Saturday, June 3, 2017
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Electricity has become a luxury good in Germany.
The world is “laughing (and) crying at the President of the United States, who clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Former US Secretary of State John Kerry
President Trump formally withdrew from the Paris Accords. Reaction everywhere was highly emotional, but the effects of the withdrawal on US policy are minimal, and there are few scientific claims that US membership in the non-binding accords would have any measurable effect on global temperatures. The accords are a statement of goals, not binding policies.
For a longer and more passionate analysis of the withdrawal, see Newt Gingrich’s comments: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/06/02/gingrich-trump-and-paris-let-negotiations-begin.html
The fact is that the US is not actually committed to anything: the accords are voluntary, and if one assumes the validity of the man-made global warming hypothesis as usually put forward, the US contribution to rising CO2 is quite small compared to India and China, which, as developing countries, are more concerned with economic growth than CO2 reduction, and don’t pledge to reduce CO2 producing energy production until they have built their economies. As I said in A Step Farther Out, the developing nations aren’t worried about the future: they want in on modern wealth, which takes energy; when they’re rich they can worry about the far future. Until then, they’ll burn coal.
Economic needs generally govern investment. Government subsidies – “we know better than the market place, so do it our way, you idiots” – can change that, but gets expensive. Southern California, which uses significant amounts of energy in cooling in summer time under a bright sun, has a different economic situation regarding ground based solar energy from New York where it doesn’t cool off much just because the sun has gone down. When the sun’s not up, ground based solar panels don’t produce electricity, yet air conditioning is still demanded. That means something other than sun and wind needs to produce the base power at night. But this is all obvious and need not be said again.
On that score, note that the Paris Accord was never approved by the Senate, and thus under the Constitution cannot bind a future President no matter what President Obama agreed to. Presidents cannot make treaties the law of the land without the advice and consent of the Senate, and President Obama never got that for the Paris Accords. (The Kyoto agreement failed in the Senate by an overwhelming margin.)
Indeed, most of the “science” has long since vanished from the discussions, and we end with proof by repeated assertion which few other than true believers pay any attention to.
I would be overjoyed to see some serious scientific research into CO2 reduction; we are at present running a long term open ended experiment to see just how high we can let CO2 levels get. There is some evidence that more CO2 might be still be beneficial – plants love the stuff, and that generally means larger agricultural yields; but can we all agree that after we double the amount (we haven’t yet) that will surely be enough, at least for a pause during reassessment? What I would like to see is research into how we can reduce CO2.
That will take energy, and some ingenuity, but we know it can be done. It’s the details that need study. Of course no international agreement is needed for this: we already spend much of the money we would need to pay for the R&D, and in the old days the NSF had ways of allocating research funds that generally paid off. That could be revived.
The main beneficiaries of these large multi-national conferences are the attending staffs, mid-level civil servants who get to stay in interesting cities – they never seem to hold these long conferences in dull places – and stay In first class hotels. Nice work if you can get it.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Too little CO2?
Hi Dr. Pournelle,
I just ran across this article, When Too Little CO2 Nearly Doomed Humanity, by Dennis Avery on Townhall. While I have not fact-checked every CO2 concentration number in the article, many of those he mentions are well-known values.
The executive summary is that there is a much greater danger to humanity and the eco-sphere from a modest (e.g., 20%) decrease in atmospheric CO2 than from a doubling or tripling of CO2 concentrations.
My personal take-away on this is that I’m not at all concerned by the current rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations and that I’m right to oppose any mandatory CO2 emission control laws, regulations, etc. Your mileage may vary, of course.
We need not get into that argument, and there is far too little data; we’ve not studied the “optimum” CO2 levels, and there’s not much reason to believe there would be consensus on what would be optimum.
