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Unforced variations 3

Filed under: — group @ 19 March 2010

Another open thread. OT comments from the Amazon drying thread have been moved over. As usual, substantive comments only please and no abuse.

844 Responses to “Unforced variations 3”

  1. 151
    Patrick 027 says:

    Gilles (And a part for ccpo):
    Comment 36 ,
    Summary for wannabe policy makers (That’s meant in good humor).



    When all that is of value is properly accounted for, an ideal market is more profitable in total when a proper price signal is enforced to account for externalities (public costs are charged, or some other mechanism), then when it is not. Real markets don’t necessarily reach, even approximately, an optimum profit, for various reasons… …but the tendeny of response to good public policy for externalities should be qualitatively the same (and the caveats of real markets could be to some extent dealt with).

    PS there are also government policies now in place that should be changed.


    Of course, more conventional measures of profit may not follow the same way, particularly if they don’t assess the externality or do so at times removed from their cause. In the short term, climate policy could cause a slowdown in global GDP growth. However, the long term effect may be different.

    (Investments to produce future profits reduce production of value for present benifit, **interest rates reflect competition between desires for present and future, as well as expectation and risk, and inflation.)


    Economic growth: Yes, but with regards to Jevon’s paradox and climate-changing emissions reductions, I was refering to comparisons among different possible trajectories for the same time periods. In other words, the relevant measure of the effect of a policy or decision is not how much something changes over time, but how that change is different from how it would otherwise have changed over time.


    Fossil fuel scarcity will eventually cause price increases; combined with technological innovation, assuming civilization continues so as to support technology, there will come a period in time when fossil fuels are largely driven to a minor role or less as other energy sources dominate the market. However, if the price signal justified by the externalities of fossil fuel use is not enforced, this doesn’t happen soon enough for an optimal trajectory.

    There is coal, tar sands and oil shale. Some of these are expensive, but perhaps not expensive enough to prevent their use as a replacement (in the absence of some public policies).


    There is no threshold at which climate policy starts to make a difference. Climate is a, perhaps nonlinear, but, in general and globally within the context of AGW, likely a continuous or approximately or probalistically continuous function of climate policy and of other factors.

    (It starts to make a difference as soon as the externality tax is raised from zero to any nonzero number. It’s not a matter of either/or, it’s a matter of how much.)


    (Jevon’s paradox does reduce the effect of policy undertaken by one subset of the world, but it would be odd if it reduced it to zero, because that would imply that in some place, the quantity consumed does not vary with price at all over some range – possible in general but doesn’t seem likely for fossil fuels.)


    (International trade is also an issue. There are ways to deal with the international situation, either via global policies, or in the absence of that, trade policies can at least have some effect. If the rate of innovation is sufficient relative to the rate of economic growth, policies in some countries can eventually affect emissions intensity in other countries in the same direction. Mass market advantage could play a role in that relationship.))

    (Developing economies do present an opportunity to avoid investments in infrastructure that will have to be replaced at a loss when transitioning to a cleaner energy mix; it is in the interest of nations in general to encourage capitalizing on this opportunity.)


    I agree that it is not all that meaningful to compare human energy consumption to total solar radiation incident at the surface. However, more meaningful comparisons, for solar and other renewable energy resources, do suggest that renewable energy is up to the task of replacing fossil fuels. There are material and land use and cost issues with harnessing some of these resources, but these issues must be weighed against the other issues including those of fossil fuels (which also have land use issues), and strategic use of resources can minimize the costs (such as using precipitation on solar power plants to boost agricultural value of land between collectors or adjacent to the field.)

    It makes since to pick the lowest hanging fruit in each category. For example, for centralized solar power plants, the cheapest, sunniest, least ecologically sensitive land, closest to populations, makes sense to go after first. It could be disastrous if we used biofuels for 75 % or more of our energy, but it could be very benificial, perhaps even to food production, to have a few percent contribution from biofuels. The energy market is large enough to support not just one or two but many mass markets. Furthermore, if we can’t get rid of every last bit of fossil fuel dependence, that’s not a reason to not get rid of any. It would be much better to use a little coal to produce a lot of solar energy then to use the same coal to produce a much smaller amount of energy.

    ‘IN DEPTH’ (not really):

    Two of the most promising PV technologies emerging into the market now are CdTe and CIGS; they use rather hard to obtain elements (Te, Se, Ga, In) (these are, so far as I know, generally byproducts of obtaining other mineral resources, and are thus limited or partially limited by the economic reserves and resources of other mineral resources, and their rate of production). But even if these technologies are limited to supplying a few percent of global electricity (I don’t remember actual numbers offhand), that’s still a lot more than what all of solar power does now (in other words, still a growth industry for awhile). There is still room for improvement for c-Si (which is still in the market!), there’s also a-Si, and there are promising materials with abundant economical resources (relative to what solar PV would ever need to supply all global energy use) such as zinc phosphide and maybe copper-tin-zinc-sulfide (? – something to that effect).

