On Being a Denialist Part 2

In the last post, The Git looked at the claimed relationship between CO2 emissions and Global Average Surface Temperature Anomaly (GASTA). He showed that despite a claimed scientific consensus that there is no obvious relationship unless you admit backwards causation in time. Nevertheless, it appears that GASTA has increased over the 160 years since the end of the Little Ice Age. The question then arises as to what the effect of this temperature rise is. A second question arises as to what the effect of mitigation strategies have been.

First, we need to look at the temperature rise in context:

Global Temperature Anomalies

Global temperature trend from 1880 to present, compared to a base period of 1951-
1980. Global temperatures continue to rise, with the decade from 2000 to 2009 as the warmest on record. Source: NASA/Earth Observatory/Robert Simmon

You will note that the claimed increase in temperature is far from uniform. 1880 to 1910 is flat, 1910 to 1940 is substantially the same slope as 1970 and after. 1940 to 1970 shows a small decline. There is an apparent periodicity of ~ 30 years. The first period of temperature rise is claimed to be entirely natural, there being no substantial increase in anthropogenic CO2 emissions during that period. The second rise is said to be unaffected by natural causes and entirely due to anthropogenic CO2. To be fair, not everyone agrees that it’s entirely due to anthropogenic CO2 even on the CAGW side of the debate. However, if we allow that then the claim of consensus needs to be discarded.

The Git argues that to a very great extent it doesn’t matter whether the rise is entirely, partially, or not at all due to anthropogenic CO2 since the variation is so small it is very much less than changes that have already occurred earlier in the Holocene. The Eemian, the interglacial period prior to the Holocene began about 130,000 years ago and ended about 114,000 years ago. For virtually the entire duration, Earth’s temperature is estimated to have been about the same as during the Holocene Optimum. Hippopotami, elephants, rhinoceroses and hyenas lived as far north as the rivers Rhine and Thames. It’s also worth noting that these same species inhabited what is now called the Sahara Desert during the Holocene Optimum as did the humans who hunted there. It would seem that temperatures 2–3°C higher than present was very good for life on Earth.

While we have yet to experience that condition, we are told that the temperature rise that already occurred during the 20thC was deleterious. First though, The Git has clear recollections of the period ~1960–1965 in UKLand. In the latter years, we experienced what was called The Big Freeze. The Git recalls a midwife freezing to death on her bicycle while on the way to deliver a baby. He experienced frost bite on his ears. While travelling to school each day, he saw small birds frozen to death in the trees and shrubs. The motion of the swans on the lake in the park kept a gradually smaller and smaller area ice-free until one day, they too succumbed to that dreadful winter of 1962–3. The implication of the chart above is that this was “climate normal”.

From The World Health Organisation:

Climate and health Fact sheet, July 2005

From the tropics to the arctic, both climate and weather have powerful impacts, both direct and indirect, on human life. While people adapt to the conditions in which they live, and human physiology can handle substantial variation in weather, there are limits.

Marked short-term fluctuations in weather can cause acute adverse health effects:

Extremes of both heat and cold can cause potentially fatal illnesses, e.g. heat stress or hypothermia, as well as increasing death rates from heart and respiratory diseases.
In cities, stagnant weather conditions can trap both warm air and air pollutants — leading to smog episodes with significant health impacts.
These effects can be significant. Abnormally high temperatures in Europe in the summer of 2003 were associated with at least 27,000 more deaths than the equivalent period in previous years.
Other weather extremes, such as heavy rains, floods, and hurricanes, also have severe impacts on health. Approximately 600,000 deaths occurred world-wide as a result of weather-related natural disasters in the 1990s; and some 95% of these were in poor countries. Some examples:

In October 1999, a cyclone in Orissa, India, caused 10,000 deaths. The total number of people affected was estimated at 10-15 million;
In December 1999, floods in and around Caracas, Venezuela, killed approximately 30,000 people, many in shanty towns on exposed slopes.
In addition to changing weather patterns, climatic conditions affect diseases transmitted through water, and via vectors such as mosquitoes. Climate-sensitive diseases are among the largest global killers. Diarrhoea, malaria and protein-energy malnutrition alone caused more than 3.3 million deaths globally in 2002, with 29 % of these deaths occurring in the Region of Africa.

Despite the numbers in this report, there’s little in the way of comparison.

annual deaths 20thC

Global deaths and death rates from climate–related disasters (includes deaths from drought; extreme temperature; famine; flood; slides; wave/surge; wild fires; wind storm), 1900–2003. Sources: Emergency Disasters Data Base (2004), McEvedy & Jones (1978), and FAO (2004).

The chart above is from an edited transcript of a talk by Indur M Goklany. He was involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since before its inception — as an author, U.S. delegate and reviewer. Part of the U.S. team that negotiated the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and later a delegate to that organization. The chart shows that far from a dramatic increase in deaths from climate related disasters, they have been declining for 70 years!

So much for the overall effect of 20th C climate change on human wellbeing. What of the effect of strategies to avert the “disaster” described above?

