Great Data Visualisation: True Size of Africa

October 18, 2010

Look at this.  This is superb method to communicate complex data.  Many will be shocked at the true size of Africa despite having some familarity with the map of Africa.  From Flowing Data.

What’s the NY Times on About?

October 18, 2010

In their lead editorial in today’s web version (not sure what’s in the print edition):

“With one exception, none of the Republicans running for the Senate — including the 20 or so with a serious chance of winning — accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global warming.”

“repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy.”

It’s ok that they take a political position and oppose the Republicans in the upcoming elections.  But to use the two words “scientific consensus” in the same sentence shows they do not understand science at all. Sigh.  As said many times elsewhere, we need better media.


Cornerstones of CO2 and Greenhouse Effect Revisited

October 16, 2010

Professor Claes Johnson reminds us that the “three cornerstones of CO2 climate alarmism are Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius”.  Their discoveries in the 19th Century are often used to justify in the 20th century the worry about CO2 in our atmosphere and the impending warming caused by the greenhouse effect which is often then commented on as “something we’ve known for more than a 100 years” as a basis for accepting this.

Turns out these discoveries may not be all they are now reported to be.

Professor Johnson has gone back and looked at these three scientists original papers on the subjects:

Fourier  Johnson concludes: “We see that Fourier presents a simplistic theory of a glasshouse with, 1st, blocking of convection and, 2d, radiative heating. Fourier combines this with confused ideas of heating from the interior of the earth and all the stars. No mathematical formulas are presented, only vague ideas in words. The step from Saussure’s little experiment to the Earth with atmosphere is immense.”

Arrhenius where Johnson concludes “the model used is way too simplistic and cannot tell anything about global temperature and its dependence on CO2.”

Tyndall where Johnson concludes: “But to show scientifically that a small cause will have a substantial effect requires a precise model so that the small cause can be distinguished from other small or big causes. In climate science this model is lacking, and therefore Tyndall’s conjecture remains to be demonstrated.”

As mentioned in a previous posting, I’m going to crack open my thermodynamics books.  Something here is waiting to be understood a bit better.

Jerry Pournelle on Global Temperature, CO2, etc.

October 15, 2010

Jerry Pournelle continues to write eloquently.  He’s famous for his articles in Byte Magazine, science fiction writing.  He’s also has long experience in the US space programme.  He understands science, technology, and politics.

See his recent posting where he comments on the

  • the declared accuracy of the record of global temperature change to tenths of a degree [which not only he cannot understand, he can find nobody who does understand other than to point him to thick and indecipherable papers and told “figure it out yourself”].
  • the presentation of the small rise of CO2 in the atmosphere where the graph’s scale are probably misleading [deliberately? Read “How to Lie with Statistics”].
  • He points out “We need to allocate money to the CO2 problem: the question is the urgency. Have we a lot of time or not much time?”.  [We are rushing to action at great expense involve trillions and trillions and millions of lives at stake, yet we don’t really know that much about CO2 in the atmosphere nor the temperature record].

His final point is telling: “I have focused on data collection operations and accuracies because those who believe we ought to be alarmed use tenth of a degree changes as their evidence.”

Innovation Helped Rescue the Miners

October 15, 2010

This whole aspect of the store (except for the drilling technology) escaped me during the rescue episode. See Daniel Henninger’s article in the Wall Street Journal.  New and innovative technology and products from around the world saved the miners:

  • Center Rock drill from Center Rock Inc (Berlin, Pennsylvania, USA)
  • Drill Rig from Schramm Inc. (West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA)
  • Samsung (Japan) cell phones
  • Socks with copper fiber to consume bacteria and minimise oder and infection (Virginia, USA)
  • Fibre Optic cables (Japan)
  • Sunglasses (California)
  • …. plus so much more

We should learn from this, which is the point of the WSJ article.

Queen Cancels Christmas Party. How is this a good idea?

October 14, 2010

The Sun reports (see that the Queen has cancelled the annual staff Christmas Party.  They said that a Buckingham Palace spokesman said “Given the current economic climate it was thought that it was appropriate for the Household to show restraint.”  The party usually costs about £50,000.

The Queen surely has this money.  By not spending this money, the Queen keeps the money–probably in her bank account.  By not spending £50k, service companies and people working for those service companies do not get the opportunity to provide those services in return for being paid.  That’s probably a lot of of people who now have both reduced income and more free time on their hands.  This decreases government tax revenue (income tax and VAT on the purchases) and perhaps contributes to more redundancy (layoffs)?

Explain to me again why the Queen not spending £50k is a good idea?

Report on “Climate Change: The Solutions” by Dr. David Reay

October 13, 2010

Last evening I had the opportunity attend another session at the University of Edinburgh in their “Our Changing World” series where Dr. David Reay spoke on “Climate Change: The Solutions”.  See for the event’s web page and eventually the video.  Dr. Reay is Programme Director of the MSc in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr. Reay was very upbeat.  His presentation was exclusively about presenting the opportunities for tackling the crisis of climate change.  He’s very confident that “we can do it.”  He’s enthused about society’s attitude–especially students–to face up to the challenges and make the fundamental changes that are required.  He also sees great possibilities with mankind’s command on technology to do things like geo-engineering to fix the problem.  “We can do something.”

Dr. Reay accepts that the climate has always changed and that there has always been during mankind’s time on this planet a varying climate and extreme weather.  He reminded us that humans know how to adapt.  However, he believes that is no longer sufficient to adapt to the rapid onset of climate change (global warming) projected by the IPCC.

