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CNN is spun right round, baby, right round

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 January 2009

With the axing of the CNN Science News team, most science stories at CNN are now being given to general assignment reporters who don’t necessarily have the background to know when they are being taken for a ride. On the Lou Dobbs show (an evening news program on cable for those of you not in the US), the last few weeks have brought a series of embarrassing non-stories on ‘global cooling’ based it seems on a few cold snaps this winter, the fact that we are at a solar minimum and a regurgitation of 1970s vintage interpretations of Milankovitch theory (via Pravda of all places!). Combine that with a few hysterical (in both senses) non-scientists as talking heads and you end up with a repeat of the nonsensical ‘Cooling world’ media stories that were misleading in the 1970s and are just as misleading now.

Exhibit A. Last night’s (13 Jan 2009) transcript (annotations in italics).

Note that this is a rush transcript and the typos aren’t attributable to the participants.

DOBBS: Welcome back. Global warming is a complex, controversial issue and on this broadcast we have been critical of both sides in this debate. We’ve challenged the orthodoxy surrounding global warming theories and questioned more evidence on the side of the Ice Age and prospect in the minds of some. In point of fact, research, some of it, shows that we could be heading toward cooler temperatures, and it’s a story you will only see here on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. Ines Ferre has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will the day after tomorrow bring a deep freeze like that shown in the movie? Research more than 50 years ago by astrophysicist Milanchovich (ph) shows that ice ages run in predictable cycles and the earth could go into one. How soon? In science terms it could be thousands of years. But what happens in the next decade is still up in the air. Part of the science community believes that global warming is a man-maid threat. But Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute predicts the next 20 to 30 years will actually bring cooling temperatures.

Dennis Avery is part of the ‘science community’? Who knew? And, while amusing, the threat of ‘man-maids’ causing global warming is just a typo. Nice thought though. Oh, and if you want to know what the actual role of Milankovitch in forcing climate is, look at the IPCC FAQ Q6.1. Its role in current climate change? Zero.

DENNIS AVERY, HUDSON INSTITUTE: The earth’s temperatures have dropped an average of .6 Celsius in the last two years. The Pacific Ocean is telling us, as it has told us 10 times in the past 400 years, you’re going to get cooler.

For those unfamiliar with Dennis Avery, he is a rather recent convert to the bandwagon idea of global cooling, having very recently been an advocate of “unstoppable” global warming. As for his great cherry pick (0.6º C in two years – we’re doomed!), this appears to simply be made up. Even putting aside the nonsense of concluding anything from a two year trend, if you take monthly values and start at the peak value at the height of the last El Niño event of January 2007 and do no actual trend analysis, I can find no data set that gives a drop of 0.6ºC. Even UAH MSU-LT gives only 0.4ºC. The issue being not that it hasn’t been cooler this year than last, but why make up numbers? This is purely rhetorical of course, they make up numbers because they don’t care about whether what they say is true or not.

FERRE: Avery points to a lack of sunspots as a predictor for lower temperatures, saying the affects of greenhouse gas warming have a small impact on climate change. Believers in global warming, like NASA researcher, Dr. Gavin Schmidt disagree.

I was interviewed on tape in the afternoon, without seeing any of the other interviews. Oh, and what does a ‘believer in global warming’ even mean?

DR. GAVIN SCHMIDT, NASA: The long term trend is clearly toward warming, and those trends are completely dwarf any changes due to the solar cycle.

FERRE: In a speech last week, President-elect Obama called for the creation of a green energy economy. Still, others warn that no matter what you think about climate change, new policies would essentially have no effect.

FRED SINGER, SCIENCE & ENV. POLICY PROJECT: There’s very little we can do about it. Any effort to restrict the use of carbon dioxide will hurt us economically and have zero effect on the Chicago mate.

Surely another typo, but maybe the Chicago mate is something to do with the man-maids? See here for more background on Singer.

FERRE: As Singer says, a lot of pain, for no gain.

Huh? Try looking at the actual numbers from a recent McKinsey report. How is saving money through efficiency a ‘pain’?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FERRE: And three independent research groups concluded that the average global temperature in 2008 was the ninth or tenth warmest since 1850, but also since the coldest since the turn of the 21st century.

DOBBS: It’s fascinating and nothing — nothing — stirs up the left, the right, and extremes in this debate, the orthodoxy that exists on both sides of the debate than to even say global warming. It’s amazing.

This is an appeal to the ‘middle muddle’ and an attempt to seem like a reasonable arbitrator between two opposing sides. But as many people have previously noted, there is no possible compromise between sense and nonsense. 2+2 will always equal 4, no matter how much the Hudson Institute says otherwise.

FERRE: When I spoke to experts and scientists today from one side and the other, you could feel the kind of anger about –

That was probably me. Though it’s not anger, it’s simple frustration that reporters are being taken in and treating seriously the nonsense that comes out of these think-tanks.

DOBBS: Cannot we just all get along? Ines, thank you very much.

Joining me now three leading experts in Manchester, New Hampshire, we’re joined by Joseph D’Aleo of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project. Good to have with you us.

JOSEPH D’ALEO, CO-FOUNDER WEATHER CHANNEL: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: He’s also the cofounder of The Weather Channel. In Washington, D.C., as you see there, Jay Lehr, he’s the science director of the Heartland Institute. And in Boston, Alex Gross, he’s the cofounder of co2stats.com. Good to have you with us.

Well that’s balanced!

