Ray thread

This thread is for people who wish to engage Ray in discussion.

Ray, please do not post comments to any other thread.

Everyone else, please do not respond to Ray in any other thread.

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About bloody time. Thank you Tim.

By Former Skeptic (not verified) on 20 Jul 2009 #permalink

Former Skeptic,

"About bloody time. Thank you Tim."

Didn't realise you and Ray were one and the same:-)

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 20 Jul 2009 #permalink

Who's Ray?

Who's Ray?
Posted by: Dr D | July 20, 2009 6:03 PM

The one who is now no longer allowed to comment in threads like this one. If you sit down to read that, keep score on how many different directions he shoots off in, and how many times he's corrected on each before he changes his mind reasserts his claim as fact. You'll notice that this strategy works really well at derailing discussion threads, hence why he's confined here now.

@ Dr D.

Ray is someone you engage in debate with at your peril. The Monckton thread now stretches to 609 comments, ranging from:

* arguing dictionary definitions of the word "skeptic"

* that climate science is mostly guesswork, chaotic, and unknowable to us

* that because we don't know everything in perfect detail, its highly likely that we are 100% wrong

* that any maths that he himself does not understand is a deliberate attempt at misdirection

* that Roy Spencer is a better authority on AGW than the two thousand or so contributors to the IPCC summary reports

* that any criticism of Roy Spencer's science is an Ad Hominem attack

* that Newton believed God kept the universe in balance, and that therefore the idea that we could have any affect on the planet is absurd

* that we should set low CO2 emissions targets that we expect will be missed and that we know will not have any effect anyway

* that dollar price is the best estimate of the CO2 cost of arbitrary goods

* that because he showers an order of magnitude faster than the global average, instant-on electric heating is more cost-effective than solar in general

* that posting Inhofe's discredited list of 650 scientists to back up an argument on the very blog where it has been shredded repeatedly is a good way to illustrate your in-depth background research into a topic

* that the only way to test AGW empirically is to vandalise the environment for 30 years, then time travel back and do it differently

I swear there's a bot somewhere generating these responses, tuned to maximum aggravation. Its trolling at its finest, honestly. I can't believe its still going...

Whew. For a minute there I thought that you were talking about Ray 'Banana Man' Comfort.

Blessed relief.

Where's Ray??

By Eat The Rich (not verified) on 20 Jul 2009 #permalink

I've only just realised I've been confined to a separate thread.

I gues I'd better repeat here my latest post in reply to Bernard J. on the Monckton thread, for your edification.

A million dollars is worth a million dollars because of the energy it represents. OK Ray, could you explain the reasons that a barrel of oil, which (over the short term) is surely relatively inelastically equivalent to a unit of energy, cost almost US$150 on 11 July last year, and was worth just under $34/barrel on 21 December? By your logic, there must have been less energy (whether embodied or real) in each barrel of oil, with the passage of just five months. Oh, and I am still curious. Posted by: Bernard J. | July 20, 2009 9:49 AM

Isn't the price of oil largley determined by a monopolistic Oil Cartel? My theory is based on the working of a free market. In a free market, oil would tend to rise in proportion to its extraction cost.

Apart from such monopolistic considerations, the price of oil flutuates from day to day just like the price of everything else. Like the weather in fact. If the price of oil rises significantly and stays that way for a significant period (like climate change), then people tend to use less of it and/or use a cheaper alternative. The impact on the prices of everything else in our economy is then reflected in proportion to our reliance on oil to meet our energy requirement.

A barrel of oil is worth the energy it can produce, whatever the price. It produces a fixed amount of energy in relation to the efficiency of the generator used. If you are in the business of manufacturing goods that are wholly made from the energy you produce from burning oil, and one day the price of oil doubles, then you can buy only half the quantity of oil and make only half the number of goods.

If you make only half the number of goods, you have to double the price of your goods in order to get the same income.

Imagine a world in which oil was the only source of energy; no coal, no LPG, no windmills, no hydroelectricity, no solarvoltaic panels and no atomic power. Everything we produced required oil; oil to generate all our electricity requirements; oil to run the trains and transport system etc etc.

What do you imagine would happen if the price of oil were to double with no alternative energy sources available? You might think, "no problem, we'll just print more money". Or maybe you think, "Let's borrow money."

If the whole world is in the same situation of relying upon oil for everything it produces, then the whole world can produce only half the goods, unless it finds a cheaper source of energy, or unless it produces more efficient machines to do the same work with half the quantity of oil.

In fact, in such a world the value of the currency would probably be tied to a specific quantity of oil. One dollar would be called 'one oil unit'.

The bottom line is, despite day to day fluctuations of the price of everything, the average cost of all the energy we use is directly related to the average price of the goods we produce, which in turn is directly related to the average material prosperity of mankind.

You can't generate global material prosperity by forcing people to use more expensive energy, although you might improve people's health.

Ray, please give it a pause. you should definitely read the replies you got, before you continue to post your energy theory. everything that you write is false!

A barrel of oil is worth the energy it can produce, whatever the price. It produces a fixed amount of energy in relation to the efficiency of the generator used. If you are in the business of manufacturing goods that are wholly made from the energy you produce from burning oil, and one day the price of oil doubles, then you can buy only half the quantity of oil and make only half the number of goods.

the price of a barrel is the price. you can make up your own theory of value, but please do some more thinking on this!

can you please give an example of "goods, that are wholly made from the energy you produce from burning oil"?

i am pretty sure that there aren t any. even the price of petrol itself includes a lot of things, that are completely independent of the burning value of oil. (compare burning oil in Iraq to burning it in Germany...

What do you imagine would happen if the price of oil were to double with no alternative energy sources available? You might think, "no problem, we'll just print more money". Or maybe you think, "Let's borrow money."

we actually had a massive increase in the oil price recently.

http://www.themarketguardian.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/oil-price-c…

not even the price of petrol followed that increase.

most goods have an energy price of about 10% of their final price around here (i am still looking for better numbers on this...). doubling the oil price would lead to a 10% increase in their price. pretty unspectacular...

I still want Ray to respond to my argument - using his principles - that the monetary value of the carbon cost of an installed $12,000 PV system is equal to the GDP of the entire world, summed over every year in the history of monetary economies.

Dear Ray,

Had you ever thought that 'oil' is a subsidy on life.
It isn't a question of increasing prosperity, it is a question of how long oil and other resources subsidise your way of life compared with future generations that will have to do without.

People that are over dependent on a subsidy, generally tend to be wasteful and disconnected from reality.

In fact, in such a world the value of the currency would probably be tied to a specific quantity of oil. One dollar would be called 'one oil unit'.

Ray is constantly constructing examples from the world beyond the looking glass, and then is drawing conclusions from that wonderland economics for the real world.

now if the red queen decides, that everybody drinks oil instead of tea at mad parties, the price of oil would certainly increase.

looks like i should invest in some oil futures...

Ray, you wrote:

*The bottom line is, despite day to day fluctuations of the price of everything, the average cost of all the energy we use is directly related to the average price of the goods we produce, which in turn is directly related to the average material prosperity of mankind*

The problem with this view is that the average price of energy externalizes environmental costs. Besides climate change, current economic practices - including the production and consumption of energy - externalize such processes as habitat loss, the concomitant loss of species and genetically distinct populations, and the way this affects ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling, water purification, soil fertility, flood control, climate control, susceptibility to fire, and hydrological cycles. These services are inextricably connected to human well being and emerge from a stupendous array of ecological interactions occurring at different scales across the biosphere. In other words, nature generates conditions that permit humans to exist and to persist, and current economic practices are jeopardizing these services because they are not internalized into the costs of economic activities. Economists like Herman Daly, John Gowdy, Geoffrey Heal and others have been challenging the neoclassical model for several years now arguing that the current economic systems are not sustainable and are driving our global ecological life support systems towards some unknown threshold beyond which they will unable to sustain themselves and ultimately humanity. Given that our knowledge of the functioning of ecosystems is very rudimentary should be of no comfort as we continue to drive them into the ground.

Therefore, I challenge anyone who claims that the current propsperity enjoyed in a small fraction of the world is sustainable even in the medium term. Its just that, although we are spending natural capital like there is no tomorrow, the well is not dry yet (but it is getting there). Modern technologies are enabling us to dip more and more effectively into the well, but the well is finite: extinction rates far exceed rates of speciation, deep, rich agricultural soils are being exhausted in a fraction of the time it takes them to be replenished, aquifers in many of the world's breadbaskets are being sucked dry, most of the world's major fisheries are on the brink of collapse with most species at the terminal end of the marine food chain being reduced in number by 90% or more over the past 50 years. How long can this continue?

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 21 Jul 2009 #permalink

@Ray

I understand your arguments, but I disagree with some of your basic premises.

"Isn't the price of oil largley determined by a monopolistic Oil Cartel?"

Yes, and no. There are still seven oil-producing regions, and they are producing differing amounts, and some of the oil resources are country-managed (or OPEC-managed), and some are corporately managed. The oil producers are not technically a "cartel".

Also, the international trading of oil has an impact on the price, and this "globalisation" is possibly more important than any "cartel"-like behaviour.

The problem for me is that the pice of oil is largely determined without taking into account the social and environmental costs. It is a "subsidised" resource.

What do I mean ? I mean that none of the extraction, refining and burning operations have any accountability. It is a permitted "dirty" trade.

You say : "My theory is based on the working of a free market. In a free market, oil would tend to rise in proportion to its extraction cost."

Well, yes and no. Because our industrialised economies are highly dependent on oil, it does not have a fully open market. Take a look at the chart "TOTAL PRIMARY ENERGY SUPPLY : Evolution from 1971 to 2005 of World Total Primary Energy Supply by Fuel (Mtoe)" on page 6 of the document (page 8 of the PDF) :-

http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2007/key_stats_2007.pdf

You can see easily that oil is the dominant fuel.

"If the price of oil rises significantly and stays that way for a significant period (like climate change), then people tend to use less of it and/or use a cheaper alternative."

Yes and no. In 2008, people did use less energy in the United States and the United Kingdom, as a result of the recession, but the change was measured in small percentages.

I would advise you entertain the possibility that the reduction in energy use did not correspond to the change in the energy price exactly. Some of the change was inflationary pressure on the Economy. In other words, people largely carried on consuming energy as they had been, but everyone paid more for it.

"A barrel of oil is worth the energy it can produce, whatever the price."

Yes, which is why, since our economies are highly dependent on oil, and that dependency cannot be shifted quickly, we are having to carry on buying oil despite the increase in price.

"If you are in the business of manufacturing goods that are wholly made from the energy you produce from burning oil, and one day the price of oil doubles, then you can buy only half the quantity of oil and make only half the number of goods."

What actually happens is that there is a depressive effect on manufacturing, but most industrial processes carry on as before.

"If you make only half the number of goods, you have to double the price of your goods in order to get the same income."

Not so. People are shaving their profit margins hoping to stay in business.

"Imagine a world in which oil was the only source of energy; no coal, no LPG, no windmills, no hydroelectricity, no solarvoltaic panels and no atomic power. Everything we produced required oil; oil to generate all our electricity requirements; oil to run the trains and transport system etc etc. What do you imagine would happen if the price of oil were to double with no alternative energy sources available?"

We don't need to imagine. It's happening. The fact that we are largely dependent on oil for transportation has the effect of making us largely dependent on oil in all sectors of the globalised economy.

"If the whole world is in the same situation of relying upon oil for everything it produces, then the whole world can produce only half the goods, unless it finds a cheaper source of energy, or unless it produces more efficient machines to do the same work with half the quantity of oil."

There is a lot of stress on manufacturing and transport just now, and the whole economic system may well break down.

Some analysts think that the total value of the economy has shrunk by around 20% from the Credit Crunch, which was actually the bursting of the Property (Real Estate) Bubble.

This would mean that increased oil prices are a direct reflection of the fact that everyone is now more in debt.

"In fact, in such a world the value of the currency would probably be tied to a specific quantity of oil. One dollar would be called 'one oil unit'."

We will eventually need to have a Carbon-denominated currency for reasons of Climate Change and Peak Energy. The only value we have left in our globalised economy is Energy, so we have to start using Energy as our currency.

"The bottom line is, despite day to day fluctuations of the price of everything, the average cost of all the energy we use is directly related to the average price of the goods we produce, which in turn is directly related to the average material prosperity of mankind."

As I say, we don't pay the full social and environmental cost of energy. Plus, the price of good is directly related to the amount of energy used to make it. Yes, energy consumption is directly related to the prosperity of mankind.

"You can't generate global material prosperity by forcing people to use more expensive energy, although you might improve people's health."

We need to spend a very large amount of money in the next 25 years for new energy infrastructure and plant - regardless of whether it is old-style fossil fuel, old-style nuclear or new-style renewables.

Renewables only look expensive because we have to invest the capital in setting them up. After that the fuel is forever free !

But Ray's argumetn isnt even that good, jo.

Ray has argued that the economic payback time for a photovoltaic installation is 44 years. His input is wrong, so he gets wrong values (for my own house the economic payback time is 7 - 15 years), but at least the method is good. How much does it cost, how long does it take to save that much, includiign a reasonable discount rate. Fair enough.

But then he takes the amazing leap of arguing that money is energy - explicitly, tht the money cost of an item not only reflects, but actually IS, exactly and precisely, its energy cost.

And therefore, he argues, the ENERGY payback time for a PV system is necessarily also 44 years, the same as the economic payback.

he continues to maintain this despite having been shown over an dover studies that tell us the energy payback time for PVs is 2-3 years, having come down from 8 years or so over the last decade.

That is why we (well, I at least) are ridiculing hm. It is of course true that costs of products reflect energy costs, and that one can look at this in an aggregate across the economy as an indicator of energy cost impacts. It is not true that the cost of a product IS its energy cost, exactly and precisely, and that economic payback times are exactly the same as energy payback times - but Ray is adamant on this.

Which is why, I say again, Ray is an idiot.

jo abbess,

"Renewables only look expensive because we have to invest the capital in setting them up. After that the fuel is forever free !"

Jo, there is no such thing as a 'free lunch'. If you think, for example, it is fine to cover an area the size of Wales with wind turbines, or rely on CSP located in the Sahara but dependent on securing the ground location and protecting the transmission lines then you are in for a big surprise. Other people might not actually agree with you on the first or if Europe goes for CSP in a big way it might end up recolonising parts of Africa to 'secure' its energy.

There are 'costs' involved in all energy production. To pretend otherwise is silly.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 21 Jul 2009 #permalink

Lee,

A question. Does your payback time for your PV cover only the cost to you of installing the system or does it also take account of the cost of producing the system?

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 21 Jul 2009 #permalink

Lee,

A question. Does your payback time for your PV cover only the cost to you of installing the system or does it also take account of the cost of producing the system?

Can either method make its carbon cost "is equal to the GDP of the entire world, summed over every year in the history of monetary economies"?

Dave Andrews:

Jo speaks of free *fuel*, not free *costs*. The two are totally different.

While I agree that security on a hypothetical Saharan concentrated solar plant would not be free, the point is that sunlight itself (jo's "fuel") is still free.

I'm also waiting for your alternative proposition. Just because it's fashionable right now for the opposition to be nothing more than a caricature of Groucho Marx doesn't mean that you can't be constructive.

most goods have an energy price of about 10% of their final price around here (i am still looking for better numbers on this...). doubling the oil price would lead to a 10% increase in their price. pretty unspectacular...
Posted by: sod | July 21, 2009 1:31 AM

There are so many points that that I could counter, raised in response to my last post, it would take me all day to do so. For the time being, I'd like to concentrate on this one point from Sod which I think represents a truly massive misunderstanding about the role of energy in our society, and is why some of you folks seem to think the payback time for a PVP can be as little as 2 or 3 years.

If you believe that the energy input to a product is on average only about 10% of the final price, then you are open to all sorts of manipulation as regards comparisons of the true and actual payback period of alternative sources of energy.

If the total cost of all energy inputs related to a product, both direct and indirect (or however you want to describe them) are not taken into consideration, then the payback period can be any lesser period you want, depending on what costs you've excluded.

Some of the usual reasons for excluding certain costs in energy payback calculations, are because they are either insignificant or simply too difficult to calculate. One or two insignificant costs omitted in one's calculations is of little consequence of course. But how about 100,000 individual but insignificant costs of energy input ranging in value from 0.1 cents to $1?

Now my skepticism is based upon objectivity and a rational approach to things. I believe in the scientific method of falsifiability.

I claim that the price we pay for a manufactured product reflects the total energy consumed, either directly or indirectly, for all processes involved in the manufacture, marketing, storage and transport of the item, plus a profit component whithout which the company producing the product wouldn't exist, and the product wouldn't exist.

It would be totally unreasonable to claim that a 30% or even a 100% mark-up on a product bought in JB Hi Fi is not a cost associated with the product you've just bought. If I buy a product directly from the internet (or better still, the factory), I can often get it cheaper. The reason it is cheaper is not because the energy input to the manufacture alone has changed. The item is cheaper because the associated, indirect costs are less. The item is cheaper because the lower price paid may not include the cost of air-conditioning the warehouse because the warehouse has no air-conditioning. It's cheaper because there's no floor salseman whose wages have to be paid. It's cheaper because the warehouse does not need to be carpeted and be adorned with nice furnishings to attract the customer etc etc etc.

The bottom line is, it's cheaper because the total energy inputs associated with bringing the product into your home is truly less. The price reflects the total energy input from all who are concerned. Basic economics.

Whilst having a (solar-heated) shower I was thinking about my back-of-the-envelope [equation](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/06/moncktons_vision_of_the_future…) from the Monckton thread. I realised that in rearranging it to get the nifty i = SP/END relationship, it is possible to state units for human economic irrationality. Thus, irrationality may be quantified in terms of $/joule/person. Once again, it seems to be a trivially obvious outcome.

This result seems to work if supply and desire are either non-parametrically quantified, or if these two factors are expressed in the same parametric units - in which case the units cancel each other. I could envision both options working, and in the parametric case an example might be where supply and desire are defined in terms of a unit of quantity per unit of time.

It occurred to me too that the term N is better defined as the number of buyers in the economic population, rather than the total number of people. The definition of the unit as 'person' needn't change, however.

It's all a bit of fun, and I am sure that someone much better versed in economics could plug many holes in my skylarking, but it doesn't change the fact that it is clear that Ray's obsession on money being a direct and fixed proxy for energy is a sweeping oversimplification. Quite aside from the other faulty assumptions that he has indulged in on this and on the parent thread, it is telling that he ignores the indications from many others here that his interpretations do not address much relevant fact.

Rather reflective of the way that he and his Denialist friends work more generally, when one thinks about it...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

> The price reflects the total energy input from all who are concerned. Basic economics.

... staggering.

What about locally produced organic produce that costs more than far more energy intensive, cheap, imported goods?

What about offshored electronics that are cheaper not because their energy usage is more efficient than local capacity, but because they pay far lower wages and have a greater disregard for labour welfare?

What about art, that has virtually zero production costs in terms of energy, but a massively inflated dollar value?

What about computer hardware sold at a loss, with the anticipation of future profits basedon software sales?

What about expensive bespoke productions of virtually any sort, for which the inflated price reflects not increased energy cost, but the increased skill involved in manufacture and quality of the end result?

What about items whose price reflects their scarcity (sometimes held artificially so), not their production cost?

What about "value" brands produced by the same companies, in the same factories and from the same ingredients as "luxury", marked down solely to drive out competition at all pricing levels?

Hell, what about items on sale, or second hand?

Boring.

Ray has one half-baked idée fixée sauced with a little stale Popperian philosophy of science.

Tim Curtin, on the other hand, has a smorgasbord of entertaining looniness.

Brian D,

Good grief! The fuel is not 'free' because, as with all fuels, there is a cost involved in harnessing it and distributing it. The sun shines every day but it does not voluntarily provide my home with electricity.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

Is Ray trying to say that technologies require energy ? "But how about 100,000 individual but insignificant costs of energy input ranging in value from 0.1 cents to $1?". That would be somewhere between $10,000 and $100,000.
A bumpkin calculus if there ever was one. "I believe in the scientific method of falsifiability",yes so do I.

By Bill O'Slatter (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

Ray writes:

We kid ourselves if we think the energy payback is 2, or 3, or 4 years [for PV]. But that's quite understandable. The main occupation of humanity at large would seem to be to kid itself.

MAB writes

Ray has left the building, hes is now off with the fairies, PV pays back its energy inputs in less than 3 years. Mind you, the Rays of this world don't need facts, he has his blind faith in his own ill informed impressions.

Ray responds:

Absolutely untrue. I'm always open to different interpretations supported by facts. Provide the facts, and I'll do a complete about face. There's no 'loss of face' issue as far as I'm concerned.

MAB writes:

Read the facts Ray, they are even linked for you. [I followed MAB's link [to here](http://www.clca.columbia.edu/papers/Photovoltaic_Energy_Payback_Times.p…), Yes Ray it worked, you needed to trace it through the numerous times it has been mentioned, and ignored].

Ray responds:

Your link doesn't work. But never mind. There's such a thing as commone sense. Anyone who believes that a $12,000 solar panel can pay for itself in 2, or 3, or 5, or even 10 years, is off the planet.

Lee responds:

The carbon emission payback time is 2,3,4 years. Pay attention. Oh BTW, MAB has posted that link about a half dozen times in this thread. Go find it and learn something.

So basically Ray open to the facts as long as they donât conflict with his ill informed impressions. Then facts for Ray are are unwelcome guests.

Posted by: Janet Akerman | July 20, 2009 8:06 AM

By Janet Akerman (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

Ray, have you given a thought as to the name of your new theory? How about the Energy Theory of Value? Sums it up succinctly without glossing over any of the supporting evidence. Drawback of course is the echo of another rather well known theory that was debunked back when dinosaurs walked the earth, but there I think you'll have a problem regardless.

It never ceases to amaze me the shamelessness with which people pass off freshly mined nuggets of 'wisdom' from the nether regions of their lower intestine. As basic knowledge no less. Keep up the good work here Ray.

Does Deltoid have a hall of shame for comments? Only the most ludicrously wingnutty need apply? Could be a way of aligning incentives of the community with better outcomes methinks.

By Majorajam (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

The price reflects the total energy input from all who are concerned. Basic economics.
... staggering.
What about locally produced organic produce that costs more than far more energy intensive, cheap, imported goods?
What about offshored electronics that are cheaper not because their energy usage is more efficient than local capacity, but because they pay far lower wages and have a greater disregard for labour welfare?
What about art, that has virtually zero production costs in terms of energy, but a massively inflated dollar value?
What about computer hardware sold at a loss, with the anticipation of future profits basedon software sales?
What about expensive bespoke productions of virtually any sort, for which the inflated price reflects not increased energy cost, but the increased skill involved in manufacture and quality of the end result?
What about items whose price reflects their scarcity (sometimes held artificially so), not their production cost?
What about "value" brands produced by the same companies, in the same factories and from the same ingredients as "luxury", marked down solely to drive out competition at all pricing levels?
Hell, what about items on sale, or second hand?
Posted by: Dave | July 22, 2009 3:03 PM

You know, all any of you guys have to do to disprove my theory, that the price paid for any manufactured item broadly (and on average) represents the energy associated with the production, marketing and delivery of that item, is to give me just one example of a cost component of any item you buy that has nothing to do with an energy input.

In scientific terms, this process is known as 'falsifiability'. However, since AGW adherents, especially on this site, seem quite relaxed about ignoring the principle of falsifiability and rely instead upon the 'straw man' argument to refute anything, then that's quite understandable.

But before you start thinking of any price components that are not related to energy inputs, bear in mind that I am talking about practical items that generate material prospertiy. It is understood that buying American dollars with Australian dollars, for example, is simply exchanging one currency for another. The energy input in such a transaction is represented by a small conversion charge and/or the difference between the buy and sell rates, which covers the costs and profits of the bank doing the work.

Likewise, buying collectibles, old coins, stamps and paintings are in a similar category to buying another country's currency.

So, lets have a look at Dave's points.

(1) What about locally produced organic produce that costs more than far more energy intensive, cheap, imported goods?

Okay, my principle would state than an expensive item like an organically grown potato takes more energy to produce than a regular potato produced by capital intensive and "so-called" energy intensive means.

'Energy intensive' does not mean a 'great deal' of energy, it means 'concentrated' energy. In fact, the 'so-called' energy intensive potato requires less energy to produce that the organically grown potato. That's why it's cheaper. It couldn't be otherwise. In other words, regular farming practices result in a far greater quantity of produce than organic farming practices, for the same cost. In short, conventional farming is more efficient..

For example, with conventional farming practices, it might take one farm employee with one tractor two days to plant and harvest 10 tonnes of potatoes. The farmhand gets paid, say, $200 per day and the tractor cost $200 per day to run (including amortisation of the original purchase price of the tractor). Total cost of planting and harvesting 10 tonnes of potatoes becomes $800. (These figures are for illustrative purposes only. The actual figure may of course be different).

The organic farmer, if he doesn't use a tractor because it might compact the soil in a harmful way, employs labour intensive practices. Perhaps the potatoes are planted and harvested by hand. If it's a 'biodynamic' potato farm, perhaps hundreds of cow horns full of manure will have to be buried during a full moon night in order to synergise the cosmic forces (whatever).

The organic farmer has to employ 10 workers for 2 days in order to plant and harvest 10 tonnes of potatos. At $200 per day per work, that totals $4,000, according to my maths.

One 'capital and energy intensive' process cost $800, the other labour intensive process costs $4,000.

Now, my theory (which incidentally is crystal clear to me and I'm quite baffled why some of you find the concept so difficult), would state that $4,000 in wages to the arganic farm employees represents more energy than the $800 dollars the guy gets who sits on the tractor. One farmer sitting on a tractor for two days gets $400 to spend at Harvey Norman. 10 organic farm workers get, amongst them, $4,000 to spend at Harvey Norman.

Let's move on to the next point raised by Dave.

(2) What about offshored electronics that are cheaper not because their energy usage is more efficient than local capacity, but because they pay far lower wages and have a greater disregard for labour welfare?

As in China! I tried to explain this in another thread. The cost of labour is an energy input. If the organic farmer were able to employ 10 Chinese workers for $20 a day instead of the $200 that the Australian worker requires, then the organic potato could be sold just as cheaply as the conventional potato and Harvey Norman would sell fewer goods. The energy input for both types of potatoes could be considered the same.

In general, goods imported from China are cheaper than the same goods produced in Australia because China uses less energy to produce the those same goods. The state-of-the-art machinery on the factory floor in China may use the same amount of diesel or electricity as the same machinery in Australia, but the Chinese worker rides to work on a bicycle because he's not paid enough to buy a car. Wages represent energy.

(3) What about art, that has virtually zero production costs in terms of energy, but a massively inflated dollar value?

A million dollar Van Gogh painting hanging on your wall is like a million dollar banknote with a more interesting design. The painting is the equivalent of money, although initially the painting might have cost more energy to produce than the million dollar banknote, although that's not certain. I don't know how many million dollar banknotes exist or how much it would cost to design one and to do a special print run.

(4) What about computer hardware sold at a loss, with the anticipation of future profits basedon software sales?

Merely a marketing trick. The total energy cost then becomes the hardware plus the software. A similar situation applies to the PVP. The item actually costs, say, $10,000, but you pay only $1,000 which gives you a fairly short payback period. Wow! you think, completely ignoring the fact that the $9,000 is paid for by everyone else, the tax-payer in general.

My theory takes all costs into consideration. I don't conveniently ignore a major cost represented by 90% of the price of an item.

(5) What about items whose price reflects their scarcity (sometimes held artificially so), not their production cost?

These are in the same category as collectors' items, including highly valued works of art already discussed. It's like putting cash under the mattress in the expectation that the currency will rise in value.

I believe it's illegal to dump products. Home Brand types of products are cheaper because they require less energy to produce and market, even if the only component of that lower energy cost is the lack of advertising. I don't recall ever seeing Home Brand baked beans advertised on telly, but I do recall seeing Heinz beans advertised frequently.

I would expect also that the 'value' product does not have the same ingredients. It's a different product as a result of its being cheaper. If it's not, then the public is being duped.

(7) What about expensive bespoke productions of virtually any sort, for which the inflated price reflects not increased energy cost, but the increased skill involved in manufacture and quality of the end result?

Increased skill is an energy input. Skilled people require higher wages and can buy more goods at Harvey Norman, which goods of course require energy to produce. The price generally reflects all energy costs associated with the product, apart from the obvious examples of marketing deception and subsidies etc.

(8) Hell, what about items on sale, or second hand?

Too easy. The energy cost has already been paid by the owner who is prepared to accept a loss in the case of the new item on 'sale', or who is prepared to share the energy cost with another person in the case of the person selling second hand goods.

If I give someone a present, whether it's a bunch of flowers or a motor car, I would be very surprised if the person receiving the present were to think, "Hey! I didn't pay anything for this item. It must have cost nothing to produce. It's manna from heaven."

There are all sorts of distortions, subsidies and deceptions in the market place, including plain illegal practices, which may lead one to think that the price of something doesn't reflect the energy costs associated with it. Don't be so easily deluded. All such aberrations could be lumped together as analagous to weather anomalies. It's climate were concerned about, with the irregularities of weather smoothed out, isn't it?

Ray writes:
>For the time being, I'd like to concentrate on this one point from Sod which I think represents a truly massive misunderstanding about the role of energy in our society, and is why some of you folks seem to think the payback time for a PVP can be as little as 2 or 3 years.

>If you believe that the energy input to a product is on average only about 10%

[*Where did this number 10% come from Ray?*]

Ray continues:
>If the total cost of all energy inputs related to a product, both direct and indirect (or however you want to describe them) are not taken into consideration, then the payback period can be any lesser period you want, depending on what costs you've excluded.

[*IF, thatâs an IF Ray, so where is your evidence of the scale of energy excluded from consideration?*]

Ray continues:
>Some of the usual reasons for excluding certain costs in energy payback calculations, are because they are either insignificant or simply too difficult to calculate. One or two insignificant costs omitted in one's calculations is of little consequence of course. But how about 100,000 individual but insignificant costs of energy input ranging in value from 0.1 cents to $1?

[*Are these numbers based on a [Life Cycle Assessment](http://www.ecn.nl/docs/library/report/2006/rx06016.pdf) (LCA) or did you make them up Ray? Where is your evidence for the energy excluded?*]

By Janet Akerman (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

Ray has [already acknowledged](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/06/moncktons_vision_of_the_future…)
that his theory is falsified; he just has a very short memory.

>Fair enough, Janet. At least you have provided a chart relating C02 emissions to GDP, which tends to blow my theory out of the water. I knew I would eventually learn something if I hung around long enough. I hadn't seen that chart before

Ray, take your meds.

By Janet Akerman (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

Dave Andrews @24: Good grief! The fuel is not 'free' because, as with all fuels, there is a cost involved in harnessing it and distributing it. The sun shines every day but it does not voluntarily provide my home with electricity.

You fail reading comprehension. Look at Jo's comment again.

The solar panels et al are part of the *infrastructure* cost - initial capital costs to set up the facility. They are not part of the fuel costs. You would argue that we should include the cost to assemble a coal-fired power plant when estimating the cost of buying coal.

Ray says:

...my principle would state than[sic]...

and

...my theory (which incidentally is crystal clear to me and I'm quite baffled why some of you find the concept so difficult)...

and

[m]y theory takes all costs into consideration.

[emphases mine]

Ray, it is not your theory - it is a centuries- (millenia-?) long understood principle of economics that money is a socially recognised representation of embodied energy. No-one is disputing that this is so.

What you seem to be ignoring with all of your egg-cup swapping is that there are other social phenomena attached to the use of money that removes any fixed proportionality to embodied energy.

I have tried to play with some ideas in order to light a bulb in your brain, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in... Human irrationality is an integral component of economic transaction, and this modifies the actual embodied energy component in a unit of currency as said irrationality affects price. Thus, over time, subjectively modified desires change the degree to which prices reflect the true embodied energy in "practical items that generate material prospertiy [sic]". I cited several bubble phenomena that illustrate this, and played with beer-coaster equations in an attempt to elicit some thought from you. Legal or illegal theft and parasitism certainly impact on the degree to which prices reflect the true embodied energy too, especially where the victims of such have little recourse to feeding back into the pricing mechanisms of an economy.

One could argue that at an economy level there is more of a direct relationship between money and embodied energy, than there is at a price level for "practical items that generate material prospertiy [sic]", but even at an economic level human irrationality will modify the relationship over time.

If it did not, one would not observe the sort of tipping points in the supply/demand cycles of human economic endeavour that result in booms/busts (and perhaps even other social upheavals such as war) when a society's willingness to accept the variable relationship between money and energy is stretched beyond the society's tolerance.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

[Where did this number 10% come from Ray?]

it was a guess by me.

here is a reply to Ray, that i could not post yesterday....

Ray, you are simply wrong. an extra value of 0.1$ is just that. an extra 0.1$.

air conditioning of the warehouse will cause a price increase of at best a cent on each of the millions of goods stored in it.

the main difference between buying from the factory and buying from a store is definitely NOT energy. (even though products do a lot of utterly unnecessary travelling...)

here is an example of a calculation about the Prius:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2194989/

The best guess regarding the Prius' energy consumption during assembly comes from sustainability engineer Pablo Päster, a Lantern favorite. He used Argonne National Laboratory's GREET modelâwhich takes into account the energy intensiveness of producing glass, steel, copper, and other critical materialsâto calculate that manufacturing a Prius requires about 113 million British thermal units. (Päster also guessed that manufacturing the hybrid version of a Toyota Highlander uses 155 million BTUs, vs. 107 million BTUs for the standard

even in steel, the energy component is surprisingly small.

http://www.holmeshummel.net/ClimatePolicyDesign/03-OutputBasedRebates-C…

Now, my theory (which incidentally is crystal clear to me and I'm quite baffled why some of you find the concept so difficult), would state that $4,000 in wages to the arganic farm employees represents more energy than the $800 dollars the guy gets who sits on the tractor.

your "theory" is complete rubbish.

to use your own example: if we had only oil as an energy source, and the price of oil would double (or triple or increase ten times), this would have a strong effect on the energy intensive production and very little on the organic farmer.

again: your "theory" is completely wrong!

>What you seem to be ignoring with all of your egg-cup swapping is that there are other social phenomena attached to the use of money that removes any fixed proportionality to embodied energy.

Bernad, That's quite good, and Ray's cup and thimbol tricks are like a child's, where he sheilds his own eyes and beleive that he is hidden. Ray when you play these games and hide your head, we all see an arse.

By Janet Akerman (not verified) on 22 Jul 2009 #permalink

A friend of mine is a rock hobbyist and has a hobby business. He collects and sells geodes.

One a recent trip, he collected a half dozen geodes - two in particular were within a couple ounces of the same weight. He shipped them back together - same package. He cut and polished the cuts nearly identically. He photographed and put them onto his online store, identically. There might have been a tiny difference in energy cost to prepare and sell those geodes, but if so, you would be hard pressed to say which cost more energy.

One of those geodes had a large cavity with gorgeous medium amethyst crystals, and a thick wall - he sold it for right at $800.

The other had almost no cavity, a handful of badly colored crystals bunched together in the middle - he ended up selling that one for about $25.

There was no detectable difference in energy input in collecting, preparing, marketing and selling these two geodes, but one of them sold for 32x what the other cost.

Ray seems to be arging taht the mroe expensvie oen actually dos have 32x the energy cost, becaue the medium of exchange itself, the symbolic "dollar" itself, represents an energy cost.

Even if true, Ray errs by assigning the full $800 of energy cost to EVERY SINGLE TRANSACTION that each dollar in involved in. If my buddy uses that *800 to buy another rock, Ray argues that this rock ALSO has the $80 of energy cost that the money conveys. And if that guy uses the $800 to buy yet another rock, that rock ALSO has the $800 of energy cost associated - so the same $800 has now weighted three rocks down with a total of $2400 of energy costs.

Ray is full of it - for nearly any value of 'it.'.

Ray:
>'Energy intensive' does not mean a 'great deal' of energy, it means 'concentrated' energy. In fact, the 'so-called' energy intensive potato requires less energy to produce that the organically grown potato. That's why it's cheaper.

I'll just join in with the ridicule...

It seems that Ray likes rewriting meanings, or rather he likes to play with the fragile nature of language.

The reason a conventional potatoe is cheaper is because it relies on artificial inputs (energy intensity). eg. a fossil fuel subsidy.
An organic potatoe might be more expensive as a result of a reduced productivity of the land it was planted on (although productivity is also a function of good 'natural' land management. Fossil fuels attempt to disconnect the land management from nature). If you increase the inputs by using fossil fuel based fertilisers and pesticides etc. You can boost productivity, at least while you have access to the 'energy' fossil fuels supply.

To my knowledge most organic farmers still use tractors etc.
I know of only a few organic farmers in the UK that try and avoid farm machinery completely.

The other point is that human energy is not equivalent to fossil fuel energy and there is certainly no equivalence as far as costs go (although maybe an accountant would just look at the 'figures' and decide there is a direct 'monetary' relationship).

Everyone understands this except our economics fantasist Ray.
I can see that he is driven by the current moronic economics diktat.

>As in China! I tried to explain this in another thread. The cost of labour is an energy input. If the organic farmer were able to employ 10 Chinese workers for $20 a day instead of the $200 that the Australian worker requires, then the organic potato could be sold just as cheaply as the conventional potato and Harvey Norman would sell fewer goods. The energy input for both types of potatoes could be considered the same.

Sometimes you have to call a spade, 'a spade'. And this is true of Ray.

If the farm workers are paid less, then they can afford less.
If you replicate that throughout society, then when wages drop, product costs drop as well and you get a new balance where the lower paid workers are just as poor as they were before. You can only gain in any society by creating inequalities.

In a world based on human labour people afford what they can based on status, labour, effort, time taken to do something etc.
The introduction of fossil fuels subsidies that status, artificially boosting human status while the fuels are available.

This is the problem with dumb people that only focus on numbers. They forget reality.

Very much shorter Ray:

All you have to do is falsify my insane genius theory, which you cannot do because I can *make stuff up* and say it supports it, irrespective of how that relates to reality.

