23 April, 2016

Rationally Optimistic


22/04/16

Happy Earth Day

Never Trust The Doom-Mongers


 

Never Trust The Doom-Mongers: Earth Day Predictions That Were All Wrong
The Daily Caller, 22 April 2016

Andrew Follett

Environmentalists truly believed and predicted that the planet was doomed during the first Earth Day in 1970, unless drastic actions were taken to save it. Humanity never quite got around to that drastic action, but environmentalists still recall the first Earth Day fondly and hold many of the predictions in high regard.

So this Earth Day, The Daily Caller News Foundation takes a look at predictions made by environmentalists around the original Earth Day in 1970 to see how they’ve held up.

Have any of these dire predictions come true? No, but that hasn’t stopped environmentalists from worrying. From predicting the end of civilization to classic worries about peak oil, here are seven green predictions that were just flat out wrong.

1: “Civilization Will End Within 15 or 30 Years.”

Harvard biologist Dr. George Wald warned shortly before the first Earth Day in 1970 that civilization would soon end “unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” Three years before his projection, Wald was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Wald was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race. He even flew to Moscow at one point to advise the leader of the Soviet Union on environmental policy.

Despite his assistance to a communist government, civilization still exists. The percentage of Americans who are concerned about environmental threats has fallen as civilization failed to end by environmental catastrophe.

2: “100-200 Million People Per Year Will Be Starving to Death During the Next Ten Years.”

Stanford professor Dr. Paul Ehrlich declared in April 1970 that mass starvation was imminent. His dire predictions failed to materialize as the number of people living in poverty has significantly declined and the amount of food per person has steadily increased, despite population growth. The world’s Gross Domestic Product per person has immeasurably increased despite increases in population.

Ehrlich is largely responsible for this view, having co-published “The Population Bomb” with The Sierra Club in 1968. The book made a number of claims including that millions of humans would starve to death in the 1970s and 1980s, mass famines would sweep England leading to the country’s demise, and that ecological destruction would devastate the planet causing the collapse of civilization.

3: “Population Will Inevitably and Completely Outstrip Whatever Small Increases in Food Supplies We Make.”

Paul Ehrlich also made the above claim in 1970, shortly before an agricultural revolution that caused the world’s food supply to rapidly increase.

Ehrlich has consistently failed to revise his predictions when confronted with the fact that they did not occur, stating in 2009 that “perhaps the most serious flaw in The Bomb was that it was much too optimistic about the future.”

4: “Demographers Agree Almost Unanimously … Thirty Years From Now, the Entire World … Will Be in Famine.”

Environmentalists in 1970 truly believed in a scientific consensus predicting global famine due to population growth in the developing world, especially in India.

“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions,” Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, said in a 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.”By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”

India, where the famines were supposed to begin, recently became one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural products and food supply per person in the country has drastically increased in recent years. In fact, the number of people in every country listed by Gunter has risen dramatically since 1970.

5: “In A Decade, Urban Dwellers Will Have to Wear Gas Masks to Survive Air Pollution.”

Life magazine stated in January 1970 that scientist had “solid experimental and theoretical evidence” to believe that “in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution … by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching Earth by one half.”

Despite the prediction, air quality has been improving worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Air pollution has also sharply declined in industrialized countries. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas environmentalists are worried about today, is odorless, invisible and harmless to humans in normal amounts.

6: “Childbearing [Will Be] A Punishable Crime Against Society, Unless the Parents Hold a Government License.”

David Brower, the first executive director of The Sierra Club made the above claim and went on to say that “[a]ll potential parents [should be] required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.” Brower was also essential in founding Friends of the Earth and the League Of Conservation Voters and much of the modern environmental movement.

Brower believed that most environmental problems were ultimately attributable to new technology that allowed humans to pass natural limits on population size. He famously stated before his death in 2000 that “all technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent” and repeatedly advocated for mandatory birth control.

Today, the only major government to ever get close to his vision has been China, which ended its one-child policy last October.

7: “By the Year 2000 … There Won’t Be Any More Crude Oil.”