Government strategy for the last two decades has been to increase the cost of energy in order to reduce demand. This has mainly been in the form of increasing what they call “renewable energy”. The most common form of “renewable energy” is wind-power. Here’s a piece from Forbes Magazine:

Why It’s The End Of The Line For Wind Power

According to the federal Energy Information Administration, the “levelized cost” of new wind power (including capital and operating costs) is 8.2 cents per kWh. Advanced clean-coal plants cost about 11 cents per kWh, the same as nuclear. But advanced natural gas-burning plants come in at just 6.3 cents per kWh.

But it could be getting a lot worse for wind. A fascinating new report by George Taylor and Tom Tanton at the American Tradition Institute called “The Hidden Costs of Wind Electricity” asserts that the cost of wind power is significantly understated by the EIA’s numbers. In fact, says Taylor, generating electricity from wind costs triple what it does from natural gas.

That’s because the numbers from the EIA and wind boosters fail to take into account a host of infrastructure and transmission costs.

First off — the windiest places are more often far away from where electricity is needed most, so the costs of building transmission lines is high. So far many wind projects have been able to patch into existing grid interconnections. But, says Taylor, those opportunities are shrinking, and material expansion of wind would require big power line investments.

Second, the wind doesn’t blow all the time, so power utilities have found that in order to balance out the variable load from wind they have to invest in keeping fossil-fuel-burning plants on standby. When those plants are not running at full capacity they are not as efficient. Most calculations of the cost of wind power do not take into account the costs per kWh of keeping fossil plants on standby or running at reduced loads. But they should, because it is a real cost of adding clean, green, wind power to the grid.

Windpower makes no sense whatsoever if you must continue to run conventional thermal plant “just in case”. You are merely increasing the total cost of energy. This has the predictable effect of hurting the poor in particular. The UK has gone far down this path of mandating wind-powered energy.

From The Independent:

Fuel poverty deaths three times higher than government estimates

The number of people dying as a result of fuel poverty is three times higher than government estimates suggest, according to new academic research.

Some 7,800 people die during winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes properly, says fuel poverty expert Professor Christine Liddell of the University of Ulster. That works out at 65 deaths a day.

Fuel poverty is defined as when someone needs to spend 10 per cent or more on heating their home.

The new total – calculated using World Health Organisation guidance and official excess winter death figures – is four times as many fatalities as happen in road accidents each year.

The previous government estimate put the total of deaths relating to fuel poverty at just 2,700 a year. That was included in a report last year by Professor John Hills, who is expected to produce his final recommendations on fuel poverty next month.

Yet the latest Office of National Statistics figures show that there were 25,700 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in winter 2010.

Meanwhile the latest WHO research suggests that 30 to 40 per cent of the excess winter deaths can be attributed to fuel poverty.

“The 2,700 figure published by Professor Hills is peculiar. I see no justification for it,” said Professor Liddell.

“I believe the figure of 7,800 is much more realistic as it is based on WHO’s most recent estimates of deaths relating to cold and damp homes.”

The European Union has been in on the act as well, mandating 10% of fuel use by 2020 be biofuel. Indonesia, among other tropical countries, has gone far in the direction of meeting this need by encouraging the conversion of jungle (orangutan habitat) into palm oil plantation. Indur M Goklany has written about the effects of biofuel production in the Third World:

Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries?

Biofuels: Rationale and Questions
Higher global demand for biofuels, driven mainly by policies in industrialized countries with the stated purpose of enhancing energy independence and retarding climate change, has contributed to rising global food prices. As a consequence, more people in developing countries suffer from both chronic hunger and absolute poverty. Hunger and poverty are major contributors to death and disease in poorer countries. Results derived from World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO) studies suggest that for every million people living in absolute poverty in developing countries, there are annually at least 5,270 deaths and 183,000 Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost to disease. Combining these estimates with estimates of the increase in poverty owing to growth in biofuels production over 2004 levels leads to the conclusion that additional biofuel production may have resulted in at least 192,000 excess deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYs in 2010. These exceed WHO’s estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs attributable to global warming. Thus, policies intended to mitigate global warming may actually have increased death and disease in developing countries. [Emphasis The Git’s]

Palm oil production in Indonesia has been claimed to generate between 16 and 30 times the amount of CO2 that is supposedly saved by burning it instead of fossil fuel. Indonesia is now the third largest emitter of CO2 on the planet.

The Precautionary Principle

From the wiki-bloody-pedia

The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.

While the advocates of CAGW mitigation claim to be exercising the Precautionary Principle, it is clear from the above references that mitigation strategies do not merely risk causing harm, that real, albeit likely unintended harm has resulted from those strategies. These are manifestly not actions taken by those sceptical of CAGWer claims. Hence, the burden of proof that they were not harmful falls on CAGWers. It should be obvious that while there may in fact be risks attendant on excessive production of CO2, so far not established, that whatever strategies were adopted to mitigate them should have been on the basis that they cause no harm. Especially to those least able to cope — the poor, the old, denizens of the Third World etc.

Science has gone from a dispassionate enquiry into how the world works to deciding who lives (wealthy Western whites) and who dies (poor people, mostly with very deep suntans). This saddens The Git.

Thoughts for the Day

If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences. — H. P. Lovecraft


When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. — P. J. O’Rourke


The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable. —
H. L. Mencken


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