I particularly love how in your organic/intensive farming comparison you completely ignored all costs of international transportation, pesticides, energy input to creating the pesticides in the first place, energy input to *researching* the pesticides in the first place, intensity and regularity of crop spraying and the energy cost of runing farm equipment for that purpose, environmental cleanup costs, land, energy input to building the houses the farmers live in, energy input for artificial heating of greenhouses, energy input for creating the glass that the greenhouses are made from, tax subsidies, cost of maintenance of complex farm equipment, energy cost of creating the farm equipment in the first place, seed costs, security for keeping protesters off intensive farms, price gouging from aggressive supermarket buyers, difference in yield and quality standards, cost of certification, inspection, labelling and packaging. But its all okay - because in your world, it is valid to conjure up an arbitrary number, multiply it by another arbitrary number and state it is equivalent to another arbitrary number.

>In general, goods imported from China are cheaper than the same goods produced in Australia because China uses less energy to produce the those same goods. The state-of-the-art machinery on the factory floor in China may use the same amount of diesel or electricity as the same machinery in Australia, but the Chinese worker rides to work on a bicycle because he's not paid enough to buy a car. Wages represent energy.

What you describe is inequality. Australians get cheap goods because the Chinese worker is paid less. It is a human factor not an energy one. The inequality results in a perception of cheaper goods for one group of people compared to another.
Also Chinese factories are not hugely different. In fact many are more wasteful, if you have access to cheap coal then efficiency isn't a priority, nor is river pollution etc.

eg. low costs in China are a result of relaxed attitudes in industry that are no longer tolerated in Australia or other developed nations.

>A barrel of oil is worth the energy it can produce, whatever the price.

Doh!

Something is 'worth' the energy it can produce, 'whatever' the price.

LOL x 10

So by definition then, a barrel of oil is worth £10 of 'energy' say. Yet the price could go up and down???

'Classic', as we say in the UK. I suppose we should be more generous really.

But before you start thinking of any price components that are not related to energy inputs, bear in mind that I am talking about practical items that generate material prospertiy. It is understood that buying American dollars with Australian dollars, for example, is simply exchanging one currency for another. The energy input in such a transaction is represented by a small conversion charge and/or the difference between the buy and sell rates, which covers the costs and profits of the bank doing the work. ... Likewise, buying collectibles, old coins, stamps and paintings are in a similar category to buying another country's currency.

ray is confusing definitions.

he is sometimes using energy as a physical quantity ("the amount of work that can be performed by a force"), for example when he is including human labour.

but he is using it at other times in a more specific sense, as the chemical energy stored in fossil fuels.

so labour done by hand, becomes fossil energy in the end.

he also ignores all mechanisms forming prices. the major one being scarcity. (this is why his "theory" can not explain the high price for those low energy products. the high price of a 100$ bill is caused by the scarcity of those notes.)

so all types of energy equal their price equals oil. a completely moronic equation.

and again: the real energy intensiveness of even high energy products is very small.

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/program_areas/industries.html

Glass: Energy costs account for approximately 8-12% of glass production costs.

looks like my 10% guess was way too high, as i said already...

Dave's comment at #38 reminds me of some infrastructure costs that Ray has conveniently ignored in his fossil fuel versusrenewables comparison...

...just about all of them, actually!

When my sister and her husband built just over 100 metres from the nearest power line, she was quoted around $10k for a connection. Her PV system was cheaper, and their upkeep over the last 11 years has been much lower than the utility bills would have been. Given this, and the fact that they are independent of others for power, they have never regreted their decision.

It makes me wonder what the 'real' cost Ray's version of 'cheap' energy would be if all such infrastructure costs were included, just as he scrambles to account for every cost that might be involved in renewable energy...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 23 Jul 2009 #permalink

Let's give this one a second try- Ray's contention that the value/price of a thing is derived by its energy input can be best described as an exceedingly inane take on the Labor Theory of Value- last heard from in the 19th century as advanced by economists such as Ricardo, Marx, etc. you may have heard of- and updated for the 21st century wingnut's Putinesqe fossil fuel fetish.

No one but no one with half a brain and a smattering of education continues to be of the opinion that this theory is an accurate depiction of commercial dynamics, let alone Ray's comical iteration. What we now understand (err, our father's father's father's generation worked out and we can look up in dusty text books) is that prices/value are actually a function of preferences of buyers and sellers, commercial circumstance and associated market clearing conditions (i.e. the price at which the marginal buyer and seller transact). Since in the very short run where prices are set, (for the most part, e.g. long-term contracts, futures markets, etc.), supply and demand are largely fixed (again for the most part, e.g. wealth and substitution effects, the output gap etc.), prices must adjust for markets to clear. Indeed, that's what we see.

As for 'falsification', I'd ask Ray to explain why, for example, residents of New York City who use substantially less energy per capita than the rest of the United States also have the highest cost of living/labor costs, or why the massive spike in energy costs this decade had so little impact on, for example, the cost of toys or textiles, or why the entire economic/financial community is dumb enough to figure that labor is a more important determinant of economic cost than energy input, etc., etc., etc. but am afraid what kind of cockamamie answers I'd get in response. Once bitten and the rest of it.

As an aside, the ignorance of market function by your average market fundamentalists is mind bending.

By Majorajam (not verified) on 23 Jul 2009 #permalink

Brian D, # 31

You are playing semantics. The cost of recovering the coal and building the power station are covered by the price charged for the electricity. Solar is still much more expensive than coal despite the 'free' fuel.

Moreover, in the UK you would have to completely roof around 600,000 houses with with PV cells in order to produce 1GW of electricity on a continuous basis.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 23 Jul 2009 #permalink

Dave Andrews:

First, of course I'm playing semantics - you ignored semantics in Jo's original statement. Let me remind you:

--
Jo: Renewables only look expensive because we have to invest the capital in setting them up. After that the fuel is forever free !

(Note: The only "Free" she mentions is the fuel, such as sunlight and wind. She freely admitted that the panels and turbines - the "capital" - were not free. You do not need to pay for the sun to shine or the wind to blow, so she is correct in the first point. You DO need to pay to start harnessing these, but these are up-front capital costs, not fuel costs.)

Dave Andrews: Jo, there is no such thing as a 'free lunch'. If you think, for example, it is fine to cover an area the size of Wales with wind turbines, or rely on CSP located in the Sahara but dependent on securing the ground location and protecting the transmission lines then you are in for a big surprise.

(Note: You attack her "free" by targeting capital costs, ignoring the fuel statement.)

Me: Jo speaks of free fuel, not free costs. The two are totally different.

(Just pointing this out.)

You: Good grief! The fuel is not 'free' because, as with all fuels, there is a cost involved in harnessing it and distributing it.

(The sunlight itself is free. The cost involved in harnessing/distributing it, with the exception of maintenance and security, is entirely capital cost. Note that in my experience with grid-intertie solar systems, the only maintenance is a periodic cleaning of the solar panels, about as frequent and as expensive as cleaning the eavestroughs (i.e. not very).)

--

Have I made myself clear? You are confounding two types of costs, and the error was introduced by YOU, not by Jo or me.

Moreover, in the UK you would have to completely roof around 600,000 houses with with PV cells in order to produce 1GW of electricity on a continuous basis.

PV can't provide continuous electricity due to storage concerns. If you're trying to produce solar on the GW scale, it's probably better to use concentrated solar thermal.

Furthermore, I have no idea where you're getting your numbers from, but "completely roofing" a house in PV panels is a waste by anyone's standards. Even gung-ho off-grid solar enthusiasts tend to have only a small section (typically equatorially-facing panels inclined to match your latitude) in order to get the most bang for your buck. It doesn't make sense in the UK to try to capture sunlight from the north face of your house, for instance.

Finally, you do realize the importance of efficiency and conservation, right? Especially in countries like, say, England, which are ripe for retrofitting? I'm pretty damn sure that with the right insulation and passive solar use (and if you don't know what THAT is, you haven't done any homework at all), you could save the same amount of energy as your 600,000 solar houses could generate, but at a fraction of the cost. You're considering just the supply end of the equation.

Once again, there are far too many 'straw men' arguments for me to address, so I'll just concentrate on a few really obvious fallacies and massive misconceptions.

(1) The solar panels et al are part of the infrastructure cost - initial capital costs to set up the facility. They are not part of the fuel costs. You would argue that we should include the cost to assemble a coal-fired power plant when estimating the cost of buying coal.
Posted by: Brian D | July 23, 2009 12:09 AM>/em>

Does Brian D think that infrastructure costs are gifts from heaven that no-one has to pay for? If the coal-fired power station is a government run enterprise, the cost of the infrastructure may well not be relfected in the price of electricity. It may be borne by the tax-payer.

If the coal-fired power station is a private enterprise which is not being subsidised, the electricity price per kilowatt hour will have to include all costs which, without exception, are energy inputs. The costs of building the power station, maintaining the power station, running the power station, buying the coal, filtering the obnoxious fumes when burning the coal, paying all wages to all employees and all dividends to all shareholders, must all be included in the price of the electricity produced. The total cost of all inputs of all kinds must be borne by the consumer of the electricity, in the absence of subsidies. If the price of the electricity is not high enough to meet all such costs, the company either ends up in receivership, or is bailed out by the government. Basic economics.

Ray, it is not your theory - it is a centuries- (millenia-?) long understood principle of economics that money is a socially recognised representation of embodied energy. No-one is disputing that this is so.
Posted by: Bernard J. | July 23, 2009 12:37 AM

Good! So what's all the fuss about?

What you seem to be ignoring with all of your egg-cup swapping is that there are other social phenomena attached to the use of money that removes any fixed proportionality to embodied energy.
I have tried to play with some ideas in order to light a bulb in your brain, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in... Human irrationality is an integral component of economic transaction, and this modifies the actual embodied energy component in a unit of currency as said irrationality affects price. Thus, over time, subjectively modified desires change the degree to which prices reflect the true embodied energy in "practical items that generate material prospertiy [sic]". I cited several bubble phenomena that illustrate this, and played with beer-coaster equations in an attempt to elicit some thought from you. Legal or illegal theft and parasitism certainly impact on the degree to which prices reflect the true embodied energy too, especially where the victims of such have little recourse to feeding back into the pricing mechanisms of an economy.
Posted by: Bernard J. | July 23, 2009 12:37 AM

I haven't ignored it at all. I've explained it, in this thread, using weather as an analogy. There are fluctuations in the prices of many items, bull markets, bear markets, frequent discounted 'sales prices' every day of the week applying to a huge range of items. Such prices are as changeable as the weather. But we're concerned about the climate, not just weather fluctuations, aren't we?

your "theory" is complete rubbish.
to use your own example: if we had only oil as an energy source, and the price of oil would double (or triple or increase ten times), this would have a strong effect on the energy intensive production and very little on the organic farmer.
again: your "theory" is completely wrong!
Posted by: sod | July 23, 2009 1:17 AM

Wrong? It's your understanding of my theory which is rubbish (sorry to be so rude. It must be the company I'm keeping.) Refer Bernard J's statement, "...it is a centuries- (millenia-?) long understood principle of economics that money is a socially recognised representation of embodied energy. No-one is disputing that this is so".

Looks like Bernard is half right and half wrong. Money clearly is a respresentation of embodied energy, and that's not my discovery. I'm merely applying the principle. But he's wrong that no-one is disputng it. You clearly are.

To get back to the potato farm; in a society where oil was the only sources of energy, and oil, say, doubled in 'real' price (not just inflation), then the farm hand on the tractor would have enough oil to produce only 5 tonnes of potatoes, instead of ten tonnes, and the farmer employing the farmhand could afford to pay him only one day's wages instead ot two.

Likewise, the organic farmer would only be able to afford the wages of only 5 workers instead of 10 and he too would be able to produce only 5 tonnes of potatoes instead of 10. The price difference would remain the same. The quantity of goods produced would fall in proportion to the rise in the price of oil.

Of course, in practice, as Bernard has pointed out, all hell would break loose. Both types of farmers would attempt to charge more for the fewer potatoes they were able to produce. The consumers would rebel. Those who were already on the povery line would starve. A war would break out and a million people would die.

I particularly love how in your organic/intensive farming comparison you completely ignored all costs of international transportation, pesticides, energy input to creating the pesticides in the first place, energy input to researching the pesticides in the first place, intensity and regularity of crop spraying and the energy cost of runing farm equipment for that purpose, environmental cleanup costs, land, energy input to building the houses the farmers live in, energy input for artificial heating of greenhouses, energy input for creating the glass that the greenhouses are made from, tax subsidies, cost of maintenance of complex farm equipment, energy cost of creating the farm equipment in the first place, seed costs, security for keeping protesters off intensive farms, price gouging from aggressive supermarket buyers, difference in yield and quality standards, cost of certification, inspection, labelling and packaging. But its all okay - because in your world, it is valid to conjure up an arbitrary number, multiply it by another arbitrary number and state it is equivalent to another arbitrary number.
Posted by: Dave | July 23, 2009 6:33 AM

I haven't ignored the costs. I've claimed that others who do payback comparisons ignore such costs. Here's what I wrote in post #20: "Some of the usual reasons for excluding certain costs in energy payback calculations are because they are either insignificant or simply too difficult to calculate. One or two insignificant costs omitted in one's calculations is of little consequence of course. But how about 100,000 individual but insignificant costs of energy input ranging in value from 0.1 cents to $1?"

I haven't got the time to spend two months doing research on various methods of potato farming and another two months writing a book on the subject. But, if I were to, you can be sure I would include absolutely every cost I could think of. It would probably be a very boring book, but at least it would be factual.

A barrel of oil is worth the energy it can produce, whatever the price.
Doh!
Something is 'worth' the energy it can produce, 'whatever' the price.
LOL x 10
So by definition then, a barrel of oil is worth £10 of 'energy' say. Yet the price could go up and down???
'Classic', as we say in the UK. I suppose we should be more generous really.
Posted by: Paul | July 23, 2009 6:57 AM

Absolutely not. Another massive misunderstanding. Doh! LOL x20.

By definition a barrel of oil is worth approximately 6.1 gigajoules of energy, equivalent to about 1,700 kilowatt hours of electricity. What might change that figure in practice are differences in the efficiency of the machines that use the energy. The energy content of the oil is not affected by any price changes. If the price rises in real terms, as opposed to inflationary pressures, then the price per gigajoule of energy rises. The energy content of the barrel of oil remains unchanged, whatever the price. Is that clear?

Dave's comment at #38 reminds me of some infrastructure costs that Ray has conveniently ignored in his fossil fuel versusrenewables comparison...
...just about all of them, actually!
When my sister and her husband built just over 100 metres from the nearest power line, she was quoted around $10k for a connection. Her PV system was cheaper, and their upkeep over the last 11 years has been much lower than the utility bills would have been. Given this, and the fact that they are independent of others for power, they have never regreted their decision.
It makes me wonder what the 'real' cost Ray's version of 'cheap' energy would be if all such infrastructure costs were included, just as he scrambles to account for every cost that might be involved in renewable energy...
Posted by: Bernard J. | July 23, 2009 10:07 AM

I have not ignored them. In the Monckton thread I stated quite definitely that a PV system, even with the additional cost of battery storage, may be justified in remote areas where one does not have the convenience of the grid. PVPs have been around for a long time. In remote areas, the alternative cost of providing a grid connection is often too prohibitive. One may then have to make cost comparisons between a photovoltaic panel with battery back-up, and a diesel generator. I suspect the diesel generator would be a lot cheaper, but I've never done the calculations because I've never been in that situation of living in an area with no electricity supply.

I [said](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1791455):

Ray, it is not your theory - it is a centuries- (millenia-?) long understood principle of economics that money is a socially recognised representation of embodied energy. No-one is disputing that this is so.

and Ray said:

Good! So what's all the fuss about?

and then, a little later:

Looks like Bernard is half right and half wrong. Money clearly is a respresentation of embodied energy, and that's not my discovery. I'm merely applying the principle. But he's wrong that no-one is disputng [sic] it. You clearly are.

Ray, you are being mendacious in ignoring my immediately following paragraph, which said:

What you seem to be ignoring with all of your egg-cup swapping is that there are other social phenomena attached to the use of money that removes any fixed proportionality to embodied energy.

This is what the fuss is about: that "there are other social phenomena attached to the use of money that removes any fixed proportionality to embodied energy".

You obviously continue to ignore this point, because to acknowledge it would be to render all of your blather about the relationship between energy and money inaccurate and irrelevant. In doing so, you are not being a nice person.

Oh, and I don't think that I was "wrong" about my initial comment that no-one disputes a relationship between energy and money. It's just that no-one accepts that the relationship is a fixed one. Heck, you say it yourself:

If the price rises in real terms, as opposed to inflationary pressures, then the price per gigajoule of energy rises. The energy content of the barrel of oil remains unchanged, whatever the price.

If you are to maintain your original money = energy canard, any such real increase must be reflective only of additional embodied energy in production. All well and fine, but given that [you were referring to](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1791351) "practical items that generate material prospertiy [sic]", and not to a general economy, do you continue to argue that human irrationality (and indeed, other perceptions) does not modify the relationship between the price of a good, and the energy embodied by it?

A yes or no answer will do.

Ray also said:

I haven't ignored it at all. I've explained it, in this thread, using weather as an analogy. There are fluctuations in the prices of many items, bull markets, bear markets, frequent discounted 'sales prices' every day of the week applying to a huge range of items. Such prices are as changeable as the weather. But we're concerned about the climate, not just weather fluctuations, aren't we?

WTF?!

Ray, we are trying to elicit from you some sense about pricing and embodied energy. At what point did changable prices and weather fluctuations come into it?!

Is this your lame attempt at a strawman?

I said:

It makes me wonder what the 'real' cost Ray's version of 'cheap' energy would be if all such infrastructure costs were included, just as he scrambles to account for every cost that might be involved in renewable energy...

And Ray said:

I have not ignored them. In the Monckton thread I stated quite definitely that a PV system, even with the additional cost of battery storage, may be justified in remote areas where one does not have the convenience of the grid. PVPs have been around for a long time. In remote areas, the alternative cost of providing a grid connection is often too prohibitive.

The example I gave was for a property 35 minutes drive from the state capital's GPO, so it's hardly "remote", but that's not the point. What I was trying to get at was that for the cost some rather insignificant additional mains infrastructure, PV suddenly stacked up - if the life-time cost of infrastructure for coal-fired power is compared with the equivalent cost for renewables, what do you anticipate that the outcome would be?

Note, this includes the current externalities of environmental harm (biodiversity, habitat, and ecosystem function loss/damage, et cetera), attempts to repair said environmental harm, and damage to other social goods (the Liverpool Plains coal 'exploration' in NSW being one example), as well as the effective underpricing of fossil fuels that seems to be inherent in many tradings.

And I am [still curious](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/06/moncktons_vision_of_the_future…).

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 24 Jul 2009 #permalink

Let me remind people where this started.

Ray claimed that the environmental payback time of a PV system is 44 years.

He claimed this was necessarily true, because the economic payback time is 44 years, and that the economic price is exactly and precisely the cost of the embodied energy, so the energy payback must be exactly the same as the economic payback.

He has ignored evidence that the actual economic payback for an installed PV system is around 7 - 15 years.

He has ignored evidence that the actual energy/carbon payback time is 2-4 years.

He has also ignored or misrepresented multiple examples now of things with identical embodied energy and different prices (my rock example comes to mind) or with different embodied energy and similar prices.

He has to ignore all those facts, of course because if he admits that the actual economic payback time is different from the actual energy/carbon payback time, or that two identically collected and prepared rocks can differ in price by 32x, then his "theory" is blown to hell out of the water.

Ray said:
>By definition a barrel of oil is worth approximately 6.1 gigajoules of energy, equivalent to about 1,700 kilowatt hours of electricity.

Maybe in future you will use language which is appropriate.
The energy content of any material isn't 'worth' something, it is a physical relationship.

D***head.

IS THAT CLEAR.

Ray:

There is no direct 'payback' link between economics and science or engineering.

You yourself have pointed out that the monetary value of oil is disconnected from the energy embodied in oil.

So if you are going to work out energy payback, it is going to be different to economic payback.
Energy payback is determined by science and engineering, monetary payback is determined by human perceptions of value, importance, fashion etc.
Because environmental issues are based on science and not (current) economics theory, then the environmental payback is also not the same.

No matter how much you twist and turn you will always be wrong, and as i have said, the fact is fossil fuels are a subsidy that is temporarily boosting human endeavour without concern for the long term impacts.

Brian D,

The 600,000 houses figure is given by David Coley,Centre for Energy & Environment, Exeter University in his textbook for students 'Energy and Climate Change', Wily,2008, p437.

You're still talking semantics. On the basis you are stating I could say that coal is a free source of energy since it is already available in the ground.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 24 Jul 2009 #permalink

Wrong? It's your understanding of my theory which is rubbish (sorry to be so rude. It must be the company I'm keeping.) Refer Bernard J's statement, "...it is a centuries- (millenia-?) long understood principle of economics that money is a socially recognised representation of embodied energy. No-one is disputing that this is so".

Bernard is talking about the parts of your theory that make sense. the majority of it doesn t make sense.

"adding energy to a product will typically increase its price." is a useful claim.

"the price of an item is only dependent on the energy (in oil) added to it." is plainly stupid.

you can not see the difference. your logic capacity is below the level of the average 10 year old kid.

Looks like Bernard is half right and half wrong. Money clearly is a respresentation of embodied energy, and that's not my discovery. I'm merely applying the principle. But he's wrong that no-one is disputng it. You clearly are. ... to get back to the potato farm; in a society where oil was the only sources of energy, and oil, say, doubled in 'real' price (not just inflation), then the farm hand on the tractor would have enough oil to produce only 5 tonnes of potatoes, instead of ten tonnes, and the farmer employing the farmhand could afford to pay him only one day's wages instead ot two.

you are wrong. you are transfering the manual work of those 5 workers into oil as well. you can t do that.

if the tractor is using the same oil as the 5 workers (perhaps they are trinking it?), then there is no difference between the situations. manual work is manual work. it requires exactly ZERO oil.

ps: you decided to ignore all my links, that show how little real energy is needed to produce even high energy goods.

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/program_areas/industries.html

i understand that. your argument would fall apart immediately, if you accept the existence of reality.

You're still talking semantics. On the basis you are stating I could say that coal is a free source of energy since it is already available in the ground.

Ray said:
By definition a barrel of oil is worth approximately 6.1 gigajoules of energy, equivalent to about 1,700 kilowatt hours of electricity.

Maybe in future you will use language which is appropriate. The energy content of any material isn't 'worth' something, it is a physical relationship.
D*head.
IS THAT CLEAR.
Posted by: Paul | July 24, 2009 2:22 PM

No it's not CLEAR. In fact not only is it not CLEAR, I believe part of your statement is plain WRONG. The notion that the energy content of a material isn't worth something is just absurd. I never, ever buy anything that is not worth something, except by mistake. I don't know anyone who buys stuff that is not worth something. What sort of world do you inhabit?

But of course energy content it's also a relationship. What isn't a relationship? There's probably nothing in the entire universe which is not related to something else. Sex is a relationship. A carbon dioxide molecule in the atmosphere is in a loose relationship with other surrounding molecules. The carbon and oxygen atoms comprising the C02 molecule are in a more stable relationship. The protons and neutrons comprising the carbon atom's nucleus are in an even more stable relationship.

Some of you guys don't seem to have any grasp of the fundamentals. You don't appear to know the difference between value and price. The value of something is always determined by the cost of available alternatives, not by its price. If the price of oil rises steeply and stays high, people will eventually use alternative, cheaper sources of energy as certainly as night follows day.

The cost of electricity produced from PVPs is currently very expensive. If all components of the PVP were manufactured, assembled, marketed, transported and installed, primarily using energy produced from coal, and all associated but necessary indirect processes involved in the PVP's production also used energy produced from coal, then it's quite clear from basic maths that solar voltaic panels at the current price in Australia of $10,000-$12,000 for an assembly that produces about $270 worth of electricity a year, have a payback period of around 40 years, by which time you'll need to buy a new PVP.

What's even worse is the fact that there are no savings in CO2 emissions, since the alternative PVP has already consumed $12,000 equivalent of coal generated electricity in its production. Which is better, to dump $12,000 equivalent of CO2 into the atmosphere in one go, or to spread it out evenly over a 40 year period?

If the PVP, or significant components of the PVP, are made in China, it might be even worse for the environment than outlined above, according to information 'linked to' on another thread by Janet Akerman. (We should be eternally grateful to Janet for opening out eyes in this regard.) Apparently, every dollar worth of GDP in China (on average it is claimed) has an even greater CO2 association than the same value of production in Australia or America. This is presumably because China has less stringent emission controls than we do.

If you wish to be certain that you are doing the right thing for the environment, you should examine the types and sources of energy used at each stage of the production of the PVP you are contemplating installing, otherwise you are just kidding yourselves. All the paypack analyses referred to on this site, that I've seen, in threads such as the Monckton thread, seem to conveniently ignore such issues. The ANU Engineering Department's payback calculation is one such analysis I looked at.

Basically, if you want to reduce CO2 emissions, you have to start producing the goods we use every day, including PV panels, cars, houses etc using clean energy sources. That means replacing coal-fired power stations with, cleaner sources of energy such as windmill farms, tidal power, thermal rocks, PVP farms, atomic power stations, hydroelectricity and so on.

What's so difficult to understand?

"the price of an item is only dependent on the energy (in oil) added to it." is plainly stupid.
you can not see the difference. your logic capacity is below the level of the average 10 year old kid.
Posted by: sod | July 24, 2009 9:42 PM

you are wrong. you are transfering the manual work of those 5 workers into oil as well. you can t do that.
if the tractor is using the same oil as the 5 workers (perhaps they are trinking it?), then there is no difference between the situations. manual work is manual work. it requires exactly ZERO oil.
ps: you decided to ignore all my links, that show how little real energy is needed to produce even high energy goods.
Posted by: sod | July 24, 2009 9:42 PM

Dear me! I should get some sort of award for taking the trouble to explain such basic relationships. A Nobel Prize would do.

The 5 workers don't drink the oil as a tractor does. They consume the material products that are produced from the energy potential of the oil. I can't believe it is so difficult to understand something so basic. The 5 workers need food for a start. They also need clothing and shelter. All these items, in a society that were to rely upon oil for all it's energy needs, would require substantial amounts of oil to produce.

The tractor doesn't need clothing. The tractor doesn't eat bread and drink beer, and the 5 workers are not slaves. Slavery is illegal in Australia. Didn't you know?

The 5 workers need a lot more than just food, clothing and basic shelter. They need and are entitled to a basic standard of living, or the money (embodied energy) to make possible such a standard of living which may include a house and a car and a fridge and a telly and so on, not to mention superannuation. Without such items, or the money to buy such items, the workers on the organic farm understandably wouldn't work, unless they were forced to work like slaves.

The tractor doesn't need a television, a swimming pool and a nice house. It doesn't need fruit and vegetables, steak and chips, beer and wine etc. All it needs is a few litres of oil per day, the occasional maintenance check-up and a tarpaulin to protect it from the rain.

Anyone who tried to run a business by ignoring the cost of the human input, whether of manual workers, tractor drivers, technicians, tea ladies, janitors, research scientists etc, etc, would soon go bankrupt.

The 5 workers don't drink the oil as a tractor does. They consume the material products that are produced from the energy potential of the oil. I can't believe it is so difficult to understand something so basic. The 5 workers need food for a start. They also need clothing and shelter. All these items, in a society that were to rely upon oil for all it's energy needs, would require substantial amounts of oil to produce.

you are wrong in two ways:

1. you are double counting things again. the food that the workers eat is NOT part of the cost of the item they produce. and if they eat the food that they themselves produce, it has little to no oil requirement.

2. the real energy part in goods is tiny.

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/program_areas/industries.html

it is slightly above 10% in goods that are extremely energy intensive. it is much less than that in most goods that you use every day. actually the highest impact will be directly from energy (heating, car fuel, ...)

the effect of a significant increase in oil price can be seen in the inflation during the most recent oil price increase. 1% or 2% increase for the rise of all goods is a good estimate for a massive increase in oil price.

Anyone who tried to run a business by ignoring the cost of the human input, whether of manual workers, tractor drivers, technicians, tea ladies, janitors, research scientists etc, etc, would soon go bankrupt.

i am not ignoring it. but it can NOT be measured in oil.

there is very little logic in your ramblings anyway. and the rest of it is circular.

("i assume that even manual work is mostly made up from oil. i conclude that oil price is a significant part of the cost of manual work.")

Oh, good fucking christ on a stick!!!!!

Ray - cost does not all go back to oil or coal. There are many, many other inputs that are NOT FOSSIL FUELS!

Another example, Ray. I've done hobby panning for gold in a stream that has both gold and silver. When I wash a good productive pan out, I typically get a flake or two of gold, a tiny tiny ring of fine silver sand, and some leftover river sand.

I catch the gold flakes into one vial - that gold has a reasonably precisely determined value - I can know to within a dollar or so how much I'l get if I fill that vial. The silver goes into another vial - what I can get for a filled silver vial is much less than for the gold vial. The remaining sand doesn't have enough value to keep, and gets dumped back into the river.

And yet, the energy cost - also, the fossil fuel cost - of those three items is nearly identical. panning supplies, drivign to the river, walkign in, panning collecting into vials, walking out, driving back, going to the shop, selling it - almost exactly identical, with very different valeus and prices. I anything, the silver is more expensive in at least my own person energy to capture - it requires more precision with the pan and better technique than the gold does, and I'm more likely to wash some of the silver out of the pan than I am the gold.

I keep making this point, Ray, and you keep utterly ignoring it. Value and price are NOT equal to energy input, to fossil fuel energy input, or to any other single parameter of input.

If I find a half ounce nugget in a river, and pick it up, and then sell it, its value and the price I get for it does not come from the energy I put into picking it up - the value comes from the fact that it's a honking big hunk of natural gold nugget.

Similarly, if I install a $12,000 PV system, its value does not come from the energy embodied in it's production and installation, and its cost and price, do not come entirely - or even necessarily in large part - from that energy. And the energy embodied in it is not necessarily all from fossil fuels with significant greenhouse impact.

You are conflating kinds of energy - some are cycling carbon in biological time, others are emitting carbon that was sequestered in geological time. You are conflating cost, value, and price, and then accusing others of doing the same as you wildly mash the concepts together. You are conflating sources of cost and value, and assigning them all to energy consumption. The result is that you are making absurd claims. The reason we can't see the truth of what you're saying, Ray, is that it isn't true.

> The 5 workers don't drink the oil as a tractor does. They consume the material products that are produced from the energy potential of the oil. I can't believe it is so difficult to understand something so basic. The 5 workers need food for a start. They also need clothing and shelter. All these items, in a society that were to rely upon oil for all it's energy needs, would require substantial amounts of oil to produce.

I love this logic - you end up at the remarkably simple conclusion that every manufactured item costs the same as every other item, and that cost is the sum total of energy input into the earth since the Big Bang.

@Dave Andrews

You wrote : "On the basis you are stating I could say that coal is a free source of energy since it is already available in the ground."

Coal is only free if you leave it in the ground and get your energy from something else.

Somebody has to mine the Coal before it can be used (unless it is burned underground a la THAI system or similar). Mining and refining are activities that require energy input, labour input, machinery input, environmental clean-up input etc.

The interesting thing about Coal is that it is not uniformly distributed over the globe : there are just a handful of big resources left. Therefore you will probably need to trade if you want to burn Coal. Trading requires a monetary input.

Therefore Coal is not free.

By contrast, solar, marine and wind energy are available all over the world, free of charge, in different distributions.

Over a large enough geograpical area, with sharing between regions via a commonly operated grid and (pumped) storage system, everyone can have enough renewable power.

OK, any discussion with Ray is a complete waste of time.

He is going around in circles biting his own tail or something else on the rear.

My generosity has ended.

Jo abbess,

"Over a large enough geograpical area, with sharing between regions via a commonly operated grid and (pumped) storage system, everyone can have enough renewable power."

This is just 'pie in the sky' stuff.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 25 Jul 2009 #permalink

Jo abbess,

"Over a large enough geograpical area, with sharing between regions via a commonly operated grid and (pumped) storage system, everyone can have enough renewable power."

This is just 'pie in the sky' stuff.

Oh, and the idea that humanity can continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ad libitum with no future consequence isn't "pie in the sky"?!

And what of the idea that fossil fuels will always be there to energise human society?

Oh, the irony.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 25 Jul 2009 #permalink

>Jo:Therefore Coal is not free.
By contrast, solar, marine and wind energy are available all over the world, free of charge, in different distributions.

I appreciate your possible good environmental intentions, but lets get some things clear.

Any untapped energy source that humans might exploit, is that just that. It is untapped. Hence oil, coal, wind, sun etc. are free.

The act of tapping that resource requires human effort and knowledge. At that point, it becomes a usable resource and humans start charging a 'price' for the work done to make that energy resource available.

So in human terms, no source of energy will ever be free (accept in utopian fiction).

I am just as keen as you to see a 'green' future. But the reality is that there will always be a cost (whether that is measured by human effort, bartered goods or money...) of some sort, for any action humanity takes. That includes the 'untapping' of energy resources.

Renewable energy resources are just as 'regional' as coal or oil, here in the UK we have some of the best (yet underused) wind resources.

Paul,

In a life cycle analysis (LCA)the fuel for solar, wind, etc are free. No work need to be done to deliver the fuel. It really is free. These Renewable's costs are in capital, servicing and maintenance. Zero for fuel. Coals have these costs plus the costs of bring the fuel to use.

Dave Andrews writes:

"Over a large enough geograpical area, with sharing between regions via a commonly operated grid and (pumped) storage system, everyone can have enough renewable power."

This is just 'pie in the sky' stuff.

Not at all. It's easy to demonstrate that enough solar and wind power exists to power human civilization many times over. The wide-scale distributed grids are to even out power input from sources that don't give steady output.

"Over a large enough geograpical area, with sharing between regions via a commonly operated grid and (pumped) storage system, everyone can have enough renewable power."

This is just 'pie in the sky' stuff.

Pumped storage schemes in Australia under zero motivation for reducing carbon emissions:

Bendeela (1977), 80 MW

Kangaroo Valley (1977), 160 MW

Poatina & Tods Corner (1964), 312 & 1.6 MW.

Tumut Three (1973), 1,500 MW

Wivenhoe Power Station, 510 MW

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 26 Jul 2009 #permalink

Perhaps Tim Lambert will let the recently-returned Tim Curtin play with Ray on this thread. Whatever our trusty Blogmeister decides, I will repost this here in order to keep the postings tidy...

Bernard J said: "the idea that humanity can continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ad libitum with no future consequence isn't "pie in the sky"?!

And what of the idea that fossil fuels will always be there to energise human society?

Oh, the irony."

Posted by: Bernard J. | July 26, 2009 12:27 AM

Yes indeed, so on one hand dear Bernard believes "that humanity can continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ad libitum with no future consequence" and on the other "fossil fuels will always be there to energise human society". Make up your mind mate! If fossil fuels will not always be around, why worry about pumping CO2 into the atmosphere as that will soon if you are right be impossible!

Tim Curtin, your absence has not seen your abilities to parse increase in any fashion.

I do not believe "that humanity can continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ad libitum with no future consequence". Read my statement again, and then once again if you need to.

I did not say either that I believed that "fossil fuels will always be there to energise human society".

Of course, you may well have meant to indicate that I believe the opposite of these two statements, in which case you have failed at parsing your own text...

Curtin, if the latter is your point, it is spurious. Fossil fuel depletion and biospheric damage resulting from AGW are separate issues, and are not dependent upon each other. You are conflating disparate causes and effects.

If all of the fossil carbon stored as oil and coal is released by humanity, it matters not that there would eventually be an end to emissions - by the time this point arrives, the biosphere would be FUBARed for humanity and a great swath of biodiversity. If the AGW FUBARing continues to increase in magnitude after an end to fossil fuel, well, this would make all the harder for the post-emission generations. The mere ending of fossil fuel burning would/will not stop the damage that is an inherent consequence the combustion of the known reserves of coal and oil.

If the methane and the methane hydrates under permafrost and on ocean beds is shifted by the CO2-induced warming, then it'll be all-the-more ugly.

The best science in the world indicates that a release of so much carbon in such a short time will push the global thermostat beyond the tolerance of human civilisation, and quite probably beyond our capacity for continuing as a significant species. Warming aside, there is also the issue of hypercapnia, such as may have contributed to the great [Permian-Triassic extinction event](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permian-Triassic_extinction_event). Only the most rabid of the Denialati, whose idea of paleoclimatology does not extend further back in time than Noah's Flood, would claim otherwise. Given your obsession with the Elixire of Life meme of CO2, I would not be surprised to find you thusly rabid.

And climate aside, future generations will still have no recourse to the utility of oil as a feedstock in many non-energy industrial products, including fertilisers and polymers. No-one has yet convinced me that any renewable process will provide such materials to the world at the levels used even today; and believe me, I am desperately hoping to be shown an environmental and economic accounting that indicates how such might work.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 26 Jul 2009 #permalink

>MAB: In a life cycle analysis (LCA)the fuel for solar, wind, etc are free. No work need to be done to deliver the fuel. It really is free. These Renewable's costs are in capital, servicing and maintenance. Zero for fuel. Coals have these costs plus the costs of bring the fuel to use.

However you want to twist the costs or words.
All energy has a cost.

The fact that coal has to be dug out the ground is a part of the life cycle of that energy system.

In the case of wind, you have to dig up iron ore and make it into steel to produce the turbine (amongst other things).
The 'capital' costs incorporate the engineering and construction required to harvest the energy. In the case of coal, you have to dig it up, you also have to dig up iron etc.

Now you can isolate at which point you wish to start counting the costs. But in their raw state, wind and coal are free. I wouldn't get drawn into any economic or management model if I were you.

The real issue is the carbon footprint of each system and in that respect they differ greatly.

Paul,

The point here is that wind and solar deliver themselves to the physical plant without monetary cost, ergo free. Also, carbon free. The cost of the physical plant is different than the cost of fuel.

The carbon footprint of any production plant will go down as the carbon footprint of energy used in construction and production by that plant goes down.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 26 Jul 2009 #permalink

Bernard J,

Don't try and put words into my mouth. I said nothing about continued fossil fuel use, but merely commented on a utopian view of renewable energy use.

However, it is clear to anyone who looks at future energy use in a dispassionate way that fossil fuels and renewables will continue to co-exist for some considerable time.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 26 Jul 2009 #permalink

Dave Andrews:

it is clear to anyone who looks at future energy use in a dispassionate way that fossil fuels and renewables will continue to co-exist for some considerable time.

