Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Tobis shellacs Shellenberger

Peeking out of my hutch momentarily (maybe longer) to highlight Michael Tobis' piece at RealClimate, taking apart Michael Shellenberger's twelve non-facts he's flacking in support of his non-nonfiction book.

I'll just add a few snarky stretches of my own responding to the nonfacts but read MT for the main discussion.

1) Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”

Yes we are.

Moving on to Shell's other claims....Or does it deserve more response than that? I've never gotten around to blogging my own definition of the Anthropocene Epoch, but I think that some millions of years from now, whatever corresponds to paleontologists will begin the Anthropocene about 50-60k years BP, when the fossil record demonstrates that humans showed up in Australia and the Australian megafauna went away. Sixth extinction started then, sputtered along for a while, and flared up when humans showed up in the New World and the New World megafauna went away. Sputtered some more and then picked up the pace with invention of agriculture (and pastoralism), and then went to conflagration with the modern age. The mass extinction is well in hand looking at megafauna - maybe it'll take some time to see when counting marine molluscs, but that doesn't change the issue.

On top of that, the many species that aren't technically extinct, are functionally extinct in the wild. Shellenberger's claim is that these species aren't gone, but unless you posit a future where they replenish, then those future paleontologists millions of years down the line are unlikely to dig up the few animals that were hanging out in a zoo. If you are going to take off Shell's blinders and look at the future realistically though, then real extinction and real mass extinction are the likely short-term outcomes.

10) Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change 

Funny how Shell put his two biodiversity arguments nearly as far apart as possible from each other. Hunting and other direct killing are of little relevance to extinction for anything other than large fauna which I thought weren't important enough to Shell to count as a mass extinction (I'll concede overfishing is a big problem). Habitat loss - yes, nearly 10k years of habitat loss to farming combined with the last 200 years of massive population growth are more influential than climate change to date, but Shell is ignoring how climate change makes habitat loss much worse. Climate change makes existing habitat uninhabitable, and habitat loss makes it impossible for species to move to refugia, or eliminates the refugia. Pretty ridiculous for Shell to say something that makes a catastrophe 10% worse (and deteriorating) is somehow not so bad.

And btw, marine mollusc extinction is not as likely to affected by habitat loss and overharvesting as opposed to climate change.

3) Climate change is not making natural disasters worse

This old canard, originally from Roger Pielke Jr. Read MT for more, but it is in part a signal/noise thing, or better what I think James Annan described as detection/attribution, where we can appropriately attribute an increase in disaster impacts to climate change even if you can't hit 95% certainty on detection.

My other point that I made as far back as when I stupidly thought RPJr worth corresponding with is that an enormous amount of cost is built into preventing disaster, from seawalls to more expensive building standards, and that cost is ignored by his standard and is a cause that reduces his cost impact measurement. It's annoying, so I'm sure he'll continue it.

5) The amount of land we use for meat—humankind’s biggest use of land—has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska

Like MT says, more accurate than most of his points but of little relevance. Also I've read elsewhere that between some or all of the decrease in pastoral land is made up for by increased farmland, often to feed livestock (sorry, can't find the link). That's not a good exchange from an environmental perspective.

6) The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California

I've written an Op-Ed on this! Kind of like habitat loss and climate change - land use/abuse currently is more important, and climate change makes it worse, with a worsening trend.

9) We produce 25 percent more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter

I agree with MT that most of the world will be able to handle future food crises. Subsistence farmers will not. If it's possible to separate ethical and environmental impacts, then I think the greatest ethical impact from climate change will be malnutrition and death among the poorest people in the world due to changed weather, especially changed rainfall. The greatest environmental impact will be the effect on biodiversity because that will take millions of years for recovery, as opposed to merely tens of thousands of years for the atmosphere and oceans to recover. But Shell isn't worried about biodiversity.

The rest is silly, and again MT takes care of it.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Germany requiring gas stations to have EV chargers

From Electrek:

As part of Germany’s new increased electric-vehicle incentive package, the country will require gas stations to offer EV charging. Details about the plan are not yet known, such as the timeline and type of required chargers. But EV advocates quickly praised the move as a boost to electric-car adoption.