On Earth Day in 1970 ecologist Kenneth Watt famously predicted that the world would run out of oil saying, “You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

Numerous academics like Watt predicted that American oil production peaked in 1970 and would gradually decline, likely causing a global economic meltdown. However, the successful application of massive hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, caused American oil production to come roaring back and there is currently too much oil on the market.

American oil and natural gas reserves are at their highest levels since 1972 and American oil production in 2014 was 80 percent higher than in 2008 thanks to fracking.

Furthermore, the U.S. now controls the world’s largest untapped oil reserve, the Green River Formation in Colorado. This formation alone contains up to 3 trillion barrels of untapped oil shale, half of which may be recoverable. That’s five and a half times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. This single geologic formation could contain more oil than the rest of the world’s proven reserves combined.

(H/T, Ronald Bailey at Reason and Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute).

 

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20 April, 2016

Cheap Energy-The single most important competitive factor.

Don Aiken Talks So Much Sense

DON AITKIN



Posted: 13 Apr 2016 01:58 PM PDT
The quotation in the title of this essay comes from something I noted down in 2010. It was part of a comment somewhere, and it carried the implication that even if you didn’t think AGW was a real problem there were good reasons to go down the alternative energy path. Why was alternative energy a good thing? Well, it was said to be ‘free’, would continue forever, and didn’t require the use of fossil fuels, which were not sustainable even if they weren’t bad for the planet.
I had a particular interest in solar energy, because the Australian Research Grants Committee (ARGC) had pushed considerable funding into a group at the University of New South Wales who were improving the efficiency of solar panels. I had used solar heating panels in the early 1980s to warm a swimming pool, and they were quite effective at that task. But these new solar cells were something else again, able to capture 40 per cent of the sun’s energy, which could then turned into electricity. I needed some ‘priorities’ to persuade government that the ARGC and later the Australian Research Council (ARC) should have more money, and solar energy was one of them.
I’m sure I added at the time that Australia was one of the countries that could benefit most from solar power, given the abundance of sunlight everywhere, especially in the inland areas. That was an argument that had some weight at the time. Most readers will know that the efficiency of the panels has improved since then, and that their price has also come down. Doesn’t that mean that the future is really going to be one of solar energy?
My answer is — at least at the moment — maybe, perhaps in the long run, but not in the foreseeable future. The two problems with solar power are storing it for later use, and garnering enough of it to make an appreciable difference to the needs of the electricity grid for constant and reliable electricity. If the whole world were to be powered by solar energy (assuming some kind of superior storage for evenings and cloudy days) you would need 500,000 square km of land devoted simply to the panels — an area the size of Spain. And you’d need more to provide the interconnections. Until these two problems are solved, solar energy will only be a small part of national grid systems.
In 2014, thirty years after solar cells had become practicable, the sources of electricity for the eastern Australian grid were: coal 73 per cent, natural gas 13 per cent, hydro 7 per cent, wind 4 per cent, rooftop solar 2 per cent and biomass 1 per cent). The rooftop solar panels wouldn’t be there at all were it not for substantial and continuing subsidies for their installation, and they are not suitable for every dwelling. In any case, the commercial and industrial uses of electricity outweigh those of domestic origin.
You will read from time to time how there are provinces in Germany that get 50 per cent of their power from alternative sources, and that on one day South Australia, which has little coal, managed to get an equivalent fraction of its power from alternative sources (wind and solar). In my judgment these results come from seeing what is happening through rose-tinted spectacles. In 2014 the whole alternative sector contributed just 30 per cent of Germany’s electricity needs, and 11 per cent of total energy needs. What is more, solar energy collection has probably reached a peak in Germany, whose power needs are greatest in winter, when the availability of solar power is at its lowest. In South Australia, the nearest supply of electricity from outside the State is Victoria, and there the source is the brown-coal power stations east of Melbourne. Brown coal is indeed the dirtiest of coals; it is used in Germany, too, because that is the chief coal available there.