So you didn't really mean 'pie in the sky', you meant after some considerable time.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 26 Jul 2009 #permalink

Oh, good fucking christ on a stick!!!!!
Ray - cost does not all go back to oil or coal. There are many, many other inputs that are NOT FOSSIL FUELS!
Another example, Ray. I've done hobby panning for gold in a stream that has both gold and silver. When I wash a good productive pan out, I typically get a flake or two of gold, a tiny tiny ring of fine silver sand, and some leftover river sand.
I catch the gold flakes into one vial - that gold has a reasonably precisely determined value - I can know to within a dollar or so how much I'l get if I fill that vial. The silver goes into another vial - what I can get for a filled silver vial is much less than for the gold vial. The remaining sand doesn't have enough value to keep, and gets dumped back into the river.
And yet, the energy cost - also, the fossil fuel cost - of those three items is nearly identical. panning supplies, drivign to the river, walkign in, panning collecting into vials, walking out, driving back, going to the shop, selling it - almost exactly identical, with very different valeus and prices. I anything, the silver is more expensive in at least my own person energy to capture - it requires more precision with the pan and better technique than the gold does, and I'm more likely to wash some of the silver out of the pan than I am the gold.
I keep making this point, Ray, and you keep utterly ignoring it. Value and price are NOT equal to energy input, to fossil fuel energy input, or to any other single parameter of input.
If I find a half ounce nugget in a river, and pick it up, and then sell it, its value and the price I get for it does not come from the energy I put into picking it up - the value comes from the fact that it's a honking big hunk of natural gold nugget.
Similarly, if I install a $12,000 PV system, its value does not come from the energy embodied in it's production and installation, and its cost and price, do not come entirely - or even necessarily in large part - from that energy. And the energy embodied in it is not necessarily all from fossil fuels with significant greenhouse impact.
You are conflating kinds of energy - some are cycling carbon in biological time, others are emitting carbon that was sequestered in geological time. You are conflating cost, value, and price, and then accusing others of doing the same as you wildly mash the concepts together. You are conflating sources of cost and value, and assigning them all to energy consumption. The result is that you are making absurd claims. The reason we can't see the truth of what you're saying, Ray, is that it isn't true.
Posted by: Lee | July 25, 2009 2:53 AM

Dear me! Dear me! Dear me! How is it possible for anyone to fail to see something so obvious?? If there's one clear thing I have learned from participating on this site, it is that people will refuse to see the bleeding obvious if they suspect that the truth of it, in Al Gore's language, may be 'inconvenient'.

I'm not ignoring your point at all. I've explained it more than once. It is you who are ignoring my explanations.

I'll explain it again because I'm a very patient sort of guy. One has to be with you folks.

Gold, silver, diamonds and jewels in general, collectors' items, the paintings of the masters, scarce items in general that are limited in quantity etc etc, become the equivalent of money.

In times of economic crisis when the sheer amount of paper money in circulation may become a worry, many shrewd investors will buy gold. In past centuries, most coins were either wholly or partly made of gold. The higher the monetary value of the coin, the higher the quantity of gold, or the bigger the coin. However, it was a flawed system because, whenever the value of the gold content of the coins, on the free market, exceeded the nominated monetary value of the coins, people would start melting the coins and get money for nothing, so to speak. LOL! As a consequence, coins began to made from relatively low value metals and the paper banknote was introduced.

After Columbus discovered America, Spain became very wealthy. Did they become wealthy because they discovered coal or oil in South America? No. They became wealthy because they found Inca temples lined with money (gold) and they plundered such places. Took the gold (money) back home. When you go fossicking and find a gold nugget worth $1,000, it's equivalent to finding a metal box buried in the ground which contains $1,000 in banknotes. Both the gold and the banknotes will buy you 15 or 20 barrels of oil, if that's what you want, or a washing machine from Harvey Norman, if that's what you want.

Bernard J. expressed it well when he wrote, "money is embodied energy". I'll extend that principle and say that anything that 'embodies' money, or represents money or is the equivalent of money, also 'embodies' energy.

Howsoever people get the money, or the money equivalent; whether they find it through serendipity by fossicking, whether they win the lottery, whether they steal it, whether they plunder it as the Nazis during WWII plundered most of the valuable paintings in Europe, whether they get it honestly by providing an honest day's labour, whether they get it through speculating on the stock market, the money, or money equivalent, once gotten, represents, or embodies, energy.

Now, is that concept so difficult to wrap your mind around?

Let's get back to the Solar Voltaic Panel situation. In Australia it costs about $12,000 to install a device which produces $270 of electricity per year from the free sunshine. How anyone can claim the energy payback period is just 2 or 3 years boggles the imagination. What sort of world do you guys live in? I'm interested. I'll add that I am a fan of Alice in Wonderland. I'd really and genuinely like to know what fanciful reasons you can think of that might explain how a $12,000 device that produces just $270 worth of electricity per year can possible have a payback period of 3 years.

I'm excluding the obvious reason, of course, that massive government subsidies may result in a nett cost to some "eligible" consumers of just $800. That's just deception if we are considering the true cost to the environment. The C02 in the atmosphere does not consider government subsidies and nor should we.

I'll start off with some fanciful explanations, which I don't think are true, but, if they were true, they could explain the high cost of the PVP.

(1) The PVP factory gets a visit from the Mafia. Give us 75% of the cost of producing your PVPs or we'll blow you up.

(2) The government devises a devious way to pay for the subsidy. They tax every aspect of the production, to the hilt. Not only to the hilt, but they create additional taxes. The subsidy then becomes an illusion. They are merely repaying the huge taxes already collected.

(3) The directors, owners and managers of the PVP company are living a lavish lifestyle, like the designers of certain fashion clothing. They live in big mansions, drive Mercedes Benz cars or Rolls Royces, all of which require massive energy inputs.

(4) 75% or more of the price of the PVP is allocated for research and development purposes. Such efforts of course require an energy input. You can't conduct research and development without consuming energy.

Okay? Give me some alternative explanations to 'falsify' my theory. I'm a skeptic. I require falsification for any theories I hold, before I ditch them.

Ray writes:

>Give me some alternative explanations to 'falsify' my theory. I'm a skeptic. I require falsification for any theories I hold, before I ditch them.

Ray, can you please state your theory, so that I might judge what test is required for falsification?

Dave Andrew,

You mean "pie in the sky", like putting a man on the moon? Challenging but achieveable.

Gold, silver, diamonds and jewels in general, collectors' items, the paintings of the masters, scarce items in general that are limited in quantity etc etc, become the equivalent of money.

again: your theory is complete rubbish. that is, why you can not explain the price of gold. the price of gold is caused by supply and demand (like all prices, btw). supply and demand does not exist in your theory of "price = oil".

How anyone can claim the energy payback period is just 2 or 3 years boggles the imagination

that claim is made by people, who have studied the subject. you have not.

the full energy cost of the production of a Toyota Prius is tiny, as i told you before. (113 million BTU, about 1000 BTU are the same as a cubic foot of gas. the price of a million BTU in gas is about 4$ currently)

http://slate.msn.com/id/2194989/

you can also see that the cost in energy is below 10% in most [products.](http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/program_areas/industries.html)

Ray, can you please state your theory, so that I might judge what test is required for falsification?
Posted by: Kessler | July 26, 2009 11:49 PM

Good! I detect a poster with at least a semblance of rationality.

My theory is, that on balance (that means approximately) the price we pay for something is a fair approximation of the energy input required to produce it, and to market it, and to store it in shops, and to pay the shop assistants in shops to be nice to customers, and to pay for the nice carpets in shops, and to pay for the Mercedes Benz used by the Mangers of the shops, and to pay for all the wages directly and indirectly involved for all people associated with the product you are buying.

Flasify it, please.

Maybe if we paid you to shut up we could get rid of you and falsify your theory in one go.

Maybe if we paid you to shut up we could get rid of you and falsify your theory in one go.
Posted by: Gaz | July 27, 2009 2:19 AM

You could, and if you paid me enough, I might shut up. But, if I did, that would clearly be corruption.

Carbon trading schemes are wide open to corruption. I'd stay clear of them if I were you.

> My theory is, that on balance (that means approximately) the price we pay for something is a fair approximation of the energy input required to produce it, and to market it, and to store it in shops, and to pay the shop assistants in shops to be nice to customers, and to pay for the nice carpets in shops, and to pay for the Mercedes Benz used by the Mangers of the shops, and to pay for all the wages directly and indirectly involved for all people associated with the product you are buying.

> Flasify it, please.

Ray, it is self-evidently ludicrous to everyone but you. As I said above, you have no cut-off point - the indirect energy cost for any item currently on sale is approximately the sum total of energy input into the Earth for the last few billion years. Given this, there should be almost no variation in price for anything, as everything has virtually the same staggeringly huge indirect energy cost.

Perhaps you could quantify exactly what indirect energy costs count, and which ones don't, and then stick to that.

Its been falsified with trivial examples to the contrary, that you've handwaved away. Your responses to counter examples have been full of guesswork, imagination and spurious logic.

I mean, the mere existence of premium "luxury" brands falsifies your "theory". According to you, precisely 0% of the difference in price between a Toyota and a Lexus is a mark-up introduced to keep the two brands distinct - or that any markup is paying for some vague luxury lifestyle that the Lexus workforce enjoy over the Toyota workforce that you are willing to pull out of thin air to preserve your "theory".

I invite you to explain again how the energy cost of a single organic, locally produced potato is reflected in its increased price versus a cheaper potato grown by intensive means in another country - this time without making up numbers. I mean, you went off on a tangent about yield before - but your theory doesn't consider that does it? The price I pay for *an item*, regardless of how many others are in existence, should allow me to estimate its energy cost.

Perhaps you could also explain how a $400 jacket has anything close to the same energy costs as a $400 Playstation 3.

>Interesting that you should say that I twist the costs/words, and infere that I deny the costs of renewables. Especially when I have linke the LCA's that analysis these costs in detial. Others here have read my links.

I haven't suggested you denied anything.
I couldn't really care about LCA's. People dream up 'methods' of analysis to suit whatever the requirements of a profession are or a period of time when resources and knowledge are available.

It is clear that new methods of the way systems are accounted for are required.

You say wind energy is free, I say it isn't.
The only difference between the two views is the way we account for the efforts involved in getting the energy from coal or wind to its point of use.

You see the movement of coal to a power station as an input that costs money for the power station.

I see the power station and the coal extraction, transport etc. as the complete system and hence as far as i'm concerned the costs of getting the coal to the power station are integral to that energy provision system.

Hence I see coal lying in the ground as being free as much as wind blowing about is free.

The primary differences between wind and coal, has nothing to do with finance, LCA's or other human concocted ideas. The main issue is that coal is finite and has a huge carbon footprint.

With coal you have a choice. Burn it up quickly at a low cost (with wide as possible access) and don't bother about future generations, or take your time and use small amounts, making it last longer, but at a higher 'cost' (because humans want to get their hands on the regulated and hence regulated supply).

Right now (especially Australia), we are burning coal quickly to satisfy peoples desires, hence the low cost and high carbon emissions.

With wind, it isn't finite and in this respect, you could say it is 'free' or at least it should be low cost in the long term.

>The point here is that wind and solar deliver themselves to the physical plant without monetary cost, ergo free. Also, carbon free. The cost of the physical plant is different than the cost of fuel.

I have explained this in another post.
Your assumption is that you are dealing with separate systems. eg. the energy production system at the power plant and the fuel extraction and transport system.

Thats fine, if you feel at ease with that. However I suggest it is based on the high carbon period that we are emerging from, with analysis methods that failed to take into account the wider environmental picture.

However as we have started to account for the carbon content in our society, it is also forcing us to take into account how we evaluate the systems we use and how they fit into the wider picture.

>The carbon footprint of any production plant will go down as the carbon footprint of energy used in construction and production by that plant goes down.

The carbon footprint of a power plant, includes the fuel used. In order to make accurate carbon assessments of any product, you have to include all inputs over the life time of the production process.

So the carbon footprint of a wind energy, includes design, construction, installation, maintenance, decommissioning, recycling...

The carbon footprint of coal energy includes design, construction, installation, maintenance, decommissioning, recycling, coal extraction, coal transportation, waste disposal...

As a result of those assessments, you get CO2/kWh figures for the energy sources. It is clear that in order to assess the CO2 in a system, a wider view of what constitutes that system is required. This in turn will affect other methods of analysis.

It is this type of analysis that is forcing us to re-assess how we see energy and how our systems fit in with the environment.

I think it is very enlightening.

Wind energy does not include "...coal extraction, coal transportation, waste disposal..."

These components of wind power plants in yer fancy system analysis have no cost, neither monetary nor in CO2 emissions.

They're free.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

Nor, more to the point, do wind power plants have wind extraction, wind transportation, wind waste disposal costs, etc.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

Ray, it is self-evidently ludicrous to everyone but you. As I said above, you have no cut-off point - the indirect energy cost for any item currently on sale is approximately the sum total of energy input into the Earth for the last few billion years. Given this, there should be almost no variation in price for anything, as everything has virtually the same staggeringly huge indirect energy cost.
Perhaps you could quantify exactly what indirect energy costs count, and which ones don't, and then stick to that.
Perhaps you could also explain how a $400 jacket has anything close to the same energy costs as a $400 Playstation 3.
Posted by: Dave | July 27, 2009 4:58 AM

Dear me! Everything we produce, here and now, requires an energy input. There is absolutely nothing you can buy which does not require an energy input.

World prosperity is directly related to the cost of energy. No energy, and we're like Australian aboriginals with a hunter/gatherer life style. Plenty of energy, and we're rolling in wealth.

The industrial revolution is a movement towards increasingly efficient use of energy which benefits human prosperity. The Holy Grail of this progression is the development of robots that do all the work.

Robots are slaves. They drink oil, or the equivalent. They are not interested in beer or sex, swimming pools, fast cars and big houses. They are rational, logical and predictable. They are the future, if we have a future, which is not certain.

> Robots are slaves. They drink oil, or the equivalent. They are not interested in beer or sex, swimming pools, fast cars and big houses. They are rational, logical and predictable. They are the future, if we have a future, which is not certain.

Ray, you obviously missed the [robotic uprising of the mid '90s](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATFxVB4JFpQ).

LB...
>Wind energy does not include "...coal extraction, coal transportation, waste disposal..."

Erm, That's why I did not include them for wind (you seem to be repeating what i have already written??).
But if you want to be really pedantic. Coal is used in the construction of wind turbines and is one reason why wind energy has a tiny carbon footprint. Actually there is a very good Italian analysis of a wind turbine that includes radioactive materials. That is because a proportion of the electricity to make the Italian turbine consisted of imported electricity from nuclear sources (Italy doesn't have nuclear sources of electricity, but imports electricity from neighbouring nations that do).
I mean it isn't me that is determining the system. These methods of assessing carbon in energy systems are now well established.

CO2 and carbon modelling, will dominate the way we think today and the future. It will define how we view all systems, including costs.

Paul says:
>You say wind energy is free, I say it isn't.

That's news to me Paul, I said the fuel for wind and solar is free. And this is the second time I've had to correct you on this point. Do you read before you write?

Paul also writes:
>It is clear that new methods of the way systems are accounted for are required.

Really Paul, when did it become so clear that you could assert it without evidence? What methods are currently used and what are the errors that are so clearly so large?

Paul continues:
>Hence I see coal lying in the ground as being free as much as wind blowing about is free.

Well Paul, you'd be on the lunar fringe there. You see we spends billion of dollars digging up coal and delivering it more people who spend even more to us for that coal. Then we spend lots delivering it. We spend zero on digging up and delivering wind to wind turbines and sun to solar units.

Paul writes:
>I haven't suggested you denied anything.

Paul, I said you "infer that I deny the costs of renewablesâ, from you short complete paragraph:
>However you want to twist the costs or words. All energy has a cost.

Paul then goes on the make some useful points, which makes me wonder why wouldn't he just stick to the useful and accurate stuff, which has the added benefit of not misrepresenting others?

My theory is, that on balance (that means approximately) the price we pay for something is a fair approximation of the energy input required to produce it, and to market it, and to store it in shops, and to pay the shop assistants in shops to be nice to customers, and to pay for the nice carpets in shops, and to pay for the Mercedes Benz used by the Mangers of the shops, and to pay for all the wages directly and indirectly involved for all people associated with the product you are buying. Flasify it, please.

we falsified this before, but i can do it again.

1) you are doublecounting the energy! AGAIN! the energy cost of the carpet is paid, when the carpet is paid. and the same is true for the mercedes benz. the energy cost of the wages is paid, when those wages are exchanged for goods that have an energy cost. the wage itself costs ZERO energy.

2) multiple examples have given, that clearly demonstrate that the price is NOT a "fair approximation of the energy input required to produce it". the energy of picking up a diamond does not explain the price. multiple examples have been given, that show similar prices with vastly different energy input.

Dear me! Everything we produce, here and now, requires an energy input. There is absolutely nothing you can buy which does not require an energy input.

this is another attempt to mislead. you are still using two different definitions of energy. in the end, you claim that all energy is oil or coal.and this is false.
there is an awful lot of things, that require ZERO oil or coal energy input.

World prosperity is directly related to the cost of energy. No energy, and we're like Australian aboriginals with a hunter/gatherer life style. Plenty of energy, and we're rolling in wealth.

as is told you before, you are basing your claims on false claims. the energy input in products is actually tiny. below [10%.](http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/program_areas/industries.html) (how long will you keep ignoring this link and the facts?)

the simple truth is, that education (actually even "Bildung") is the key to world prosperity. no education, and we are making false claims like Ray, making a fool of ourselves. lots of education, and we are rolling in wealth.

Ray.

The problem here is the conflation of the meanings of 'money', 'price', and 'cost'.

Money is a representation or measure of the value of goods or services exchanged in an economic transaction. That is, money acts as a unit of accounting. It serves as the medium of value transfer in an exchange.

Note carefully that such a definition does not at any time mention embodied energy. It refers to an agreed unit of value, which has no direct reference to energy. Such an agreed value might be a loaf of bread, a chicken, a cow, a pint of beer, an ounce of gold, or (in some cultures) perhaps a wife. Heck, in today's electronic society a unit of currency need only be a notional concept that never has any direct relationship to anything outside of a virtual context. Whatever standard for value is chosen, its worth to the society using it is bound to change with time.

In attaining commodities for exchange, energy is certainly expended, and there is of course a proportionality between embodied energy and a unit value of currency to be expected, as I and others, including you, have already noted.

However, there is nothing that dictates that the relationship between money and energy is fixed. It very much depends upon the standard chosen to represent unit currency, and how this standard's worth varies over time (the [1980 gold spike](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gold_price.png) for example) and in the socioeconomic milieu as social mores change and emphases of value shift. Another variable is the nature of 'growth' economies, where inflation seems to be an inherent phenomenon, and which erodes the implied relationship between a monetary unit and embodied energy. Further, the relative availabilities of energy forms may change over time, thus affecting their relationship to a currency standard.

Further still, not all energies are equal. If you doubt this, tell me how much it would cost to dry my trousers by hanging them on a line, compared with building a nuclear power station to provide electricity for a tumble drier.

The price of a commodity is the amount of monetary value ascribed to it. Once again, there might be an expectation that there is some relationship between embodied energy and price, but price is even more likely to deviate from proportionality with energy than might the unit of currency.

Similarly, there is nothing that dictates that that the relationship between price and energy is fixed. A restriction in supply can increase price relative to the energy embodied in a commodity. An increase in the desire of buyers for a commodity, or an increase in the number of buyers competing for a commodity (together, = increased demand), increases price. A change in the nature of the energy embodied in the production of a commodity, for example through technological change, will alter the price â think oxen versus diesel.

Several commenters have already noted that embodied energy might represent only 10%, say, of the final price of a commodity. For a service the energetic representation is even more tenuous.

Let me remind you again of your comment:

But before you start thinking of any price components that are not related to energy inputs, bear in mind that I am talking about practical items that generate material prosperity [sic].

It doesn't matter how you slice and dice it, the prices of "practical items that generate material prosperity" are affected by more than energy inputs.

And if we speak of 'cost', we are speaking of the monetary units required for a purchase that has very little to do with embodied energy in many contexts. One need only watch the stockmarket or that online auction site to understand this.

There is absolutely nothing you can buy which does not require an energy input.

I can buy real estate on the moon, and 'naming rights' to stars. To some folk these are "practical items that generate material prosperity" [sic]. The only energy input required in 'producing' them is that of a shonk attempting to convince me to part with my money; there is no proportionality with embodied energy that is not distorted to a greater or lesser extent by human irrationality.

How many times do we have to point this fact out before you concede that the energy/money relationship is not as simple as you believe?

The industrial revolution is a movement towards increasingly efficient use of energy which benefits human prosperity.

No, the Industrial Revolution was a method for harvesting energy-dense sources for the benefit of some humans. It has been neither efficient in terms of how energy has been utilised, nor has it benefited a large proportion of humanity.

If the Industrial Revolution provided "increasingly efficient use of energy", can you explain why the embodied energy in a potato that I grow myself (which is ridiculously miniscule, by the way), is less than the energy embodied by a potato from a supermarket?

It has nothing to do with "increased efficiency", and a lot to do with the exploitation of 200 million years worth of energy concentration by the biosphere and lithosphere. The only "efficiency" is that represented by our modern capacity to tap a concentrated, finite and staggeringly old resource. Our actual use of that energy is cavalier and hugely inefficient, simply because we are able to liberate so much of that fossil energy in such a short period of time.

On another matter...

Ray and Paul. You both say that coal is 'free'. Interesting idea, but please show us one coal field where we can dig the material from the ground without paying someone who has 'ownership' over it.

On the other hand, can you show us one gust of wind, or one photon of light, that has to date been privatised and priced?

It's been said before, but it appears to need saying again â the costs for the infrastructure that delivers energy are not the same as the costs of the sources of the energy themselves.

We pay for coal; it is not free - your exercises in tortured semantics do not make it otherwise. So far we have not had to pay for wind or for sunlight, but given the predilection of governments the world over for privatisation over the last several decades, this is not guaranteed in the future, I guess...

Let me frame it another way. Most folk here would pay a utility for their water. I, on the other hand, living in a nonserviced area, collect my water from the sky. Reticulated water pipes have a cost; my water tank has a cost. However, the reticulated provision of water costs the consumer, whilst the falling of rain from the sky does not. Thus, my water (as opposed to the infrastructure and services to deliver it) is free.

Although there have been various suggestions in several state parliaments over the years to charge tank owners for rain water, but that's another story...

The Holy Grail of this progression is the development of robots that do all the work.

Oh, please, get your hands from out of your smallclothes.

Is it really more efficient to have a robot wipe your arse for you than to do it yourself?

And what do you propose that you do to achieve the cardiovascular effort required to maintain a healthy circulatory system, a solid skeleton, and sufficient muscle mass? Climb on board a treadmill powered by coal-fuelled electricity?

Fantacist.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

*Erm, That's why I did not include them for wind*

Do you admit that extraction, delivery and clean-up costs of wind are free relative to coal?

Or is semantic quibbling a reasonable argument in your universe?

Consider, as the penetration of non-carbon emitting renewables increases over carbon intensive energy sources used in production of wind turbines, the carbon component of turbine production goes down, does it not?

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

I would like Ray to calculate the embodied energy of interest costs on a loan.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

My theory is, that on balance (that means approximately) the price we pay for something is a fair approximation of the energy input required to produce it, and to market it, and to store it in shops, and to pay the shop assistants in shops to be nice to customers, and to pay for the nice carpets in shops, and to pay for the Mercedes Benz used by the Mangers of the shops, and to pay for all the wages directly and indirectly involved for all people associated with the product you are buying.

Flasify it, please.

Labor costs are appreciably higher in New York City than in Des Moines Iowa, where average individual power consumption is far less. Both differences are vast, significant and in direct contradiction to what your 'theory' would have predicted. Consider it falsified.

Ray's a troll. As I've mentioned twice, input theory of values have been debunked over a century ago (held onto the longest of course by Marxists whose theory of the exploitation of labor required them- you're in good company Ray). This of course was for an input- labor... sorry labour- that makes up the vast majority of production cost mind you, not Ray's fossil fuel fetish version which is but a tiny fraction. Ray further seems to think that multiplying fractions has powerful additive potential, 'well the carpet is 1/10,000,000th of production costs, and 1/8th of its direct cost is energy. We haven't even begun to count the drapes...". Ray's a dim troll to boot.

So yea Ray, do everyone a favor here and do one of dem dere googles for 'marginal revolution'. See if you can't learn yerself some knowledge.

PS As an aside for those interested, another way to view the debunking of Ray's theory, (two words I can't type without smiling), is look at arguments over the cost push theory of inflation, which is largely of the same family albeit not like Ray oblivious of the undisputable fact that things other than oil have value/costs. This is to say that prices are not determined by input costs therefore increased input costs will not in and of themselves be passed on to consumers. They will of course, but via somewhat complex macroeconomic relationships that include the cost of capital the collection of which ultimately make the economy the adaptable organism that it is.

By Majorajam (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

Chris O'Neill,

What I meant by 'pie in the sky' was the way activists like jo abbess and so many others simply repeat the mantra that renewables are the answer and everything should be focussed on them. It is clear that for a considerable time they will not be the answer and that they also have many downsides. The love of renewables in some quarters reminds me very much of the early claims for nuclear power of 'electricity too cheap to meter'.

BPL,

Many years ago somebody, I forget who, demonstrated that the UK was not becoming overpopulated (this was at the time of concerns about such things, ie 'early' Holdren)because theoretically all its population could be accommodated on the Isle of Wight at a certain density. This might have been true, but just like your claims about the theoretical possibilities of wind and solar power it lacked a certain practicability.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

luminous beauty, #96

Semantics again. Cover 10% of the UK land with onshore windmills and you would only produce enough power per person to cover the power used by an average car driving 25km.

Plus ,of course, you need backup for the times the wind isn't blowing. So you need fossil fuel to provide the safety net for wind - have you factored this cost into your 'free' energy?

And you certainly have not factored in the visual amenity loss that many people would say is a major downside of windfarms. Is there not a cost attached to this as well?

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

@LB:
"I would like Ray to calculate the embodied energy of interest costs on a loan."

Way up above, I gave an example of 3 people selling million dollar items back and forth to each other, and who end up at the end of the day without having actually touched any money or the items (in fact, never having left their chairs) and end up with exactly the same items in their possession, and exactly the same money. Futures traders come to mind.

6 million-dollar transactions, ending up with no net change. I pointed out that according to Ray's "theory", there was an expenditure of 6 million dollars of embodied energy on thsoe transactions, and it would be ruinous for the atmosphere to continue doign such things.

Ray read it - he responded by saying that yes, the first million dollar transaction cost an embodied million dollars of energy - and he then utterly ignored the rest of my example.

Ray is dishonest.

>Semantics again. Cover 10% of the UK land with onshore windmills and you would only produce enough power per person to cover the power used by an average car driving 25km.

Build where the [wind](http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jun/25/offshore-wind-uk-homes) is, then.

>And you certainly have not factored in the visual amenity loss that many people would say is a major downside of windfarms. Is there not a cost attached to this as well?

How gauche of me!

>Plus ,of course, you need backup for the times the wind isn't blowing. So you need fossil fuel to provide the safety net for wind - have you factored this cost into your 'free' energy?

Go buy yourself another [vowel](http://www.bwea.com/media/news/articles/myth_of_intermittency.html), Dave.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

Ray writes:
>My theory is, that on balance (that means approximately) the price we pay for something is a fair approximation of the energy input required to produce it, and to market it, and to store it in shops, and to pay the shop assistants in shops to be nice to customers, and to pay for the nice carpets in shops, and to pay for the Mercedes Benz used by the Mangers of the shops, and to pay for all the wages directly and indirectly involved for all people associated with the product you are buying. Flasify it, please.

Ray, thankyou for stating your theory. There are some problematic terms that need to be replaced with more precise definitions for this to be a useful and testable theory.

Can you restate your theory with terms that are more precise than âon balanceâ, âthat means approximatelyâ, âa fair approximationâ, and âindirectlyâ.

For example, can you define the conditions for which fairness is judged? For what purpose is your theory to be applied? And how does that purpose influence what fairness means?

As currently stated, your theory is made vague by vague terms and conditions. Such that the theory currently suggests there is some relationship between and energy. But your theory does note state in a meaningful way how useful that relationship is.

Are you suggesting for example, that price is a stronger indicator of energy inputs than a particular Lifecycle analysis? Or can you think of another precise way of defining your theory?

LB

>I would like Ray to calculate the embodied energy of interest costs on a loan.

The US Fed has just bailedout the banks to the value of 12 trillons dollars. That is apporximately the value of the US GDP. But the US didn't double its energy consumption. How could that be? Ray might like to tell us how much this bailout added to enegy consumption. 12 trillion sure is a lot of money, is Ray suggesting this bailout should show up clearly in energy use?

But if 12 trillion is not big enough to register how about 100 trillion?

Before the GFC the OTC derivatives contracts outstanding were more than $600 Trillon. This values has be cut to a faction of that. Where did the energy go? (the global GDP is 40 trillon).

By Janet Akerman (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

Did I just read that Ray's theory provides an approximation of an approximation?

My theory is, that on balance (that means approximately) Ray's theory is a fair approximation of undefined vaugeness.

Ray get some cofidence, back yourself and some something concrete.

By Janet Akerman (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

Dave Andrews;

What I meant by 'pie in the sky' was the way activists like jo abbess and so many others simply repeat the mantra that renewables are the answer and everything should be focussed on them. It is clear that for a considerable time they will not be the answer

OK so 'pie in the sky' means the same to you as after some considerable time. We all know it will take a considerable time for an economic phase-out of fossil-fuel burning so your point is a strawman.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 27 Jul 2009 #permalink

That's a very long speech, Bernard, and whilst I would not disagree with everything you've written, there are certainly some statements you've made, which I'll try to address, that seem to indicate an amazing lack of understanding.

(1) However, there is nothing that dictates that the relationship between money and energy is fixed. It very much depends upon the standard chosen to represent unit currency, and how this standard's worth varies over time (the 1980 gold spike for example) and in the socioeconomic milieu as social mores change and emphases of value shift. Another variable is the nature of 'growth' economies, where inflation seems to be an inherent phenomenon, and which erodes the implied relationship between a monetary unit and embodied energy. Further, the relative availabilities of energy forms may change over time, thus affecting their relationship to a currency standard.
Posted by: Bernard J. | July 27, 2009 12:09 PM

Absolutely true! I would not disagree with that statement at all. I have admitted more than once that the prices of almost all things and commodities are in a constant state of flux or change. How could I not admit it. I'm not in the business of denying facts. I know that prices are constantly going up or down. I'm not deaf and blind. I've compared such price fluctuations to the variability of the weather. It's a fact of life.

I've never claimed there is a fixed and invariable relationship between a product's price and the total energy cost associated with all facets of its manufacture, marketing and delivery. I've given many examples where this is clearly not the case. I buy something second hand, for example. I am then sharing that initial cost with the original buyer. I buy an item that is heavily discounted, at a price which may be below cost to the retailer. The retailer then bears part of the energy cost as a business loss. I buy an aluminium rod from the hardware shop. The aluminium industry in Australia receives substantial subsidies on its electricity costs. The price tag on the aluminium rod therefore does not reflect the true energy input. There is a hidden subsidy.

I can buy real estate on the moon, and 'naming rights' to stars. To some folk these are "practical items that generate material prosperity" [sic]. The only energy input required in 'producing' them is that of a shonk attempting to convince me to part with my money; there is no proportionality with embodied energy that is not distorted to a greater or lesser extent by human irrationality.
How many times do we have to point this fact out before you concede that the energy/money relationship is not as simple as you believe?

Human irrationality certainly exists (take the belief in AGW for example), but the success of industries that manufacture complex products, and the success of businesses that sell those products is surely based on rationality. One would certainly hope that the people manufacturing Solar Voltaic Panels have a rational approach to their business.

If the foundation of our economy is based on rationality, it doesn't really make any difference to my theory if a few consumers behave irrationally, because I'm taking all energy costs into consideration that are associated with the product. I'm looking at the whole shebang, the broad picture as well as all relationships, big and small, in the entire chain from mining the ore, to transporting the ore, to refining the ore, to smelting the ore, to molding the metal panels that are used in the car, to painting and baking the metal panels etc etc, and I'm also considering profits which are obviously spent by someone and therefore have an energy association with the item that was sold to generate the profit.

I'm not only looking at the fuel costs for the huge excavators used for mining the ore, but the energy cost of the excavator's breakfast of bacon and eggs, the fuel costs of of his private car and the energy consumed by the plane that flies him to Bangkok for his annual vacation.

Why would you not take such energy inputs into consideration? Why would you assume that the excavator, or the crane driver, or the truck driver does not exist and that these machines drive themselves?

A reason that springs to mind is, you may only be interested in the efficiency of a particular process which may be just a small part of the entire chain. For purposes of comparison it may be necessary to isolate the process you are comparing from all the other innumerable costs. It may be convenient to simply ignore all costs that are not affected by the improved or the different processes you are comparing, such as the wages of the tea lady.

For example, if one is comparing a new method of smelting alumina that may be more efficient that the current practice, then the manager's salary doesn't come into the equation. What you need to know is how much electricity does the current system use. Perhaps 25% of all costs associated with the smelting of alumina are the electricity costs. That means that the other 75% of the costs lie elsewhere. A major part of that other 75% is the purchase of the alumina. It wasn't me who said coal is free. It's you guys who think certain stuff is free. I've said again and again, there's no free lunch. Someone has to pay for it.

If the Industrial Revolution provided "increasingly efficient use of energy", can you explain why the embodied energy in a potato that I grow myself (which is ridiculously miniscule, by the way), is less than the energy embodied by a potato from a supermarket?

No. I can't explain that because it's not true. You may have a delusion that your home-grown potato is cheaper than a similar product from the supermarket, but that's because you are excluding the cost of your own labour. You are presumably growing potatoes for the love of it. You don't need payment because you have spare time on your hands and you choose to use it growing potatoes.

If car factory workers had the same attitude, do you not see that the price of cars would be less?

It has nothing to do with "increased efficiency", and a lot to do with the exploitation of 200 million years worth of energy concentration by the biosphere and lithosphere. The only "efficiency" is that represented by our modern capacity to tap a concentrated, finite and staggeringly old resource. Our actual use of that energy is cavalier and hugely inefficient, simply because we are able to liberate so much of that fossil energy in such a short period of time.

Total codswallop, Bernard. How could you make such a statement? It has everything to do with increased efficiency. The steam engine and the motor car not more efficient than the horse-drawn carriage?? Are you mad??

The ways in which we use energy is another matter. This is where the irrationality of the public at large comes into play. Exploitation has been with us forever. It's a necessary part of our existence. Every species exploits the resources at its disposal to the best of its ability. You could say, the principle is embedded in Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Those species that fail to exploit the resources of their environment will eventually become extinct. Those that do, will survive.

The dilemma of the AGW issue is, will the untrammeled exploitation of the resources in our current environment eventually lead to our own extinction through consequences that we cannot predict?

If there's a risk that indeed it might happen, as the AGW adherents claim, should we be taking effective measures right now to try to avert such a catastrophe.

It's a huge dilemma, I admit. And this is why I'm spending my time on this forum. Do you really think I'm a troll with nothing better to do?

My concern here is that we cannot solve our problems by behaving irrationally. When people claim that the payback period of installing a PVP is 2 to 3 years, or even 5 to 7 years, I'm as certain as I can be that we're dealing with irrationality and manipulation. Advertising is being presented as scientifically sound information to dupe the foolish. And, you gotta admit, there are a lot of foolish people around.

One of the problems I have with this whole scenario of AGW is that, if the IPPC is right, we're stuffed. There's absolutely nothing we can do that will be adequate to solve the problem. Trying to kid people that a PVP has a 3 year payback will not help solve the problem one whit. It'll probably make it worse.

It's as plain as the nose on your face, that any serious attempt to tackle the AGW problem, if it's indeed a real problem, will involve a massive reduction in the standard of living of all wealthy, developed nations. I'm not a hypocrite. You lot are.

I understand completely that alternative energy sources are simply not even nearly as efficient as coal, oil, gas and nuclear. If you want to seriously tackle climate change (assuming the threat is real) you need an Obama, a Hu Jintao, a Kevin Rudd etc to declare clearly and precisely that our living standards will have to be slashed in half (or more), over a transition period of the next few years whilst we struggle to replace our current coal-fired power stations with windmill and solar farms..

> That's a very long speech, Bernard

Pot, kettle.

> I'm not in the business of denying facts.

Comedy gold! :D

> I'm taking all energy costs into consideration that are associated with the product

Clearly not - when pressed on specific examples, you take only those that you can think of off the top of your head. At no point have you quantified the full-chain energy costs you describe for a single product. When other inputs you've failed to consider are pointed out you ignore them, which is an interestingly convenient way of running an analysis!

> Why would you not take such energy inputs into consideration?

You're the gift that keeps on giving Ray. I especially love how you just ignore stuff you have a hard time with and pretend no-one's said it. Truly, 'tis a masterclass in trolling. You've had the "double counting" issue explained half a dozen times at least.

Lets take, say, a digestive biscuit. You can probably calculate the direct energy expended in the factory manufacturing a single biscuit - but what happens when you start taking all these indirect "energy inputs" into account?

- The factory workers use energy commuting to and from work
- The factory workers buy products to feed and clothe themselves, each of which has a "full energy cost" that you describe
- The workers that produce *those* items also need items to feed and clothe themselves, which again have energy costs - repeat this chain ad infinitum
- They all live in houses, which have a cost for heating and lighting, and a cost in terms of building
- The building material had an R&D cost for development in the first place
- The research was based on education and training, which had an energy cost, using tools which had an energy cost to create
- The training had to be provided by a trainer, who required energy to educate themselves
- They needed a building to learn in, which had a cost in terms of heating, lighting and construction
- The construction material R&D was based on earlier knowledge, which had an energy cost to create and develop in the first place
etc etc

You can make a direct link from the most mundane item all the way through our earliest civilization, all the way back to the energy input required to form the first multi-cellular life, and beyond. So in a sense your theory is true - in that the price of any item reflects its full energy cost, and that energy cost is "all energy, ever".

> If car factory workers had the same attitude, do you not see that the price of cars would be less?

