Atmospheric Aerosols, Capacity Factors, Carbon Emissions, Carbon-Free Buildings, Chicken Little, Climate Alarmism, Coercion, Electric Vehicles, Elon Musk, Extreme Weather Events, Fossil fuels, Gas Stoves, Judith Curry, Land Use, Model Bias, Nuclear power, Paul Ehrlich, Renewable energy, rent seeking, Sea Levels, Settled Science, Solar Irradience, Solar Panels, Subsidies, Temperature Manipulation, Toyota Motors, Urban Heat Islands, Volcanic activity, Wind Turbines
Appeals to reason and logic are worthless in dealing with fanatics, so it’s too bad that matters of public policy are so often subject to fanaticism. Nothing is more vulnerable on this scale than climate policy. Why else would anyone continue to listen to prognosticators of such distinguished failure as Paul Ehrlich? Perhaps most infamously, his 1970s forecasts of catastrophe due to population growth were spectacularly off-base. He’s a man without any real understanding of human behavior and how markets deal efficiently and sustainably with scarcity. Here’s a little more detail on his many misfires. And yet people believe him! That’s blind faith.
The foolish acceptance of chicken-little assertions leads to coercive and dangerous policy prescriptions. These are both unnecessary and very costly in direct and hidden ways. But we hear a frantic chorus that we’d better hurry or… we’re all gonna die! Ironically, the fate of the human race hardly matters to the most radical of the alarmists, who are concerned only that the Earth itself be in exactly the same natural state that prevailed circa 1800. People? They don’t belong here! One just can’t take this special group of fools too seriously, except that they seem to have some influence on an even more dangerous group of idiots called policymakers.
Judith Curry, an esteemed but contrarian climate expert, writes of the “faux urgency” of climate action, and how the rush to implement supposed climate mitigations is a threat to our future:
“Rapid deployment of wind and solar power has invariably increased electricity costs and reduced reliability, particularly with increasing penetration into the grid. Allegations of human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, where global solar voltaic supplies are concentrated, are generating political conflicts that threaten the solar power industry. Global supply chains of materials needed to produce solar and wind energy plus battery storage are spawning new regional conflicts, logistical problems, supply shortages and rising costs. The large amount of land use required for wind and solar farms plus transmission lines is causing local land use conflicts in many regions.”
Curry also addresses the fact that international climate authorities have “moved the goalposts” in response to the realization that the so-called “crisis” is not nearly as severe as we were told not too long ago. And she has little patience for delusions that authorities can reliably force adjustments in human behavior so as to to reduce weather disasters:
“Looking back into the past, including paleoclimatic data, there has been more extreme weather [than today] everywhere on the planet. Thinking that we can minimize severe weather through using atmospheric carbon dioxide as a control knob is a fairy tale.”
The lengths to which interventionists are willing to go should make consumer/taxpayers break out their pitchforks. It’s absurd to entertain mandates forcing vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs) off the road, and automakers know it. Recently, the head of Toyota Motors acknowledged his doubts that electric vehicles (EVs) can meet our transportation demands any time soon:
“People involved in the auto industry are largely a silent majority. That silent majority is wondering whether EVs are really OK to have as a single option. But they think it’s the trend so they can’t speak out loudly. Because the right answer is still unclear, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one option.”
In the same article, another Toyota executive says that neither the market nor the infrastructure is ready for a massive transition to EVs, a conclusion only a dimwit could doubt. Someone should call the Big 3 American car companies!
No one is a bigger cheerleader for EVs than Elon Musk. In the article about Toyota, he is quoted thusly:
“At this time, we actually need more oil and gas, not less. Realistically I think we need to use oil and gas in the short term, because otherwise civilization will crumble. One of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced is the transition to sustainable energy and to a sustainable economy. That will take some decades to complete.”
Of course, for the foreseeable future, EVs will be powered primarily by electricity generated from burning fossil fuels. So why the fuss? But as one wag said, that’s only until the government decides to shut down those power plants. After that, good luck with your EV!
Gas stoves are a new target of our energy overlords, but this can’t be about fuel efficiency, and it’s certainly not about the quality of food preparation. The claim by an environmental think tank called “Carbon-Free Buildings” is that gas stoves are responsible for dangerous indoor pollutants. Of course, the Left was quick to rally around this made-up problem, despite the fact that they all seem to use gas stoves and didn’t know anything about the issue until yesterday! And, they insist, racial minorities are hardest hit! Well, they might consider using exhaust fans, but the racialist rejoinder is that minorities aren’t adequately informed about the dangers and mitigants. Okay, start a safe-use info campaign, but keep government away from an embedded home technology that is arguably superior to the electric alternative in several respects.