To justify the conclusion of the world in peril was to show the measurements of CO2 at Mauna Loa (Hawaii). His graph showed CO2 increase, as “downloaded yesterday”. His y-axis was from 378 to 390 ppm and the x-axis went from 2006 to 2001.  This made the increase in CO2 look to be “alarming” with a trend line of almost 45-degrees upward.  He said that since we know for more than a hundred years that CO2 is a green house gas, it obviously is a problem, he said.  He also showed IPPC temperature forecasts and mentioned numerous times IPPC reports as basis for all thinking of future climate change.

Dr. Reay, while accepting that adaption is part of the solution, said that mitigations are much more important and much more urgently required.  He offers as solutions:

  • Reduce how much CO2 gets into the atmosphere by changing land use practices.
  • Reducing CO2 from generation of electricity shows the biggest possibility of reducing CO2 emissions because there are so many more efficient ways to generate electricity, e.g. CHP (Combined Heat and Power) gas-powered turbines.
  • Renewable energy (hydroelectric, wind, wave, and current).  He pointed out  that Scotland is “blessed” with lots of coastline to produce this renewable energy. Dr. Reay mentioned how he has “plastered” his home with solar panels and because of the new feed-in tarrif he, like 6,000 other homeowners in the UK, can make money by selling electricity back to the power companies.  He acknowledged he isn’t making any money recently because the sun doesn’t shine so much.  Dr. Reay said nuclear power as not a viable solution since it is not carbon free due to the significant carbon cost of mining the uranium.
  • Land use changes, e.g. REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and degregation)
  • Getting more efficiency from the “built environment” (reduced energy consumption by better designs and insulation)

However, Dr. Reay’s position is that “if we don’t mitigate climate change, and if we don’t have the ability to adapt to rapid climate change, then we have implement geo-engineering solutions”. He discussed three approaches:

  1. Change the energy received from the sun [by putting big mirrors into space at the Lagrangian point to reflect sunlight, or put a lot of dust into space to stop sunlight’s energy reaching the earth.
  2. Change the amount of energy reflected (albedo) [by releasing billions of balloons into the stratosphers, increasing sulphate aerosols in the stratosphere, etc.  We know this would work as we have data from the Mt. Pinatubo 1991 volcanic eruption.  Other way would be to add sea salt spray to the atmosphere to make “whiter clouds”.]
  3. Change the amount of heat absorbed by the atmosphere [by using oceanic iron and macronutrient supply to grow algae blooms in the sea; artificial trees which draw the carbon out of the atmosphere to be put into carbon storage, add “biochar”, manufactured as part of energy production and thus drawing off carbon, to soils;  bio fuels and “super bugs” created from genetic engineering designed to draw out CO2 from the atmosphere].

He summarised his optimism by saying:

  • researchers are working on the feedbacks and uncertainties and the impacts of future climate change
  • we’re getting better at monitoring, e.g. deforestation
  • there are a myriad of technologies–old and new–that can work.
  • need political leadership (he showed a photograph of President Obama at this point), a global climate deal, and probably geo-engineering.
  • have to show the way forward to the third world so that they don’t repeat “our mistakes” [which means, I think, out putting CO2 into the atmosphere].

He closed the formal presentation with a demonstration of his optimism by showing a video from YouTube.  I tried to correctly capture the URL, but failed.  If I get it later, I will update this posting.  [The video was all “arty” and focused on how we must do something now for the benefit of our children. Nothing of any scientific or technical substance.]

While the presentation was clearly up-beat and optimistic, I was troubled by a number of issues:

  • The starting point on all this is: is it a “fact” or a “hypothesis” that the world on on the edge of runaway climate change (global warming)?  For Dr. Reay and others a this series of Our Changing World lecture series, it appears to be a fact.  [I’m not so sure.  Without this starting point being more “certain”, is the “precautionary principal” our only justification in support of this massive mankind disruption advocated and planned for?]
  • Lots of talk about “impacts” of climate change (extreme weather, higher/debilitating temperatures, great droughts and floods, sea level rise, etc.) but no mention of the “risk”.[ Risk discussion must include an added dimension of “probability”.  Given, as stated above it is a “fact”, then I guess the assumption is that the probability of all this is considered 100%.  However, the earth seems to be be cooling over the period since the IPPC became active, the Arctic ice is not melting, and we are seeing a reduction in extreme weather as evidenced by hurricanes].
  • Who has the right to “geo-engineer” the planet? Who pushes to switch to turn it on? And how will we detect when it is time to do so?  [We have so much trouble now agreeing the temperature of the earth and if current weather events are signs of climate change or not.]
  • Design of future geo-engineering solutions will require climate models which can reliably compute the impact/probablity (expressed as an “opportunity” not risk) of the solution’s effectiveness [yet after years of work we have climate models that do not validate against the actual temperature changes and and validate only against other model’s results]. Or will be just “guess” the forecast efficacy?
  • Dr. Reay said in the Q&A that the politicians just need to react. They just have to accept that the case for AGW, as does President Obama, is overwhelming and that we need to “do something”.  He said that it would be disastrous if Sara Palin was elected President. [Just what is the “overwhelming evidence” that AGW is such a big risk and how do we know that anything we do can actually make a difference?  Is the proposed cost commensurate with risk and what alternatives were considered?  I need more than a graph of CO2 at Mauna Loa].