Let’s put a few numbers out here, the empirical discussion and see what we can make of it. First is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has very good records on temperatures, average temperatures in the United States, dating back to 1880. And here’s what these numbers look like. You’ve all seen those. But help us all — the audience and most of all me to get through this, they show the warmest years on record, 1998, 2006, and 1934. 2008 was cooler, in fact the coolest since 1997. It’s intriguing to see that graph there. The graph we’re looking at showing some question that the warming trend may be just a snapshot in time. The global temperatures by NOAA are seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. The ten warmest years have all occurred since 1995.

So let me start, if I may, Joseph, your reaction to those numbers. Do you quibble with what they represent?

D’ALEO: Yes, I do. In fact, if you look at the satellite data, which is the most reliable data, the best coverage of the globe, 2008 was the 14th coldest in 30 years. That doesn’t jive with the tenth warmest in 159 years in the Hadley data set or 113 or 114 years in the NOAA data set. Those global data sets are contaminated by the fact that two-thirds of the globe’s stations dropped out in 1990. Most of them rural and they performed no urban adjustment. And, Lou, you know, and the people in your studio know that if they live in the suburbs of New York City, it’s a lot colder in rural areas than in the city. Now we have more urban effect in those numbers reflecting — that show up in that enhanced or exaggerated warming in the global data set.

D’Aleo is misdirecting through his teeth here. He knows that the satellite analyses have more variability over ENSO cycles than the surface records, he also knows that urban heat island effects are corrected for in the surface records, and he also knows that this doesn’t effect ocean temperatures, and that the station dropping out doesn’t affect the trends at all (you can do the same analysis with only stations that remained and it makes no difference). Pure disinformation.

DOBBS: Your thoughts on these numbers. Because they are intriguing. They are a brief snapshot admittedly, in comparison to total extended time. I guess we could go back 4.6 billion years. Let’s keep it in the range of something like 500,000 years. What’s your reaction to those numbers and your interpretation?

JAY LEHR, HEARTLAND INSTITUTE: Well, Lou –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m sorry.

DOBBS: Go ahead, Jay.

LEHR: Lou, I’m in the camp with Joe and Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, and I think more importantly, it is to look at the sun’s output, and in recent years, we’ve seen very, very low sunspot activity, and we are definitely, in my mind, not only in a cooling period, we’re going to be staying in it for a couple decades, and I see it as a major advantage, although I think we will be able to adapt to it. I’m hopeful that this change in the sun’s output will put some common sense into the legislature, not to pass any dramatic cap in trade or carbon tax legislation that will set us in a far deeper economic hole. I believe Mr. Obama and his economic team are well placed to dig us out of this recession in the next 18 months to 2 years, but I think if we pass any dramatic legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, the recession will last quite a few more years and we’ll come out of it with a lower standard of living on very tenuous scientific grounds.

DOBBS: Alex, the carbon footprint, generation of greenhouse gases, specifically co2, the concern focusing primarily on the carbon footprint, and of course generated by fossil fuels primarily, what is your thinking as you look at that survey of 130 — almost 130 years and the impact on the environment?

ALEX WISSNER-GROSS, CO2STATS.COM: Well, Lou, I think regardless of whatever the long-term trend in the climate data is, there a long- term technological trend which is that as time goes on our technology tends toward smaller and smaller physical footprint. That means in part that in the long term we like technology to have a smaller environmental footprint, burning fewer greenhouse gases and becoming as small and environmentally neutral and noninvasive as possible. So I think regardless of the climate trend, I think we’ll see less and less environmentally impactful technologies.

Wissner-Gross is on because of the media attention given to misleading reports about the carbon emissions related to Google searches. Shame he doesn’t get to talk about any of that.

DOBBS: To be straight forward about this, that’s where I come down. I don’t know it matters to me whether there is global warming or we’re moving toward an ice age it seems really that we should be reasonable stewards of the planet and the debate over whether it’s global warming or whether it’s moving toward perhaps another ice age or business as usual is almost moot here in my mind. I know that will infuriate the advocates of global warming as well as the folks that believe we are headed toward another ice age. What’s your thought?

Curious train of logic there…

D’ALEO: I agree with you, Lou. We need conservation. An all of the above solution for energy, regardless of whether we’re right and it cools over the next few decades or continues to warm, a far less dangerous scenario. And that means nuclear. It means coal, oil, natural gas. Geothermal, all of the above.

DOBBS: Jay, you made the comment about the impact of solar sunspot activity. Sunspot activity the 11-year cycle that we’re all familiar with. There are much larger cycles, 12,000 to 13,000 years as well. We also heard a report disregard, if you will, for the strength and significance of solar activity on the earth’s environment. How do you respond to that?

Is he talking about me? Please see some of my publications on the subject from 2006, 2004 and 2001. My point above was that relative to current greenhouse gas increases, solar is small – not that it is unimportant or uninteresting. This of course is part of the false dilemma ‘single cause’ argument that the pseudo-skeptics like to use – that change must be caused by either solar or greenhouse gases and that any evidence for one is evidence against the other. This is logically incoherent.

FEHR: It just seems silly to not recognize that the earth’s climate is driven by the sun.

Ah yes.

Your Chad Myers pointed out it’s really arrogant to think that man controls the climate.

This is a misquoted reference to a previous segment a few weeks ago where Myers was discussing the impact of climate on individual weather patterns. But man’s activities do affect the climate and are increasingly controlling its trends.

90 percent of the climate is water vapor which we have no impact over and if we were to try to reduce greenhouse gases with China and India controlling way more than we do and they have boldly said they are not going to cripple their economy by following suit, our impact would have no — no change in temperature at all in Europe they started carbon — capping trade in 2005. They’ve had no reduction in groan house gases, but a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in the standard of living. We don’t want to go that route.