Which by your own logic means your "theory" cannot work. You can't determine the "full energy costs", as you define them, just by looking at the price - you have to go through the entire chain and calculate what you think the "full energy costs" should be, based on your own logic for how deep to navigate the tree of dependencies, and then you can retrospectively claim that the price was a sham because it hid lots of inputs that you claim should have been reflected in the price. Which means that this:

> the price we pay for something is a fair approximation of the energy input

Is hilarious :D

> Do you really think I'm a troll with nothing better to do?

If the shoe fits...

> And, you gotta admit, there are a lot of foolish people around.

No argument from me there.

I'm not only looking at the fuel costs for the huge excavators used for mining the ore, but the energy cost of the excavator's breakfast of bacon and eggs, the fuel costs of of his private car and the energy consumed by the plane that flies him to Bangkok for his annual vacation.

this is completely stupid. that holiday ticket will be part of every piece of work he does. and it will add the same cost again, when he buys it.

your "theory" is contradicting itself! obviously it is a completely moronic idea, to assume that the price is a good approximation of energy use, and to include weird factors into the energy cost of a product.

this is completely stupid. that holiday ticket will be part of every piece of work he does. and it will add the same cost again, when he buys it.
Posted by: sod | July 28, 2009 8:06 AM

The mind boggles. I never realised such people as you existed, sod.

The holiday ticket is part of every piece of work he gets paid to do. And in my example, the operator of the excavator in the mining company gets paid to operate the excavator. His wages are paid, indirectly, by the people who buy the ore he helps mine.

If he has a second job planting potatoes for an organic farmer during the weekends, then that is taken into consideration. The unpaid work he does, such as planting roses in the front garden, or mowing the lawn, does not pay for the holiday ticket. Sheesh!!

I said:

If the Industrial Revolution provided "increasingly efficient use of energy", can you explain why the embodied energy in a potato that I grow myself (which is ridiculously miniscule, by the way), is less than the energy embodied by a potato from a supermarkett?

and Ray objected:

No. I can't explain that because it's not true. You may have a delusion that your home-grown potato is cheaper than a similar product from the supermarket, but that's because you are excluding the cost of your own labour. You are presumably growing potatoes for the love of it. You don't need payment because you have spare time on your hands and you choose to use it growing potatoes.

Ray, pull your head from out of your arse. It is you who is suffering from some delusional state, not me.

I spoke of the embodied energy in my potatoes, and not of their cost. Of course, you continue to conflate the two, so your confusion is perhaps understandable, if not excusable.

Let me explain it this way.

Each season it takes me about 45 minutes to prepare a bed for a crop of spuds. Given that I use old bedding hay from the chickens, and horse poo which has to be removed from the paddock, both materials which would need to be handled anyway, I can probably deduct some time from this figure, following the accounting process you yourself insist on when tallying costs in a process.

Aside from this, I water every week or every other week, using rainwater, and I empty the compost onto the bed â again, a process I would need to do anyway, so I can apparently deduct some of the energy embodied in this process.

At the end of the season I collect about 50kg of spuds, as fresh as can possibly be, and far more tasty than anything I have ever bought in a supermarket. The bloody things even keep better than the manky excuses for potatoes our friends buy at the same time.

Now, admitedly I cannot tell you how much actual energy is embodied in the couple of hours over a season that the potato patch demands, but I can rest assured that it is less than the energy required to:

  1. grow and package seed potatoes for a farmer
  2. transport the seed potatoes using heavy machinery made of steel (probably in a foreign country, and transported to Australia) and fossil fuel (again, sourced from a foreign country
  3. plant these seed potatoes using heavy machinery made of steel (probably in a foreign country, and transported to Australia) and fossil fuel (again, sourced from a foreign country
  4. fertilise the growing potatoes using heavy machinery made of steel (probably in a foreign country, and transported to Australia) and fertiliser-derived oil (again, sourced from a foreign country
  5. harvest the potatoes using heavy machinery made of steel (probably in a foreign country, and transported to Australia) and fossil fuel (again, sourced from a foreign country)
  6. wash, weigh, and package the potatoes, and transport them to market, using heavy machinery made of steel (probably in a foreign country and transported to Australia) and fertiliser derived oil (again, sourced from a foreign country
  7. inventory and stack the potatoes at the supermarket, and in the process suffer damage, spoilage, and incomplete selling of stock
  8. transport to and from the supermarkets the customers buying the potatoes, using heavy machinery made of steel (probably in a foreign country and transported to Australia) and fertiliser-derived oil (again, sourced from a foreign country)

This is the accounting that I use to claim that the energy embodied in my potatoes is less than that embodied by store-bought potatoes. You will note that I follow in fairly close fashion the pedantic inventorying that you are so enamoured of.

I use my own seed potatoes, and I buy no fertiliser or water. I expend about four hours of time growing them, but because I am doing several tasks in the process I can, following your own accounting process, discount some of the embodied energy from the potato cultivation because it is work I would need to do anyway. Including the cost of my own labour, this makes my own healthier, tastier potatoes about a quarter of the price of a supermarket potato, even before I factor in the price of my time that it takes to drive to the supermarket and purchase the buggers from The Man.

So, you are completely wrong on two counts. My spuds are cheaper than store-bought potatoes, and they darned well have a whole lot less embodied energy.

Oh, and what does that imply? Well, gee willickers, I think that it implies that there is no close correlation between price and embodied energy.

It doesn't stop there though. You are correct about one thing â I enjoy the process of gardening and growing a whole suit of my own vegetables, fruits, nuts, and eggs, so the pleasure I derive should provide a further discount to the 'cost'. Oh, and the exercise involved, and the health benefits of fresh food... more discount.

You are so wrong that you are not even wrong.

Total codswallop, Bernard. How could you make such a statement? It has everything to do with increased efficiency. The steam engine and the motor car not more efficient than the horse-drawn carriage?? Are you mad??

In terms of the energy required to move one person a distance of one kilometre, no, I am not mad. You claim to be an engineer, so work out how many joules are required to walk one kilometre, ride a horse one kilometre, ride a train one kilometre, drive a car one kilometre, and fly a 767 one kilometre. Remember, you need to incorporate the embodied energy in all of the processes that provide the structural and energetic needs of the different modes of transportation.

The only efficiency Ray is the saving in time, and this saving comes at the cost of using a finite and non-renewable resource in the case of fossil fuels, or of using rather less energy but still a whole lot more than a human alone uses in the case of wood-fired steam. And what happens when you factor in the externalities of environmental damage that occurs in the preparation of the transportation infrastructure, and in the derivation and in the burning of the fuel?

Hmmm?

The efficiency that you perceive Ray comes at the cost of another part of the system, whether it be the non-human biosphere, or the potential for unborn human generations to enjoy the advantages that we squander today without a second thought. In a fashion Ray this 'efficiency' is in large part enabled through a type of theft or parasitism, as I alluded to in an earlier post.

And yet, our economic system does not account for this in valuing its monetary units, or especially in determining its prices.

You speak of exploitation. You attempt to insinuate that 21st century human 'exploitation' is somehow normal, and a natural part of evolutionary process. The trouble is Ray that you don't quite understand the evolutionary threats to ourselves that we are putting in train by our staggeringly heavy sucking of the planet's energy tit...

Those species that fail to exploit the resources of their environment will eventually become extinct.

That's the thing Ray, but not in the way that you imagine. We, as a species, are on track to fail in our exploitation of the resources available to us, because we are doing so in a manner that is unsustainable for the biosphere, and for the absolutely essential ecosystem services that it provides to us. If we 'sell the farm' in the process of exploiting it, we're going to find that there is nowhere else to live.

This isn't efficiency in evolutionary terms, its suicide.

It's as plain as the nose on your face, that any serious attempt to tackle the AGW problem, if it's indeed a real problem, will involve a massive reduction in the standard of living of all wealthy, developed nations. I'm not a hypocrite. You lot are

Erm, Ray, I have [already told you](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/06/moncktons_vision_of_the_future…) what I have done in order to minimise my own carbon footprint. It took a little effort, but it didn't reduce my 'standard of living' â it did, in fact, improve it.

Do you ever think before you blather the crap that you a so prolific with?

One of the problems I have with this whole scenario of AGW is that, if the IPPC is right, we're stuffed. There's absolutely nothing we can do that will be adequate to solve the problem.

This is probably one of the more accurate statements that you have made.

The problem is, you having a 'problem' with the scenario does not make it any less likely. The best science says that we need to act now, and to act significantly, if we are to have any hope of allowing future generations the same quality of life that we currently enjoy. If we don't (and I am more pessimistic than many here and elsewhere) then the final accounting will be taken from our hands, and Nature will call humanity on its ecological debt.

So, you were close. If you had said "if the IPPC is right, and the nations of the world do not act now and in determined concert, we're stuffed", then I would completely agree with you.

However, as I said, I personally am pessimistic. Humans as a species are too enamoured of their luxuries, whilst simultaneously being unable to detect at an evolutionary level that they are overexploiting their habitat. You yourself, with your head-in-the-sand approach to resource exploitation, do not inspire me to think otherwise.

The unfortunate thing for our kids, and for their children and further descendents, is that the most likely outcome is a case of "face, meet brick wall".

Of course, if we had a mechanism to price this into our current economy and thus send ourselves an appropriate signal, it might be otherwise.

It really is a shame that we are irrational.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 28 Jul 2009 #permalink

The holiday ticket is part of every piece of work he gets paid to do. And in my example, the operator of the excavator in the mining company gets paid to operate the excavator. His wages are paid, indirectly, by the people who buy the ore he helps mine.

you simply don t get it, do you?

he works all year long, to mine some ore. the $1000 plane ticket is included in the price of the ore. $1000 of additional energy was used, to produce that ore. (according to your "theory")

but on one day of the year, he has to buy that ticket! and the ticket, according to you, costs $1000 of energy. the company selling the ticket, will also produce $1000 of energy.

globally that ticket was paid TWICE. it has costed $2000 in energy. at least. (in every follow up production step using that ore, a part of that holiday plane ticket will show up AGAIN!

Lets take, say, a digestive biscuit. You can probably calculate the direct energy expended in the factory manufacturing a single biscuit - but what happens when you start taking all these indirect "energy inputs" into account?

The factory workers use energy commuting to and from work
The factory workers buy products to feed and clothe themselves, each of which has a "full energy cost" that you describe
The workers that produce those items also need items to feed and clothe themselves, which again have energy costs - repeat this chain ad infinitum
They all live in houses, which have a cost for heating and lighting, and a cost in terms of building
The building material had an R&D cost for development in the first place
The research was based on education and training, which had an energy cost, using tools which had an energy cost to create
The training had to be provided by a trainer, who required energy to educate themselves
They needed a building to learn in, which had a cost in terms of heating, lighting and construction
The construction material R&D was based on earlier knowledge, which had an energy cost to create and develop in the first place etc etc
Posted by: Dave | July 28, 2009 4:04 AM

Phew!! At last I see a glimmer of understanding. What happens when you take all those indirect energy inputs into consideration? You get the true energy input of the digestive biscuit.

The price of the digestive biscuit covers, proportionately, all such costs. All such costs are in the accounts records in the company's office; so much to pay off the cost of the factory building; so much for electricity to run the machines; so much each year to amortise the cost of the machines; so much to buy the flour from the mill; so much for the wages of each employee; so much for the government in taxes etc etc.

when pressed on specific examples, you take only those that you can think of off the top of your head. At no point have you quantified the full-chain energy costs you describe for a single product. When other inputs you've failed to consider are pointed out you ignore them, which is an interestingly convenient way of running an analysis!

Absolutely right. I find it difficult to take anything into consideration that I haven't thought about. Don't you? And you are quite correct that I have not quantified in detail, section by section, part by part, the full-chain energy cost of a single item. It would take me the rest of my life. I've got better things to do.

The work has already been done by others. The information exists in the accounting records of all the companies that have participated in any way towards the completion of the product you are buying.

That final price you pay, for any product, represents the summation of a long chain of energy inputs which has been 'accounted for' at each stage in the books of each company involved in the many parts of the process of manufacturing a product.

Of course the price you pay for a product is not always an exact representation of the energy input. Nothing is perfect. There are all sorts of distortions in the market that may impinge upon that accuracy; subsidies in particular.

But on balance, it's the best gauge we have considering the huge complexity of tracing the actual and precise energy input of each part of the chain.

you simply don t get it, do you?
he works all year long, to mine some ore. the $1000 plane ticket is included in the price of the ore. $1000 of additional energy was used, to produce that ore. (according to your "theory")
but on one day of the year, he has to buy that ticket! and the ticket, according to you, costs $1000 of energy. the company selling the ticket, will also produce $1000 of energy.
globally that ticket was paid TWICE. it has costed $2000 in energy. at least. (in every follow up production step using that ore, a part of that holiday plane ticket will show up AGAIN!
Posted by: sod | July 28, 2009 11:10 AM

Dear me! Of course the ticket is not counted twice. You can only spend your money once. The mining company pays a wage to an employee. Whoever buys the ore, indirectly pays for a portion of the employee's wage.

The person who buys the ore pays for it once. The employee spends his wages once, whether it's on an air ticket or whatever.

The cost of the air ticket does not appear on the company's books. Only the employee's wages appears on the books. What the employee does with his wages is his business, but whatever he does with his wages, it will involve energy. That energy is accounted for once in association with the mining of ore. It is described as wages, paid once per week, or once per month.

Ray,

Lets assume I'm building a natural gas powered generating facility. It cost me 200 million. It is just about finished, but not yet operating, and expected to make a ton of money once it comes on line.

I sell it to you for 425 million dollars. You take it public, 10 million people buy shares, the market value climbs to 800 million.

If price reflects the embodied energy - which price? 200 million? 425 million? 800 million?

And if you argue that the 800 million reflects anticipated profits, with the embodied cost of the natural gas fuel that allows those profits, that cost is not yet present in the plant, and will in future be borne by the customers of the plant.

BTW, Ray, when are you going to respond to my earlier examples? Or do you actually think no one notices that you're refusing to respond to anything that you cant answer?

>Dave Andrews:Semantics again. Cover 10% of the UK land with onshore windmills and you would only produce enough power per person to cover the power used by an average car driving 25km.
Plus ,of course, you need backup for the times the wind isn't blowing. So you need fossil fuel to provide the safety net for wind - have you factored this cost into your 'free' energy?
And you certainly have not factored in the visual amenity loss that many people would say is a major downside of windfarms. Is there not a cost attached to this as well?

In defence of Luminous Beauty.

1. Humanity has to fit in with what is environmentally sustainable. That means a reduction in consumption.

2. Amenity loss is also evident from wide scale flooding caused by climate change. My home city will flood as sea levels rise, there is nothing that can be done to protect it.
That's 200,000+ people to relocate. I suggest that is a bigger amenity loss to the people where the houses and businesses will be built and farmland lost.

3. A number of studies now show that backup of wind will not be the problem. Quite the opposite. Large scale use of wind will require that a small number of power stations will be needed and be ready to power down when there is to much wind.
eg. they will need to have a flexible response, rather than provide a base load.

Chris O'Neill

"We all know it will take a considerable time for an economic phase-out of fossil-fuel burning so your point is a strawman."

Well to the numerous climate camp activists who are implacably opposed to anything to do with coal even CCS, for example, it's not known at all.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 28 Jul 2009 #permalink

Paul,

"Humanity has to fit in with what is environmentally sustainable. That means a reduction in consumption."

Go tell that to the approx 1 billion plus people who don't have access to regular supplies of electricity, the single factor that would most greatly improve the quality of their lives.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 28 Jul 2009 #permalink

Dave Andrews @#117:

The majority of anti-coal activism is directed at preventing NEW coal plants without 100% CCS from coming online, or at stopping the process of obtaining coal by mountaintop removal.

"No NEW coal plants" or "get your coal the old-fashioned way" is not the same as "immediate phaseout of all coal plants", and to equate the two is a straw man.

As for "opposed to CCS", that is also a straw man. Read the position statements by any of these groups. None are opposed to CCS. What they ARE opposed to is the funding of CCS (which currently doesn't exist) in place of strategies that do exist. If CCS were to exist today and were to do everything the coal lobby hopes it will, you bet your arse the environmental groups would be lobbying to retrofit all existing plants with it.

This is particularly the case in Alberta (remember the tar sands? We're actually the US's biggest supplier of oil!), where the provincial government's entire climate policy is "invest big and hope CCS comes out of it" - not a word on other methods of GHG reduction (such as conservation or alternatives, be they renewables or nuclear). Anyone who isn't wedded to fossil fuels can see this is a problem - not because it's supporting CCS, but because it isn't supporting anything else.

Please point to any enviro group that's opposed to CCS on its own merits as opposed to as an opportunity cost.

Dear me! Of course the ticket is not counted twice. You can only spend your money once. The mining company pays a wage to an employee. Whoever buys the ore, indirectly pays for a portion of the employee's wage.

again:

company A is selling a product: ore. according to your "theory", the wages paid to all workers are part of the energy cost of that ore.

company B is selling a product: plane tickets. according to you, the cost of that plane ticket is the energy cost of that plane ticket.

if a worker of company A uses his wage to buy the ticket from company B, then globally and over a timespan, that energy cost is counted TWICE.

The person who buys the ore pays for it once. The employee spends his wages once, whether it's on an air ticket or whatever.

on what will he spend his wage? on products! and each and every one of those product, has its full cost expressed in its price.

when you end up adding all those prices at the end of the year, you are DOUBLE COUNTING the ones, that were also included in wages!

The cost of the air ticket does not appear on the company's books. Only the employee's wages appears on the books. What the employee does with his wages is his business, but whatever he does with his wages, it will involve energy. That energy is accounted for once in association with the mining of ore. It is described as wages, paid once per week, or once per month.

the cost of the plane ticket does show up on a different company s book. this proves, that the energy that you are calculating for a product is artificially inflated.

that the energy cost of one product is double counted in this way, contradicts your theory.

as the real energy cost of goods is below 10%, your approximation by prise is already inflating this to 1000%. double counting the wages, and adding the second and third layer of goods gives an inflation of multiple 1000% for your "theory". it is no surprise, that in the real work total value of all goods is extremely higher than the total value of oil and coal.

Ray,

You may have missed by request, I have linked back to it [here](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1800062) for you. I understand you believe in the importance of theories being falsifiable, and thus you will see the importance of stating your theory precisely.

>Ray, thankyou for stating your theory. There are some problematic terms that need to be replaced with more precise definitions for this to be a useful and testable theory.
Can you restate your theory with terms that are more precise than âon balanceâ, âthat means approximatelyâ, âa fair approximationâ, and âindirectlyâ.

>For example, can you define the conditions for which fairness is judged? For what purpose is your theory to be applied? And how does that purpose influence what fairness means?

>As currently stated, your theory is made vague by vague terms and conditions. Such that the theory currently suggests there is some relationship between and energy. But your theory does note state in a meaningful way how useful that relationship is.

>Are you suggesting for example, that price is a stronger indicator of energy inputs than a particular Lifecycle analysis? Or can you think of another precise way of defining your theory?

if a worker of company A uses his wage to buy the ticket from company B, then globally and over a timespan, that energy cost is counted TWICE.
Posted by: sod | July 28, 2009 6:35 PM

LOL! How can you get so confused, sod?

Instead of paying wages, Company A could pay its employees in air tickets, to the value of their wages. Makes no difference, except having money is a far more useful medium for everyday transactions. It would be difficult to buy a loaf of bread with an airline ticket, but you might be able to strike a deal with a car salesman and swap 2 round-the-world air tickets for a new car.

When the employee, with wages in hand, buys an air ticket, the purchase of the ticket is not a cost to the airline. It's a cost to the employee who buys the ticket.

The contribution of the employee to Company A has been exchanged for a certain sum of money, called wages, which embodies a certain amount of energy in rough proportion to the amount, size of the wages. The employee is then worth a certain amount of 'potential' energy which he can exchange for other forms of energy, such as an air ticket. Once he's spent the money, that's it. He can't spend it again. But other people can and do benefit from his spending his wages.

If the employee were to stick his wages under the mattress or in his safe and forget about them, the money would effectively be out of circulation, just as it would also be out of circulation if his wages were lost or destroyed in a fire. That's one reason why it's illegal to destroy money. It's why people are encouraged to put their money in a bank. The money can then be used by another person or company (in the form of a loan) to do things that require energy.

Ray, thankyou for stating your theory. There are some problematic terms that need to be replaced with more precise definitions for this to be a useful and testable theory.
Can you restate your theory with terms that are more precise than âon balanceâ, âthat means approximatelyâ, âa fair approximationâ, and âindirectlyâ.
For example, can you define the conditions for which fairness is judged? For what purpose is your theory to be applied? And how does that purpose influence what fairness means?
As currently stated, your theory is made vague by vague terms and conditions. Such that the theory currently suggests there is some relationship between and energy. But your theory does note state in a meaningful way how useful that relationship is.
Are you suggesting for example, that price is a stronger indicator of energy inputs than a particular Lifecycle analysis? Or can you think of another precise way of defining your theory?
Posted by: Kessler | July 27, 2009 11:15 PM

Sorry, I did miss your post. As I see it, Lifecycle analysis is a very misleading term. It is often described as a 'cradle-to-grave' approach which gives the impression that everything is taken into consideration But as far as I see, and I stand to be corrected, Lifecycle analysis does not take all costs into consideration. There always seems to be a system boundary which is defined. It seems, for example, to exclude all wages. I can understand why. It's just far too difficult to analyze how people spend their wages. It's much, much easier to concentrate on the environmental impact of the industrial processes, the machinery used and the quantity of GHG emissions that result only from such machinery.

To get back to an earlier analogy of mine which Janet Akerman thought she had falsified by producing a table which implied that China has some pretty dirty coal power stations (it does. No argument). She conveniently omitted, however, a crucial piece of information from my analogy. In my analogy, I stated, if a product made in China were to use the same machinery and the same amount of electricity from the same design of coal power station that would be used in Australia to produce the same product, then the significanly lower price of the Chinese product would be a reflection of the lower energy input, taking eveything into consideration, including employees' wages.

However, a Lifecycle analysis would probably produce an environmental impact and an energy input figure which is actually greater for the Chinese product on the grounds that the shipping of coal from Australia to China and the shipping of goods back to Australia from China, has a greater environmental impact than the transportation of the same amount of coal within Australia to the Australian power station, and transporting across the shorter distances the Australian product from factory to retail outlets.

How much a worker is paid and how he spends his wages, must have an impact on the environment. How could it not? One worker spends his holiday money driving around Australia in a big 4WD, towing a caravan, guzzling 100 litres of petrol per day. Another worker accidentally flushes his holiday money down the toilet, which is very good indeed for the environment, and yet another worker sticks his holiday pay under the mattress for a rainy day, not trustung the banks.

Perhaps another worker uses the holiday money to install a couple of Instant Hot Water Heaters in his house, thus availing himself of the most energy and water efficient method of taking a shower.

And for the benefit of Janet Akerman who brought to my attention a chart highlighting the CO2 emissions per US dollar of GDP in various countries, yet another worker decides to spend his holiday pay in Chad, because he's close by, working overseas, and he reckons he'll do the least harm to the environment because Chad is at the top of that list with the lowest CO2 emissions per dollar.

Dave Andrews:

"We all know it will take a considerable time for an economic phase-out of fossil-fuel burning so your point is a strawman."

Well to the numerous climate camp activists who are implacably opposed to anything to do with coal even CCS, for example, it's not known at all.

And who, pray tell, says it might not take a considerable time, if ever, for CCS to produce any significant carbon emission reductions. If you want a real example of pie-in-the-sky, then CCS is for you.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 28 Jul 2009 #permalink

Ray writes:

I understand completely that alternative energy sources are simply not even nearly as efficient as coal, oil, gas and nuclear.

Current price of wind electricity in California: 9 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Coal: 10.

Nuclear: 15.

Who cares about efficiency? What does that even mean in this context?

If you want to seriously tackle climate change (assuming the threat is real) you need an Obama, a Hu Jintao, a Kevin Rudd etc to declare clearly and precisely that our living standards will have to be slashed in half (or more), over a transition period of the next few years

Nonsense.

whilst we struggle to replace our current coal-fired power stations with windmill and solar farms..

It's already happening. 42% of the new generating capacity put in place in the US last year was wind power. China just tripled the amount of energy it wants from renewables by 2020.

Come on Ray, you're slipping...

> In my analogy, I stated, if a product made in China were to use the same machinery and the same amount of electricity from the same design of coal power station that would be used in Australia to produce the same product, then the significanly lower price of the Chinese product would be a reflection of the lower energy input, taking eveything into consideration, including employees' wages.

> However, a Lifecycle analysis would probably produce an environmental impact and an energy input figure which is actually greater for the Chinese product on the grounds that the shipping of coal from Australia to China and the shipping of goods back to Australia from China, has a greater environmental impact than the transportation of the same amount of coal within Australia to the Australian power station, and transporting across the shorter distances the Australian product from factory to retail outlets.

... so then the lower price didn't take into account all the energy input, did it? You've just poked a hole in your own ramblings.

Current price of wind electricity in California: 9 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Coal: 10.
Nuclear: 15.
Who cares about efficiency? What does that even mean in this context?
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | July 29, 2009 5:22 AM

Who cares?? Are you mad? Everyone who's in business making and selling something cares. It's why aluminium smelting companies would set up their operations overseas if they didn't get an electricity subsidy from the State Governments. It's why some Australian companies have already set up operations in China, because they can produce their products more efficiently. It's why many industries will be doing their sums when or if a carbon tax is imposed. If it's more efficient to operate overseas because energy costs are cheaper, they'll do it. These guys are not namby pamby environmentalists without an ounce of nous. They're practical, hard-nosed businessmen with an eye for a profit.

If the true, unsubsidised cost of electricity from wind is US 9 cents per kWh, then we're laughing. I'm paying A$ 18 cents per kWh which is US 14 cents. Any business person who could deliver wind electricity to my house would make a handsome profit. I'd even be willing to pay 20 cents per kWh for the satisfaction of helping to clear pollution in the atmosphere.

It's already happening. 42% of the new generating capacity put in place in the US last year was wind power. China just tripled the amount of energy it wants from renewables by 2020.

Good! That's excellent! I've got nothing against clean and renewable energy, as long as it's affordable. Making it affordable by subsidising it from heavy taxes raised on currently cheap energy, is likely to throw a lot of people out of work, in my view. I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

It's difficult to get accurate information on the true, unsubsidised cost of coal-fired power, but following is some information I got from an environmental publication dated April 2009. I simply don't know how accurate this information is, but if accurate, the cost of environmental damage is just a bit more than the total wholsale cost of the electricity. Double the wholesale price and you're about right.

The average wholesale price of electricity in Australia is around $40 per megawatt-hour (MWh), but that only includes costs required to produce and deliver energy - not costs caused by generating electricity, such as environmental damage and health problems.

"All power generation technologies are accompanied by social and environmental externalities, costs imposed on individuals or the community that are not paid for by the producer or consumer of electricity," says Tom Biegler, the report's author.

Environmental costs can include damaged ecosystems from mining the fuel, or climate-change-based damage from greenhouse gas emissions, and health problems include radiation from nuclear fuel or respiratory disease from fine-particle air pollution released by coal burning.
The report assigns a monetary value to each of these costs, and estimates the external costs of using brown coal at $52 per MWh, black coal at $42 per MWh, and natural gas at $19 per MWh.

A megawatt hour is 1,000 kWh. According to Tom Biegler, the cost of the wholesale price of electricity, plus the cost of environmental damage is A$92 per megawatt hour, or A$ 9.2 cents per kWh, or US 7.4 cents per kWh.

Now, as I understand, that cost takes everything into consideration, including employee wages and environmental damage. But maybe it doesn't. You can't believe everything you read in the newspapers and nor can you believe every report that looks as though it's professionally produced.

What does the US 9 cents per kWh for wind energy include and exclude? Anyone know?

... so then the lower price didn't take into account all the energy input, did it? You've just poked a hole in your own ramblings.
Posted by: Dave | July 29, 2009 6:19 AM

No. I've poked a hole in the veracity of the Lifecycle concept which appears to create the illusion that all energy costs are taken into consideration. I believe they are not.

"What does the US 9 cents per kWh for wind energy include and exclude? Anyone know?

Posted by: Ray"

I know what the 15cents for nuclear doesn't include: $7.1Bn in subsidies.

I know what the coal 10cents doesn't include: 11Bn in subsidies.

I know what the oil price doesn't include: $30Bn a year in susbisdies.

Hello Ray,
I read the post where you cited my question, but your response omitted a restatement of your theory. Can you restate your theory with more precise terms. I describe what I mean in more detail here.
Posted by: Kessler | July 29, 2009 6:56 AM

Okay! I'll do my best. Here goes.

In a modern society, nothing happens, nothing moves, nothing is produced without expenditure of energy. We are totally and utterly dependent on energy for all our activities.

Because of the complexity of our industrial processes and the complexities of the value-adding nature of even the simplest item we may buy, such as an ice-cream cone, it is not possible, or perhaps more to the point, not practical to calculate accurately the true, all-embracing cost of the energy input for each item we buy.

I therefore propose that an easier and more accurate method of calculating the true cost of energy input of any product is to start off with the product's price to the consumer, whether wholesale or retail, and then try to make allowances for any distortions in the market that may have influenced the price.

I've quoted a few examples. If you buy second hand goods, you are presumably aware of that fact. If you buy aluminium, you are presumably aware that there's a hidden subsidy if you are at all concerned about the true nature of the energy input. If you are not concerned, then you might not be aware of this fact.

In an open and transparent free market, with the obvious required government regulations that try to prevent people from cheating each other, we should be able to find such information.

For example, the retail price of a PVP producing 1500kWh of electricity per year, is A$12,000 without subsidy.

The cost to me of 1500kWh is just $270 from dirty coal. Is this cost subsidised? I don't believe so. The aluminium smelting industry pays a lot less than my 18 cents per kWh. Even standard businesses pay less than 18 cents per kWh.

If someone claims that the payback period of a PVP costing $12,000 is 3 years, then that would imply that the true cost of my 1500kWh of electricity is not $270 but $4,000. If anyone believes that, I think we're into an Alice in Wonderland scenario.

I know what the 15cents for nuclear doesn't include: $7.1Bn in subsidies.
I know what the coal 10cents doesn't include: 11Bn in subsidies.
I know what the oil price doesn't include: $30Bn a year in susbisdies.
Posted by: Mark | July 29, 2009 7:54 AM

Mark,
If you know that, then you should be able to gives us some sort of break-down of what the subsidies constitue, and perhaps also explain why you are so knowledeable on the subsidies of fossil and nuclear energy, but not the subsidies given to wind power. You wouldn't be biased by any chance, would you?

> Mark, If you know that, then you should be able to gives us some sort of break-down of what the subsidies constitue,

I use google.

> and perhaps also explain why you are so knowledeable on the subsidies of fossil and nuclear energy,

I used google.

> but not the subsidies given to wind power.

Because you can look it up yourself. Use google.

> You wouldn't be biased by any chance, would you?

Does that make the $7.1Bn a year subsidy to US nuclear power industry (forget the nuclear MILITARY budget...) disappear?

No.

For example, the retail price of a PVP producing 1500kWh of electricity per year, is A$12,000 without subsidy. ... The cost to me of 1500kWh is just $270 from dirty coal. Is this cost subsidised? I don't believe so. The aluminium smelting industry pays a lot less than my 18 cents per kWh. Even standard businesses pay less than 18 cents per kWh. ... If someone claims that the payback period of a PVP costing $12,000 is 3 years, then that would imply that the true cost of my 1500kWh of electricity is not $270 but $4,000. If anyone believes that, I think we're into an Alice in Wonderland scenario.

i think that this one is funny. Ray is using his assumption (the "prize is a good approximation of energy cost") to "prove" that coal should cost more!

in reality, the energy cost of a solar panel is seriously below 10% of the total cost. (as this is the energy cost of high energy products, like smelting metal)

a cost of 5% sounds just about right. and suddenly those 3 years payback give the right number....

i think it is a good idea to look back, how this discussion [started under "Moncktons vision..:](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/06/moncktons_vision_of_the_future…)

However, in economies like Australia and China that are 90% run on fossil fuels, the dollar value of an item is the best approximation we have of the carbon footprint associated with the item.

he later came up with the entirely stupid idea, that wages need to be factored into energy cost as well:

The Australian-made product, in this example where the manufacturing process was the same, really does have double the GHG emissions associated with it. That's because the Australian worker him/herself causes greater pollution than than his/her Chinese counterpart. If you can't make a product without employing people, then the carbon footprint resulting from those employees' wages has to be included in the total carbon footprint of the finished and delivered product.

the circular nature of this construct is pretty special:

1. i assume that the price is the same as an energy cost.

2. wages are also energy, because they will be spent on goods, that are 100% energy.

this changes already completely, if you use a more realistic assumption to start with:

1. below 10% of the average cost of an item is energy. (full production process energy)

2. so also below 10% of the wages will be spent on energy.

Can someone please give me an example of a sum of money, whatever quantity you like, $1, $10 or $100, that is a part of any transaction, or that exists in any bank account, or that simply resides in your own pocket, that is completely unassociated with any form of energy.

This is what you have to do to falsify my theory.

The cost to me of 1500kWh is just $270 from dirty coal. Is this cost subsidised? I don't believe so.

Believe it as much as you want to, but it won't alter the fact that you are wrong.

The cost of dirty coal is subsidised by future generations of humans, and by the rest of the biosphere.

You seem to be fixated on counting backwards, but you fail dismally in counting forwards.

But that's the definition of a ray, isn't it?

"A line which starts at a point and goes off in a particular direction to infinity".

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 29 Jul 2009 #permalink

Can someone please give me an example of a sum of money, whatever quantity you like, $1, $10 or $100, that is a part of any transaction, or that exists in any bank account, or that simply resides in your own pocket, that is completely unassociated with any form of energy.

This is what you have to do to falsify my theory.

I call bullshit.

Your theory is that price/cost closely reflects embodied energy, and it has been pointed out to you many times that this proportionality is not fixed, but rather that it is fluid.

By now attempting to demand that we falsify the ridiculous - preposterous! - notion that currency is "completely unassociated with any form of energy", you are moving the goal posts to another playing field entirely.

How very irrational of you.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 29 Jul 2009 #permalink

Mark, If you know that, then you should be able to gives us some sort of break-down of what the subsidies constitue,
I use google.
and perhaps also explain why you are so knowledeable on the subsidies of fossil and nuclear energy,
I used google.
but not the subsidies given to wind power.
Because you can look it up yourself. Use google.
You wouldn't be biased by any chance, would you?
Does that make the $7.1Bn a year subsidy to US nuclear power industry (forget the nuclear MILITARY budget...) disappear?
No.
Posted by: Mark | July 29, 2009 9:16 AM,

I use Google too, but I don't believe everything I read. I use my nous, my intelligence and my experience to weigh and assess the likely truth of what I'm reading.

Also, some information is simply not attainable on Google. For example, I don't believe that all states in Australia make public the full subsididy of electricity to the aluminium smelting industry. The details are private, long term contractual agreements between the state and the companies involved.

>Can someone please give me an example of a sum of money, whatever quantity you like, $1, $10 or $100, that is a part of any transaction, or that exists in any bank account, or that simply resides in your own pocket, that is completely unassociated with any form of energy.

Show me a species on earth other than humans that uses money.
The point being, that we have created the system and it only exists because we do.

Energy on the other hand exists whether we are here or not.

eg. you are forcing a relationship between the two and there is no scientific basis for 'money'. We could utilise energy without money.

The relationship you make is one sided and forced, which is typical of a human created system for the benefit to humans.
The disconnection with the environment is there, even with money.

Believe it as much as you want to, but it won't alter the fact that you are wrong.
Posted by: Bernard J. | July 29, 2009 10:31 AM

Totally irrelevant. The only thing that counts is, can you prove or demonstrate that I'm wrong?

That's what being a skeptic means. Didn't you realise that? I'm surprised.

>In a modern society, nothing happens, nothing moves, nothing is produced without expenditure of energy. We are totally and utterly dependent on energy for all our activities.

That isn't a description of 'society'.
That describes the universe.

Any species utilises energy. The problem you have is that you continually focus on humans, the relationships between them and not our place in the wider environment.

This is why you fail to understand that money is not a good place to start in any analysis about energy.

>I understand completely that alternative energy sources are simply not even nearly as efficient as coal, oil, gas and nuclear.

Erm, the last time i looked coal fired power station wasted about 60% of the energy produced.

The energy payback times for wind turbines is comparable to most other energy sources. Typical energy payback ratios:

Coal - between 7 and 34
Gas - between 5 and 26
Hydro - between 43 and 205
Wind - between 11 and 30

Some references:

Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden.
Barbara Batumbya Nalukowe, Jianguo Liu, Wiedmer Damien,Tomasz Lukawski,
Life Cycle Assessment of a Wind Turbine, 22 May 2006

Kansas Geological Survey
White, Scott,
Net Energy Payback and CO2 Emissions from Three Midwestern Wind Farms: An Update. December 2006

Other respected sources of information not used here:
Gagnon, Belanger and Uchiyama,
Life Cycle Assessment of Electricity Generation Options: the Status of Research in year 2001.

Lenzen and Munksgaard,
Energy and CO2 Analysis of Wind Turbines - Review and Applications.

>Ray: For example, the retail price of a PVP producing 1500kWh of electricity per year, is A$12,000 without subsidy.
The cost to me of 1500kWh is just $270 from dirty coal. Is this cost subsidised? I don't believe so.

The energy used is a subsidy on your life because it means that you don't have to make so much physical effort yourself.

You forget the issue of time. Coal is a finite resource. As I stated before, if you use it quickly, then the price can be low. However that means it won't be available to future generations. So in this respect future generations are subsidising you.

Again, you are failing to take into account the wider costs that exist outside your own time frame or the wider environment. Knowledge requires us to look at wider responsibilities and 'costs'.

>Ray said: "Now my skepticism is based upon objectivity and a rational approach to things. I believe in the scientific method of falsifiability."

Yet Rays inclusion of money in his theory has no scientific rationale.

I [point out](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1803073) to Ray that he is wrong. Ray's response:

Totally irrelevant. The only thing that counts is, can you prove or demonstrate that I'm wrong?

Erm, so you are wrong only if someone "prove[s] or demonstrate[s] that [you are] wrong"?

Wonderful logic.