It is not coincidental that after Denmark (which tries to rely on wind), Germany has the highest electricity prices in Europe, and that South Australia has the highest electricity prices in Australia. The aim of the subsidies to alternative energy is first to improve the efficiency of solar and wind as contributors to the grid, and eventually to make them competitive with fossil-fuel generation, so that coal will no longer be used to generate electricity. Why would we want to do that? Well, that is the AGW orthodoxy: if coal-fired power stations are closed, then there will be fewer greenhouse gas emissions and the planet will be saved. The earlier essays in this series suggest that the AGW scare has little validity, that coal is a useful and relatively cheap source of electricity, while burning it increases the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which all plants depend on for their food.
The ACT Government has spent a lot of money and effort on trying to make the national capital ‘carbon free’, at least in its use of electricity. To study what is being done there is to be embarrassed at the empty showmanship of what is nothing more than a political initiative, whose aim is to convince Canberra voters that they are doing something really worthwhile with their high electricity prices. In fact, all the ACT Government is doing is to increase the number of solar and wind-powered sources to a point where their total output would be something equivalent to the total electricity demand within the the national capital. But anyone who flicks a switch within Canberra will find that her power is still coming from the grid, at the ratio set out above, with coal leading the way at 73 per cent.
While I have some  leaning toward solar power, and would be perfectly happy for much more public funding of solar R&D (without subsidies for roof-top installation), I have virtually none  for wind turbines, unless you are a long way away from the grid and there is some useful wind much of the time. Both solar and wind are intermittent, which means that something else has to be available as a back-up all the time. Electricity grids are there to provide just  the right amount of electricity all the time as needs change. In winter where I live there is a sudden surge in demand for power around 5 pm, when it gets dark and a couple of hundred thousand households go into evening-meal mode. Grid operators know this, and are ready for it. In most Western grids, the back-up is a gas turbine, which can start producing power almost at once. The gas, of course, is a fossil fuel, a form of methane, which AGW scary people like to point to as the real devil. The need for back-up means that it would simply be impossible, with current knowledge, to have any large system solely powered by wind and solar. And the higher the proportion of alternative energy in the grid, the greater the need for greater back-up. It is a real, and at present quite unsolvable, problem.
Wind turbines have almost everything going against them. They are expensive, the CO2 already generated in making them is enormous, they require rare earth minerals which are in short supply, they kill birds, some people living near them hate the sounds they make, and no one would want one across the road. Their value in the grid is always grossly overstated by those who operate them or want to put them in. You will hear that a particular turbine installation will power 45,000 households. And it would, if it ran all the time at optimum speed. The real value is usually a quarter to a fifth of that stated. In my judgment, they are a waste of time, energy and money, and should be dismantled.
I could say all the above without reference to the positive value of carbon dioxide and the weakness of the AGW scare case. The world is not short of coal, natural gas or oil. But once governments start down a particular road, with goals, regulations and subsidies, it is very difficult for them to stop and change course. So many promises and quasi-promises have been made; so many companies have started up on the expectation that these conditions will continue forever; so many public servants have been employed to regulate the system; and so on. And of course such a large proportion of the electorate has been persuaded that all this is not only good for the planet, but effective and efficient as well.
It is none of those things.
Next: But aren’t 97 per cent of climate scientists sure that humans are causing global warming?
Further reading: There is a lot of useful stuff on the Internet, usually by engineers. You will also find lots of pro-alterntive-energy stuff, usually by people who want to sell you something, or industrial associations with the same intent. It is another of those matters that really hasn’t changed in the last few years, save that governments everywhere seem to be backing away from more subsidies. I have written a lot myself, which you can consult by going to the magnifying glass icon on the top right 0f the screen’s home page, and typing in ‘solar’ or ‘wind turbines’, or whatever you wish.

08 March, 2016

A Man Talking Sense on the Big Picture-Three NZ's

The NAB's February Agribusiness View contains an interesting article written by Simon Talbot, Chief Executive Office of the National Farmers’ Federation, noting that in 2014/15, farm gate income
increased by 8 per cent to $57 billion, and this is expected to rise to about $105 billion by 2030.