I think there is, or should be, nearly universal agreement that we don’t want an uncontrolled experiment to find out what the maximum CO2 level we can endure would be; we want to be able to reverse that at need. I do not think we are anywhere near that limit, but the way to reduce CO2 levels is not to impoverish the west (or concede productivity advantage to China and India which will continue to burn coal no matter what we insist on), or to have a nuclear war to impoverish everyone; poverty is not the answer to global CO2, and greater poverty is more likely to lead to more frantic energy production.
Economics will force us to nuclear or space based solar (most likely both) anyway, but may take a while. I’d like to have some investment in developing the means to reverse CO2 trends at need, just in case. The climate change people have not very good models, but their computing ability and thus model accuracies will inevitably improve, and I like to have technology ready at need.
Climate change insurance —
Someone posted this idea on Scott Adams’ blog:
I propose the following system.
Build a big open insurance market like Lloyds of London but specifically for climate change.
Have a global CO2 tax about $20-$40/ton have governments collect the tax via their existing tax systems and have governments use the proceeds to buy climate change insurance on the exchange.
If you think climate change is bullshit then you can sell the insurance and just keep collecting those cheques.
All the alarmist can buy insurance and all the sceptics can sell insurance. The price of the premiums will soon tell us if climate change is real or bullshit or if it’s not a worry today it will tell us when we need to worry about it.
If people want more done to prevent climate change then they can vote to put the CO2 tax rate up and governments can use the extra money to buy more insurance (send money to the sceptics).
If coal/power/cement/oil companies don’t like paying the tax, they can get their money back by selling the insurance. This transfers all of the risk from society onto the emitters.
This is how to solve climate change using capitalism. Rather than the communist model of mandating wind farms and solar panels.
Del Valle, Texas
Legislators and regulators will understand the need for raising taxes; after that there wont be much consensus.
another career op lost to AI
Don’t know if this qualifies as cheap replacement of a worker by automation, but there are two companies making robots to fold laundry: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/schmich/ct-laundry-robot-mary-schmich-0526-20170525-column.html
Now, I think I probably work cheaper (but not faster) than the $800 robot, but I daren’t ask my wife her opinion, at least until I get my union card…
Of course, Bill Gates would have her pay a tax to somehow protect me (or society, Bill, or someone) from my job loss, but somehow, I still think I’m gonna be sacked.
The robot won’t need a pension or maternity/paternity leave…
Hillary Spreads The Blame… Some More
I just came across this article on the BBC news site — “Hillary Clinton told to ‘move on’ from her loss” (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40135541). She has apparently started blaming the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for her loss last November. They now join the ranks of the Russians, the FBI, and the media as a responsible party for her loss. She does not place any blame on herself, though, saying, “I take responsibility for every decision I make – but that’s not why I lost.”
I started thinking of the term “megalomaniac”, but she is so far beyond megalomania. That is when it occurred to me that megalomania is a personality disorder SPECTRUM, running from your basic over confidence issues which classify as simple “lomania”, through various degrees of big-headedness (decalomania, hectolomania, kilolomania), on past the familiar “megalomania” on to Hillary’s level, which has to qualify minimally as “gigalomania” or even “petalomania”.
I write the above, tongue only slightly in cheek, because, in all seriousness, Hillary cannot conceive of NOT being the President of the United States. She honestly thinks that there is no one else out there who could possibly BE POTUS. She, who was the First Lady to a two term President who never won more than 50% of the popular vote — a President who the majority of voters rejected — cannot accept that SHE lost the election. She who questioned Trump’s loyalty to the election laws of this land cannot even say that Trump won. She is claiming that the election was somehow stolen from her, implicitly saying that the results of the election are not legitimate.
Trump may not be the best President who has ever served, but it is quite evident that we could have done a lot worse.
Possibly. After all, many of us were surprised by her loss. We have had government by the established experts who understand things; now we have a different approach. At least the deplorables aren’t in charge. And thanks to Hillary, we can try a non politician President. We’re unlikely to have that chance again.