What? Accounting for the garbled nature of this response, he was probably trying to say that 90% of the greenhouse effect is caused by water vapour. This is both wrong and, even were it true, irrelevant.

DOBBS: Alex, you get the last word here. Are you as dismissive of the carbon footprint as measured by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

GROSS: No, not really. But I think in the long term, efficiency is where the gains come from. I think efficiency should come first, carbon footprint second.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Alex, Jay, and Joe. Folks, appreciate you being with us.

FEHR: Thank you.

In summary, this is not the old ‘balance as bias‘ or ‘false balance‘ story. On the contrary, there was no balance at all! Almost the entire broadcast was given over to policy advocates whose use of erroneous-but-scientific-sounding sound bites is just a cover for their unchangable opinions that nothing should ever be done about anything. This may make for good TV (I wouldn’t know), but it certainly isn’t journalism.

There are pressures on journalists that conspire against fully researching a story – deadlines, the tyranny of the news peg etc. – but that means they have to be all the more careful in these kinds of cases. Given that Lou Dobbs has been better on this story in the past, seeing him and his team being spun like this is a real disappointment. They could really do much better.

Update: Marc Roberts sends in this appropriate cartoon:


596 Responses to “CNN is spun right round, baby, right round”

  1. 501
    EL says:

    497 – The IEA estimations are based on current policy. It gives you an idea of where we are now. If you look at IEA projections then you see that we are going to have to do more in order to change this situation. In fact they have made several reports calling on more to be done.

    The real difference here is that if you go by the reports of the energy watch group, then there isn’t anything more that government needs to do. Governments don’t need to worry because it’s going to take care of itself with current policy. Truth is, those projections are very optimistic that hope for advanced accelerations that simply aren’t going to happen under current policy.

    The IEA underestimations can be accounted for by change of policy. The governments have been doing more to try to implement it. As a result the market grew faster then projected, which would not have happened if left alone. It’s not about giving other things a chance, it’s about political pressure.

    496 – Hank, you don’t think that scientist should be accountable for what they say to the press? So those scientist for example, that say that global warming is a natural event, shouldn’t be held accountable for that claim?

  2. 502
    snorbert zangox says:

    It seems to me that the magnitude of the temperature difference between an urban heat island and its environs is proportional to the number of humans in it. Thus, as the populations of urban areas grow the rate of their temperature rise should increase faster than the rate of increase in rural areas.

    Furthermore, the per capita energy consumption in urban areas is growing as we humans become more prosperous. This too should increase the rate of temperature rise in the UHI relative to its environs.

    How can we rectify these observations with a claim that shutting down large numbers of mostly rural stations will not affect the apparent rate of temperature rise?

    [Response: By a) not using the urban stations, and b) checking whether the rural stations are consistent, and c) checking to see whether the effective coverage is the same (and it pretty much is). - gavin]

  3. 503
    Rod B says:

    Alan (497), I wasn’t commenting on the worth or folly of the idea itself but on the amount of time that Earth Watch thinks 7-8 times the turbines as today can built, installed, and connected, while simultaneously evidently decommissioning ~1/3 of the current coal and gas fired electric plants. I happen to think building wind generators is a good thing but doubt the extent or time that some predict and profess.

  4. 504
    snorbert zangox says:

    Gavin,

    Your response you wrote, “a) not using the urban stations”. Does this mean that you have removed all of the urban stations from the surface temperature record?

    Then you wrote, “b) checking whether the rural stations are consistent”. Consistent with what; each other or with the nearby urban stations? I think that if the urban stations were consistent with the former rural stations in 1990, that changes in the UHIE may have made that no longer true.

    I do not see how ensuring the effective coverage is the same ensures that the UHIE does not affect the data going forward from 1990. If you have an area once represented by a rural station and begin using an urban station to represent the same area, will a waxing UHIE not affect the rate of temperature rise in that area?

    Is there some place on line that I can get access to the procedures by which IPCC corrects for UHIE?

    [Response: Trends from urban stations are not used in the GISTEMP analysis - the description, source code and papers are all available at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp . If there are a number of rural stations in a region, the regional trend is defined as the average of those rural stations. If you have a couple less stations in any particular period, it doesn't necessarily impact the regional trend as long as there are still other rural stations in the neighbourhood. (and note that IPCC reports and assesses published work, it does not do any analysis itself). There are other ways you could do these analyses - making specific corrections for the UHI effect for instance, or by doing something more sophisticated with station-to-station comparisons - but you should look up the literature for this. - gavin]

  5. 505
    Alan Neale says:

    Re #503, I doubt it too but what alternatives are there when everyone wants to leave it to the subsidized free market and there to be no grand plan of energy replacement. However that the name of the capatalist game, with its lobbying, politics, lack of scientific knowledge amongst the ones that really matter and indeed less amongst the ones that do not.

  6. 506
    Rod B says:

    Alan (505), I find nothing wrong — nay it’s highly desirable — in relying on subsidized (or properly regulated) free market forces to do the job. The only people that will build, install, connect, and operate wind turbines (or solar arrays) are the industrialists (capitalists, if you wish) who know how to build, install, connect, and operate wind turbines. Maybe you’d rather have Rep Waxman and Sen. Boxer strap on their tool belt and do it; LOL. I do agree that the government ought to effect a national plan for electric generation; the free market industrialists are too rationalized and fractionalized to come up with a coordinated national framework.

  7. 507
    Hank Roberts says:

    I’d bet on Jimmy Carter for the installation myself.

    I’ve seen videos of politicians visiting him at Habitat construction sites. They get handed a hammer and nail, choke up on the hammer, and go tappity tappity tappity.

    He comes over, holds the hammer at the bottom, taps the nail once, then WHAM and it’s driven in.

