Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Truth about the Climate

Here we have it-- yet another topic about which I have no discernible expertise. The subject is climate change.

Yes, I recognize that armies of pompous buffoons, led by the likes of John Kerry and Bill Gates, are shrieking that the sky is falling, and that the sky is falling. They are claiming to know how to save the world-- claim that makes them look more hysterical than your everyday hysteric.

You have probably noticed that the Chinese government is happy to underwrite the American hysteria. After all, playing John Kerry and Joe Biden is not the world’s greatest challenge. Heck, the president of China is going to meet with Joe Biden to discuss climate change-- which means that he knows as do most people, that declaring war against the weather is a self-destructive fool’s errand-- one that will ensure America's decline and China’s advance on the world stage.

Among those who do know something about the climate is Steven Koonin. He worked in the Obama energy department, so he is not a member of the vast right wing conspiracy. He is a theoretical physicist, and teaches at NYU. He has degrees from Cal Tech and MIT, among other places. In short, he has real credentials in the field. His new book, called “Unsettled?” will be published in ten days or so. It is likely to be ignored by the climate change hysterics, but we can at least look at some of the basic ideas, reported by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal. 

So, I will report some of the salient observations from the Jenkins article. First, on the question of computer modeling, the kind that pretends to give us prophetic powers to predict the future. 

Mr. Koonin is a practitioner and fan of computer modeling. “There are situations where models do a wonderful job. Nuclear weapons, when we model them because we don’t test them anymore. And when Boeing builds an airplane, they will model the heck out of it before they bend any metal.”

“But these are much more controlled, engineered situations,” he adds, “whereas the climate is a natural phenomenon. It’s going to do whatever it’s going to do. And it’s hard to observe. You need long, precise observations to understand its natural variability and how it responds to external influences.”

And also:

Yet these models supply most of our insight into how the weather might change when emissions raise the atmosphere’s CO2 component from 0.028% in preindustrial times to 0.056% later in this century. “I’ve been building models and watching others build models for 45 years,” he says. Climate models “are not to the standard you would trust your life to or even your trillions of dollars to.” Younger scientists in particular lose sight of the difference between reality and simulation: “They have grown up with the models. They don’t have the kind of mathematical or physical intuition you get when you have to do things by pencil and paper.”

So, ignore the models. Now, that was easy, wasn't it?

And on our ability to use policies to control the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Koonin says that the notion is nonsense:

The public now believes CO2 is something that can be turned up and down, but about 40% of the CO2 emitted a century ago remains in the atmosphere. Any warming it causes emerges slowly, so any benefit of reducing emissions would be small and distant. Everything Mr. Koonin and others see in the science suggests a slow, modest effect, not a runaway warming. If they’re wrong, we don’t have tools to apply yet anyway. Decades from now, we might have carbon capture—removing CO2 directly from the atmosphere at a manageable cost.

As for the idea that we must immediately stop using fossil fuels, Koonin thinks it is also nonsense:

For the record, Mr. Koonin agrees that the world has warmed by 1 degree Celsius since 1900 and will warm by another degree this century, placing him near the middle of the consensus. Neither he nor most economic studies have seen anything in the offing that would justify the rapid and wholesale abandoning of fossil fuels, even if China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and others could be dissuaded from pursuing prosperity.

Like many sensible minds he believes that we would do well to use more nuclear power. We note that the great Angela Merkel succumbed to the media hysteria and shut down all of her nuclear power plants. Apparently, she prefers to depend on Russian natural gas and Austrian coal generated power.

As for Koonin’s view, Jenkins presents it:

He’s a fan of advanced nuclear power eventually to provide carbon free base-load power. He sees a bright future for electric passenger vehicles. “The main reason isn’t emissions. They’re just shifted to the power grid, and transportation anyway is only about 15% of global greenhouse-gas emissions. There are other advantages: Local pollution is much less and noise pollution is less. You’re sitting in a traffic jam and all of these six- or four-cylinder engines are throbbing up and down burning fuel and just doing no good at all.”

That’s a quick summary of some of the views of someone who actually knows what he is talking about when it comes to the climate.


Anonymous said...

A person I consider extremely curious yet wise says, until a discussion of "deliberate "weather modification" enters the discussion, all the arguements about pristine Nature, Human Generated Global Warming , 100 year Predictions , etc
are just a shell game.

The techniques and tools are no doubt classified, and in the possession of multiple nation states, and possibly multi- nationals.

Leave the terms "Chemtrails" and "HAARP" out of the consideration and nibble around the edges of the topic.

Weather warfare is a likely 21stC reality.

Sam L. said...

As I keep saying, the "climate" has been changing ever since our planet has had an atmosphere. LO! These many, many, mannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnny years/centuries/eons...

Lowghost said...

Noise pollution from combustion engines is a real and manageable problem. Live in a nice area with well maintained properties? Chances are at least one of your neighbors will have an army of leaf blower and lawn mower men ruining your afternoon on the deck. Likewise, you may be situated miles from the nearest highway but you can still hear trucks downshifting all night. Electric solves that, locally.

Last year's March lockdown had most cars off the road. My town never smelled so sweet. The air was fresh as the White Mountains. Electric solves that, locally.

David Foster said...

"Younger scientists in particular lose sight of the difference between reality and simulation"

The map is not the territory, as Korzybski said.

"They (the younger scientists) don’t have the kind of mathematical or physical intuition you get when you have to do things by pencil and paper.” One of the first computer-simulation efforts was of the design for the hydrogen bomb initiator, carried out on the Army's ENIAC computer. Edward Teller believes the results verified that his design would work; the mathematician Stan Ulam wasn't so sure. He took a less-formal approach to studying the design, working with pencil and paper and probably also a desk calculator--finally concluding that no, the Teller design would not work. He was correct. An entirely different approach had to be taken.