    Some clean energy investments, such as solar PV, is really long term investment. If it takes 10 or even 20 years to pay back economically, that’s still good. Energy payback times are not that long, and should be compared to the energy used by the energy industry as it now stands (Fossil fuels and nuclear power also use energy (aside from the energy they process and sell, which is not the point here); petroleum especially. Energy is used to get the materials, to process them, to build devices and infrastructure and to maintain them and to conrol pollution and handle waste.) It’s a similar case for water use. (Compare the amount of solar energy produced with some amount of water to the amount of water that could be desalinated and transnported using that same amount of energy.) Considering reuse and recycling of the same material for hundreds of years, the energy and other costs of mining lower-grade resources could be justified by the payback.

    I think a typical ratio of land area to collector area for a solar power plant field could be about 2.5; assuming this minimizes shading of collectors by other collectors for enough of the daylight hours and enough of the year, 40 % of solar radiation reaching the land area would then be collected. Assuming, for purpose of illustration, 10 % system efficiency (higher efficiency for installed panels, then including other system losses and panel aging for a time-average supply, and the lifecycle energy investment), a solar electric power plant system would have an average power supply of 4 % of the incident solar radiation, which may typically be 200 W/m2 or more (250 W/m2 is available in some areas, depending on whether these are tracking collectors, geometric concentrators of flat plate, etc; 200 W/m2 can be found over large land areas.). So 100,000 km2, assuming 200 W/m2, area factor of 2.5 or 40 % depending on whether you want to divide or multiply, and a system efficiency of 10 %, would supply 0.8 TW of electric power (1 TWe). That’s a little over 1 % of U.S. land area supplying a majority of the electrical equivalent (using average power plant fuel to electricity conversion) power used by the U.S. (population will grow, but energy efficiency has room for improvement, and don’t forget some of that land use can be displaced with rooftop devices and other such usage on already-used land). Compare that to agricultural land usage (and human-made lakes). For the globe, 10 billion people with 1/2 present U.S. energy consumption per capita (not just efficiency and lifestyle, but also geographic variations in energy needs), that’s roughly 10,000 million people * 1 TWe/(2 * 300 million people) ~= 17 TWe, 0.1 million km2 * 17/0.8 ~= 2.1 million km2, which is less than 2 % of global land area. And of course, some of that will be displaced by wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc. Actual numbers may vary a bit depending on system efficiency and technological progress, but the numbers just used are not far out of the range (and, at least for solar PV, theoretical limits on conversion efficiency have not yet been commercially approached).

    Forms of energy?

    Solar energy can be used directly for heat or light (concentrated for industry or otherwise collected for residential use), and solar electricity production can be more efficient by also supplying heat. Solar heat (for direct use or electricity production) can be stored on the scale of a day and supplemented by fuels when necessary.

    Electricity can be used to create fuels.

    Thus, clean energy can ultimately supply most or all of the input for it’s own growth and maintenance and could supply carbon and hydrocarbons to industrial processes.

  2. 152
  3. 153
    Patrick 027 says:



    (Jevon’s paradox does reduce the effect of policy undertaken by one subset of the world, but it would be odd if it reduced it to zero, because that would imply that in some place, the PRICE does not vary at all with QUANTITY consumed over some range of prices – possible in general, but doesn’t seem likely for fossil fuels (at least not in aggregate))

  4. 154
    ccpo says:

    114, ccpo: (You can’t make plastic out of sunlight.)

    Not directly, but you can make plastic out of cellulose and algae squeezin’s… you can make the precursors of this stuff out of water and CO2 powered by sunlight.

    I am not arguing that alternatives exist. What I am pointing out is the cost in time, money and energy to do these things. While all the things you say might be possible, they all rely on complex processes which themselves need money and resources (receding horizons) and almost certainly have a poor energy return on energy invested (EROEI). Oil had a huge EROEI of 100/1 in the beginning, and is still between 11/1 and 30/1, depending on whom you ask. I can state without fear of rebuke the same is almost certainly not true of any of the processes you describe.

    Did you know there is a serious issue with phosphorus? What of the 95% drop in large fish stocks?

    These issues are not closely related to AGW or new energy industries.

    Really? You think noxious oceans have nothing to do with AGW? Recent article stated dead zones are adding to AGW. EVERYTHING relates, and that is what I am trying to get people to start thinking about. You will not choose the best options if you are ignoring one half or one third of the problem.

    How many joules in a cup of oil, which costs between 15 and 20 cents, vs the energy from SPV?

    He did say “when all costs are internalized”. The US spends considerable $$$ and lives guarding MiddleEast oil, and fighting the insurgents who are paid from ME oil proceeds. With coal, there are deaths and disease due to the release of mercury and (ironically) radiation. If these costs were paid by taxing the resultant energy, then PV cells would produce cheaper electricity.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 20 March 2010 @ 12:17 PM

    Preaching to the choir, but, still, the same can be said of everything. All have external costs. Just wait to see how hard it gets to produce, maintain and begin replacing wind generators when 95% of the rare earth ores are in China, but China doesn’t care to share, e.g.