Maybe this is the job of the future for young people on UBI…
Like most plot points on HBO’s Silicon Valley, a recent episode in which tech oligarch Gavin Belson receives blood transfusions from a “blood boy” to help keep him young is actually rooted in reality—just ask Peter Thiel. “I’m looking into parabiosis stuff, which I think is really interesting. This is where they did the young blood into older mice and they found that had a massive rejuvenating effect,” the tech billionaire and Trump adviser told Inc. magazine. “I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely under-explored.”
Jesse Karmazin agrees. His start-up, Ambrosia, is charging about $8,000 a pop for blood transfusions from people under 25, Karmazin said at Code Conference on Wednesday. Ambrosia, which buys its blood from blood banks, now has about 100 paying customers
There is a long tradition of science fiction stories along the theme of using the financially insecure young to medically support the rich elders. You could even argue that this is the theme of vampire stories. Of course egalitarianism complicates the matter.
You are not allowed to sell your own organs, but apparently aborted children’s parts can be sold, at least by the abortion clinic.
China and Space
Mr. Heinlein used to remind us that there was no law making English the language of mankind in space…
I would not rate this as proof of a miracle, and I haven’t anything more at the moment; but I am not astonished.
Vilikovsky had a different explanation, but not one easily accepted. This seems more likely.
The Definition of Covfefe
Covfefe def. The equivalent of dangling a shiny toy in front of the Media to divert their attention from potentially important stories.
It certainly works!
I wondered what that meant. Thanks.
I understand a Fox news anchor found a Macedonian under his bed…
The States on Climate Change
I thought you might like this article on climate change from Scientific American — “Governors Pledge Climate Action in Face of Possible Paris Withdrawal” (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/governors-pledge-climate-action-in-face-of-possible-paris-withdrawal/). Whether or not you think climate change is a real thing, this at least shows that the American federal system is working to some degree, with states taking action or not as their constituencies support, regardless or even in spite of the federal direction from Washington DC.
Just as the States retained their Established Churches under the Constitution, they retain the right to make what they believe is scientific policy. The federal government was our national government and was given limited powers; all residual powers were reserved to the States.
Renewable is luxury
You quoted Der Spiegel as stating electricity is now a luxury in Germany. Isn’t it interesting that Germany has also been cited as having the largest investment in solar electric, so-called renewable energy in the Western world? Germany is simultaneously dismantling its nuclear and coal energy production infrastructure while increasing investment in other allegedly renewable sources. Also interesting is that Germany at least sees itself as the largest financial investor in the EU. Some of the loudest cries of anguish over Brexit have come from Germany, and Frau Merkel is this week the anti-Trump heroine of the U.S.
democrat and republican party extremists.
I wonder if this is all connected.
Hoping for a continuing and smoother recovery for both you and Roberta,
an adamant de-Nye-er,
Ground based solar, like wind, makes economic sense in some places and markets; Southern California uses electricity in the daytime for air conditioning; it makes sense to use daylight solar power for that need whenever possible; the expense comes with trying to store that power for times when the Sun is not shining. In most of California, one needs very little air conditioning when the Sun is not shining.
Since you linked the unz.com article as an implied prompt for discussion, personally I don’t buy it. It seemed to me like a lot of the other alt-right-seeming rants on the internet (Breitbart being another): clickbait that is long on invective, short on information, lacking in useful insight. Perhaps the author has come close to my own opinions on waste and the need for military acquisition reform, but he even admits that it was a position fed to him by a third party.
For example, the quote “the US military was never a very impressive one, certainly not when compared to the British, Russian or German ones.” Really? What standard is used? Can’t be the multiple victories over the the three listed or their proxies, and can’t be world history since Napoleon.
Yes, I agree that GWOT and the (uppercase) Bush wars represented an almost endless supply of un-regulated cash to civilian (and uniformed) war profiteers, but these have been just more recent than a couple other boondoggles that come to mind. Yes, military acquisition is out-of-control. Yes, the intelligence agencies (“community” my aching anatomical expletive) and diplomatic corps are extremely overly-politicized. After around 30 years of spineless non-leadership from the executive and the legislative branches, what should we expect?
