The Economist’s Climate Alarmism

Thoughts on their backing off:

…in January, they gave up on the global climate treaty approach, and are now acknowledging the many nuances inherent to climate modeling. This is a sign that the global intellectual and political establishment is gradually distancing itself from the climate radicals and taking a more thoughtful and balanced approach. We also hope it’s a sign that they’re beginning to realize a more fundamental truth about the politics of climate change: that green hysteria and doom-mongering are leading causes of climate skepticism.

I’ve always been appropriately skeptical about the modeling:

I guess I am a denier. Here’s what I deny.

I deny that science is a compendium of knowledge to be ladled out to school children like government-approved pablum (and particularly malnutritious pablum), rather than a systematic method of attaining such knowledge.

I deny that skepticism about anthropogenic climate change is epistemologically equivalent to skepticism about evolution, and I resent the implications that if one is skeptical about the former, one must be similarly skeptical about the latter, and “anti-science.”

As someone who has done complex modeling and computer coding myself, I deny that we understand the complex and chaotic interactions of the atmosphere, oceans and solar and other inputs sufficiently to model them with any confidence into the future, and I deny that it is unreasonable and unscientific to think that those who believe they do have such understanding suffer from hubris. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, extraordinary policy prescriptions require extraordinary evidence.

The world seems to be catching up to me.

9 thoughts on “The Economist’s Climate Alarmism

  1. Al

    The part that always gets me is the “Instrumental Surface Temperature Period”. The stated error bars are wildly optimistic from an engineering standpoint of what they’re supposed to be measuring.

    A NIST-calibrated weather-monitoring thermometer, corrected for humidity and altitude, with a stated error of ±0.1C is not a measurement of the average energy of the lowest two meters of air for a 100 mile radius. And saying “Well, we have to assume it is, because that’s the best we’ve got” is fine. But … the error on that measurement is not 0.1C. And once you find the current actual error, that doesn’t actually tell you anything about what the error is under a different weather pattern. Or climate pattern. Both of which you’re explicitly stating as changing.

    The surface stations are proxies. Proxies made with instruments, but proxies that need a lot more care taken with the error bars. (They’re typically presented with confidence limits based off “If we did this dumb thing again, we’re confident we’d get this number. Again.”)

  2. Paul Milenkovic

    But Rand, are you going to follow Anthony Watts’ example and put up a solar panel?

    Mr. Watts posted on his Web site about putting up a solar panel, explaining this was a response to PG&E’s price gouging and a hedge against any “carbon tax.”

    My thought is that Anthony Watts has “caved.” The whole purpose of PG&E’s electric peak-demand-period rate of 93 cents/kWHr is to get Mr. Watts and others to spend 25K on a solar panel, a completely uneconomic way to generate electricity were it not for the gouging, but the gouging is a conscious policy choice from the Green Believers.

    I compared his electric usage to what I had last July, an unusually hot month for Wisconsin having the same cooling degree-days as Chico, CA in July as reported by Mr. Watts. I suggested some energy conservation measures that are a whole lot cheaper than the solar panel (based on thermal energy storage in the house, running the A/C more at night when it runs more efficiently based on manufacturer tables, letting the temps rise during the day but running the A/C to match a temperature-humidity comfort target), and I got snarked at by one of the “regulars” for being a smug know-it-all.

    But maybe I have “caved” in that faced with a high afternoon “demand” electric rate, I would just dial back the A/C and sweat for a couple hours (and pad around the house barefoot and in shorts) rather than pay the high rate or pay for the solar panel, a response that our Energy Overlords are also OK with.

    On the other hand, if I didn’t want to sweat when I was home during the late afternoon in July in Chico, CA, I am thinking a propane or a nat gas generator would be a whole lot cheaper than a solar panel, and I would have insurance from a power outage?

    Others suggested ultra high-efficiency A/C, ground-sourced A/C, mist water into the outside A/C unit, adding insulation to the in-attic air ducts (in Wisconsin, air ducts are in a cool basement), reflective window shades or films.

    But a solar panel? I think that is surrender to the Green Weenies?

    1. mpthompson

      Anthony Watts put up solar panels for his own reasons independent of reducing CO2 emissions. You may disagree that Anthony will see the type of financial results that he expects in the coming years, but to disparage him for “caving” when all he is doing is acting in his own self interests is just plain stupid. Sheesh. I guess you feel that those who put on safety belts when driving and wear helmets when riding motorcycles are wussies as well.

      1. Paul Milenkovic

        C’mon, give me “some space” here. I feel as if some issues cannot be discussed or certain positions cannot be taken around here without choosing sides between Rand’s “regulars” and the “Usual Suspects” who disagree with every position Rand takes.

        So yes, go ahead and scold me as “just plain stupid.” If I may direct some humor back at myself, there was the Mad Magazine cartoon panel where the generic “conservative guy” explains his position on “people protesting the War (in Vietnam) by driving today with their lights on. Me, I support the War, so I am driving with my lights off!” to which his worried passenger asks, “At night?” That’s right, that’s me.

        Let me ask you this? Cash for Clunkers was a stupid government program, partly driven by a mistaken idea of Keynesian Stimulus, partly by a belief in Global Warming and that the government knows best by bribing people to put sand in the motor of a perfectly good used car and replace it with a (somewhat) more fuel efficient new car?