    My point stands: many of you who are climate aware/activists dismiss the energy issues we face with a cornucopian wave of the technical progress wand. This is a deadly mistake.

    By the same token, many of the energy/PO aware/activists dismiss AGW based on their misconception it will happen slowly and that there are not enough FFs to push us past dangerous limits. Another deadly error.

    These two issues go hand-in-hand and should be handled that way. It’s simple: we have been on an energy production plateau since 2004 despite huge increases in prices. An idiot understands the implications of this. However, using biofuels to solve the problem, such as ethanol, makes other issues worse. Food becomes more expensive and we’re still polluting the air. Good answer to PO, bad answer to AGW and hunger.

    At the same time, if the time to ramp up renewables is longer than five years from today – which is absolutely will be – then PO makes it a certainty that the energy and economic power to make the transition become scarce. Every large run up in oil prices has been followed by a recession. This one is no different. Largest run up in oil prices = largest recession. Given peak is now (plateau), what powers the recovery? Renewables are not ready.

    Energy = work. Period. No energy, no work. This basic equation is why you *must* look at this as a perfect storm of over-population, declining energy, AGW, and economic chaos.

    Everyone needs to quit protecting their favorite little kitty and start figuring out how to deal with the whole litter.


  5. 155
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    To me, it sounds like Gilles has simply read Lomborg and has decided that he doesn’t need to read more.

  6. 156
    Patrick 027 says:


    “0.8 TW of electric power (1 TWe)”


    “0.8 TW of electric power (0.8 TWe)”

  7. 157
    David B. Benson says:

    Lynn Vincentnathan (137) — Alternatively, take a Bayesian approach. For simplicity, assume just two hypotheses (models) to determine which best explains the data. One can use AIC or BIC to determine how much better and so whether one of the hypotheses can definitely be discarded. (Thoroughgoing Bayesians will use a weighted sum of both, but that is advanced stuff.)

    Bayesian methods have the advantage of avoiding language such as false positive and flase negative but more important I think it easier to teach and learn than Fischer/Pearson/Nyman approaches. The most recommended text is “Probability Theory: The Logic of Science” by E.T. Jaynes.

  8. 158
    Gilles says:

    139;Septic matthew “On this, you appear to be uninformed. Perhaps there will some day be a thread devoted entirely to energy, and we can fill you in on ALL the alternatives under development. The rapid expansion of algae based biofuels is especially impressive.”

    Just for curiosity : have you any idea of how much the oil production will shrink after the peak, year after year ? have you any idea how how much biofuel should be produced each year to offset this decline ?

    Ray :”At least read figure 5, as it is a good summary of likely consequences. If you have some actual (evidence based) qualms with the projected consequences, that’s fine.”

    You don’t really answer my questions. I said I am surprised that you consider that evaluating the consequences of sensitivity could be done more precisely that the sensitivity itself, but you don’t explain me how it’s done. You just show a graphic with unknown uncertainties, unquantified events, and say “well you see I told you so !” . That’s not really my understanding of scientific evaluation.

    I don’t think you have really answered my question about car accidents. Car accidents are remarkable because they aren’t a “what if” consequence of the use of fossil fuels : it a certain, documented, and undoubtable tragedy of more than one million deaths each year, which could double or triple in the century if growth scenarios do happen. Curiously, this is nowhere on your paper. And nobody really asks to suppress cars – they just want electric ones ! well it seems to indicate at least that this kind of “drawbacks” are not always a good reason to renounce to the modern comfort. Have you an idea of which criterion should be used to know if this king of things is acceptable, or not ?

    For the others : I’m really impressed by the numbers of counter truths you can emit about me, without knowing me. Really impressive. If you want to convince me that you’re much more lucid and know much better the truth than me, that’s not really a good way. Sorry for my fluctuating english, I try to do my best to have a correct language, but that’s not my mother language. But maybe you smart people are much better than me in foreign languages, so we can continue the discussion in French?

    regarding all science fiction novels about cars powered by hydrogen,produced by electrolysis from windmills, nuclear plants, and so on, thanks, I’ve already read that many times. Call me up the first time you see a hydrogen car on the street, I offer you a beer !

  9. 159
    Gilles says:

    Patrick : you’re only dealing with electric power generation. But oil depletion will hit the whole economy, first where electricity cannot be really used, and first, transportation. So the effect is simply a recession. Recession lowers the electricity demand. So your solar panels are simply useless. What the hell do we need to add more expensive electricity to a grid when demand for cheap eletricity is already shrinking ? What you don’t understand is that fossil fuels are the source of CHEAP AND CONVENIENT energy. We won’t be lacking energy, we’ll be lacking cheap and convenient energy. Solar power is neither cheap, nor convenient. So it won’t have the slightest action against recession. Remarkably, all countries have suffered from recession whatever their electricity sources are : nuclear, fossil, wind, geothermal… this is totally immaterial (actually the first countries in Europe that have entered into recession have been Denmark and Iceland…) Again, we don’t suffer from a lack of electricity.. !

