Friday, October 22, 2021

Climate Change Hysteria

When it comes to science, some opinions are weightier than others. You do not establish scientific fact by polling citizens or even by polling scientists. You do not establish it by trotting out a motley band of celebrity high school dropouts and overwrought adolescents. 

Surely, we know that scientific research is based on skepticism. There is no such thing as settled science. The latter is merely a euphemism for dogmatic belief. The notion that people who disagree with the consensus view about climate change are “deniers” is decidedly unscientific.

Ginning up mass hysteria about an impending climate apocalypse has nothing to do with science. 

For that reason, we grant more authority to some scientists than to others. Among the most consequential climate scientists is one Richard Lindzen, retired professor of  atmospheric sciences at MIT. Lindzen is internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading climate scientists. For that reason his views are rarely reported. 

Now, the Tablet site offers up some of Lindzen’s thinking about the current debate. He believes that the current mania about global warming, along with our earnest efforts to shut down power grids and to jack up the prices of oil and gas are signs that our civilization is self-deconstructing. He even suggests that our competitors in the Middle Kingdom are happily cheering from the sidelines. 

Lindzen opens with the data about warming:

From a minimum in temperature around 1960 (basically the end of a modest cooling trend beginning around 1939, which led to concerns over global cooling) until 1998, the global mean temperature anomaly (the index used to describe the Earth’s temperature) did increase by about 0.5 degrees Celsius. That’s a small change compared to the typical change between breakfast and lunch, though the net increase since then has been relatively insignificant (except for a major El NiƱo in 2014-16) and appreciably less than predicted by all climate models. It should be noted that the increase was small compared to what was happening in any given region, and temperatures at any given location were almost as likely to be cooling as warming. Despite the fact that increases of CO₂ thus far have been accompanied by the greatest increase in human welfare in history, and despite the fact that there have been large increases in the Earth’s vegetated area largely due to increases in CO₂’s role in photosynthesis, governments seem to have concluded that another 0.5 C will spell doom.

It is worth noting that the increases in carbon dioxide have produce an increase in human welfare-- given that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but contributes to plant growth.

In China the government is building new coal-fired plants, to produce electricity. Are they, Lindzen asks, doing so in order to destroy the planet?

According to the Global Energy Monitor, China is planning the addition of 200 GW of coal-fired generating capacity by 2025. If we assume this is a four-year period and that a large-scale power plant is 1 GW, that would be about one plant per week over the next four years. Why would China intentionally pursue the presumed destruction of the Earth?Moreover, why are the Anglosphere and the EU pursuing hugely disruptive, destructive, and expensive policies intended to reduce their already largely irrelevant emissions?

What are the Chinese thinking? And, isn’t it strange that while they build more coal generating plants they also support climate alarmism in the West:

The answer to the first question is likely to be that China sees the threat of climate change as readily manageable regardless of what one believes about the underlying physics (remember that China’s leaders, as opposed to ours, tend to have technical backgrounds). But they also recognize that climate hysteria in the West leads to policies that clearly benefit China. Indeed, China is actually promoting activities like the Sino-American Youth Dialogue on climate change to promote climate alarm among young American activists.

Lindzen believes that the West is caught up in a religious fervor, that it is punishing itself for the benefits gained from the Industrial Revolution. The interesting part is that many of the Western policies that fight climate change require Chinese manufacturing:

Thus, it would seem that confronted with what is claimed is an existential threat over which we, in fact, have almost no influence, it seems obvious that the correct policy would be to increase resilience against disasters. Instead, the West is proposing to do the very opposite. It is hard to think of good or virtuous reasons for such a policy. Perhaps our policymakers have a pseudo-religious wish to expiate the sin of letting ordinary people reach comfortable middle-class standards of living. The encouragement of such policies by China is undoubtedly one of the reasons; certainly, many of the proposed Western responses (electric cars, windmills, and solar panels) will involve heavy investments in China, which dominates the global solar industry and is already the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles.

Of course, the science is anything but settled:

Debate over this issue has been avoided and even actively suppressed under the fatuous claim that the science is “settled.” Indeed by 1988 Newsweek had already claimed that all scientists were agreed on the subject, even though nothing could have been further from the truth. And the truth has been buried ever since. As former Energy Undersecretary for Science in the Obama administration Steven Koonin compellingly illustrates in Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, the issue remains far from actually being settled. The book relies entirely on the science from the official assessments of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and from similar official U.S. assessment reports. The vicious attacks on Koonin since the book’s release in May indicate the absence of almost any level of discourse. Yet, given what is at issue, the need for an open debate over both our assessment of climate science and the proposed policies is, indeed, desperately needed.