    Next!

  8. 508
    Former Skeptic says:

    Re: #504

    snorbert – AR4 WG1 pg.243-245 are the relevant pages for UHI and discussion of correction techniques.

  9. 509
    Rod B says:

    Hank, you just might have something there!

  10. 510
    Jim Bouldin says:

    #503:

    Wind farms can go up incredibly fast if the decision is made. The Peetz and Cedar Creek wind farms near the CO-NE border, with over 500 turbines–one of the bigger operations, almost 4% of total US capacity–went up in not much more than a year. This stuff can happen very fast. You drive across the midwest and great plains and you’ll see small sets of windmills popping up all over the place. These so-called hindrances are make-believe stall tactics.

    http://www.casperstartribune.net/articles/2007/05/19/news/regional/81c9dbb9e2730205872572df00614002.txt
    http://www.power-technology.com/projects/cedarcreek/

  11. 511
    jcbmack says:

    Carter was a nice man, but not an effective foreign politician. Just look at the Iran hostage crisis.

  12. 512
    Brian Dodge says:

    If collecting a bunch of people together in urban areas causes local increases in temperature, wouldn’t there HAVE to be local decreases in temperature somewhere else(rural cool islands) for there not to be anthropogenic global warming?

    What Urban Heat Islands are responsible for the loss of glacier mass worldwide, the breakup of Jones, Larsen A, Muller, Wordie, Larsen B, and Wilkins ice shelves, the record loss of summer ice cover in the Arctic, the freshening of the deepwater southward flow of the thermohaline circulation/MOC through the Denmark Strait and the Faroe–Shetland channel, or the release of methane from the East Siberian Shelf?

  13. 513
    Alan Neale says:

    Re #507/507, lol, I just think that putting in the original (greenfield) infrastructure was peicemeal at first and has only been somehwat coordinated. The next one will not have as much energy to play with or it will need to travel greater distances if you want a moritorium on coal and gas fired power stations in favour of something else overall. I doubt we can just grow it all organically. Its easy at the moment, we still have lots of coal and gas power stations living out there lifetimes but to not build any more in favour of CSP and wind of whatever scale is not as easy or as reliable as yet.

    I have read of many ideas but as yet no strategic plan. But hey lets leave it solely to the capatalist venture this time around as well. They will probably roll out a load more coal and gas fired power plants and moan about CSP and winds shortcomings. Thats another 0.5C then.

  14. 514
    tamino says:

    Re: #511 (jcbmack)

    Jimmy Carter had his limitations, and the Iran hostage situation was a glaring one. But it’s far from a complete characterization of his abilities.

    Reagan was able to use threats to intimidate the Iranians into releasing the hostages — something Carter was unable to do. But Carter was able to broker a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt — something Reagan was not only unable to do, he was unable even to conceive.

    Frankly, I’m vastly more impressed with Carter’s accomplishment than with Reagan’s.

  15. 515
    Rod B says:

    jcbmack, that’s true about Carter, but he was (is?) a pretty good carpenter…

  16. 516
    Rod B says:

    Alan (513), I didn’t say “leave it solely to the capatalist venture this time around as well” I said others need to make a comprehensive plan and provide the necessary though limited regulation and control.

  17. 517
    Hank Roberts says:

    > just look at the Iran hostage crisis
    My point was communities as well as capitalists build homes. Want politics? Don’t “just look at” isolated events, history adds more, e.g.
    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB21/index.htm

    Context is all. Rod adds an appropriate context at 9:19am. Thanks. [moderator: guys this is really starting to get OT now!]

  18. 518
    jcbmack says:

    Rod B., # 515, absolutely agreed. Tamino # 514, I think Reagan had his faults, but I respect his foreign policies more than Carter, but Carter was more of a peace maker and sincerely sought greater enforcement of human rights, which was superior to Reagan. Still at that time we needed a president willing to bomb a country in lieu of the cold war and places like Beirut. Carter was a good person, but he ignored the unrest in the middle east and the strong resistance to westernization and democratization.

    Then again I am a Clinton and Obama fan and I despise how Bush junior tried and failed to be like Reagan. Carter like Ford was, is a nice man who I respect because of his strong moral character.

  19. 519
    jcbmack says:

    Hank Roberts # 517, who is looking at isolated points in history? I agree that various communities can build homes, energy efficient ones,that Carter was a good carpenter etc… I was merely pointing out that as far as strong resolve, including energy efficiency I have my doubts Carter could get the deals closed. He was a smart and nice man,but lacking in resolve to get some of the more harsh, but necessary things done. With all the political and corporate opposition to going green for real, Carter is not the personality you want building energy homes on a grand scale, I do not think he would get it done.

  20. 520
    jcbmack says:

    ssets.cambridge.org/97805218/01164/excerpt/9780521801164_excerpt.pdf –

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2006/12/13/cstillwell.DTL

    Again I think his heart was in the right place. To reiterate Reagan made many mistakes as well, they all do.

  21. 521
    Hank Roberts says:

    Moderating myself back, I hope, to the topic (at least the topic of what’s being spun, not CNN specifically):

    http://www.nature.com/climate/2008/0812/full/climate.2008.122.html
    Nature Reports Climate Change, 20 November 2008 | doi:10.1038/climate.2008.122

    Carbon is forever (David Archer and others)

    A plea — I see business consultants telling large companies that “CO2 lasts about 100 years” — which is a blip in a corporate lifetime, as corporations are immortal. They could — if that were true– just wait and the problem goes away by itself.

    I think this is akin to the credit default problem, as Mark Chu-Carroll of Google pointed out, the risks for each individual transaction were treated as independent — but they weren’t independent, each failure increased the risk of other deals and all fall down.

