Okay, I put my foot in it by pointing out the economic absurdities of “green-energy”. I tried to keep the discussion focused on the simple absurdity of using cheap sources of energy to produce more expensive sources of energy but some people, understandably I suppose, can’t wrap their heads around economic discussions about energy without getting confused about the costs and impact associated with “pollution”. The problem with economic analysis of pollution is that, unlike the cost of energy, “pollution” is very difficult to price correctly, maybe impossible. So when people who don’t understand economics or the cost of pollution get all wrapped around the axel about the “pollution” associated with an energy source, it’s hard and possibly pointless to try to keep the dialog “rational”. The mass hysteria surrounding fossil fuels has never ceased to mystify me especially when compared to ALL the forms of pollution that we are exposed to that are genuinely toxic, people are mysteriously obsessed with CO2 and greenhouse gases.
Here’s one of my favorites;
Really, you’re worried about the CO2 when coal plants spew radioactive waste into the atmosphere? The idea that CO2 gas is a form of pollution is simply inexcusably absurd. A depressing combination of poor science education and a lack of critical thinking skills seems to have produced a population of people who are easily led to zealously accept that common biological compounds found in trace quantities in our atmosphere are causing “Global Warming”… recently renamed “Climate Change” to avoid the inconvenient truth that no “warming” has been occurring for over a decade. Rather than trying to dissuade people who have adopted a world view akin to a new form of religion about this issue, I thought instead that I might try to lead a sort of collective critical thinking exercise to see if I can teach others to reason for themselves instead of embracing and perpetuating obviously silly ideas.
I’ve seen so many of these silly climate charts in the media and they all engage in the same apparently effective visual lie.
Here’s one of my favorites. I spent way too much time in physics classes getting my graphs corrected by picky graduate students to NOT know that scientists all absolutely know how to authentically graph data… so when I see them producing graphs like this, I can’t help thinking about the grade I would have gotten for turning this in to my physics professor.
Arbitrary sample period taken
Anomalies resulting from a change of instrumentation or measurement method not indicated
Zero baseline chosen arbitrarily
Two unrelated dimensions graphed against each other at arbitrary scales
No qualification of the error in measurement, presumably the gray area.
The most glaring feature of these graphs is the extreme stretching of the Y axis necessary to spread tiny fractional temperature fluctuations into visually extreme ones. If you examined the surface of a cue ball with a microscope it might LOOK like the cascade mountain range but those tiny deviations would be irrelevant to what we would experience as a completely smooth polished object. My physics professor would have asked me WHY is this choice of a highly amplified temperature scale the relevant one?
An equally relevant graph of the same data scaled to clearly illustrate how STABLE the temperature is over time… same graph, same data
Why not graph the data like this? Same data… also an arbitrary scale. Generally the choice of a scale in a scientific graph is linked to some statistical relevance such as the known variation in the Earth’s temperature range and its deviation from statistical normality. Do we know the Earth’s temperature range? No, not by any consistent form of measurement, we have to stitch together various methods of guessing its temperature over long geological periods and estimate the error in those methods. This graph appears to combine thermometer measured data captured beginning in 1902 with data about earlier periods approximated by other methods. Note that the change in measurement method DIRECTLY corresponds to an apparent sudden leap in measured temperature. Does anybody really believe that steam powered locomotives burning wood and coal in this era were responsible for the sudden LEAP in global temperatures? Clearly a change in the way we decided to measure temperature might have been responsible for this deviation.
In this case a scientist might observe that the methods used to estimate earlier temperatures were error prone as apparently illustrated by the gray region of the graph associated with estimated rather than measured temperature changes. Note that the ERROR of the estimated temperatures is WITHIN the range of the current measured temperatures. Again a scientist might conclude that the introduction of modern, more systematic direct temperature measurement technologies had informed us about how far off our earlier temperature estimates had been and concluded that the previous temperature approximations could now reasonably be raised to correspond to the MEASURED error in the accuracy of their approximation methods. Instead we are asked to conclude that steam trains kicked off a MASSIVE leap in global temperature that all modern human activity is responsible for to this day.
…not shockingly when we look at graphs using THE SAME measurement and approximation methodology we see less dramatic results… also amplified with the use of arbitrary scale.