BDEW, Germany’s association for energy and water industries, believes that at least 70,000 charging stations and 7,000 fast-charging stations are required to achieve a mass market for EVs in the country. BDEW reports that there are currently about 28,000 stations in Germany.

According to Reuters, electric cars made up only 1.8% of new passenger car registrations last year in Germany, with diesel and petrol cars accounting for 32% and 59.2%, respectively.

I think I agree with Electrek's opinion of this news:

We’re not sold on the idea that gas stations are the best location for EV charging, especially if Level 2, 240-volt charging stations are used. On the other hand, petrol stations situated along expressways and equipped with ultra-fast EV charging make more sense.

Look at where Tesla and Electrify America, among others, are locating quick-charging stations: near amenities, like shopping centers, hotels, and restaurants, where you might want to hang out for 30 minutes.

A 240-volt charging station that adds about 25 to 30 miles in an hour is definitely not the right choice for a gas station. That said, many German gas stations have a level of amenities not offered in the US. Moreover, the visibility of seeing EVs plugged in sends a message that charging is abundant, and range is not an issue.

The decision to require every single gas station to offer EV charging is a little odd. It applies an outdated combustion-oriented frame of mind to new technology. The sentiment is great, but let’s hope the details get sensibly worked out when it comes to implementation.

Maybe Germany has more gas stations with amenities where people theoretically could hang around than in the US, but that doesn't mean people will want to hang around, and still there are all the other gas stations without much in the way of amenities. Ironically, the costs of installation might actually close down some stations that were on the edge of solvency, and I expect there will be more of them shutting down over time. The infrastructure for ICE vehicles will get spotty, and is unlikely to be supported in many places just by adding EV chargers.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

A low-key protest

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Good Intentions

To be honest, and Eli is always honest, good intentions slip away when one is sleeping through a lockdown, one day like another, and another and another and one simply stays in bed and does not visit Rabett Run muchly

However to continue where we left off, Eli has come across a a rather nice way of showing how absorption of thermal radiation in the atmosphere warms the surface.

Start with the simplest case the surface of an Earth whose atmosphere does not absorb infrared radiation. Solar energy q falling on the surface warms it until the surface can radiate an equal amount of energy. The temperature at which this happens is given by the Stefan-Boltzman equation.

Ok, this is a bit simplified, no albedo, all the energy is absorbed and none reflected and the emissivity of the surface is unity, no view factor, but that can be added back in later, here all Eli wants to do is establish the principle.

What would happen if we added two absorbing layers between the surface and space

Since the heat, the net thermal energy passing between each layer has to be the same as the heat going into the surface, q, there are three equations. At the top, the heat, being radiated to space is just the same as the heat injected at the bottom, and is given by σT24

Between the first and second layer the same amount of heat, q, is transferred. In this case, q is the net difference between the thermal energy transferred upwards as shown by the blue arrow and the backradiation from the top layer shown by the orange arrow. Note that at the top the backradiation equals the radiation emitted to space which in turn is equal to the radiation absorbed at the bottom. Conservation of energy and all that.

At the bottom, the heat transferred between the surface and the first layer is also q, but in this case the difference is between the upwards thermal radiation from the surface, σT04 and the backradiation from the first layer σT14

Three equation, add them up, and you get that 3q = σT04, solve for T0 and compare to the result with only a surface. The temperature of the surface is warmer by a factor of 31/4 or if you want numbers about 1.3.

By inspection (instructor speak for do the work) if you had N layers the surface would warm by a factor of  N1/4 while the input and output of heat from the system remains constant. 

Vacuum ovens use this principle with multiple heat shields to slow the transfer of heat from the inside to the outside and that is where Eli first came across them when he was but a little guy building his own systems. (not nearly as neat as this one). Looking closely there are about 7 layers to the cake here.