This prompted him to comment: "We need to establish the milestones that will enable agriculture
to double in size over the next 15 years.” He noted, however, that one of the biggest threats to
future growth is the lack of human capital.

“If we don’t attract the best people we’re going to struggle to realise our potential and, to do that,
we must make a shift from a drought mentality. Of course there are people who suffer terribly as a
result of drought and our hearts go out to them. The reality is that the vast majority of professional
farmers are engaged in highly productive, innovative agriculture and making good returns.

“People look at New Zealand and think how lucky they are to have such a benign climate, but one
thing the White Paper didn’t mention is that regarding prime agricultural land, Australia has the
equivalent of three New Zealands. We need to rebrand the industry to reflect that.”

Talbot believes these highly-productive areas should be given priority.“People have concerns about backing winners, but it’s not about supporting one area or another,it’s about thinking of ourselves as an agricultural nation and focusing on the most productive land first.

"At the moment, we’re treating agriculture as if the needs are the same across the country and
they’re clearly not. We’re very fortunate that Australia covers every climatic zone so we can grow
every kind of produce, but the different regions need to be managed in different ways.”

Talbot would like to see a deeper national conversation about Australian agriculture.
“For a long time we’ve been considered the poor cousin of other economic sectors, but that’s no
longer the case. Agriculture has the greatest uplift regarding generating wealth for the country and
I quite openly say we have some of the most productive farmers in the world.

"Now we need to listen to what the next generation of farmers wants and be ready to provide the
education and support they need.”

http://business.nab.com.au/agricultural-industry-receives-4bn-boost-15295/

03 March, 2016

Water-The Basics-From Viv Forbes

Water is essential for all life, and happily it is abundant on our blue watery planet.

However, salty oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface and contain 97% of Earth’s water. Salt water is great for ocean dwellers but not directly useful for most life on land. Another 2% of Earth’s water is tied up in ice caps, glaciers and permanent snow, leaving just 1% as land-based fresh water.

To sustain life on land, we need to conserve and make good use of this rare and elusive resource.

Luckily, our sun is a powerful nuclear-powered desalinisation plant. Every day, solar energy evaporates huge quantities of fresh water from the oceans. After a stop-off in the atmosphere, most of this water vapour is soon returned to earth as dew, rain, hail and snow – this is the great water cycle. Unfortunately about 70% of this precipitation falls directly back into the oceans and some is captured in frozen wastelands.

Much of the water that falls on land is collected in gullies, creeks and rivers and driven relentlessly by gravity back to the sea by the shortest possible route. Allowing this loss to happen is poor water management. The oceans are not short of water.

Some animals and plants have evolved techniques to maximise conservation of precious fresh water.

Some Australian frogs, on finding their water holes evaporating, will inflate their stomachs with water then bury themselves in a moist mud-walled cocoon to wait for the drought to break. Water buffalo and wild pigs make mud wallows to retain water in their private mud-baths, camels carry their own water supply and beavers build lots of dams.

Some plants have also evolved water saving techniques – bottle trees and desert cacti are filled with water, thirsty humans can even get a drink from the roots and trunks of some eucalypts and many plants produce drought/fire resistant seeds.

Every such natural water conservation or drought-proofing behaviour brings benefits for all surrounding plants and animals.

People have long recognised the importance of conserving fresh water – early settlers built their homes near the best waterholes on the creek and every homestead and shed had its corrugated iron tanks. Graziers built dams and weirs to retain surface water for stock (and fence-crashing wildlife), used contour ripping and good pasture management to retain moisture in soils, and drilled bores to get underground water. And sensible rules have evolved to protect the water rights of down-stream residents.

Rainfall is often a boom and bust affair. Much fresh water is delivered to the land surface suddenly in cyclones, storms and rain depressions. But “The Wet” is always followed by “The Dry”, and droughts and floods are normal climatic events. People who fail to store some of the flood must put up with the drought.