    CO2 problems aren’t going to go away. The consultants tell the corporations what they want to hear.

    Nature, Dr. Archer, Dr. Caldeira and others point out the numbers. How do you contend with the spin on this?

    It seems subtle but it’s important to get the numbers right that are going to be used as an assumption in business plans, and businesses do plan long term. Longer than the human life span, in making assumptions (like sea level, like lifetime of physical construction).

  22. 522
    truth says:

    David B Benson [220]:
    Those Top10 instances you mention include some that are hotly disputed as to their being attributable to AGW.
    Darfur’s problem has been attributed to land clearing—some Pacific Islands problems to either tectonic causes or locals’ use of explosives undermining the atolls—the cause and seriousness of coral bleaching is disputed—and the senior scientist at the Netherlands global climate research group at KNMI, has stated that ‘There is no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise’.

    [Response: People state all sorts of things. The data however say something different - historical sea level rise was around 1-2 mm/yr (from tide gauges), and over the satellite period it's more like 3 mm/yr. Now the numbers might not be completely conformal, but there is some evidence of accelerating SLR. - gavin]

  23. 523

    In re Alan @ 513:

    One of the greatest and untapped sources of power is conservation. One way to force conservation is to simply not build those plants based on their threat to our national security and the environment. As prices rise, people will learn to conserve. At the same time, as prices rise, the ROI for wind and solar will improve and supply will rebalance.

    Ain’t rocket science.

  24. 524
    Alan Neale says:

    Re #523; There is plenty of potential in renewable energy but some issues do still remain. Not least the political and economic ones. Lobbying is an issue but the new US administration seem keen to deploy renewables and thats great.

    http://www.metaefficient.com/news/uk-plans-25-gigawatts-of-offshore-wind.html UK can do 25 GW of offshore wind power. The USA can do http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/_files/072208Dagher.pdf which is over 3000 TWhrs per year. Take into account CSP and the like and the USA could meet projected demand even if they ran on electric cars.

    Obama can change the US energy landscape, its just affording it and the time it take to commit any single country to a energy change as big as is required. I doubt we will be able to avoid 400 ppmv but maybe 450 we can. 30 years to 450 so its possible to scrap coal and usher in electric travel too. Heating homes needs looking at though. I doubt it could be electric, thats asking a lot.

  25. 525
    Phil. Felton says:

    tamino Says:
    27 January 2009 at 8:20 AM
    Re: #511 (jcbmack)

    Jimmy Carter had his limitations, and the Iran hostage situation was a glaring one. But it’s far from a complete characterization of his abilities.

    The failure of the Iran hostage situation was hardly Carter’s, he asked his military if they could effect a rescue, they said yes, he gave the go ahead. Unfortunately they then went and made a total dog’s breakfast of the operation!

  26. 526
    Rod B says:

    FCH, not letting people have any is an ironic way to get them to learn how to conserve. When they rebel we just tell them to shut up and explain how good folk they are?

  27. 527
    Rod B says:

    Phil, a minor clarification. The military proper certainly fell way short, but the ultimate responsibility for a military operation falls on the top commander, in this case Carter himself. And since the thinking is that breaking the military axiom “Unity of Command” was at great fault, Carter, as an Academy grad and old navy man, surely knew better — if not from the Academy certainly from Adm. Rickover.

  28. 528
    dhogaza says:

    Phil, a minor clarification. The military proper certainly fell way short, but the ultimate responsibility for a military operation falls on the top commander, in this case Carter himself

    Yet when presidents assert themselves directly into military planning, the right screams bloody murder.

    The President is the commander in chief, but he is not an operational officer any more than are the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    And delegation of authority is another principle of command without which the military could not operate. No ship would make it through a storm if the commander had to go up the chain of command to get authority to put the ship perpendicular to large seas.

  29. 529
    jcbmack says:

    phil # 525. Carter ignored the unrest and the early beginnings of the Iranian rebellion against the Shah. it was most certainly Carter’s fault. One of my early 10 page papers was on Iran and Carter’s debacle. At any rate, this is hardly the place to get fully into this subject matter; suffice to say Carter was a well meaning person who was many times a successful peacemaker, but Iran was a huge blemish on his record on the whole in addition to the hostage situation. He actually was opposed to people going in to save the hostages to his credit.

    [Response: Enough Carter. Thanks. - gavin]

  30. 530
    Rod B says:

    dhogaza, I meant there was not unity of command on the ground.

  31. 531
    Steve Bloom says:

    Over at Roger Pielke Sr.’s, Gavin is first smeared with tar and then invited into the briar patch. Don’t go there, Br’er Gavin. :)

  32. 532
    jcbmack says:

    CNN has long been known for fabricating news and exaggerating the circumstances behind world events not limited to science. Just look at the twin tower conspiracy theories coming from CNN in addition to relaxed discussion regarding the science behind global warming research.

  33. 533
    Hank Roberts says:

    Steve, please reread Joel Chandler Harris and reconsider that mental imagery. Ouch ouch ouch …

  34. 534

    Well far away from any Urban heat Island, in the darkness of the Arctic long night, clear skies
    are warmer, the Arctic ocean ice thinner. Every time some reporter, scientist or lobbyist,
    flaunts AGW does not exist, every single time, they are wrong, misguiding, at the very best
    understudying crucial areas of our world. It does not say much good about them, it means
    their opinion, at least on this issue, is tragically false. So, as some would say, what other opinions
    or crackpot statements do they make?