There are a lot of discussions on line of one layer energy balance models for the Earth's atmosphere which explicitly include emissivity and albedo, coming up with an effective emissivity of about 0,77 across the entire IR spectrum, but the multilayer POV puts paid to the argument that backradiation can't make the surface warmer

Sunday, May 10, 2020

VPOTUS needs to be ready for 2028, and why Eric Levitz is wrong

My February 2019 post saying "please not Bernie or Biden" for the Democratic nomination was less than completely successful in determining national politics. My subsequent support for Warren for president also didn't do so well. Now, as I'm seeing Warren ranked highest among Democratic preferences for Vice President, I'm yet again disagreeing with my fellow Democrats

The catalyst for this post was NYMag's Eric Levitz using some criteria for Biden's Veep selection that I don't think are very useful. Maybe most important is the one that he overlooked - that the VPOTUS could be needed to run for a first  term in 2028. The assumption that Biden is at most a one-term president, although possible, isn't guaranteed. Instead I'm guessing that if he wins and if things seem reasonably good in 2024, and if to public appearances he seems healthy (we won't know the reality because we tolerate complete obfuscation for presidential health) then Biden's running in 2024. The Veep chosen this summer needs to be ready to run in 2028.

While Warren's not as old as Bernie and Biden, she's up there already, and she'll be their age in 2028. There's no reason for Democrats to take on this age disadvantage. Warren will make a fine Cabinet member if Biden wins, and can consider running in 2024 if he doesn't run again, but VPOTUS should go to someone else. Worth considering also that whoever's Veep may have a reason not to run in 2028, like Biden did in 2016. Using up the Vice President slot for someone who will be 82 when she'd run for a first term in 2032 is a mistake.

So, going through Levitz's criteria, we have first, readiness to be a good president tomorrow. Well yes in general the VP should be capable of being a good president but that person doesn't have to have the same experience we'd want in the president. Barring some real bad luck, the veep will have months to years of experience serving in the Biden administration getting ready to take over. The most important thing is whether the VP helps defeat Trump, and second whether the person is good material for a future presidential campaign. Some experience is crucial, but virtually any viable Democratic VP candidate will be far more qualified than Trump was.

Second, the candidate shouldn't cost a Senate seat. I kind of agree, although I would trade a Senate seat for the presidency if the VP could really help. Still, this is probably his least objectionable criterion.

Third is that the candidate would be ready to run only in 2024, which is wrong for reasons discussed above.

Fourth is to help Biden politically, which is only wrong in that Levitz thinks the VP won't help and therefore says this criterion is unimportant compared to others. While that's generally been true in past elections, I think it's wrong as to individual states.

A popular governor in a swing state, and that's you Gretchen Whitmer, could move several percent of the vote. Levitz is wrong to dismiss her as too inexperienced. I'll agree that it would be better if she had more experience, but still she has years of state legislative experience before her two years so far as governor, and she'll get more experience as VP before becoming or running for president.

In general, choose a popular, smart, and not-too-elderly woman politician from a swing state (including Stacey Abrams and Georgia in that catergory), and Biden will do fine.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Babies, bathwater and Planet Human

So many are dunking so well on Michael Moore's misbegotten Planet Human video on YouTube that it hardly needs my help. Two good places to look are Ketan Joshi, covering how outdated and/or wrong all the information is in the documentary, and Climate Crocks, summarizing and linking to what everyone else has found wrong with it (see also GetEnergySmartNow for even more).

I'll just add three things I haven't seen elsewhere (maybe I just missed it):

1. What's wrong with talking about ideology? People are wrestling with the facts and non-facts of the video when those issues aren't what drove its creation. Just like Naomi Klein with her book, the video's creators are strongly opposed to capitalism - definitely opposed to American capitalism, probably opposed to the European version too. They believe that this capitalism can't make things better in general, and therefore can't solve climate change in particular. When you have massively decreased prices for solar, wind, and storage, that raises the prospect that we don't necessarily have to overthrow capitalism to fix the climate - so if your real mission is overthrow capitalism, then you must deny that renewables and storage actually work.

There's nothing wrong with critiquing capitalism, especially American capitalism and how far it's deviated from free market ideals, but you have to start from the same basis in facts. The video is starting from a basis in ideology and being selective with the facts.