Does anybody know what is relevant about the selection of 1979 as a start date for this and many global climate graphs? This was the era where we launched our first global weather satellites and the first time human beings actually got a holistic view of our atmosphere. Does anybody remember the global climate disaster that we “discovered”’ the minute we launched these satellites? That’s right, the OZONE HOLE over Antarctica. The very first view of our ozone layer from space caused us to conclude that we were destroying our atmosphere because we saw a “hole” the first time we looked.
So the window of time during which we have a “consistent” measurement of our global temperature is about 30 years. On a geological scale this is like watching the first fraction of a second of the movie Titanic and trying to forecast the movie’s plot from it. The data we have on global temperature measured by the same means shows… boringly no statistically significant “change” in temperature over time, it has actually been trending cooler during the 21st century. While the rate of CO2 we have been dumping into the atmosphere has been accelerating since the industrial era the rate of temperature “change” has been relatively flat or declining. (Unlike people who just believe the nonsense they read in the media, I actually downloaded the publicly available NOAH satellite data and model it myself in Excel and Mathematica, sure enough, nothing dramatic to be found) Interestingly NOAH used to provide a great free Java based web application for analyzing their satellite data which they regrettably took down during the peak of the “Climate Change” craze. Who needs PhD’s when you can think for yourself right?
Fortunately we don’t need to wait a thousand years to collect enough climate data to know if CO2 actually causes global warming… we already have that data because the Earth’s atmospheric CO2 levels are near the lowest they have been at any time in the planets history. We can look at the Earth’s climate and temperature at any point in history when CO2 levels were much higher than they are today. Unlike the tiny sample of climate data available to us during modern times, the Earth’s temperature actually varied as much as 22 degrees and CO2 levels fluctuated by orders of magnitude over life’s history. Here is a graph of the Earth’s temperature and CO2 levels over the last four interglacial periods;
Note that CO2 levels spike dramatically every interglacial period as a result of the glaciers melting and exposing biologically active land and water. Here’s a similar graph over 600 million years;
So… the Earth’s average temperature has remained a comfortable 22 degree Celsius consistently over the last 600 million years except for massive ice ages, despite atmospheric CO2 levels previously being almost 20 times present levels. The present era is actually both the coldest and lowest CO2 levels the planet has ever experienced. Where did all the CO2 in the atmosphere go? It precipitated out due to organic activity, we call all that CO2 extracted from the sky by plant life “fossil fuel”. What puts the CO2 back in the sky during warm periods? Animals… like us… burning organic matter for energy.
Note from the second graph that our present interglacial period of relative warmth is coming to an end which over the next few thousand years will result in a precipitous DECLINE in sea levels and the Earth becoming consumed by glaciers miles thick as far South as Florida and California as well as a wholesale wipeout of the entire climate as we know it and possibly civilization as we know it. Since this scenario actually has an extremely well documented and established history to it, we’d better pray that there is something human beings can “pollute” the sky with that may stave off this ultimate consumption in ice… unfortunately it appears obvious that this substance will NOT be CO2.
Here are a few C02 fun facts to ponder. The Earth’s atmospheric composition is as follows;
CO2 is a trace element in the atmosphere measured in parts per million, H2O is ALSO a greenhouse gas with four times the heat trapping properties of CO2 per molecule, also spewed into the atmosphere by human activity, also an exhaust byproduct of burning fossil fuels, is 4% of the atmosphere and responsible for 95%+ of measured greenhouse heat retention. In other words we know CO2’s contribution to global warming IF it existed would be insignificant. Whatever motives people, politicians and scientists may have for trying to convince us that CO2 is a “pollutant”… usually suspiciously linked to arguments for more taxation on energy production, the evidence is very clear that having a lot of the stuff in our atmosphere ranks somewhere between harmless and beneficial, which hardly makes it worthy of labeling a “pollutant” while WATER is, by the same measures, WORSE for the environment.
What troubles me about these debates is that the publicly dispensed “science” has clearly been manipulated and the political claims about the dire consequences of fossil fuel consumption seems to originate with politicians and their associated researchers. Their motives for purveying this nonsense is understandable but people’s willingness to embrace it and even promote it is hard to fathom given that the prescription for “curing” the imagined problem is usually taxation and regulation. The people who believe these things generally seem to mistakenly believe that somebody other than themselves will be paying these taxes, which is absurd as well as their faith that driving coal powered cars, consuming inefficiently produced power and eating inefficiently grown organic crops somehow equates to LESS energy consumption and waste rather than MORE. Shake it off people, wake up and operate your minds a little independently!
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence“
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