Jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can now read the full lyrics and realise I haven’t got a clue what they are on about. Wiki doesn’t know either, but does include the curious line “The song is often mistakenly attributed to Bob Dylan, likely because Rafferty’s distinctive voice is similar to Dylan’s”… errrm, then how can it be “distinctive”?
Anyway, this long rambling introduction has no great purpose, other than to lead into the next level of rambling:
As I was rowing along the Cam this morning, trying to avoid feeling or thinking about the miserable cold rainy weather, and why my finish always has a curious little splash to it, and why #5 always digs too deep, and other similar mysteries, I was turning over a post entitled “Those who can’t do arithmetic are doomed to talk nonsense” (which some will recognise as a misquote (I discover this as I’ve just looked it up) on my part of the great John McCarthy’s “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense”. JMC’s is better, because the correct problem is not inability to do the numbers, but the refusal to use it. We’re inching closer to my subject now). This was going to be a rabid stoat attack on Inel’s latest (hey, I was fair, I gave her a chance in the comments) and a nod towards James’s.
But then I read Out On A Limb – The 2007 Bali Climate Declaration By Scientists by the usual suspect, which is… depressingly wrong headed (I wrote “stupid” in the first draft but I take that back and apologise, because thats wrong and impolite). I quite liked the start, since I was going to comment on “have elected to take an advocacy position” myself (see below). But the continuation just jumps onto the same tired old hobby horse. Only this time its even more obviously wrong than ever. Whether you think the correct metric for GW is Joules or oC, if you care about future change then Joules really don’t matter – they have no effect. Temperature change does.
BTW, is Bali over yet? (wake me up when its all over :-) I assume it can’t be, unless the final communique has been released very quietly.
The Bali declaration… I’m not on it, you’ll have noticed. I was offered the chance, but declined, since I knew I was on the way out. Which neatly let me off the hook of whether I wanted to sign it (James has a nice dig at it for being geographically unbalanced, but we all know thats because he wasn’t asked to sign :-). I’ve given up signing political petitions at home, unless there is some good reason (like making a petition-carrier happy) because they are pointless. So why don’t we have fun looking at the text (obviously not many people are going to bother doing that, since the main point is that scientists are signing a pro-GW petition, but I’m like that). The very first sentence catches my eye: The 2007 IPCC report, compiled by several hundred climate scientists, has unequivocally concluded that our climate is warming rapidly. Is that true? Rapidly? Sounds unlikely. It does say “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal” but *rapid* is not really a scientific world, being meaningless without context. I can’t find it in the WGI SPM (whew) or even the Syn. So thats not a good start. Then a pile of fairly std stuff, though limit global warming to no more than 2 ºC above the pre-industrial temperature, a limit that has already been formally adopted by the European Union and a number of other countries. is a bit odd (think about it: why are scientists using political decisions as evidence for the science?). Based on current scientific understanding, this requires that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by at least 50% below their 1990 levels by the year 2050 doesn’t really make sense either – the limits are in terms of CO2 levels, not emission rates, so for example if we followed A1F1 to 2050 and then dropped our emissions, instantaneously, to 1990/2, we’d be at 550 ppm and stuffed. The 450 ppm bit that comes next does make sense, in its own terms. Am I being too picky here? It seems to me that an important declaration like this should at least have been written properly. And global emissions must peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years, so there is no time to lose – hmm well, maybe. Just to wrap up, assuming the minor infelicities were corrected, I would have signed it.
2050 is a long time, but 10 years isn’t, so… anyone care to bet on it? I want to bet that CO2 emissions *won’t* peak in 10 years time. Anyone interested?
Where was I? Falling quietly asleep by the fire as befits my old age. Ah, you young folk. Anyway, yes, doing arithmetic. Inel praises David Cameron for his support for microgeneration. Once upon a time I would have been all in favour of same, but as a renegade ex-greeny (?) I’m now allowed to be suspicious. No-one proposes micro-car-building; or chip-fabs; why is mirco-generation a good idea? There is an excellent reason why you don’t find large-scale photovoltaic arrays in fields in this country (or indeed in any other): its because they are uneconomic. Putting then in smaller quantities on your roof saves you transmission losses but thats all, whilst losing economies of scale; they are still uneconomic (and no, money is not everything, but I rather strongly suspect that they aren’t CO2-economic either). But they do allow you to comment smugly about being green on blogs. Micro-wind seems even more obviously stupid (sorry Fergus :-() because for voltaics, at least a panel on your roof is as effective as one in a big “farm” (unless of course your roof doesn’t face due south or is partially shadowed); whereas a small windmill is very likely to be (per construction cost) significantly less efficient than a large-scale one (Fergus, if you’re reading this and haven’t exploded in anger or sadness yet, yes I’ve read this but… how many urban areas have mean winds at roof height of 5 m/s? What is the payback time for a turbine, etc etc). My own take on wind is here, I think: not even off-shore is enough, on-shore is likely to be small. I like wind turbines though, and would like to see more of them. In fact I’ve even put my money where my mouth is and invested in two, probably more than enough to supply this house and power this pooter. That does make sense. But micro doesn’t.
I seem to have wandered off the point. I was supposed to be bashing Cameron, and Inel for taking him seriously. Well I won’t bash Cameron: he is a politican, and is supposed to try to bamboozle us. But Inel… Well, Cameron said “This is not a pipe dream; it is tomorrow’s world.”. I say, this is not a serious energy policy, its PR, even if he believes it. Its not quite as mad as I’ve portrayed it, since it does sensibly point out that CHP is a good idea, and energy-from-waste (though the latter may not meet your defn of micro, depending on what that defn is). The paper is short of real numbers; one I found is in the phrase “Initial estimates suggest that, if installed capacity reaches 3GW by 2020, the annual cost of feed-in tariffs for micro-generation could by then be £200-300 million.”. UK ‘lectric capacity in 2004 was 45 GW, so they appear to be aiming for about 7% in 13 years. Which would be a respectable start. But the associated £200-300M is suspiciously small, so Im suspicious. And that seems to be it for the numbers, unless I missed some. What fraction will CHP / micro wind / micro solar / etc take up by 2020? 2050? Who knows, they certainly aren’t saying :-(
Its late, I’ve ranted enough.
Finally… you know you’re working in a nerdy environment when people start picking holes in The 0x10 Best Questions for Would-be Embedded Programmers. See if you can spot them yourself :-).
Which leads me (oh dear, that wasn’t final, was it?) to the trivia quiz: what state does “gently curved on top” refer to and why?