  10. 160
    phil c says:

    #145 The fact is, Walter, science does predict the future–even for unpredictable and chaotic systems. And compared to that, the consequences of our current course are quite predictable

    except that the AGW hypothethis predicts that increasing CO2 will product increased temperatures. Co2 is still rising but (according to Phil Jones and others) temperatures are not. Therefore, the AGW hypothethis is not passing the test as a theory.

  11. 161
    John Peter says:


    In Akasofu’s note suggesting postponing Copenhagen, he ended:

    We should bring back the science of climate change to a basic science, avoiding interferences by policy makers and the world mass media. Only then can this particular science proceed in a scientifically healthy way. Only then can we discuss any global warming hypothesis as proponents and opponents (instead of as “believers” and “skeptics” or “deniers” in the religious sense), regardless of one side being in the majority or minority. In science, unlike in politics, a minority can be right.

    Do you disagree?

  12. 162
    Septic Matthew says:

    154, ccpo: Recent article stated dead zones are adding to AGW.

    True, but that is a small effect compared to the hypothesized effect of CO2. Aren’t the dead zones mostly due to nitrogen, with phosphorus contributing some.

    157, Gilles: Just for curiosity : have you any idea of how much the oil production will shrink after the peak, year after year ? have you any idea how how much biofuel should be produced each year to offset this decline ?

    First they replace the oil with natural gas and biofuels, then with more and more biofuels (and fuels from sunlight and catalysts, municipal waste and sewage.)

    Here is my quote of a previous comment from you: 112, Gilles: CM “we know how to make windmills, PV cells, biofuels.”
    Wrong. We don’t know how to make them without fossil fuels. And we don’t know how to power a society just with them. If you believe it , you’re either naive or a liar, and in any case you don’t have a single piece of evidence that it is possible.

    I don’t think that we are either naive or liars who think that conversion to alternatives is possible. In 20 years of continuous research and development, Brazil drove the price of ethanol below the price of gasoline (on an energy equivalent basis.) Based on biofuels progress of the last few years, I think that the same will be true of biodiesel, biobutanol, and cellulosic ethanol in the next 20 years. Total volumes are indeed huge, but so is the total distributed energy capacity, and so is the total natural gas reserve. If CC&S works (large scale demonstrations/evaluations are under construction), then coal can be used during the transition.

  13. 163

    For those who do LinkedIn and support my campaign as exemplified by my petition supporting the right of climate scientists to work without harassment, I’ve set up a LinkedIn Stand Up for Science group.

    Please join if you would like to share ideas on how to take this forward.

  14. 164
    David B. Benson says:

    phil c (160) — Using HadCRUTv3 global temperature product, the last 15 years have a 19:1 chance of showing warming; using GISTEMP those 15 years have a 20:1 chance of showing warming, i.e., statistically significant. Using the last 16 years of HadCRUTv3 gives statistically significant warming. I fear you’ve been had.

    In any case, the decade of the 2000s is the warmest of the insturmental record for all four major global temperature products. This agrees with the known physics, which I recommend you learn to avoid being had again and again and…

  15. 165
    John Peter says:

    HR 95 96

    You are my internet reference hero but you really blew this one. The Japanese language can be tricky sometimes.

    Syun-Ichi Akasofu has been in Alaska, at the University in Fairbanks, for 50 years. Try the full name.

    A summary of his talk in English is here:

    BTW, I hope you’ll change your mind when you read his paper here:

    (got lost first time)

  16. 166
    MartinJB says:


    I’ll do you a favor and ignore your silly nonsequitor about needing to curtail fossil fuel use for eternity and focus on your insistence that the cheapness and convenience of fossil fuels make them too difficult (or whatever) to replace.

    First, fossil fuels are not as cheap as the price suggests. The costs to society of fossil fuels are quite large and will only get larger as global warming gets worse. Alternatives will keep getting cheaper and have not gotten, I suspect, nearly the amount of subsidy that fossil fuels have received over the past century.

    Second, it may be true that at the moment fossil fuels are more convenient (except, of course, for those who feel the impacts of their use), but that is in large part due to the fact that the existing infrastructure is built around them. Alternative energy will get more convenient as more of the infrastructure is converted and more solutions are found the employ non-fossil fuels in more applications. It won’t be cheap, but as you point out, fossil fuels aren’t going to be around for forever, so we’ll have to make the switch at some point anyway.

    Finally, it is certainly true that fossil fuels will be harder to replace in some applications than in others, and it is even possible that we’ll never find an adequate replacement for fossil fuels in every instance (air transportation comes immediately to mind). But that’s probably OK (and please correct me, all, if I’m wrong on that score). NET emissions are the key measure and there are already ways of offsetting emissions and even technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

    We’ll be OK phasing out fossil fuels as much as possible. I have a lot of confidence in our species to solve problems (and cause them!). Let’s get through the next hundred years. Then we can worry about eternity (grin).


