://2009.weblogawards.org/nominations/best-science-blog/
    there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to click “+” on every instance
    of a nominated blog. In any case, this is an initial vote to pick
    finalists. I encourage anyone posting comments there not to get into
    “you’re a bigger one” fights with denialists, but invite would-be
    voters to check realclimate for themselves to see if the attacks are
    warranted.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 9 Nov 2009 @ 10:53 PM

  637. Well, heck, you want sulfates, there’s the natural way:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427333.600-plan-to-pierce-heart-of-urban-monster-volcano.html

    “… Campi Flegrei is “one of the highest risk volcanic areas on Earth” and may now be primed for a blast. Isaia and colleagues found deposits from an intense period of eruptions around 4000 years ago. Before the eruptions the Earth’s crust rose by several metres all across the caldera. Worryingly, crustal uplift is exactly what has happened recently. Since the late 1960s, the port of Pozzuoli near the caldera’s centre has risen by around 3 metres. Hazard planners should prepare for eruptions in decades or less, Isaia concludes (Geophysical Research Letters, in press).”

    How big?

    >> The volcano has no visible cone but it dwarfs Vesuvius, and most of Naples is in its caldera

    “A major eruption, like the one 39,000 years ago, would leave large parts of Europe buried under a thick layer of ash ….”
    ———
    It sounds like the geologists, for decades jealous of the physicists’ ability to produce rapid energetic disassembly events, may be on the verge of discovering sin for themselves.
    http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200307/history.cfm

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Nov 2009 @ 12:02 AM

  638. Re 636 – Philip Machanick – actually, my understanding is that Jim Bullis favors burning fuel in (very aerodynamic) vehicles (in hybrid electrics?), and when parked, using vehicle engines to supply electricity and heat to buildings/grids.

    I like the idea of converting existing residential furnaces into cogeneration plants (nice winter/night supplement to solar electricity, heat, and light, etc.). Jim Bullis’s plan seems a bit ungainly to me but maybe that’s bias on my part.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 10 Nov 2009 @ 12:51 AM

  639. cogeneration plants -

    Preferably using thermoelectric or thermophotovoltaic devices.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 10 Nov 2009 @ 12:53 AM

  640. Or… feed fuel into fuel cells and use the waste heat from fuel cells.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 10 Nov 2009 @ 12:54 AM

  641. PHG @ 619:

    Predict or react — don’t much matter since the total amount of wind energy produced is the same, assuming wind is allowed to run, rather than being idled.

    This is why efforts in Demand Response and storage are so important.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 10 Nov 2009 @ 10:08 AM

  642. Once again I know this is off topic but I was wondering if anybody has seen this? “New data show that the balance between the airborne and the absorbed fraction of CO2 has stayed approximately constant since 1850, despite emissions of CO2 having risen from about 2 billion tons a year in 1850 to 35 billion tons a year now.”
    ttp://www.physorg.com/news177059550.html

    Comment by Dale — 10 Nov 2009 @ 1:41 PM

  643. Fossil fuels emit fossil carbon to the atmosphere, and that’s an unavoidable consequence of combustion. Trapping and permanently storing the carbon emissions would use as much energy as could be obtained from the fossil fuel.

    Thus, the real costs of fossil fuels – global warming, pollution, health costs, military conflict due to increasing scarcity – clearly demonstrate that renewables are cheaper in the long run. Even on a straight accounting basis, a power plant that uses free fuel (wind and solar) to generate electricity will obviously have lower costs than one that relies on a steady steam of coal or petroleum or natural gas. The only way this would not be true is if up-front and maintenance costs for wind and solar plants were far higher than for coal – but that’s not the case, is it?

    Consider nuclear, for comparison. Fuel costs are lower than with coal (tens of millions of tons of coal are replaced by hundreds of tons of LEU fuel), but upkeep and maintenance costs are higher – more water is used, and high temperatures and pressures are involved, and redundant processes are used to avoid accidents.

    Solar and wind, in comparison have all the low-cost fuel advantage plus low maintenance costs. The big barrier that needs to be addressed is energy transmission and storage – and let’s not forget more efficient technology for the energy consumer, as well. The Obama Administration’s push for a better grid is therefore encouraging – that was the central problem with the Pickens wind project for Texas, lack of distribution.

    The bottom line is that if fossil fuels vanished overnight, we would have the technological capability to replace those energy sources with wind and solar and photosynthesis. Take a look at the DOE’s new Direct Solar Fuels initiative, or even at ExxonMobile’s new algal biofuel program, for some examples. (One has to like Exxon for putting money into a truly clean hydrocarbon fuel program, rather than backing nonsensical “CO2 capture projects” as part of a greenwashing campaign, as Chevron and Conoco and BP and Shell like to do. At the very least, they will be better positioned for the future.)

    By the way, did anyone see this little notice on Leavitt’s book? Apparently someone posted the “global warming” chapter online under fair use laws, and the publisher (Harper Collins) is busy sending out cease-and-desist letters:

    SuperFreakonomic science fiction, Salon, Tues Nov 10 2009

    In the annals of bogus Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices, the directive from Harper-Collins ordering Berkeley economist Brad DeLong to remove from the Web the PDF of Chapter 5 of “SuperFreakonomics” that he posted a few weeks ago is not actually an out-of-bounds request. There’s little doubt that DeLong actively wanted to embarrass “SuperFreakonomics” authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner by exposing their “global warming” chapter to public scrutiny. Even bad publicity is usually welcomed by publishing companies, but in this case, the storm of ridicule showered upon “SuperFreakonomics” may ultimately be too much of a bad thing.

    In particular, see this quote from Elizabeth Kolbert, the New Yorker:

    To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction.

    This book wasn’t written by some quack, either, but by one of the nation’s “leading economists” at a school known for ideological conformity to the Milton Friedman vision of economics…

    Here’s a suggestion: put economics under the academic control of science departments, not business schools, and make economists learn basic science – such as thermodynamics, conservation of energy, etc. – and then you might see science-based economic arguments moving to the fore, rather than this kind of blatant industry propaganda.

    How to begin? First, economists should pick up a copy of the very authoritative Princeton Guide to Ecology – unlike with Leavitt, they put a few chapters online for free, and the one to start with is Ecological Economics:

    http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7_8879.pdf

    Don’t waste your time with Leavitt – read this instead:

    Ecological economics studies the interactions and coevolution in time and space between ecosystems and human economies. The rate at which humans exploit or harvest ecosystems services exceeds what might be regarded as a desirable level from society’s point of view. The consequences of this overexploitation are well known (e.g., climate change, biodiversity loss and extinction of species, collapse of fisheries, overexploitation of water resources). The objective of designing economic policy is to develop a system of regulatory instruments so that the state of the regulated ecosystems will converge toward the socially desirable outcome. The purpose of this chapter is to present an approach describing how economic policies might be designed to achieve this objective.

    In the Leavitt Friedman Chicago view, these ecological factors are simply lumped as “externalities.” That’s translatable as: “things we don’t want to have to think about.”

    Comment by Ike Solem — 10 Nov 2009 @ 2:10 PM

  644. Patrick 027,

    Thanks for the succinct summary. You can remove the question mark after hybrids, though I try to retain flexibility here. It would make sense for many to simply use all electric for commuting, and since the aerodynamic losses are so low this becomes feasible. Yes, I would burn fuel, but only about a fifth as much as we do now in a typical car.

    But I see economics as a major system design consideration. My approach does not require people to buy extra stuff, rather they would be replacing stuff they now have with something that better meets their needs.

    Cogeneration is very effective if all the heat is used, and in fact the system is operated in that mode only when all the heat can be used. This is possible with machines in a household, but why not use the machines that are sitting outside and you already have paid for?

    I have to agree with you on the “ungainly” part, though it might be more a matter of what we are used to looking at than anything else. It is truly an impediment to widespread acceptance that I have to face. I think it will turn out that fashion and style are the enemies in the anti global warming campaign. I would not be against making things look nice, but when they are done based on the fashion designer’s misconceptions of aerodynamics, as is the prevailing practice in the auto industry, that has to be limited.

    The ungainly shape is what it takes to get the extremely low drag that made the huge airships feasible. Minor adjustments have been made based on guidance from Morelli, 1982 where he worked out ways to counter the ground effect with a car running close to the ground. I use some of his methods but mostly minimize the ground effect by holding the body as high as possible above the ground. The Aptera using the Morelli shape seems to have ended with a Cd of .15. I am looking for about half of that.

    There is a patent for a car that uses thermoelectric conversion using waste heat from an engine. This has merit though the very low efficiency of thermoelectric conversion means there is still a lot of waste heat.

    Household space heating is the best way I can think of to make use of the lowest temperature point in the heat using sequence.

    It seems conceivable that fuel cells could be used in the same way I use the engine in the car in combination with the heat using household. I can buy the right sized diesel engines today and these would work great, though there still needs to be work on catalytic converters to block NOx release, though that seems far closer than fuel cells. The Prius engine seems to have proven that gasoline can be used far more effectively than we used to think, about 37% thermal efficiency, so that is a technology that only needs to be scaled down to fit my needs. (Scaling down is a nice way to be changing things.)

    But if you can imagine such things working for cars, power generation, and trucks (coming soon) there might actually be workable solutions to global warming of a magnitude that is worth bothering with. Lets kick the hairbrained geoengineering out of the way. And while we are at it we need to do some kicking on the energy guzzling electric car approach and the “smart” grid which will perpetuate our heat wasting central power plant system far into the future.

    Thanks again. Jim

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 Nov 2009 @ 2:25 PM

  645. > Ike Solem says: 10 November 2009 at 2:10 PM …

    Bravo! Bravo!

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Nov 2009 @ 2:29 PM

  646. Ike Solem 643,
    These are very interesting thoughts.
    I have remarks/questions about maintenance costs.
    For me, the huge difference nowadays between fossil and renewable (wind or solar) is the scale.
    Fossil are cheaper essentially because you can build huge installations and bring some concentrated energy (coal, oils, gas…)
    Nuclear is even better for that. You have 1300 MW in a very small area. Hydraulic the same.
    Solar? Windfarm? You need a lot of space.
    And maintenance, as well as construction, is highly dependent on the number of facilities you need.
    But I am talking general things here (and I am sure I will be corrected by some smart people here). This is what I think. But I clearly lack of figures.
    Does anyone here have a reliable estimation of the return on investment (in terms of energy, so without any subsidy) of a wind farm, solar plant?

    Comment by Naindj — 10 Nov 2009 @ 2:55 PM

  647. Steve Fish (634) — Not all readers will have read the paper; I find repetition to be quite useful, if not strictly necessary, in this pecular form of communication.

    As for your question, I can only answer with the generality that many people in varied locations have found ways to cause deserts to become productive soils; Imperial Valley, California and much of Israel come immediately to mind. With regard to the Ornstein et al. idea, I recommend a pilot project in Tunisia.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Nov 2009 @ 3:06 PM

  648. We could trade wierd stuff stories and I am not sure who would win.

    I have nothing against government trying to kick start a good thing with subsidies, but they can lead to some very wrong decisions when it gets to a large scale. You say that the public pays a tiny amount extra to pay for subsidies, but you will surely agree that if everyone acts to collect subsidies, it will not be so tiny.

    I saw a guy in a booth at a farmers market in Oregon last week from PGE talking about selling green credits. I kept on walking since I had looked at this before. Of course, if they want people to advance them money to build wind mills that is fine. However, it does not mean that when these folks plug in a car that the electricity will come from wind mills. In fact, whatever the windmills produce will be used regardless of the plug-in car. So when the car is plugged in, it will draw from the available reserve capacity, which will be coal, even in Oregon.

    Then I picked up a weekend newspaper that described how the cost of wind systems had been vastly underestimated, deliberately, at the behest of the political leaders. Now Oregon folks will be paying far more than planned. And the developer says he would not have built the things without the subsidies. This is not good for the campaign against global warming.

    As for battery cars, they can be useful, but only if designed to not guzzle energy wherever it might come from.

    Using batteries in cars to help out the power company seems like a phony contrivance of an idea that the power companies love. Mostly because it will not amount to much, but also because they get to control the production. Oh yes, we get to think computers will magically make this work effectively. Ok. As far as I can tell there is not much power company enthusiasm for distributed cogeneration of any kind. (There is a provision in California law for small subsidies for this if “properly sized.” Not without some good reasons, the idea of letting the car sit there and produce electricity is not mentioned. (The Prius does not work very well for my car based cogeneration approach because the engine even in this car is too large and will produce too much heat for a household to handle.)

    I argue in general for individual cars which fit with the way people actually want to live and work, which is not in dense urban situations where mass transit functions well. The problem of distribution at both ends of the travel process is far more important than planning folks like to think. Hence, we are stuck with public systems that almost nobody rides on in city after city. Though far more likely to succeed, car pool lanes are far less effective than they have been advertised. (We trick ourselves by allowing mothers to use a kid to qualify as “high occupancy” so there are a few people in some carpool lanes, which cost many $billions. We were told that the carpool lanes take cars off the road, but much as we are in favor of mothers and babies, they do not represent cars taken off the road. — I could go on.)

    Even freight transportation is subject to the same distribution problem. Only when freight moves from a single point to another single point is a rail system really effective. Guess where that situation applies? Wrong Answer: Mass transit of people. Right Answer: Coal mines to coal fired power plants. The coal train is so remarkably effective that we really do not care much that the coal fired power plant throws away 70% of the heat produced from the coal. (You may have heard about Warren Buffet buying the BNSF railroad. This reality is not lost on him — 50% of BNSF revenue is from hauling coal.)
    And Warren Buffet might also realize that the big push to shift from oil to coal as the fuel for cars under the government encouragement to build electric cars will lead to ever larger coal train profits. This will help with oil dependence problems, but it will not be good for the global warming campaign.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 Nov 2009 @ 3:09 PM

  649. 643 Ike Solem,

    You say, “The only way this would not be true is if up-front and maintenance costs for wind and solar plants were far higher than for coal –but that’s not the case, is it?

    It looks like it is the case when you include the need to keep back-up generation ready to cover the variability of wind and solar as well as count the cost of investment money that has to be put out up front, as well as the things you mention. In the search for truth, a clue is that investors are not willing to have any part of these renewable schemes unless the public subsidizes the costs, guarantees the rates, or penalizes the coal competititon in some combination of chicanery.

    Certainly all the real costs need to be considered including the human value judgments that are every bit as important. These need to be laid out clearly. It is not helpful to the campaign against global warming when there is a contrived attempt to put numerical values on the negative impacts of coal. We need to know how the effect are really manifested. Pretending that everything is numerical is only an annoyance.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 Nov 2009 @ 3:22 PM

  650. Ike: If you want to use “straight accounting basis”, without taking all those externalities (pollution, warming) into account, you should actually look up numbers, and not just make guesses. You can find ‘levelized’ costs for coal, gas, wind, solar, etc, in that construction, fuel, labor, financing, and maintenance costs are included. You’ll see that coal and natural gas still have the edge, though wind can sometimes be just as cheap (especially if you add in available subsidies), and local policies can make coal more expensive. Also, if use of wind requires new transmission lines or some facility for storage, you have to consider that as part of the cost of expanding wind; that doesn’t come free.

    See the discussions between me, Mark and PHG here. When you see numbers, keep in mind caveats that local circumstances can change the costs, and that promoters of a given technology like to quote the low end of the cost range. I trust the DOE’s numbers the most, but I can’t find the exact link now. So if you look around, you’ll see costs like 3-7 cents/kWh for traditional coal or natural gas; anywhere from 10-40 cents/kWh for various forms of solar; guesses at anywhere from 7-30 cents/kWh for newly constructed nuclear; wind anywhere from 5-10 cents/kWh.

    “The bottom line is that if fossil fuels vanished overnight, we would have the technological capability to replace those energy sources with wind and solar and photosynthesis.”

    It’d take several years to build the needed infrastructure, even if those other sources were reasonably priced.

    None of this should be interpreted as me saying “we can’t” or “we shouldn’t.” We should put in a carbon price to level the playing field, and maximum effort should be continued in R&D to reduce the costs of renewables. It just bugs me a bit when environmentalists are good with the science, but a bit dreamy on the economics.

    Comment by tharanga — 10 Nov 2009 @ 3:30 PM

  651. Well, I said I would update RC if I received more from Dr. Bill Woods on his research with terra preta. Today I received from him a copy of Woods & McCann (1999). Here’s the bit about the regenerative properties of terra preta:

    “Field observations at Oitavo Bec, an interior plateau site where the TM (terra mulatta, a “mixed” type of dark earth) with embedded zones of TP covers over 120 hectares, suggest this regenerative quality. This extensive zone of clay-rich, 60 cm deep dark earth is quarried for use as potting soil in the city of Santarem. After the vegetation is cleared and burned, the soil is typically removed by hoe and shovel. The bottom third (20 cm) of the dark zone is intentionally left intact. Dorival Lucas de Castro, who has worked the site for over 30 years, explains that this practice is necessary for the soil to “grow.”

    “According to him, in approximately 20 years, the dark zone will reestablish its original 60 cm depth, primarily through the downward darkening process explained above. Apparently, at some
    threshold level of biotic activity and soil nutrient retention status, dark earth attains the capacity to perpetuate – even regenerate itself – thus behaving more like a living “super” organism than an
    inert mineral. If the dark layer is entirely stripped, however, regeneration does not occur because the biotic innoculate is lacking. In two adjacent areas quarried six months prior to our visit, we
    noted that the one which had been scraped by machine to the underlying yellow latosol was nearly devoid of vegetation. In contrast, the area mined by hand, which had retained its 20 cm of
    dark earth, was covered with thick regrowth.

    “At Catarina, on another dark earth site (TM) overlooking the Arapiuns River, a series of leaf cutter ant mounds which had been abandoned sequentially over a 25 year period also demonstrated the regenerative properties of these soils. The young mounds were composed of orange, highly weathered material brought up by the ants from the subsoil. Without any organic inputs applied by people, the progressive melanization of the mound matrices was apparent. Within 20 years the color had become indistinguishable from the surrounding TM.”

    So it is essentially the soil type that regenerates, not necessarily the elevated carbon content. The microorganisms in the soil colonize outward, coating the soil particles with the bio-oils that give the soil its color and ability to retain nutrients.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Nov 2009 @ 3:49 PM

  652. Eric Rasmusen,
    9 November 2009 at 10:01 AM

    Its point is that their production generates lots of carbon dioxide.

    The CO2 from production is a total non-issue, about the same level of insignificance as the albedo effect. According to his figures, it takes only 2.75 years to undo those by means of prevented emissions from fossil fuel generation.

    I posted a comment there to point it out. By using Excel you can easily do an estimation of how serious the ‘problem’ of up-front CO2 emissions from solar panel production actually is. The emission prevented by already produced and installed panels quickly overshadow those from the production of more panels.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 10 Nov 2009 @ 5:10 PM

  653. coming in late to this discussion I haven’t had a chance to read all the replies but has some one pointed out that solar cells only operate for approximately 6 hours of the day therefore the black square would need to be 4 times larger. Oh – and the sun would need to be in cloudless skies for those 6 hours.

    Comment by janama — 10 Nov 2009 @ 6:05 PM

  654. The original post, factually and rhetorically was impressive. I learned from it and found it well-written and well-reasoned.

    Yet, I confess I find the tone surprising. I would expect colleagues to call each other, have lunch or coffee, or (the google map path can be followed in reverse) even stop by the office to discuss something like this. I don’t think that sort of conversation would obviate the need of others to read a post like this, but it might encourage a civil and productive dialogue between you and Levitt. Hard for me to see that happening now.

    I have colleagues that have from time to time published absolute tripe, and I have strongly and publicly disagreed with them. But, I have done so after at least engaging with them a bit and trying to understand why they were either impossibly wrong or I had misunderstood them. I suppose I feel that’s one of my duties as part of an academic community.

    Comment by Mark — 10 Nov 2009 @ 10:48 PM

  655. There’s a nice writeup in the New Yorker that references your letter.

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/16/091116crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all

    Comment by Josh — 10 Nov 2009 @ 11:01 PM

  656. Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker gives Superfreakonomics a scathing review and mentions this thread.

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/16/091116crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=1

    Comment by Scott A. Mandia — 10 Nov 2009 @ 11:05 PM

  657. janama (~#653, November 2009 @ 6:05 PM):

    Gavin, inline in #387 has partially addressed your criticism.

    David B. Benson (~#647, 10 November 2009 @ 3:06 PM):

    There are always ways to make plants grow if you have enough water, but it is expensive in poor soil. When one cultivates a monoculture, then a lot of oil is needed for pest control, and when the soil is poor, a lot of natural gas is required for fertilizer. This includes the Imperial Valley. A proposal that dodges these realities is disinformation.

    I think the tree farm carbon sequestration proposal is interesting, but it would be very, very big, and there are a lot of agricultural, ecological, and geopolitical problems to deal with before it could be a primary solution. Perhaps more important, we don’t need any big projects that would provide excuses for supporting business as usual. For the first 50% of the solution there are many much simpler, and less expensive, things to do.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 10 Nov 2009 @ 11:25 PM

  658. BIOCHAR:
    I know I’ve been touting it, but if you read the info on it at http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk , you will see some of the concerns. Such as — charcoal dust from it blows away during transport and application on fields, and during soil erosion — which is very bad for health and the earth. There are not enough studies on its possible downsides. And if at all it has a place in combating GW, it is only a very small place.

    The main issue is that countries should not be able to use biochar as carbon offsets — we just need to keep on reducing our GHGs period. There is not silver bullet, no geo-fix.

    Hopefully biochar will prove a help in mitigating GW, and we need ALL the help we can get – big or small.

    See: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/docs/biocharbriefing.pdf

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 10 Nov 2009 @ 11:26 PM

  659. Ike Solem (# 643)says, “put economics under the academic control of science departments, not business schools, and make economists learn basic science – such as thermodynamics, conservation of energy, etc. – and then you might see science-based economic arguments moving to the fore, rather than this kind of blatant industry propaganda

    How about “put science under the academic control of business and law schools, and make scientists learn real life, the basics of budgeting and finance, rule of law, importance of precedents – and then you might see reality-based scietist arguments on policy moving to the fore, rather than this kind of blatant, infantile drooling”?

    Do scientists ever reflect on themselves from outsiders’ perspective? Do you folks realize just how ludicrous you look with paper calculations of this and that and imagining all kinds of pies in the sky?

    Sorry to be this blunt, but all I see in scientist views of energy and environmental policy is speculation. (For example, those generating cost comparisons for new power sources in California. It would help if someone actually went and looked at actual costs, and realized that for the next 20 years, a large incremental of new generating capacity is for replacing the existing capacity, which will best be done by mere refurbishment and upgrading of the coal, nuclear and gas power plants, not IGCC, solar etc.? For planning purposes, variable costs of coal at 2-3 or at most 4-5 US cents/kWh is the number to keep in mind, unless there is a political agreement to kill US coal industry.)

    And guess what – when you drive the US coal industry into the ground, China and India are waiting in the wings to buy up those coal properties and export coal to – yes, their own lands.

    Fancy speculation on my part, yes; but heck, it seems so much easy to speculate in the company of scientists.

    Comment by Nikhil — 11 Nov 2009 @ 3:44 AM

  660. 625
    David B. Benson says:
    9 November 2009 at 2:56 PM

    “Richard Steckis (598) — Then by all means go for it!”

    DBB. If we could get our government off this ridiculous ETS and start actually doing something constructive about GHG mitigation then it would be a great thing. Instead of wasting tax payers money on lavish achieve nothing schemes perhaps an investment of a few hundred million dollars into further research into the improvement of soil structure and fertility by carbon retention and enrichment will be far more productive and beneficial.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 11 Nov 2009 @ 3:50 AM

  661. janama #653: this factor was taken into account in the calculation.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 11 Nov 2009 @ 6:39 AM

  662. Rather than counting on Steve Levitt to see raypierre’s response to his letter on Real Climate, I hope those that have Levitt’s e-mail address can send it to him, (including raypierre) so that we’re sure that he sees it. In fact maybe keep sending it once a week until he does respond. Anyone game?

    [Response: Please don't do this. Harassment of academics is a bad idea whoever does it. - gavin]

    Comment by Doug — 11 Nov 2009 @ 10:23 AM

  663. Nikhil (659) –

    The huge difference, I think, between scientists and what economists currently do is that all that “speculation” as you call it, is testable. And it can give a kind of upper and lower limit. You are drawing a false equivalence.

    For instance, if you know the rate at which metal transfers heat, and the efficiency at which gasoline converts chemical energy (combustion temperature and rate of reaction) you can get a pretty good idea of the upper limits (and lower limits) of an internal combustion engine (or at least have a basis to do those calculations).

    The problem with economists is that one of the central premises is that growth is infinite and technology will always find a way. But the world doesn’t work like that. And the laws of physics and chemistry care nothing for budgets or rates of return.

    Here’s a real-world example: much of the farming economy in the Midwest is based on the premise that water will be available forever. It won’t. Yet there was no cost built into that, there was no economist I am aware of who ever said “hey, we should charge for food based on the fact that the water use, at current rates, will empty the Ogalalla aquifer by X date.”

    Economists habitually ignore the “externalities” and part of the reason they do it is that many of them haven’t got a good grasp of basic physical sciences — and in fact it is ignored in most economic theories I am familiar with. It isn’t because they are evil, just that they aren’t exposed to other ideas and economics has never incorporated them the way other sciences have.

    This has been going on a long time and it’s why a business major and a scientist will look at a problem very differently. A scientist will say “we can build a power satellite to provide energy, and here’s what is physically required to do it.” A business major might ask what the cost is. That doesn’t make what the scientist says wrong, per se, and the business major isn’t wrong either.

    But if we’re going to call economics a science, then we should ask that economists get at least a basic grounding in the physical sciences, the same way we ask that of biologists and doctors — who may never refer to their intro physics class again.