As it is, the damage to the atmosphere and the oceans is not paid for in contemporary sales of coal. These damages will need to be addressed and paid for by future generations, and even if they are not, such damages will have greater negative economic effects than positive ones on these same generations - and this is completely leaving aside the ecological consequences.

Future generations will pay for the negative costs of our use of coal, that we ourselves are not paying for when we buy and use the coal. Ergo, future generations are subsidising our purchase and use of coal.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 29 Jul 2009 #permalink

Ray.

A little game...

If price is so directly tied to embodied energy, why are you so opposed to the transfer to renewable energy from fossil energy?

Surely, using your logic (that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that one gets what one pays for), we would (as an economy) still be paying the same for a unit amount of energy (= economic activity) irrespective of where it comes from, and hence the source is irrelevant - the economy must, as a whole, still receive the same economic benefit no matter the source of the energy used to power it.

Or is the money = energy relationship only valid for certain definitions of money and of energy?

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 29 Jul 2009 #permalink

> Quod erat demonstrandum.

> Posted by: Bernard J

You misspelled "error", Bernard.

"And so the mistake was shown"

:-)

Ray:
"Can someone please give me an example of a sum of money, whatever quantity you like, $1, $10 or $100, that is a part of any transaction, or that exists in any bank account, or that simply resides in your own pocket, that is completely unassociated with any form of energy."

Can someone please give me an example of a sum of money... that represents completely and perfectly the embedded energy of every transaction it pays for?

Because THAT is what Ray is claiming.

I wonder how Bernie Madoff dissipated all those trillions of jigawatts he lost when he lost all those dollar bills...

I wonder where the energy came from that made those dollar bills he ponzied up in the first place...

Ray knows not arse from elbow.

Watch out for him in the New Year Sales: elbowing you out the way could be unpleasant...

Brian D,

You say you are in favour of CCS but you are against funding demonstration plants to prove how well it may work. Well excuse me but you seem to be facing forward whilst looking up your a***.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 29 Jul 2009 #permalink

Can someone please give me an example of a sum of money, whatever quantity you like, $1, $10 or $100, that is a part of any transaction, or that exists in any bank account, or that simply resides in your own pocket, that is completely unassociated with any form of energy. This is what you have to do to falsify my theory.

ouch. the weakest hypothesis ever. fond a good, that is "completely unassociated with any form of energy.

"completely" means 100%. "associated" must be the weakest link that you can establish. "any form of energy" is also an interestingly inclusive term.

your real "theory" is: for the majority of products, the price is a good approximation of energy in coal and oil.

and sorry, but your theory has been falsified over and over and over again.

Hello Ray, The closest thing I could find to your restatement of your theory was this:
>I therefore propose that an easier and more accurate method of calculating the true cost of energy input of any product is to start off with the product's price to the consumer, whether wholesale or retail, and then try to make allowances for any distortions in the market that may have influenced the price.

This is still not a well defined theory. Can you define what you mean by âmore accurateâ, for example: for what application is it more accurate; by what measure? More accurate than what? Can you also define your phrase âstart withâstart with is not a well defined term in this context. Are you stating the start of a theory?

To state a theory (for falsifiablity) you need to avoid these vague terms. As a guide to help you state you theory in a meaningful way, perhaps consider an experiment or test it would need to pass. Use the terms you would in the description of your methods. If you believe your r theory is not universal, or has only limited application, then define the application where you propose it is accurate.

Unfortunately without this articulation you have not stated a meaningful or falsifiable theory. Hence your challenge to readers to falsify your theory is premature.

Hello Ray, The closest thing I could find to your restatement of your theory was this:
I therefore propose that an easier and more accurate method of calculating the true cost of energy input of any product is to start off with the product's price to the consumer, whether wholesale or retail, and then try to make allowances for any distortions in the market that may have influenced the price.
This is still not a well defined theory. Can you define what you mean by âmore accurateâ, for example: for what application is it more accurate; by what measure? More accurate than what? Can you also define your phrase âstart withâstart with is not a well defined term in this context. Are you stating the start of a theory?
To state a theory (for falsifiablity) you need to avoid these vague terms. As a guide to help you state you theory in a meaningful way, perhaps consider an experiment or test it would need to pass. Use the terms you would in the description of your methods. If you believe your r theory is not universal, or has only limited application, then define the application where you propose it is accurate.
Unfortunately without this articulation you have not stated a meaningful or falsifiable theory. Hence your challenge to readers to falsify your theory is premature.
Posted by: Kessler | July 29, 2009 8:12 PM

I'll try, but understand, the beauty of my theory (if I can call it that) is its simplicity. It doesn't rely upon incomprehensible jargon to obscure and impress. Here are the main points

(1) 100% of all money represents energy or embodies energy.

(2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

(3) The price I pay can never represent more energy than is both directly and indirectly associated with a product, unless the recipient of the money were to destroy either a part of, or the whole of it, or remove it from circulation by permanently stashing it in a safe or under the mattress etc.

(4) The money you pay for a product can and often does UNDERSTATE the true extent of the energy input for a number of reasons, perhaps the chief one being hidden subsidies.

For example, let's say I'm the sort of foolish person who would pay $100 for a designer T-shirt. The T-shirt in terms of actual manufacturing costs is the same as many other T-shirts costing only $5. Same material, same durability, slightly different cut to make it a little distinctive (perhaps), but the main difference is the T-shirt has the designer's name (Pierre Cardin, for example) emblazoned across the front.

So the question might be, how does the $100 I pay for the designer T-shirt represent the energy it costs to make and deliver the T-shirt to me, when the price tag on a similar T-shirt is only $5.

The answer lies in the 'indirect' costs. The $5 T-shirt may be sold on a stall in the street. The price does not include expensive overheads and the vendor accepts a small profit.

The designer T-shirt, however, may be sold in a plush department store in an upmarket shopping centre. Part of the $100 dollars I pay then represents a small portion of a whole lot of additional, indirect energy inputs such as: the rent of the department store to Mr Westfield; the air-conditioning of the store; the furnishing and carpets on the floor; the wages of the sales girls standing around looking pretty; the wages of all the office staff and the manager; the dividends paid to the shareholders of the department store, if it's a public company; and last but not least, a big, fat profit to Mr Pierre Cardin who needs to support his fleet of Mercedes Benz and Rolls Royce cars.

Let's consider another example. I always find that examples can help clarify a theory, don't you?

Bernard J. gave the interesting example of someone selling land rights on the moon. Now that's clearly a rip-off. No-one owns moon rights to sell, so one might ask how the money I paid for something that doesn't exist can possibly represent the energy required to produce it.

Here again, the answer is simple and perfectly consitent with my theory. You might have thought you were buying land rights on the moon at the time of the transaction, but it eventually transpires (hopefully) that in fact, and in practice, you were buying a motor car for a con-merchant. You simply got the name of the product wrong. You were duped.

So, to repeat the third part of my theory;
(3) The money you pay for something can never represent more than the sum of all direct and indirect energy inputs, unless the recipient of the money destroys some of it or removes it from circulation.

Now to the fourth part of my theory.

(4) The money you pay for a product can and often does UNDERSTATE the true extent of the energy input for a number of reasons, perhaps the chief one being hidden subsidies.

Here is the major problem. How reliable is the information available regarding subsidies. Subsidies are often the subject of private, contractual arrangements between governments and large corporations and details are reluctantly made public, if at all.

Let's take another example to highlight the problem. One does a bit of research on Google to try and find out what the real, unsubsidised cost of electricity is in Australia. One comes across a very recent report authored by someone who appears to be very qualified, for example, Dr Tom Biegler, an Electrochemist with a PhD in Agricultural Science who has spent most of his research career in CSIRO.

In his report he addresses: The Hidden Costs of Electricity: Externalities of Power Generation in Australia. The term âexternalitiesâ refers to costs (or sometimes benefits) of an economic transaction not covered by the price. For power generation the externalities comprise environmental and social costs arising anywhere in the complete production chain for getting electricity to end-users.

He concludes: The average wholesale price of electricity in Australia is around $40 per megawatt-hour (MWh) The report assigns a monetary value to the environmental costs, and estimates the external costs of using brown coal at $52 per MWh, black coal at $42 per MWh, and natural gas at $19 per MWh.

These additional costs have apparently included the following: Environmental costs of damaged ecosystems from mining the fuel, climate-change-based damage from greenhouse gas emissions, and health problems related to radiation from nuclear fuel, and respiratory disease from fine-particle air pollution released by coal burning.

In other words, the wholesale cost of electricity is just 4 cents per kWh. If we add the estimated cost of environmental damage and health problems resulting from the use of brown coal, the price becomes 9.2 cents per kWh. If we use the cleaner black coal, it's only 8.2 cents per kWh, according to the author of the report.

I'm currently paying an average of 18 cents per kWh for the electricity I use. That's a 100% mark-up on the wholesale price which has already been doubled to take account of environmental damage. If Dr Tom Biegler's calculations are even remotely accurate, it would be reasonable for me to assume that the price I'm currently paying for my electricity represents the full cost of all associated energy inputs and environmental damage, but of course, I can't be certain. I can only work from information that is available to me and use my nous to assess the likely accuracy of such information.

Now, let's return to the $12,000 PVP which produces just 1500 kWh per year, or $270 worth of electricity which has already included the cost of environmental and health damage.

According to my principle #3, the price of an item can never overstate the associated energy costs as long as the money paid remains in circulation, which means that the money is always being used by someone.

So therefore, the true energy cost of producing a $12,000 PVP is $12,000 or greater. In fact, it seems to me that it's likely to be greater unless the PVP is largely manufactured using clean energy, such as hydro-electricity.

If I'm making a comparison with my current electricity costs which include the cost of environmental damage, then the costs of fossil fuels used directly or indirectly in the production of the PVP should also include the additional charge to cover environmental damage.

If these facts are only roughly correct, then anyone who claims that the real payback period for a $12,000 PVP is only 3, or 5 or even 10 years, is living in Alice's Wonderland. My advice; Get real!

I wonder how Bernie Madoff dissipated all those trillions of jigawatts he lost when he lost all those dollar bills...
I wonder where the energy came from that made those dollar bills he ponzied up in the first place...
Ray knows not arse from elbow.
Watch out for him in the New Year Sales: elbowing you out the way could be unpleasant...
Posted by: Mark | July 29, 2009 3:57 PM

I don' think I've ever come across such a confused bunch of guys as you lot. A dollar bill is a piece of paper. It's not a watt. It represents a certain number of watts. The thing that is represented is not the same as the thing which represents. The word 'table' is not the same thing as the physical table that the word represents.

It's easy to lose money. You could accidentally drop it. You could have it stolen. You could be defrauded. What's your problem?

and sorry, but your theory has been falsified over and over and over again.

Posted by: sod | July 29, 2009 5:14 PM

Sorry, but not by my standards. There's not a single point made in this entire thread, unless I've missed it, that constitutes a rationally sound falsification of my theory according to the scientific method as I understand it.

We seem to be still at the ridicule stage, regarding the truth (or falsehood) of my theory.

(2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

yesterday i went to the park. i picked up a water melon at a fruit seller right at the entrance of the park. we sat in the park for an hour. the seller closed his business, but it was an incredibly warm evening. from the looks of the people around us, it was utterly obvious that the price of that melon had at least doubled.

the "ray theory" can not explain this rather common price increase. (though Ray will try to obfuscate this fact by making weird claims, like including the energy cost of whatever i buy with the money into the price of that melon...)

other economic theories explain the effect easily. the most obvious one is [supply and demand](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand).

but why listen to economists, when you can also just believe ray and his "theory"???

(2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

yesterday i went to the park. i picked up a water melon at a fruit seller right at the entrance of the park. we sat in the park for an hour. the seller closed his business, but it was an incredibly warm evening. from the looks of the people around us, it was utterly obvious that the price of that melon had at least doubled.

the "ray theory" can not explain this rather common price increase. (though Ray will try to obfuscate this fact by making weird claims, like including the energy cost of whatever i buy with the money into the price of that melon...)

other economic theories explain the effect easily. the most obvious one is [supply and demand](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand).

but why listen to economists, when you can also just believe ray and his "theory"?

Ray is having us on. There is no other plausible explanation at this point.

(2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

yesterday i went to the park. i picked up a water melon at a fruit seller right at the entrance of the park. we sat in the park for an hour. the seller closed his business, but it was an incredibly warm evening. from the looks of the people around us, it was utterly obvious that the price of that melon had at least doubled.

the "ray theory" can not explain this rather common price increase. (though Ray will try to obfuscate this fact by making weird claims, like including the energy cost of whatever i buy with the money into the price of that melon...)

other economic theories explain the effect easily. the most obvious one is [supply and demand](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand).

but why listen to economists, when you can also just believe ray and his "theory"??

yesterday i went to the park. i picked up a water melon at a fruit seller right at the entrance of the park.
Posted by: sod | July 30, 2009 2:36 AM

What! You didn't pay for it? You stole it?

but it was an incredibly warm evening. from the looks of the people around us, it was utterly obvious that the price of that melon had at least doubled.
Posted by: sod | July 30, 2009 2:36 AM

What! You determined the price of something from the looks on people's faces? Are you nuts? How scientific do you think you are being? Is that supposed to be a falsification?

Joke aside, let me describe what I think you are trying to say. You bought a water melon at a reasonable price from a fruit seller. Some time later, as the day got warmer, you got the impression that you could resell the watermelon at a higher price, judging by the expressions of heat fatigue on people's faces. You never tested this 'theory' by actually selling the water melon, so it's pure speculation, but a reasonable one.

If you had sold the water melon for a price higher than you'd paid for it, you'd be no different from the fruit seller who sold you the melon in the first instance. This is what people in business do. They buy things at a certain price and attempt to sell them at a higher price. If they fail, they're out of business. If they succeed, they may become wealthy.

What was your point again?

> Ray is having us on. There is no other plausible explanation at this point.

> Posted by: Lee

Nah, like Billy Bob (probably in the same tenement block/trailer park), he's typing one-handed.

sorry for the double post. post didn t show up, and with an error message that i never saw before. then all three showed up at the same time. i ll have more patience next time, promise..

What was your point again?

my point was, that the price of the melon increased, when the shop closed. the price of the melon increased, while i was lying in the sun. there was no significant energy involved. (i carried it 100 meters, i doubt that this doubles the price of a spanish water melon in germany. ZERO oil or coal were involved in the doubling of the price.)

the theory of price being determined by supply and demand completely explains this phenomenon. your "theory" of "price is a good approximation of energy" utterly fails to explain the price increase, while i and the melon were lying in the grass.

> Ray is having us on. There is no other plausible explanation at this point.

Ray was clearly having us on when he asserted that his 1-minute instant-heat shower was a valid rebuttal for the cost of solar.

my point was, that the price of the melon increased, when the shop closed. the price of the melon increased, while i was lying in the sun. there was no significant energy involved. (i carried it 100 meters, i doubt that this doubles the price of a spanish water melon in germany. ZERO oil or coal were involved in the doubling of the price.)
the theory of price being determined by supply and demand completely explains this phenomenon. your "theory" of "price is a good approximation of energy" utterly fails to explain the price increase, while i and the melon were lying in the grass.
Posted by: sod | July 30, 2009 4:21 AM

The price of the melon increased?? What! All on its own? Are you saying the melon has a will of its own and decided to increase in price whilst you were lying in the sun?

This is the chain of events as I see them. I'll use imaginary amounts of money. The fruit seller acquires the melon for $1. He brings it to the customer, you. He provides a service, making the melon available at the park gate. That's how he earns his living. He charges you $2 for the melon, making $1 gross profit. Part of that profit is taken up with the expense of bringing the melon to the park gate. Presumably, the fruit-seller uses a van that consumes fuel and needs maintenance. Perhaps he even pays the council a 'hawkers rights' fee, whatever. This is pretty normal business practice.

The $2 you've paid for the melon covers the original energy cost of growing the melon; the energy cost of transporting the melon to the fruit wholesale market where the fruit seller bought it; all energy inputs in bringing the melon from the wholesaler to the park gate; petrol for the van etc. In addition, a portion of the $2 will go towards the energy costs of feeding the fruit seller and his family and supporting in general his lifestyle and standard of living.

Having bought the melon for $2, you hold on to it, store it for a while, transport it to another location in the park and sell it for a quick profit, exploiting the fact that the fruit seller has closed and there is no competitor. In addition to making what some might consider an unjust profit, you have also provided a service.

Supply and demand always operates in any transaction. You can't sell something if you can't supply it. And you can't sell something if there's no demand for it. That's taken for granted. We're talking here about price representing energy.

Having sold the melon for $4, the total energy costs associated with the melon have increased from $2 to $4, unless you decide to throw the $2 profit away. If you don't throw it away, you'll probably spend it on the bus fare back home, or an ice cream which involves energy, just as the fruit seller spent his $1 profit on something else which involves energy.

Whatever increased price you charge for your $2 melon, whether $2.05, $20 or $100, the new price represents the total energy associated with the melon.

However, if you resell the melon for just $1, having bought it for $2, the energy cost associated with the melon remains at $2. You've paid $1 and the new buyer has paid $1.

1+1=2. I can't see what difficulty you're having in grasping this concept.

Ray was clearly having us on when he asserted that his 1-minute instant-heat shower was a valid rebuttal for the cost of solar.
Posted by: Dave | July 30, 2009 6:03 AM

Definitely not. My mathematical calculations are sound. But let's not exaggerate. The one minute refers to the amount of time the water is running through the instant heater.

I may spend another minute soaping up and picking up the dropped bar of soap from the shower floor.

> However, if you resell the melon for just $1, having bought it for $2, the energy cost associated with the melon remains at $2. You've paid $1 and the new buyer has paid $1.

> 1+1=2.

Not the case he put forward.

Melon you say has $2 of energy.

But it's a warm day. Having bought that melon, I'll sell it for $4.

Where did the melon get the extra energy of $2 from?

Supply and demand always operates in any transaction. You can't sell something if you can't supply it. And you can't sell something if there's no demand for it. That's taken for granted. We're talking here about price representing energy.

your economic knowledge is on a pre-school level. supply and demand determines the price. there simply is no room for your "energy" idea there.

you might want to take a look at how the prices of stocks are determined in trading. the energy involved in stocks trading is tiny. the price changes are massive. your theory fails.

Having sold the melon for $4, the total energy costs associated with the melon have increased from $2 to $4, unless you decide to throw the $2 profit away. If you don't throw it away, you'll probably spend it on the bus fare back home, or an ice cream which involves energy, just as the fruit seller spent his $1 profit on something else which involves energy.

or i might NOT spend it on something, which involves energy. the most obvious situation in my example is, that next week i forgot to prepare myself. so i end up among the hungry looking crowed, starring at my neighbours water melon. and the $2 i earned yesterday, are needed to pay the premium price.

your "theory" has just added $4 of energy, that you will later transfer into a coal/oil equivalent. in reality, two guys walked 100 meters with a melon. your "theory" is massively inflating the energy "cost" of goods.

The price of the melon increased?? What! All on its own? Are you saying the melon has a will of its own and decided to increase in price whilst you were lying in the sun?

it is called the "invisible hand" and is a basis of price theory.

you never took a look at the works of Adam Smith, did you?

more extreme example: the fruit seller has become a friend of mine. i buy the melon that is lying at the edge of his stall. and stick a $4 sign onto it. then i sit on the bench, waiting.

nobody will buy the $4 melon in a pile of $2 melons. but i will sell it, as soon as the rest of the melons is gone.

and i didn t even have to lift the melon....

Not the case he put forward.
Melon you say has $2 of energy.
But it's a warm day. Having bought that melon, I'll sell it for $4.
Where did the melon get the extra energy of $2 from?
Posted by: Mark | July 30, 2009 9:08 AM

From the person who bought the melon from sod of course. The fruit seller paid $1 for the melon and sold it to sod for $2. Sod then resold it to someone for $4. The person who bought the melon from sod had $4 of 'potential' energy in his pocket, and transferred that representation of energy to sod.

There is a continuous chain of value-adding, from the melon grower who probably sold the melon to the fruit wholesale market for 50 cents, to sod selling the melon for $4 to the final consumer.

Sod spends his $2 profit on an ice-cream because he's feeling very hot, having lain in the sun for several hours waiting for a customer to buy his melon. The other guy gets to eat the melon, and everyone is happy.

your economic knowledge is on a pre-school level. supply and demand determines the price. there simply is no room for your "energy" idea there.
Posted by: sod | July 30, 2009 9:21 AM

No energy = no supply = no price and no demand. Only hunter-gatherer activities or bartering exchange are possible without money and without man-made energy supplies. The price paid, whatever it is and however it's determined, indicates the energy value, either in part or in whole of the product bought.

The purpose of my idea is to convey to the relious adherents of AGW, who think they can change our climate by reducing CO2 emissions, that without methods of producing green and clean energy supplies in place and in operation, and without such alternative methods of producing clean energy being, at least, nearly as cheap as coal and oil, our standard of living must inevitably fall.

Increases in the efficiency of the machines we use, further cuts in wastage of energy wherever possible, can compensate for moderate increases in energy costs, perhaps up to 50%.

Unfortunately, it seems to be the case that the current alternative methods of generating clean power, such as wind, solar, tidal power etc, are much, much more expensive that the conventional means. Probably 3 or 4 times as expensive, perhaps more, perhaps less, but certainly significantly more expensive.

The consequences of implementing a program whereby cheap energy supplies are replaced with expensive energy supplies, can only result in reduced material prosperity for everyone. How anyone could fail to understand that, beggars belief.

The sensible approach is to use part of our currently cheap energy resources for research and development into alternative technology for producing and storing energy at a competitive price. Only after succeeding in such a development that results in a product that really can produce electricity with low emissions at an unsubsidised price that is competitive with current energy costs, should we start encouraging the installation and use of such systems.

Saddling ourselves with half-baked designs of ridiculously expensive PVPs which take 40 years for 'real' payback and which throw lots of emissions into the atmosphere during their manufacture and before they've even begun to produce electricity, is just not sensible.

I missed one important principle when I ennunciated the 4 major points of my 'energy/cost' theory. There are 5 points. I'll restate them as follows:

(1) 100% of all money represents energy or embodies energy.

(2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

(3) The price I pay can never represent more energy than is both directly and indirectly associated with a product, unless the recipient of the money were to destroy either a part of, or the whole of it, or remove it from circulation by permanently stashing it in a safe or under the mattress etc.

(4) The money you pay for a product can and often does UNDERSTATE the true extent of the energy input for a number of reasons, perhaps the chief one being hidden subsidies.

(5) The true value of our currency is dermined by the efficiency with which we produce energy, the efficiency with which we use the energy, and the ways in which we use the energy.

"(1) 100% of all money represents energy or embodies energy."

No.

It doesn't.

You can pay $100 for a wood carving. Energy production: whatever the carver ate.

You can pay $100 crude oil. Energy production: whatever the oil contains plus the energy taken to get it out of the ground.

You can pay $100 for refined oil. Energy production: whatever the oil contains in the original crude oil plus the energy taken to refine it.

"(1) 100% of all money represents energy or embodies energy."

No. It doesn't.
You can pay $100 for a wood carving. Energy production: whatever the carver ate.
You can pay $100 crude oil. Energy production: whatever the oil contains plus the energy taken to get it out of the ground.
You can pay $100 for refined oil. Energy production: whatever the oil contains in the original crude oil plus the energy taken to refine it.
Posted by: Mark | July 31, 2009 6:24 AM

Blinkered thinking I'm afraid.

If I sell a wood carving for $100, then I can buy $100 worth of refined oil.

If I sell a quantity of refined oil for $100, then I can buy a wood carving for $100, if I choose to.

The seller of the wood carving may make a huge profit. It may have cost only $5 worth of materials, and food, and energy in terms of lighting and heating of the studio etc to produce the carving. It makes no difference. The $100 which embodies or represents a $100 worth of oil has been assigned to the carving, rightly or wrong. If $95 of that $100 is pure profit then that profit is spent on something, unless it's taken out of circulation or destroyed.

The creator of the wood carving might fill up his 4WD with $95 worth of diesel, or he may put the money in his savings account with a bank, in which case the bank will lend the money, possibly, to a Chinese company which is building a new coal-fired power station.

If I buy a wood carving for $100 and later discover it's only worth $5 and that I've been ripped of, it doesn't change the energy equation. The seller of the wood carving can still fill his car with $95 worth of diesel.

Unwittingly, I've bought a wood carving worth $5 and made a present of $95 worth of diesel to the wood carver. The CO2 molecules in the atmosphere do not make any such moral distinction as to whether they were generated by fair or unfair practices. Can't you see that?

My theory still remains unfalsified. Keep trying. I'm probably not ready to accept nominations for a Nobel Prize yet.

Falsifying theories that defy logic and have no evidence is not possible. If a theory is based purely on faith, rather than evidence, then it is impossible to falsify.

Put it another way - say I believe that all mountains were built by a mysterious prehistoric race called the bucketmen. The aim of bucketmen was to fool humans. Therefore, they built mountains to look like they had been formed naturally. Every feature of a mountain that you see was created by the bucketmen. OK, mountains are now eroding and uplifting, but this is just altering the work left by the bucketmen.

Such a theory is ridiculous, but cannot be falsified as any feature of a mountain that you claim is natural I can claim was created by the bucketmen. Therefore, if anyone comes up with a wild and wacky theory then it is up to them to demonstrate that it is true, not everyone else to falsify it. Thus, AGW is evidenced by the temperature record etc; plate tectonics by magnetic stripes on the seafloor, GPS measurements, etc.

The onus is on Ray to demonstrate to his peers that his theory has merit through the provision of evidence to support it. Only when he has done so should we take it seriously.

Over to you Ray.

By GWB's nemesis (not verified) on 31 Jul 2009 #permalink

The onus is on Ray to demonstrate to his peers that his theory has merit through the provision of evidence to support it. Only when he has done so should we take it seriously.
Over to you Ray.
Posted by: GWB's nemesis | July 31, 2009 10:07 AM

Your analogy of a mysterious race of bucktemens, is inappropriate and irrelevant.

There's nothing whatsoever mysterious in my theory. In fact, just the opposite. My theory is self evident and obvious.

The purpose of my theory is not to fool humans, but to do the opposite. To point out the obvious and the undeniable.

I have pointed out more than once, if a device which produces $270 worth of electricity per year costs $12,000 (a PVP), then it's not an efficient device by a mile.

What more can I do?

I've had experience arguing with Jehova Witnesses about the authenticity of the bible. It seems I'm repeating the experience here.

Your theory of money/energy equivalence is inappropriate and irrelevant.

There is nothing at all to your theory it is unobvious and evidently incorrect. Its purpose is to maintain the false hope that someone will be convinced that there's no need to cap and trade which is in your fevered mind an unconscionable interruption in the corporate mandate to do as they will as the whole of the law.

You've pointed out nothing.

And there isn't anything you can do to fix the brokenness of your pet project.

Ray writes:

The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

And here I thought prices were set by supply and demand, something recognized by all the non-Marxist economists since about 1890.

Ray,

100% of all money represents or embodies water
100% of all money represents or embodies human time
100% of all money represents or embodies food

Take the second example and substitute it into your definitions:
(1) 100% of all money represents human or embodies human time.

(2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the human time inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

(3) The price I pay can never represent more human time inputs than is both directly and indirectly associated with a produc.

(4) The money you pay for a product can and often does UNDERSTATE the true extent of the human time input for a number of reasons, perhaps the chief one being hidden subsidies.

(5) The true value of our currency is dermined by the efficiency with which we produce human time inputs, the efficiency with which we use the human time inputs, and the ways in which we use the human time inputs.

Prove me wrong.

By GWB's nemesis (not verified) on 31 Jul 2009 #permalink

Lets say I see an interesting rock at a quarry, and I reach into my wallet, take out a $100 bill, and pay $100 for it. I haven't picked it up yet, I haven't done anything with it. The embodied energy of THIS TRANSACTION is close to nil - the energy required to pass the money over to him.

Ray argues that the $100 price IN ITSELF loads this transaction with $100 worth of embodied energy - apparently because that $100 can be used in previous or subsequent different, separate transactions that purchase a full $100 worth of embodied energy.

IOW, Ray's argument is that each and every transaction involving money embodies in the object of that transaction, the energy of the most energy intensive possible transaction that can be achieved with that money.

He must be arguing that the energy is embodied in the transaction and not in the money - otherwise the rock still has no embodied energy, and the $100 value of the embodied energy stays with the $100 bill (or check, or bank entry - the money) which I no longer have.

In the example above, lets say I sell the rock back to the property owner, and he sells it back to me, back and forth 100 times, dong nothing more than handing the $100 bill back and forth and shaking hands on the deal.

According to Ray, we will have embodied in that rock (or in our transactions) $10,000 worth of energy. It would be wonderful if this were true - it would allow the creation of the energy required in products requiring huge amounts of energy, simply by handing money back and forth!

This is absurd, and Ray only arrives there by confusing money (the medium by which we exchange value) with transactions involving money (actual exchange of value), and by endowing money with magical properties to create embodied energy.

Ray,
100% of all money represents or embodies water 100% of all money represents or embodies human time 100% of all money represents or embodies food
Take the second example and substitute it into your definitions: (1) 100% of all money represents human or embodies human time.
(2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the human time inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.
(3) The price I pay can never represent more human time inputs than is both directly and indirectly associated with a produc.
(4) The money you pay for a product can and often does UNDERSTATE the true extent of the human time input for a number of reasons, perhaps the chief one being hidden subsidies.
(5) The true value of our currency is dermined by the efficiency with which we produce human time inputs, the efficiency with which we use the human time inputs, and the ways in which we use the human time inputs.
Prove me wrong.
Posted by: GWB's nemesis | July 31, 2009 12:53 PM

I'll take all three examples and falsify them. Too easy.

(1) If 100% of all money were to embody or represent water, then countries that have the most water would be the richest. Countries like Bangladesh that get frequently flooded would be amongst the wealthiest of countries instead amongst the poorest.

The last time I visited Cambodia, I was very impressed by the vastness of the Tonle Sap, a huge, fresh-water, inland sea fed by the melting snows of the Himalayas. Nothing but fresh water as far as the eye can see, from horizon to horizon, slap in the middle of one of the poorest nations on the planet.

Clearly there is something very wrong with a theory that states that 100% of all money embodies water.

(2) 100% of all money represents human time? That's easy to falsify. If that theory were true, then the wealthiest countries would be the most populous. One could calculate any country's wealth by multiplying the average life span of an individual by the total population. China would then be far richer than the US. Africa would be near the top of the list, and Australia would be near the bottom of the list. That's clearly an absurd theory.

(3) Money represents food? Again, clearly false but not as obviously false as the other two because food usually does require energy to produce, transport and store. It doesn't fall from the heavens like water.

If all money were to embody food, then countries like Japan which are large net importers of food would be amongst the poorest countries on the planet, and countries like AustraIa which, per head of population, exports huge quantities of food, would be amongst the wealthiest, and all farmers would be multi-billionaires.

Would you say that I have honestly, fairly and reasonably falsified all three theories?

Lets say I see an interesting rock at a quarry, and I reach into my wallet, take out a $100 bill, and pay $100 for it. I haven't picked it up yet, I haven't done anything with it. The embodied energy of THIS TRANSACTION is close to nil - the energy required to pass the money over to him.
Ray argues that the $100 price IN ITSELF loads this transaction with $100 worth of embodied energy - apparently because that $100 can be used in previous or subsequent different, separate transactions that purchase a full $100 worth of embodied energy.
Posted by: Lee | July 31, 2009 2:43 PM

You seem very confused.

The $100 represents energy for as long as the $100 exists, whatever transactions are made and whoever owns the money. If the money falls in value over time, then it represents less energy. The more money you have, the richer you are. The less money you have, the poorer you are.

The energy expended in the physical process of making the transaction can be tiny, although it exists. When I change money for another currency, or buy travellers cheques, or pay a bill by writing a cheque, there's usually a small transaction fee incurred. Just sticking your hand into your pocket to withdraw money from your wallet involves a tiny amount of energy supplied by a tiny amount of food.

It's not the transaction itself that represents energy, but the money used in the transaction. Nowhere have I stated that it's the transaction itself that embodies energy, although any energy involved in the physical process of making the transaction may be a hidden cost that needs to be included as an associated energy cost.

For example, if I drive 100km to take advantage of a bargain at a particular supermarket, instead of buying a similar item available in a local shop around the corner, then, if I were sensible, which I am, I would take into consideration the cost of fuel and the wear and tear of my car involed in the transaction of buying the bargain item in the big supermarket.

Taking such costs into consideration, the bargain item then might become much less of a bargain and the similar item in the local shop, despite its higher price tag, might be better value. Got it?

Ray writes:
The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

And here I thought prices were set by supply and demand, something recognized by all the non-Marxist economists since about 1890.
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | July 31, 2009 12:28 PM

My theory does not address how prices are set. It adresses the amount of energy, the price when paid, represents. I'm surprised you can't see the difference.

I'll say it again; the CO2 molecules in the atmosphere do not care about Marxist theories or by what process they were generated. A CO2 molecule emitted during the production of a PVP has the same environmental consequences as a CO2 molecule emitted from the dirtiest coal-fired power station in the whole of China.

Ray,
Thank you for attempting to articulate your theory. I can foresee that you will need to evolve it further to either clarify your terms, or adjust your theory. Lets look at point one:
>(1) 100% of all money represents energy or embodies energy.

As stated prima facie this has already be falsified by [several posts](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1800085) on this page. Would you agree?

What you might be able to say (and most people would agree) that there is some variable relationship between energy and price. It can change as is evident from different countries [GDP to CO2e](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1793651) relationships. And a carbon price would provide incentive for change that is in the direction of sustainability.

And your might get broad agreement here that energy is important. Too important to be used in a wasteful and damaging manner. Some might argue that rather than setting up the human population for a crash, we should ration our non-renewable energy over thousands of years (there by also slashing carbon emissions).

Ray,

Thanks, so now we now how to falsify your theory.
"If 100% of all money were to embody or represent water, then countries that have the most water would be the richest."

So substituting energy into this sentence:
"If 100% of all money were to embody or represent energy, then countries that have the most energy would be the richest."

The world's richest country per capita is Lictenstein. Please show how Lichtenstein has the world's most energy (or even the highest per capita energy use if you prefer).

If you cannot then your theory is falsified using your criteria.

By GWB's Nemesis (not verified) on 31 Jul 2009 #permalink

The last time I visited Cambodia, I was very impressed by the vastness of the Tonle Sap, a huge, fresh-water, inland sea fed by the melting snows of the Himalayas. Nothing but fresh water as far as the eye can see, from horizon to horizon, slap in the middle of one of the poorest nations on the planet.

funny that you would mention Cambodia.

it has one of the best [GDP/CO2 ratios](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_ratio_of_GDP_to_carbo…) in the world...

following your "contradictions", we would find that the countries having oil or coal are the richest in the world. Nigeria anyone?

according to your "theory", the full price of oil and coal should be next to equal to the full price of all goods produced in the world.

but your "contradiction" of the examples given does NOT contradict anything under your own theory. according to your "theory" any "association" with water (or coffee, or labour..) can already explain the price.

you are using a completely different view of "theory" when looking at the examples of others, or at your own...

The $100 represents energy for as long as the $100 exists, whatever transactions are made and whoever owns the money.

your theory is getting more confusing all the time. if i have a big barrel full of petrol and you have 100$ then i obvious have 100$ worth of energy. what you have is quite unclear. now you buy the petrol for 100$ and burn it. but i still have 100$ worth of "energy" according to you. your theory is complete bogus!

If the money falls in value over time, then it represents less energy.

this is simply not true, when the price of oil falls in value at the same time. but basic economics are beyond you...

if your "theory" had any value at all, then the value of money would closely follow the value of oil and coal. it does NOT.

The more money you have, the richer you are. The less money you have, the poorer you are.

pearl of wisdom.

My theory does not address how prices are set. It adresses the amount of energy, the price when paid, represents. I'm surprised you can't see the difference.

i am not surprised by you any longer! we KNOW how prices are set. there is ZERO discussion on that subject among economists these days. it is a FACT.

"energy" is of extremely little relevance to price. supply and demand sets the price. this is directly contradicting your "theory", as i demonstrated with the melon example.

a melon with a $4 sign on it will not be sold in a stack of $2 melons. it will be sold, when those other melons are gone. ZERO energy was invested in that more expensive melon.

the CO2 molecules in the atmosphere do not care about Marxist theories or by what process they were generated.

ouch. you just confused Marx with Adam Smith. (BPL spoke about non-Marxist..). just another minor error in your long list...

The sensible approach is to use part of our currently cheap energy resources for research and development into alternative technology for producing and storing energy at a competitive price. Only after succeeding in such a development that results in a product that really can produce electricity with low emissions at an unsubsidised price that is competitive with current energy costs, should we start encouraging the installation and use of such systems.

well, you obviously don t understand the power of MASS PRODUCTION. i am not surprised, as it also is contradicting your "theory". by producing many items at the same time, and most often investing MORE energy, we get a SMALLER price.

you cant simulate that effect by theoretical research.

Ray writes:

My theory does not address how prices are set. It adresses the amount of energy, the price when paid, represents. I'm surprised you can't see the difference.

That's because "a difference wha' makes no difference is no difference." If the price reflects the amount of energy, then the energy content is setting the price, just like, in the Marxist (actually classical, starting with David Ricardo) labor theory of value, if the price reflects the amount of labor, then the labor content is setting the price. This theory has been tested and found wanting. It doesn't hold up. ANY input theory of value doesn't hold up, a point made again and again by economists using real data over the past century. The fact that prices are set by supply and demand means they CANNOT be set by any particular input. Period.

funny that you would mention Cambodia.
it has one of the best GDP/CO2 ratios in the world...
Posted by: sod | August 1, 2009 2:49 AM

It's not funny, it's tragic. There seem to be two types of countries with low CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP. Poor countries like Chad and Cambodia that have stuff all, and developed countries like Switzerland and France who use a lot of relatively clean atomic power. If you are a desperately poor country and can't even afford a coal-fired power station, then your CO2 emissions are likely to be low. This has nothing to do with my falsification of the ludicrous theory that all money represents water.

following your "contradictions", we would find that the countries having oil or coal are the richest in the world. Nigeria anyone?

It certainly helps, but wars are terribly expensive. Wars are the best way known man to dissipate and squander wealth.

according to your "theory", the full price of oil and coal should be next to equal to the full price of all goods produced in the world.