Renewable energy mandates are a major area of assault. If we were to fully rely on today’s green energy technologies, we’d not just threaten our future, but our immediate health and welfare. Few people, including politicians, have any awareness of the low rates at which green technologies are actually utilized under real-world conditions.
“Worldwide average solar natural capacity factor (CF) reaches about ~11-13%. Best locations in California, Australia, South Africa, Sahara may have above 25%, but are rare. (see www.globalsolaratlas.info, setting direct normal solar irradiance)
Worldwide average wind natural capacity factors (CF) reach about ~21-24%. Best off-shore locations in Northern Europe may reach above 40%. Most of Asia and Africa have hardly any usable wind and the average CF would be below 15%, except for small areas on parts of the coasts of South Africa and Vietnam. (see www.globalwindatlas.info, setting mean power density)”
Those CFs are natural capacity factors (i.e., the wind doesn’t always blow or blow at “optimal” speeds, and the sun doesn’t always shine or shine at the best angle), The CFs don’t even account for “non-natural” shortfalls in actual utilization and other efficiency losses. It would be impossible for investors to make these technologies profitable without considerable assistance from taxpayers, but they couldn’t care less about whether their profits are driven by markets or government fiat. You see, they really aren’t capitalists. They are rent seekers playing a negative-sum game at the expense of the broader society.
There are severe environmental costs associated with current wind and solar technologies. Awful aesthetics and the huge inefficiencies of land use are bad enough. Then there are deadly consequences for wildlife. Producing inputs to these technologies requires resource-intensive and environmentally degrading mining activities. Finally, the costs of disposing of spent, toxic components of wind turbines and solar panels are conveniently ignored in most public discussions of renewables.
There is still more hypocritical frosting on the cake. Climate alarmists are largely opposed to nuclear power, a zero-carbon and very safe energy source. They also fight to prevent development of fossil fuel energy plant for impoverished peoples around the world, which would greatly aid in economic development efforts and in fostering better and safer living conditions. Apparently, they don’t care. Climate activists can only be counted upon to insist on wasteful and unreliable renewable energy facilities.
Before concluding, it’s good to review just a few facts about the “global climate”:
1) the warming we’ve seen in forecasts and in historical surface temperature data has been distorted by urban heat island effects, and weather instruments are too often situated in local environments rich in concrete and pavement.
2) Satellite temperatures are only available for the past 43 years, and they have to be calibrated to surface measurements, so they are not independent measures. But the trend in satellite temperatures over the past seven years has been flat or negative at a time when global carbon emissions are at all-time highs.
3) There have been a series of dramatic adjustments to historical data that have “cooled the past” relative to more recent temperatures.
4) The climate models producing catastrophic long-term forecasts of temperatures have proven to be biased to the high side, having drastically over-predicted temperature trends over the past two- to three decades.
5) Sea levels have been rising for thousands of years, and we’ve seen an additional mini-rebound since the mini-ice age of a few hundred years ago. Furthermore, the rate of increase in sea levels has not accelerated in recent decades, contrary to the claims of climate alarmists.
6) Storms and violent weather have shown no increase in frequency or severity, yet models assure us that they must!
Despite these facts, climate change fanatics will only hear of climate disaster. We should be unwilling to accept the climatological nonsense now passing for “settled science”, itself a notion at odds with the philosophy of science. I’m sad to say that climate researchers are often blinded by the incentives created by publication bias and grant money from power-hungry government bureaucracies and partisan NGOs. They are so blinded, in fact, that research within the climate establishment now almost completely ignores the role of other climatological drivers such as the solar irradiance, volcanic activity, and the role and behavior of atmospheric aerosols. Yes, only the global carbon dial seems to matter!
No one is more sympathetic to “the kids” than me, and I’m sad that so much of the “fan base” for climate action is dominated by frightened members of our most youthful generations. It’s hard to blame them, however. Their fanaticism has been inculcated by a distinctly non-scientific community of educators and journalists who are willing to accept outrageous assertions based on “toy models” concocted on weak empirical grounds. That’s not settled science. It’s settled propaganda.