    Economics, especially, is grounded in real, ohysical things — or should be. If you assume infinite growth then you are living in a world that doesn’t exist. The universe is finite, you know, and the second law of thermodynamics, conservation of mass/energy and various chemical processes all exist.

    When economists ignore these things they are doing themselves, and the rest of us, a bit of a disservice, IMO. Perhaps a century ago we could afford to ignore them (and in some cases were not aware). There is no such excuse now.

    Let me put it another way: one of the central tenets of economics is continued growth, which in many cases depends on growth of population. A 1% growth in population per year means a population of 118 billion by 2300 or so. There is no way to feed that many people even if we cultivated every single inch of land, and there is no way to magically create food out of constituent parts without gigantic energy inputs. Does technology move forward? Yes, but there are real, strict physical limits even if you assume direct energy-to-matter conversion or some kind of nanotechnology that converts rock to food somehow.

    Or take oil: if we assume the Earth’s crust was a 1 meter thick layer of the stuff, and we increase usage at, say, 2% per year (much less than what it has been) how long would it last? ABout 100 years. I did that calculation, and about 2120 would be the date that it would all be gone, every bit, assuming we converted it at 100% efficiency.

    But I have yet to see any economist even do that back of the envelope calculation, and realize that no matter what, if you keep using oil it runs out eventually. Even if we suck out every bit perfectly. And I made the assumption of an ocean of oil far larger than anything so far discovered (and physically impossible as well).

    end OT rant.

    Comment by Jesse — 11 Nov 2009 @ 10:39 AM

  664. Fwiw, I tossed a little hand grenade into the Best Science Blog thread:

    http://2009.weblogawards.org/nominations/best-science-blog/index.php#comment-21998

    “With the release of the revised statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2007, no remaining scientific body of national or international standing is known to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate change.[71]”

    Please remove WUWT from the Best Science Blog category.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 11 Nov 2009 @ 11:22 AM

  665. A million thanks for the measurements and for spurring this discussion. How can we value or understand the impacts without same?

    Comment by Jeannette Draper — 11 Nov 2009 @ 12:03 PM

  666. Nikhil, perhaps you can provide some examples of what happened in countries in which your advice was followed, that is:

    “…put science under the academic control of business and law schools, and make scientists learn real life, the basics of budgeting and finance, rule of law, importance of precedents…

    My favorite examples include the rise of Lysenkoism within the Soviet academic hierarchy – although if you look at the pattern of academic dismissal and appointments in German academics, 1930-1940, well, that’s interesting too.

    The problem with academic economists is that they rely heavily on precedent and tradition and scripture, and when their notions conflict with reality, they ignore it. Take econometric models based on the standard “laws of economics.” If climate models were so wildly inaccurate, the entire profession would be a laughingstock, and people would admit that they’d gotten something fundamentally wrong. However, since economists are not scientists, they feel no need to compare theory to observation.

    What are they, then? Are they lawyers? The law is not like science – for example, there is no legal question that cannot be answered in a court of law, and in a court of law, precedent does play a big role, which is probably why you emphasized it.

    Precedent does not play the same role in science. Just because everyone agrees that such-and-such is true, does not make it so. For example: early twentieth century observations showed that distant galaxies were red-shifted, meaning that the universe was expanding. Previously, the universe had been believed to be static. Einstein had actually written down equations which predicted an non-static universe, but he found this unbelievable, and so introduced an artificial correction factor – what he called his “biggest mistake.” The point is, the longstanding precedent – the belief in a static universe – was irrelevant.

    So, if you could show that CO2 didn’t absorb infrared, or that CO2 levels in the atmosphere were not increasing, or that the CO2 didn’t come from fossil fuels, or that projected temperature effects were wildly off-base, then the entire issue would have to be revisited. Despite the best efforts of legions of fossil fuel industry-funded skeptics, nothing has come up – and the other side of the coin is that even if you don’t like the result, you have to accept it. You have the right to question anything, but then you must accept the answers, no matter how distasteful or economically disruptive they may be.

    Better not to look, huh?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 11 Nov 2009 @ 12:51 PM

  667. Steve Fish (657) — I don’t view the Ornstein et al. proposal as supporting BAU; afterall somehow the scheme must be paid for and should be by fossil carbon burners. Eventually, one hopes, there is little enough fossil carbon burning being done that the scheme becomes carbon negative. The sooner that happens the better IMO.

    Lynn Vincentnathan (658) — Those concersn about biochar are extremely minor; much more worrisome is the air pollution caused by burning carbon-based fuels, fossil dervied or otherwise. While using biochar as offsets is not ideal, I’ll certainly settle for such an interim solution; afterall it drives up the price of fossil fuels.

    Richard Steckis (660) — I certainly think so, but so far the US government has done rather little towards further understanding and promoting of biochar. I wish the best of luck in convincing your government.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Nov 2009 @ 3:04 PM

  668. Jesse (663):
    While you’re hitting around the edges and making good points, I think your basic assessment of economic analyses is flawed because you attribute to them objectives way beyond their true objectives.. Everyone is well aware that economic analyses do not account for long-term externalities. But that is not a criticism of economics. Economics, which is premised on reasonable accurate measurable-in-dollars events, has no possible way to account for, say, the demise of the Ogalalla aquifer. If some political influence were added (say the government passes a law that says the price/cost of corn must include the cost of the eventual loss of the aquifer according to some algorithm that is also legalized — governments can do this and it needn’t necessarily be anything close to physical scientific reality) economists would then include that factor in spades because the cost is accurately measurable. Or they could certainly draw their own speculation based on what-ifs — that would still be speculation. Same goes for unending growth. It is not a premise of economic theory; it is a no op. Without some clear and present knowledge that this commodity or that resource will expire in the near term, it must be ignored. Would a credible economist of financial consulting recommend that his clients sell their Microsoft because there’s some good chance it will not exist sometime in the next 50-100 years?

    Forcing them to learn a lot of detailed science is a waste of time. It’s not their job to make scientific assessments on their own. They are more than capable of accepting what the current science says with just a basic sniff test understanding. Farmers can say it costs $1.67 current dollars to grow and harvest a bushel of corn; that’s good enough for the economist; he doesn’t need a doctorate in agronomy. This doesn’t mean they’ll take your or my assessment of the end of the aquifer or the demise of fossil fuels. There is no way we can give them the near-term precision required for economic analysis.

    Comment by Rod B — 11 Nov 2009 @ 4:21 PM

  669. PS, a follow-up to address one of Ike’s assertions. Economists rely heavily on precedent only because their “science” is nowhere near as rigorous as physics, say. Physics has F=ma; economics has nothing even close. This is not a criticism of economics — it’s just the way it is and we all have to respond accordingly.

    Comment by Rod B — 11 Nov 2009 @ 4:29 PM

  670. #664 – WUWT has been nominated in the “Best Humor Blog” category. Get voting!

    Comment by CTG — 11 Nov 2009 @ 4:42 PM

  671. Re 650 tharanga – yes.

    Re 643 Ike Solem
    “Trapping and permanently storing the carbon emissions would use as much energy as could be obtained from the fossil fuel. ”

    It depends on how you do it. From what (albeit a small amount) I have read, coal CCS would work and produce net energy. It still wouldn’t beat out solar or wind, etc, though, in CO2eq emissions per unit energy, and the somewhat greater coal input per energy output would exacerbate other problems. There would also be an increase in cost, increasing the fraction of renewable energy strategies that would be cost-competitive.

    However, it’s concievable that it might be a good idea to have some coal CCS plants operating in a belt from West Virginia up to New England, and some other high latitude cloudy places with high population densities (depending on wind resources), replacing a portion of current coal electricity, while the remaining coal power plants across the nation and the world are mostly displaced by solar, wind, etc, and then, as the costs get even lower and the efficiency gets higher (including storage/transmission methods), eventually the coal CCS will be wound down to zero.

    Eventually we may want to start sequestering CO2 via anthropogenic silicate rock weathering – in situ or otherwise, producing carbonate minerals – solid or dissolved. Concievably this may be more economical than CCS directly from coal power plants (I have yet to read through all the literature that other commenters have provided references to), or on the other hand, might allow a residual coal industry to survive in cold cloudy areas where coal mines and mafic/ult-ramafic rocks are geographically close – though eventually inhabitants might wish to switch to renewables and sell the sequestration service.


    “The only way this would not be true is if up-front and maintenance costs for wind and solar plants were far higher than for coal – but that’s not the case, is it?”

    The up-front costs are still high. There is payback, but it is often in the long-run. There is a capital cost associated with investments with payback expected later – it’s not trivial. Nonetheless if we put up the cash now we could be doing our children and granchildren and great grandchildren a big favor and not necessarily just by way of mitigating climate change but also from more direct economic savings.

    ——-
    Re 644 Jim Bullis

    “I have to agree with you on the “ungainly” part, though it might be more a matter of what we are used to looking at than anything else. It is truly an impediment to widespread acceptance that I have to face. I think it will turn out that fashion and style are the enemies in the anti global warming campaign. I would not be against making things look nice, but when they are done based on the fashion designer’s misconceptions of aerodynamics, as is the prevailing practice in the auto industry, that has to be limited.”

    “But I see economics as a major system design consideration. My approach does not require people to buy extra stuff, rather they would be replacing stuff they now have with something that better meets their needs.” … “Cogeneration is very effective if all the heat is used, and in fact the system is operated in that mode only when all the heat can be used. This is possible with machines in a household, but why not use the machines that are sitting outside and you already have paid for?”

    Actually, what I was thinking of when I wrote ‘ungainly’ was that instead of plugging in a car, you’d be both plugging it in and attaching a thermal connection. You’d have to buy the thermal connection equipment anyway and reconfigure thermal energy ‘circuits’. Whatever scenario we play out, we’ll be changing some infrastructure around.

    Certainly there is room for improvement in transportation, but I really think people like to ride side-by-side in a vehicle – it’s not just force of habit that you’re fighting to make 1-by-1 seating cars.

    PS is it easier to control non-GHG pollution from fixed sources than from mobile sources?

    ——-
    Re 648 Jim Bullis
    “I saw a guy in a booth at a farmers market in Oregon last week from PGE talking about selling green credits. I kept on walking since I had looked at this before. Of course, if they want people to advance them money to build wind mills that is fine. However, it does not mean that when these folks plug in a car that the electricity will come from wind mills. In fact, whatever the windmills produce will be used regardless of the plug-in car. So when the car is plugged in, it will draw from the available reserve capacity, which will be coal, even in Oregon.”

    Re 649 Jim Bullis
    “It looks like it is the case when you include the need to keep back-up generation ready to cover the variability of wind and solar as well as count the cost of investment money that has to be put out up front, as well as the things you mention.”

    This is where I really disagree. If you make the investment in wind power than you’re adding wind power. If you plug in a car, you’ve eliminated the gasoline and the cost thereof, and an EV might cost you for batteries but it might save you on maintenance. If you’re drawing more electric power overall, but the change is equal or less than the share of wind power that you’ve boughten, then you’ve reduced your petroleum/ethanol use and avoided replacing it with coal/natural gas and perhaps even reduced your coal/natural gas usage. It doesn’t matter how the new load matches the new supply until a lot of people do the same, at which point the cost of buying sufficient wind power will increase, until it justifies spending on energy storage and/or longer-distance transmission, etc.

    There are storage methods more economical than batteries. The impression I’ve gotten thus far is that costs of compressed air energy storage (CAES) and HVDC transmission are not that great compared to the power plants themselves. Plus there’s using hydroelectric power, geothermal, and biofuels as dispatchable back-up sources. Hydroelectric power can be turned up and down fast enough to make up for diurnal-cycle mismatches between solar + wind supply and load.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 11 Nov 2009 @ 4:54 PM

  672. David B. Benson (~667, 11 November 2009 @ 3:04 PM):

    It appears to me that big coal and its supporters have embraced coal-CCS, even though in practice it would very likely price their product out of the market, as a future carrot so that they can continue their profitable operation during development of the process, but if it actually works, dodge. I say BAU-wow to the idea that tree-CCS wouldn’t also be a distracting football! I do, however, agree with your sentiments as to who should be responsible and– “The sooner that happens the better…”

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 11 Nov 2009 @ 6:33 PM

  673. Jesse (#663)

    I think there are misunderstandings about what economists do. But good to start a dialogue. Response in ** below.

    “The huge difference, I think, between scientists and what economists currently do is that all that “speculation” as you call it, is testable. And it can give a kind of upper and lower limit. You are drawing a false equivalence.”

    ** Agree, up to a point. Economics doesn’t have the luxury of experimentation, say, about a trillion dollar bailout. But nor does geophysical chemistry. Models can say x emissions to y concentrations to z temperatures but we’ll have to wait 30-50 years to test. In the meantime, some economists would say the costs are c1, c2, c3 and benefits are b1, b2, b3.. Not worth the bother. Economists don’t know enough, and nor does anybody else to put such numbers. **

    The problem with economists is that one of the central premises is that growth is infinite and technology will always find a way.

    ** Not true. In fact, much of economics is about business cycles, destructive disturbances, and frankly, economic theory about technology is infantile. The most economists can say is that “technological change” is the “residual”, the part of growth that they cannot otherwise explain (with rather useless aggregate measures), a measure of their ignorance. So don’t let economists fool you. **

    But the world doesn’t work like that. And the laws of physics and chemistry care nothing for budgets or rates of return.

    ** True, but budgets and finance determine what gets done. Without disturbing the laws of physics and chemistry. **

    Here’s a real-world example: much of the farming economy in the Midwest is based on the premise that water will be available forever. It won’t. Yet there was no cost built into that, there was no economist I am aware of who ever said “hey, we should charge for food based on the fact that the water use, at current rates, will empty the Ogalalla aquifer by X date.”

    ** I don’t know about the Ogalalla aquifer, but in fact much of economic theory development was centred around research into the economics of water. I am trying to rememeber – Harvard had a water resource program that employed Robert Dorfman and a few others in 1950s, out of which came a lot of microeconomic theory. Water in the US West and in India have been studied by economists for decades. (Scientists too; Roger Revelle of the climate fame worked on surface and ground water of the Gangetic basin back in the 1960s. But Revelle was not your academic economist.) **

    Economists habitually ignore the “externalities” and part of the reason they do it is that many of them haven’t got a good grasp of basic physical sciences — and in fact it is ignored in most economic theories I am familiar with.

    ** Now, now. Don’t forget the term “externalities” is from economic theory. But you are right, economists don’t know how to measure externalities and in part because they haven’t got a good grasp of basic physical sciences. “Externalities” aren’t ignored. The problem rather is that imputing costs is notoriously difficult. Then you also have the problem that economists who do work on ‘externalities’ mindlessly borrow damage functions from physical sciences (ignoring confounding factors) and control costs similarly (without allowing for multiple options for controls and uncertainties, interactions, path dependencies, what not). What’s more, they sometimes obsess about negative externalities and ignore positive externalities. I think the National Academies just came out with a report on energy ‘externalities’. From what I can tell, positive externalities of electricity use (air-conditioning, health and educational equipment) are ignored. So much for economics and economists. **

    It isn’t because they are evil, just that they aren’t exposed to other ideas and economics has never incorporated them the way other sciences have.

    ** You are too polite. Some economists are positively evil. Like Nick Stern. His idea of zero discount rate effectively means I am to value his great-grandchildren the same way as my brothers and sisters. Maybe that’s not evil, mere self-interest. **

    But if we’re going to call economics a science, then we should ask that economists get at least a basic grounding in the physical sciences, the same way we ask that of biologists and doctors — who may never refer to their intro physics class again.

    ** No argument. Economists don’t police themselves well if at all. **

    Economics, especially, is grounded in real, ohysical things — or should be. If you assume infinite growth then you are living in a world that doesn’t exist. The universe is finite, you know, and the second law of thermodynamics, conservation of mass/energy and various chemical processes all exist.

    ** Nobody assumes infinite growth, so don’t create strawmen. My post was a followup to another post that was rejected. I was annoyed at Pierrehumbert making simple arithmetical error of his own, then heaping scorn at Levitt for not knowing simple things. Anyway, let me tell an anecdote. Back in 1973 or so, Morris Adelman (an economist at MIT) replied to the hysteria about the finiteness of oil resources by, “Yes, of course the world oil resource is finite, but nobody knows what the limits are.” He was proven right, and not just because oil use became more efficient. Technology allowed higher recovery rates, and technology also allowed more discovery and production even at lower prices. So much so that the known reserves of oil in 1973 or so were depleted twice over and there are still greater reserves. Not to speak of gas. So, it’s not necessary to assume infinite growth and nobody does; 10-20 years is fine, and even that the economists are really reluctant to assume. As I said, they worry about business cycles and history a lot. **

    When economists ignore these things they are doing themselves, and the rest of us, a bit of a disservice, IMO. Perhaps a century ago we could afford to ignore them (and in some cases were not aware). There is no such excuse now.

    ** Oh, well. You can safely ignore economists who presume to say anything about future 20 years hence. Those ones are only into selling books and lectures. **

    Let me put it another way: one of the central tenets of economics is continued growth, which in many cases depends on growth of population. A 1% growth in population per year means a population of 118 billion by 2300 or so. There is no way to feed that many people even if we cultivated every single inch of land, and there is no way to magically create food out of constituent parts without gigantic energy inputs.

    ** Oh, I don’t know. Continued growth is not a tenet of economics, never was. Of course economic growth in part depends on population growth; we need labor and we need consumers. The real problem real economists deal with is that of not having enough working population in 20 years, including in China, not about having too many mouths to feed in 2300. Is there a way or no way to feed 11.8 billion people, leave alone 118 billion people? Who knows and who cares? **

    Does technology move forward? Yes, but there are real, strict physical limits even if you assume direct energy-to-matter conversion or some kind of nanotechnology that converts rock to food somehow.

    ** Nyah. I don’t do science fiction or economic fiction. **

    Or take oil: if we assume the Earth’s crust was a 1 meter thick layer of the stuff, and we increase usage at, say, 2% per year (much less than what it has been) how long would it last? ABout 100 years. I did that calculation, and about 2120 would be the date that it would all be gone, every bit, assuming we converted it at 100% efficiency.

    ** Maybe. We’ll probably have cheaper alternatives before then or do without oil. We didn’t have oil even 150 years ago. **

    But I have yet to see any economist even do that back of the envelope calculation, and realize that no matter what, if you keep using oil it runs out eventually.

    ** Not quite. An economist would say oil will never run out, just become obsolete. We didn’t move from wood to coal because wood ran out or from coal to oil because coal ran out. No point bothering about running out of anything. **

    Even if we suck out every bit perfectly. And I made the assumption of an ocean of oil far larger than anything so far discovered (and physically impossible as well).

    ** Please don’t be so worried. The worst that would happen is that humanity will learn to live on less energy. In 30 years or 50 years or 500 years, nobody can tell and not worth the bother. The real magic about economics is not exhaustibility, but a) elasticities, b) marginal costs, and c) discount rate. If physical scientists paid attention to only those three concepts, much of rancor will disappear. If Pierrehumbert can’t do his simple arithmetic, I won’t rant. **
    end OT rant.

    Comment by Nikhil — 11 Nov 2009 @ 6:44 PM

  674. “It doesn’t matter how the new load matches the new supply until a lot of people do the same,”

    Okay, it does matter even if only a few people do this, BUT only when the new load is added at times when the previous load – new variable supply at that time = capacity of dispatchable power sources.

    As it is, wind is generally available at all times of day but more so at night, with temporal variations being smaller if there is distribution on a large enough spatial scale. A majority of car recharging would tend to occur at night, when dispatchable power plants tend to be operating below capacity.

    Of course, solar energy is available during the day, and if there is preferential displacement of natural gas plants at first…

    But the point is, if you decrease your direct fuel usage, increase your electricity consumption, but contribute to investing in mitigation, then you can come out ahead (in reducing CO2 emissions), and except for efficiency improvements, what matters to your CO2 responsibility is how much clean/renewable power is supplied as a result of your contribution (however that relates to capacity), which need not be linked to your own direct or even indirect usage.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 11 Nov 2009 @ 6:55 PM

  675. Other than reading this post, I have paid absolutely zero attention to this whole issue–just not that interested in a book written by non-scientists with the kind of provocative title it has. Not worth my time.

    But tonight I flipped on Charlie Rose, and lo and behold there they were! Now Rose is probably one of my favorite interviewers, but if you watch his show much you know that amidst his wide variety of interviewees, scientists are rare, an indication that he either has little interest in, or knowledge of, science.

    So any way, at one point, Dubner just starts in on air pollution and says scientists are now realizing that, over the last few decades, the cleaning up of the air via air pollution regulations, has allowed much more light to reach the surface, and that it is this, rather than CO2 increases, that is causing global warming. No qualification whatsoever. No response or correction or additions from Levitt. NO further questions or interrogation of this statement by Rose. He just flat out denied greenhouse gas forcing, in favor of reduced particulates over the last 30 years, as the cause of global warming.

    These guys are bogus. They are in it for their own fame. I will say that at least Levitt struck me as inquisitive and rational. Dubner, on the other hand, struck me quite clearly as a very loose cannon with no idea of the complexities of what he has waded into, who would believe anything if it sounded good to him.

    Oh, and they both talked a lot about the coolness of “asking the questions that nobody else asks” and thinking outside the box. There was much self congratulation over this.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:02 AM

  676. > I don’t know about the Ogalalla aquifer

    Then you don’t know much about economics.
    How about the Kettleman Hills aquifer? Very different problem.

    That combination of lack of information and confident assertion is the problem, cf. Levitt on Charlie Rose

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:34 AM

  677. p.s. I wrote a very critical post to their blog site’s story about their appearance on Charlie Rose (which I found out about after the fact). They may well not post it, because I really ripped Dubner. If they don’t, I will post it here.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:45 AM

  678. Re 659 Nikhil

    –”Do scientists ever reflect on themselves from outsiders’ perspective? Do you folks realize just how ludicrous you look with paper calculations of this and that and imagining all kinds of pies in the sky?”

    Just as you would ask Jesse et al (et al being the rest of us) to distinguish between economists who adhere to unrealistic ideology or are otherwise willing to forget things or are innaccurate from those economists who know what they’re doing, as well as any economist ever could, please distinguish scientists who don’t know about economics from scientists who are careful when they try to apply their science to economics or vice versa. People do real studies on the potential economics, ecology, technology, etc. of renewable energy, efficiency, sequestration, fossil fuels, adaptation and climate change and ocean acidification losses (externalities). Of course there are also those who speculate on these things without trying to sift through the data and realistic economic behavior. There is nothing wrong with that so long as it is clear what it is and they don’t pretend to know what they only guess (same for economists, etc.), because not all of us can be experts in multiple fields.

    –”Sorry to be this blunt, but all I see in scientist views of energy and environmental policy is speculation. (For example, those generating cost comparisons for new power sources in California. It would help if someone actually went and looked at actual costs, and realized that for the next 20 years, a large incremental of new generating capacity is for replacing the existing capacity, which will best be done by mere refurbishment and upgrading of the coal, nuclear and gas power plants, not IGCC, solar etc.? For planning purposes, variable costs of coal at 2-3 or at most 4-5 US cents/kWh is the number to keep in mind, unless there is a political agreement to kill US coal industry.)”

    A lot of us have made up our minds that the coal industry should shrivel and die; the question is how fast and in what way. Since an ideal free market with no externalities would tend to approach an optimum, it makes sense that a tax on emission externalities …

    (for simplicity of enforcement, I suggest applying the tax at points of high flow volumes through a small number of channels where possible – for CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, this would be a tax on extraction per unit fossil C, or perhaps a sales tax of the crude fuel… etc, AS OPPOSED TO a tax figured directly into residential utility bills, which would tend to have similar effect but would have more paperwork – of course, there should be a correction for that portion of fossil C that ends up within materials that are not later combusted or oxydized…)

    … would tend to lead to an optimum. Of course, there are ways in which a market is not ideal even when such externalities are accounted for; for example, force of habit that is reinforced by interactions among components wherein the components must change together to work well can prolong maladaptive behavior; the production possibilities curve can have concave regions (increasing returns) and the market could get trapped on a local optimum that is the lesser of optima – if the government, as an economic participant that provides services for a fee, is able to make longer term, larger scale investments and plans (zoning, pick a side of the road to drive on) that effectively eliminant the valleys that prevent the market from achieving a higher optimum, then this changes the landscape via changing the point of view, but of course there is a limit wherein we truly can’t get ‘there from here’ without going bankrupt…. but I’ve said enough about that kind of thing before…

    –”And guess what – when you drive the US coal industry into the ground, China and India are waiting in the wings to buy up those coal properties and export coal to – yes, their own lands.”

    Another example of a strawman (just like all economists assuming exponential growth forever, the idea that all scientists shove trade issues under the rug while making policy recomendations).

    If domestic extraction is taxed, Chinese and Indian buyers would still have to pay it. Otherwise, corrective tariffs/subsidies can be emplaced to make up for international variations in policies. This may even be necessary when two countries make the same overall effort but use different structures; for example, if one country taxes fossil C extraction and another taxes sale of fossil C to utilities/distributors/refineries (but not in full multiple times along the same stream), then there would be issues with trade of fossil C from mines/wells in one country to another country, but those issues can be addressed.

    “Fancy speculation on my part, yes; but heck, it seems so much easy to speculate in the company of scientists.”

    Informed speculation is not wrong, so long as it is recognized for being such.

    Re 673 Nikhil

    “True, but budgets and finance determine what gets done. Without disturbing the laws of physics and chemistry. ”

    Yes, good point. Science and economics both have their place. There must be communication between scientists and economists (and engineers, legal people, etc.) to use findings in one field for benifit in another, and some people can successfully cross over.