    Reminds me the days when I was listening to Radio Moscow, CCCP days, their stores were full of fresh fruits, bananas mangos and more, a paradise for Soviet people. Like Soviet Radio, far right ideologues are flaunting a Certainty, there is no AGW, with personal conviction, carrying a political stance (just like the old Polit bureau), with relish on purpose carelessly transmitting extremely poorly researched science opinion based on catering to converts in Misinformation (moon landing faked, has a huge crowd of believers based on TV propaganda applied the same way). From Soviet days, it seems, the polit bureau morphed to lobbyists dishing out fake news, hoping to sustain a political base, 12 to 20% strong. totally founded on ignorance. When I hear them, from my ground, warming Arctic lands so far away, propagating nonsense, not fitting Murrow’s and Cronkite’s strength in forging freedom through solid information, eventually helping getting rid of bad old Soviet ways, I wonder if Radio Moscow staff emigrated to Rupport Murdoch’s office? :)

  35. 535
    PeterM says:

    I suppose it is to be expected that, during a relatively cold winter in both western Europe and the USA, the climate change deniers will make the most of their opportunity.

    Their argument that global warming stopped in 1998 or 2000, or whenever, is getting somewhat tiresome. The deniers usually follow up with some anecdotal story of a city experiencing its coldest ever winter.

    It’s interesting to take a look at the world land temperature record which shows decadal rises for the past 40 years of around 0.3 deg C and no sign of any levelling off.

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A4.lrg.gif

    These guys need to be reminded that land temperatures are the ones felt by most of the world’s population and, due to the thermal inertia of the oceans, are a good indicator of what will follow there too.

  36. 536

    In re Rod B @ 526:

    I didn’t say “don’t let them have any”. I said reduce supply to increase price and allow conservation to occur according to time-proven free-market behaviors.

    The current pricing of electricity in most regions where I know the pricing policies is counter to conservation efforts. For example, if I use 200KWH / month, I pay about $0.165 / KWH, but my neighbors, who often come close to 2000KWH / month, pay significantly less.

    For conservation to be achieved (and fairness to the working class), the price per KWH should rise with consumption. I’ve used 250KWH over the past 6 weeks — I suspect my per KWH rate to be $0.17 or more whenever TXU Electric gets around to billing me. That’s the exact opposite of what should happen in order to stimulate conservation.

  37. 537
    jcbmack says:

    Free market behaviors are not such good influencing forces nor necessarily a good thing for conservation right now in this deep recession we find ourselves in Furry. I know what you are saying and can appreciate it, but right now looking through the Forbes energy issue, the recent pages of The Economist, NY Times, Wall Street Journal and watching the news on this good bank versus bad bank,TARP, and the nearing of one trillion dollars towards bailout and stimulus packages, it is safe to say now is not the time to rely upon the free markets and supply-demand for any prices to rise at this time with little government funding for alternatives is not helpful.Now if electricity became cheaper that is not going to promote conservation, but it would take the pressure off the wallets of millions of people who are the working or middle class. Here in California we are witnessing the worst drought in decades, soon we will have a water warning and will be forced to conserve.Certainly climate is changing, but how do we deal with it realistically and somewhat economically, there is a real challenge there that the science cannot answer.

  38. 538
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, all the work to conserve and improve efficiency and avoid waste is going to be wasted if the few who control the most can continue to take more for themselves. Big bonuses paid with taxpayer bailout money, eh?

    Nobody’s saying that getting politics and sanity into the same room is going to be easy. Lots of cultures self-destruct in revolution; look up Tom Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’ for the hopes the USA started with to avoid the apparently inevitable accretion of money and power to stupid people over several generations.

    He made the strongest, and least selfish, argument there is for making the best possible education freely available to every citizen — because it is the way to rearrange wealth and power according to actual ability, for the good of the nation. We’ve never come close:

    “… a permanent family interest is created, whose constant objects are dominion and revenue…. it is impossible to control Nature in her distribution of mental powers. She gives them as she pleases. Whatever is the rule by which she, apparently to us, scatters them among mankind, that rule remains a secret to man. It would be as ridiculous to attempt to fix the hereditaryship of human beauty, as of wisdom. Whatever wisdom constituently is, it is like a seedless plant; it may be reared when it appears, but it cannot be voluntarily produced. There is always a sufficiency somewhere in the general mass of society for all purposes; but with respect to the parts of society, it is continually changing its place. It rises in one to-day, in another to-morrow, and has most probably visited in rotation every family of the earth, and again withdrawn.

    As this is in the order of nature, the order of government must necessarily follow it, or government will, as we see it does, degenerate into ignorance. …. It appears as if the tide of mental faculties flowed as far as it could in certain channels, and then forsook its course, and arose in others. How irrational then is the hereditary system, which establishes channels of power, in company with which wisdom refuses to flow! By continuing this absurdity, man is perpetually in contradiction with himself; he accepts, for a king, or a chief magistrate, or a legislator, a person whom he would not elect for a constable.

    It appears to general observation, that revolutions create genius and talents; but those events do no more than bring them forward. There is existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave. As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions.”

    http://www.ushistory.org/PAINE/rights/c2-03.htm

    Shorter Tom Paine: “Give me liberty, not libertarianism.”

