Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

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Climatic gates come tumblin’ down

27-Jan-2010

For years, I accepted the supposed scientific consensus that the earth was warming, that warming above a certain point would be catastrophic, and that mankind’s “greenhouse” gas emissions were the primary cause. I believed that Aspen ski resorts were at  danger of closing due to lack of snow, the arctic would be ice free, and that the science is settled regarding human induced climate change.

However, the claims of a climatic tipping point led me to investigate further. I am an electrical engineer. I know that if positive feedback systems are not designed properly, they can fail catastrophically. Such systems are unstable. I found it difficult to believe that our atmospheric system was so unstable that there would be a “tipping point” of no return.

So, I investigated. I learned how the greenhouse gas theory worked; that CO2 would pass through the sun’s short wave radiation, but it would be opaque to the earth’s own long wave radiation – thus trapping energy. I discovered that even doubling or tripling the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere alone could not raise the theoretical temperature of the earth to the heights being warned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); that required positive feedback of water vapor which would provide most of the temperature increases. I learned the names of the major scientists warning of anthropogenic global warming (AGW): Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Gavin Schmidt, Dr. Phil Jones. I found out that there exists three primary surface temperature data sets: CRU, GISS and NCDC, and that here exist two satellite data sets: UAH and RSS – that are used to calculate global average temperature.

I also learned that the science is not settled, and there exist prestigious researchers who believe AGW theory is either over blown, or is fatally flawed: Dr. Roy Spencer, Dr. Richard Lindzen, Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. I discovered that the positive feedback of water vapor is but a theory; different studies have inferred both positive and negative feedback and there is no conclusive proof this theory holds up. I found out that the three surface temperature data bases have 90% to 95% overlap of raw data, so the data between them is not truly independent, and that this data gets “adjusted” by the various entities who report the data. I learned that most of the expected dramatic temperature increases and consequences of those increases are derived from computer models – not from empirical evidence. As a firmware engineer, I am well aware that computer models are only as good as the assumptions they are programmed with.

Most of all, I learned that the absolute certainty and scientific unanimity of belief in AGW was a myth – AGW is a theory and observational data can and does contradict that theory.

Besides the scientific uncertainties came the behavioral ones. While skeptical AGW web sites, such as Watt’s Up With That, allows the free discourse of opinion, pro AGW web sites, such as realclimate do not. The opinions and scientific papers of the researchers who have skeptical leanings seemed to be marginalized. Then came the confirmation: climategate. The subject of climategate merits its own post. However, the leaked emails from climategate showed conclusively that the top pro-AGW climate scientists were colluding to assure that dissenting voices were not heard – either in the media or in scientific peer-reviewed journals.

My faith in the scientists who are pushing the pro-AGW agenda is seriously eroded. At this point, I believe that the available evidence shows that climate change IS happening – but it is not to the extent that we have been led to believe, and the cause of that change is natural variation. Climate change will ALWAYS happen: the very nature of the earth assures that. But the emissions of CO2 by man made causes are very unlikely to be the primary cause of future climate variations.

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Rants Returned

26-Jan-2010

My unannounced hiatus has come to an end.

For the previous year+, I have been away from my blog. For personal and professional reasons, I have been unable to post updates, and spread my unsolicited opinions to the world. A world denied my ranting and raving.

That time is now over.

I have spent the past time investigating two issues that I have personal interest in: Climate change and spirituality.

Climate change is covered by many bloggers, and I will highlight some of the ones I most admire in future posts. Suffice it to say that the previous 2 months has seen startling events within the scientific community of climatologists. The details of these events are covered far better by people much more knowledgeable than me – but I will still post my thoughts on those events.

Spiritual subjects are not something I have posted on this blog before. I may reserve my thoughts on those subjects for another blog thread – or I may post them here. I have not decided yet.

Influenced by other bloggers whom I admire, I will no longer be posting under a pseudonym, and will instead use my real name in my blog. Regardless, I am announcing my return to the blog community, and I hope that both of my regular readers welcome my return.

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The Late, Great Planet Earth

8-Jul-2008

No, this is not about Hal Lindsey’s famous book. Rather, I had intended to write an article about anything other than energy/the environment However, two blog posts dragged me back in (screaming and kicking, you can be assured).

The posts describe the earth as dying, or in need of saving. I took issue with these posts, writing a comment, that in part said:

“[We can] neither save nor kill the earth (or the environment, for that matter).

“Mankind’s existence on this world is but an eye-blink, geologically speaking. No matter what we do to this earth, life will continue. We may destroy our own kind, and we may destroy other species. But, after we are gone, other species will evolve, and the earth will have forgotten about our brief presence. Hundreds of millions of years of life preceded us, and hundreds of millions of years of life will succeed us – regardless of what we do now.

“If we cannot destroy the earth, we cannot save it either. Therefore, what are we actually trying to save with environmentalism? ”

Making such broad claims of “saving the earth” smacks of smug, self-righteous, false-altruism. When someone says they want to “save the earth”, they imply that anyone who disagrees with them wants to destroy it. Such hyperbole is not helpful. A common consensus would be much easier to achieve when the real goals are spelled out. Otherwise, we may just as well be arguing over religion.

The author of the second blog I listed, responded with a well thought out response. In it, he stated a sentiment I can agree with; that the goals of environmentalism include the conservation of resources.

I would ask though: Conserve for whom? Ourselves. Future generations. Other species. After all, nature really doesn’t give a damn if we destroy an ecosystem; over time it will be replaced – but it’s impact on us humans can be devastating.

We should embrace environmentalism, not because the earth is in peril, but because it is the right thing to do – for ourselves.