It would be interesting to do the calculations, if it were possible, but I don't think it is. Or at least it would be very difficult. There are many other sources of energy apart from coal and oil. Wind, solar, atomic, hydro-electricity, old-fashioned horse power, bullock power, physical labour, and of course a very obvious source of energy which actually is used very efficiently by plants, photosynthesis. I don't believe anyone calculating the value of all the energy inputs involved in growing, harvesting, transporting and storing a potato, would also add a value for the photosynthesis that takes place as a potato plant grows.

Sunlight is considered to be a free source of energy, and a very large one too.

well, you obviously don t understand the power of MASS PRODUCTION. i am not surprised, as it also is contradicting your "theory". by producing many items at the same time, and most often investing MORE energy, we get a SMALLER price.

No contradiction at all. I understand quite well the economies of scale. Computers did not become cheaper and cheaper because of government subsidies (did they? maybe I'm wrong. I don't know everything.) Tax breaks may have helped now and again to attract companies to set up business in certain countries. Certainly cheap labour and cheap, dirty energy in Thailand and China helped enormously. Subsidies, however, tend to encourage inefficiency and the status quo.

You might be interested in the following, recent article on Wind Power. http://marvellousmelbourne.org/drupal/?q=node/801.

I suppose your response will be an ad hominem attack on the author Michael Treblicock who holds a chair in Law and Economics at Toronto university.

If the price reflects the amount of energy, then the energy content is setting the price
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | August 1, 2009 5:13 AM

Nope. It's the seller who sets the price, not the energy content. It's the buyer who agrees to the price, or not as the case may be. Price is not determined by the cost of the energy required to produce an item but by an agreement between seller and buyer.

I have no problem with the general theory of supply and demand. My theory does not attempt to explain how prices are set, but tries to explain what the money represents when someone buys something. It represents a certain amount of energy.

I've given many examples demonstrating this. I'll repeat one. A T-shirt that requires $4 to make, sells for $100 because it has a fashion designer's name on it. The person who buys the T-shirt for $5, without the name printed on it, is transferring $5 worth of energy to the seller, $1 of which is gross profit for the seller.

The person who buys the designer-made T-shirt, which costs no more to manufacture than the $5 T-shirt, is transferring $100 worth of energy to the seller. The seller then laughs all the way to the bank, or fills up his Rolls Royce with $95 worth of petrol.

The person who paid $100 for the T-shirt may not be aware that the T-shirt cost only $4 to manufacture. He might not even care. He simply wants to impress his girl friend.

The reverse situation can also occur. The stall owner who has bought a pile of T-shirts for $4 each, is in desperate need of money. He has to sell some T-shirts below cost to raise money quickly for medical expenses. He starts selling them at $3. He is, in practice, subsiding the customer just as the general tax-payer subsidises people who buy PVPs.

These two situations are covered by my 'principles #2 & #4', as follows:

(2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

(4) The money you pay for a product can and often does UNDERSTATE the true extent of the energy input for a number of reasons, perhaps the chief one being hidden subsidies.

Ray

Let me repeat my challenge to you, which I note you have conveniently ignored. You claim to have falsified my suggestion that 100% of the the price of an item embodies or represents water as follows:

"If 100% of all money were to embody or represent water, then countries that have the most water would be the richest."

The world's richest country (as measured by per capita GDP) is Lichtenstein. There is no way that you can claim that Lichtenstein has the world's most energy in terms of any sensible measure (energy reserves, energy use, etc) on either a per capita or an absolute basis.

Therefore, using your own criteria for falsification, your theory has been falsified.

You have two choices:
1. Accept that you have not falsified my suggestion; or
2. Accept that your theory is falsified.

Your call.

By GWB's nemesis (not verified) on 01 Aug 2009 #permalink

GWB's Nemesis,

Ray's shtick is to ignore that his theory is falsified, for the purpose that he wants to use it (to promote inaction and delay).

He'll just keep banging on pretending that his case is sound. I suggest you leave him to it.

Ray
Let me repeat my challenge to you, which I note you have conveniently ignored. You claim to have falsified my suggestion that 100% of the the price of an item embodies or represents water as follows:
"If 100% of all money were to embody or represent water, then countries that have the most water would be the richest."
The world's richest country (as measured by per capita GDP) is Lichtenstein. There is no way that you can claim that Lichtenstein has the world's most energy in terms of any sensible measure (energy reserves, energy use, etc) on either a per capita or an absolute basis.
Therefore, using your own criteria for falsification, your theory has been falsified.
You have two choices: 1. Accept that you have not falsified my suggestion; or 2. Accept that your theory is falsified.
Your call.
Posted by: GWB's nemesis | August 1, 2009 9:13 AM

LOL! Good try! The richest countries are not necessarily the ones that have barrels of oil sitting on shelves, or in the ground. Lichenstein is a tax haven. It attracts huge quantities of money from around the world.

Money represents energy. If you own a barrel of oil you can sell it for whatever it's worth. If you have the money to buy a barrel of oil, you can buy it, if you want to. Personally, I have no use for barrels of oil. I prefer the money, as most of the inhabitants of Lichenstein apparently do.

You can't buy much with a litre or even a megalitre of water. It's worth something, especially to farmers. I think a megalitre sells for something like $20 in Australia, but the major cost of water is the oil used to pump it or transport it, and to manufacture the pipes that carry it.

Doesn't water fall free from the skies. I'm sure it does. Haven't you noticed?

It's interesting that in the USA alone, about 35 million barrels of oil are used every year to produce the plastic bottles that are used to contain drinking water sold in shops; drinking water that is often no better, and sometimes worse than ordinary tap water that costs a small fraction of a cent per bottle equivalent.

If anyone is at all serious about saving the planet, then stop buying bottled water for a start.

Ray,

Are you Tim Curtin in disguise? How on earth did you end up spouting off about plastic bottles?

Anyway: "The richest countries are not necessarily the ones that have barrels of oil sitting on shelves, or in the ground. "

OK, substituting water into your sentence: "The richest countries are not necessarily the ones that have the most water".

Therefore you have not falsified my suggestion. Have another go - after all, you derided us for failing to falsify your nonsense.

By GWB's nemesis (not verified) on 01 Aug 2009 #permalink

> Money represents energy.

No, money represents *value*.

It used to be that a chicken or pot or some other good or service was used. This was known as "the barter system". Then someone came up with the promissory note.

Now money is used as a more convenient way of paying for goods than carrying a wallet full of live chickens.

A CD sells for £15. It's a Brtiney Spears CD. But I wouldn't have it unless it was 50p. Or less. You know, in the bargain bin.

So does that mean the CD has 50p's worth of energy or £15?

> (2) The price of something, the price of anything, whatever the price may be, will always represent either fully, or partially, the energy inputs associated with bringing the product into existence and delivering it to the customer.

So if it isn't fully or always the same part, in what way is your money a representation of the energy of the product?

And how does that work with monopoly goods, like tickets to concerts? After all, they were sold at, say, £50 a ticket bought by ticket scalps and then sold on for £150.

It didn't gain 3x the energetic cost.

It gained 10x the scarcity, though.

But scarcity is the LACK of energy, not its product.

Now money is used as a more convenient way of paying for goods than carrying a wallet full of live chickens.
...
Posted by: Mark | August 1, 2009 11:14 AM

Newsflash: It isn't really 'money' anymore; what would you call 'bits' in a computer?

Electronic funds?

Quatloos?

'The Score'? (Literally: as in a game's score, or how well I am doing over my neighbor or fellow man in life)

More importantly, 'money' represents how much 'power' one has; 'power' to make things happen (which, of course, in a scientific or engineering analysis takes or makes use of, or makes use of the *product* of 'energy' in a variety of forms).
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Rays argument requires that the only raw material to actually have any intrinsic cost, is oil (coal, etc...)

In his water "rebuttal", he treats the pipes that carry the water is if they only have energy costs - the iron and carbon in the steel is apparently free, only the energy of production counts.

@_Jim
"It isn't really 'money' anymore; what would you call 'bits' in a computer?"
It's called "money." That dollar bill in your wallet, or the check made out for $100, is every bit as much a symbolic representation of money as the bits are in a computer.

Anyway: "The richest countries are not necessarily the ones that have barrels of oil sitting on shelves, or in the ground. "
OK, substituting water into your sentence: "The richest countries are not necessarily the ones that have the most water".
Therefore you have not falsified my suggestion. Have another go - after all, you derided us for failing to falsify your nonsense.
Posted by: GWB's nemesis | August 1, 2009 10:51 AM

You don't appear to understand how the scientific method of falsification works. If I say that money represents energy and energy is necessary to generate wealth, then it follows, if this statement is true, that there will be a strong tendency for countries that produce a lot of energy, and/or have a lot of money, to be wealthy. Merely finding an exception doesn't falsify the theory if there is another principle at work which explains the reasons for the exception, such as years of continuous war, as in Iraq.

The theory than money represents energy and energy production results in wealth is derived from an observation that such is the case.

A theory that money represents water, not only has many exceptions that are impossible to explain, but there is no observed correlation between the two that could justify the existence of such a theory in the first instance.

Ray:
"It's not the transaction itself that represents energy, but the money used in the transaction. Nowhere have I stated that it's the transaction itself that embodies energy, although any energy involved in the physical process of making the transaction may be a hidden cost that needs to be included as an associated energy cost."

So, if I pay $12,000 for a PV installation, the money has $12,000 of embodied energy, but the money is over there somewhere now. The money is not the PV panel - the money was involved in the transaction by which I purchased the installed PV panel

So how can you say that the PV panel now has $12,000 of embodied energy, Ray, if the money used to pay for the panel still has $12,000 of embodied energy?

Unless you are arguing that the money denotes the value of the PV panel, and that value is necessarily derived from energy? But then, what about my multiple price or transaction scenarios?

Your 'theory' is incoherent, Ray.

Citing work in this field by Howard T. Odum, we find:

More recently, Howard T. Odum (one of the twentieth century's most influential scientists who made pioneering contributions to systems theory, ecosystem ecology) argued that flows of energy are the source of all economic value.

According to Odum:

"human economic systems can bring in materials and fuels to support populations and cultures. However, human beings are only a small part of the great biosphere of oceans, atmosphere, mountains, valleys, land, rivers, forests, and ecological components. Ultimately, it is not just human beings and their money that determine what is important; it is all the world's energy.

It is therefore a mistake to measure everything in money.

Instead, energy should be used as the measure, since only in this way we can account for the contribution of nature".

According to Odum, there is a relationship between energy and money which is called the counter-current systems relationship. This relationship implies that in money-based societies, money flows proportionate but in opposite direction to the energy required to produce the purchased goods and services. Odum also argues that out society is very sensitive to changes in inflowing energies:

"if all energy sources are cut off from the economic system, the dollar loses value until it buys nothing, since there is no energy inflowing to produce goods and services once storages in the system have been exhausted".

.
QED
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_Jim,

QED! QED? For goodness sake, it's like dealing with a five year old - "My teacher says, so it must be true". If H.T, Odum is such an authority, presumably you agree with the rest of his work, and all the implications that go with it? Judging by your web site this is something of a change of view-point.

Odum came up with his model in the 1970's - do you wonder why it is not in the mainstream?

Ray,

You say "A theory that money represents water, not only has many exceptions that are impossible to explain, but there is no observed correlation between the two that could justify the existence of such a theory in the first instance."

Come on then - prove that there is no observed correlation between the two that could justify the existence of such a theory in the first instance.

And whilst you are at it demonstrate that energy has this correlation and doesn't have the exceptions that apply to water.

By GWB's Nemesis (not verified) on 01 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray writes:

You might be interested in the following, recent article on Wind Power. http://marvellousmelbourne.org/drupal/?q=node/801.

I suppose your response will be an ad hominem attack on the author Michael Treblicock who holds a chair in Law and Economics at Toronto university.

Well, one obvious fallacy strikes me right off the bat. He says wind turbines in Denmark have no effect on CO2 emissions because CO2 produced in Denmark went up despite 19% of its energy coming from wind.

Now imagine that that 19% came from coal.

The proper comparison is to how much would be generated without the wind turbines, not how much was generated five years ago, which depends on things like economic growth and energy policy.

Ray writes:

I have no problem with the general theory of supply and demand. My theory does not attempt to explain how prices are set, but tries to explain what the money represents when someone buys something. It represents a certain amount of energy.

You just don't get it, do you? That price can vary depending on what the seller and buyer decide, so it can't represent a certain amount of energy. Do you mean a certain amount of money can be exchanged for a certain amount of energy, as in your irrelevant example?

I've given many examples demonstrating this. I'll repeat one. A T-shirt that requires $4 to make, sells for $100 because it has a fashion designer's name on it. The person who buys the T-shirt for $5, without the name printed on it, is transferring $5 worth of energy to the seller, $1 of which is gross profit for the seller.

The person who buys the designer-made T-shirt, which costs no more to manufacture than the $5 T-shirt, is transferring $100 worth of energy to the seller. The seller then laughs all the way to the bank, or fills up his Rolls Royce with $95 worth of petrol.

If you're only saying "you can exchange twice as much money for twice as much gasoline," your point is trivial and useless. Energy doesn't set price, so price doesn't represent energy. Jesus, what is so hard about this?

> Jesus, what is so hard about this?

> Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson

He doesn't WANT to know.

Think of the Simpsons episode with Santa's Little Helper being trained.

All Ray hears is "Wha whaa whaa wha wha". Possibly because he's got his fingers in his hears and his eyes shut and is GOING "Wha whaa whaa wha wha".

What's hard is that the facts and truths break Ray's pet project. He's a born-again-christian (or ex-smoker proselytizer if you like) for the Free Market Church.

> Come on then - prove that there is no observed correlation between the two that could justify the existence of such a theory in the first instance.

All forms of energy production require water.

Humans making stuff require water MUCH more reliably than food.

Even food requires water and doesn't *need* energy.

And there have been more wars over the human history for water than there has for fossil fuels.

I think therefore that this water theory of money is much more viable than the energy one.

GWB's Nemesis producing no counter argument looks to have, although grudgingly, accepted the hypothesis, no, theory, produced by Howard T. Odum, Ph.D.

Moreover, GWBxxxxx makes a lame attempt at destruction of Odum character, never mind Odum's illustrious career, a man described on Wikipedia as "one of the most innovative and important thinkers of our time".

Follow-on work by by Robert Costanza (1980,1981) as he supported Odum's theory, and of which Costanza said: "energy flows are the main concern of energy analysìs,
and an important port of this energy analysis is the quantification of the embodied energy of goods and services."

But of course, you probably don't following things economic, which explains why you've never heard of Odum or other therories related to the tie-in of money and energy.

Thanks GWB. I'm just getting the feel for the calibre of poster here on Deltoid ... I probably won't be addressing any of your posts in the future unless they are really, REALLY substantive (I just don't have the time to work with fifth graders as of late.)
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Any education on a new topic requires the definition of new, desciptive terms. So too it is in the study of the money-energy relationship.

Just a few relevant terms for the moment:

Available Energy: Energy with the potential to do work (exergy).

Emergy: (spelled with an "m")âall the available energy that was used in the work of making a product and expressed in units of one type of energy.

Net Emergy: The emergy yield from a resource after all the emergy used to process it has been subtracted.

Excerpted from: here

One of the most interesting aspects of H.T. Odum's work is the development of his eMergy diagrams, or Energy Systems Language.

The ESL is a visual toolkit for describing energy flows which grew out of the formalities of electrical circuit diagrams, but broadened and adapted to apply to any type of energy system. It may be applied equally to energy systems such as microbiology, climate systems or renewable energy systems.

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Ray,

I have provided a counter-argument and asked you to falsify it. Apart from a pretty pathetic, and unsuccessful, attempt you have failed to do so.

I do agree that Odum is an interesting thinker, and has done some great work (I have taught his systems theories to my students for years) but I, in common with many other scientists, do not agree with his (and Constanza's) energy value of money theory.

You have attacked my suggestion that money = water with various ill-defined and illogical statements. All I am asking is that you apply your own criteria to your own (or is it Odum's?) theory. I repeat:

1. Prove that there is no observed correlation between water and money that could justify the existence of such a theory.
2. Demonstrate that energy and money has this correlation and doesn't have the exceptions that apply to water.

Your comment that "I probably won't be addressing any of your posts in the future unless they are really, REALLY substantive"

Were you sticking you tongue out and blowing raspberries as you said this, like my four year old does? Perhaps your theory is so trivial that you don't believe that proving it to be right is substantive?

By GWB's Nemesis (not verified) on 02 Aug 2009 #permalink

> "energy flows are the main concern of energy analysìs, and an important port of this energy analysis is the quantification of the embodied energy of goods and services."

Well duh.

The main concern of supernova events is the occurrence of a supernova event too.

The rational actor is the main concern of a Free Market Theory based on the actions of the rational actor.

And energy is the main concern of energy analysis.

Who'd a thunk it?

BPL,

"The proper comparison is to how much would be generated without the wind turbines, not how much was generated five years ago, which depends on things like economic growth and energy policy."

This is not so. Denmark has the highest use of windpower in Europe, nevertheless their CO2 emissions have continued to increase. Prima facie this shows that increasing the use of windpower does not actually lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

Of course there are many reasons for this, but the simple mantra that renewables are the answer is just that , a 'mantra'.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 05 Aug 2009 #permalink

Dave Andrews@211

Denmark has the highest use of windpower in Europe, nevertheless their CO2 emissions have continued to increase. Prima facie this shows that increasing the use of windpower does not actually lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions.{emphasis in original}

The claim is specious. Whether Denmark uses the most wind energy either absolutely or relatively, per capita or as a proportion of total power or by any other benchmark relative to Europe tells us nothing definite about CO2 emissions. Plainly, how much windpower other countries use bears no relationship with the absolute quantity of Danish emissions any more than the decision of the rest of your work colleagues to radically reduce consumption of baked beans as a proportion of total protein consumed can tell anyone anything useful about the trendline of your personal flatulence. You might well have become the smelliest person at your workplace despite proportionately cutting your own emissions just as much simply because you cut your consumption of protein a lot less or cut just as much but ate more protein than that of others. These data are simply independent.

What we really want to know is what emissions of CO2 would have been in scenarios where the energy harvested from wind was generated by some other source the Danish government might have considered.

It's notionally possible of course that some consumers might have chosen to consume power more wastefully in the belief that windpower was emissions free, and that this extra power was supplied by high emissions sources. If one could show this then you would have the beginnings of a claim that resort to wind energy didn't reduce emissions, but as things stand your bald assertion is laughable.

What we'd really like to know is whether emissions associated with redundancy required by the system as a consequence of the need to load balance with wind are greater, less or about the same as they would be if some other source of supply of the same power at the same time intervals were used. AIUI, the Danes sell surpluses into an extended grid and purchase surpluses as necessary from that grid so redundancy is not altered at current levels of wind penetration, meaning that the bet effect of wind in Denmark is a lowering of emissions realtive to other plausible sources of supply.

For those interested in the broader question of managing slews while using intermittents, there's an interesting and detailed discussion at this link (albeit in a UK context).

The main URL also contains some wonderfully detailed discussion by the good people at Cambridge written in a highly accessible style.

By Fran Barflow (not verified) on 05 Aug 2009 #permalink

I've never met a climate change denialist.

I've occasionally had dinner with retired university lecturers in various scientific disciplines who appeared to be very sckeptical about the soundness of the AGW case. In science, a 90% certainty is not nearly as impressive or certain as it might appear to someone buying a lottery ticket or betting on a horse, especially when that 90% figure cannot be a precise calculation in view of the enormous complexitiy of climate science, but an estimate for political policy-makers, to encourage them to take the matter seriously

I'm certainly not a denialist. I'm a skeptic, and so apparently is Roy Spencer and hundreds of thousands of other scientists around the world.

The true denialists here in this debate are those who believe that the science for the case in support of AGW is settled. A politicised 90% certainty figure does not mean 'settled' in the world of science. It means probable, and only 'highly' probable when politicised through exaggeration.

However, what is far more of a concern to me about this issue of the significance of man's emission to the natural processes of climate change, is an absolutely staggering degree of denial, from the adherents of the AGW case, regarding the economic consequences of tackling the problem.

From the perspective of a skeptic, such as myself, who is prepared to accept that there may be a real threat resulting from an exacerbation and disturbance of natural climate change processes due to anthropogenic GHG emissions, the matter then becomes one of risk management.

How does one deal with the risk that our CO2 emissions might have dire consequences for the climate?

Here is where the true denialism exists, on the part of the AGW adherents. Environmentalist like Tim Flannery might sound very reasonable when they ask, "Can we afford to take the risk and do nothing? If we tackle climate change now, by reducing our GHG emissions, and are later proved to have been wrong with our estimates of anthropogenic causes and find that the climate has changed with a will of its own anyway and that our GHG emissions would have had a puny effect, then what have we lost?"

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Unfortunately, hidden in this 'oh! so reasonable' approach is the fairly-tale, free-lunch concept of 'you can have your cake and eat it too'. Such a view demonstrates a complete naivety on economic principles.

For most of us, economics is about choosing which product to buy in preference to an alternative product which we might also want but can't afford at the present time.

For example, some people might prefer to rent a house rather than saddle themselves with expensive mortgage repayments and the additional costs that always go with owning your own house.

Others might prefer to spend more money on luxury holidays, fast cars and gourmet meals in expensive resaurants. They know they can't afford both the new house and the lavish lifestyle. A choice has to be made; the new house but dinner at home most nights, and instead of a luxury cruise to see the Egyptian Pyramids, digging the vetable patch in the garden during the annual vacation.

I find it truly amazing that people who presumably make rational economic decisions in their own personal lives, think that such basic principles don't apply at the macro-economic level where governments are involved.

Do people really think that that we can not only afford to buy that new car for $20,000, but also a $20,000 PVP because the government has given it to us, through massive subsidies?

I think there are roughly about 50,000 major coal-fired power stations in the world that produce about 30% of the world's energy requirements.

On the basis that the average construction cost, in today's money, of each of these coal power stations, is $1 billion, then in order to replace them with totally green, alternative power plants, such as windmill and solar farms, we would have to spend more than 50,000 x $1 billion because wind, solar, tidal power etc is still much more expensive than energy from coal, after all subsidies are removed and after taking into consideration the intermittent nature of electricity supply from alternatives such as wind and solar.

Now, such figures are just a rough estimate to generate an idea of the monetary cost involved in tackling AGW seriously. If we assume that a 'green' powerplant that produces as much electricity (say 500-750MW) as a $1 billion coal powerplant will cost twice as much to build, which I think is probably a serious underestimate but let's use that figure, then the total cost of replacing those 50,000 coal powerplants will be $100,000 billion, or $100 trillion, at least.

To give you an idea of the size of $100 trillion, the current US government debt, incurred to bail out the economy and get us on a road to recovery from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, is just $1.7 trillion. China, one of the world's major creditors, has total reserves of around $2 trillion.

So you think you can carry on as usual and just make the occasional sacrifice of turning off a light? Tell you what, as a true skeptic I'm prepared to do the following, if you will too. Deal?

I'll slash my living expenses in half. I'll destroy my car, since selling it will not help the environment, and I'll ride a bicycle instead. It'll be inconvenient, but 'what the heck', we have to save the planet.

I'll also dig up my lawn and the 'nature strip' to grow vegetables. What's the point of using valuable fossil resources to grow flowers and pretty lawns and mow the lawns with petrol driven lawnmowers, when you could be growing your own food with a similar amount of labour and consumption of fossil fuel resources?

I shall not buy any designer clothes, because doing so just supports the lavish lifestyle of the designers who ride massive, gas-guzzling Harley-Davidsons instead of environmentally friendly, small Honda bikes with a 50cc to a 100cc engine.

I shall attempt to reduce my consumption of all things that have been produced through use of fossil energy and that are not absolutely essential for a reasonable standard of living.

Now, who's with me on this drive to save the planet? Who are the AGW hypocrites and who are the genuinely concerned? Who's prepared to put their money where their mouth is?

(To be serious, I'm not going to smash my car. I'm not a fanatic. But I hope you get my point.)

> I've never met a climate change denialist.

Just like fish have never encountered water...

Ray says, "I'm a skeptic, and so apparently is Roy Spencer and hundreds of thousands of other scientists around the world".

This figure is made up. Where is the evidence that there are 'hundreds of thousands of scientists who are climate sceptics'? I AM a scientist, and I can tell you that of the thousands of colleagues I have met at conferences, workshops, as former editor at Nature, and in my current position I have met only a few who would claim to be AGW sceptics. Ray's comment is without substantiation.

Furthermore, how many scientists who actually do research and who publish regularly in the peer-reviewed empirical literature are sceptics? The answer is very few. Very, very few. Otherwise, if Ray was correct, why do the fossil fuel lobby and the denialist organizations/astroturf groups rely on the same few scientists to spread their gospel of doubt? If there actually were a huge number of scientists challenging the mainstream view then this well-funded lobby would be shouting it from the hills. Thye'd also promote the views of many more scientists. But they know that the vast majority of the scientific community does not support their scepticism or outright denial. Hence why names like Lindzen, Michaels, Balling, Baliunas, Soon etc. crop up again and again and again.

Ray, as usual, is speaking utter b*&%*$@.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Jeff, practically all figures Ray uses are made up. Hence his own thread for people who enjoy debating people who make stuff up.

By Janet Akerman (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray says, "I'm a skeptic, and so apparently is Roy Spencer and hundreds of thousands of other scientists around the world".

This figure is made up. Where is the evidence that there are 'hundreds of thousands of scientists who are climate sceptics'? I AM a scientist, and I can tell you that of the thousands of colleagues I have met at conferences, workshops, as former editor at Nature, and in my current position I have met only a few who would claim to be AGW sceptics. Ray's comment is without substantiation.
Furthermore, how many scientists who actually do research and who publish regularly in the peer-reviewed empirical literature are sceptics? The answer is very few. Very, very few. Otherwise, if Ray was correct, why do the fossil fuel lobby and the denialist organizations/astroturf groups rely on the same few scientists to spread their gospel of doubt? If there actually were a huge number of scientists challenging the mainstream view then this well-funded lobby would be shouting it from the hills. Thye'd also promote the views of many more scientists. But they know that the vast majority of the scientific community does not support their scepticism or outright denial. Hence why names like Lindzen, Michaels, Balling, Baliunas, Soon etc. crop up again and again and again.
Ray, as usual, is speaking utter b&%$@.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 6, 2009 6:59 AM

It's interesting that of all the comments I made in my previous long post, you questioned only the one which is obviously a very rough and rhetorical estimate off the top of my head. I can't substantiate that figure of course. There is no list that long, available even through a Google search, of scientists who are skeptical of the alarmist claims of the AGW adherents. But there are a number of lists, available through a Google search, each containing the names of several hundred scientists who have signed certain documents expressing doubt about the claims of the IPCC.

There are many millions of scientist in the world. It is in the nature of a scientist to be skeptical and questioning. If one can find lists on the internet totalling a couple of thousand of them, who perhaps instinctively disagree with the IPCC consensus even though their speciality is not climate science, it's reasonable to presume that they represent just the tip of the iceberg.

The true figure, if it were possible to determine, may not be 200,000 or more. It might be only 100,000, or even 50,000. Does it matter? Do you really think that science is a matter of consensus?

What you really need to question is the true costs of 'green' power as opposed to coal power after all subsidies have been removed. There's a huge amount of spin in this area and the information is not readily available or necessarily reliable.

Furthermore, how many scientists who actually do research and who publish regularly in the peer-reviewed empirical literature are sceptics? The answer is very few. Very, very few.

Indeed! Very few. I agree. And why is this?

As I understand, it's possibly all Margaret Thatcher's fault. I don't know for sure, but I've come across reports that suggest, when Margaret Thatcher was in power she wanted a strong justification to build more atomic power stations, which as you know are 'on the nose' with the public.

At the time, the AGW scare was already a bit of an issue so she provided huge amounts of money for research into the effects of CO2 emissions to confirm the threat of impending catastrophe, which she hoped would change the attitude of the general public towards the construction of new atomic power stations, which are the only currently viable alternative to coal and oil if we want to maintain our current standard of living whilst simultaneously tackling anthropogenic emissions in a serious manner.

Roy Spencer expressed the situation well when he wrote on his blog, 'if the IPCC are 90% certain about current climate warming being attributed to anthropogenic emissions, then give us skeptics just 10% of the budget to research our case'.

Ray says, "I'm a skeptic, and so apparently is Roy Spencer and hundreds of thousands of other scientists around the world".
Ray, as usual, is speaking utter b&%$@.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 6, 2009 6:59 AM

A brief search on Google revealed two significant lists of scientists with qualifications related to climatology, who are skeptical about the AGW alarmist claims.

The first, a list of photos of 1300 scientists, who are not afraid to be identified (that shows some testicular fortitiude!) and the other, a list of 2680 climatologists who disagree with the prevailing consensus of the IPCC.

http://www.eecg.utoronto.ca/~prall/climate/climate_author_photos.html

http://www.eecg.utoronto.ca/~prall/climate/climate_authors_table_by_cli…

These are apparently scientist in disciplines related to climate. Add those scientists who are not in disciplines related to climatology, and the total number of scientists who are skeptical about the IPCC claims would be huge.

More than 200,000? Who can say? But maybe not too far out.

The true figure, if it were possible to determine, may not be 200,000 or more. It might be only 100,000, or even 50,000. Does it matter? Do you really think that science is a matter of consensus?

Plainly Ray, you are impressed with consensus otherwise you'd not have felt the need to make a 'rough and rhetorical estimate estimate off the top of [your] head' and to persist speaking of tips of icebergs of scientists which will rip a hole in the Titanic IPCC. What's more troubling than your having it both ways on consensus -- consensus is a pretty good starting point for science and even more so for policy -- is your feeling that science comes from instinct. In your view, being skeptical is not about inferences about whether all the reasoning and supporting data for a conclusion exist or are what they seem, but about some sort of genetic firmware that says -- ooh a consensus -- that doesn't pass the smell test. Gosh. With a view like that, it's little wonder that you think you can simply make stuff up.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ok Ray ...

I don't know why I'm wasting m,y time on this but I examined your links and they don't exist and what is worse can't exist. It was noted that you make stuff up above and really, why would there be such a list? University of Toronto seem not to even run post doctoral programs on Climate Change -- there some ecology and environmental services but why they'd have pictures of 1300 scientists on a website -- can you imagine the time it would take to put together such a gallery -- the bandwidth ... (sigh) and why would they be grouped in this way and why wouldn't Heartland be spruiking it by now ...?

You see this is the problem Ray. I can't speak for anyone else but I'm a student of humans and their behaviour. I've always wondered, what, clinically, makes people like you tick. You seem to be really prepossessed with this. I can't imagine that anyone is paying you to do this. I know if I were interested in opposing climate change policy I'd find someone cleverer than you at lying.

So thjat leaves one of two possibilities

1. You know you're lying but you think that's OK because lying serves some end that you think justifies lying.
2. You are deluded but so attached to your delusions that being confronted with them is too painful -- and so, like someone with Korsakoffs Syndrome you confabulate so the world stays comfortable for you

Sadly, neither of these hypotheses, if borne out makes it likely I'll get a sensible response, but have I left out a possibility?

Maybe you're a troll and are doing this because it's fun mocking people and you're a bit lonely, and you've found that here your trolls always elicit responses whereas IRL people just walk away. I'm reminded of that famous Monty Python Skit called the Cheese Shop in which the victim enters a cheese shop and finding nominates 53 cheeses in sequence. none of which are in stock for which there are commonly absurd excuses. At the end, after establishing that there is nothing in the shop at all the victim shoots the vendor for wasting his time. There was no point except to waste time.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray,

The surveys you cite are totally unscientific. A good gauge of scientific opinion is to look at the IPCC reports. These reports are actually quite conservative because they were drafted by a huge range of scientists in various disciplines, including contributions from known sceptics. The document went through 12 rounds of internal and 3 rounds of external peer-review, making it one of (if not THE) most scrutinized scientific documents in history.

Fact is, Ray, you are speaking from the outside. I can tell you that the number of actual scientists - including climate scientists - who question the influence of human activities on climate is exceedingly small. Sure, many scientists may partially question the extent of human influence, and, more importantly, the outcome of the current experiment that humanity is conducting on complex adaptive systems across the biopshere, but there is certainly not the resistance to the broad consensus that you claim. As I said in my last post, if there was, the exceedingly well-funded and powerful anti-environmental lobby would be using this to their own adavantage, by seeking new names of statured scientists to question the science that they hate. The fact that they effectively rely on the same people and have done so for the past 15 years or more should say everything about the actual number of 'real' AGW sceptics. Its tiny. A very small percentage of the scientific community. And you know what? Its going to get smaller and smaller as more and more empirical evidence comes in undermining their arguments.

One last point: I'd like to check the scientific crednetials of many of the scientists you claim are questioning the evidence of AGW. I read through one of the petitions last year and searched for the number of peer-reviewed papers of these allegedly 'prominent' scientists on one of the petitions put out by a think tank and guess what - there were very very few (I could count them on one hand) who had published more then 4 or 5 papers in their careers. These kinds of important facts never enter into the debate, but they are relevant.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

I don't know why I'm wasting m,y time on this but I examined your links and they don't exist and what is worse can't exist.
Posted by: Fran Barlow | August 6, 2009 10:41 AM

They are not my links. They exist and work on my computer, but this website seems unable to contain the full URL address. I suggest you copy and paste it. 1300 photos also takes a while to download.

However, I have now discovered that these lists contain a mixture of both skeptics and AGW believers, so they are not quite indicative of the impression I was trying to create.

You see this is the problem Ray. I can't speak for anyone else but I'm a student of humans and their behaviour. I've always wondered, what, clinically, makes people like you tick. You seem to be really prepossessed with this. I can't imagine that anyone is paying you to do this. I know if I were interested in opposing climate change policy I'd find someone cleverer than you at lying.

The reason you have a problem is that you think I am lying. I'm not. But I am subject to misinformation as all of us are.

I've stated more than once, that I don't claim to have any privileged knowledge as to the scientific reliability, or unreliability, of the case for AGW, but my instinct is not to trust that which cannot be falsified.

I oppose climate change policy because it does not make much sense. It seems clear to me, that our only hope of survival is that the IPCC is wrong in their predictions. If they are right, we're truly stuffed because there are no proposals on the table that are even nearly sufficiently draconian to make much difference. The economy appears now to be taking off again and coal will continue to be a main source of energy.

Any serious attempts at a transition to 'green' energy will involve the necessary use of massive amounts of dirty energy in order to build the replacement clean energy plants, which in turn will result in an inevitable and massive increase in CO2 emissions until such transition has been made. This is just a matter of logic.

A slow transition in conjunction with a fair measure of economic growth will still result in our current CO2 emissions continuing at a similar level for many years.

As a student of human behaviour, you should be aware of the extreme inequity and unfairness regarding humanity's share of the economic cake. There is absolutely no justification for developed countries to insist that undeveloped countries bear any burden whatsoever in reducing GHG emissions. If there is a problem, it has been created by the emissions of developed nations in their pursuit of a high living standard.

How about an international law that decrees that the average person of any nationality shall not directly or indirectly be responsible for the emission of GHG gasses in excess of a specific quota? Not possible, right?

Ray shows his characteristic reading comprehension problems.

Here is the right link:

[Jim Prall's index page](http://www.eecg.utoronto.ca/~prall/climate/index.html)

Anyone not sharing Ray's problems will note that the pages linked from this index do NOT list "...scientists with qualifications related to climatology, who are skeptical about the AGW alarmist claims[,]" but scientists with qualifications related to climatology PERIOD.

Some of them have expressed skeptical opinions, but the numbers are very much smaller than those Ray pulled out of his nether regions.

The tables display some very interesting facts, but let's read what Jim Prall himself writes:

"Observe that:
* none of the 619 contributing authors to AR4 wg1 have signed any of the five public declarations of 'skepticism;'
* 157 of the 619 have signed one of the four 'activist' statements I've identified;
* just one of the 619, Dr. Christopher Landsea, has resigned over differences on the treatment of hurricane risks;
* of the sixteen people interviewed in Martin Durkin's climate skeptic film The Great Global Warming Swindle only John Christy was on AR4 wg1 (and there are real problems with how Durkin interpreted and presented the views of those interviewed.)
* of the top 500 most cited authors in the larger list, just 23 (4.6%) have signed any climate skeptic declaration, while 184 (37%) -- nearly ten times as many -- have signed an 'activist' statement (aside from the IPCC reports themselves.) [Note: these stats may vary slightly as I update the list with new names and stats.]"

So, far from proving any of Ray's points, Prall's analysis shows exactly the opposite: that deniers are a fringe in climatology and allied disciplines.

By Aureola Nominee, FCD (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Anyone not sharing Ray's problems will note that the pages linked from this index do NOT list "...scientists with qualifications related to climatology, who are skeptical about the AGW alarmist claims[,]" but scientists with qualifications related to climatology PERIOD.

True. I admitted this in my previous post, which presumably you didn't read.

I don't claim infallibility like the Pope, you know. I'm not about deceiving people. Point out an error and I'll admit it.

Believe it or not, I'm quite relaxed about anthropogenic climate change. I don't really believe in it, but I lead a very low-emissions life-style in any case. My anuual electricity bill for taking one shower every day of the year is just $3 or less, depending on what time of day I take a shower. If I were to inconvenience myself and inist on taking a shower only after 9pm to avail myself of off-peak rates, I could reduce that annual bill to just $1.

Here's the calculation. Off-peak rate: 6 cents per kWh.

Instant hot water heater element 2.7kW. Duration element is heating during a shower = 1 minute. Time spent in shower approximately 2 minutes.

Electricity consumed in one minute = 2.7/60 = 0.045kWh

Annual consumption for one shower per day = 365x0.045= 16.425kWh

16.425x0.06 = $0.9855

Ray:

Indeed I was typing my comment while you were posting yours. Now that you've admitted that your appeal to numbers was fallacious, will you also admit that Jim Prall's numbers show exactly the opposite of your point?

Also, why do you keep mentioning how brief your showers are, as if that was somehow indicative of a frugal lifestyle?

How many miles one drives per year, and with what sort of vehicle; how many hours per day one keeps computer, TV, stereo switched on; whether one uses air conditioning, and for how many days in a given year; all these would be more significant indicators of personal frugality, I think.

But this says nothing at all about whether the anthropic contribution to climate change is significant or not; for that, I think we can go back to the consensus of the climatologists, pretty well summarized in tabular form by Jim Prall.