  17. 167

    #158 Gilles

    Don’t you think it’s even a little ironic that you accuse someone of not answering your questions?

    As to your “For the others”. People are just trying to figure you out. Since you are really good at non specificity, straw-man and red herring arguments befitting the style of politician or lobbyist or any such ilk that favors ambiguity or obfuscation in communication, expect a lot of that.

    No one is picking on your capacity in English, merely pointing out that it indicates English is not your mother tongue… which you have confirmed. And if you want this conversation in French, by all means, start your own blog and have this conversation in French… please.

    Everyone has a motive behind an action. Your action seems to be illustrated in obfuscation. As to your motivation, well that is a mystery. Care to fill us in in an explicit manner?

    The Climate Lobby
    Understand the Issue
    Sign the Petition!

  18. 168
    Hank Roberts says:

    > John Peter
    > Akasofu

    Read again:

    Same guy. You leaped to a conclusion, I don’t see why.

    Yes, he’s been _working_ in Alaska, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t left Alaska for 50 years. He was there in Japan, and he is the same person that James has been writing about from time to time.

    Follow the link and take the time to read the description.

    As to Joanne Nova, you could do better for sources.

  19. 169
    philc says:

    Re: 164 Ahhh, more statistics. I suggest you read a little primer: by Luis Motl. And a counter argument in Science News:,_Its_Wrong by Tom Siegfried.

    The gisst(pun intended) of both articles is that statistics are being used rather cavalierly in many areas of science, including the putative global warming effect. Even a 95% confidence interval allows a 5% chance that there is no effect. Or in this case, a fairly likely chance that any observation is due to something else entirely. There simply is no way to rule that out. The bottom line, if you want solid results REPLICATE, REPLICATE, REPLICATE the experiment. And look for 99.99% confidence intervals. The particle physics groups do that routinely with events that are much more unlikely than global warming.

    [Response: You're kidding, right? Any of our readers want to explain to 'philc' what's wrong with his (and "Motl's") thinking. I'm too tired of hearing this kind of misleading crap. I do have one question for 'philc': though: how many times do you suggest we repeat the global warming experiment?--eric]

  20. 170
    flxible says:

    Gilles@158 “Call me up the first time you see a hydrogen car on the street, I offer you a beer”

    Obviously you didn’t attend the Vanvouver/Whistler Olympics, buses take many cars out of the loop [and those are not the "first"] …. I think you owe septic Matthew a beer.

  21. 171
    MartinJB says:


    how much do you think the Magratheans ( charge for duplicates of the Earth and how many would we need to get a statistically significant result on the global-warming experiment? I bet we’d still get people denying the results….


  22. 172
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Uh, Philc, Do you have any idea how many trials you’d have to run to get 99.99% confidence? You are SOOOO talking out your ass. And what do you think Motl’s confidence intervals are when he does the tiny little area of physics he does understand–string theory. You guys are clownshoes.

  23. 173
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gilles, if you can’t even be bothered to read the article, then there’s nothing anyone here can do for you. The figure makes the consequences pretty clear, and the text and references give more detail. For any level of warming much above 2 degrees, the consequences start to become severe. We get that with a doubling of CO2 even at the bottom of the 90% CL for sensitivity–and we’re well on our way to a doubling. You’ve made it clear that your position is not evidence based and that you aren’t interested in learning anything. B’bye, troll.

  24. 174
    ccpo says:

    “That is simply false. Sunlight is far more freely available”
    “Then why does it make up well under ten percent of our energy mix?”

    You’re moving the goal posts, ccpo. You said oil was more freely available than sunlight. That’s wrong. Now you wan to change the subject to why solar energy is a small part of our energy mix. Different question entirely.

    You got carried away and exaggerated the virtues of oil, and in so doing you made a basic mistake of fact. Can you admit that?

    Comment by Robert — 19 March 2010 @ 10:19 PM

    I’m afraid I’m not willing to let you tell me what I meant by what I wrote. How much sunlight can be captured right now and turned into usable energy? Not much. The context is what you are missing, and that context is transitioning from FFs to RE. I do not know what the EROEI is or will be on, say PV, but I seriously doubt it is higher than the EROEI of crude oil, even now. If it is, it is still limited by extent. A global build out of REs will be long, expensive and difficult. Sunlight cannot “easily” be had, period. Not yet.

    Don’t blame others for your lack of consideration of context.


  25. 175
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Walter Manny and the like minded (not that this hasn’t been addressed, but I think I have an interesting way of putting it):

    If the best scientific and ecological and economic assessments, which produce a fuzzy picture but nonetheless clear enough to make some solid conclusions (the details of regional shifts are uncertain (although it might be argued we sometimes do know there will likely be regional changes even when and where we don’t know the direction of those changes (?)), and climate sensitivity is hard to constrain to 0.1 K accuracy), indicate a significant net public cost for not making a decision to …

    A simpler rephrasing:

    The best prediction, which has some finite error bars but good confidence within those error bars, indicates that you need to do x+/-y to achieve Z+/-W.