    –”Economics doesn’t have the luxury of experimentation, say, about a trillion dollar bailout. But nor does geophysical chemistry. Models can say x emissions to y concentrations to z temperatures but we’ll have to wait 30-50 years to test. In the meantime, some economists would say the costs are c1, c2, c3 and benefits are b1, b2, b3.. Not worth the bother. Economists don’t know enough, and nor does anybody else to put such numbers.”

    Physical models, even physical-ecological models, do not need to account for the intracacies of human behavior when human behavior is treated as a parameter that can be adjusted for different scenarios. Even if we can’t predict that component, we can study what would happen in various different scenarios covering possible behaviors of that component of the system, and this can be very useful. Even within geophysical fluid dynamics, learning is often accomplished by taking some big simple components of the problem first (coriolis effect, pressure gradient, dry adiabatic processes, linearized wave with constant basic state) and then considering what happens when other factors are introduced (friction, flow acceleration, nonlinear evolution and wave-mean interaction, moist processes, mesoscale processes, etc.).

    There is good reason to have much confidence in at least some aspects of model output – the robust aspects – that fit or do not conflict with paleoclimatic evidence or the historical record or observations of other planets, etc. We can pose the question – how different would the models results be if this parameter turned out to be x instead of y (parameterization is required for sub-grid scale processes – this is not done ad hoc but based on studying those processes, and sometimes (only for one or a very few parameters, as I recall from the ‘FAQ on climate models’ postings) to tune model results, but not to tune model (long-term?) temporal trends!), or if grid scales are reduced, or if the upper atmosphere is better resolved in particular, or … depending on what is not included in a model, one can say, this is what the model produces without biogeochemical and vegetation-albedo feedbacks and plancktion DMS feedback – now here’s what we suspect might happen if we include these feedbacks, now let’s study those feedbacks and refine the picture… etc.

    –”“Externalities” aren’t ignored.”

    Yes, just as with climate models, economical models can be constructed with different levels of realism. An idealized perfect free market with no externalities and perfect rational actors is not of course realistic, but it may be closer to realistic than, say, a perfectly random system, so while being aware of the imperfections, we can still start with a perfect free market and then work from there. We can include externalities, monopolies and nonlinear relationships involving negotiating power, complex production possibilities curves and hysterisis (actually, hysteresis would be part of an ideal market in the learning curve or in response to variable external forcing) , habitual and self-reinforcing patterns (think cultural (imperfect) analogue of biological sexual selection – people act in a way because other people act in a way because the first people act in a way because that’s what’s expected of people because that’s how people act because that’s what people expect because…), intergenerational stuff, the value of the commons, the value of government, the cost of the commons, the cost of the government, costs and benifits of privatization, etc, physical constraints on resources… coevolution… time horizon and legal effect on optimal scenario determination and the shape of the production possibilities curves, the non-negligible learning curve…

    –”You are too polite. Some economists are positively evil. Like Nick Stern. His idea of zero discount rate effectively means I am to value his great-grandchildren the same way as my brothers and sisters. Maybe that’s not evil, mere self-interest. ”

    Um, that makes NO SENSE AT ALL. You seem to be confusing self-interest with selflessness. Granted, the two aren’t always opposed to each other.

    If you made the more nuanced point that future people are yet to be determined and so the existence of people is a variable that changes the costs of externalities, then okay. A major point: while specific identities are largely unpredictable, the statistics of large groups of people should tend to be predictable. We can make reasonable assumptions that some fraction of people in the year 2100 will still be carbon-based human organisms (as opposed to conscious entities on cyberspace, bionic creatures who run on microwaves), would have various dietary requirements, enjoy chocolate and pizza and good music (though what ‘good music’ means to them may be less clear – although some underlying principles regarding harmony and rhythym may not change much for most peoples), and long for romantic companionship, etc, and enjoy natural scenary and watching migratory birds, crashing ocean waves, thunderstorms, etc. Less clear is what people may want in a car, since what people want in a car is in many ways a function of what people have been getting in a car, although I speculate that x % of people will still want the option of riding side-by-side and thus eschew Jim Bullis’s design if they can afford to do so.

    But the overall population size is not fixed. If Stern and others, including yourself, have fewer grandchildren and great grandchildren and so on out to year Y, you can pay less on your emissions taxes (not necessarily in direct linear proportion, though, because … it’s complicated). Part of the cost of emissions arguably should be born by those who decide (or risk) to reproduce. However, within some populations, a higher cost of living would be the incentive to limit reproduction, and you can avoid that part of your externality tax when others pay more because they have more children via the costs of having children (as opposed to a specific ‘child tax’). So you can reduce your costs by not having the number of descendents (probabilistically – of course your descendents can make choices that determine your subsequent descendents) that you don’t want to pay for. So perhaps we’re back to square one. Of course, with nonlinearities, there is a feedback between the effect of policy on the future trajectory of population, emissions, etc, and the effect of those conditions on what the policy should be. But in principle this is an equation that can be solved for an optimum based on suitable criteria. The challenge is finding probable values. But that’s what we always do in ‘real life’ – we make decisions based on imperfect knowledge, going by likely outcomes and risks to come out ahead on average.

    I’m not entirely sure of how all the components of discounting are labelled. Setting aside inflation, the future benifits from technological and cultural progress and accumulated durable wealth (infrastructure) of the past/present even as it is left with fewer or degraded natural resources – unless that degradation is so severe as to start obliterating the technological, economic, and cultural inheritance. Of course, the point isn’t necessary to achieve fairness among generations, because we want future generations to be better off in whole – otherwise we would be settling for present rates of poverty (as defined by present day criteria – I am aware that relative poverty will likely always exist) and strife. It is understandable that some discounting should come from uncertainty – for example, I might not know what I will want in 50 years, so I don’t make plans based on all details of my life then, which is not optimal for what things will be like, but is optimal based on the limits of knowledge. In general, it makes sense to have some focus on your needs and wants, and those of people you know, because you will be more effective in doing than in helping people you don’t know – however, you do know that other people exist (at least on a practical level, not to go too deep into philosophy here), and you can make a reasonable guess that most of them have similar dietary needs (corrected for age, etc.), and similar desires for physical comfort and health … and you know that some people have areas of expertise in particular categories that may include your health or your food or your relationships and so you will help yourself by getting the services of experts in various fields. … Anyway, I might not even exist in 50 years, so I shouldn’t save and save and save to plan on enjoying life in 50 years. However, I can make choices to make my future existence more likely and even determine some of it’s details, and so I can use planning to increase my ability to optimize my behavior while reducing my ‘personal’ discount rate. This can be extended to society as a whole. We might not know for sure that we won’t be wiped out by an asteroid in 2060, but it’s likely we won’t, and we can make decisions to influence the future in ways that feedback on our cost-benifit analyses of other decisions. We can try to make nuclear anihilation less likely and thus make climate change issues more important; we can mitigate and invest to adapt to climate change so as to increase the benifits of avoiding nuclear anihilation. Etc.

    –”No argument. Economists don’t police themselves well if at all.”

    Interesting. Scientists do police themselves in general, though some slip through the cracks (Lindzen, Spencer), but I would think that economists do some policing of themselves. Other economists can express approval or dissappointment of Krugman’s winning the Nobel prize, for example… Is there no peer reviewed economic literature?

    –”The real problem real economists deal with is that of not having enough working population in 20 years, including in China, not about having too many mouths to feed in 2300. Is there a way or no way to feed 11.8 billion people, leave alone 118 billion people? Who knows and who cares?”

    “Maybe. We’ll probably have cheaper alternatives before then or do without oil. We didn’t have oil even 150 years ago.”

    “Not quite. An economist would say oil will never run out, just become obsolete. We didn’t move from wood to coal because wood ran out or from coal to oil because coal ran out. No point bothering about running out of anything.”

    Yes, oil will become obsolete – if not for public policies and technological progress (which are not independent of each other – an externality tax would increase incentives in R&D investments), then because we start to run out of oil, making it more expensive than alternatives. If there are increasing returns, then the shrinking market size for oil will make it more expensive, or at least counteract the trend of decreasing price as demand shifts to alternatives.

    The date of 2300 aside, we need/want labor because we want to be able to build wealth in part so as to feed people. Dates aside, you sound a bit like a Mao Zedong / Jon Stossel pro-natalist – every mouth has two hands, more people = more food, etc. True that a small population may not support a degree of specialization as a larger one and thus function less efficiently, and fewer inventive minds may slow technological progress, but there are physical limits to carrying capacities for a given technological level and living standards, there are limits to how far and fast technology can develop – too many inventive minds at the same time might have trouble avoiding simply reproducing each other’s work to the extent that they are inspired by the extant technology and R&D takes time. There are ultimate physical limits. It takes resources to colonize space, and how many people will want to leave Earth in the near term?

    “In 30 years or 50 years or 500 years, nobody can tell and not worth the bother. The real magic about economics is not exhaustibility, but a) elasticities, b) marginal costs, and c) discount rate. If physical scientists paid attention to only those three concepts, much of rancor will disappear.”

    Some scientists studying externalities and mitigation and adaptation options do study those things. It would be a mistake to ONLY study those things because then they’d have nothing to which to apply those concepts. It would be like deciding between zero choices. (Okay, maybe that’s not what you meant.)

    “If Pierrehumbert can’t do his simple arithmetic, I won’t rant.”…”end OT rant.”
    Last statement implies this was a rant; first statement implies that you might rant if Pierrehumbert can do his simple arithmetic. Ergo, it’s possible you believe he can do his arithmetic. I’ve skimmed his online climate textbook and I can tell you I have great confidence in his mathematical skills.

    ——————-
    Re 663 Jesse

    –”A business major might ask what the cost is. That doesn’t make what the scientist says wrong, per se, and the business major isn’t wrong either.”

    Yes.

    –”But if we’re going to call economics a science, then we should ask that economists get at least a basic grounding in the physical sciences, the same way we ask that of biologists and doctors — who may never refer to their intro physics class again.”

    It depends on what the economist wants to do. But it would be helpful to society to have some economists who have an awareness of the physical and life sciences and actually I suspect that we do have some.

    –”Economics, especially, is grounded in real, ohysical things — or should be. If you assume infinite growth then you are living in a world that doesn’t exist. ”

    Economic growth deals with value, which is probably limited by the number of possible ways that the universe can be arranged into conscious organisms that place value on various items in various contexts. But see also my comments above about reasonable assumptions of future people’s needs and wants.

    –”Let me put it another way: one of the central tenets of economics is continued growth, which in many cases depends on growth of population.”

    Maybe for some economists, but I suspect not all.

    ——
    Re 666 (Nero Caesar? :) ) Ike Solem –

    –”My favorite examples include the rise of Lysenkoism within the Soviet academic hierarchy – although if you look at the pattern of academic dismissal and appointments in German academics, 1930-1940, well, that’s interesting too.”

    Interesting point; also consider Mao Zedong’s opposition to Malthus, general dislike of intellectuals, and complete ignorance of ecology and farming, compounded by being surrounded by yes men.

    –”The problem with academic economists is that they rely heavily on precedent and tradition and scripture, and when their notions conflict with reality, they ignore it.”

    Surely that is not the case for all?

    ——-
    Re 668 Rod B

    “Economics, which is premised on reasonable accurate measurable-in-dollars events, has no possible way to account for, say, the demise of the Ogalalla aquifer. If some political influence were added (say the government passes a law” … “Or they could certainly draw their own speculation based on what-ifs — that would still be speculation. Same goes for unending growth. It is not a premise” … “Would a credible economist of financial consulting recommend that his clients sell their Microsoft because there’s some good chance it will not exist sometime in the next 50-100 years?”

    There are ways to account for the demise of the Ogallala aquifer. An economist could construct an economic model that shows the supply of water decreasing based on usage and the market reaction to this change. As with public policy scenarios.

    Speculation has a place. As does proposing various possible scenarios and studying what would happen for each scenario.

    Good point about Microsoft.


    Re 669 Rod B -

    “Physics has F=ma; economics has nothing even close. This is not a criticism of economics — it’s just the way it is and we all have to respond accordingly.”

    Good point.

    In some ways, I wonder if economic value might be like information or entropy or free energy. For example, there may be some ultimate potential value, and each choice may convert some of that to realized value but at the same time reduce the total value by way of deviations from optimum… Available value might go to zero within a system but might still exist in the relationship between that system and another system, as free/available energy is zero at thermodynamic equilibrium, but a system that is in equilibrium within boundaries may not be in equilibrium with surroundings. Of course I would caution against carrying this too far and applying the formula for carnot heat engine efficiency to GDP.

    ———

    Re 658 Lynn Vincentnathan – “The main issue is that countries should not be able to use biochar as carbon offsets”

    Well, if the public benifits did outweigh the public costs, then it would make sense to for the public to pay for the service (or charge for the externality in the reverse case), but if the net benifit is too small to justify the costs of paperwork, etc, or if the uncertainties are too great relative to the likely value, then we could just set it aside, though farmers could still choose it for their own private benifit…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Nov 2009 @ 1:05 AM

  679. This may help find it:
    Episode #15228 Duration: 56:47 CC Stereo TVRE
    (original broadcast date: 11/11/09)
    * Malcolm Gladwell
    * Authors of ‘Superfreakonomics’ Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
    http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/963
    http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/962

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Nov 2009 @ 1:15 AM

  680. Re Nikhil – “What’s more, they sometimes obsess about negative externalities and ignore positive externalities. I think the National Academies just came out with a report on energy ‘externalities’. From what I can tell, positive externalities of electricity use (air-conditioning, health and educational equipment) are ignored. So much for economics and economists.”

    A positive externality in some cases is actually considered benificial to the public good on a net basis even including the resulting reduction of effectiveness of the market. An example is ‘fair use’ in copyright law. A commons can have value that is lost in privatization. Humans might feel pychologically suffocated if they were entirely surrounded by privately-owned properties including the air. And some negative externalities might also be too expensive to correct (meaning that the reguloratory apparatus would be too corruptible and costly relative to the public benifit it would delivery).

    However, some fraction of the positive externalities you identifty are not externalities – to the extent that the benificiary pays for the electricity (a public school provides a public good/service, but itself pays for the electricity in order to supply its own services, so …).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Nov 2009 @ 1:36 AM

  681. Nikhil #673, amid some otherwise sensible statements about economists, said:

    Some economists are positively evil. Like Nick Stern. His idea of zero discount rate effectively means I am to value his great-grandchildren the same way as my brothers and sisters. Maybe that’s not evil, mere self-interest.

    Bogus. It would be less sneaky to say a zero discount rate means you’d have to value your great-grandchildren as yourself, or value Stern’s great-grandchildren the same way you value *Stern*. (Stern would have to do the same.) But it would make more sense to say simply that it means *we citizens* of the present have to value *people* living in the future as much as *people* living today. Mitigating global warming will benefit your great-grandchildren as it will Stern’s; they are not in competition. As Stern asks (Blueprint, 83), how relevant is this ‘familial distance’ argument “for collective decisions, as humans on this planet, about the viability of the world we pass on to future generations?”

    Comment by CM — 12 Nov 2009 @ 5:11 AM

  682. PS. That’s the pure time discount rate we’re talking about, of course. Just to be clear, the Stern Review did discount for growing consumption. (A tricky proposition over a hundred years of unprecedented environmental, technological, and social change, but that’s a side issue.)

    Comment by CM — 12 Nov 2009 @ 5:26 AM

  683. RodB:

    Physics has F=ma; economics has nothing even close.

    MV = PQ

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 Nov 2009 @ 7:05 AM

  684. Patrick 027, #671:

    “The up-front costs are still high. There is payback, but it is often in the long-run. There is a capital cost associated with investments with payback expected later – it’s not trivial. Nonetheless if we put up the cash now we could be doing our children and granchildren and great grandchildren a big favor and not necessarily just by way of mitigating climate change but also from more direct economic savings.”

    Is there any proper study calculating payback for windfarms or solar plants?
    I am looking for this for a long time…but all calculations are polluted by subsidies or garanteed selling prices…
    The question is: how fare are we to let wind and solar go without subsidies? Or could it be ever achieved?

    Comment by Naindj — 12 Nov 2009 @ 9:44 AM

  685. In common internet/blog parlance, one might say that Professor Pierrehumbert just “owned” Dr. Levitt.

    Comment by Michael J — 12 Nov 2009 @ 9:59 AM

  686. > Jim Bouldin 12 November 2009 at 12:45 AM
    > … wrote a very critical post to their blog …

    Pointer? Not sure where to look, didn’t see it, search didn’t find it, but the verbiage at Breakthrough is thicker than even in this thread. Only one response at the NYT, congratulating them: http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/tonight-on-charlie-rose/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Nov 2009 @ 11:44 AM

  687. I don’t think you can say “oil will become obsolete” with such confidence. Why? There are numerous historical examples of civilizations that disappeared — even with, what was at the time, state of the art technology — because some essential resource went away.

    Babylon — the soil, after thousands of years of farming, finally gave out. So did the water. Wheat was gradually replaced with barley and oats (more salt-tolerant) but in the end it did no good. Note that the “Fertile Crescent” is anything but these days.

    Maya — build enough farms in the good land and you run out of good land. But the number of people kept rising. They did very well with increasing efficiencies — to a point. Then Copan fell.

    Oil is a great resource, and is used in so many things (like fertilizer) precisely because there isn’t a synthesizeable substitute (without putting in more energy than you get out).

    Or take Gold. That’s recyclable, but the reason you use it in semiconductor circuits is that physically, there just isn’t any substitute that works as well.

    Tantalum: limited amounts. Yet it is in every single piece of electronic equipment you own and makes a computer smaller than a fridge possible. Certainly mobile phones. Assume we have a 1m layer of it covering the Earth and ask how many more of these we can make at current rates.

    And even in the modern age — the dust bowl happened. It was sheer luck that the rain started again on time to make the soil conservation programs work.

    Or society depends an awful lot on things that are interdependent, and surprisingly fragile, and dependent on resources that are finite.

    Whole societies have disappeared for similar reasons (and resistance to change). That’s the kind of thing that scares the bejeezus out of me and makes me wonder a tthe collective sanity of many economists.

    Comment by Jesse — 12 Nov 2009 @ 11:52 AM

  688. Patrick 027, when I opined that economists could speculate, I didn’t mean that as a bad thing. It can be a very helpful thing, as you say.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:25 PM

  689. Barton Paul Levenson, MV = PQ true, but not anywhere near precise as F = ma

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:30 PM

  690. Re 684 Naindj – “Is there any proper study calculating payback for windfarms or solar plants?”

    Yes. Unfortunately the information is a bit scattered. I had been putting together a list of references, then I went to something else, now I’ve started up again. Stay tuned. But try looking up these authors:

    Mark Z. Jacobson
    Mark A. Delucchi
    Vasilis Fthenakis
    James E. Mason
    Ken Zweibel
    Jeffrey D. Sachs
    S. Pacala
    R. Socolow
    B. K. Sovacool
    C. Watts
    Kim H.C.
    Paul Denholm
    Gerald L. Kulcinski

    (PS it will be good to consider both the energy payback and the economic payback.)

    Re 683 Barton Paul Levenson – good point.

    Re 687 Jesse – good point, but I think the fall of civilizations would be described as part of the adaptation that makes the depleted resource obsolete (?) – ie if there are no humans left, then good soil is obsolete anyway for growing crops (aside from more philosophical issues regarding how we should treat other sentient beings extant or potential…). Somewhat less stark, even without any further progress in renewables, etc, increasing prices of oil, natural gas, and … eventually … coal, will render them uncompetitive with alternatives. Of course, the shifting market share will have a negative feedback on the price changes. Of course, the transition is easier when there is energy to do it – certainly we don’t want to end up stuck on Easter Island with no wood with which to build a boat to move to another island. Of course, some resources are depleted with price increases more or less gradual – the price of oil will rise in part due to taking more effort to extract the last drops, but there is a relative sharp change in resource quality, as opposed to, say, copper ore, where the economics gradually shifts economically recoverable resources to lower grade ores. This is where speculators can be helpful, by forcing the present market to anticipate future costs and providing market incentives to plan accordingly. Unfortunately it came in one giant pulse in the first half of 2008.

    Re 673 Nikhil – “Please don’t be so worried. The worst that would happen is that humanity will learn to live on less energy. In 30 years or 50 years or 500 years, nobody can tell and not worth the bother.”

    If only various conservatives (that’s you, Inhofe and Tobacco John!) had that same attitude regarding the effects of taxing the fossil CO2 and other emission externality(-ies – additional tax on CO2 for the ocean acidification effect, for example). (Seriously, isn’t it odd that some people tout the ability of the market to incentivise R&D investments and evolution of economic processes in response to scarcity, but then act as if none of that were true when opposing proper correction for externalities? STUPID.)

    By the way, yes, scarcity of fossil fuels will eventually cause a shift to renewables (and/or nuclear, depending on, for example, how fusion or thorium-fuel-cycle technology develops, etc., and on public policies regarding risks). So why so insistent that the emissions be taxed/capped/regulated? Because:

    1. the externality still exists; not forcing the market to deal with it still allows greater error from optimal behavior in that the the shift is slower, occurs later, or is less complete (because shifting market shares, to the extent that the production possibilities curves are convex, has a negative feedback on price changes) than would be justified by the accounting for externalities. If changing scarcity alone justifies a reduction in CO2 emissions of 70 % by time t, then the public benifit of regulating the externality would justify even greater reduction (of course, it is not CO2 itself but the total public cost of (CO2 + CH4 + direct ecosystem degradation + etc., with all nonlinearities…(other ecosystem stresses can worsen the effects of climate change, etc.), so one could trade cow emissions for coal burning or vice versa depending on how much value is placed on these things, etc.)

    2. Not really distinct from 1, but there is a danger of greater reliance on coal in response to decreasing petroleum availability.

    —-

    Re 680 me re Nikhil:

    Okay, electricity usage can be involved in things that contribute to a public or unprivatized good/service. However, it is at best a stretch to say that electricity usage by a public institution involves a positive externality of electricity itself, because the public institution still pays for the electricity; the public good is not from the electricity but from the public funding that in part pays for that usage of electricity.

    Aside from that, there may be positive externalities, but where? When a person A invites friends over and pays for electricity, the friends benifit from person A’s electricity usage, but person A’s motivation for paying for the electricity is in part from the effect it has regarding social interactions and social capital. The friends ‘pay’ for their indirect usage via ‘rewarding’ person A with social interaction, including the money spent to properly cook food contributing to better health to enhance future interactions, reduce guilt, reduce worry, etc.

    There might be an effective positive externality in the long-term regarding unanticipated benifits which did not contribute to the factors that influence the price at the time of purchase.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Nov 2009 @ 1:30 PM

  691. Patrick 027, thank you very much!
    From the abstracts, it seems this is what I was looking for…
    Unfortunately, access to the full articles is restricted.
    I used Google Scholar and have been directed to ScienceDirect. I have to pay 31$ for each!!
    Any hint of a cheaper way to access all these articles?

    Many thanks again.

    Comment by Naindj — 12 Nov 2009 @ 2:44 PM

  692. Re 671 Patrick 027

    Patrick, thanks for thinking about this. (I use caps below to help distinguish your words from mine.)

    You say, “Actually, what I was thinking of when I wrote ‘ungainly’ was that instead of plugging in a car, you’d be both plugging it in and attaching a thermal connection. You’d have to buy the thermal connection equipment anyway and reconfigure thermal energy ‘circuits’. Whatever scenario we play out, we’ll be changing some infrastructure around.”

    YES, BUT RADIATORS AND PLUMBING COST A LOT LESS THAN ENGINES OR PV SOLAR PANELS.
    ———————————————-
    You say, “Certainly there is room for improvement in transportation, but I really think people like to ride side-by-side in a vehicle – it’s not just force of habit that you’re fighting to make 1-by-1 seating cars.”

    YES, WIVES – OR SPOUSES OF ANY FORM – HATE RIDING IN THE BACK SEAT. THOUGH MOST OF THE TIME THE RIGHT FRONT SEAT IS EMPTY, FOR LONG FAMILY TRIPS I HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS. I OFFER VIDEO CAMERAS AND SCREENS TO ENABLE FRONT SEAT TO BACK SEAT CONTACT ON A CONTINUOUS BASIS, IF YOU WANT THAT SORT OF THING. THERE ARE VARIOUS OTHER ANSWERS, ONE OF WHICH IS THAT THE TYPICAL FAMILY WOULD HAVE TWO HIGH EFFICIENCY CARS, SO RIDING WOULD BE LIKE TWO PEOPLE RIDING TOGETHER ON HORSEBACK. BUT I REPEAT, THE RIGHT FRONT SEAT IS MOSTLY EMPTY, SO DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO LET THAT OCCASIONALLY NEEDED SEAT DRIVE THE DESIGN FOR THE CAR? OF COURSE IT DOES IF ENERGY IS FREE. AND IN YOUR #678 YOU NOTE THAT FOR SOME PURPOSES SIDE BY SIDE SEATING WILL BE DEMANDED, BUT WHEN SUCH IS THE CASE, THE OCCASSIONAL CAR RENTAL MIGHT BE AN ANSWER.
    ————————————————-
    You say, “PS is it easier to control non-GHG pollution from fixed sources than from mobile sources?”

    PROBABLY IT IS, BUT EITHER FIXED OR MOBILE, THIS HAS TO BE CAREFULLY DEALT WITH TO AVOID MAKING A MESS OF THINGS.
    ————————————————
    (No more CAPS hereon.)

    Your note that hydro power can be used for load management and that is a very important point. It might be enough to handle the variability of wind and solar for some time to come, and it should be cheap. Pumped storage is a present day reality, as well as simply using or not using hydro as needed. (Somehow we in California seem not to have figured this out.)

    I try to make my point about how additional loads due to a plug-in have nothing to do with what is done with renewables:
    If you buy or support renewables in any way, that is a good thing if it really is good use of your money. It will reduce the CO2 from burning coal. Great!!!