Trump’s style is nothing if not entertaining, as it has been apparently effective. I do hope that it is not all show. I don’t think we’ll have another chance for a beltway outsider in that office for a long time, and it remains to be seen whether he can actually govern (could be he’s just a really fat ‘gator, I can’t tell).
Meanwhile, I lately shy away from reading endless invective as it has never been really effective and is no longer emotionally satisfying. I may now have a lot of time to waste, but I surely have something better to do.
With hopes for yours and Roberta’s continuing recover,
Dear Doctor Pournelle,
While I agree that it is always a good idea to be skeptical of our own military’s claims as to their level of technological, tactical and material quality, I also am skeptical of such “The Sky Is Falling”
screeds as the “Suicide of the military” piece you posted a link to.
My first reaction is that anyone who can with a straight face claim that the Russian military, historically and/or currently, is superior to the United States armed forces, and worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the British military quality-wise is someone who doesn’t know squat about military history.
The Russian claim to quality historically rests upon their defeat of Napoleon and Hitler. In both cases they had a huge amount of allied assistance, and in both cases they suffered staggering defeats that any other nation would have collapsed from, but the sheer mass of Russia, both in territory and human resources, allowed them to survive and claim a sort of victory.
The British do have the best military man for man, no doubt. However, we beat them once, and managed a draw the second time. Maybe the best comparison is that the British entered World War One with an army about the size of the US Army when we entered.
They quickly built up a multimillion man army, shipped it to France and
23 months after the war began they attacked on the Somme in July of 1916. They accomplished almost nothing while suffering the largest number of casualties of any one day in their long military history. The United states entered the war in April, 1917 and over the next nineteen months, four months less than the British, built up a two million man army, shipped it not across the English Channel but the North Atlantic, and in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne attacks destroyed two German field armies and effectively ended the four years of slaughter.
As for the German military, well yes they are good. Frederick The Great wrought something new in military affairs, and his work still casts a long shadow. But the United States Army defeated his heirs twice in thirty years, and in each case we did it in less than a year after coming to grips on the European continent with the main strength of the Germans. A West Point graduate has written a doctoral dissertation, published as “When The Odds Were Even” analyzing just how well the US Army matched up against the German in World War Two, picking a little known campaign in the Vosges mountains of northeastern France in the late fall and early winter of 1944-45.
Due to the terrain, weather and relatively minor strategic importance of the region, US forces had little of the artillery, air power and logistic superiority they enjoyed on other fronts, yet they drove the German army out of the Vosge, inflicting major losses in men and materiel, while suffering relatively low losses in comparison. I recommend the book to anyone who thinks the US Army was anything other than a world class force in World War Two.
As for technological superiority, I agree with something you have been beating the drum about for decades: that it is vital. However, it is not necessarily decisive. I offer two examples of second-class equipment used by American fighting men, and in each case they not only survived, but managed to win. The first is the Wildcat fighter in early World War Two. It was slower than the Japanese Zero, had only machine guns while the Zero was equipped with a 20mm cannon firing high explosive shells.
The Zero could turn inside of a Wildcats turn radius, so any attempt to dogfight quickly led to the Zero getting on the Wildcat’s tail and ending the matter there.
So American pilots learned not to get into a turning fight, but instead to take a high altitude position, dive on the Zero using the Wildcats greater mass than the Zero to catch up to it as they fell out of the sky together, get in close, use a tactic called the “Thatch Weave” to concentrate the fire of two Wildcats on the enemy plane, and with twelve
50 caliber machine guns, the unarmored Zero, with its non-self-sealing fuel tanks, would be quickly shredded and torched.
The other example is the Sherman tank, which was the worst tank of the European theatre in World War Two. Even the British Comet, not exactly a world beater, was superior. German tankers referred to the Sherman by the same morbid nickname as their American crews::”The Ronson” from the famous ad campaign of the time for the Ronson cigarette lighter “Lights up first time, every time!”, for the way they exploded in an inferno every time a German tank hit one with an AP round. So American tankers learned to use the superior manoeuvrability and speed of the Sherman to get in close, on the flanks and rear of German tanks, and swarm them.