    How foolish and regretfull will you feel if heed the prediction and it turns out wrong? (Sorry, we did our best, this is really VERY surprising to us as well…)

    How foolish and regretfull will you feel if you ignore the prediction and it turns out correct? (We told you so!)


    How successful will you be if you make it a habit to heed such advice, even if it is occasionally wrong?

    How successful will you be if you always ignore such advice, and it only occasionally turns out wrong, and even then, you guess the wrong sign for error half the time?

  26. 176

    Given that fossil fuels are actually great industrial feedstocks, I’d think that our conservation efforts should in part aim to shift away from burning them, in order to be able to continue using them to economically create useful materials.

    Just a thought. . .

    Of course, if the price went up, we might be forced to stop using plastics as disposables with quite the freedom we do now. Considering the infamous Pacific gyre, and the regular toll on wildlife caused by plastic detritus, that might not be a bad thing.

    And hey, our descendants wouldn’t need a whole new materials technology to implement electronics.

  27. 177
    Hank Roberts says:

    > philc
    has been around long enough to learn, if it were going to happen. Track record:

  28. 178
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 159 Gilles – DID you even bother to read what I wrote?

    If we absolutely need to gassify coal for fuel, we can still do some good by replacing most fossil fuel electricity plants with clean energy electricity plants (the cogeneration facilities would use CSP and maybe some biofuels, geothermal…).

    But electrification of transportation will likely make things a lot better. In fact, that could help in the economics greatly, since … been awhile since I tried to calculate and I don’t have all factors regarding different costs of car technologies, but it’s possible that solar electricity as it was a few years ago or now, fed to vehicles, would be less expensive than oil within the last few years or even now. But solar is getting more competitive…

    So you can’t replace 100 % of something with something else? Then please don’t, just replace 90 % or 70 %, maybe replace half of the rest with something else, etc. Whatever works.

  29. 179
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Tom Siegfried
    has also been around long enough, as a science journalist, to know
    what will get made of his article. I predicted it as soon as I saw it (sigh)

  30. 180
    Rod B says:

    Just a little sidebar for John Peter (161), in politics a minority can be right. They just don’t win…

  31. 181
    jyyh says:

    Just a note that a glacier is melting quite rapidly:

  32. 182
  33. 183
    Gilles says:

    septic Matthews 162 : I meant : do you know how much oil will have to be replaced after it peaks, each year? I mean, the real figure or at least order of magnitude (I mean that “large” is not very scientific answer ! )? for instance, how long will it take before the equivalent of the whole production of Saudi Arabia, or US, or Russia, would disappear ? do you know the figure?

    J. Reisman 167 : Sorry, I answer what I feel, but only about the debate here. I avoid as much as possible personal ad hominem attacks and irrelevant imaginary conception of who you’re and your motivations – which are not my business. I think you would admit that at least I know better than yourself who I am, so if you emit false judgements about me, the simple consequence will be that I won’t have a very good opinion of your ability to understand the truth. This is to be avoided in your own interest. More generally, It has been a long time since I decided not to engage in personal disputes on forums (I met the same problem on French forums of course); so I’d like to discourage you to try this line of argumentation, which I won’t answer anyway. I try to keep as close as possible to scientific argumentation, and I expect to get the same kind of answers (scientific argumentation doesn’t mean that I claim to be always right, but that I try to present only objective arguments). Apparently the moderators of this forum don’t think that I am way off this track, apart from some occasions where I went too much OT, but I understand that this thread is open for general thoughts.
    Concerning French blogs, I have indeed considered this possibility, but first I think that blogs tend to be somewhat closed places where the owner can’t resist to select only favorable comments , and second I must admit that the anglo-saxon world is more active and developed in the discussion that the French one. So despite the possible difficulty to argument properly in a foreign language, I find it more interesting to discuss openly about my concerns with you and other people here. Again I may be wrong – I just liked to have objective arguments showing why.

    I’m sorry to tell you that I haven’t been convinced by any argument you presented – mainly because that no one is new for me, I have already seen them many times, already carefully examined, and already made my mind about them. Simply repeating them again and again won’t change this mind. I am a scientist, so I am more sensitive to NUMBERS : if you want to convince me, give me quantified estimates of how much solar panels, windmills and so on we can build without fossil fuels (including coke for steel and oil just for transportation and building of the windmill for instance !), how much it would cost, which percentage of electricity can be reached in a modern society, and so on. Handwaving as very little influence on me.

  34. 184

    Something that comes up sometimes in my conversations with the denialati is how to calibrate CO_2e in preindustrial times vs. now. Some of them do the rather convenient thing of taking 280ppm preindustrial (actually the CO_2 number) as the CO_2e number, and calculate the current CO_2e number including CH_2 and other greenhouse gases, then say, look, we’ve have a large fraction of a doubling so the science must be wrong.