    Now stop and think. There is a completely independent decision to be made about buying a car.

    Should I buy a conventional car? ANS.: NO

    Should I buy a hybrid car? ANS. : YES, this will significantly reduce CO2.

    Should I buy a plug-in hybrid car? ANS. : NO, this will have a damaging effect by causing more CO2 to be released than if the car was left as a hybrid.

    Note that the electric power to fill the plug-in demand will not cause more use of renewable resources because they are already fully used without the plug-in car. The impact of the plug-in car is that its add to the total electric load has to cause added draw from reserve capacity that exists, not from those sources that are already cranking full tilt and can do no more. While that reserve capacity might be natural gas or coal, the fuel price will make the choice overwhelmingly in favor of coal.

    Government can force the choice to be natural gas. Note that Warren Buffet placed his bet that such government action will not amount to much when he bought the BNSF railroad. Half of BNSF revenue is from hauling coal. I think he is right about the liklihood of meaningful government action. Thus the situation is terrible for the campaign on global warming; though great for purposes of cutting use of oil.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 12 Nov 2009 @ 2:50 PM

  693. 690 Patrick 027

    Regarding your answer to #684 Naindj about the real cost of wind energy:

    I have chased the mythical “proper study” for some time and it remains mythical. We all might have different ideas of “proper.”

    The real answer as to financial feasibility is that investors will have no part of it without huge subsidies, whether direct money, tax benefits, or guaranteed extra high rates; or backhanded subsidies in the form of suppression of the otherwise rational economic choices with cap and trade, energy taxes or whatever. (Such subsidies may be warranted, but not when imposed deceptively.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 12 Nov 2009 @ 3:03 PM

  694. From last night:
    http://www.charlierose.com/download/transcript/10710

    STEPHEN DUBNER:
    In other words, instead of looking at them on an emotional level or as
    someone involved in those arenas might look at them — if you are in the
    global warming industry, you have interests to protect and you have an art
    that you want to make. And we try to look at it from the outside.

    CHARLIE ROSE: And not everybody is thrilled at what you say about
    global warming.

    STEVEN LEVITT: Most of the people who aren’t thrilled with what we
    said about global warming aren’t even talking about what we actually said.
    I mean, what we said is not even very controversial.

    We’re not denying that the Earth has gotten warmer. It has gotten a
    lot warmer…

    CHARLIE ROSE: And it’s man created?

    STEVEN LEVITT: It’s harder to know whether it is man created. It’s
    always harder to know why something happened the way it did. But that’s
    not even our question.

    What we says if the earth gets too hot or if the earth is too hot,
    what’s the best way to cool it down? And the conventional wisdom is we
    have got to reduce carbon emissions dramatically. That is a reasonable
    solution, and it could work.

    But it has three problems. One, it’s incredibly expensive. And there
    is a reason why we produce and use a lot of fossil fuels — they are cheap
    and they drive the economy. Trillions of dollars it will cost to switch
    the economy over.

    Number two, we need 7 billion people to get together and coordinated
    if you want a solution when you cut fossil fuels.

    Number three, even if we could do that, because carbon dioxide stays
    in the air for so long, you’re looking at 50 years, 100 years before you
    start to feel the full effects of it.

    So it seems like if you really think global warming is a terrible
    problem, you need a solution that’s faster and is more certain and easier
    to do.

    So it turns out geo-engineering — extremely controversial, but so
    sensible. There are ideas out there that are cheap. They are totally
    reversible, which is incredibly important. You would want to do anything
    that was irreversible because the science isn’t that certain. And they
    don’t require massive behavior change.

    So we’re not saying that we should go out tomorrow and build one of
    these machines to put sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere. But what we are
    saying how can that not be part of the debate? We are just trying to get
    geo-engineering a seat at the table. But the interests are out there don’t
    want…

    CHARLIE ROSE: So if you put sulfur dioxide in the air through hoses
    or whatever it is, this is Nathan Myhrvold, isn’t it?

    STEVEN LEVITT: Absolutely, Nathan Myhrvold. It’s an old idea. A
    Noble prize-winning environmentalist put it out a while ago. Nathan has an
    engineering solution that allows us to quickly and reliably do that for
    something like $20 million, $50 million.

    Now compare that to the trillions of dollars we’re talking about on
    the old solutions. Why not at least have that kind of solution ready as an
    insurance policy in case some kind of global catastrophe involving the
    Greenland ice shelf happens and then we need to cool the Earth down
    quickly.

    CHARLIE ROSE: Explain to us how it would work.

    STEVEN LEVITT: It’s pretty straightforward.

    CHARLIE ROSE: You pour sulfur dioxide in the air and it puts a
    shield?

    STEVEN LEVITT: It puts a shield.

    Really, the science is based on what Mother Nature has been doing for eons, which is when there are big full volcanic eruptions, among the other things that are spewed out is sulfur dioxide, and its sprays so high it
    gets up in the stratosphere.

    The key is that getting the sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere where
    it forms into this haze which reflects something like one to two percent of
    the sunlight, and that’s enough to cool the earth. And all you need to do
    is just have a steady flow of it.

    And if you can figure out a way to get up there, and Nathan’s idea and
    his compatriots is to just essentially build a glorified garden hose that
    goes all the way up. Put one at the North Pole and one at the South Pole.

    It sounds of science fiction, but they have the engineering solution.
    It wouldn’t be that hard.

    CHARLIE ROSE: And what does Paul Krugman say about this?

    STEPHEN DUBNER: I don’t think Paul Krugman actually got to that. He went off on a paper that Marty Weitzman wrote about the probability of
    catastrophic temperature changes. And Paul Krugman thought he caught us in a mistake, and, I hate to say it, but he’s wrong.

    And at some point, you know, there’s so much fervor about this
    topic. Part of the problem…

    CHARLIE ROSE: It’s like theology.

    STEPHEN DUBNER: Well, it’s interesting you say that Charlie, because that was one of the many things that a very small portion of climate activists have objected to that we said. There is a sentence that I’m paraphrasing, but something along the line that the efforts to stop global
    warming have the characteristics of a religion.

    There really are these kind of dogmatic principles. There are
    believers, there are heretics, and so on. And we’ve seen that.

    The interesting thing is that geo-engineering is a pretty broad
    subject, actually. The garden hose to the sky is probably the most
    frightening to the average person. They think you want to intentionally
    pollute, even though it is replicating a volcano.

    But there are other solutions within the portfolio, some of which are
    as green as you could possibly hope to be, which is essentially creating
    higher reflectivity oceanic clouds by creating more cloud condensation
    nuclei.

    So clouds cool the earth. They do a great job. They’re nature’s way
    of cooling the earth. Over the oceans often aren’t as many because there
    aren’t enough nuclei.

    So one of Nathan Myhrvold’s and Intellectual Ventures plan is to
    create these kind of incredibly low friction boats, they don’t even have an
    engine, and they just go around kicking up sea spray, salt spray, that
    wafts into the air and forms more densely reflective clouds. That too is
    geo-engineering.

    So the idea is this — that would cost — I mean, the three of us
    could probably chip in and buy one of those boats. I don’t know how much
    you’re worth, but it’s more important to us. But it wouldn’t be that hard
    to do.

    But the point is, like Levitt said, to get a seat at the table for
    these kind of ideas, as opposed to this kind of one route that were
    barreling down which is carbon mitigation is the only route doesn’t seem to
    be — it seems to me we should be entertaining other possibilities.
    ________________________
    AND LATER….

    CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, that may be true.

    The law of unintended consequences — explain it.

    STEVEN LEVITT: The world is a complex place. There’s so much going on. And even when you have someone clever designing the rules and the incentives, with thousands or millions of people with something at stake scheming on the other side, they almost always figure a way around whatever system you set up.

    So I think really that’s what the most powerful idea of the law of
    unintended consequences is, is that anyone who thinks they can set up a set of rules, thinks they are smarter than the market in some sense, usually
    loses.

    STEPHEN DUBNER: Can I give one more example of the law of unintended consequences?

    CHARLIE ROSE: Yes.

    STEPHEN DUBNER: The efforts to clean up the air in general, to get
    heavy, particulate pollution out of the air, all the sulfur, all the acid
    rain from coal plants in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, it’s now thought — there
    are new studies, NASA, a bunch of scientists have been doing this, it’s now thought that removing those particles from the atmosphere is what has led to the warming in large part.

    In other words, carbon dioxide may not be remotely as large a villain
    as many people fear, because what has happened is that being good
    environmental stewards and trying to clear the air, we declare the air a
    lot, but all that junk and the air was blocking a degree of sun.

    And now with the removal of it, we’ve seen more warming. And so
    that’s going to be, I think, probably a line of research that we’re going
    to be hearing about a lot more.

    CHARLIE ROSE: So your idea is you can take the junk out, but you have to put something else up there that will block the sun?

    STEPHEN DUBNER: Well it’s a big maybe — look, Myhrvold I think
    describes it very well in the book, the idea of the garden hose in the sky
    and sulfur dioxide and geo-engineering.

    It’s like this — when you build a house, you do everything you can to
    not have a fire in the house. You don’t give your kids matches, you don’t
    run around with a lighter and do anything like this. But, if you have it,
    do you want a sprinkler system? Yes.

    So the idea is that the problem gets to be that bad, do you want to
    have something that could work beyond this kind of long-term, expensive,
    uncertain carbon mitigation ideas?

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 12 Nov 2009 @ 5:31 PM

  695. My comment, sent to the Freakonomics blog last night, and rejected by them:
    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/tonight-on-charlie-rose/

    I saw the show and I could not believe my ears. Dubner, at one point, launched into his own private version of global warming theory. He said that rather than CO2-based radiative forcing over the last century plus, the real cause of global warming is the reduction in aerosols over the last couple of decades, in response to air pollution regulations. He said that this was a recent discovery of scientists. There was no elaboration on this, neither by him or Levitt, and no challenge to this claim by Rose.

    Readers must know that this claim is flat out false and is contradicted by an enormous body of empirical and theoretical atmospheric science work dating to 1859, and increasingly validated over time by many types of evidence. This information is detailed in the IPCC AR4 report from 2007 at the IPCC website. Dubner is in criminal neglect of the scientific literature in making this statement, and his credibility is greatly reduced based on this statement.

    He also stated that spraying sulfate particulates into the air was simply a reversal of this process, mimicking a volcano, and would thus cool the atmosphere. This statement shows an astonishing combination of hubris and ignorance regarding both the feasibility and the potential results of such an endeavor. Scientists have no idea of the many climatic and ecological ramifications of attempting such a wild, hail-mary pass. Conversely, we know with a high degree of certainty what the result of stabilizing, or reducing, greenhouse gas emissions will be, from direct historical experience.

    My conclusion is that these two individuals are extremely dangerous because they apply poorly conceived ideas emanating from their “thought experiments” to extremely complex systems that they do not understand. Fortunately, their ideas have now been thoroughly discounted at a number of climate oriented websites, such as RealClimate and Climate Progress.

    Jim Bouldin
    Research Ecologist
    Univ of California, Davis

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 12 Nov 2009 @ 6:12 PM

  696. Re 691 Naindj

    Sometimes it’s possible to finnaggle your way to finding a free pdf of the whole article. I’ve managed to do that in a few cases. I hope to put together a list within a week. (One thing to try – once you find a title, you can try researching using that title, and you might find multiple web addresses, one of which might have free access.)

    Re Jim Bullis – “Now stop and think. There is a completely independent decision to be made about buying a car. ”

    Yes of course, but it doesn’t have to be so; a person who wishes to deliberately reduce emissions might choose to buy wind power, solar power, and a plug-in electric vehicle. If enough wind and solar power capacity is developed, reduced usage of natural gas and coal, etc, at some times could more than make up for any increase in coal and natural gas at other times. Yes, this is not in the financial interests of the utility – except if they are, for legal reasons, attempting to be honest and honor the customer’s payments to solar and wind, in which case when solar and wind supplies are available, they will tend to bump out fossil fuels. Yes, there is some difficulty in quickly ramping up and down power from some types of power plants, but transmission across sufficient distances can level out the temporal shifts in renewable power availability (ie consider the motion of the edge of a cloud area or a windy weather system, the time it takes to traverse a given distance and the distances across which electricity can be transmitted).

    Of course, the financial preference for coal can be reduced with a fossil C emission tax.

    I’m curious what you mean by “Such subsidies may be warranted, but not when imposed deceptively.”

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Nov 2009 @ 8:21 PM

  697. 696 Patrick 027

    I was specifically referring to the report in the Portland OR newspaper about how the legislative analysts had been strongly urged to make low ball estimates of the cost to taxpayers of wind subsidies.

    Less obvious but maybe worse is the clamor for wind power where it is said to be cheap, but when looking into the detail it seems to frequently turn out that every opportunity is taken to make it seem better than it is. The costs after subsidy are often reported. Rarely is the cost of money included in an analysis. And the wholesale market costs are often confused with retail electric rates. As I said before, I have not found what I would consider to be a real analysis, so I base my opinion on the fact that investors are not willing to get involved without government subsidies. This is not a good indicator for scaleability to a large amount of such energy because the subsidized cost does not indicate the cost of an economically viable enterprise in the long run.

    The counter argument is that large scale does tend to bring prices down, but it is a very different situation from the integrated circuit, the evolution of which has been described by Moore’s law. The necessarily huge machinery of wind turbines is at the opposite end of technology from transistors which are ultimately limited by the size of electrons. The appropriate scaling law is more closely related to automobile manufacturing cost experience, and that is an important and more valid way to make judgments. The quantities there of course are much greater, so even there some judgment has to be applied to future predictions.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 12 Nov 2009 @ 10:41 PM

  698. 696 Patrick 027

    Of course when wind power generating capacity offers a standby reserve capability, every thing I say about electric cars changes.

    The problem with getting there is that wind power has to first displace all the operating coal generators, which is theoretically possible, but hard to see happening in many decades. After that some additional capacity has to be constructed; and then you will get renewable energy when you plug in your car. Not before.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 12 Nov 2009 @ 10:48 PM

  699. RodB:

    Barton Paul Levenson, MV = PQ true, but not anywhere near precise as F = ma

    Exactly as precise. V is defined by that equation the way F is defined by F = m a.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Nov 2009 @ 7:10 AM

  700. @Jum Bullis (697)

    Y’know, tho, when you think about it, how many industries are NOT subsidized in some way?

    Investors have always asked for subsidies for a new industry. Rail would not have happened on the scale it did without taking the land from Native People and essentially giving the checkerboard patches to the rail companies, who didn’t have to buy as much land anymore to lay the tracks.

    Automobiles were subsidized by building roads everywhere and removing rail lines, at gigantic public expense. What would have happened if like rail GM had to finance its own roads?

    Drug companies get a gigantic boost from publicly-funded NIH research. (There is a case to be made that they should be allowed no patents at all – or those patents should accrue to the government — because of that).

    Coal companies (the miners) were subsidized with non-exstent land royalties (the rates have been the same for hard rock mining since 1880 or so) on public land, which they did not have to buy.

    Airlines didn’t have to build their own airports or pay tax on the fuel.

    And airplanes exist at all the way they do because of a gigantic wartime subsidy called WW II.

    Can you think of one industry that isn’t subsidized directly or indirectly? I can’t.

    Investors make decisions based on what is profitable. Slavery was profitable for centuries, that doesn’t make it a good idea.

    If the US committed to a Manhattan project for energy, this time focused on shifting sources, I think you could get to a wind, water and solar system without too many disruptions, but it will require that. People are pretty flexible. All during WW II folks were willing to recycle. The kinds of cultural changes we need are not impossible and the energy culture we have didn’t arise because people “wanted it” — anyone who says that customers “naturally” go to a “better” product is to my mind being just silly. Why? Advertising exists. It wouldn’t be a $billion industry if it was completely ineffective. iPods aren’t much better than any ther music player in a technological sense, you know?

    Take suburbs and car-oriented building. All of that came after WW II because the US government wanted to encourage home ownership (not in and of itself a terrible idea). But there was also a gigantic ad campaign touting the virtues of suburban living to sell those houses. And of course, a huge effort to destroy public transit in order to make sure there was only one choice to get there.

    (The LA rail system did not disappear by accident, and in NYC one of our mayors was a stockholder of GM, Somehow, magically I suppose, GM was the supplier of buses to the city in a no bid contract).

    It’s just a decision, it seems to me, about what you want to subsidize.

    Comment by Jesse — 13 Nov 2009 @ 8:20 AM

  701. Jim, I read your post just before bed last night, which I suppose explains why I awoke thinking about the idea that the “SO2 solution” could possibly accomplished at a cost of “something like 20, 50 million.”

    Let’s see–

    The stratosphere is considered to begin at about 8 km in the polar regions. The tallest chimney in the world, according to Wiki, is the GRES-2 stack in Kazakhstan at 419.7 meters tall. But Wiki doesn’t give construction costs, so let’s consider the #2 chimney, Inco’s “Superstack” in Sudbury, Ontario, at 380 meters. So, we are talking about a structure roughly 2.5 x 8 = 20 times taller than anything comparable.

    Wiki says the estimated cost in 1972 was $25 million. Using the per capita GDP measure of inflation, that would be about 19 times greater in 2006 dollars, which already gets us to about $500 million. Using the 20 times taller naively, as a multiplier (I’m guessing the increase would be more nearly exponential, as this type of scaling is highly unlikely to be linear!) we get $10 billion.

    Oh, yes, the proposal was to build two of them, so we can’t forget to multiply by two–that’s $20 billion.

    And I suppose one would need to consider that these construction projects would be taking place in the most inhospitable environments in the world–there’s only a three-month yearly work window in Antarctica? That the North Pole stack would be placed in the middle of an ocean–depth at that location 4087 meters–so we’re talking about the world’s deepest footings, too? Any guesses how these facts would multiply the cost?

    Then there’s the question of actually operating the thing. Where does the SO2 come from–is it produced on-site somehow? If so, where do the raw materials come from? What about support–is a permanent human presence for maintenance implied? And just how is this incredible machinery going to be powered? Since Levitt and Duner are economists, what about financing costs–where is the capital going to come from, and how much is it going to cost?

    At this point, my intuition is that we could well be into the range of many trillions of dollars to actually do this “relatively cheap” geoengineering scheme, which means it’s roughly comparable to mitigation, according to L & D. And unlike mitigation, the cost is actually unbounded since the thing could need to operate basically in perpetuity.

    It might not be technically doable at any price with current technology–an 8+ km tower built anywhere would certainly be the foremost wonder of the world today. It’s also hard to imagine that it could be done on less than decadal timescales even if it is feasible.

    You’re right if you call all this “back-of-envelope”, or maybe even hand-waving, but I do think that I’ve given the idea more serious thought in the last 45 minutes than Levitt and Dubner ever did before they went to print with it. And some of that thought is in their area of expertise!

    Incredibly shoddy. You have to believe they just didn’t try very hard.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inco_Superstack
    http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/
    http://www.webcamgalore.com/EN/webcam/Arctic-Ocean/North-Pole/11.html

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Nov 2009 @ 9:05 AM

  702. Just a slight follow-on to the previous post: the FY2010 budget request for “Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics” is “nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.”

    http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/features/contenthandler.cfm?id=1781

    BTW, the story of the Inco superstack, linked in the previous post, is an environmental story well-worth perusing just from a general interest viewpoint if you don’t already know it.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Nov 2009 @ 9:25 AM

  703. Jesse, you are so right about the impact of WWII on aviation, as well as your remarks about the railroads and suburbia. But don’t forget WWI. (Cf. the 2,000-pound bomb payload of the Handley-Page Type 0/400 bomber, which was operational not quite 15 years after the Wrights’ first flight at Kitty Hawk.)

    See here, section “The Growth of Military Aviation.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Nov 2009 @ 9:37 AM

  704. Jim Bullis (697), et al

    T. Boone Pickins’ north Texas wind farm is a clear example of what you say. He would not have started it without a solid belief that at a minimum the federal production subsidy would be maintained. He was totally open about this. Plus he was counting on (hoping for?) increased profitability of his natural gas as a fall out for his wind farm, a subsidy of sorts . He was also counting on others to provide (pay for) the transmission requirements.

    Yout integrated circuit analogy is less than perfect. The scaling of more densely packed chips (which is the prime metric of advancement) is greatly dependent of the chip making machines (AMD, e.g.) which get exponentially larger and more costly as the density (actually circuit channel widths) improves.

    Comment by Rod B — 13 Nov 2009 @ 10:08 AM

  705. BPL, I can apply a precise force of 1.056 newtons against a mass of 1.111 kg and, with knowledge of the resistance force within 4 significant digits (doable) I can easily, accurately and precisely predict the mass’ acceleration within 4 significant numbers. No one can accurately predict Price within even the same ballpark using MV/Q = P other than in the unreal ethereal theoretical. In fact the only thing (input or output) that can be even halfway accurately determined is M.

    Comment by Rod B — 13 Nov 2009 @ 10:20 AM

  706. Fyi, I reiterated my objection to WUWT and CA nominations for Best Science Blog on the Weblog Awards forum:

    Please remove anti-science blogs from the Best Science Blog category

    Repeating my plea from the nomination thread (http://2009.weblogawards.org/nominations/best-science-blog/index.php#comment-21998): Please remove anti-science blogs “Watts Up with That” and “Climate Audit” from the Science category. The brand of contrarianism on display at both blogs fits no legitimate definition of “‘science.”

    The editorial position at both blogs is that human carbon emissions do not change Earth’s radiative balance with space, and that a conspiracy of corrupt scientists has made up the story for cryptic purposes.

    To illustrate just how unscientific both blogs are, consider the remarkable unanimity of the legitimate scientific community on the issue:

    “With the release of the revised statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2007, no remaining scientific body of national or international standing is known to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate change.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_consensus)

    As for the “evil climate scientist” theory, I’ll leave it to the Weblog Awards editors to assess its credibility.

    The Best Humor Blog category would be the appropriate place for “Watts Up with That” and “Climate Audit.”

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 13 Nov 2009 @ 10:34 AM

  707. Jesse (700), your main point, IMO, is quite deserving. But your supporting examples completely mischaracterized, bastardized, and dumbed-down “subsidies.” Car manufacturers were not successful because the government built roads. The government built roads because the people buying cars (btw, because cars were much neater and more convenient and desirable than horses and carts — not because Ford et al had a good advertising agency) wanted to use them more and wanted to drive on something other than dirt sometimes. The roads also happened to support the society as a whole with greatly improved distribution of farm products and other goods and services, not to mention the mobility of military defense forces. Were the trails through the Rockies built to subsidize the covered wagon industry?? Building roads to subsidize the auto industry is down there at about number 217. Your suggestion that iPod owes its success to an advertising agency that is magnitudes better than Sony’s begs credibility. Etc. Etc. Etc. (Though some do have merit, e.g., railroads, et al, and to some extent early coal mining. However the latter example is partly a matter of definition (discussed in RC before): I think that not charging some added expense or tax to an industry is not the same as giving them a subsidy — though others here will disagree with that.)

    Still, your main point deserves some consideration.

    Comment by Rod B — 13 Nov 2009 @ 10:55 AM

  708. Jim G. Un-nomination seconded.

    Comment by Deech56 — 13 Nov 2009 @ 11:42 AM

  709. Thanks, Deech. Has anybody actually tried this before? The Weblog Award editors might be reasonable folk…

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 13 Nov 2009 @ 12:25 PM

  710. Rob B 707,

    Actually Rob, Jesse was right, the covered wagon industry was subsidized, big time. The Butterfield Overland Mail was the first transcontinetal commercial overland transportation system. It returned something like 1% of the money the government paid for the for its first 6 year contract for carrying the bi-weekly mail. I won’t bore you with the fact we are really talking stagecoaches and not covered wagons but you get my point. If you want to do something really great and difficult, you very well may need the government to subsidize it. The invisible hand of the economy is like the emperor’s clothes. Until some little Jesse points out the clarity of what is missing.

    Comment by Po — 13 Nov 2009 @ 12:29 PM

  711. Jim Bullis, # 698, says

    “Of course when wind power generating capacity offers a standby reserve capability, every thing I say about electric cars changes.

    The problem with getting there is that wind power has to first displace all the operating coal generators, which is theoretically possible, but hard to see happening in many decades. After that some additional capacity has to be constructed; and then you will get renewable energy when you plug in your car. Not before.”

    You have been making similar points, using many thousands of words, in dozens or hundreds of places on several forums for a long time, and I am getting impatient with your logic, much as I congratulate you on your perseverence in the crucial field we may loosely call sustainable development. (I’m not saying your car won’t “fly”, and if it does you have all my good wishes.)

    My quote from you is about “wind power” but, as you no doubt agree, the important questions are really about the mix of all power sources. So let’s phrase it in terms of green power generally, defining green as not creating dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate.

    The big question has to be along the lines of migrating (slowly, perforce, but fast enough to matter) from mostly dirty power to mostly or all green power. Obviously, if we get far along that path, to the point when the amount of dirty power is much less and the climate is responding to our efforts, we’ve made wonderful progress. I fail to see the relevance of what happens at the margin when one particular plug-in owner plugs in. That’s not the important question. The important questions are about the mix of power sources over many decades and the interaction of various technologies, consumer demands, and hoped-for conservation and efficiency efforts during that time.

    If my memory of your numerous postings is correct, you typically end with a resounding rejection of the possibility that plug-ins could ever do any good. But that conclusion does not follow from narrow facts about which power source is dispatchable (in what quantities?!) at a given time in history.

    Since I am recalling a mix of many postings over a long time, possibly I’ve been unfair to your train of thought in context. Feel free to set me straight, but please connect the narrower premises to the larger questions, considered over a span of decades, and gracefully acknowledge uncertainties in postulates and quantifications.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 13 Nov 2009 @ 1:26 PM

  712. 700 Jusse,

    Absolutely right!