There were always three to four times as many Sherman’s as there were German tanks overwhelming German quality with tactics and numbers.
There are other examples of American turkeys that turned into world beaters due to ingenuity and resourcefulness. The Phantom II of Vietnam fame, the M-16 rifle, even the Bradley AFV.
So I say “”Baloney!” to anyone who thinks the US military is anything other than one of the top three, and often better. It’s the human material that makes it so, and that is still top shelf, despite the best efforts of our schools and universities to destroy it.
The US military has historically risen to acquire the competence required by the task. Possibly the best example is the problem of German Panther tanks. The German tanks were said to be ten times as good as the ones we deployed; the answer to that was to face each Panther with 11 Sherman tanks. The story is probably apocryphal but the essence is true; just as Grant knew he could not “out general” Lee as his predecessor hoped; but he could always win a war of attrition.
The US has developed Rangers and their elite successors as the need for elite units rose. Of course in the past we could always count on converting our industrial base to war production; expensive and thus not lightly to be undertaken, but pretty well guaranteed to be decisive. Faced with the nuclear challenge, we developed the elite SAC. And in Viet Nam the North sent 150,000 men south with as much armor as the Wehrmacht had in many WW II engagements. That was in 1973, and of that 150,000 fewer than 50,000 men and no armor returned to the North, at a cost of under 1,000 American casualties. Most would count that an outstanding victory. (Alas, in 1975 North Viet Nam had another army of over 100,000 and sent it South; the Democratic Congress voted our South Vietnamese 20 cartridges and 2 hand grenades per man, but refused naval and air support; Saigon predictably became Ho Chi Minh city as we pushed helicopters off the decks of out carriers in our frantic evacuation; but that is hardly the fault of the US military).
Our problem is not military capability, but commitment: no troops can accomplish a mission they are not given. And as von Moltke the Elder observed, it is difficult to win campaigns with a telegraph wire from the Capital stuck up you
Sunday, June 4, 2017
We seem to have had a cooler May in California, and I’ve heard nothing predicting a warmer June (which in Southern California is often referred to as Wummer, winter in summer, or June Gloom).
I have not seen more details, but as of last arch the global cooling trend and low sunspot activity continued; I’ve seen not much on this since. It’s warming up outside today, but cool inside the house. Apologies: I usually try to keep track of this.
Note that this dialog is old, from a time before my pneumonia and subsequent problems. It may not still be relevant:
In a message dated 3/21/2017 5:51:52 P.M. Central Daylight Time, VValkyrie@hotmail.com writes:
…other people are sitting up and taking notice.
I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet since late last summer, and here are the results, as of today. (First column, year; second, month; third, the percentage of days having no more than 1 sunspot visible; fourth, the percentage of days having NO sunspots visible.)
Year Month %dys %dys
~Stephanie Osborn, “The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”
: Re: And…
This all fits in with what I’ve been seeing.
I suspect we may enter an extended minimum earlier than even the double-dynamo model forecast. Especially since, arguably, we are already nearly to Dalton Minimum numbers.
~Stephanie Osborn, “The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”
Award-winning author of the Division One, Gentleman Aegis, and Displaced Detective series
I suspect it’s going to be a cooler summer.
On Mar 21, 2017, at 7:49 PM, Stephanie <VValkyrie@hotmail.com> wrote:
That’s a distinct possibility, though not a foregone conclusion. We still have to factor in the effects of cosmic rays, which flux is on the increase, as would be expected with a decline in solar activity. And there is a link to cloud formation there, though it is not at all well understood.
~Stephanie Osborn, “The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”
Award-winning author of the Division One, Gentleman Aegis, and Displaced Detective series
We shall all have to hope fervently for a serious increase in cow flatulence to boost those ol’ greenhouse gasses.
May save us from a mini ice age don’t you know.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.