Moving along now to the babies and bathwater;

2. Biomass energy isn't innately wrong, and we should hope it works out. Most of the critiques I've read just shrug at biomass issues and then move on to wind and solar. Like people interviewed in the video, I probably should know more about biomass than I do. I can say that just as it's appropriate to use land to grow food, I think it could be appropriate to use land to grow energy. The concept isn't innately wrong, so it's a matter of how it's done (and I recognize there are lots of problems, particularly with corn ethanol).

I'll also add that not all forests are created (ok, made) equal. It is criminal to cut down old-growth, primary forest to make wood chips, or really to cut down that forest for any reason. Much of the world's forests though are second-growth and plantation monocrop forests. Quick-growing, small-diameter trees from the American South are used for plywood and used for biomass, and I don't know why the former is okay but not the latter. Some, maybe most second-growth forests should be allowed to age, but that doesn't mean every tree plantation is sacred. Other crops like switch grass and algae also remain (distant) possibilities. Finally regarding biomass, there are only limited possibilities of negative carbon emissions, and biomass plus carbon capture is one of them, so we should hope it works out.

3. We need an "antiracists for population control" movement. It is extremely unfortunate that racists love them some population control. If you consider Somalia and the problems it has, the fact that its population will be significantly larger in 20 years doesn't rank high on the list. Drill down a level deeper though and the average mother in rural developing nations generally wants smaller families where she can devote more resources to each child and to herself, so on an antiracist level, population control is relevant and empowering. Looking to broader global issues, it is rich White people (and some East Asian countries) that have the giant ecological footprint that most need population control.

I think people who can't stand the racists and are turned off by the some of the blindness of others in the population control movement are missing the need to get involved and redirect the effort.

So in conclusion, yeah, not a good video. One tip if you're going to watch it is to watch at 1.25 or 1.5 times speed, saving some time and skimming through the emotional manipulation sections. Also an effortless refutation by Bill McKibben of what could be fairly described as lies made about him in the video.

UPDATE: maybe too trivial to add this, but I'm doing it anyway - the solar panels on the Mars rovers didn't cost a $1 million per square inch. I couldn't find their exact dimensions, but I do know the primary mission cost about $400 million and the panels are far larger than 400 square inches, maybe more than twice that size. I'm sure installation and testing was extremely expensive but I doubt the panels themselves cost more than five figures. (UPDATE 2: A Siegel tracks it down in the comments, the panels were just over 2000 square inches.) Others have pointed out that on Earth, PV is far more efficient and cheaper than the system that the video cherrypicked.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Yet another new puzzler

Eli has always been fond of puzzlers, and it is well past time for a new one, the answer to which not only is useful for Twitterati, but also for climate modeling.  Everybunny has seen the atmospheric absorption spectrum that Robert Rhode put together years ago elaborating on earlier versions in Goody and Yung

This figure shows the absorption bands in the Earth's atmosphere (middle panel) and the effect that this has on both solar radiation and upgoing thermal radiation (top panel). Individual absorption spectrum for major greenhouse gases plus Rayleigh scattering are shown in the lower panel. (R. Rhode w. a bit of remixing)
Ask anybunny, or at least the ones into denial of climate change and they will point to Robert's figure and tell you that the CO2 absorption at 14.7 μ is overlapped by water vapor absorption so limiting CO2 will only have a small effect on the greenhouse effect, after all, water vapor accounts for 95% of the greenhouse effect.  Ask Gavin and you get something not so different
 Thus the effect of water vapour and clouds is between 66 and 85% – the range being due to the spectral overlaps with the other absorbers. These calculations were done with the GISS GCM radiation code, which matches line-by-line codes to about 10% – but the numbers are very similar to Ramanathan and Coakley (1978), and so probably aren’t too far off what you would get with any decent radiation code. I’ll get to ‘c)’ below….
Eli, being a RTFM type as well as a jackleg molecular spectroscopist, or in this case a CTFT type has known for a long time that the overlaps between CO2 and water vapor are not important (clouds being a whole different thing)

So what is going on here.  Even though there is very little overlap, why does everybunny think there is a lot, and how does the answer affect how one thinks about the greenhouse effect and the relative importance of various atmospheric components.

The answer which will take several posts to reach is, well Eli is thinking hard about coming out of retirement and writing a paper about it. It provides a different and better way of calculating the greenhouse warming potential of gases.