    Well, actually some railroads builders got massive land grants, some were a mile wide, every other mile on each side of the tracks they laid. And we all benefit from land stolen.

    My argument is not whether we should do subsidies but whether we should analyze the cost correctly and be open about it. And some might have a good effect and some might not. And in the end, some of the right actions will simply not happen because of the cost.

    It is discouraging to my point of view (see http://www.miastrada.com) to see energy guzzling cars being equipped to run on coal fired electricity. But this is happening with massive government support. I fail to be persuasive against this since this will shift from oil to coal as the fuel source. The “smart” grid is said to be a way of bringing renewables to where their output can be used; true, but it will mostly be a way to perpetuate and encourage coal fired power plants.

    Under the situation emerging, there is no reason for people to give up the kind of cars they love. All people have to do is plug in at night and they will be set for many years to come. Thus I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that a lot of effort trying to get people into a different kind of car is wasted. If we banned coal, I think there would be a mad scramble for my kind of solutions.

    I think there will have to be acceptable low cost alternatives to the kind of cars we now use that do not depend on coal fired electricity before there will be any real political will to limit coal use.

    The annoying thing is that we have government acting to set us up to depend on coal by encouraging plug-in cars and long distance power transmission, while heading to a Copehagen conference to argue against CO2 emissions.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 13 Nov 2009 @ 2:16 PM

  713. 711 Ric Merrit

    I am glad that some of my words have been read. Disconnected? Probably guilty, partly because my opinions have been forming over time, which is the intended outcome for the time I am putting into it.

    If you read my last you will see that my thoughts are evolving. Now it seems that efforts to make a car that would use almost no energy are probably wasted, at least there will not be much market encouragement for some time.

    You are sort of right that the big question is about migrating from “dirty” to “green”, but by using such terms you evade the real objective which is to migrate from high CO2 to low CO2 while still getting along with the things we need to do. (It is clear that you mean the same thing as I do from other of your words.)

    I try hard to not say that plug-ins will never do any good. My car concept has always been a plug-in and some versions will be a hybrid plug-in.. What I do say is that plug-ins that require a lot of energy are bad, and I guess I think this will always be so. The main point in my approach to the car is that it will not require much energy. So whatever the power plant, it will make things a lot better.

    I use the term “marginal” not in the sense you seem to take it. When I talk about the marginal response of the grid to a plugged in car I am trying to demonstrate the incremental effect of a plug-in compared to the status before the plug-in car existed. I perhaps should finish by saying this marginal response will be multiplied by whatever number of million others do the same. I am trying to show that what actually changes as a result of the collection of all plug-ins as far as CO2 goes is not determined by the “mix.” So much of the power resource of the “mix” is from sources that have no capacity to increase their output, so these can not help with added loads.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 13 Nov 2009 @ 3:02 PM

  714. 704 Rod B

    Pickens was open, yes, and he was clever to jump on the green bandwagon, though he was surely mistaken about how fast that wagon was moving.

    All the Moore’s law applications outside the integrated circuit world are questionable. Even exCEO of Intel, Andy Grove, says that batteries will follow Moore’s law. Surely he must know better. Batteries are more like silicon power semi-conductors which have improved over the years, but the rate is far different from the integrated circuit rate of improvement.

    PV solar technology is also very much limited in rate of improvement. Only by going to different materials has there been much advancement. Maybe there will be more, but I would hesitate to plan on it.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 13 Nov 2009 @ 7:48 PM

  715. Jim Bouldin (695)

    “Dubner, at one point, launched into his own private version of global warming theory. He said that rather than CO2-based radiative forcing over the last century plus, the real cause of global warming is the reduction in aerosols over the last couple of decades, in response to air pollution regulations.”

    Wait a minute. This is not false. Nor is it news. Dubner is probably being simplistic and crude, but it was Jim Hansen who said in 2000 something like, “Observed warming of the past century is due primarily to processes other than fossil fuel combustion, the warming from CO2 emissions of which is balanced by the cooling from the aerosols emissions of it.” You can cut and dice radiative forcing any which way you please, but a IPCC 2007 chart I have shows that

    (i) on a 100-year GWP basis, integrated RF for CO2 emissions of year 2000 was about 2.4 w/m2 and of all non-CO2 warming species’ (other LLGHGs and SLGHGs) emissions of the same year, about 1.7 w/m2; this total was negated by cooling of about 1.3 w/m2 from aerosols/aerosol precursors and cloud albedo. Net warming of about 1.8 w/m2. For the CO2 emissions, let’s say 1.6 w/m2 is assigned to fossil fuels, and let’s say fossil emissions of cooling aerosols did about 0.5 w/m2 of cooling. Crudely speaking, fossil CO2′s net contribution, after taking the cooling into account, around 1.1 w/m2 or about 60% of the net warming. You could slack off some on sulfur, nitrogen aerosol control, which doesn’t seem to be that horrible an idea; surely you don’t have to contemplate “hosing”. (Of course, some of the non-CO2 emissions also come from fossil fuel combustion; I ignored them for the sake of this argument because you seem to see a demon in CO2, not the non-CO2 warming agents.)

    (ii) on a 20-year GWP basis, the integrated RF numbers for 2000 emissions are about 0.8, 1.2, 1.3, 0.7; 0.6, 0.5 and 0.1 W/m2 respectively, hence the last number at ~16%. Within the short-term, the time more relevant for policy purposes (and recognizing the inertia in energy infrastructure as Hansen so presciently did in 2000), fossil CO2 contribution to warming is small, and can probably be managed by undoing the gains of SO2 controls since 1995.

    [edit - stick to the science]

    Comment by Nikhil — 14 Nov 2009 @ 3:20 AM

  716. Hank Roberts(676):

    “> I don’t know about the Ogalalla aquifer (me).

    Then you don’t know much about economics.
    How about the Kettleman Hills aquifer? Very different problem.”

    ** I don’t know anything about that either, and that’s good enough for me. The more I learn what I don’t know, the better informed I become. Thank you.**

    Comment by Nikhil — 14 Nov 2009 @ 3:22 AM

  717. A sociological comment with historical background: I find it very interesting that Mr. Levitt ends his response to this post with

    “I’m not sure why that is blasphemy.”

    This pondering reveals a commonality with those people who found themselves in the 1990s on the receiving end of criticisms for being prejudiced, biased, or racist in their thinking. You may recall that like Mr. Levitt, those people quickly labeled the criticisms of their behavior as “politically motivated” and they then often sarcastically referred to their behaviors as “politically incorrect.”

    Analogously to the case of Mr. Levitt, the root cause of the conflict was that the majority of these people were in denial about a large-scale shift in the social fabric of America in which it was no longer acceptable for people in the privileged classes to make crude remarks, in jest or otherwise, about people whose skin was a different color, who came from lower class backgrounds, or who had different sexual orientations than they did.

    These people both did not understand *why* it was no longer acceptable to verbally denigrate others (even though simple moral arithmetic was readily at hand to “do the calculation”) nor did they believe that a large number of their fellow citizens had begun to understand and follow this “new morality”.

    Thus, they, like Mr. Levitt, began to feel that they were a class of people under attack for their “independent thinking”. They felt that their views, far from now being socially repugnant, were simply being repressed by some kind of vaguely organized cult of “correctness” that was orchestrated somehow by large unseen but ultimately nefarious forces. Back then, these forces were believed to be a combination of feminists, gays, and people of color that were somehow plotting to destroy our “American way of life” for their own benefit.

    Eventually, these “independent thinkers” began to wear the term “Politically Incorrect” as a badge of honor, as if to say that by being unafraid to make off-color remarks about someone’s sexual identity or skin color affirmed their 1st Amendment rights under the constitution and thus could not be assailed for any other reason. Sadly, what they never seemed to understand was that their comments were at best not helpful, and at worst, as when wielded by people like George Will with access to large media outlets were actually harmful to the larger social goal of reducing racism and sexism and thereby advancing American society into a better future.

    Additionally, these “beseiged” people came to view their “oppressors” not as rational thinking people with clear sociological points to be made, points which they would be glad to argue in a rational manner in debate form, but as quasi-religious “dogma enforcers” whose agenda was driven by some form of “belief system”. This had the convenient effect of removing rationality from the argument and taking the discussion down to the level of “Well you believe my statement to be racist but I believe it to be not-racist, so I guess we’ll just agree to disagree.” This of course stops all debate.

    In the climate “controversy” the role of the shadowy conspiratorial suppressors of independent thinking has now been assigned by the newly “oppressed” group (consisting mostly of oil and coal industry lobbyists and their apologists) to Al Gore, the IPCC, and a vague cadre of “hippie scientists” who continue to try to force their “beliefs” on the rest of us.

    Mr. Levitt’s remark above betrays the fact that this group has, like the racists before them, failed to understand that a very real and very important large-scale shift has occurred in the social fabric of America and indeed the world. In this case, the shift is to a realization that humanity cannot continue to pump Gigatons of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere and expect the planet to stay in its currently nicely habitable state.

    Mr. Levitt’s remark betrays the fact that like the “politically incorrect” before him, he has knowingly or unknowingly assigned those who rationally present this new reality to him to the role of quasi-religious “believers” whose arguments are therefore dismissed not as reason-based but as dogma that can be ignored as the “beliefs of others.”

    Mr. Levitt thus, in the same tired way we saw in the 1990s, avoids rational argument by sarcastically saying “Sorry for the blasphemy – I must be politically incorrect!” and refusing to participate further in any rational debate. Unfortunately, “agreeing to disagree” in the case of climate change, or in the field of scientific debate in general, is not an option. Science is unique as a system of human thought in that it relies on external realities that can be objectively and rationally investigated, proven, or refuted.

    There is no room for throwing up of the hands in this debate, Mr. Levitt. Either stand by your position with reason and facts or publish a self-refutation. Show some intellectual courage and stop denigrating science professionals as “believers”. We are scientists, not priests, Mr. Levitt.

    Comment by Thomas — 14 Nov 2009 @ 10:05 AM

  718. “Dubner, at one point, launched into his own private version of global warming theory. He said that rather than CO2-based radiative forcing over the last century plus, the real cause of global warming is the reduction in aerosols over the last couple of decades, in response to air pollution regulations.”

    Wait a minute. This is not false. Nor is it news.

    How is it not false? Aerosols were greatly reduced in the 1970s, about three decades ago, not “over the last couple of decades”. The last three decades of warming are a clear expression of the CO2 forcing signal.

    [Response: Maybe this is a useful analogy. Suppose someone was poisoning your food, increasing the dose every time, but someone else was keeping you supplied with the antidote. But for some reason the supply of antidote was curtailed so that the poison started to have its full effect. I think most people would agree that the cause of your resulting sickness was the poison, not that the antidote supply dried up. - gavin]

    Comment by dhogaza — 14 Nov 2009 @ 12:24 PM

  719. Po (710), but that is not a subsidy to the covered wagon or stagecoach industry per se, as a government contracting with Lockheed-Martin to build a bunch of fighter planes is not a “subsidy” for L-M. You also dismiss the “invisible hand” way to cavalierly. Though, as you say, once in a while a government subsidy is required to accomplish some necessary action that the private economy won’t; or it might just be a government expenditure.

    Comment by Rod B — 14 Nov 2009 @ 2:12 PM

  720. BTW, my 704 should have read AM (Applied Materials), not AMD. I always mix their names up…

    Comment by Rod B — 14 Nov 2009 @ 2:23 PM

  721. Nikhil, understanding the various kinds of aqufers — or the other natural sources from which people extract wealth — is a problem with economics generally. Look up codfish, or tuna, for other examples.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2009 @ 3:01 PM

  722. New Yorker has a review out on SuperF:
    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/16/091116crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all

    Dubner attacks the messenger:
    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/with-geoengineering-outlawed-will-only-outlaws-have-geoengineering/

    Comment by Paul Klemencic — 14 Nov 2009 @ 3:03 PM

  723. #717 Excellent analysis Thomas, first class clear thinking about the “politically incorrect” mindset. The related “Galileo syndrome” is analysed here http://www.blognow.com.au/mrpickwick/180707/You_are_no_Galileo.html

    Comment by David Horton — 14 Nov 2009 @ 5:36 PM

  724. Dubner:

    > those who argue for carbon mitigation as the sole
    > route to address global warming …

    Strawman.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2009 @ 7:45 PM

  725. According to wikipedia the ‘invisible hand’ results in”…prices that are beneficial to all the individual members of a community, and hence to the community as a whole.” Could someone explain in economic terms the benefit of Pet Rocks to the community as a whole? Did the free trade in Credit Default Swaps (not just free, but unregulated to the extent that the total value is only thought to be between 40 and 60 trillion dollars, but may be larger or smaller) result in prices that were beneficial? If the economy has 40-60 trillion dollars of unregulated financial instruments floating around, maybe more, maybe less, how accurately can you quantify M?
    The use of discount rates in financial analysis is based on the presumption that money invested now will increase our ability to buy things in the future; in other words, that I could spend $5 on a sandwich now, or invest the money, and buy 2 sandwiches at some future date.The underlying presumption is that 2 sandwiches will be available and be worth the same at that future time. Since the resources which fuel the economy are finite, surely discounting would be more accurate if it assumed sigmoid instead of exponential growth. But that would mean that fairly weighing future values of CO2 mitigation versus current costs, and comparing them to hypothetical geoengineering proposals would require knowing which particular sigmoid curve applied, and where the inflection point lies(have we already passed Peak Oil? What are the implications if I’m buying fuel instead of sandwiches?).
    Applying conventional economic analysis to environmental policy decisions has even more problems. It will be relatively easy in the future for me to find a sandwich to buy, and there are already things like biodiesel which will be available as substitutes for fossil oil, although the price relative to a sandwich is hard to predict. But there isn’t a market where I can go to buy passenger pigeons, or another Wilkins ice shelf, and since there isn’t any market, saying that preserving the arctic sea ice is worth only X%of our GDP is totally arbitrary.
    “In short, then, the long-term modeling of the costs and benefits of climate change policies used by environmental economists, aside from being a far less accurate tool than its technical precision makes it seem, is systematically biased against policies that are designed to take preventative action now rather than ameliorative action later.”
    Discounting the Discount Rate: Ecocentrism and Environmental Economics J. Samuel Barkin Department of Political Science University of Florida

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 14 Nov 2009 @ 11:18 PM

  726. Re 697 Jim Bullis

    –”I was specifically referring to the report in the Portland OR newspaper about how the legislative analysts had been strongly urged to make low ball estimates of the cost to taxpayers of wind subsidies.”

    Surely that’s not the only analysis ever done?

    The total subsity cost just be subsidy per unit * number of units, summed over categories.

    –”Less obvious but maybe worse is the clamor for wind power where it is said to be cheap, but when looking into the detail it seems to frequently turn out that every opportunity is taken to make it seem better than it is. The costs after subsidy are often reported.”

    Okay, but I don’t think that’s the price given in “A Solar Grand Plan”:
    - – - – - – - –
    “A Solar Grand Plan
    By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions”
    Ken Zweibel, James Mason, Vasilis Fthenakis
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

    “To provide electricity at six cents per kWh by 2020, cadmium telluride modules would have to convert electricity with 14 percent efficiency, and systems would have to be installed at $1.20 per watt of capacity. Current modules have 10 percent efficiency and an installed system cost of about $4 per watt.”

    (that refers to the cost of a product and service, and presumably is before subsidies)

    “Studies by the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., indicate that the cost of compressed-air energy storage today is about half that of lead-acid batteries. The research indicates that these facilities would add three or four cents per kWh to photovoltaic generation, bringing the total 2020 cost to eight or nine cents per kWh.”

    “In 2006 a report by the Solar Task Force of the Western Governors’ Association concluded that concentrated solar power could provide electricity at 10 cents per kWh or less by 2015 if 4 GW of plants were constructed.”

    “Stage One: Present to 2020
    We have given considerable thought to how the solar grand plan can be deployed. We foresee two distinct stages. The first, from now until 2020, must make solar competitive at the mass-production level. This stage will require the government to guarantee 30-year [lo-ans], agree to purchase power and provide price-support subsidies. The annual aid package would rise steadily from 2011 to 2020. At that time, the solar technologies would compete on their own merits. The cumulative subsidy would total $420 billion (we will explain later how to pay this bill).”

    (Note the distinction between an ongoing subsidy to keep an alternative competitives, verses a subsidy to help the transition from one economic pathway to another, which is phased out.)

    “Building 1.5 GW of photovoltaics and 1.5 GW of concentrated solar power annually in the first five years would stimulate many manufacturers to scale up. In the next five years, annual construction would rise to 5 GW apiece, helping firms optimize production lines. As a result, solar electricity would fall toward six cents per kWh. This implementation schedule is realistic; more than 5 GW of nuclear power plants were built in the U.S. each year from 1972 to 1987. What is more, solar systems can be manufactured and installed at much faster rates than conventional power plants because of their straightforward design and relative lack of environmental and safety complications.”

    “Congress could establish the financial incentives by adopting a national renewable energy plan.”… “A solar price support program would secure the nation’s energy future, vital to the country’s long-term health. Subsidies would be gradually deployed from 2011 to 2020. With a standard 30-year payoff interval, the subsidies would end from 2041 to 2050. The HVDC transmission companies would not have to be subsidized, because they would finance construction of lines and converter stations just as they now finance AC lines, earning revenues by delivering electricity.”

    (A lot of unanswered questions here: …
    —–
    how much is the cost of the transmission system, etc, and the relationship between CAES and solar power plant output is a bit complex since a CAES system will store solar and wind power supplied over HVDC and output (which I think is AC, to the AC grid) that stored energy, with some conversion loss, possibly combined with some fuel energy, which could be natural gas in the short term, solar/wind hydrogen in the long term – or biofuels, geothermal, etc. The concentrated solar (CSP) considered above was the thermal sort (not CPV), which has trouble for seasonal storage but is dispatchable power on the diurnal and hourly time scale, and the variable solar input can be combined with a complementary fuel input.
    —–
    … but there are other sources, for this article and the more recent

    “A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables
    Wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels. Here’s how”
    By Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030

    ; I haven’t read enough in detail to answer the points you bring up, which I can see are potentially valid, yet you haven’t actually shown me that these studies have committed those errors or confusions that you have identified as possible and/or existing in some work.)
    - – - – - – - –

    –”Rarely is the cost of money included in an analysis.”

    No, the cost of money – if by that, you mean interest rates on lo-ans and dividends on stock, etc, is definitely included. I have seen it listed in a table (there was accounting based on some ratio of debt and equity).

    If it were not, the projected costs would be considerably lower (a $4 per peak W system with capacity factor of 0.25 (the “Solar Grand Plan” placed most solar PV capacity in deserts where average panel insolation could actually allow capacity factors a bit over 0.25, assuming good fill factors, etc.) would have a cost of $16 per installed W; the standard (and very conservative) lifetime considered for PV systems is 30 years, so using 30 years * 8.766 kWh/(W year) = 262.98 kWh/average W, then $16/263 kWh ~= 6.08 cents/kWh. Granted, some of the installation cost might be repeated with inverter replacements at 15 years – although the “Solar Grand Plan” desert installations did not use inverters since, as I understand it, DC power was fed into CAES and AC power was output from CAES; nonetheless, suppose half of that cost is repeated every 15 years, then we get 3.04 + 2*3.04 = 1.5 * 6.08 ~= 9.13 (sum is different from rounding) cents/kWh – on the other hand, halve the one-time cost for a 60-year life, now we’re at 1.25 * 6.08 ~= 7.605 cents/kWh. But I don’t actually know offhand how the proportions work out.)

    –”And the wholesale market costs are often confused with retail electric rates.”

    Potentially good point, but I don’t know if this criticism applies to the work I’m looking at or in the process of tracking down. (And wouldn’t apply so much to rooftop applications, except for the portion that is redistributed over the grid.)

    –”As I said before, I have not found what I would consider to be a real analysis, so I base my opinion on the fact that investors are not willing to get involved without government subsidies. This is not a good indicator for scaleability to a large amount of such energy because the subsidized cost does not indicate the cost of an economically viable enterprise in the long run.”

    Combined with reasonable expectations of economic viability in the long run, this is a good argument for subsidies until costs come down enough for a sufficient portion of alternative options to be competitive on their own, or only with the emissions taxes. Presently we don’t have emissions taxes, so all the more reason for some subsidies for the interim.

    Re 698 Jim Bullis

    –”The problem with getting there is that wind power has to first displace all the operating coal generators, which is theoretically possible, but hard to see happening in many decades.”

    No, all it needs is for wind power to be sold to the grid at equal or lower price than fossil fuel power is sold on the grid.

    Re 713 Jim Bullis

    –”I am trying to show that what actually changes as a result of the collection of all plug-ins as far as CO2 goes is not determined by the “mix.” So much of the power resource of the “mix” is from sources that have no capacity to increase their output, so these can not help with added loads.”

    They help if the capacity is increased sufficiently, or capacity of that and storage are increased, so that there is availability when it would be used.

    Re 697,713

    –”PV solar technology is also very much limited in rate of improvement. Only by going to different materials has there been much advancement. Maybe there will be more, but I would hesitate to plan on it.”

    –”The counter argument is that large scale does tend to bring prices down, but it is a very different situation from the integrated circuit, the evolution of which has been described by Moore’s law. The necessarily huge machinery of wind turbines is at the opposite end of technology from transistors which are ultimately limited by the size of electrons. The appropriate scaling law is more closely related to automobile manufacturing cost experience, and that is an important and more valid way to make judgments. The quantities there of course are much greater, so even there some judgment has to be applied to future predictions.”

    I didn’t think Moore’s law was being used as the justification for expecting costs to improve.

    PV and wind costs, and costs of solar water heaters, etc, should improve with expansion of production and reliable demand for product (the last one might be more applicable to water heaters (?), since the solar PV and wind power manufacturing rates have been growing consistently exponentially), and also with cummulative production to make up for one-time costs, such as private sector R&D and the learning curve.

    ————————————–

    Re 715 Nikhil

    –”on a 100-year GWP basis”
    –”on a 20-year GWP basis”

    It’s a bit confusing to use GWP in the context of looking at a history of radiative forcings. Much of the GWP of past CO2 emissions over a long time and methane emissions of only the last decade have yet to be realized.

    Some portion of the GWP of older emissions is no longer contributing to radiative forcing at present.

    ————————————–

    Re 717 Thomas – interesting.

    Re 719 Rod B – I am unfamiliar with 710 Po’s example but that is a good general point to remember, that some (or most?) government spending is not subsidy but rather demand of a public consumer.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Nov 2009 @ 12:23 AM

  727. Re 725 Brian Dodge – “and since there isn’t any market, saying that preserving the arctic sea ice is worth only X%of our GDP is totally arbitrary.”

    Theoretically, it is the least of the available combinations of neutralization or amelioration of the change, adaptation to the change, costs incurred by the change.

    “The use of discount rates in financial analysis is based on the presumption that money invested now will increase our ability to buy things in the future; in other words, that I could spend $5 on a sandwich now, or invest the money, and buy 2 sandwiches at some future date.”

    I think it depends on which discount rate is involved – and this isn’t something I have completely clear, but

    1. there is a discount for uncertainty – if there were an 0.00001 % chance that a civilization-ending, extinction causing asteroid would strick the Earth, then all future changes would be valued at 99.99999 % of what it would otherwise be (I’d think).

    2. the future benifits from technological and other progress, unless climate change or ____ is severe enough to eliminate that.

    3. A given harvest must be divided into what is consumed and what is planted to regenerate the next season’s harvest. There is competition between the present and future uses, hence interest rates. But a few seeds will produce entire plants, so you can forgo a sandwhich now and get more later if other conditions allow.

    If other conditions allow/all other things being equal – of course these contingencies are important.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Nov 2009 @ 1:00 AM

  728. Patrick 027

    Re 715 Nikhil

    –”on a 100-year GWP basis”
    –”on a 20-year GWP basis”

    It’s a bit confusing to use GWP in the context of looking at a history of radiative forcings. Much of the GWP of past CO2 emissions over a long time and methane emissions of only the last decade have yet to be realized.

    Some portion of the GWP of older emissions is no longer contributing to radiative forcing at present.

    **I agree. My mistake; loose writing. Actually the numbers are as presented in IPCC AR4 graph with “20-year time horizon” and “100-year time horizon”.

    The precise quote is, “Figure 2.22. Integrated RF of year 2000 emissions over two time horizons (20 and 100 years). The figure gives an indication of the future climate impact of current emissions. The values for aerosols and aerosol precursors are essentially equal for the two time horizons. It should be noted that the RFs of short-lived gases and aerosol depend critically on both when and where they are emitted; the values given in the figure apply only to total global annual emissions. For organic carbon and BC, both fossil fuel (FF) and biomass burning emissions are included. The uncertainty estimates are based on the uncertainties in emission sources, lifetime and radiative efficiency estimates.”

    A 20-year time horizon values current generation more. This is not mere science, it is value, i.e., politics. Scientists who edit out “values” pretending that they don’t do politics actually are even more guilty of playing politics.

    Comment by Nikhil — 15 Nov 2009 @ 1:15 AM

  729. Jim Bullis,
    Moore’s Law long ago ceased to be a law of physics and instead became a law of economic reality for microelectronics manufacturers. The current 45-nm CMOS is a very different beast from the bulky MOS transistors of processes Gordon Moore could envision. Device architecture, doping profiles, materials (especially dielectrics) and microcircuit types and architectures are all novel and are changing increasingly with each new generation. I suggest a perusal of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors.

