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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Priorites, priorities

"Fears were raised that green energy concerns were prioritised ahead of safety as it emerged that cladding used to make the building more sustainable could have accelerated the fire."  This is from an article about the Glenfell Tower fire, by the UK Telegraph

One of the great things about sovereignty is that people cannot just sue you for every little catastrophic disaster.  The great thing about theoretical science is you are not responsible for anything significant enough to be sued for when you are off a touch.

About five people in Michigan are being indited for involuntary manslaughter for the spike in Legionnaire's at a hospital with water supplied by Flint, Michigan's water plant. 

Just for grins, imagine you are a politician that promoted renewable energy and you ignored on opinion by one advisor that mentioned a power outage could cause about 90 deaths and that your project increased the odds of a prolonged outage by 100% or so.  Small odds, but thanks to over hyping to get one's way, people use the 100% or double the chance, instead of providing actual probability and uncertainty. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

It saves lives -

After a bit of a blog issue, it is the US withdrawal from the Paris Accord. 

Arab Spring was related in part to energy price spikes that were a result of climate policy decisions that were not all that well thought out.  When a nation the size of the US or a confederation of nations like the EU make policy decisions that impact food and energy costs, the global ripple effect can be disastrous. The coup in Honduras was related to US efforts to get Honduras to increase palm oil plantation sizes and increase hydro-electric production. Bio-diesel tends to increase NOx emissions and policy that focus on CO2 instead of all emissions is creating air quality problems in several EU nations.

When you consider US states as independent states, the impact of policy is reduced while individual states pursue their own best environmental outcomes.  When the US sets policy the world tends adjust but when California sets policy, most of the world yawns.

The Trump election highlighted the Urban versus Rural divide in the US which should also highlight the different approaches available to Urban and Rural environmental policy.  Wood and biomass energy where there is low population density is viable, but in Urban areas, things like district heating and possibly cooling are a better approach.  Mass transit is only efficient when there are masses so that is not a Rural "solution."   All electric vehicles might solve issues in cities, but not where there might be a 50 mile commute just to visit a grocery.

Grow local, buy local, saves a great deal on transportation emissions which isn't much different than hire American, buy American.  In general, the "global" approach needs to die in favor of a local approach. 

North America produces about 7% of Mercury emissions, including natural emissions, while the majority is produce by "artisan" mining operations in third world countries.  Nearly half of "global" coal emissions are produced by third world residential and commercial use, and the impact of third world trash burning to salvage metals is a growing concern.

The world would benefit greatly from a return to standard clean air and water policy on a local scale with more nations and states minding their own business.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

More still at it - Equilibrium

After years of battling skeptics, you would think the climate change pundits would have a better source of boiler plate responses to commonly asked questions.  How valid is the assumption of equilibrium gets brought up fairly often.

Radiant equilibrium is what is being assumed.  This is Ein = Eout at the top of the atmosphere which is assumed to be approximately 20 kilometers in altitude.  The energy in is predominately short wave electromagnetic and the energy out is predominately long wave electromagnetic.   Since there is a constant flow of energy in and energy out, there is no assumption of thermodynamic equilibrium.

Ein is provided by an assumed constant power source, the Sun.  The solar "constant" is about 1361 +/- 50 Wm-2 over one year and 1361 +/-0.5 Wm-2 over a solar cycle of approximately 11 years.   Since Ein isn't completely constant, you need to define a period where the average of Ein over that time period would equal the average of Eout for the same period.

The current energy imbalance is ~ 0.6 +/- 0.4 Wm-2 or Ein = Eout + 0.6 +/- 0.4 Wm-2.    So there is an assumed radiant equilibrium that doesn't exist.   It is assumed that the imbalance is due to something, mainly greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by man.

Some assumptions have to be made with any complex system and the radiant equilibrium assumption is not a bad choice.  However, every assumption has the potential for error so it isn't a bad idea to revisit assumptions from time to time to determine how valid and useful they are.

Rosenthal et al. for example have done a great deal of paleo ocean research and found that ocean heat content varies on long time scales.  Since the oceans would absorb/release most of the imbalance, a preexisting imbalance would need to be considered to see how much impact it would have on ALL the calculations and add on assumptions related to the radiant equilibrium assumption.   Most of those would be small enough errors to ignore, but if the preexisting imbalance is 50% of the assumed mankind induced imbalance, that is more than enough to warrant some study.

To a lay person like myself, explaining the limits of an assumption would inspire more confidence in the person(s) using the assumptions to justify a trillion or so dollars worth of "mitigation" as opposed to adaption. 

Now there are other issues with radiant versus thermodynamic equilibrium.  The zeroth law isn't met, so assuming some average global surface temperature will always produce the require Eout is a bit of a stretch.    It is quite likely that a range of surface temperatures can produce the desired Eout since  the temperature range used to produce the average goes from ~-80C to +50 C and includes latent, convective and mechanical energy.    This can easily be an uncertainty of 0.3 C or roughly 1 Wm-2 which is nearly 1/3 of the total estimated man made forcing produced to date.

Unfortunately, the early estimates of "sensitivity" ignored these issues so all warming is assumed to be "forced" by changes in the radiant energy budget.  All of these potential errors would tend to reduce sensitivity much like estimates of transient climate sensitivity are currently indicating.    A fairly small group of climate scientists have rather meekly pointed out the trend in reduced sensitivity, but the more vocal advocates still highlight the increasingly less probable "fat tail" extreme range. 

To many, the math involved is a fun puzzle to ponder and they would like to see more debate over the most likely impact instead of horror stories about the least likely impact used to inspire political policy.   If climate scientists want to have less rehashing, they should expand their frequently asked questions list to include uncertainty that is friggin' obvious.