At a time when the nation is caught up in climate change fever, it is good to cast the cold eye of reason on the issues. No one is more qualified to do so than Richard Lindzen. 


markedup2 said...

What I find most baffling about the Climate Change cult is that the only option is to revert to medieval tech. Personally, I don't believe there is even much of a problem, but even if there were, shouldn't we debate options for dealing with it? In general, warmer is better for humans.

That said, I'm also not particularly enamored of fossil fuels. I just watched an amazing documentary on East Anglica One - a giant, successful offshore windfarm. Space-based solar also has great potential. If we can do something about the price of nuclear plants, that also has great potential. There are reasons to look at all these things, but OMG! Melting Planet! is not one of them.

David Foster said...

Wind and solar have outputs that fluctuate not only from hour to hour but also from season to season, and sometimes, you will get days in a row in which the wind/solar output is minimal. While it may be possible to provide a few hours worth of battery or other storage, it's unlikely that, say, a week's worth could be provided at any non-bankrupting cost. Which means the capital cost of gas-fired or other fossil-fueled backup must be covered, even if these plants are used only for a small % of the year. (Or people and industries will have to get used to unreliable power, which seems to be considered as actually a *benefit* by certain 'green' advocates)

re Nuclear, the GE-Hitachi venture has recently introduced a very interesting Small Modular Reactor system.

Capital costs are said to be a lot lower than they are for current nuclear plants.

Early probable customers are in Poland and Canada; not clear yet whether Karen will allow us to use these systems in the United States.

jmod46 said...

When a scientific topic cannot be debated it is no longer science and is more like religion.

Ares Olympus said...

If we were serious about the problems of burning fossil fuels and adding 100 million year old stored carbon into the atmosphere at a rate a 1000 times faster than natural average CO2 production from volcanoes, we'd accept greatly expanding nuclear power was necessary for the future of a modern economy.

It is fun that Elon Musk imagines a city of a million people on Mars in a few decades while Mars has zero fossil fuels to burn, and even if we did find a 4 billion year old coal bed on Mars, there's no free oxygen to burn it. Also Mars averages something like -80F so without fossil fuels to burn to stay warm they're going to have to develop better technology in insulation to keep heat contains during the even colder nights and winters, and probably geothermal heat pumps will be needed. And solar power is only half as effective on Mars as the Earth, so they'll need more efficient solar energy. But only nuclear power can be the serious "base load" for power and heat on Mars so again, whatever tech they need to survive, we can reproduce on earth at perhaps 1% of the cost of doing on Mars.

So I don't think Musk's vision is realistic, but all the problems we have to solve there can help us learn how to live more sustainably here as well, and as they say, stone age didn't end for running out of stones, maybe we'll find we'd prefer not to just keep burning 18th century fuels for the 21st century.

Until then, I guess we just have to keep burning 100 million year old carbon because its food for plants and it creates a few thousand jobs. We just need to sit back and hope the Chinese invent better low-carbon technology and sell it to us, and then buying up our debt that we use to pay them.

Anonymous said...

I am a snowbird sitting here in Southern Arizona enjoying the warmth. If global warming could be accelerated I could spend the winter back up North and it would be cheaper for me. So let's open up more coal fired generation plants. Lets get this planet warmed up!

But let's be honest. The whole global warming thing is a big grift. Just another way to take your wealth and power from you. The world is laughing at us for being so stupid that we buy into this grift. So I guess we will just have to learn the hard way.

Sam L. said...

Anon, back in the '70s I was a Titan 11 missileer in and around Tucson and southern Arizona, and one night my topside alarms went off. I called that in to HQ and was told to go topside and check it out, as it had snowed , and the Air Police were not coming to check on the site. I got the rest of my crew up, put on my pistol, got one of my enlisted men a pistol, and up we went. Found 6" of snow all over the site. The horns (8 of them, 2 at each corner) were filled with snow, which we scraped out, saw that the only footprints were ours, and then returned below ground to the control center and called our sky cops to tell them all this. My deputy and the other enlisted crew member went back to bed. That was the only snow I saw in five years, but it was a GOOD one!