    The point is that economics can drive technological advance as surely as technological advance can drive economic growth. Rosenfeld’s law applies over many more generations than does Moore’s–and it has done so without the sort of concerted international effort we have see wrt the ITRS.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Nov 2009 @ 6:00 AM

  730. 729 Ray Ladbury,

    I would prefer not to bring up “laws” which seem to be a poor substitute for thinking about the underlying processes and how they might evolve.

    I do not know what Rosenfeld’s law is. I might guess it was something Art Rosenfeld of the California Energy Commission said, but this will be slow to impress me. Rosenfeld had a hand in making the squigly fluoresent light bulb, which is significant. Our way of dealing with CO2 from coal fired power plants is not so impressive since it is a tax on rate-payers that simply shifts coal use out of California to other states; neither is our self deceiving policy toward electric cars as a CO2 reduction measure. Surely, Rosenfeld should be able to set his politician patrons straight that the “mix” of fuels used to produce electricity is inappropriate in determining the impact of electric cars on CO2 production. We also seem to have trouble remembering physics here in California since the idea that you can compare electric motor efficiency with the efficiency of heat engines runs rampant at all levels of society. I was told by a noted California expert that “if you don’t know that electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines you bloody well don’t know much.” Lacking timidity in the face of authority this did not bother me, though my persistence in explaining that efficiency of motors and engines can not be compared may have been a factor in getting me “moderated.”

    In the discussion of how quickly wind turbine costs will decrease, the process that determines cost is much more related to competetion than it is to technology. I think it is closer to automobile machinery than specifically electronic or electrical things. However, there is a different factor of size which may be the most important factor, where scaling up in size might bring the most in cost effectiveness.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 15 Nov 2009 @ 3:26 PM

  731. 726 Patrick 027

    The sequence of prior comments:

    In 698 Jim Bullis said:

    –”The problem with getting there is that wind power has to first displace all the operating coal generators, which is theoretically possible, but hard to see happening in many decades.”

    Patrick 027 said:

    No, all it needs is for wind power to be sold to the grid at equal or lower price than fossil fuel power is sold on the grid.

    I say: We seem not to be converging on my point about wind power which is that not only does wind power have to be sold at a competitive price, it also has to possess that special thing called “reserve capacity” such that it can respond to added loads. You are right to compare the relative costs if both coal and wind systems are standing ready to fill orders. Otherwise, if wind can not step up to each new load (millions of them)then each such new load will have to draw from coal, which is in fact standing ready to fill orders.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 15 Nov 2009 @ 3:44 PM

  732. Jim Bullis,

    Rosenfeld’s Law:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenfeld's_Law

    The 1% per year reduction is not striking–the fact that it has persisted for 165 years is VERY impressive. Now, can we help it along?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Nov 2009 @ 8:37 PM

  733. Re Jim Bullis –

    “Patrick 027 said:
    No, all it needs is for wind power to be sold to the grid at equal or lower price than fossil fuel power is sold on the grid.

    I say: We seem not to be converging on my point about wind power which is that not only does wind power have to be sold at a competitive price, it also has to possess that special thing called “reserve capacity” such that it can respond to added loads. You are right to compare the relative costs if both coal and wind systems are standing ready to fill orders. Otherwise, if wind can not step up to each new load (millions of them)then each such new load will have to draw from coal, which is in fact standing ready to fill orders.”
    ——–

    If wind power is being sold at a price sufficient to block additional fossil fuel generated power or replace some, that would imply that the capacity exists to do so – this is the situation implied in my statement.

    Add wind power capacity. Sell it at sufficient time-varying price so as to use all that is supplied as it is supplied. Some of this sale may be to energy storers which resell power at a different time at higher price, etc.

    And then you will have reduced, depending on amounts, either the average fossil fuel consumption per unit electricity, or the total fossil fuel consumption in the electricity sector. And this could happen even if a significant portion of transportation is plugged in, in which case, there is a reduction of fossil fuel usage outside the electric power sector. It isn’t automatically the case that emissions are reduced in the process, but it can be made that way.

    (PS Note that when vehicles are plugged in, they won’t necessarily need to consume the same constant power for the duration of being plugged in, in which case, the storage capacity of vehicles can be used to match demand to supply, not by taking power from the vehicles but by varying power supply to the vehicles. Although there is the caveat that vehicles will occasionally be needed at unplanned times, so …)

    Aggregate power consumption over a region has some predictability. CAES, hydroelectric, and peaking natural gas (or biofuels/solar H later?) plants should be able to respond to both unpredicted and predicted fluctuations in mismatches between the rest of the supply and demand on hourly timescales – or shorter ? – I’m not quite sure how fast these things can respond; I have been informed that coal power plants can only ramp up and down slowly, so they could manage a portion of diurnal as well as seasonal variation for an interim period until CAES, etc.

    It isn’t necessary for individual power consumers to match their uses to the supplies they are financially responsible for, and in this, the overall system is more efficient when many users are linked by a transmission grid. The individual ‘weather’ events of power consumption average out across multiple ‘runs’ – thus, within a given category of consumers with similar ‘climates’ of power use, individuals may use power with relatively large and episodic fluctations due to individual events, but as a group, their consumption follows a more predictable pattern that is less jumpy; individuals within such a group need only pay for enough capacity to match the total necessary for the group divided by the number of individuals. Furthermore, multiple groups with varying patterns of usage can effectively exchange the capacity they need for themselves at some times with others at other times, so the necessary capacity for any one group can sometimes be reduced when their peak usage corresponds with off-peak usage of another group, and the groups share.

    And then consider indirect usage in products and services. When a customer is recieving a service, power used at that time to supply the service contributes to aggregate consumption the same way as direct usage. For a commodity product, the unit produced at time t is not made with a particular individual customer in mind; a set of units over time is produced for a set (with fuzzy edges) of customers, who effectively share in the usage of power for each unit at each time. For a production line that makes different products at different times for a non-arbitrary and predictable reason, we would be back to sub-groups with different patterns of usage. When different products are made at different times without a predictable reason or in an arbitrary manner, the end-use customers effectively share in power use over time, and this would go for custom-made products as well (it is up to the producer to pick a time for making that product; the producer will, if there is a way to do so that does not incur too much other expense, try to consume more power when supply is cheaper).

    The point being, in a large enough grid, if I just happen to plug in a car or turn on a microwave oven or whatever at a particular minute of a particular day, when the same day of a different year, under very similar conditions, I might not do so or might use power at a different time of day, I do not need to be responsible for additional capacity to specifically supply that amount of power, because I am part of a group whose total power consumption at any one time is likely significantly less than the sum of peak usage of each individual, because those individual peaks are unlikely to occur at the same time.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Nov 2009 @ 11:07 PM

  734. Or to put it another way…

    “it also has to possess that special thing called “reserve capacity” such that it can respond to added loads. You are right to compare the relative costs if both coal and wind systems are standing ready to fill orders. Otherwise, if wind can not step up to each new load (millions of them)then each such new load will have to draw from coal, which is in fact standing ready to fill orders.””

    Adding wind capacity will allow it to fill more orders as wind power supply allows.

    Other than that, you could just as easily argue that wind power could never supply energy for any purpose whatsoever.

    You could argue that coal power could also never actually power anything, because, even though coal power is ‘dispatchable’, you still have to add coal power capacity in order to supply more power; otherwise at peak demand there won’t be any reserve capacity and nothing additional plugged in will be able to get power from coal.

    So install the wind and solar power and let them supply electricity.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Nov 2009 @ 11:14 PM

  735. Re 728 Nikhil

    “A 20-year time horizon values current generation more. This is not mere science, it is value, i.e., politics. Scientists who edit out “values” pretending that they don’t do politics actually are even more guilty of playing politics.”

    Nikhil, you are confusing values with data. Comparing the climatic effect of different emissions using GWP on a time horizon of x years is just a matter of facts. *USING* the GWP of a time horizon of x years to weigh methane emissons against CO2 emissions in POLICY – ie making the tax proportional to GWP+ (+ signifies the CO2 acidification, … etc.) or using a cap that is the sum of variable amounts of CO2 and CH4, etc, where different amounts of one can be traded for different amounts of another – this is assigning value.

    Simply calculating and reporting different GWPs for different time horizons is orthogonal to or perhaps even opposite of ‘editing out values’.

    And anyway, you’re original context, as I recall, was in considering the history of forcings and how a reduction in aerosol emissions (with average cooling effect) helped unmask some of the CO2, etc, warming effect. It would be more clear to consider how the instantaneous radiative forcing has changed over time – this will be comparable to GWPs of aerosol emissions over time, but not so much CH4 and especially not CO2, because the climatic effect of GWP of those emissions from any one year represents the integral of radiative forcing over time out into the future; the integrand is the emission’s contribution to radiative forcing at any time, which will decay with time in some manner but has some nonsignificant portion left after only a few years.

    In the context of changes overall in one direction, GWP is relevant to assigning responsibility of climate change over time to individual emissions.

    GWP is less directly relevant to considering a bump in the overall trajectories. Although there is a lag-time of climate response due to heat capacity, climate changes tend to follow (with lag*) the changes in instantaneous forcing.

    *PS about climate response lags:

    1.
    - the rate of initial climate change is proportional to a change in forcing and insensitive to climate feedbacks. For radiative forcing, the rate of change is proportional to (forcing + blackbody radiation response to temperature + other feedbacks)/(heat capacity per unit area)

    where “blackbody radiation response to temperature” is usually negative

    (In some contexts this would also be considered a feedback, and when it is labelled as such, the total feedback must be negative in order for the climate to be stable and tend toward an equilibrium shaped by external forcing. But in the field of climatology, the sign and value of ‘feedbacks’ generally refers to the other feedbacks. It’s possible this is at the root of some confusion, wherein some people insist that the history of climate changes show that the climate is stable, and thus feedbacks must in total be negative. This is generally true (with some possible exceptions – ‘Snowball Earth’), but the other feedbacks besides the blackbody radiation response to temperature are positive and make the total feedback smaller and make the climate sensitivity larger than otherwise.)

    It can be shown that, assuming a linear relationship with constant climate sensitivity (may be a useful approximation, within limits), and considering only feedbacks that act effectively instantaneously (or much faster than the thermal lag time) in response to climate changes, the difference between the climate and the equilibrium climate will decay at a rate proportional to itself, and thus, when external forcing is changed sharply and then held, the climate will exponentially decay toward a new equilibrium with a time scale proportional to climate sensitivity and to heat capacity. (Greater climate sensitivity increases the equilibrium response, but does not change the initial rate of change, since the feedbacks can’t act until the climate actually changes; thus greater climate sensitivity requires more time to reach equilibrium.)

    2.
    The heat capacity of the climate system depends on the depth to which thermal signals propagate. Biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks aside, the climate system may approach equilbrium between the atmosphere, land surface, and upper ocean, long before there is equilibrium of those with the deeper ocean. Continually penetration of the climate change signal down into the crust will go on, but will become so slow that, beyond some depth, the remaining heat capacity of the crust and mantle, etc, can be neglected (except for climate changes associated with moon-forming impacts, etc, or if the sun were removed so that geothermal heating were a significant factor in surface climate).

    Changes in water vapor and ice (in total amount due to transient very small imbalance in global average fluxes due to climate change, not changes in the fluxes that remain at new equilibrium or any other balanced changes in fluxes) add to the effective heat capacity of the climate system via an amount of latent heating/cooling per unit global average temperature change. PS the change in ice might be significant; the change in water vapor has a rather small effect relative to the total heat capacity, even excluding the deep ocean.

    3.
    For external forcing reversing fluctuations on smaller timescales, the decay time scale of disequibrilium is not smaller (except wherein effective heat capacity is reduced), but the time lag of reversing climate fluctuations will be smaller, and the extrema of climatic response stay farther away from the extrema in equilibrium response.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Nov 2009 @ 12:04 AM

  736. 734 Patrick 027

    Reserve capacity from coal fired systems already exists in abundance. That means that equipment is in place that is not being fully used. Thus, such coal fired systems can easily supply energy for any purpose at any time. Nothing has to be paid for and built.

    Reserve capacity from wind powered systems does not exist. Before reserve capacity from wind can exist, the wind systems have to be built out so that wind displaces all coal based supplies. If the economics is right, that can happen fairly quickly. Then reserve capacity can get built. But the economics does not seem to be right. We observe that to be the case when we see that subsidies have to be provided to get anything significant built.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 16 Nov 2009 @ 1:03 AM

  737. > Coal … Nothing has to be paid for and built.
    Logically then, they don’t need them, they just want to build them anyhow?
    http://www.google.com/search?q=plans+for+new+coal+plants

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 10:46 AM

  738. Re 736 Jim Bullis

    “Reserve capacity from coal fired systems already exists in abundance. That means that equipment is in place that is not being fully used. Thus, such coal fired systems can easily supply energy for any purpose at any time. Nothing has to be paid for and built.”

    Except fuel costs, which are quite small, and some other costs that are propotional to usage of the facilities (presumably some parts wear out faster when they are used closer to capacity more often; then there’s the pollution control mechanisms). Otherwise, I agree – except when demand peaks, as is known to occur on hot summer days – or is that more the transmission capacity that is pushed to the limit? I guess I don’t know. Of course, the two are not independent – the longer transmission distance capacities are more utilized when local power plants are closer to their limits…

    “Reserve capacity from wind powered systems does not exist. Before reserve capacity from wind can exist, the wind systems have to be built out so that wind displaces all coal based supplies. If the economics is right, that can happen fairly quickly. Then reserve capacity can get built.”

    Actually, depending on the economics, it may be much prefered to minimize reserve direct wind supply. Wind power capacity refers to a maximum power output per turbine, not the potential supply of power which varies between zero and capacity depending on winds. So the effect of reserve capacity occurs when there is reserve potential supply. And the most economical use of wind (and solar) power, is achieved by minimizing unused supply, all else being equal. If storage and/or longer-distance transmission is cheap enough and/or supply fluctuations match demand fluctuations (as solar does to some extent), then reserve supply can be minimized, and instead there will be some reserve capacity in storage/transmission, or lack of need of such when demand and supply better match over smaller regions.

    Anyway, getting clean energy supply to market decreases the fraction of fossil fuel use in the grid. Depending on how much of a CO2 tax is implemented, and other policies, and scarcity changes in natural gas, it may be that the reduction in fossil CO2 emission per unit energy supply is proportionately less than that of the reduction in fossil fuel per unit energy supply. It doesn’t matter so much that the supply can’t be turned up and down at will, so long as it is allowed to displace other power when it is available, which will be affected by how the grid is managed, and – if it is like a free market (this may not be the case as of yet from what I’ve heard, though I don’t know so much about that), this just requires competitive pricing.

    “But the economics does not seem to be right. We observe that to be the case when we see that subsidies have to be provided to get anything significant built.”

    Maybe so. What’s the point? We agree there are externalities involved.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Nov 2009 @ 2:59 PM

  739. Bad news on HFCs:
    http://www.sej.org/headlines/super-greenhouse-gas-deal-fails

    This serves as a reminder that Levitt’s claim he’s arguing with his own strawman creation when says he’s arguing against scientists who think CO2 is the only problem.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 4:53 PM

  740. 737 Hank Roberts,

    Neat rhetoric. However, you are mixing planning issues with short term decisions.

    But picking up on the planning issue which is also relevant, imagine that coal power plant construction stopped today and only wind and solar stuff was allowed. Assume that the load without plug-ins increased by an amount equal to the present day reserve capacity on coal, so that without wind and solar, further load growth would stop at this theoretical time. So in this scenario, further loads from that point would depend on wind and solar. Wind and solar would extend that theoretical time if these resources were added before that time, so there would be an extended theoretical time. At any time before this extended theoretical time point that an electric plug-in car was plugged in, coal fired capacity would be drawn from (Remember that the wind and solar are immediately used for load without plug-ins. And we would run out of coal fired capacity sooner.

    At the ultimate time we ran out of coal fired capacity, if wind and solar increased further after that, there would be a possibility of load expansion. Otherwise, all new uses of electricity would have to be frozen. (That would have to put a stop to plug-in electric cars as well.) Perhaps the people concerned with the economy take a dim view of this possible future situation, so coal fired plants are being built.

    This planning indicates pessimism about the rate wind and solar will actually come about. Warren Buffet and I agree with this view. (So it seems.)

    This will turn out fine for the purpose of reducing oil dependency.

    However, this situation does indeed portend a disaster for global warming. But it also shows how plug-ins exacerbate the problem.

    In his discussion with Charlie Rose, Warren Buffet threw a crumb to global warming folks, saying, “We will eventually have to wean ourselves off of coal.” I think he has no expectation of doing that in the foreseeable future.

    Jim Bullis thinks the only real answer in view is to cut energy use for transportation by 80% to 90% with a new approach to the automobile and produce triple efficiency power generators to cut CO2 from power generation by about 30% or so. We get encouraging numerical progress this way, but it won’t happen while we still have available such an easy conversion to plug-in cars that will still guzzle energy in massive amounts based on coal fired electricity generation. Things are not looking good from here.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 16 Nov 2009 @ 5:03 PM

  741. #732 Ray Ladbury,

    1% per year reduction is not the reduction in energy use according to the stated “Rosenfeld’s Law.” It is the reduction in energy use per dollar of GDP, which is quite a different matter. Assuming the observation is corrected to a real dollar base, and that is not a certainty, it still says more about GDP than energy. GDP is a measure more of trade and commerce. To the extent it relates to manufacturing, the energy needed is interesting.

    The reference in the Wikipedia article that you pointed to is not available. Is it available somewhere for reading?

    Hopefully they also said something about energy use per person, which would be more interesting.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 16 Nov 2009 @ 7:52 PM

  742. Another reason big investors are hesitant about wind and solar is the same reason the average consumer is hesitant about any new technology (new computer, TV, cell phone…).

    What happens if I invest big in wind/solar today, and 3 years from now the technology is 75% better? Should I put my money in something else and wait a few years? (Kinda like waiting 3 more months before buying that new computer, because in 3 months you’ll either pay less for the same system, or buy the new “top of the line” for the same price.)

    Coal technology – it’s been around so long, no one expects significant tech improvements. You dig it, you burn it. The only thing that makes investors hesitant is “How much is the government going to screw me with more taxes/fees in the future?”

    Comment by Steve — 16 Nov 2009 @ 7:58 PM

  743. Jim Bullis,
    What is needed is the ability to accelerate the savings we see illustrated by Rosenfeld’s law. After all, the ITRS has managed to maintain the basic trend for Moore’s Law long after the underlying driver (CMOS scaling) petered out. I would suggest that Joe Romm might have a copy of the reference, since, I believe he is a co-author on it.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Nov 2009 @ 8:31 PM

  744. > Coal technology – it’s been around so long,
    > no one expects significant tech improvements.

    Not correct. When you’re sure of what you learned, look it up with Google to find out what’s happened since you learned it. It’s a poor memory that only works backwards.

    Example search, guessing at keywords:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=high+temperature+high+efficiency+coal

    Example from the result:
    http://www.worldcoal.org/coal-the-environment/coal-use-the-environment/improving-efficiencies/

    The newest most efficient coal plants (evil as they are for global warming) are running at temperatures higher than any current nuclear reactor can provide. They’re developing the technology to function at the temperatures we may hope for from fusion reactors some day.

    This is one reason that the idea of swapping out the _old_ coal burners with nuclear fission sources makes sense though. Look at the operating temperature of the GE Prism (Barry Brooks has a lot of information on that kind of technology). That would swap reasonably well into an older coal plant. It’s not hot enough for the newer coal plants.

    The new super-supercritical coal plants are working at much higher temperatures.

    Remember — any technology is going to produce one or two generations of tools beyond the point at which they’re already obsolescent. Think “Spruce Goose” (the biggest wood aircraft, after aluminum was already replacing wood). Or the last of the great big steam locomotives, after diesel-electric was already replacing them.
    Heck, there are even nuclear plants in that “Spruce Goose” category: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/rant/torness.html

    Maybe the newest, most efficient coal plants will look the same way — as outliers, leftover technology improved after it was already on its way out, being replaced by sustainable sources.

    But don’t just assume coal isn’t being improved — check what you believe, because the world changes very fast and whatever we learned is likely out of date.

    And when really high temperature, highly thermodynamically efficient generation heat sources are available — likely fusion — at least the metallurgy will have been done.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:13 PM

  745. Oh, for anyone who didn’t read those links: From the first:

    “The average global efficiency of coal-fired plants is currently 28% compared to 45% for the most efficient plants …”

    From the second:

    “As Les explained, “nothing like this will be built again”. The AGRs at Torness are not ordinary civil power reactors. … They’re sensitive thoroughbreds, able to reach a peak conversion efficiency of 43%. By comparison, a PWR (standard pressurized water reactor) peaks at 31-32%….”

    You have to look this stuff up and see how it’s changing.

    You may not _like_ what people say about these technologies. But you have to be aware that they’re saying it, to be convincing to make your own points about what should be done.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:20 PM

  746. What should be done? Read this:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:22 PM

  747. 743 Ray Ladbury,

    If the savings over the last 150 years was real we would not have a problem. I so not think it is important to try to deny the industrial revolution. If there is something real we do not need a “law” to talk about it and an attempt to misinterpret GDP to try to make a plan sound numerical is not helpful.

    Rosenfeld and Romm have both worked hard to cut energy use in California, but both have played a part in policy in California in respect to the electric car. It must be well known that I find this to be a misguided effort. Joe Romm is on record with his insistence that an electric motor is more efficient than an internal combustion engine, and I am on record with insistence that the two kinds of efficiency can not be compared, and in fact, the heat engine making the electricity has to be included in any efficiency claim for a plug-in car. This difference indicates our respective beliefs in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Rosenfeld and Romm have been diligent in applying the First Law of Thermodynamics. However, the Second Law seems to be a law that has been repealed in California.

    You might imagine, and I think you probably do know, that Joe Romm might not be inclined to send me over a copy of his paper on this.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:45 PM

  748. Re Jim Bullis –

    “(Remember that the wind and solar are immediately used for load without plug-ins. ”

    Or with plug-ins. Either way, they are immediately used for load until storage is developed, although displaced hydropower effectively stores energy.

    But by focussing so much on this point, it seems like you’re manufacturing an issue here. The real issue is costs.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:53 PM

  749. 744 Hank Roberts.

    Your information is correct but you seem to be suggesting that there are a lot of the improved coal fired plants around. I think perhaps not so many based on my calculations using actual data on CO2 emissions from coal, the close relationship that this has with heat, and the output of power from power plants. See http://www.miastrada.com/analyses for details and complete references. Yes, Hank, actual references that can be studied.

    The actual numbers for power plant efficiencies are very hard to come by. I was only working with the USA totals.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:58 PM

  750. There is at least one reason to be hesitant about coal economics, just ask the Aussies:
    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/coal-lobby-is-not-being-fair-dinkum-on-carbon-reduction-scheme-20091113-ienw.html

    The association’s position on the scheme is pure posturing, and industry executives know it even if they will not say so publicly… Another said it was pointless hoping for any endorsement for the carbon scheme out of the coal industry. “This is the pig-shooting community we’re talking about.”

    The real risk to the coal industry, though it may not believe it, is that the world will make a radical reduction in coal use.

    Why? LEDs use less energy than incandescent bulbs per light energy emitted, and electric cars use less energy per mile traveled than combustion-powered cars. Coal-to-gasoline plans, which investors have banked on for future earnings, are thus not so likely to be built without large government subsidies.

    Can the required electricity supply then be met with solar and wind linked to storage and good grid distribution? Yes, that’s been covered several times over. Storage can be distributed (say, a water-heater sized battery rack in the home basement) or centralized (industrial scale hydrogen conversion plants, etc.)

    In this model, the grid is used to coordinate the energy supply between different sources. Without a robust regional grid, any big renewable energy projects will falter (direct solar fuels from atmospheric CO2 are a possible exception). Thus, the grid plays the same role as the roads do – but in the our current world, a handful of groups control the roads and only let certain traffic pass.

    That is also how the Hostmen of Newcastle’s medieval coal trade secured their monopoly – they owned all the boats on the river, as well as all the roads to the coal mining regions.

    Getting back to the issue, Superfreakanomics:

    The fundamental problem with their non-scientific approach is that it doesn’t take into account basic issues like conservation of energy, thermodynamic and kinetic limitations, the role of climate and ecology in food production (fisheries, yes, but also agricultural soils and forests), and so on. This lack of scientific background means that you can be fed nonsense by people who are appear to be scientific experts with good track records, but who have veered of course – for example, Freeman Dyson’s comments about carbon-eating trees being able to absorb fossil fuel emissions…

    The basic economic equations’ of modern academia aren’t grounded in physical reality – or, technically, they don’t account for so-called “externalities.”

    What are externalities? In the thermodynamic 19th century equations that economists adapted for their own purposes, there is system and surroundings – all variables are considered, Physics 101. Kinetic and potential energy, and the related notion of conservation of energy are all based on that notion. There are no “externalities” – excluding divine interventions. This probably accounts for the failure of econometric models to describe reality, by the way. If climate models had a similar failure rate – well, you get the idea.

    For examples of what more realistic economic theories look like:

    http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8879.html

    Comment by Ike Solem — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:59 PM

  751. 750 Ike Solem,

    I continue efforts to point out pitfalls for the world running on electric cars. Just as a simple correction, it is not true that electric cars use less energy than internal combustion powered cars. Proof: Check either the plug-in Fisker or the plug-in Hummer. see for example

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/04/hybrid-hummer-c/

    and

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/11/fiskers-plug-in/

    (Both use the same 260 hp engine for operation when the batteries run dry.) Then compare with the Prius. End Proof. Expect that when the public discovers they can have huge cars just by using plugs they will demand such with great enthusiasm. GM for one is moving hard in this direction. The plug-in Yukon is getting ready.