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Cheap Gas! – Redux

3-Jul-2008

What price are we willing to pay to willfully waste oil?

Two blogs have caught my attention lately, that highlight a common theme – wasting energy purely for the sake of the waste. The first is a blog commentary about Rush Limbaugh’s intentional use of a gas-inefficient vehicle over long distances. He did this to “stick it to the environmentalists”. The second is in a similar vein – a blog entry in response to a commentator urging public buildings to reduce air conditioning. In order to flaunt his ability to waste energy, the blogger turned his thermostat down to 65 degrees Fahrenheit – even though he is not there to enjoy it.

Nominally, Rush and the blogger are the one bearing the “cost” of their actions. If they have the money, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do this – even if it is wasteful? Even though gas is $4.00 per gallon, these guys decided to use this expensive commodity, and pay for it themselves; right? But, what are the *real* costs?

How many marines are you willing to let die in the middle east, so Rush can drive his 12 mile-per-gallon behemoth? How many soldiers should lose their legs, arms, eyesight or portions of their brains, so bloggers can turn thermostats to 65 degrees – just to prove a point? Because these are the *real* costs.

We import more than a third of the energy we use (includes all raw energy we consume, like that used to generate electricity). More than one-fifth of the imports come from the Persian Gulf.  Significant imports also come from Nigeria and Venezuela. Do you think we would be fighting in Iraq if not for oil? If we are on a humanitarian mission there, then why do we not also fight in Rawanda? How about Zimbabwe? Cuba?

We, the people, have already funded terrorists via Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Emirates. We have built the nuclear facilities in Iran. We ponied up the money for bin Ladin and his 9/11 band. All paid for by America’s oil obsession.

Why have we seen success disarming a nuclear North Korea (who’s leader is as much a whack job as anyone), but have no luck with Iran?

It is only a matter of time before we are involved in other wars on other continents. Nigeria is a corruption mess, that is becoming more and more important as an oil exporter to the United States. We are funding Hugo Chavez’s anti-American stance (and raising his role from petty-wacko dictator to regional trouble maker), by purchasing Venezuela’s oil. How long before troops are in Africa and South America, losing life and limb, so we can rest assured Rush can waste freely, and bloggers can freeze their abodes to prove their point?

At what price?

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Global Warming: A Whole Lot of Mistakin’ Going On

2-Jul-2008

Ok kids, it’s time for your global warming quiz. Sharpen up your number 2 pencils, and answer the following questions:

1. Approximately what percent of annual CO2 release to the atmosphere are humans responsible for?
a) 95%
b) 75%
c) 50%
d)  3%

Answer: d, 3%. Source: International Panel on Climate Change and Dr. Elmar Uherek.

There is a lot of hand waving about how much CO2 we are “polluting” the earth with. However, nature sources about 97% of the CO2 gas released annually.

2. Which chemical is responsible for the vast majority of the “greenhouse” affect?
a) CO2 – Carbon Dioxide
b) CH4 – Methane
c) H2O – Water

Answer: c, Water. Source: realclimate.org (estimates 67% to 85% of greenhouse affect), and Freidenreich and Ramaswamy, Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models (estimates 95% of greenhouse affect).  (Note, I have not personally seen the latter paper).

Despite all of the concern over CO2, water constitutes between two-thirds and nineteen-twentieths of the total “greenhouse” affect.

3. If the concentration of pre-industrial revolution CO2 in the atmosphere were doubled (a 100% increase), this would increase the total CO2 affect on global climate by:
a) 1,000%.
b)   100% (or double).
c)    12%.

Answer: c: 12% increase. Source: A combination of the following: using calculation from the International Panel on Climate Change This professor thinks the IPCC estimates are high. This site also offers a radically different interpretation from the IPCC. Note: ALL sources predict a logarithmic relationship (this is known from basic chemistry) – the disagreement is one of scale.

Because of saturation, CO2 (and other “greenhouse” gasses), have a logarithmic, not linear, relationship with the amount of gas versus the amount of energy the gas can hold. Therefore doubling CO2 concentrations would not double the affect.

Climate change is a natural occurrence. Our world has experienced many cycles of warming and cooling over the last 400,000 years or so. Many “ice ages” have occurred, and “global warming” has followed.

We are seeing climate change today. We will see it in every era, because of the natural cycles. The question really is: are our activities as humans having a significant affect on the earth’s climate? Are we causing “global warming”?

Frankly, I don’t know. But people hand waving and frothing at the mouth about poorly understood items are not helpful. I do not claim that spewing tons of CO2 into the atmosphere is a good idea. However, the public at large is ignorant of what “greenhouse” affects are, how we came up with the idea of man-made climate change, and where the numbers come from that predict dire increases in temperatures.

Yet, we are insisting our politicians make decisions based on our own ignorance.

Our data sets are narrow. Precision temperature measurements are only good for the past 100 years or so. Predicting a .5 degree Celsius average temperature increase using data with an error factor of a +- 2 degrees, is just foolish.

We also must understand how the predictions for a future rise in average temperature is made. This is done using computer models, that are very simplified, and make many assumptions. These assumptions have been wrong before. This NASA data resulted in large scale changes to the models in 2004. Lately, more sattelite data, has shown some of the basic premises of human contributions to global warming to be incorrect. The result; the current models are mere guesswork, not scientific fact.

What should be done? We need to let the scientists do the science. They will eventually figure it out. But when politics mixes with incomplete data, the science debate changes. It becomes a creationism vs. evolution debacle, where fanaticism overrides concrete data and common sense.

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