Greens should learn from the beavers. Strings of dams can moderate flood risk, as well as creating drought sanctuaries and secure water for graziers, towns, irrigators and wildlife. Modern cities could not survive without large water storages for drinking water, sanitation, gardens and factories.
Fresh water is also necessary to produce fresh food. We can have fresh milk, butter, cheese, meat, vegetables, nuts and fruit; or we can irrigate the oceans and import fresh food from more sensible countries. And without fresh water and fresh food, there will be no local food processing.

Those infected with the green religion believe we should waste our fresh water by allowing it all to return as quickly as possible to the salty seas. They fight to protect beaver dams and natural lakes, but persistently oppose human dams and lakes. Some even want existing dams destroyed, while wasting billions on energy-hungry desalination and sewerage re-treated plants, pumps and pipelines.

They also want to prohibit man’s production of two drought-defying atmospheric gases, both released by the burning of hydrocarbons – carbon dioxide which makes plants more drought tolerant, and water vapour which feeds the clouds and the rain.

Green water policies are un-sustainable, even suicidal.

Humans must copy the beavers and “Build more Dams”. And help the biosphere by burning more hydrocarbons.

25 February, 2016

Life-The Full Circle (For Men)

 
 
Life-The Full Circle

 

 

 

SUCCESS & MONEY..........

 

 

Growing up is a weird notion to wrap your mind around. As you go through life, your perspectives on almost everything will change. How you define success will change as well. Things that you thought were important at the age of 35 will be useless when you're 65. You may not realize it now, but everything will shift.

 

At age 4 success is not peeing in your pants.

 

 

 

At age 12 success is having friends.

 

 

 

At age 16 success is having a drivers license.

 

 

At age 20 success is having sex.

 

 

 

At age 35 success is having money.

 

 

 

 

At age 50 success is having money.

 

 

 

At age 60 success is having sex.

 

 

 

At age 70 success is having a drivers license.

 

 

 

At age 75 success is having friends.

 

 

 

At age 80 success is not peeing in your pants.

 

 

It all comes full circle, whether you like it or not.

 

 

Share this hilarious truth about life with others.

 

 

May you always have

Love to Share,

Health to Spare, and

Friends who Care.....

 

 

 

 

23 February, 2016

Don Aitken

 I am not a scientist, but I can read! There are people whose opinions I value and there are those who are clearly motivated by being rent seekers feeding off the "climate change/global warming industry". The sceptics are accused of being in the pay of "big oil" and the like. There is little comment on all those organisations/institutions who are in the pay of "big government", including thousands of climate scientists.
Don Aitken, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Canberra is amongst those I admire, others are Freeman Dyson, Nigel Lawson, James Spooner, Lord Fellowes, Lord Ridley, Deepak Lal, Ross McKittrick, Richard Lindzen and John Christy. All highly intelligent people whose views should not be lightly dismissed.

Posted: 17 Feb 2016 11:38 AM PST
The apparently simple question like the one in the title of this essay is in fact almost impossible to answer unless it is specified further. Even then, it has been argued that that it implies a quantity — average global temperature — that is both mathematically and thermodynamically impossible to calculate. Interested readers should go to the link to explore further, but a short-cut is that it is as sensible as referring to the ‘average exchange rate’ of all currencies in the world today, or the average of all the telephone numbers in the telephone directory.
Perhaps a prior question is: what is the optimum temperature for human beings and human societies? The assumption underlying the notion of ‘catastrophic’ anthropogenic global warming, after all, is that we are moving away from some kind of optimum towards something dangerous. What is that optimum? It can’t be the period before the Industrial revolution, because that was icily unpleasant, as Judith Curry and others have pointed out. Given the contribution that more carbon dioxide makes to the lives of plants, and therefore animals, I can’t see why another degree or so would be other than beneficial.
But, as I have said before, if one wants to talk about the global warming or ‘climate change’ issue, there is no help for it: one has to use the data that we have. And they are not much help, either, because another prior question is:  ‘Warming or not — from when to when?’. Over the last half-million years? The graph looks like this.