  39. 539
    jcbmack says:

    Hank Roberts,
    agreed that progress must continue to be made in conservation efforts and the usage of alternative energy sources. I wish this could be more of a bipartisan issue, but as it was noted last night in the meeting in Switzerland broadcasted on MSNBC, bipartisanship is not a reality in politics overall. I think if the G20 and more governments get involved in renewed energy alternative infrastructure at the ground and mid levels in this global economy, well, we have a better chance at creating jobs and boosting the value of the dollar, while saving the environment. It is naive to think, however, that we can produce on a wide scale green alternatives at a cheaper rate than current electric and gas sources is very naive. With record profits, many energy companies can undersell the competition and not worry about temporary loss of profits to maintain the status quo. Not only is this true, but many of the same companies are investing in new green energy infrastructure and others that appear green, but are not. The government and other new green companies do not have the ability at this time to make green technology the widespread norm at this time. Even as gas and oil prices rise, they are very cheap by comparison to alternative fuels and my electric bill is dirt cheap! I do believe we can do it over the next 2 decades or so, really transition into a green country and perhaps by and large green global economy, but it will not be fully realized under this presidency,this is impossible in lieu of economics and politics.

    Many economists and large corporate owners claim that boring is good, not taking huge risks and having increased transparency, well, it would be difficult to maintain such a business philosophy if large scale green technologies were implemented over the next 3-5 years. I am not saying we should not implement more green technologies or that Obama’s efforts are not admirable, but if you do the math and accounting on this one in light of all the people who can not even keep their homes or jobs, well, you see how it is really up to the mega rich to step up to the plate and donate-invest tens of billions more into alternative technologies and energy sources used thereof. Pickens could not get it done, he was too ambitious without enough investment capital. The government alone cannot do it.

  40. 540
    Mark says:

    Market forces are deliberately broken.

    By the players in the market themselves.

    Not only is the customer not free to make a choice in many things, they are refused to become informed.

    And the system itself now concentrates (and INSISTS it has to) on the report for the next quarterly report. Anything beyond that is for someone else to fix.

    So how can such a broken system fix this issue? The people who are supposed to modify it cannot because they want THIS quarter to be profitable.

    The people who are supposed to be informed are misinformed by the problem to be faced.

    The free market will not (and to an extend CANNOT) move on this. So governments (who at least worry about things at the decade level) must.

  41. 541

    Re #538, Hank Roberts:
    I take note of your Paine quote, “There is existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave.”

    It looks like the needed “something that excites” is currently insufficient. The closest thing I see to real national action is conversion of cars to use electricity. It looks like this is getting its momentum more from a desire to reduce use of foreign oil than it is to reduce CO2 emissions. Most conversion plans seem to include very little effort to reduce use of energy by the cars, while simply shifting the source from oil to coal, via electrification. Deception is then used to give the impression that there is something “green” in such conversions.

    So it appears that Paine’s thought, that democracy could dispense with government by deceit, is not being born out by our present actions.

    Re #539 jcbmack:
    Lack of progress due to lack of investment is a sign that there are not serious investment possibilities on the table. I complain that it is overwhelmingly difficult to get new possibilities on the table. Axiomatic to significant innovation is that unfamiliar machines must come into existence. It is clearly difficult to cause the necessary “something that excites” where there is inate resistance to the unfamiliar.
    So it is indeed naive to think things will change significantly.
    Getting into the fray from the engineering perspective more than scientific, I think I discovered a couple of things that could make a very large difference. The first is a high efficiency, strange looking car, based on old aerodynamic principles, and a fairly simple new mechanical apparatus. Because this machine would use a very small but well optimized heat engine for propulsion via electricity, this same machine could serve as an electrical cogeneration system operating in proximity to an individual single family household. Such a cogeneration system could produce electricity competitive in price with coal plants since the heat (60% – 67%) would be used rather than thrown away.
    I have been surprised that scientists do not seem to see these possibilities as exciting. Hence, the ideas could possibility go to “their graves”, and never get to a serious level of consideration.
    More can be seen by clicking my name.
    (Is this self promotion? Not likely.)

  42. 542
    jcbmack says:

    #541
    Mostly correct Jim, but not the cogeneration unless you want a low voltage tap or a plug constantly connected to the car, which is impossible. In many cases a low voltage line is like 5,000 volts. Every car would have to be tapped into power lines, this is not feasible. Not good engineering. The aerodynamics was worked out a long time ago despite how theoretical or computerized we get, we have to do those tests in a wind tunnel. 1945 we had supersonic travel worked out mathematically. Car aerodynamics is nearly as old. Recall the X15 tests in the 1960′s?

  43. 543
    jcbmack says:

    Also do not forget about the first law of thermodynamics, walk me through how the motor generator is going to run to the battery, etc… How would we turn the motor? Try again. A steam engine perhaps? We should just go back to steam.

  44. 544
    jcbmack says:

    Mark # 540, well put. Here is to hope in the face a post Greenspan and Bush global economy.there are ways to circumvent.

  45. 545
    jcbmack says:

    Ok Jim I looked at all the pages on your site. Essentially you are marketing an ugly vehicle that is not very feasible, I was thinking in different terms of cogeneration, but we have hybdrid vehicles that can match these performance stats now. I thought you were proposing a fule free electric vehicle.

  46. 546

    jcbmack, thanks for looking. I cheerfully agree that Miastrada is an ugly vehicle which demonstrates my point, “Axiomatic to significant innovation is that unfamiliar machines must come into existence.” I might add that beauty in cars has been set in our minds by the offerings of the auto industry for 100 years.
    The Miastrada shape is very close to the 1933 test model shape which was thoroughly measured in the NAC now NASA wind tunnel. Other tests had been done since the early 1906 Fuhrman configuration. Yeh, it is old. Then Morelli 1983 provided data that showed that this form could be operated fairly close to the ground without significant drag increase.

    The wheel system I mentioned is precisely what is needed to get the right height above the road, but a minor camber was added as suggested by that 1983 Morelli paper.

    Feasibility is subject to discussion of course, but this elevated airship has about a fifth the air drag as the Prius. The engine required for moving this along at 80 mph is a lot smaller than that in the Prius, so it is of a size that would be compatible with household needs for heat.