    The other area is that of the so called “smart” grid. Think about mine-mouth coal fired power plants and how they might work with the same efficient grid thought to be in the works to bring wind to where it is needed. Every other central power plant will be hooked to this grid so it will perpetuate that whole system of heat wasting power plants, place where the heat can not possibly be used.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 16 Nov 2009 @ 10:29 PM

  752. Re Jim Bullis – “Joe Romm is on record with his insistence that an electric motor is more efficient than an internal combustion engine, and I am on record with insistence that the two kinds of efficiency can not be compared, and in fact, the heat engine making the electricity has to be included in any efficiency claim for a plug-in car.”

    YES!

    But Hank Robert’s point above might somewhat counteract your point about the more efficient internal combustion engines (or turbines or whatever mechanical heat engines that vehicles might use) becoming available.

    From:

    A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030
    Mark Z. Jacobson, Mark A. Delucchi
    Scientific American, November 2009

    p.60
    “The agency [EIA] projects that in 2030 the world will require 16.9 TW of power,”…”with about 2.8 TW in the U.S. The mix of sources is similar to today’s,”…”If, however, the planet were powered entirely by WWS [solar, wind, wave, hydro, tidal, geothermal]“…”an intriguing savings would occur. Global power demand would be only 11.5 TW, and U.S. demand would be 1.8 TW. That decline occurs because, in most cases, electrification is a more efficient way to use energy. For example, only 17 to 20 percent of the energy in gasoline is used to move a vehicle (the rest is wasted as heat), whereas 75 to 86 percent of the electricity delivered to an electric vehicle goes into motion.”

    PS at the beginning of that paragraph: “Today the maximum power consumed world-wide at any given moment is about 12.5 trillion watts” – 12 TW is about the average global power consumed, so this would imply the global average capacity factor doesn’t fluctuate much. However, U.S. consumption is actually over 3 TW in fuel equivalent, not less, so even with a similar energy mix as today (unless there are regional variations in that trend), the above projection suggests an increase in efficiency. OR, it might be that the authors are given figures wherein hydroelectric and tidal, wind and wave, and photovoltaic power are given just as electric power (?). I’ll have to look more closely to figure that out.

    One source of reduction that is not mentioned is a reduction in energy use by the energy sector. Renewable power sources such as wind, hydro, solar, wave, geothermal, … but not biofuels, don’t use ‘fuel’ but do use energy in production, operation and maintenance, and disposal/recycling of the infrastructure; however, this tends to be small so that energy pay back times are short for power plants/installations. It must not be forgotten that, direct fuel usage aside (and power consumption by power plants (pertaining to the power generation process in a narrow sense at least, maybe not including other power usage such as lighting and heating/cooling for the workers??), which is the difference between net and gross generation), there is energy used to produce, maintain, and dispose/recycle the infrastructure, as well as to process and transport fuels. Thus the actual ‘lifecycle efficiency’ of a fossil fuel power plant might be somewhat lower than the net generation efficiency relative to the fuel combusted in the power plant. From what I’ve been reading, this might be particularly important in petroleum fuel uses; in the U.S., petroleum refining is actually the largest energy user of industrial sectors (granted some of that may include ‘use of energy’ that is not actually use of energy but use of material feedstock); the petroleum industry’s energy consumption includes coal and natural gas, I think. I wonder if this is included in the lifecycle comparisons of gasoline/diesel/etc to corn ethanol, etc. – I’m guessing it is included, but interesting to consider.

    So take typical fuel to distributed electricity conversion efficiency, ~ 30 % (took a little off for transmission/distribution losses, but I’m not being exact). Muliply that by the 75 to 86 % figure; we get:

    22.5 % to 25.8 % efficient conversion of fuel to vehicle motion using plug-in vehicles

    which is a bit more than

    17 % to 20 % efficient conversion of gasoline to vehicle motion for internal combustion engines.

    Now, if petroleum extraction to gas pump energy use is greater than the weighted average (depending on timing of plug-in consumption) of the energy use in supplying coal, natural gas, uranium, etc, to power plants, then the difference will be even greater. I don’t know offhand if it would be great enough to reduce CO2 output if coal is used to power the car instead of petroleum – maybe not. HOWEVER, one can shift the energy mix in favor of solar, wind, etc.

    And to be complete, the lifecycle of the power plant infrastructure itself must be considered, and also of the vehicle. How much energy is used in producing, maintaning, and disposing/recycling different types of vehicles?

    Aside from that, the efficiency of the internal combustion engine or battery input to electric motor output is not the same as the efficiency of energy input to car motion, because there is loss of energy in mechanical transmission. This can be reduced with electric motors by …

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Nov 2009 @ 10:41 PM

  753. No, Jim, I’m not suggesting anything beyond that it’s always worth checking beliefs by looking them up; I gave one counterexample to one statement.

    I have no agenda here except encouraging people to look up and check sources for claims made. You, or others, can probably check your calculations against published information, always a good exercise.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 11:24 PM

  754. A reminder — look back at Raypierre’s numbers, posted at the beginning.

    The rest is trivial compared to stopping the increase in CO2 and reversing it.
    There aren’t any good arguments for burning carbon, period.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Nov 2009 @ 12:12 AM

  755. … by having a motor for each wheel.

    I don’t actually know where the greatest efficiency improvements do occur in hybrid vehicles – they get on the order of twice the mpg of average cars, so there’s something nice there, but how much of that is better engine efficiency, how much is better transmission, reduced rolling resistance, reduced air drag, regenerative breaking and zero idling? If the engine in a hybrid-electric car were placed in a compatable non-electric car, how would it perform?

    If the externalities were corrected with imposed price signals, we could focus on economic optimization; even so, it would still be of interest and part of the analysis to consider the energetics of lifecycles, but economics is important, and so the question – which has the least expensive lifecycle – fuel efficient hybrid cars (HEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), plug-in electrics (I’m not sure but I’ll go with PEVs), plug-in fuel cell cars (I’ll go with PFEVs)?

    The economics will vary depending on location, since the large waste heat from fuel combustion and/or the smaller waste heat from fuel cells will be of greater value at higher latitudes, etc. – and this also applies to other aspects of energy usage. Besides that:

    HEVs

    1. still need fuel but need less of it.

    PEVs

    1. need only as much fuel as is used in electric power plants, which may be a rather low fraction in the future.

    2. But PEVs need electric batteries.

    3. Although PEVs might be very low-maintanence

    4. and also run quietly, although the quiet can be a problem for pedestrian safety, especially blind pedestrians, although one could imagine cars that send signals to canes or ear-pieces that vision-impaired people could use…, the alternative is to have a car that can emit a ‘car’ sound, although that negates the benifit of the quiet, although the sound could be activated by signals from crosswalks…

    PHEVs are a compromise between PEVs and HEVs in that:

    1. enough fuel is only needed for trips that exceed battery capacity and/or stops that are shorter than charging times, thus fuel usage is lower than in an HEV

    2. the battery need not be sized for the longest trips, saving on the costs and spatial and weight requirements of batteries (although there is the added weight and space of the engine, not just the fuel tank)

    3. if the maintenance needs are linearly propotional to the amount that each component is used, it’s possible that maintenance costs will also be less than for an HEV, though it’s possible this is not so much the case because there is still the complexity of having the engine and it’s components.

    4. the vehicle might run quietly for shorter trips, although this may be less benificial as short trips might involve the majority of pedestrian interactions ?

    PFEVs:

    1. less fuel than PHEVs because of the higher efficiency of fuel cells

    2. but you need fuel cells.

    There can be concavity in production possibilities curves (PPCs) owing to mass market advantage / increasing returns, and perhaps for PPCs over time, the economics of producing enough goods/services to make R&D/learning curve costs worthwhile.

    However, there are more general tendencies for convex PPCs. For example, for a given solar power plant technology and manufacturing efficiency, etc, the marginal price will increase with increasing power supply because the cheapest spaces (rooftops without competing uses/purposes) and best lands (greatest quality/quantity of solar resource closest to populations or planned HVDC lines, etc, and least environmental costs) will tend to be utilized first, and these installations will produce power more economically than additional installations. Also, additional installations will have to compete with scarce material resources that have been made scarcer by the first installations (recycling can reduce the lifecycle material costs, perhaps even to the point where extremely low grade ores, sewage and landfills, seawater, maybe common igneous rocks, etc, can become material resources for some elements, etc, as long as the elements can stay in use for long enough time periods; however, it obviously cannot increase the total amount available at any one time, except up to the limit of eliminating waste).

    And so on for wind power, wave, hydroelectric, geothermal, biofuels, CCS power plants, sequestration independent of power plants (carbonate minerals or dissolved carbonate, biochar), energy efficiency, energy conservation, adaptation of energy usage patterns to better fit the supply, fuel cell materials (although new technologies might replace platinum for H fuel cells; I have read of a bacterial fuel cell run on biofuel), batteries (Li scarcity), etc.

    And so, the most economical approach may involve a combination of much of the above, with various types of PV materials in use, CPV, CSP, passive solar designs, energy efficiency and conservation, wind, wave, hydroelectric, tidal, geothermal, some biofuels (preferably those from agriculture, food processing and use, and forestry wastes and byproducts, then maybe algae, then cellulosic and sugar cane, etc…), CCS and sequestration, etc, in a time-evolving mix.

    Thus, there might be a mixture of PHEVs, PEVs, and PFEVs.

    Biofuels (and natural gas in the interim) might (I haven’t done a study; this is an opinion based on my impression of the big picture) be of greater value to winter night energy use rather than vehicle use (they can be used in cogeneration facilities either way, and outside of vehicles, heat wouldn’t be wasted over travel time (though to be fair, heat can be stored in thermal masses in the vehicle – how would this compare to electric energy storage?), and the amount of biofuels we use might be limited to a relatively small amount by economics and lifecycle energetics; thus it might be the case that transportation should have a reduced reliance on fuels in general, and while that is not a necessary consequence of plug-in vehicle usage, plug-ins give us that opportunity.

    (While solar energy can be stored in CAES and via fuel production for wintertime as well as night usage, additional energy conversions reduce the efficiency (but CAES can avoid the inverter losses and costs, so the comparison must be between CAES and inverters), so if there is an economical, low externality intensity resource of biofuels, it’s concievable that those biofuels will be the first choice (after compensating wind seasonality, long-distance transmission, available hydroelectric seasonality, etc., and preferential improvement of energy efficiency for cloudy/winter/night conditions) for seasonal energy stockpiling/load-matching.

    Besides complementary regular seasonality and diurnal fluctuations of wind and solar supplies, note that for short term and interannual variations, hydroelectric energy and wind may tend to be more availble in conditions where solar enerty is less abundant, and solar energy might be more available in droughts and dry sunny heat waves, when in addition to reduce hydroelectric and wind availability, there may be greater demand for air conditioning and desalination and pumping of water.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Nov 2009 @ 12:49 AM

  756. And while ICE efficiency can increase, stationary power plant efficiency can increase, perhaps to higher levels. (Whatever happened to MHD generation?).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Nov 2009 @ 12:52 AM

  757. Well, I learned a few things from following Hank’s links.

    None of the efficiencies are do to increases in technology, though, which was my point. They are investments in technology 40+ years old, but the rising cost of energy (coupled with rising stigma against CO2 emissions) is now making them appear worthwhile.

    Comment by Steve — 17 Nov 2009 @ 1:04 AM

  758. Jim Bullis –

    “Check either the plug-in Fisker or the plug-in Hummer. see for example”…”(Both use the same 260 hp engine for operation when the batteries run dry.) Then compare with the Prius. End Proof. Expect that when the public discovers they can have huge cars just by using plugs they will demand such with great enthusiasm. GM for one is moving hard in this direction. The plug-in Yukon is getting ready.”

    1. Compare a plug-in Prius to another Prius.

    2. A plug-in Hummer or SUV might be very efficient for carpooling/transporting cargo.

    3. Yes, there is a rebound effect when efficiency is increased economically, which reduces the reduction in energy consumption. However, this shouldn’t tend to completely negate the intended effect, and the effect would be preserved better by an emissions tax/cap, so long as the energy mix includes emitting sources.

    4. If you expect people will go for bigger PEV/PHEVs over smaller PEV/PHEVs that look similar to conventional cars, what hope could you have for your prefered designs? It is inconsistent to argue for your proposed pathway to efficiency and yet be so pessimistic about what will happen if plug-in techology gains a large market share.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Nov 2009 @ 1:05 AM

  759. 753 Hank Roberts,

    Thanks Hank, you have been a good one with the reality checks. That is important to me.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 1:33 AM

  760. 752 Patrick 027

    The reality is that the Prius engine as measured by Argonne National Laboratories has demonstrated variously, 36% to 38% efficiency, noting of course that this efficiency is partly due to the way the engine is loaded which is a result of the hybrid arrangement. This should make a big difference in your conclusions, and it should change the way we think about internal combustion engines. Diesel engines accomplish 35% in readily available small engines, and the data curves are published that show this efficiency. They could probably do better if loads were handled like those on the Prius engine, but that is a guess. The problem with the diesel engines is NOx compounds which occur due to the higher combustion temperatures, which of course are part of the reason for the higher diesel efficiencies. If we can get a catalytic converter to fix this, as per the Blue Tec stuff from Mercedes and other things from Argonne, there is a lot of reason to hope for good things from diesel. Even dropping the temperatures down a little could make a big difference, but this kind of tinkering can get very sophisticated. To verify my 38% efficiency number for the Prius engines, see page 9 of

    http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/HV/399.pdf

    to see the only real data point on the Prius engine that squeeked through the otherwise obfuscating information that seems heavily biased toward promoting the plug-in.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 1:53 AM

  761. Good brainy stuff today, especially from two of my faves, Hank and Ike.

    I second the link to the new Scientific American renewable energy plan. Discussing the practical details of this proposed transformation should be a new RC topic. It’ll be a nice relief from talking about Levitt’s piece of crap. The SA piece is conservative, and actually undervalues already engineered cost reductions in thin film and thermal storage.

    Regarding the comment about the plug in Yukon, it’s not going to have much of a market. Battery range will make it impractical. Consider it a sop to a few hillbillies in Texas who’ve gotta have their big rigs for a while longer. They are dinosaurs who are going to be left behind anyway.

    Comment by mike roddy — 17 Nov 2009 @ 4:28 AM

  762. Jim Bullis,
    OK, if we need to take into account the electric generation inefficiency for electric cars (only fair), do we not also have to take into account the inefficiency of converting coal–the most likely future fossil replacement for oil–into a suitable fuel for transport (e.g. LNG, etc.)

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Nov 2009 @ 5:58 AM

  763. Jim,

    What is your beef with the Smart Grid this time? Because I’ve spent 2 years of my life dedicated to the belief that the Smart Grid is the only way to move AWAY from REQUIRING massive base load power plants.

    Giant thermal plants are not going to play well in an era when base load can respond instantly to changes in available power that’s much cheaper to produce than coal power. Smart Grid technologies in demand response alone — devices that can be signaled by the Smart Grid to turn on or off based on available power and energy cost signals — are already reshaping the load curve. As renewables are added to the Smart Grid, their outputs can be used in lieu of peaking plants, further displacing base generation.

    Right now, generators are load-following. What myself and others who’ve been working on this “Smart Grid” thing have been doing is making it so that loads are generator-following. It’s been proven to work (see the GridWise work from PNNL and ComfortChoice and its tests in the Northeast), and it’s OLD technology compared to what’s in the pipeline. That one shift alone is going to kill coal. Just that one conceptual shift — teaching a load how to follow a variable energy source. Other changes in the works — teaching electric meters to follow energy sources — can make it so that cheap renewable energy flows to specific customers, and not just to everyone connected to the grid. Utilities already discount power to some customers who’ve installed demand-responsive major appliances and the market penetration for demand-responsive appliances is microscopic compared to the overall market size.

    Having an electric car whose charging behavior interacts with the grid, rather than an electric car whose charging controls the throttle of the generating plants is a big deal. One watt of “smart load” can immediately displace one watt of “spinning reserve”, and it can do it without a single molecule of CO2 being emitted.

    The ability to re-shape the load curve and have supply and demand interact is going to kill coal and I’m not going to be the least bit sad when it dies.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 17 Nov 2009 @ 6:28 AM

  764. 761 Mike Roddy,

    Not so fast about Yukons etc. I hope you are right about range, but government funding is being thrown at the battery problem so this might not be a limit.

    In my neighborhood the line to pick up kids at an elementary school is about two blocks long, and an actual car in the line is an unusual thing. This is not Texas. In Texas there might be a few folks who actually need big vehicles. We might ask Furry at #763 about that.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 2:23 PM

  765. Re Jim Bullis 760 –

    “The reality is that the Prius engine as measured by Argonne National Laboratories has demonstrated variously, 36% to 38% efficiency, noting of course that this efficiency is partly due to the way the engine is loaded which is a result of the hybrid arrangement.” …

    Great.

    But what is the efficiency of the conversion of engine output to vehicle motion?

    Well, I guess I could look up drag areas and gasoline energy densities and try to estimate it for myself…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Nov 2009 @ 2:26 PM

  766. 763 Furry C. H.

    My concern about the “smart” grid is that it will simply perpetuate our system of large central power plants, most of which are coal powered. By the way, it is really more about long distance transmission than it is about “smart.” The “smart” is a sop thrown to trick us into thinking a lot of digital technology is going to transform power distribution into something efficient. The load management of “smart” is likely to impact overall power use by a very small amount. I recently read something from power comanies talking about how people will adjust their thermostats when there is a shortage of electricity. Huh? Do people really heat houses with electricity in any significant way? And anyway, getting people to undergo discomfort is not an easy task. Oh, maybe they were talking about the refrigerator thermostat or the air conditioner thermostat. The air conditioner thermostat is potentially a big impact adjustment, but when people want to be cool they already make a serious value judgment as to how much they will have to pay for electricity. And then in California, the problem with peak loads on hot days resulted in California paying to build peaking natural gas generators. That is what is used to follow the load. These are relatively small and well placed, but quite inefficient.

    I remain unconvinced about the smart grid. My real complaint with the smart grid is that the cost of renewables on a large scale is such that there will not actually be such renewables put in place. And the smart grid will help set up coal systems so that most will not particularly care. (Warren Buffet has not called me to talk about this yet, but he seems to see the coal future as a near certainty.)

    I will skip talking about distributed power generation, where the existing grid would be adequate. A little brain power would be ok. Then some digital stuff would be useful.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 2:43 PM

  767. 765 Patrick 027

    The losses from the output of the coal powered electric generator to car wheels are 7% for line losses, (maybe 5% on smart grids – - big deal) then we have rectifiers — 90% to 95% depending on cost, batteries lose a few percent in and out — so about 90% would be a generous overall estimate, then there are power conversion units that make battery output useful for driving motors, and the motors probably get 90% overall.

    For the Prius, mechanical linking from engine shaft to tires is probably close to 90%. (Simple gears do well, hypoid gears not so well but ok, but overall the link is not bad. That is why the synergy drive of the Prius is so important – - the mechanical link works much of the time, but the electric path helps to make the engine loading optimum without dragging down the overall efficiency too much. This is where there is some real “smart” going on.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 2:54 PM

  768. > Steve says: 17 November 2009 at 1:04 AM …
    > None of the efficiencies are do to increases
    > in technology

    Higher thermodynamic efficiency requires handling hotter heat sources; that’s advanced metallurgy right there.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Nov 2009 @ 3:13 PM

  769. 765 Patrick 027

    I misread your words, where you actually mentioned conversion to vehicle motion, and even noted the drag effects. Wow, what a lost opportunity.

    Of course, the comparison of electric motor system versus the mobile engine systems can stop at the wheel, but the real problem is how drag causes any vehicle system to guzzle energy.

    Rolling resistance of tires is big and the drag force therefrom is constant (roughly) at any speed. Prius came out with tires that cut that by 30% to 40% compared to standard radials. The only other way to deal with this is by cutting weight.

    But aero drag is way bigger for highway operation and no production car has aero drag coefficient less than .25 today. (Aptera claims .15 as Cd for their imminent production. Wow, and it is even believable based on Morelli test data. 1982) That is why the Miastrada drag coefficient expectation at .07 (based on USS Akron test data.) could make a massive difference. A factor of four improvement in drag coefficient times another factor of 2 for making people ride in tandem means that this effect is nearly eliminated(in engineering way of thinking). And the drag force is proportional to velocity squared, so things get out of hand very fast at high speed, but can nearly disappear at town speeds.

    Look at the EIA chart that shows how much of CO2 from humans in the USA to see that a reduction of this magnitude on CO2 from transportation can be far more important than any likely benefit from a smart grid. And conversion to electric plug-in operation can be expected to have an outcome that might actually increases CO2 and at best have a pitifully small benefit. See the NRDC-EPRI study (Linked at http://www.miastrada.com/references), and look at how the coal fired electric does for CO2.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 3:27 PM

  770. re 758 Patrick 027 item 4 and #763 Furry Friend,

    Cutting automotive CO2 with the plug-in car is like curing an alcoholic that consumes a quart of whiskey every day by giving him a pint of pure alcohol labeled medicine every day.

    My approach is like cutting that alcoholic down two shots of whiskey per day. Maybe this strategy is poor for an alcoholic, but in the analogy it seems like a way to make real progress on CO2 reduction.

    Maybe my #769 would have made this clear, where I tried to point out that the propelling machinery and its fuel, wherever it is burned, does not matter much compared to the effect of simply cutting down on the drag forces. The opportunity to make huge cuts in the drag forces exists, and that could actually matter to the campaign on global warming.

    Al Gore compared his recent list of choices to “silver buckshot” instead of a silver bullet, and continued to assert that there is no silver bullet. I judge his list of choices as more like “birdseed buckshot.” My approach I characterize as 50 mm steel tipped rifle bullets that would have been a lot better use to the Lone Ranger than even silver bullets. (Sorry for the immodesty.)

    A challenge to all the well meaning folk with answers is to try and beat the CO2 quantity savings that can be accomplished by fairly simple rethinking of the automobile.

    And to get back to freakonomics, what is with those so called smart ex-Microsoft guys up in Seattle and friends with their garden hose and SO2? If we could get them and maybe even some Silicon valley whizzes to read up on the Second Law of Thermo, maybe something real would emerge. (Most electrical engineers, myself included, went their entire careers without any concern for power plant efficiency. Those easy days have to be left behind.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 4:57 PM

  771. Look at:

    http://my.epri.com/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=243&PageID=223132&cached=true&mode=2

    and click on “report” to get the EPRI/NRDC study directly. Then go to Fig 5-1 to see how things actually work out, even when the authors are trying desperately to reach the opposite conclusion.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 5:40 PM

  772. For a hint about actual planning look at pages 18 and 26 of the following to see GM planning of about a year ago:

    http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/PDF/presentation-sm.pdf

    Here you can see the Yukon in the line-up. Also note that they like to ignore that the fuel that is coal.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 5:50 PM

  773. Murteza, there’s a strange website behind your name; be careful what you click on, folks.
    > bait ….
    Barry Brooks’s site has much discussion on topic about that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Nov 2009 @ 6:29 PM

  774. Re Jim Bullis – “I misread your words, where you actually mentioned conversion to vehicle motion, and even noted the drag effects. Wow, what a lost opportunity.”…

    Yes, I agree reducing drag is great. To be clear, though, in the context of my usage of the term to which you refer, I would simply have used drag area (cross section area * drag coefficient) and rolling resistance (if I could find that information) to estimate what kinetic energy is actually used to move the car some distance at some speed, and then use the data of fuel and electricity usage to figure out efficiencies.

    PS a potential point of confusion – does rolling resistance include transmission losses or is it only in the wheels, wheel-road contact, and axle-bearing contact?

    ———-
    “Cutting automotive CO2 with the plug-in car is like curing an alcoholic that consumes a quart of whiskey every day by giving him a pint of pure alcohol labeled medicine every day.”

    “My approach is like cutting that alcoholic down two shots of whiskey per day. Maybe this strategy is poor for an alcoholic, but in the analogy it seems like a way to make real progress on CO2 reduction.”

    Here’s the problem I see in your approach: You have been pessmistic about changes in grid electricity suppy; aside from that, you have been pessimistic that any shift to plug-in technology could be accompanied by a return to ‘reasonable’ air drag and rolling resistances or a further reduction.

    Yet, you are hopeful that people will more often than not ride single file in vehicles.

    To me this seems a bit like a parent aquiescing to a child’s refusal to eat carrots yet remaining hopeful the child will enjoy beets.

    ———
    But good point about the AC to DC conversion. What would be nice is if a shadow DC grid (not just on the level of HVDC high voltage) could parallel the AC grid. Actually, this might be doable for rooftop solar power – maybe the air conditioner and some other things could run on either AC or DC.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Nov 2009 @ 6:50 PM

  775. Re 767 Jim Bullis – thanks for that info.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Nov 2009 @ 6:53 PM

  776. 775 Patrick 027

    I got a little confused by your wording, but I think I answer the point below:

    Could a shift to plug-in technology help motivate lower air drag or lower rolling resistance? Answer: I think not since there is no strong motivation for people to give up the things they like since by just plugging them in they solve their fuel cost problems. Once that becomes a way of life, the political will to change it will be further reduced.

    I should say that the same problem limits prospects for my car approach since people will not see the need for adapting to such a new way of riding in such a new kind car.

    I may need to move on to trucks where there is more of a fuel problem, and not such an easy way to convert to plug-in operation.

    Not only does the global warming campaign seem to have insufficient horsepower to motivate real change, it is cut to its knees by the news from Al Gore that we have enough solutions at hand to solve global warming several times over. His birdseed (my opinion) shotgun shell approach makes it sound like nothing really difficult is necessary. In his view, we just have to make a choice of getting a few things done that other people will do for us, and all it takes is money.