Does your foot hurts, Ray? Because you've shot it AGAIN.

By Aureola Nominee, FCD (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray writes:

wind, solar, tidal power etc is still much more expensive than energy from coal

Current cost of wind electricity in California: 9 cents per kilowatt-hr.

Coal: 10.

Ray goes on at length about how awful it would be if we spent twice as much on generating capacity to make sure it was renewable. His effects table might look like this:

Alternative A: Business as usual. Cost: $25 trillion.
Alternative B: Renewables. Cost: $50 trillion.
Extra cost (i.e., net loss): $25 trillion.

I dispute, of course, that the renewables would necessarily cost more, especially after they went into mass production. But leave that alone for the moment. Let's try a more complete table:

A. Business as usual: $25 trillion.
Property damage due to pollution and global warming: $90 trillion.
Net cost: $115 trillion.

B. Renewables: $50 trillion.
Property damage due to pollution and global warming: $10 trillion.
Net cost: $60 trillion.

Extra savings (i.e., net gain): $55 trillion.

See? Ray is assuming we don't lose anything by continuing to burn fossil fuels and cut down forests; that the ONLY cost they incur is the cost of the power plants. He doesn't get the externality thing.

Ray writes:

but my instinct is not to trust that which cannot be falsified.

AGW cannot be falsified??? Do you even know what "falsified" means?

AGW would be falsified if CO2 had risen by 38% over 150 years, nothing else had changed, and temperatures went down. Boom. Falsified.

Don't use terms you don't understand.

>Any serious attempts at a transition to 'green' energy will involve the necessary use of massive amounts of dirty energy in order to build the replacement clean energy plants, which in turn will result in an inevitable and massive increase in CO2 emissions until such transition has been made. This is just a matter of [il]logic.

The current dirty energy plants need to be replaced on the order of 20-35 years of useful lifetimes, regardless. Replacing them with clean energy plants will reduce CO2 emissions, progressively.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Indeed I was typing my comment while you were posting yours. Now that you've admitted that your appeal to numbers was fallacious, will you also admit that Jim Prall's numbers show exactly the opposite of your point?
Posted by: Aureola Nominee, FCD | August 6, 2009 1:36 PM

My point has always been that good science is not a matter of consensus. There are many reputable scientists, some of whom are climatologists, most of whom are probably not, who have serious doubts about the 90% certainty figure used by the IPCC.

I made what I thought were some good points about the AGW problem and the way we are attempting to tackle the perceived problem, but wrote a throw-away line about there being hundreds of thousands of scientists world-wide who are probably skeptical of the AGW alarmists view.

I should have simply said 'thousands', but we'll never know the exact number. Even if some organisation were to organise a world-wide referendum, there would be many scientists who would be reluctant to express openly their private views for fear of ridicule and possible adverse career implications. There would be others not reached by the referendum and yet others too busy to respond or reluctant to respond for other reasons.

My point was not to score points by appealing to an opposing consensus, but merely to point out that there are scientists around who are a lot smarter and more knowledgeable than me on matters of climate change (and possibly you too), and who consider the effect of man's GHG emissions to be probably trivial in relation to the natural forces which have caused significant climate change in the past without the help of anthropogenic emissions, and which continue to influence climate today.

Perhaps this debate can be reduced to what type of person you are. Are you the sort of person who follows the herd; who likes to be with the 'in crowd'; who follows fashion; who accepts a principle that the majority is always right; who attempts to always be politically correct and assume the opinions of others in order to 'fit in';

or, are you the sort of person who attempts to think for himself and hold his own views?

AGW would be falsified if CO2 had risen by 38% over 150 years, nothing else had changed, and temperatures went down. Boom. Falsified.
Don't use terms you don't understand.
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | August 6, 2009 5:20 PM

Well, that statement just goes to show how much you understand, Barton Paul Levenson. Even I, with my admitted limited knowledge of climate matters, know that CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas and that there is much contention about some records of past climate change which tend to show that rises in CO2 levels seem to follow periods of subsequent warming rather than cause the warming.

There are other contentious issues such as the roles of negative feed-back as opposed to the positive feed-back that the IPCC favours. The AGW alarmists contend that our climate is very sensitive and that so many parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to a run-away effect of positive feed-back.

Others think the climate of our planet is far more robust than the alarmists give it credit for, and that increased cloud cover and precipitation, resulting from increased warming, will tend to have a negative feed-back effect and keep the climate relatively stable.

Another issue which I find almost amusing, if it weren't so serious, is that some people insist that our climate is so sensitive but think that our human societies with their institutions, social mores and traditions, wants, desires and needs, are perhaps not sensitive, or less sensitive than the climate.

All it has taken, often in the past, is one insult from one leader to another to unleash the dogs of war and a whole heap of CO2 into the atmosphere resulting from massive arms manufacture, exploding bombs and eventual rebuilding of destroyed property.

Many societies are probably in a far more fragile state than the climate. Not long ago, there were riots over food shortages in many poor countries because large quantities of corn were being used to produce ethanol instead of feeding people.

The nature and complexity of climate change, as well as the chaotic nature of some of the factors that influence climate and the long periods of time for predicted changes in climate to take effect, make it impossible to devise a method for falsification. Computer models of necessity are vastly simplified simulations of what really happens in the real world, so I believe

Current cost of wind electricity in California: 9 cents per kilowatt-hr.
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | August 6, 2009 5:15 PM

Oh! I see! Only 9 cents per kilowatt hour for windpower. Well! There's no problem then, is there? We've got the problem licked. I'm currently paying about US 14 cents (equivalent) per kWh for electricity from dirty coal. I can't wait to pay just 9 cents for ultra-clean electricity.

Err!.. there wouldn't be any subsidies that apply to those windmill farms, would there? No, of course not. You wouldn't be fooled by that, would you?

What power is used to manufacture those windmills? What about the excavators that dig up the various metal ores used to produce the windmills? Are they operated by windpower? Perhaps they have little windmills fixed to the cabin roof. I've never seen one of those. Are you sure they can generate enough power to dig through the hard rock?

What about the furnaces that smelt the ore? Maybe the buildings have PVPs on the roof that help raise the temperature of the furnaces to the required 1500 degrees C.

Oh! I almost forgot. What about my electricity supply on calm days? Where does that come from? A few hundred kilometres away where the wind blows, perhaps?

There's one niggling little question in the back of my mind. Perhaps you can answer it.

How can the world's current energy generating capacity, which is mostly dirty, keep up with the demands of economic growth, providing people with new houses and cars and plasma TV sets etc, new roads, new desalination plants and new dams to store water etc etc, whilst simulataneously being used to build thousands of windmills and PVPs, perhaps even hundreds of thousands.

How do we do all this without injecting massive increases of CO2 into the atmosphere?

You wouldn't happen to reside in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land would you?

Ray, I can help you out. The figures for energy payback of wind and solar are posted on this thread. So you don't need to rely and making stuff up.

Unfortaley you continue to ignore the subsidess for coal.

Re power. a Giga Watt of electricity is a Giga Watt, no matter the souce of geneartion. Re furnaces, for electric-arc furnace use electricity, wind will do it. To replace NG furnace, use CHP with biofuel.

Calm days, are regional. On a wide enough area there is wind to compensate. And for places like Aus and USA there is lots of sunshine.

Re power for building lots of windmills: Wind turbines payback their inputs (including ore extraction, cement etc) in a matter of months. Then each wind turnbine can pay for the power for 30 more. Etc. Etc.

And I want you to pay closer to the full cost of your plasma TV. So good idea to tax you on that (carbon tax), to provide incentive for production that is more efficent.

BTW, I think you should get with my mate Tim Curtin. Find something you disagree on and keep your selves amused for years and years.

By Tim Curtin is a Joke (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

>Even I, with my admitted limited knowledge of climate matters, know that CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas and that there is much contention about some records of past climate change which tend to show that rises in CO2 levels seem to follow periods of subsequent warming rather than cause the warming.

One limit to your knowledge is the understanding that CO2 isn't claimed by the IPPC, Al Gore, or any reasonably scientifically literate person to be a cause of warming in the recent geological past (3+ million years or so), but a feedback in response to changes in the earth's orbit.

It is when people burn up gigatons of CO2 that have been gradually sequestered over hundreds of millions of years that it becomes a problem.

I would commend you for being skeptical of consensus politics, had you assured me otherwise than you have.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray:

"Perhaps this debate can be reduced to what type of person you are. Are you the sort of person who follows the herd; who likes to be with the 'in crowd'; who follows fashion; who accepts a principle that the majority is always right; who attempts to always be politically correct and assume the opinions of others in order to 'fit in';
or, are you the sort of person who attempts to think for himself and hold his own views?"

I agree, this seems to be one of the discriminating factors.

There are those who insist the emperor wears beautiful clothes and nothing needs to be done about his nudity; that things have always been and will always be as they are; that the ignorance where they wallow is a blissful state to be preserved at all costs. Those people think that science can be decided by appealing to the worthless gut feelings of the uninformed majority in order to overrule the considered opinion of lifelong experts. You fall squarely within this crowd, Ray, as your posts make very clear.

Other people like to think with their own heads, and they are concerned, very concerned.

By Aureola Nominee, FCD (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

>"Perhaps this debate can be reduced to what type of person you are. Are you the sort of person who follows the herd; who likes to be with the 'in crowd'; who follows fashion; who accepts a principle that the majority is always right; who attempts to always be politically correct and assume the opinions of others in order to 'fit in'; or, are you the sort of person who attempts to think for himself and hold his own views?"

And perhaps it can't? (Be reduced to this construct).

Ray how would you determine which debates could be reduced to this construct? Not all debates?

Please respond to the specifics of this question. Thank you in anticipation.

By Tim Curtin is a Joke (not verified) on 06 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray writes:

Well, that statement just goes to show how much you understand, Barton Paul Levenson. Even I, with my admitted limited knowledge of climate matters, know that CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas

That's why I said "and nothing else changes." Your whole post is moving the goalposts. You said AGW was unfalsifiable, I gave you a simple way to falsify it.

and that there is much contention about some records of past climate change which tend to show that rises in CO2 levels seem to follow periods of subsequent warming rather than cause the warming.

There's no contention about it at all among climatologists. Here are details, on the incredibly small chance that you actually want to learn:

http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Lag.html

There are other contentious issues such as the roles of negative feed-back as opposed to the positive feed-back that the IPCC favours. The AGW alarmists contend that our climate is very sensitive and that so many parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to a run-away effect of positive feed-back.

NO ONE is saying positive climate feedback is going to "run-away [sic]." Do you understand the difference between a converging series and a diverging series?

Others think the climate of our planet is far more robust than the alarmists give it credit for,

Measured how?

and that increased cloud cover and precipitation, resulting from increased warming, will tend to have a negative feed-back effect and keep the climate relatively stable.

The latest evidence is that cloud feedback is positive and will add to warming:

Clement, A.C., Burgman R., and J.R. Norris 2009. "Observational and Model Evidence for Positive Low-Level Cloud Feedback." Science 325, 460-464.

Another issue which I find almost amusing, if it weren't so serious, is that some people insist that our climate is so sensitive but think that our human societies with their institutions, social mores and traditions, wants, desires and needs, are perhaps not sensitive, or less sensitive than the climate.

On the contrary, it's because they are so sensitive that AGW is such an immense danger. Our agriculture and economy are exquisitely adapted to the relatively stable climate we've enjoyed for the past several thousand years. Changing that significantly either up or down will disrupt everything, and AGW will change it significantly--indeed, is already starting to do so. And the longer we delay acting, the worse the damage will get.

That's why I said "and nothing else changes." Your whole post is moving the goalposts. You said AGW was unfalsifiable, I gave you a simple way to falsify it.
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | August 7, 2009 5:09 AM

It really seems that you don't understand the pricinciple of falsification. It means, checking the predictions and implications of a theory against 'reality' or the real world.

There is no scenario in real-world climate where 'nothing else changes'. I think you are attempting to substitute simplified and fine-tuned computer models for the real world and then checking what happens in the predetermined model when CO2 levels are increased whilst other parameters are kept constant.

This does not constitute falsification according to my standards, nor I imagine to Karl Popper's standards or even Abu Ali al-Hasan's standards, the Moslem scientist who falsified some of Aristotle's theories over 1,000 years ago.

Ray how would you determine which debates could be reduced to this construct? Not all debates?
Please respond to the specifics of this question. Thank you in anticipation.
Posted by: Tim Curtin is a Joke | August 6, 2009 11:32 PM

There are hundreds of debates on this site. If I were to be specific I would be here for the rest of the year. You think I have nothing better to do?

However, I will add the following comments as a general observation of many of the arguments I've encountered on this site from the predominantly AGW adherents who, in my view, are arguing from an emotional rather than a rational perspective.

As a consequence, I find the thinking of such debaters aften muddled, obdurate and unresponsive to reason, much like the arguments of religious believers.

Fear is perhaps one of the most difficult emotions to overcome. It can color all our views and thought processes. The fear of the potentially disastrous consequences of atomic power plant accidents has always been a major concern. When we eventually had a serious accident at the Chernobyl reactor, the emotional fall-out was far greater than radioactive fall-out. It almost spelt the death of the atomic power industry in general. However, France is doing quite well with one of the lowest CO2 emissions per capita in the world, thanks to its use of atomic power.

Once fear has settled in, rational thought becomes difficult. Arguments that Chernobyl really was an antiquated reactor in a failing Communist state and that a repition of such an accident would be extremely unlikely in a modern plant, count for nought. Once bitten, twice shy.

Arguments that appeal to peoples' emotional state of fear are often grasped at, and clinged to, for dear life. No amount of rational argument has any effect. Can you talk someone out of a fear of spiders?

Let's have a look at some of the muddled thinking, in general terms, that I see on this site. I'll start with the most obvious examples, but hopefully most of you have by now risen above the first example.

(1) People who have not given much thought to the matter of climate change, often have their belief in AGW reinforced whenever an extreme weather event occurs. In Australia, we've recently had a prolonged drought which still continues in some parts, but is now over in most parts of the country, until the next one occurs. We also recently had a severe bush fire in Victoria causing serious loss of life.

Whenever such events occur, the tabloids and radio talk-back shows are full of comments about climate change. So-called climate experts try to explain that such extreme weather events in themselves are not an indication of climate change, but they explain this with some hesitation, not wishing to upset the political agenda that we should be tackling climate change seriously.

As an impartial observer, I get the impression that the embedded fear of the members of the public asking such questions, dominates over the rational response. They're not quite convinced, because extreme climate events are amongst the things that really scare them, like terrorism.

(2) One often hears reports like, "the 11 hottest days on record have occurred during the last decade". Wow! Awful! I'm scared out of my wits! It's enough for Phillip Adams to host a whole conference on the topic.

Let's get things into some sort of proportion and perspective. What does 'on record' mean? It means at most about 100 or a 150 years depending on country and location. As one goes further back towards the beginning of record-keeping, the records are increasingly unreliable.

If we had accurate records going back 1,000 years, it's quite possible that none of the hottest 11 days in that period would have occurred in the lifetime of any living person.

(3) The true cost of alternative 'green' energy supplies is another area where rationality goes out of the window. Of course we would all like clean energy in preference to dirty energy. Even denialists (as opposed to skeptics such as myself) would prefer clean energy. The problem is, how to pay for it.

Here's where the AGW adherents (really believers, as in religion) have their heads so far into the sand, all you can see are their ankles and feet.

I've often wondered how anyone with an iota of intelligence can really believe that a PVP or Windmill can have a payback period of 2 or 3 or 4 years. I'd never come across such an absurd idea until I came across this site whilst researching comments on Plimer's recent book.

I think I now understand, but once again I see terribly muddled thinking, not because the posters of such absurd comments are necessarily of low intelligence I should add, (because I don't want to insult anyone), but because their own fear about the future of their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren etc has clouded their judgement. Quite understandable.

I'll attempt to offer an explanation from resources available through Google. But first, a bit of a preamble.

Just as there's a confusion between natural climate change and anthropogenic contributions to such change, there's also a confusion between CO2 emissions and atmospheric pollution. They are not one and the same.

CO2 is a natural and essential gas. All our vegetation needs it, indeed thrives on it. Climatologists talk about dangerous numbers, such as 385ppm of CO2 being a critical point. Do we all understand what a small percentage 385 ppm really is?

385 parts per million equals 0.0385%. Does anyone really believe that 0.03% or 0.04% or 0.05% of C02 in the atmosphere is going to have any serious 'toxic' effect on man or beast?

C02 is not a dirty gas. The problems with dirty and environmentally harmful emissions from coal-fired power stations lie elsewhere, primarily in the S02 and Nx emissions. Acid rain, smog and all the consequent health and environmental problems are not caused by C02 emissions, but by S02 and N02 emissions, and particulate emissions of carbon and muck. SO2 and Nitrogen are responsible for acid rain, not CO2.
Here's a quote from the global internet that illustrates the problem.

"When the Clean Air Act of the 1970s was passed, Congress included a "grandfathering" loophole that allowed older power plants to avoid meeting the modern pollution control standards that new facilities had to adapt. At the time, Congress allowed the loophole because it expected that these "grandfathered" plants would soon retire and be replaced by cleaner, new plants. However, many of these older coal-fired power plants have sidestepped the new source review provision and have illegally avoided installing modern pollution controls.2 As a result, today most existing power plants are between 30-50 years old and are up to 10 times dirtier than new power plants.3 We are now faced with a disproportionate amount of pollution coming from these old, dirty, under-controlled plants. "

You see the problem? A similar situation arises in China. There's a lot of smog and haze in Beijing. Blame it coal-fired power stations in general, or blame it on old-fashioned power stations that have few emission controls?

When so-called academics write reports comparing the true cost of coal energy, including all the environmental damage and personal health damage caused by atmospheric polution from coal, which is not caused by windmills and solar panels after they have been manufactured, (but not during manufacture), they do not make their comparisons with modern coal power plants with modern emission controls.

They look only at the obsolete, undeniably dirty, Chernoby style coal power plants.

Well!!! How scientific and impartial is that?

The comparison is not between a 40 year old, unacceptably dirty coal-fired power station that has slipped through the rules, and a totally clean windmill farm; but a modern coal-fired power station employing modern emission controls, such as this described below, and a terribly expensive PVP or Windmill farm.

A technological breakthrough in air filtration has improved coal-fired power plants so much that the Big Stone Power Plant near Milbank, S. D., is now generating electricity while producing virtually no air pollution. The new technology prevents 99.99 percent of combustion residue powders from being released into the atmosphere. The so-called Advanced Hybrid Filter removes soot and other combustion powders from the exhaust gas, making it cleaner than the air entering the plant, engineers say.

Interestingly, China is now concentrating on good emission contols for its new coal power stations. Quote below.

China's frenetic construction of coal-fired power plants has raised worries around the world about the effect on climate change. China now uses more coal than the United States, Europe and Japan combined, making it the world's largest emitter of gases that are warming the planet.

But largely missing in the hand-wringing is this: China has emerged in the past two years as the world's leading builder of more efficient, less polluting coal power plants, mastering the technology and driving down the cost.

While the United States is still debating whether to build a more efficient kind of coal-fired power plant that uses extremely hot steam, China has begun building such plants at a rate of one a month.

Well, I hope I have maganged to inject just a little bit of rationality into your fear-obsessed views.

Ciao! Ray

Ray destroys any slm hint of credibility when he writes this garbage:

"AGW adherents who, in my view, are arguing from an emotional rather than a rational perspective"

So the vast majority of qualified research scientists are letting their emotions cloud their judgments? C'mon guy, ARE YOU SERIOUS???? I suppose the fact that I studied for 7 years to go through my BSc and PhD programs was all a smokescreen for my real agenda then. Thus, when I give lectures arguing that humans are simplifying our global ecological life-support systems, backing this up with reams and reams of empirical data, I am just citing work from those who have based their research on their own fragile emotional states. Ray, is this what you are saying?

Lay it out for all of us scientists who are emotionally blinkered. And then please tell all here with a straight face that the denialists are driven by their interest in honest scientific enquiry. Please tell me that many of the sceptics you routinely trot out and the think tanks they are linked with just want to know the unbridled truth, and that money and short-term profit has nothing to do with it.

The fact is, like so many have said here, that you do not know what the hell you are talking about. Period. Like I said on another thread yesterday with what appears to be one of your brethren, Billy Bob Hall, you behave exactly as I would expect a naive sceptic to behave. Tim Curtin is also an expert at this. Given that you don't know very much about the fields of research involved in Earth and climate science, but have a clear political view on it, you dispense with all relevant data that undermines your perspective. I've debated countless sceptics who claim that there isn't a biodiversity crisis and who approach that topic the same way that you do with climate science. Most, if not all of them have never studied population or evolutionary ecology. Confronted with empirical data that they do not know, or else do not understand, they dispense with it. Like other armchair sceptics, they think they have innate wisdom that elevates them to the status of being experts. When the massive flaws in their argments are exposed, they simply ignore it.

A study published a few years ago by a team of psychologists in the United States found that the less someone knew about a field, the more the *thought* they knew about it. Actual experts in certain fields were far more cautious as to their accrued knowledge in their own field of expertise. But the data clearly showed that non-experts estimated their knowledge in said field to be well above what it actually was.

This describes you and many other sceptics to a tee. I've beeing cursorily scanning another thread on Deltoid and, in defnding what appears to be a highly flawed paper by McClean et al., that is being countered by a corrective, a number of clear neophyte sceptics have waded in saying that the McClean paper is sound, or must be sound, and that the corrective is proof that the AGW community is running scared. As a senior scientist, I found these ripostes to be so utterly unsceintific and banal that I did not bother to respond. Science is replete with studies that were publsihed as correctives - whether this was the debate over the fitness of hybrid zones, the general belief in phylogentically conserved phentotypic traits, or other fields of research. I had a study published a few years ago where I countered the argument that host size is positively correlated with the fitness of parasitic wasps. This is how science proceeds.

Thus, it is highly likely that the McClean et al. study is deeply flawed. I just want to say that I get sick and tired by laypeople telling me that my take on climate change is emoptionally driven. This is pure, unadulterated nonsense. And those saying this do not know anything about the bscientific method when they resort to this kind of smear.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 07 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray destroys any slm hint of credibility when he writes this garbage:

"AGW adherents who, in my view, are arguing from an emotional rather than a rational perspective"

So the vast majority of qualified research scientists are letting their emotions cloud their judgments? C'mon guy, ARE YOU SERIOUS???? I suppose the fact that I studied for 7 years to go through my BSc and PhD programs was all a smokescreen for my real agenda then. Thus, when I give lectures arguing that humans are simplifying our global ecological life-support systems, backing this up with reams and reams of empirical data, I am just citing work from those who have based their research on their own fragile emotional states. Ray, is this what you are saying?
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 8, 2009 5:58 AM

Jeff,
Can anyone deny that your entire response, which I have not repeated in its entirety, is basically emotional?

You are displaying great umbrage at the suggestion that lots of qualified scientists can be wrong. You are into consensus rather than science.

Yes. Scientists can be wrong, and have been wrong on many occasions. Without a proper means of falsification of their theories the scope for errors is wide open.

This is the fundamental principle of the scientific method. If you can't devise a method whereby your theories can be tested against real-world conditions, then they will always remain suspect, however unpleasant or uncertain or inconvenient that situation may be.

I have a great respect for the scientific method.

A study published a few years ago by a team of psychologists in the United States found that the less someone knew about a field, the more the thought they knew about it. Actual experts in certain fields were far more cautious as to their accrued knowledge in their own field of expertise. But the data clearly showed that non-experts estimated their knowledge in said field to be well above what it actually was.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 8, 2009 5:58 AM

A few years ago? This has been known for many centuries. Perhaps millennium. What we don't know far exceeds what we do know. That's why I'm a skeptic and that's why I insist upon a proper falsification process.

I'm not about promulgating a personal theory. I'm about insisting upon proper and thorough scientific methodology.

If the subject doesn't lend itself to such, then tough! There are no excuses.

> I'm not about promulgating a personal theory. I'm about insisting upon proper and thorough scientific methodology.

> Posted by: Ray

Physician: Heal thyself.

Try getting some proper and thorough scientific methodology yourself.

As regards what we know and don't know, I would say we can divide everything into 7 broad areas that just about cover everything.

(1) There are things we believe we know and actually do know. (like the earth is round and orbits the sun.)

(2) There are other things we believe we know but actually don't know (such as some of the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gasses).

(3) There are also, surprisingly, things that we think we don't know, but actually do know.

(4) There are other things that we don't know, but also don't know that we don't know. (Most things, I guess).

(5) There are things that we don't know, and know that we don't know.

(6) There are things that we don't know, but know that we ought to know.

(7) There are things that we don't know and don't know that we ought to know.

Have I covered everything?

I'm constantly surprised at the hubris of people who seem so certain about AGW. I suspect that the climatologists in the field are not so certain about that 90% figure. As Jeff Harvey writes above as though it was a recent discovery, those who are at the cutting edge of their particular field are generally more cautious about what they really know and what they can be really certain about. It's the people who are not scientists but the politicians and/or the general members of the public who attach certainty to matters where non exists.

The more you know, the more you realise how little you know, hopefully. We used to think that we had discovered most of the chemical elements that constitute the matter in the universe, after the gaps in Mendeleev's periodic table had been filled.

It is now thought we don't really know what 90% of our universe is made of. We call it 'dark matter', a hypothetical matter that is undetectable by its radiation but whose existence can be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. Well I never!

It is all clear now.

We've been arguing with Donald Rumsfeld. No wonder he's been oblivious to facts counter to his own perceptions.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 10 Aug 2009 #permalink

It is all clear now.
We've been arguing with Donald Rumsfeld. No wonder he's been oblivious to facts counter to his own perceptions.
Posted by: Bernard J. | August 10, 2009 7:28 PM

Sorry! You're wrong again. I was never convinced about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and whilst I was pleased that Saddam Hussein would be at last deposed, it became apparent very soon after the major battles were won, that America had bungled things once again.

Shorter Ray:

We don't know somethings, therefore [insert any argument you like here....]

There are no excuses

except for burning carbon into the atmosphere. There'll always be an excuse for that.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 10 Aug 2009 #permalink

Sorry! You're wrong again. (Blah, blah, blah...)

Ray, you obviously fail to understand my point. Either that, or you are erecting yet another lame strawman.

Which reminds me - can you provide a simple and straightforward response to my earlier proposition that human irrationality will modify to varying extents the prices paid for goods and services?

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 10 Aug 2009 #permalink

Which reminds me - can you provide a simple and straightforward response to my earlier proposition that human irrationality will modify to varying extents the prices paid for goods and services?
Posted by: Bernard J. | August 11, 2009 12:25 AM

Bernard, of course human irrationality modifies the price of things. The high cost of diamonds for jewelery is one obvious example. A million dollars spent on an ordinary house in an 'up-market' suburb is another example.

I've never disputed that. I've given many other examples; rare stamps, paintings, collectors items in general, anything that's scarce and may become a 'sought after' item for whatever reason or lack of reason.

What you should be asking is how the million dollars spent on a diamond or a small house in the suburbs came into existence. It presumably did't grow on trees in convenient bundles of $10,000 to be plucked at your leisure, causing no emissions of GHGs.

If you are really concerned about the environment, you should also be asking what the person who receives your money, when you buy a diamond or an irrationally over-valued house, does with your money.

Ray, you constantly make references to the falsification process as if you knew something about the way hypotheses are set up and tested in empirical research. You claim to be a sceptic but your knowledge of the field of climate science is exceedingly poor. I defer to the vast majority of climate researchers who have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that humans are forcing climate significantly. So what does that leave the rest of us here to conclude about you?

1. Due to some inherent wisdom, you know more than the vast majority of climate scientists

2. You think you know more than the vast majority of climate scienstists

3. You are camouflaging a political view (i.e you are opposed to government regulation) in scientific clothing.

I've met people like you who deny that there is a biodiversity crisis but who know very little about the actual science in studying the field of population ecology. They neatly fit into one of the three categories above. It is clear to me that you do as well. And please don't cite the names of any of the usual contrarian suspects to defend you interpretation of the falsification process - many of these are bought and paid for by industry. This IS an issue that the sceptics refuse to acknowledge. However, if I am a lawyer, and you pay me, I am working for you. What is different about science? Scientists can be paid off to speak on beahlf of their paymasters as well, you know. Shit happens.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 10 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray, who isn't anywhere near as familiar with science as he thinks he is, writes:

We used to think that we had discovered most of the chemical elements that constitute the matter in the universe, after the gaps in Mendeleev's periodic table had been filled.

It is now thought we don't really know what 90% of our universe is made of. We call it 'dark matter', a hypothetical matter that is undetectable by its radiation but whose existence can be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. Well I never!

We know most of the chemical elements, Ray. The dark matter is almost certainly not baryonic, so it's not made of "chemical elements" at all, let alone unknown ones.

Ray, you constantly make references to the falsification process as if you knew something about the way hypotheses are set up and tested in empirical research. You claim to be a sceptic but your knowledge of the field of climate science is exceedingly poor. I defer to the vast majority of climate researchers who have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that humans are forcing climate significantly. So what does that leave the rest of us here to conclude about you?

It leaves you to conclude that I perhaps do have more wisdom than most of you, that I'm more impartial and objective than most of you because I have no axe to grind, no barrow to push, no career to foster and no face to save. (I'm a self-funded retiree).

It's probably true that some skeptical scientists with climate qualifications are biased due to their association with the fossil energy industry, just as it's also probably true that many working climatologists need to keep a job and are grateful for the gravy train.

I can only write and act upon what I understand. If it were possible to prove empirically the case for AGW, then there would likely be no dispute from the literally thousands (not necessarily hundreds of thousands) of highly qualified scientists who disagree with the IPCC report.

The disagreement exists in the main because the nature of climate change, with its enormous complexity, does not lend itself to indisputable empirical testing of the tentative and uncertain conclusions drawn by the IPCC, because of the long time lags involved for climate change to take effect.

An interesting insight into the processes of the IPCC is provided by a major contributing author, Prof. Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology.

Here's what he's written on this issue.

"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but â which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts.

On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people weâd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the publicâs imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage.

So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This âdouble ethical bindâ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both. "

I would say that Professor Schneider has described the situation very succinctly, and I agree completely that there is a 'double ethical bind'.

If we are not sure, should we be waiting till all the evidence is in (putting ourselves perhaps in the position of the David Suzuki frog being slowly boiled alive in water that it cannot detect is getting slowly warmer, until it is too late to jump out), or should we do whatever it takes, even if it means wrecking the economies of the world, dashing the aspirations of the undeveloped world for a more prosperous life, and perhaps starting fresh wars in the process, resulting in (God forbid) the total annihilation of mankind?

My own view is that we should not be acting irrationally, based upon scientifically unsound conclusions that describe the science behind AGW as settled when it clearly isn't.

Instead, the rich countries should use subsidies from general taxes to assist research into alternative, clean energy resources that can compete economically with existing coal and oil. The way forward is not to impose less efficient methods of producing energy on our societies, but more efficient methods in conjunction with cleaner methods.

The total prosperity of the world population is very profoundly connected to the cost of energy (ie. the efficiency with which we produce energy). We simply don't get anywhere by encouraging people to spend $12,000 on devices that produce only 1500kWh per year of electricity (such as PVPs in Australia).

How many PhDs you have is of little benefit if you've lost contact with basic common sense.

Ray, who isn't anywhere near as familiar with science as he thinks he is, writes:
We used to think that we had discovered most of the chemical elements that constitute the matter in the universe, after the gaps in Mendeleev's periodic table had been filled. It is now thought we don't really know what 90% of our universe is made of. We call it 'dark matter', a hypothetical matter that is undetectable by its radiation but whose existence can be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. Well I never!

We know most of the chemical elements, Ray. The dark matter is almost certainly not baryonic, so it's not made of "chemical elements" at all, let alone unknown ones.
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | August 11, 2009 6:48 AM

Why did you conclude that I meant there were more gaps in the Periodic Table that would eventually be filled with a type of matter the nature of which we have no clue about?

You guys will think of any excuse whatsoever to discredit and attack any skeptic of climate change.

I can honestly say you are the most biased, partial and unobjective bunch of guys I've ever come across.

Ray, on the first point: please put the entire quote of Schneider in. It places the double ethical bind in its proper context. The denila lobby has distorted the original meaning behind Schneider's quote ot of all proportion to impugn the reputation of scientists. Here is the quote in full:

*On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but - which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need [Scientists should consider stretching the truth] to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts
we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both*

I have seen the contrarian crowd routinely misquote scientists to distort the original meaning of what they said - this is intellectually dishonest.

Second, please stop insinuating that those advocating AGW are the biased, nasty ones whereas those on the other side of the so-called debate are just tirelessly trying to find out the truth. You ought to look up some of the words that have been used by what I refer to as the anti-environmetnal lobby to describe environmentalists and scientists who argue in favor of regulations to counter environmental problems. And these quotes come from individuals and groups that are well-funded and well known. For instance: in the book, 'Rational Readings on Environmental Conderns', co-authored by a number of prominent sceptics, environmentalists are called - 'apolcalyptics', 'chemophobes', 'insincere environmentalists for a weaker America', 'fundamentally elitist', 'professional scaremongers', 'potential mass murderers' who are 'assaulting reason', 'full of environmental paranoia', 'overzealous environmental rhetoric', 'environmental tyranny', 'toxicity and nihilism' and who are fighting an 'ideological battle against economic growth' which 'threatens democracy' and has brought America to her 'knees'. The same people have described national parks as 'environmental gulags'. I can assure you that the shindigs organized by the denial lobby (e.g. the recent one at the Heartland Institute) aren't saying nice things about most scientists. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at one of their unscientific conferences.

In these books, global warming is good for us as is acid rain; nuclear power plants are no concern; biodiversity loss of overestimated and, besides, they argue that we don't need biodiversity anyway as species extinctions are 'natural', and so on.

Since co-reviewing Bjorn Lomborg's error-filled tome in Nature in 2001, I have been called everything under the sun: one think tank in the United States likened me to a green harpy harrassing the innocent Dane.

Finally, some things about scidence and public policy just do not sink into your head (the thickness perhaps?). Let me repeat for the millionth time:

*science does not advnace by consensus but public policy must be based on it*

Understand? Comprendez? Using your analogy, we won't do anything until we are metaphorically sifting through the ashes. Let me reiterate: there will never, ever be 100% consensus on climate change. Just as there will not be on the effects of acid rain on forest and aquatic ecosystems,, CFCs on the ozone layer, and the loss of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning and human well being. There will aways be dissenters. If we were to wait until 'all of the evidence is in' with no dissenting voices, then it will always be too late. There is enough evidence now, in the view of the vast majority of the scientific community that humans are profoundly forcing climate. Just as most scientists argue that humans are disrupting a range of biogeochemical cycles, reducing biodiversity at rates exceeding those in 65 million years, and are threatening the future for all. Against this background I can cite names in even my own field of research (population and evolutionaary ecology) who broadly disagree with the finer details. But public policy must go one way or the other. There is no middle ground on the environment. Either we do or we don't. You are saying we don't. As I scientist I believe that this is highly irresponsible, given our utter dependence on nature to generate the conditions that permit our existence. You appear to be quite confident in the ability of humans to thrive while our species increasingly assualts (and simplifies) natural systems in a variety of ways. I, and most of my colleagues do not. We have science on our side.

As I have said before, I would give the sceptics more credit if they distanced themselves from think tanks and lobbying groups that do not do science but instead are anxious, at any cost, to maintain the status quo. These groups are themselves funded by corporations whose profits will be affected by the implementation of regulations designed to curtail destructive human activities on the environment. As I have also said before, these corporations are amoral tyrannies that are not programmed to think about the long-term consequences of their activities. Their only aim is to ensure short-medium term maximal returns for investors. It is that simple. They must be regulated. The idea of private-public partnerships aired by some multinationals scares the hell out of me.

So I ask you this: why are so many of the prominent sceptics associated with these wretched bodies? They are wearing their hearts on their sleeves. And stop calling the kettle black.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 12 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray:
"Why did you conclude that I meant there were more gaps in the Periodic Table that would eventually be filled with a type of matter the nature of which we have no clue about?"

Ray, that is what you said!

Ray:
"We used to think that we had discovered most of the chemical elements that constitute the matter in the universe, after the gaps in Mendeleev's periodic table had been filled."

We HAVE discovered most of the elements in the universe, Ray. Dark matter doesn't change that.

We DO know and understand the periodic table, Ray. Dark matter doesn't alter that.

My Medicinal Chemist friends can still design a complex molecule with exactly desired stereochemistry, plan a synthesis to make it, and go to the lab and churn out exactly the molecule they designed - because the discovery of dark matter has zero, zilch, squat, nada, no impact whatsoever in the realm of chemistry, which is still exactly as well understood as it was before the discovery of dark matter.

In exactly the same way, Heisenberg and Einstein didn't have any practical impact on our understanding of the mass, speed and position of a thrown ball - the game of baseball survived modern physics unchanged. As did ballistics, transportation,etc, et al - even though relativistic and uncertainty considerations have calculable impacts on all those things.

Ray, the fact that there are things we don't yet know, does not invalidate what we DO know. The fact that Abner Doubleday didn't know that we can now calculate the relativistic mass increase, wave frequency, and Heisenberg uncertainty in position and velocity of a 98 mph fastball, doesn't change in any way Giambi's chances of hitting a rising fastball just out of the zone.

And the fact that we didn't know about dark matter 2 decades ago, doesn't in any way change what we DO know about climate forcings.

Lee, Given Giambi's inability to hit much of anything this year, including hanging curves and fastballs down the middle, perhaps we should be talking about Albert Pujols instead, who appears to be able to hit any pitch high or low in the zone out of the park...

Roberto Clemente used to able to hit pitches way out of the strike zone as well. Even old Abner couldn't have figured out how he did that.

Just a thought...

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 12 Aug 2009 #permalink

Pablo Sandoval, man. 550 career at bats in the majors, 334 average - and only 33 walks. In the minors, he hit intentional walks for RBI singles...

-"I see the little white thing," Sandoval says, "and I swing."-

But yeah - I chose an example (Giambi) to illustrate an exercise in futility (at least this year). Ray inspired me.