        Should a person have participated in Cash for Clunkers, even if it were in someone’s financial interest to actually trade in a junky old “gas guzzler”?

        I had such a clunker to trade in, and yes, I seriously thought about participating in the program and getting my slice of gummint pie at the expense of fellow taxpayers. But there is a kind of Karma to these sorts of things. There was such a “land rush” aspect to the program, stories of the program “being oversubscribed” and “running out of money by the end of the week” and of “dealers not knowing how to fill out the paperwork” that I decided to sit that one out. Occasionally one arrives on a principled action out of utilitarian reasons.

        Solar panels on the roof is another stupid government program, driven by a misguided understanding of CO2 and climate. And it is a government program, with at times various direct subsidies (do they still offer that Federal tax credit, or is that done with?) and gobs of indirect subsidies — the crony-capitalism funding of solar cell makers, the goofy retail demand pricing of electricity in CA that has gummint backing, the “buyback” of solar panel electricity paid for by your neighbor ratepayers, and so on.

        It is Anthony Watts’ individual and personal right to spend his money how he sees fit on a solar panel, if for no other reason than he wants one as a geek toy, a badge of showing the neighbors that he is with-it-on-the-environment, or that he crunched the numbers and thinks he can get ahead with that thing.

        It is his right as a blogger, having “paid for those electrons”, to brag about this to his blog readers. In letting my post past moderation, Anthony had graciously extended me permission to brag back that I had made it through last July, an unusual hot spell where Madison, WI and Chico, CA had the same cooling degree days, in an airconditioned house using one third his electric use without dropping 25K on a solar panel. To which one of Anthony’s regulars and guest blog hosts, Willis Eschenbach, exercised his First Amendment Right to say something completely stupid, scolding me for making an apples-and-oranges comparison and for “crowing” about my knack for energy conservation.

        So answer me this. Why is that “sticking it to The Man” (the power company as channeled by the government regs) has Libertarian street-cred when you do it by purchasing a 25K solar panel? Why is that “sticking it to The Man” by using one third the electricity through a combination of low-tech low-cost energy efficiency and conservation measures gets people on the Libertarian-Conservative-Right so worked up?

        If you read me post again, I am suggesting that both responses, the solar panel and the low-cost conservation measures are in a way “caving” (note my scare quotes, we all respond out of self-interest to government directives, and none of us are driving at night with our lights off to express support for fighting the terrorists).

        Maybe my low-cost way of meeting the government edicts is more threatening because it suggests that limiting CO2 is less disruptive than we think? How about dropping 25K on a solar panel is stupid because you are trading visible energy costs for hidden energy costs (in the panel manufacture?). That 25K on a solar panel is stupid when you can accomplish most of the same thing with a $100 programmable thermostat and a $20 humidity gauge?

      2. George Turner

        I think solar installation can be justified just from the rolling-blackouts and coming zombie apocalypse standpoints, but I’d never expect to come out ahead financially on it.

        However, running a clandestine coal-to-liquids plant (making DME or octane) out of a garage or the back of a converted semi-trailer might generate a huge return on investment.

        1. Paul Milenkovic

          Oooooh, clandestine coal-to-liquids . . . I like it!

          I can just see the evening news where it is reported that “Another suspected clandestine Fischer-Tropsch plant blew up today in the 200-block of East Main Street, showering debris over the Capital Square, which the Mayor has not requested designation as a Super Fund site. Earlier this week, Dane County Executive and the Dane County Sheriff announced a raid on a similar facility out by the Research Park in Middleton . . .”

        2. George Turner

          And the cute part is that it’s doable, as long as you don’t mind welding a lot of 316 stainless steel piping and are comfortable with high-pressure, high-temperature process control.

          In the larger plants (like Kodak’s Johnson City facility) they use very tall stacks for one of the catalytic reactions to give the reaction gas plenty of time to bubble upwards, but I figured I could just pump it from the top of a short pipe back to the bottom and get the same effect, or just design a short catalyst pipe so it flips upside down (or just slowly rotates around the middle).

          Unfortunately gas prices dropped when I had the keenest interest in pursuing it, which illustrates why investors haven’t committed to a major facility. A large installation would take years to construct and hundreds of millions of dollars in financing, with no guarantee that they won’t all lose their shirts.

          But a small unit, once designed and proven, could be built very quicklyk, either as a kit or on an assembly line, with production ramping to follow gas prices, and the market risk would be carried by the purchaser. But of course there’s no way the EPA and OSHA would let such things exist without millions of dollars in red tape, and thus the idea of putting them in the back of semi-trucks like California’s trailer-ready marijunana grow equipment.

          Even coal-tio-DME, without the DME-to-octane back end, would be useful in rural areas to free people from propane heating prices, and it might be useful to farmers who convert their diesel tractors to DME (requiring a slight modification to lubricate the engine valves).

          If nothing else, it would be a fun and very educational experiment.

          1. Al

            Wood to coal is easy as a batch process.
            And coal to syngas gas is an easy batch process.

            A batch process for that next step would make this ‘complete’.

            Batch processes have the advantage (IMNSHO) of managing substantial over-engineering without needing extensive instrumentation.

  3. Dennis Wingo

    Living in the bay area I want solar only because I know (having worked with the local officials involved in emergency preparedness) that if a big earthquake on the order of the 1906 quake does come that we are completely and absolutely unprepared and thus screwed and will be on our own for weeks if not months.

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