    A simple calculation would be to take the methane level in 1750 and apply the same multiplier as is used today, but I think that would be inaccurate. If the methane level in 1750 was in equilibrium, you should really look at the total GHG effect of that exact quantity because any amount that decayed would have to be replaced by new CH_4 to maintain steady state. On the other hand in a period of rising CH_4, you should discount the increase for decay over a justified time window.

    Do I have this straight? Is there a good reference I’m missing?

  35. 185
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Even a 95% confidence interval allows a 5% chance that there is no effect.

    So, you would be willing to bet on 5% odds… what if you’re wrong?

    Actually what you’re saying is simply incorrect: A 95% significance level means that there is a 5% probability that the test will find an effect even if there is none — a very different thing. It’s forward inference, and what you’re trying to do is reverse inference. You cannot do that without some prior idea on the probabilities of the hypotheses considered. That’s what’s the problem with the value 95%: it reflects subjective priors that are never made explicit. You’ll rarely find this discussed in the standard statistical literature on testing (exception: Edwin Jaynes 2003: Probability Theory: The Logic of Science).

    You know, failing a 95% significance test while there is a real effect happens all the time — like this time. All it takes is being dishonest enough to choose a suitably short time interval. But you can’t test the physics away that way!

    The Science News piece is worthwhile reading, and even more worthwhile understanding. As for Motl, he understands enough statistics to deceive with.

  36. 186
    KTB says:

    Has there been any good reviews of the book “The Hockey Stick Illusion”?

    Here is one, but it seems a little bit biased…

    “But that is an even more worrying thought: how much dodgy science is being published without the benefit of an audit by Mcintyre’s ilk?”

    “A new Siberian data series from a place called Yamal showed a lovely hockey stick but, after ten years of asking, McIntyre finally got hold of the data last autumn and found that it relied heavily on just one of just twelve trees, when far larger samples from the same area were available showing no uptick. Another series from Finnish lake sediments also showed a gorgeous hockey stick, but only if used upside down. McIntyre just keeps on exposing scandal after scandal in the way these data were analysed and presented.”

    Seems that it contains the usual just plain wrong information, how surprising…

    The reviewers final comment:
    “Oh, and by the way, I have a financial interest in coal mining, though not as big as Al Gore has in carbon trading. Maybe you think it makes me biased. Read the book and judge for yourself.”

  37. 187
    Marco says:

    @philc #169:
    Let’s do a little Gedanken-experiment, shall we?

    You have a very important job interview, on the other side of a very broad river. There are three bridges across that river (A, B, C), with A giving the shortest route, B somewhat longer, and C the longest. It’s a hot day, and you’re all dressed up in your suit and take off in your airconditioned car.

    Of course you take the shortest route, and arrive at bridge A. Unfortunately, the police stops you and tells you the bridge is broken and you only have a 5% chance of reaching the other side in your car, and a 95% of crashing and perhaps even dying. On the other hand, you have a 90% chance of reaching the other side on foot, and 10% that you’ll have to return. Another problem is that you will most likely be late for the job interview when you go on foot, and since it is a hot day, you’ll arrive all sweaty and with a wrinkled suit.

    The police also tell you that you have a 50% of getting across in your car when you use bridge B. You’d have to violate some traffic laws, though, in order to get to your interview on time, and still have a 50% chance of not getting across and possibly dying. You may, however, get halfway the bridge and walk the rest, a much shorter distance than in the case of bridge A.

    For bridge C your chances of getting across with your car are 95%, but you will be late for your interview. But unlike crossing bridge A on foot, you will not be all sweaty.

    Which bridge do you take, Phil?

  38. 188
    tamino says:

    Re: #160 and #169 (philc)

    Saying that “Co2 is still rising but (according to Phil Jones and others) temperatures are not” is an outright lie. Yes, I’m calling you a liar.

    Saying that the global warming trend is only significant at 95% confidence because that’s what you get when starting at 1995 is called “cherry picking.” The evidence is that the modern trend has taken place since at least 1975 and continues unabated. If you want to compute a “p value” for global warming, using anything less is dishonest. The confidence level for the global warming trend is well in excess of 99.9999%.

    As for explaining what’s wrong with philc’s and Motl’s thinking, that would take too long for a blog comment.

  39. 189
    JiminMpls says:

    Syun-Ichi Akasofu is a real piece of work! He claims, for example, that permafrost thawing is caused by heating buildings. Really!

    He later proclaims that: “Integrity and trust in science is at stake when confusion is caused in the minds of the public. Scientists are responsible for clarifying and rectifying the confusion.”


  40. 190
    Walter Manny says:

    WM “But we actually have no way of knowing whether the theory will evolve gradually or skew wildly.”

    RL “Bullshit!”

    Well argued :) Now that you’ve had a day to cool off, though, perhaps you would address my point. I am not saying that the current theory is not a predictive tool — you believe highly predictive, others not so much — but I am saying you can’t predict the future of a theory’s evolution. Otherwise stated, neither you nor anyone else can predict the impact on the theory of things we don’t yet know. I am not arguing in this instance that what we know now is or is not actionable, I am merely pointing out that your assurance that “the theory is likely to evolve gradually” is only that, an assurance. It sounds good, it sounds almost authoritative, and it has no basis in fact.