    In case comments are about done, thanks to our hosts for making the comments here possible.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Nov 2009 @ 8:21 PM

  777. Patrick 027 (775) — Some apps already can run on either DC or AC:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_motor#Universal_motors_and_series_wound_DC_motors

    Comment by David B. Benson — 17 Nov 2009 @ 8:51 PM

  778. Well, if people can leave a battery pack at home during the daytime, distributed solar is looking better and better really fast — and screwing up the 10-year plans for big plants and big improvements in long distance transmission:

    http://www.grist.org/article/2009-11-16-green-state/
    Solar’s rapid evolution makes energy planners rethink the grid
    —excerpt follows—-

    … solar panel prices have plummeted so much as to make viable the prospect of generating gigawatts of electricity from rooftops and photovoltaic farms built near cities.

    ‘This has pretty significant implications in terms of transmission planning,’ Ryan Pletka, Black & Veatch’s renewable energy project manager, told me last week. ‘What we thought would happen in a five-year time frame has happened in one year.’

    That’s prompted Pletka to radically revise the potential for so-called distributed generation—solar systems that can plug into the existing grid without the construction of new transmission lines—to contribute to California’s need for 60,000 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity by 2020.

    When Black & Veatch did its initial analysis last year, it predicted that photovoltaic solar could contribute 2,000 megawatt hours, given the high cost of conventional solar modules and the fact that a next-generation technology, thin-film solar, had yet to make a big commercial breakthrough.

    Pletka’s new number is a bit of a shocker: Distributed generation could potentially provide up to 40,000 gigawatt hours of electricity, or two-thirds of projected demand.

    ‘Certainly some of the new transmission lines will be needed but not as many as before.’”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Nov 2009 @ 9:10 PM

  779. Re 777 – okay

    So:

    “Could a shift to plug-in technology help motivate lower air drag or lower rolling resistance? Answer: I think not since there is no strong motivation for people to give up the things they like since by just plugging them in they solve their fuel cost problems. Once that becomes a way of life, the political will to change it will be further reduced.”

    So the solution is some combination of allowing increasing demand and decreasing supply of fuel and possibly an emissions tax, etc, drive up fuel costs to motivate efficiency.

    Or look at increasing prices in other things (food, health care, etc.) that pull demand away from inefficient energy consumption.

    “I should say that the same problem limits prospects for my car approach since people will not see the need for adapting to such a new way of riding in such a new kind car.”

    Yes, and also, introducing that motivation may just tend to drive the switch to plug-ins instead. But that isn’t so much of a problem if the same motivating emissions taxes are applied to electric generation.

    [about Al Gore] …”His birdseed (my opinion) shotgun shell approach makes it sound like nothing really difficult is necessary.”

    If it sounds that way, it’s either advertising, optimism, or a convenient truth. Because he is a part of the “Solar Grand Plan”/” A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030″ crowd (as am I).

    ——————-
    “In case comments are about done, thanks to our hosts for making the comments here possible.”

    Yes. Although that list of references for energy resources and costs studies that I was going to post at some point is going to take a bit longer, so …

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Nov 2009 @ 9:19 PM

  780. Why don’t you permit additional comments on “What does the lag of CO2 behind temperature in ice cores tell us about global warming?”

    For anybody with any modeling experience, this “explanation” looks questionable — or downright embarrassing.

    Comment by Steve / Cambridge — 17 Nov 2009 @ 9:28 PM

  781. Steve: On the famous CO2 lag, see here:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Lag.html

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Nov 2009 @ 5:58 AM

  782. I wonder what Steve would say about this:

    World on course for catastrophic 6° rise, reveal scientists

    The 6C rise now being anticipated is in stark contrast to the 2C rise at which all international climate policy, including that of Britain and the EU, hopes to stabilise the warming – two degrees being seen as the threshold of climate change which is dangerous for society and the natural world.

    The study by Professor Le Quéré and her team, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, envisages a far higher figure. “We’re at the top end of the IPCC scenario,” she said.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 18 Nov 2009 @ 10:11 AM

  783. So embarrassing:

    Superfreakonomics authors abandon climate science

    The authors of SuperFreakonomics simultaneously insist they accept the science — “Like those who are criticizing us, we believe that rising global temperatures are a man-made phenomenon” — while at the same time labeling global warming a “religion”. And we’ve seen one award-winning journalist explain “Freakonomics Guys Flunk Science of Climate Change.” But now, as this stunning Charlie Rose video shows, we have the clearest demonstration that both Levitt and Dubner don’t accept and don’t understand the science. …

    Later during the interview Dubner attempted to justify the book’s claim that “carbon dioxide is not the right villain,” arguing that it was the decrease in sulfur dioxide and other pollutants that has caused global warming, rather than the accumulation of carbon dioxide.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 18 Nov 2009 @ 10:32 AM

  784. Steve/Cambridge–because the lag of CO2 behind temperature in some ice core records is a settled issue. It is precisely what is expected when the initiator of the warming is a change in insolation due to a change in Earth’s orbit. The fact that you don’t understand it doesn’t change the physics.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Nov 2009 @ 12:46 PM

  785. Another misleading (incompetent) news release muddying the waters.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091117102036.htm

    “ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2009) — A new study indicates that major chemicals most often cited as leading causes of climate change, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are outclassed in their warming potential by compounds receiving less attention.”

    Well, they do conclude with “Although current concentrations of some of these trace gases have been found to be substantially small compared to carbon dioxide, their concentration is on the rise,” the study notes. “With the current rate of increase, they will be important contributors in the future, according to some models.”

    Comment by Pekka Kostamo — 18 Nov 2009 @ 1:17 PM

  786. How much sulfate is too much? If we were to geoengineer with sulfate injection, and have to keep increasing it to hold off a sudden warming, is this a potential catastrophe (in the mathematical sense)? Or are the volumes involved nowhere near the amount that risks a climate flip?

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tsf.2009.01.005

    Sulfur dioxide initiates global climate change in four ways
    Purchase the full-text article

    Peter L. Ward,
    Teton Tectonics, P.O. Box 4875, Jackson, WY, USA

    Available online 11 February 2009.
    Abstract

    Global climate change, prior to the 20th century, appears to have been initiated primarily by major changes in volcanic activity. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is the most voluminous chemically active gas emitted by volcanoes and is readily oxidized to sulfuric acid normally within weeks. But trace amounts of SO2 exert significant influence on climate. …. Large volumes of SO2 erupted frequently appear to overdrive the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere resulting in very rapid warming….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Nov 2009 @ 3:32 PM

  787. 774 Patrick 027

    I missed your question about rolling resistance.

    It is a little bit sloppy the way it is handled, not unusual for the auto world. In general, rolling resistance is mostly from tires. Bearings are very good, so the only thing left is gears. Simple gears are very efficient, hypoid gears as the main one in your differential are fairly poor. (Most electric arrangements keep this hypoid gear.) Years ago the automatic transmissions were great energy sinks, and while this has improved with present designs, especially with lock-up devices that stop slippage.

    Crr for tires varies not too much with speed, and it is really hard to find actual measured data for this. Approximately it is .01 for most radial tires. The original Prius tires dropped this to about .065 which is really a big deal for the city driving mileage. At high speed it becomes relatively insignificant compared to aero drag forces. They pay a lot of attention to this with truck tires, but even there real data is slim and elusive. Weight is the only real thing you can change in design of rubber tired vehicles.

    Since Crr is nearly constant, it means that for a given travel distance it makes no difference how fast you go; the same work is required. For aero drag the velocity squared term has a big force impact at high speed and not much at low.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 18 Nov 2009 @ 6:19 PM

  788. For examples of why the Milton Friedman school of economic fundamentalism (that Leavitt and Dubner represent) won’t help with climate change, see this 2007 press release:

    “By burning fossil fuel and clearing forests human beings have significantly altered the global carbon cycle,” says Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, one of the report’s lead authors. A result has been the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but so far this has been partially offset by carbon uptake by the oceans and by plants and soils on land.

    As these sinks fill up with fossil carbon they become saturated with respect to the atmosphere. Biomass fertilization is a nice concept, but the reality is that drought and deforestation and warming are likely to lead to a decrease in planetary biomass, not an increase – just look at the record so far. Leavitt and Dubner seem to be insisting that the natural ecosystems will behave according to their market theories – but what do Leavitt and Dubner have to say about externalities?

    Here’s a blurb from their blog…

    “Markets work best when externalities are internalized: i.e., you pay for the hassle you inflict on others.”

    So, if you take away someone’s food and water, you can just pay them with dollar bills, and they can eat and drink the bills? No, in order to get food and water in exchange for money, you need social cohesion and a mutual agreement on the value of money. Without social cohesion, you don’t have bills, you have newsprint. If there is not enough food and water, some people will have to die prematurely, and they might think that war is a better option – what would they have to lose?

    Now, consider that global warming projections suggest a fall-off in agricultural productivity due to droughts, heat waves and water scarcity. The scale of the falloff depends on the extent of global warming and of pre-adaptive measures (like constructing robust efficient drip irrigation systems). At the same time there is a projected increase in demand for food of a similar scale – and if the world needs 30% more food, while agriculture produces 30% less food, and with fisheries and forests also in decline…

    It doesn’t take a whole lot of analysis to see the problem there, does it? I suppose the L&D team would argue that since food scarcity drives up prices, it boosts the GDP and thus improves the economy. Global warming is good for you!

    Not only is global warming good for you, it can be mitigated by “cleaning up” dirty fuels like coal and tar.

    The real goal of such claims? Distraction and delay and the dropping of legally binding renewable energy & fossil emissions targets in favor of “aspirational and political statements and goals.”

    What this means in practice is that the coal and tar sands lobby has gotten just what it wanted – they can now proceed with DOE-supported coal gasification and tar sand hydrogenation schemes for the production of synthetic gasoline and diesel fuels, without having to face any legal challenges whatsoever – all while hiding behind the cover of “clean energy carbon capture and sequestration” and cap-and-trade fluff.

    Their only limitation is the high cost of such strategies, which were very attractive at $140 a barrel (when Warren Buffet bought into Conoco tar sands), but that’s less of a factor with the oil price boosted back up to $80 a barrel (thanks largely to the $700 billion bank bailout, which went to corner futures markets and rescue the oil price in the face of record low demand, hence the second economic bubble and the lack of renewable energy jobs or investment arising from that bailout).

    Outrageous misuse of taxpayer funds? Wildly deceptive propaganda efforts to hide this from the public? Greenwashed cover for business-as-usual? It’s beginning to look that way. Rather than denying that climate change is real, the coal & tar industries are following in Chevron’s footsteps and painting themselves in clean energy colors. “Cleanwashing” the dirtiest fossil fuel industries – how audacious. Right up there with forging letters to Congress on other people’s stationary.

    If you wanted to stablize atmospheric gas levels at even current levels, you’d have to take two major steps.

    1) Replace fossil fuel combustion with renewable energy sources.

    2) Halt deforestation and desertification and instead start large reforestation/wetland restoration programs.

    The economic and ecological benefits of that approach are obvious to everyone but the handful of economists who advise the U.S. administration on energy matters, and their paymasters in the fossil fuel & financial lobbies – the ones who finance the energy think tanks and university economics departments.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 18 Nov 2009 @ 7:32 PM

  789. Re 788 Ike Solem

    “Now, consider that global warming projections suggest a fall-off in agricultural productivity due to droughts, heat waves and water scarcity.”

    “So, if you take away someone’s food and water, you can just pay them with dollar bills, and they can eat and drink the bills? No, in order to get food and water in exchange for money, you need social cohesion and a mutual agreement on the value of money. Without social cohesion, you don’t have bills, you have newsprint. If there is not enough food and water, some people will have to die prematurely, and they might think that war is a better option – what would they have to lose?”

    This isn’t an argument against internalization of externalities; it is points in support of an argument that the externality price (emissions tax) should be relatively high. Perhaps it should include the destruction of war; it certainly should include the destruction of climate-change’s contribution to famine, including (but not limited to) the full standard of living lost by those who die, plus the loss of death to others, plus the intrinsic value placed on a person’s life.

    If the price of the externality gets higher, the ideal market response is to produce less of that externality. Pricing an externality and internalizing it is a double edged sword: 1. potential for compensation of public losses; 2. better overall market performance involving a reduction in public costs incured by disincentivising the activity (while still allowing it if, when, and where the benifits are greater than the costs).

    “At the same time there is a projected increase in demand for food of a similar scale – and if the world needs 30% more food, while agriculture produces 30% less food, and with fisheries and forests also in decline…”

    If not for inequities**, the result might be avoidance of starvation via vegetarianism/veganism. But this would still be a public cost because the public has to give up something.

    “The scale of the falloff depends on the extent of global warming and of pre-adaptive measures (like constructing robust efficient drip irrigation systems).”

    Yes. Funds from an externality tax would most obviously be appropriate to incentivise or pay for such measures.

    Note that the properly formulated externality value has to assume either the optimal combination of

    proactive adaptation (infrastructure investments, ecological investments, various R&D, population growth reduction),

    sequestration and/or neutralization (+ cost of side effect externalities, thus a disincentive to the sulphate injection option, for example),

    amelioration and adaptation (migration (costs include compensation to refugees and/or recieving countries), extra effort to protect ecosystems stragecally optimized to save what can more easily be saved (general trend being a focus on high latitude/elevation ends of current ranges) and/or is more valuable (I’m not just talking about immediate material benifits) – or the cost of replacing ecosystem services (pollination, natural flood and … pest/disease control (?)),

    and proactive and reactive compensation for otherwise unavoided/unmitigated losses,

    …or something optimized to an extent that one could expect society to achieve – but noting that some errors in that process are the fault of other problems that should be fixed in other ways (anthropogenic climate-change wars will not generally be sole fault of climate-change emissions activity).

    “It doesn’t take a whole lot of analysis to see the problem there, does it? I suppose the L&D team would argue that since food scarcity drives up prices, it boosts the GDP and thus improves the economy. Global warming is good for you!”

    I don’t know what they would argue, but if food prices go up, except wherein a hard limit is reached (marginal externality price goes to infinity?), the same quantity of food could be had if enough resources, perhaps pulled by greater money supplied by externality tax funds or the return on investment of such, are put toward that goal. For example, more desalination. But this takes resources away from something, and the general tendency is a net cost, which ideally would be filled by externality tax revenue, which comes from a tax that has the effect of reducing public costs by directing economic activity away from the negative externality-producing activities.

    “What this means in practice is that the coal and tar sands lobby has gotten just what it wanted – they can now proceed with DOE-supported coal gasification and tar sand hydrogenation schemes for the production of synthetic gasoline and diesel fuels, without having to face any legal challenges whatsoever – all while hiding behind the cover of “clean energy carbon capture and sequestration” and cap-and-trade fluff.”

    If the taxes/caps were sufficient and appropriate, the emitting options couldn’t hide from that. These are points in support of making caps/taxes policy better, not against the general concept.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 18 Nov 2009 @ 11:54 PM

  790. Heads up: If you haven’t checked out Ray P.’s online draft of Principles of Planetary Climate online, or if you haven’t done so in a while, it looks like now would be a really good time to do so. Hint hint.

    Comment by CM — 19 Nov 2009 @ 2:05 PM

  791. Patrick 027 and Ike Solem,

    Consider the unexpected outcomes: 1) Electric cars will exist in substantial numbers in 2030 (see Fig 15 of IEA exerpt at http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/docs/weo2009/climate_change_excerpt.pdf) 2) There will remain a substantial amount of coal fired electric power in that same 2030 time. And therefore it can be concluded that coal will power the electric cars because there is a correspondence between coal and electric cars. The implication is that if you cut out the electric cars you would eliminate the remaining coal power.

    Now look at Figure 5-1 of the NRDC funded EPRI study at http://mydocs.epri.com/docs/public/000000000001015325.pdf
    where it shows that if a hybrid made into a plug-in runs on coal then the CO2 would increase about 20% over what the basic hybrid could do.

    Now consider that the energy needed to make the coal sands oil is about 20% to 25% extra compared to regular foreign oil. This is mostly natural gas energy so it is fairly decent in heat versus CO2.

    Surprise!!!!! When we throw rocks at oil sands projects, we should hold back an equal number to throw at electric cars.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Nov 2009 @ 2:49 PM

  792. Throw rocks at people to discourage them from buying electric cars, punishing people for buying something real, in favor of a hypothetical alternative you might sell?

    Instead throw roses at the people who are working to end the use of coal to supply their electricity.

    http://www.reapinfo.org/reap3/caupdate/pasadena.html
    (one of many examples of local action to work to eliminate coal as a source of electricity by not buying from those generators)

    Or by doing this — an idea Ike just mentioned above:

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091207/eshelman

    “… The difference between Gainesville and Germany was that Germany had a national feed-in tariff. Under this system, energy consumers can become renewable energy producers by installing solar panels on their roof or a wind turbine in their backyard and selling their energy to the local utility. These customers-turned-producers receive above-market prices for their energy, often for up to twenty years. With the feed-in tariff, Germany boosted its renewable energy production from 1 percent of its total output in 1995 to 12 percent in 2005. By 2007 renewables supplied 14 percent of Germany’s electricity. Denmark and Spain also have successful feed-in tariff programs.

    So this past March, Gainesville rolled out its own feed-in tariff. GRU now pays twice the retail cost for every kilowatt of solar power-generated electricity. The extra cost means a small increase in electrical bills for all utility consumers, less than a dollar per month per household. …”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Nov 2009 @ 3:30 PM

  793. Re 787 Jim Bullis – thanks for your comments on rolling resistance. How would I apply a Crr value – where does it go in the equation?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Nov 2009 @ 4:09 PM

  794. 793 Patrick 027

    Rolling resistance drag force equals Crr times weight of the whole vehicle. It does not make any difference how many wheels you have.

    Aerodynamic drag force equals Cd times rho/2 times velocity squared. Depending on the units used, rho is .0028 slugs per cubic ft. (Note, the value of rho I give is for old guys with old books. I like Rouse and Howe, John Wiley 1953) (I took the Fluids course from Prof. Howe, and no, basic fluid dynamics has not changed much since 1960.)

    For steady speed and flat roads that is all there is to it.

    The drag forces are additive. Energy is force times distance and power equals force times velocity. Depending on the quality of the regenerative energy system, acceleration takes energy but gives it back in braking; hills require more energy going up but give it back going down. (Nowhere have I found any data on actual regenerative system performance.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Nov 2009 @ 5:30 PM

  795. 792 Hank Roberts,

    Roses are for people who work for solutions that will reduce CO2. Rocks are for people chasing a fad; really big rocks are for the promoters of wrong solutions that should know better.

    When you actually look at the references I offered in #791, perhaps you will see how I conclude that electric car operation is a mis-guided effort.

    Actions to cut the use of energy such as insulation improvements seem worth the effort. So are efforts to preserve forests. Hybrid vehicles are probably the best answer going at this time. It is doubtful, but I might someday sell a car or make a nickel at trying, and the outcome if my approach were to be adopted on a large scale, would be an effect of very significant magnituede for not much cost.

    Working to find better answers gets roses also.

    But the problem is this: A costly, public funded program that will put many electric cars on the road seems almost certain to end in making things worse compared to what can be done now with hybrid technology. And that public program is also chasing an uncertain technology. Not only will we be out a lot of money for something that could result in nothing or worse, we will both delay action that could help and worse, establish a public disdain for real actions that might become available. Yup,rocks not roses for electric cars.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Nov 2009 @ 5:56 PM

  796. CM – thanks!

    Re Jim Bullis – “resistance drag force equals Crr times weight of the whole vehicle” – Okay, that makes sense. Thanks. (I still disagree with a significant part of your overall point, but won’t bother with that matter again.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Nov 2009 @ 6:07 PM

  797. 796 Patrick 027

    Jeff Immelt, CEO GE; Eric Schmidt, CEO Google; and John Doerr, partner Kleiner Perkins (Fisker); for starters are on the President’s Council of Economic Recovery. They are pleased that your opinion is the prevailing view in the country.

    Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and I will be pleased to haul coal and burn it in our power plants to make a little electricity. Immelt and I will be pleased to take a tidy profit from our national monopoly on wind turbines while we set up to pass the electricity around to John Doerr’s cars (dressed up by Fisker) on smart grid equipment that we build. Eric Schmidt will sell us smart Google-meters so we know when to sweat to save electricity. (Disclosure: I have some stocks in my IRA.) So it goes.

    My efforts at stopping this train are limited to waving a red flag. (Red was used as a signal to “flag the train” and has nothing to do with politics.) No Superman stuff for me.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 20 Nov 2009 @ 5:04 PM

  798. Well, would you (Jim Bullis) support a tax on emissions?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Nov 2009 @ 9:26 PM

  799. 798 Patrick 027

    Yup. Though it would depend on how it was written. I tend to prefer a simple tax rather than a “cap and trade” deal which I think is really just a tax when all is said and done.

    My support of something is different from what I anticipate happening — and I read from the fact that we have not been able to repeal the oil depletion allowance that the political reality does not show support for any significant form of tax of whatever name.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 23 Nov 2009 @ 2:18 AM

  800. 027,Bullis,

    You guys show more inertia than the Justice Dept….ignore the dead end demonstrations of pettiness, the shrill calls for a pre-adolescent interpretation of right, wronged, and fair, and stick to the evidentiary trail.

    The hack defense is in hand, and there is much work to be done. Slog on gentlemen!

    Comment by hf — 23 Nov 2009 @ 9:51 AM

  801. 800 hf

    Let me interpret your words if I may:

    Inertia and slogging along are maybe appropriate when it looks like the evidentiary trail is leading in a wrong direction. Is that a pre-adolescent interpretation of right and fair? When it looks like the campaign against global warming is being wronged by imaginary solutions or solutions that are excessively expensive for the benefit expected, is that a pre-adolescent judgment?

    Indeed, there is work to be done. It is time to get out some silver bullets. The job will not get done with the shotgun shell loaded with the birdseed solutions that are accepted by our leading experts. Birdseed solutions are the results of hacks coming up with answers when some actual innovation is needed.

    Gentlemen, load your weapons and begin the fair fight!

    Hey “hf”, is that what you meant to say?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 24 Nov 2009 @ 12:45 PM

  802. thanks! his shallow effort is so sad…i have as yet been unable to muster the strength to respond to him…in my 20 or so year love of “The University” this is the first time i have felt shame….so again thanks! dan

    Comment by dan — 26 Nov 2009 @ 5:43 PM

  803. thanks – and, my site now has a new link in our blog roll…. :)
    and if Steve ever were to follow your google map and make a R at Ellis (rather than a L) and walk down 100yards then trun L and go to the basement of Dr. Dinosaur…he could get a first hand lesson in the impact to rapid climate change..its pretty unforgiving – and (my turky dinner is clearly still in the oven…)..and as Dr. Dinosaur once told me (MBA 86) and my wife Allisyn (BA 86) (about 10 yrs ago) “the notion of an animal – any animal – out thinking – the environment in which it evolved – is pretty ridiculous…”

    Comment by dan — 26 Nov 2009 @ 6:44 PM

  804. lol… Finally I found someone who can publicly challenge the naive way economic applications has turned to. Prof Levitt (who has really good work specially in economics of crime) and others- like charles wheelan- has done a good job trying to apply the concepts of economics on many aspects of life which brought the attention to the field. But their theoretical analysis lakes of any empirical proof. Their work,like freakenomics, can be described as good bed reading but I’m sure that no economists in the whole world takes their words seriously. it’s interesting to think that way but still needs more proof. After all, “economic analysis is all about mathematical analysis the rest is just talk”

    Comment by Mido — 27 Nov 2009 @ 6:22 AM

  805. Re 799 Jim Bullis – “I tend to prefer a simple tax rather than a “cap and trade” deal which I think is really just a tax when all is said and done. ”

    Me too.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Nov 2009 @ 10:24 PM

  806. Re 801

    Hi Jim.

    I apologize for not tracking this thread and the delay.

    I was genuinely relieved on the 23rd, that during the “CRU hack” controversy, your policy/solutions conversation continued. The continuation of a policy debate in the midst of the latest campaign to expose AGW as scientifically fragile, at least, increases the chance of shifting the emphasis/topic back toward the assumption of the AGW issue and the necessity of mitigation. In this case, BAU inertia can be a powerful and positive force.

    After reading a number of the “CRU hack” posts, the comments there seemed to blur into a patterned order of two declarative “shots” and a conclusory ejaculative “chaser”. They conjured up a sense of fantasy based sixth/seventh grade logic and fairness, and thus my description.

    “Silver bullet” answers? I’m doubtful. But well aimed singlular solutions, from a variety of sources that commonly target carbon emissions? By all means!

    And your understanding of my obtuse post? You’re a skilled advocate, Jim, and your interpretation was “pure genuine Bullis” a valued quantity here in Iowa.

    In fact, this would be a great place for you and 027 to build on your agreement around a carbon tax. I invite you to use Iowa as a lab for reconstructing a carbon neutral geographic. It would be a challenge for distributed co-generation and solar, but those partial solutions could be augmented with wind and biomass resources that we appear to have in abundance. It would be a slog, but a fair and rewarding one.

    We can start with an established point of agreement, a carbon tax.

    Comment by hf — 28 Nov 2009 @ 12:53 PM

  807. “Third, when land dries out, the typical summer temperature can be hotter than the hottest summer on record in many places”

    Isn’t that what Australia is suffering with to a point? They are having extremely high temperatures and fire storms and the center of their landmass is dry as a bone. Wouldn’t that be a vote for not attempting ‘geoengineering’ before we have thought out all the possible negatives?

    On a tangent: When building our new house, we chose black roof shingles under the idea that the roof would stay warmer and the ice and snow wouldn’t be such an issue. Yeah, well… Now in the summer we have the fire alarm going off in the attic because the attic is so hot and have added several fans in an attempt to get the temperature under control. Replacing or singling over the black with a lighter colour hadn’t occurred to me until now. Not a bad idea… We’d save money for sure.

    Comment by Robert White — 28 Nov 2009 @ 4:00 PM

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