clip_image002_thumb2
The present is to the right. On this ice-core evidence (Antarctic) previous interglacials were warmer. You don’t like that — too long ago? What about the time since our own interglacial began? The graph looks like this.
clip_image004_thumb2
Yes, more ice cores, from one place. Alas, that’s all we really have. You’ll notice that the modern period is of much the same warmth as some earlier periods, but not as much as that of the Holocene Optimum. So are we warming? On the evidence of that graph, we seem to go through warm and cold periods, and maybe the long-term trend is a cooling one. Don’t like that? Let’s get to our own present and recent past. Here’s a graph I used a little time ago. It doesn’t go quite to the present.
Screen-Shot-2012-11-20-at-3.13.18-PM
My grandparents, whom I remember quite well, were born in the 1880s, so this whole period is relevant to me. What I take from this graph is more warm and cool phases, though of shorter duration that in the previous graph. There were rising warmth periods, of about the same duration and trend, from 1910 to 1940, and from about 1975 to 2000. There were cooling periods from 1880 to 1910, and from 1940 to 1975. There has been a relatively flat period from 2000 to the present, though this graph only shows the first part of it.
What are we to make of all this? Let’s leave carbon dioxide out of it for a moment. The three graphs show that the planet goes through phases of warming and cooling. There are long phases, medium phases and short phases. We seem to be in a short cooling or static phase at the moment, compared to earlier periods. This period will get cooler or warmer in due course. There are many candidate explanations for why all this happens and has happened, and we can leave them out for the the moment, too.
But what seems almost indisputable to me is that there hasn’t been some kind of special ‘right’ climate for humans. Our species has had to cope with more and less warmth, as we do at the moment. We haven’t had to deal with a really cold period since the 17th and early 18th centuries, but we will be much better prepared for the next one. If we go into a new warming phase, we’ll cope with that too. Eight years ago, in my ‘Cool Look’ address to the Australian Planning Institute, I said I was prepared to accept  the IPCC’s estimated average increase in temperature over the 20th century of 0.60 plus or minus 0.20C. I still am. Is it a problem? Not on the evidence of the graphs.
Is it unprecedented? That was the next issue — the orthodox position is that the warming of our period is unprecedented in human history (and must therefore be our fault). I repeat here a little of what I wrote then.
By 10,000 years ago the first small permanent settlements began to appear, as people assembled and domesticated animals, learned how to plant crops, and abandoned being hunter-gatherers. There were then, according to some estimates, about a million of our ancestors. It seems to me to be no coincidence at all that global temperatures had begun to level out. The evidence for these temperatures is based on Greenland and Antarctic ice-core data, and I need to say at once that what happened in Greenland or the South Polar regions may not have happened anywhere else. Average temperatures seem to have remained within a narrow band of about two to three degrees Celsius ever since, save on a few occasions, such as the Mediaeval Warm Period, when English monasteries grew grapes and made wine, and the later ‘Little Ice Age’, when the Thames froze in 1683 and a Frost Fair continued for two months on the ice. On the evidence, present average temperatures are similar to those in the first century AD. 
On the face of it, there is nothing especially unprecedented about the 20th century temperature rise, given its ‘agreed’ size. Shifts up and down of that magnitude and more seem to have occurred in the past, and will presumably occur in the future. Climate change is not new, and occurs for reasons that can have nothing to do with us. Orbital changes, sunspots, volcanic eruptions and meteorites have effects on the earth’s climate, and these causes are external to us. We simply have to put up with the changes and adapt what we do to them. Whatever warming that is happening now, and whatever contribution we humans are making to it, have to be seen in that context.
Eight years have passed, a great deal more research has been done, and the science is still not at all settled. I’ll stick to what I wrote then.
Next: Are we causing the warming?
Further reading: I wrote an essay on what had happened since 2008 six years later, and you can see that here. The website has lots of pieces about warming and measurement, because it remains a central intellectual interest  for me. My basic position is that what we have as data is just awful, and no basis for making public policy. But elected governments, responding to insistent cries of approaching doom from the Greens and their sympathisers, desperately search for data, any data, that would allow them to make good policy. I don’t believe such data exist, and that governments should do nothing. Alas, that is not a position that governments like at all — they will be accused of indolence or worse. So we have to discuss the data we have. Hence this essay, and others like it.