    The engine would be no cost since it would be in the car. For cogeneration, heat would need to be piped into a furnace heat exchanger, which is fairly inexpensive. Other heat uses are possible.

    We are talking about standard household voltages and power service line voltages which can be interfaced with similarly to the way solar panel outputs are interfaced.

    No, I was not proposing a fuel free vehicle; my goal is to just use a lot less fuel. I think this is how the CO2 problem can be solved.

    And thanks to our hosts for posting my comment.

  47. 547
    jcbmack says:

    Well, Jim there is the issue of marketability. I also am not sure how you would utilize the heating of households effectively. Is there a place I can see full specs?

  48. 548
    jcbmack says:

    On one more note, vehicles are not the main CO2 emitters, anyways, but I will bite, I am curious how you thought this out.I did call an engineer friend and reviewed my own engineering textbooks, this seems like too much inefficient work both to the data I see and the problems engineers have with this concept directly.

  49. 549

    jcbmack,
    Getting heat into households is a plumbing problem at the first level. Simply pipe engine coolant into radiators in the house. Exhaust gases can be also piped into hot water heating devices. Heat can also be used to run refrigerators and air conditioners through the absorption chiller process (see Servel gas refrigerators for example– now Electolux and others do this).

    See http://xprizecars.com/2008/09/miastrada.php#more for specs as far as they go. Please realize this is not a marketable product. It is a development project and a plan. I am proceeding to build a demonstration vehicle, but it is truly an early stage project.

    I would like it to be an “open system” as much as possible and would welcome comments and suggestions, and would be pleased if others wanted to try their ideas using this as a starting point. I might get some royalties down the line somewhere, but I have low expectations and this should not hold anyone back.

    Vehicles put out about a fourth or a third or so of the man made CO2 in the USA, and about two thirds of that is from personal transportation vehicles. Power plants do somewhat more and household heating is a fairly big CO2 source. Putting these three into a system seems like a place to start to solve the problem.

    Efficiency is vital to the whole thing. I was particularly struck by the 38% efficiency that was measured for the Prius gasoline engine by Argonne. That has largely gone un-noticed. This compares to about 35% for production small diesel engines, but these have some trouble with NOx and await good catalytic converteres. But the Prius engines show what could be done. This compares with about 33% efficiency for coal electric power plants and 30% to 50% for natural gas plants. Ideally we might use natural gas to run Prius style, though much smaller, engines. These would switch over to propane, CNG, or gasoline for road use.

    But the engine efficiency for cogeneration operation can go to nearly 100% where the heat is fully utilized. This is in contrast to the heat engines of large power plants that throw away vast amounts of heat, and so are stuck with their basic energy conversion efficiency.

    Maybe several kinds of engineers need to get together on this to see the possibilities. Many if not most electrical engineers opted out of the power conversion courses in recent years, so they need to go back to their freshman physics books.

    So how did this come about? As a frustrated commuter, I have been working on this all my life. But in recent years I particularly looked at the advantages of bicycles and motorcycles as far as the amount of space they took up on the road and in parking lots. Then the overwhelming fact is that very few cars on the road actually have more than one person in them. So something is wrong. Then I was infuriated with empty car pool lanes, yet vast public money was still being spent on them. I had been a carpool dropout long before, having found myself and my co-workers unwilling to give up flexibility and independence of individual car commuting. I clearly see the value in distributed living sites, distributed work sites, and fast travel between these, when it is wanted. But the bicycle has its obvious lacks of comfort and motorcycles do as well. Both are hideously dangerous. Mangled people are an unacceptable cost.

    But “narrow” seemed to have a lot of importance. And why not use tandem seating. It has worked for motorcycles. A lot of thought, a couple soap box derby model iterations, and driveway coasting tests led to a wheel system that was, in the end, surprisingly stable, and it proved to be somewhat like power steering as well. It may have come partly from self steering mechanisms that have been devised over the years for sail boats. Anyway, the combined steering and stabilizing process turned into an idea that seems promising for a variety of applications. The next step was to work out the aerodynamics.

    Half wide means half the frontal area so there was something good for starters. Motorcycles get this advantage. I got my 45 year old fluid dynamics textbook out and gradually realized there was even more, a lot more, to be gained by good aerodynamic design. An advantage of the steering and stabilizing wheel system along with the geometric effects of a narrow vehicle with tandem seating made it possible to realize the nearly ideal aerodynamic performance of the body of revolution, specifically the airship. It all got a lot more serious when I found the 1933 test data, (Freeman 1933) that was the USS Akron scale model results done at Moffet Field.

    I have tried to look back at the development of the automobile. I think some of the progress came about because I ignored a hundred years of automobile tradition. More can be said but this is getting too long.

    Thanks for the questions.

  50. 550
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Bullis, I admire your innovative spirit and resolve, and if you can indeed fulfill your promises, I do indeed hope you get filthy rich off the ideas. That said, there are practical issues–the bullet shape of the car is not ideal for hauling a junior soccer team around, for instance. It would be interesting to know if a vehicle like this would be street legal. How would it respond to a side collision, for instance? On the one hand, you’ll want to keep the vehicle light for efficiency’s sake, but on the other hand, stability would favor more mass down low and a broad wheelbase.
    The concept of using waste heat is interesting, but is it practical unless you’ve got a lot of passengers who are fond of hot drinks? After all, one of the biggest problems with small engines is getting rid of the heat. Anyway, best of luck to you. BTW, it sorto of reminds me of the old Messerschmidt car our neighbors had–not the most practical vehicle, but kind of cool in a geeky sort of way.


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