  41. 191
    Mike says:

    Any thoughts on the Iceland volcano? Could it mask AGW this summer and make it harder to get a climate/energy bill passed in the U.S. Senate?

    “‘This was a rather small and peaceful eruption but we are concerned that it could trigger an eruption at the nearby Katla volcano, a vicious volcano that could cause both local and global damage,’ said Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Science.”

  42. 192
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, wait, I shouldn’t assume the “philc” posting just above with the naive questions is the same person who used to post so much as “PhilC” — are you?

  43. 193
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 169

    how many times do you suggest we repeat the global warming experiment?

    philc, it might not hurt to hit your hand with a hammer. Test it enough times to make sure. And be sure to let us know the results of your experiment.

  44. 194
    Chris Dunford says:

    @philc 160

    Co2 is still rising but (according to Phil Jones and others) temperatures are not.

    I don’t know about “others”, but that is most certainly not what Phil Jones said.

  45. 195
    wildlifer says:

    The WSJ with mix-and-match graphs takes another swipe at Hansen:

  46. 196
    Septic Matthew says:

    166, Martin JB: NET emissions are the key measure and there are already ways of offsetting emissions and even technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

    Just to reinforce the point, here are sites about CO2 uptake:

    That one is about planting salt-tolerant mangroves in Senegal. There is also substantial reforestation in Indonesia, some related to growing oil palms.

    That one is about CO2 uptake in forests.

    It has been argued (peer-reviewed empirical research and some debate) in Science Magazine that the US forests, understory, and crops absorb more CO2 than US generates anthropogenically. I have lost the reference, but the above web page is indicative.

    And there’s my favorite, the famous “stabilization wedges”:

  47. 197
    Tom Dayton says:

    philc, just one part of what’s wrong with your comment is explained in my comment over at Open Mind.

  48. 198
    Brian Dodge says:

    Akasofu says on page 2 “temperature changes may be approximated by a straight line, together with ‘fluctuations’ superposed on it…” then flips right around on p3 saying “…The halting of the temperature rise in about 2000 can be seen clearly in figures 1d-1g.” Is it “fluctuation” or “halting”, or does the meaning depend on whether it’s being used to support or deny AGW?
    On page 6 Akasofu says “The recovery from the LIA was gradual.’ and that the recovery “…was, at a first approximation, linear and that the same linear change continued until about 2000.” If you actually look at his figure 1, it is obvious that he is wrong.
    On page 7 Akasofu demonstrates his ignorance of the basic physics of logarithmic response of T to CO2 concentration when he finds that “Although the global average temperature (T) changes can be
    approximated by a linear relation as a fraction of time (t) (T = at), CO2 changes are more like T = bt^2, suggesting that the T-CO2 relation is not simple.”
    In figure 4 p12 Akasofu shows “The linear trends for the temperature of central England over the period 1660~1996 for (a) the annual data and (b) the winter months (December to February), show a marked warming. In both cases, this warming is significant, but although the temperature rise is greater in winter, this trend is less significant because the variance from year to year is correspondingly greater.” The seasonal, diurnal, and latitudinal differences in warming due to increased CO2 were predicted by Arhenius in 1896. Apparently Akasofu believes that because of the scale of the “fluctuations” increases when you decrease the number of data points from the full yearly data to just wintertime data, that less significant is the same as not significant.
    I could go on, but it’s clear to me that Akasofu’s arguments are error filled wishful thinking hand waving, not science, and a waste of time. I’m not inclined to suffer fools lightly, and Gavin Schmidt won’t let me tell y’all what I really think.

  49. 199
    sHx says:

    I’ll assume you’re just under bad weather and this bizarre thread is not indicative of any long term trend. I’ll come back later. Thank goodness, Anthony Watts has a permanent link to your blog so you are only one click away.

  50. 200
    Brian Dodge says:

    Lubos Motl says “Particle physicists choose such a big separation – and huge confidence level – because they don’t want to flood their discipline with lots of poorly justified speculations.” Lubos is apparently unaware that in the one month (say February) that it takes Spencer to acquire one data point that confirms it was the second warmest in the 32-year record, behind Feb 1998 which was itself the second warmest of all months.”“, the dozens of experiments running concurrently at Fermilab and CERN generate millions of data points. Particle physicists have the luxury of as much data as they can analyze to support “huge” confidence levels; “The Tevatron proton–antiproton collider continues its smooth operation. With more than 6 fb–1 integrated luminosity delivered and peak luminosities exceeding 3.5 × 10^32 cm^–2s^–1, the CDF and DØ experiments are steadily increasing their statistics. Both collaborations are pushing forward on the analysis of their latest data in a joint effort to confirm and enlarge the previously reported exclusion region for the Higgs mass of around 160–170 GeV.” “160-170 GeV” sounds sorta like “2-4.5 deg C per doubling of CO2″ to me.

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