Ray, on the first point: please put the entire quote of Schneider in. It places the double ethical bind in its proper context. The denila lobby has distorted the original meaning behind Schneider's quote ot of all proportion to impugn the reputation of scientists.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 12, 2009 6:55 AM

Jeff,

Please improve your reading skills. I did include the whole quote as you repeated it, except I placed the second part in bold. The first part is normal scientific procedure anyway. It's the second part in bold that I find disturbing, but it sure explains what's really happening with AGW.

Second, please stop insinuating that those advocating AGW are the biased, nasty ones whereas those on the other side of the so-called debate are just tirelessly trying to find out the truth.

I was referring to most of the posters on this site whose modus operandi seems to be the ad hominem attack.

Like Senator Steve Fielding, until a year or so ago I also believed that the case for anthropogenic warming was settled, such was the success of the media coverage. But I admit I always felt a little uneasy about the apparent unanimity of the consensus.

After hearing an interview of Professor Plimer on the radio, my doubts began to escalate. When his book, 'Heaven & Earth' was published, I did a Google search for comments and I came across this site.

During the few months I've been posting on this site, I've been surprised to find so many apparently highly qualified scientists, through Google searches, who are skeptical about the anthropogenic contribution to global warming. It's been a real eye-opener for me.

There will aways be dissenters. If we were to wait until 'all of the evidence is in' with no dissenting voices, then it will always be too late.

Just like it would have been too late if we'd waited a little longer, and persevered a bit more to find those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? What a disaster that policy has been. Such a pity we weren't smart enough to work out that the reason why Saddam Hussein was so reluctant to prove he had no weapons of mass destruction was a fear of attack from Iran. It's also now abundantly clear that Saddam had no connections with terrorists.

We've wasted hundreds of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives, and needlessly poured hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere because we weren't smart enough to work out if Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and really did have connections with Al Qaeda.

And now you expect me to believe we're smart enough to control the climate of our planet?

There is no middle ground on the environment. Either we do or we don't.

Nonsense! There's always a middle ground. We can start by replacing old-fashioned, dirty coal power stations with modern plants with modern emission controls that will cease to contribute towards acid rain and atmospheric pollution.

We can withhold approval to construct dwellings on flood plains and near beaches. We can improve building standards so houses can withstand cyclones. We can build flood mitigation dams in areas prone to flooding, and desalination plants in areas prone to droughts. We can recycle all grey and black water instead of pouring it into the ocean etc etc.

So I ask you this: why are so many of the prominent sceptics associated with these wretched bodies? They are wearing their hearts on their sleeves. And stop calling the kettle black.

All the sceptics I know, know about and read, seem very sensible and reasonable chaps, just like me. I can understand perfectly why someone like Roy Spencer, for example, does not allow postings on his blogs. He'd be dealing with personal insults all day long.

Ray says:
"And now you expect me to believe we're smart enough to control the climate of our planet?"

No Ray - we're STUPID enough to be controlling the climate of our planet. We're arguing that we should STOP doing it, and you're arguing that we should continue blithely ahead.

Ray says: "And now you expect me to believe we're smart enough to control the climate of our planet?"
No Ray - we're STUPID enough to be controlling the climate of our planet. We're arguing that we should STOP doing it, and you're arguing that we should continue blithely ahead.
Posted by: Lee | August 12, 2009 12:08 PM

Really! Are you sure we are not simply coming out of a Little Ice Age, which is a good thing? I personally do not like extremes of cold weather.

Let's see how things pan out over the next 20 years. If we adopt my sensible, middle-of-the-way policies we won't be too badly off whatever happens.

If we blithely starve ourselves of cheap energy in the vain hope that we can control climate by reducing CO2 emissions, and it turns out that the climate will change for the worse in any case, then we really will be in a disastrous situation.

If we adopt my sensible policies and use our cheap energy supplies to build stronger houses and cease building houses in low-lying areas near the coast and in flood plains, and set aside emergency funds to help refugees from small islands that may become flooded, then we could avoid the scary scenarios of AGW that have recently flooded the news media.

Ray: "Why did you conclude that I meant there were more gaps in the Periodic Table that would eventually be filled with a type of matter the nature of which we have no clue about?"

Ray, that is what you said!
Ray: "We used to think that we had discovered most of the chemical elements that constitute the matter in the universe, after the gaps in Mendeleev's periodic table had been filled."
We HAVE discovered most of the elements in the universe, Ray. Dark matter doesn't change that.
We DO know and understand the periodic table, Ray. Dark matter doesn't alter that.
Posted by: Lee | August 12, 2009 9:58 AM

Okay! I can now see that I wasn't as clear with my expression as I should have been. I was probably thinking at the time of a recent news item about another addition to the Periodic Table.

In the interests of clarity, I shall rephrase as follows:

"We think we have discovered most of the chemical elements that constitute the matter in the universe, now the gaps in Mendeleev's periodic table have been filled.

However, it is now thought we don't really know what 90% of our universe is made of. We call it 'dark matter', a hypothetical matter that is undetectable by its radiation but whose existence can be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. Well I never!" Is that clearer?

We DO know and understand the periodic table, Ray. Dark matter doesn't alter that.
My Medicinal Chemist friends can still design a complex molecule with exactly desired stereochemistry, plan a synthesis to make it, and go to the lab and churn out exactly the molecule they designed

If only climate change were so simple. The fact is, with the benefit of empirical testing we can often achieve repeatable and predictable results despite our not having a full understanding of the processes.

We were able to produce the first vaccines and antibiotics when our understanding of the immune system was vastly poorer than it is today.

It is doubtful that there exists anything that we fully and perfectly understand when one considers all the forces that either directly or indirectly affect or influence the subject under study.

- because the discovery of dark matter has zero, zilch, squat, nada, no impact whatsoever in the realm of chemistry, which is still exactly as well understood as it was before the discovery of dark matter.

I think this probably comes under the category of "Not knowing that you don't know". Here is an invisible substance which we know almost nothing about, except that it appears to be about 9x more prevelent than visible matter and has about 9x the gravitational force of visible matter, yet you can confidently and categorically declare that such mysterious matter has no influence or bearing whatsoever on the visible elements we are familiar with.

Well I never! LOL! You are certainly ripe fodder for the AGW propagandists, my friend.

Ray:

Are you sure we are not simply coming out of a Little Ice Age, which is a good thing?

What is the physical mechanism behind "coming out of a Little Ice Age?" Are you under the impression that the climate system is like a spring that will naturally rebound to equilibrium after an excursion? It isn't.

I personally do not like extremes of cold weather.

I personally do not like human agriculture collapsing and human civilization collapsing with it, which is what will happen some time in the next 30-40 years if we don't control global warming now.

Let's see how things pan out over the next 20 years.

Why? We've already got 159 years of detailed time series data on global warming. How much do you need?

If we adopt my sensible, middle-of-the-way policies we won't be too badly off whatever happens.
If we blithely starve ourselves of cheap energy in the vain hope that we can control climate by reducing CO2 emissions, and it turns out that the climate will change for the worse in any case, then we really will be in a disastrous situation.

"Cheap energy" is only "cheap" because we don't factor in the environmental damage, which will escalate rapidly if we don't stop burning coal and oil.

Ray: "Here is an invisible substance which we know almost nothing about, except that it appears to be about 9x more prevelent than visible matter and has about 9x the gravitational force of visible matter, yet you can confidently and categorically declare that such mysterious matter has no influence or bearing whatsoever on the visible elements we are familiar with."

Yes. That's the conclusion of the cosmologists. There are good reasons for thinking the dark matter is non-baryonic. The leading candidates are neutrinos and axions. For more information, I suggest looking up some good recent books on cosmology.

What is the physical mechanism behind "coming out of a Little Ice Age?" Are you under the impression that the climate system is like a spring that will naturally rebound to equilibrium after an excursion? It isn't.
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | August 13, 2009 11:55 AM

Equilibrium? What is this concept of equilibrium you refer to? Surely we can all agree that climate is dynamic and always in a state of change, whatever the causes. That much is certain, surely!

I get a sense from the AGW believers that a climate which is unaffected in any way by human activity would be an ideal climate for our proliferation and enjoyment. There's something implicit in the AGW argument that we should become as invisible as possible so we can enjoy nature in her full glory, uncontaminated by human activity. That that nature and climate, unspoiled by human activity, will be the most conducive to our well-being seems a big assumption to me. It might be. It might not. Who can prove it?

That's religion guys. Can't you see it? Worship of Mother Earth! Humanity is 'naughty children' creating all sorts of havoc, despoiling the environment and upsetting mother.

This subject is ripe for a PhD thesis, but I'm too old to be bothered. I prefer to enjoy my retirement photographing the wonders of nature with cameras that have been rigorously subjected to empirical testing to such a degree they actually and materially exist, as do my photos. No dispute there.

I personally do not like human agriculture collapsing and human civilization collapsing with it, which is what will happen some time in the next 30-40 years if we don't control global warming now.

Nobody, neither denialists nor skeptics, want human civilisation to collapse. The argument that it will collapse if we don't reduce CO2 emissions is not proven. It's as simple as that.

If you insist upon acting upon unreliable information, as we did in the war upon Iraq, then you must bear the consequences, which might well be the collapse of civilization, although I certainly hope not, I hasten to add. I hope, in spite of all the obvious blunders of human kind, we'll still come out alive and survive.

Why? We've already got 159 years of detailed time series data on global warming. How much do you need?

Much, much more. Do you think data gathered 100 years ago is reliable? Even modern data gathering by satellites is suspect. Data has to be interpreted. Most people are biased. Being a scientist does not mean you are not biased, especially if you are part of a consensus on a gravy train.

"Cheap energy" is only "cheap" because we don't factor in the environmental damage, which will escalate rapidly if we don't stop burning coal and oil.

Don't delude yourself. Evironmental damage in respect of acid rain, smog in cities that harm our health etc. is due to obsolete, old-fashioned power plants.

Best practice coal-fired power plants filter out 99% of that stuff; SO2, Nx, mercury, particulate carbon etc. These modern coal-fired power plants do not filter out the clean CO2 emissions. But the effect of increases in CO2 on our well-being is simply not certain. Did you know that plants thrive on CO2?

Here's a description below of the effects of increased CO2 on plant growth. Don't accuse me of selective quotation. The website is at http://www.purgit.com/co2ok.html

One of the best-kept secrets in the global warming debate is that the plant life of Planet Earth would benefit greatly from a higher level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
You read that correctly. Flowers, trees, and food crops love carbon dioxide, and the more they get of it, the more they love it. Carbon dioxide is the basic raw material that plants use in photosynthesis to convert solar energy into food, fiber, and other forms of biomass. Voluminous scientific evidence shows that if CO2 were to rise above its current ambient level of 360 parts per million, most plants would grow faster and larger because of more efficient photosynthesis and a reduction in water loss. There would also be many other benefits for plants, among them greater resistance to temperature extremes and other forms of stress, better growth at low light intensities, improved root/top ratios, less injury from air pollutants, and more nutrients in the soil as a result of more extensive nitrogen fixation.
While scientists disagree about the likely effects of additional carbon dioxide on global temperature, they generally agree on another important effect of a rise in the CO2 level. A doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, as is projected, would increase plant productivity by almost one-third. Most plants would grow faster and bigger, with increases in leaf size and thickness, stem height, branching, and seed production. The number and size of fruits and flowers would also rise. Root/top ratios would increase, giving many plants better root systems for access to water and nutrients.

Ray: "Here is an invisible substance which we know almost nothing about, except that it appears to be about 9x more prevelent than visible matter and has about 9x the gravitational force of visible matter, yet you can confidently and categorically declare that such mysterious matter has no influence or bearing whatsoever on the visible elements we are familiar with."
Yes. That's the conclusion of the cosmologists. There are good reasons for thinking the dark matter is non-baryonic. The leading candidates are neutrinos and axions. For more information, I suggest looking up some good recent books on cosmology.
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | August 13, 2009 12:15 PM

Are you mad? We have a substance here wich we know hardly anything about, and you are already talking about conclusions??

The nature of dark matter is a subject of intense interest to astronomers. We really don't know what it is. The arguments in favour of it being non-baryonic, at present, may well outweigh the arguments that it is at least partly baryonic.

My point is, that here is a subject that we clearly know very little about, yet Lee, an AGW believer, was willing to assert categorically and positively, that dark matter has zilch, nada, nothing whatsoever to do with baryonic matter.

Maybe I really should venture upon a PhD thesis. It would probably be along the lines that AGW adherents have a deep-seated, subconscious, emotional aversion towards humanity.

In their personal lives they have suffered painful set-backs, traumas and disillusion. They are searching for a cause, bigger than themselves, to redeem their self-esteem.

Al Gore comes to mind. He was cheated of the presidency. I can't fully imagine what a disturbing emotional impact that would have had on him, since I never had such ambitions to become president of the United States, but I think it is significant, from an emotional perspective, that Al Gore has now aligned himself with the AGW movement.

"Maybe I really should venture upon a PhD thesis".

Unless you cough up the money yourself, Ray, no one I know would hire you to do a PhD, based on your complete hashing of scientific protocol. I wouldn't touch you with a barge pole.

Moreover, anyone who writes this jibberish - "AGW adherents have a deep-seated, subconscious, emotional aversion towards humanity" - needs a deep reality check. This is nothing more than an ad-hom. No substance, but just what I expect from contrarians. I've had to deal with these kinds of baseless smears time and time again. If anyone has an "aversion to humanity", it is those who are quite happy to put at serious risk the future for humanity by doing everything in their power to ensure that the current global experiment humans are conducting on our global ecological life-support systems is continued. By 'those' I am referring to a fairly small clique of exceedingly wealthy and powerful entities who don't give a shit about science and are twisting, mangling and distorting it to promote their own short-term fiscal agendas. Given their access to, or control over large media conglomerates, these individuals are manipulating public opinion through mendacious propaganda campaigns and public relations.

One of those parroting the corporate line is feeble old Ray, who wades in here with his counter science, and when that is reduced to ashes, has to resort to the tried-but not-trusted smear accusing AGW adherents of being overly emotional and against humanity, progress and common sense. Ray, the more posts you make here, the more of an embarrassment you become. Your 'science', if one can even call it that, has been demolished. I get seriously annoyed when people like you have thr audacity to suggest that scientists and those defending science have an 'emotional aversion against humanity'. This is a frankly pathetic line and whatever little credibility you had in my eyes vanished with those words. The ones with an 'emotional aversion against humanity' are, in fact, those who dont'give an damn about the future but who are only concerned about short-term profit and wealth for the privileged few. As the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment made clear three years ago, the planet's biomes are under a huge assault from humanity. At least 60% of critical ecosystem services have been impaired or eliminbated by human actions. The Living Planet Index shows that humans have reduced the extent of the three most important ecosystems - coastal marine, freshwater and terrestrial - by an average of over 35% since 1970. Marine fish stocks have been reduced by 90% or more in places. Between 10 and 40% of well-studied species are threatened with extinction. Our species is living off a one-time inheritance of natural capital and are spending it like there is no tomorrow. On top of that, we are disripting cycles of nitrogen, carbon and other elements, altering planetary albedo, and disrupting climate patterns. There are ecological consequences of human activities, as we continue to nickel and dime the planet's complex adaptive systems and drive them towards a point beyond which they will unable to sustain life in a manner to which we are accustomed.

And on top of all of this, based on volumes of empirical evidence, you have the gall to write that 'AGW adherents have an emotional aversion to humanity'. My advice to you: grow up or get lost.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 13 Aug 2009 #permalink

And on top of all of this, based on volumes of empirical evidence, you have the gall to write that 'AGW adherents have an emotional aversion to humanity'. My advice to you: grow up or get lost.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 14, 2009 3:55 AM

Whoa! Steady on, Jeff. I don't need such a rapid confirmation of my tentative theory. Try to talk me out of it.

Can you deny that your entire post is just an abusive and emotional diatribe?

Where there's a serious problem with our environment, we need a level head and a rational approach to tackle and remedy the problem. You've just disqualified yourself from such a job. Sorry! I can't employ you.

Ray, there's a lot of facts in my post (and previous posts as well). You just gloss them over them as you have all of the other substantial posts made here. In my view you are really quite ignorant as to the state of the art of the field of climate science (as well as environmental science), but underneath this I think that you have a personal/ idealogical/political bias that puts aside science in favor of a 'do-nothing' agenda.

I don't need you to employ me, by the way. I already have a permanent senior scientific position and I give a lot of lectures on policy and the environment at universities and the like. Its you, Ray, who speak from the outside, and it's you who makes irrational stupid remarks like, "AGW adherents have a deep-seated, subconscious, emotional aversion towards humanity". This kind of off-the-cuff remark disqualifies you from any credibility on this, your own personal thread. It is shallow, vacuous and deserves to be repudiated, which is what I have done.

As I said above, if anyone has an aversion towards humanity, at least those who will inherit the mess me leave future generations, its the prophets of denial and their paymasters. They are the one's who are using hyperbole and rhetoric to downplay the causes (and consequences) of human-mediated global change. They are the one's willing to gamble that 'everything will be OK' if we do nothing and put our trust in them. Well I categorically do not. We do not have the technologies to replace vital ecosystem services, and there is plenty of evidence that, as the per capitat impact of humanity on nature grows, and as we try and take over more of the planet's primary productivity and freshwater flows, we will lose more in the process. Climate change is one important parameter in this process. The only reason you hang in there on this thread is because you ignore the vast majority of arguments put forward by posters here. This is possible on a blog site but, were you to debate real experts in public, you'd be hammered.

With respect to emotion, there's nothing wrong with it in science if it is well-placed. And as far as I am concerned, given the rapidly declining state of the biosphere, the huge wealth divide between the have's and have not's, and the prospoects that things are only going to get worse as the human footprint grows, you are damned right that I get emotional when people like you write dismissive remarks lacking foundation.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 14 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray:
"yet Lee, an AGW believer, was willing to assert categorically and positively, that dark matter has zilch, nada, nothing whatsoever to do with baryonic matter."

Oh, bullshit, Ray.

I said it has nothing to do with the ways we can use our knowledge of chemistry.

We can predict the outcome of a synthetic scheme, and carry it out and get the chemical we want - and we will still be able to do that, regardless of what dark matter turns out to be. Just like we can still do ballistics using classical mechanics, after Einstein.

Things we don't know now, do not invalidate things we DO know now.

Part of what we know now about climate is:

CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

We are rapidly and dramatically increasing the atmospheric [CO2].

Temperature is rising rapidly and dramatically.

There are multiple converging lines of evidence for a climate sensitivity somewhere pretty close to 3C / 2x CO2.

The uncertainty in the 2x CO2 sensitivity is primarily on the high side - the risk of worse than that value is greater than the possibility of less than that.

There are uncertainties is some important feedbacks (primarily cloud dynamics) but also good reasons to constraint the possible values to within a limited range - and that range encompasses 3C / 2xCO2.

Those uncertainties in how to model feedback to do not invalidate the the lines of evidence pointing to a sensitivity of 3C / 2xCO2 - any more than the uncertainties about dark matter invalidate the chemistry that allows us to do an extraordinarily complex 72-step synthetic scheme and make Taxol in the lab.

Ray, there's a lot of facts in my post (and previous posts as well). You just gloss them over them as you have all of the other substantial posts made here. In my view you are really quite ignorant as to the state of the art of the field of climate science (as well as environmental science), but underneath this I think that you have a personal/ idealogical/political bias that puts aside science in favor of a 'do-nothing' agenda.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 14, 2009 7:47 AM

If you think that Jeff, you are quite wrong. It is precisely because I have no ideological/political bias that I am able to be rational and objective on this issue. Unless, of course, you consider that a belief in rationality and the scientific method, and having a concern for the welfare of humnanity, constitutes an idealogical bias.

I suppose we could get into a semantic discussion about the impossibility of anyone being truly unbiased. Dig deep enough and one will always find some irrational assumption that presents a bias.

However, you are quite right that I am not a climatologist, just as Al Gore is not a climatologist and just as our minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong, is not a climatologist.

On matters of climate change, I use my own capacity for understanding the arguments from both sides and form my own opinion based, hopefully, upon my total knowledge and understanding on all matters that I've gathered throughout my varied career, rather than taking a position in relation to particular ideological bias.

If there were no dissenting experts in the field of climatology and no renowned scientists to be found anywhere who disagreed with the conclusions of the IPCC, then it's hardly likely that I would be a lone voice expressing skepticism on the basis of my relatively poor understanding of the science of climatology.

However, I know enough about the history of science to understand that there are always frontiers of scientific enquiry with competing views, and that it is plainly unscientific to claim certainty where it doesn't exist.

So let's look at some of the facts which you think I might have glossed over.

(1) Is it a fact that current levels of CO2 and future increases in CO2 due to our emissions, will cause environmental catastrophe? Can you categorically and definitely declare that that is a fact, not disputed by any credible source?

(2) Is it a fact that the IPCC report is a report for policy makers, and as Professor Schneider of Standford University has implied, is likely to understate the uncertainties, of necessity perhaps to get the ball rolling, but perhaps not of necessity? I'm very doubtful about the wisdom of telling plain lies in order to get people to behave in a particular way. I have too much respect for the truth.

(3) Is it a fact that our industrial processes have caused considerable, but localised, environmental damage during the past century or two?

Yes it is a fact. I can recognise a fact when I see it.

(4) Is it a fact that such localised environmental damage has been caused by CO2 emissions?

I don't think so. Acid rain, smog, haze in our cities, air pollution that can damage our health in the long run, are not caused by CO2 but by other chemicals (SO2, Nx, Hg etc) and particles of solid carbon and other muck which can and are being 99.9% filtered out with modern coal-fired power stations which China is now building.

(5) Is it a fact that plants thrive, and are more productive, with increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere?

I believe it is, but I stand to be corrected. Do you wish to dispute this fact?

In general, I find the AGW believers to be the ones who are irrational, confused, politically motivated and biased.

There's no doubt that we have mismanaged our resources in the past, in the interests of economic expediency. There have been instances of contractors employed to dispose of waste, pouring the waste into town drainage systems which flow out into mangrove swamps. There are many instances of environmental damage from mining activities. There are lots of illegal practices that take place, loopholes in the law which allow some manufacturers to continue with less than best practices, poor inspection by government authorities and plain mismanagement at all levels.

If there's a problem, then fix it. If the problem is mismanagement, poor inspection, loose emission control standards, then address those problems.

However, if the umpire is incompetent, a new ball game will not fix the problem. (My wise saying for the week).

I'm often amazed how willing people are to search for the easy way out and fool themselves. All creatures have an impact upon their environment. Should we exterminate all white ants because they emit methane which is 22x more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas? Should we exterminate all elephants because they have a habit of pushing down trees to encourage grasslands.

Mother nature is smart enough to provide counterbalances. By emitting CO2, we are befriending plant life. Surely I don't need to make the point that the health of plant life is at the basis of our survival.

As long as we have plenty of food and cheap energy, we'll be right. Provided of course, we are also sensible and rational and remove those emissions that are harmful to our health.

If plants had emotions, they'd thank us profusely for increasing CO2 levels.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you so much Mr Homo Sapiens for providing us with that lovely nectare, CO2, which we need so much. Cool! You are our best friend, and we will return the friendship by providing you with bountiful food resources.

em>Ray: "yet Lee, an AGW believer, was willing to assert categorically and positively, that dark matter has zilch, nada, nothing whatsoever to do with baryonic matter."

Oh, bullshit, Ray.
I said it has nothing to do with the ways we can use our knowledge of chemistry.
We can predict the outcome of a synthetic scheme, and carry it out and get the chemical we want - and we will still be able to do that, regardless of what dark matter turns out to be. Just like we can still do ballistics using classical mechanics, after Einstein.
Posted by: Lee | August 14, 2009 11:53 AM

Dear me! What's your point, Lee? In the Bronze Age, long before the concept of science existed, people were able to smelt metal ores and produce armour and spears using a consistent and reliable process that was understood at the level required. The theory of metallurgy and the organisation of the elements into a periodic table didn't exist. That didn't prevent our ancestors from having a practical understanding of what they were doing.

Likewise, our almost total ignorance of Dark Matter has no bearing on our current practices in creating complex molecules and compounds in the lab. When, or if, we eventually understand what dark matter really is, then it might have a practical bearing on what we can achieve in the lab.

The purpose of scientific theories is to predict the outcome if we do 'this' or 'that'. If the theory is sound (ie. true) then we can predict what will happen under certain scenarios.

In order to confirm the veracity of a theory, it needs to be tested in the real world. After Einstein claimed that light does not always travel in a straight line and can be bent by gravity, that claim needed to be, and eventaully was, confirmed through empirical observation.

Without such empirical observation, the theory is always suspect or dodgy.

AGW is in this predicament. It's a therory which cannot be proved. The best we can say is that the evidence implies that it is probable that anthropogenic CO2 emissions will alter the environment to our disadvantage.

I'm too old, experienced and wise to fall for that.

>AGW is in this predicament. It's a therory[sic] which cannot be proved.

No scientific theory can be proved as physical evidence is only inductive reasoning for which there is no axiomatic proof.

However rising global temperatures, melting glaciers, changes in eco-system morphology, ice-cap losses, etc. without any plausible counter explanation are strong corroborating evidence in AGW's favor. This evidence is just as conclusive as the bending of light from Mercury was for Relativity.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 14 Aug 2009 #permalink

>Are you mad? We have a substance here wich we know hardly anything about, and you are already talking about conclusions?

If dark matter was baryonic it wouldn't be dark. We know that much.

You are mad. Arguing from ignorance is just that.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 14 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray, as luminous beauty explains above, very little in science will ever be absolutely falsified, to coin one of youir favourite words. What we can say is that humans are altering biogeochemical cycles (that is virtually certain), destroying vast tracts of natural habitat (ditto), driving species and genetically distinct populations to extinction at rates far exceeding their 'renewal'(e.g. through speciation, again ditto) and that there will be (and already are) profound consequences in the ways in which communiites, ecosystems and biomes across the biopshere function (ditto, ditto). One of the major ways in which humans are interfering through a combination of many processes, some described above, plus mass infusions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is climate change. Most scientists believe that there is more than enough evidence to strongly suggest that humans are disrupting climate patterns across the globe. This is hardly new: Keeling and others, as well as scientists during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration were predicting that, as the human population grew and spewed more C02 into the atmsophere that within three or four decades this may - that being the operative word - have significant effects in driving rapid warming.

Your posts reveal a staggering misunderstanding of the ways in which science works. As I said before, and let it sink in this time, please: SCIENCE DOES NOT ADVANCE BY CONSENSUS BUT PUBLIC POLICY MUST BE BASED ON IT. THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND ON THE ENVIRONMENT.

For their part, the sceptics know that they can not and never will win the scientific argument. But that is not their aim. Their aim is to sew enough doubt amongst the public and policymakers to render any meaningful actions to tackle the problem mute. They have taken the potential outcomes of climate change - of which there are admittedly many - and applied that uncertainty to the process of climate change itself. Again, I am repeating myself but the vast majority of the prophets of denial in my opinion categorically do not give a damn about the science, and they never have. They are distorting science in order to promote a pre-determined worldview and political agenda. That agenda is based on short-term profit. If you read any of the vast volumes I have read on science and public policy you'd realize that you are being manipulated by a powerful and well-funded lobby. I give lectures on this topic at various universities - when I began to explore the link between science and policy more than ten years ago, I uncovered a veritable hornet's nest of disinformation and a web of deceit spun by powerful vested interests anxious to crush any policies that may limit their profit making capacities. Through astroturf lobbying groups, huge powerful public relations firms and think tanks, as well as by recruiting some scientists to their cause, they exert a huge infleunce over scientific policy.

As I said yesterday, if anyone has an 'aversion to humanity' it is these people who are anxious to gamble away the future in favor of short-term profit. I also have an aversion to people who write such blinding nonsense as you did yesterday when you made that phrase. Yes, it annoyed me seriously, because it was utterly without foundation. Given that the anti-environmental lobby - for that is what I see as the lobby occupied by the denialists is - have used all kinds of wretched tactics and smears against scientists, I find such a statement by you as woefully ill-informed. Having been the target of such comments myself over the years for my efforts to counter disinformation spun by the denialists, it particularly struck a nerve.

As for the future, we cannot say that climate change will categorically and definitely be catastrophic. I agree with you on that. But there is enough evidence to show that much of nature will not be able to adapt fast enough to rates of change unseen in perhaps hundreds of thousands of years or more, and especially so since humans have simplified nature in a huge range of other ways already over the past two centuries. Nature is clearly resilient to human assaults to a point, but beyond that we might expect to see very nasty surprises. The changes will not be linear because complex adaptive systems do not function in a linear fashion. Once certain thresholds are passed, such as the loss of keystone species that play vital roles in regulating ecosystem processes, then we can confidently expect systems to collapse, taking with them an array of vital services that sustain us. No species utilizes more form nature than Homo sapiens, and no species will be more affected by rapid changes into alternative states than us. Think about it Ray: is it prudent to continue with a global experiment on complex systems that generate conditions permitting our existence? If you were connected to a life-support apparatus in a hospital that has very complex functions that were barely understood, and your life depended on it, how would you feel if doctors starting coming in and fiddled with it, removed some of its parts, etc.? Would you be OK with that, knowing the thing could malfunction at any time? You must start thinking in this way about the link between human welfare and nature, and between different processes (habitat loss, invasive species, climate change) which are all synergized and which will have repercussions for humans. Its just that we need to know how bad our tinkering is likely to be.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 15 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray posts a raft of misinformation:

Nobody, neither denialists nor skeptics, want human civilisation to collapse. The argument that it will collapse if we don't reduce CO2 emissions is not proven. It's as simple as that.

In 1970, 12% of the Earth's land surface was severely dry by the Palmer Drought Severity Index. In 2002 that figure was 30% and still rising (Dai et al. 2004). Global Climate Models predicted a long time ago that global warming would mean increased drought in continental interiors. Are you forgetting what just happened to Australia?

Do you think data gathered 100 years ago is reliable?

Yes. Why wouldn't it be? Scientists in the 19th century were fully capable of reading a thermometer. They might not have had as many decimals of precision and might have had higher error bars as well, but there's no reason at all to think they were incompetent. Observations don't come with an expiration date.

Evironmental damage in respect of acid rain, smog in cities that harm our health etc. is due to obsolete, old-fashioned power plants.

I was referring to global warming, which also counts as environmental damage. You know, disappearing glaciers which provide rivers that provide fresh water to a billion people, massive droughts in continental interior, increasing ocean acidification which has already killed 50% of the coral reefs in the world. That kind of thing.

One of the best-kept secrets in the global warming debate is that the plant life of Planet Earth would benefit greatly from a higher level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. You read that correctly. Flowers, trees, and food crops love carbon dioxide, and the more they get of it, the more they love it.

There is no CO2 fertilization effect. I've done the math, have you? CO2 is not the nutrient available in least supply for most crops--Liebig's Law of the Minimum--so raising it does very little good. Where it does have an effect, it helps weeds grow faster than crops.

I think I'm done with this thread. Ray has shown himself, time and again, to be incapable of learning, and I think all the lurkers have probably moved on to the more recent threads on Deltoid. I advise everyone here to do the same.

Ray @ 271

If plants had emotions, they'd thank us profusely for increasing CO2 levels.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you so much Mr Homo Sapiens for providing us with that lovely nectare, CO2, which we need so much. Cool! You are our best friend, and we will return the friendship by providing you with bountiful food resources."

In the words of the late Eric Morecombe "There's no answer to that".

By Steve Chamberlain (not verified) on 15 Aug 2009 #permalink

(Second time lucky)

To all who tread the miasmatic marsh that is the settling lagoon of Ray's thread...

...I second the sentiments of Barton and others. There is no point engaging Ray, because he refuses to address the points of others. If no-one speaks to him here, he will only have himself to speak to, and that's a conversation that would go nowhere fast.

If there are others here who have questions regarding Ray's distorted views on matters, for example on why money is not a directly proportional representation of energy over time, or why CO2 is not the manna from plant heaven that Ray imagines, ask them on one of the Open threads where Ray is not permitted. That way you will get an answer with much less bandwidth hijacked by Ray's lunacy.

If he feels the need to respond to such questions he can do so here, and thus not feel that he has been censored. There's no point engaging him directly though, because he does not incorporate adjustments and counter-evidence to his world view, and he has demonstrably incorrect understanding about many fundamental points. And before you say anything Ray - yes, I frequently do so.

Resist the temptation to further engage with Ray.

He is a tar baby.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 15 Aug 2009 #permalink

What we can say is that humans are altering biogeochemical cycles (that is virtually certain), destroying vast tracts of natural habitat (ditto), driving species and genetically distinct populations to extinction at rates far exceeding their 'renewal'(e.g. through speciation, again ditto) and that there will be (and already are) profound consequences in the ways in which communiites, ecosystems and biomes across the biopshere function (ditto, ditto).
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 15, 2009 7:13 AM

No dispute there. Toxic chemicals being inappropriately dumped; excessive deforestation in many areas resulting in loss of habitat for wildlife; poor agricultural practices which ruin the soil and cause salt to rise to the surface; old-fashioned power stations with poor emission controls spewing SO2 and particulate carbon into the atmosphere; cars and trucks with and without emission controls still spewing CO and NO2 into the atmosphere.

The trouble I'm having Jeff, with my very limited understanding, is how huge areas of windmill farms, or PVP farms, are able to redress the environmental damage mentioned above. Please take the trouble to explain, for everyone's benefit.

One of the major ways in which humans are interfering through a combination of many processes, some described above, plus mass infusions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is climate change.

Now we're getting to the crux of the matter. Instead of tackling the real environmental damage we see around us, directly, effectively and with cheap energy which makes the job a lot more affordable, you want a policy which imposes a tax on cheap energy and which might wreck the economy.

I've done my best earlier, in this thread and other threads, to explain the connection between the cost of energy and prosperity. It seems so obvious to me, I just can't understand why anyone is having trouble grasping the concept.

Whatever we want to do, whether it's cleaning up the environment or constructing concrete water pipes to carry water from high-rainfall areas to drought areas, or helping the starving millions in the world, cheap energy makes it more feasible. Expensive energy makes it less feasible.

Most scientists believe that there is more than enough evidence to strongly suggest that humans are disrupting climate patterns across the globe.

How does this statement fit in with your statement below where you write that science does not advance by consensus?

Your posts reveal a staggering misunderstanding of the ways in which science works. As I said before, and let it sink in this time, please: SCIENCE DOES NOT ADVANCE BY CONSENSUS BUT PUBLIC POLICY MUST BE BASED ON IT. THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND ON THE ENVIRONMENT.

If that's what you think, then I think it's fair for me to say that your posts reveal a staggering lack of information on the ways in which science really does work.

Everything that I write is based upon what I genuinely, but also provisionally, believe to be true. I would never, ever refuse to accept I was wrong if the evidence proved such.

Furthermore, I would never knowingly accept any policy based upon lies, deception and exaggeration, such as the policy to invade Iraq. Let the Iraqi war be a lesson of what can happen when the public are deceived. If the public had been told the truth about the nature of the intelligence information on Iraqi activities; the uncertainty of the claims of Al Qaeda connections; the uncertainty of the existence of weapons of mass destruction; the uncertainty of Iraqi plans to create the atom bomb etc, the war would never have got off the ground.

Is this your idea of policy-making, Jeff? Treat the public like little children who should be told little white lies for their own good?

As I've written before, your idea that there is no middle ground on the environment is plain nonsense. Such a statement implies you are a rabid environmentalist; too emotional to be trusted. It is only the middle ground that works in a democracy. Are you advocating a dictatorship with an environmentalist in control? God forbid!

Here is what happens when we go to the 'middleground' on the environment.

Cod fishermen catch 1.2 million tons of fish. Fishery biologists say the sustainable yield is 740,000 tons and the catch needs to be limited to that level. There is hue and cry. The biologists are accused of not caring about people or about jobs. The fishery managers compromise on a 'middle ground,' and set a catch level of 900,000 tons, with a proimise to monitor.

5 years later, Cod fishermen catch 880,000 tons of fish. Fishery biologists say the overfishing has dropped the sustainable yield to 550,000 tons and the catch needs to be limited to that level. There is hue and cry. The biologists are accused of not caring about people or about jobs. The fishery managers compromise on a 'middle ground,' and set a catch level of 700,000 tons, with a promise to monitor.

Iterate - and 25 years later the middle ground leads to a decimated and closed Cod fishery - which may never recover - and all the fishermen, every one, out of work.
Apply to literally every fishery on the planet but two - Alaska salmon and Maine lobster - and that is what the middle ground gets us. We get a world ocean without viable fisheries, with large top predators effectively eliminated and a new open ecological niche that jellyfish are taking over.

When the 'middle ground' means we ignore hard reality, it bites us. If "It is only the middle ground that works in a democracy" then we are fucked - we will "middle ground" ourselves out of the sustainable natural processes that support our civilization. Me, I prefer acknowledging and dealing with the hard reality, over wishful thinking based on a 'middle' ground' compromise that depends on wishing that reality will change to accomodate what we want.

I think I'm done with this thread. Ray has shown himself, time and again, to be incapable of learning, and I think all the lurkers have probably moved on to the more recent threads on Deltoid. I advise everyone here to do the same.
Posted by: Barton Paul Levenson | August 15, 2009 7:22 AM

I wouldn't advise everyone to stay away from this thread, but perhaps only those those who have adopted AGW as a religion. I don't like messing with peoples' religion. You never know what can happen. People generally need a cause to believe in, to provide a sense of purpose. Believing you can save the planet, and life as we know it, by simply reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions, must be a very uplifting experience for some of you.

Rather, this thread, as I see it, is for the intelligent lay person with an open mind who is prepared to consider all the ramifications, costs, alternative approaches and their consequences, directly and indirectly, of attempting to tackle what remains an unproven hypothesis, ie; that increases in CO2 emissions will be diastrous for our well-being.

Let's have a look at the following rather amazing statement from Barton Paul levenson:

There is no CO2 fertilization effect. I've done the math, have you? CO2 is not the nutrient available in least supply for most crops--Liebig's Law of the Minimum--so raising it does very little good. Where it does have an effect, it helps weeds grow faster than crops.

Wow! I can't quite believe I'm reading this. Ladies and Gentlemen, here we have the finest example of pure denialism I've come across in a long time. Barton Paul Levenson has proved mathematically that there is no CO2 fertilization effect.

Not only is this statement a classic case of denialism, it's also a classic case of the 'straw man' argument being used for denial purposes. No knowledgeable person claims that CO2 is a fertilizer.

Did you get that? Shall I repeat it? NO KNOWLEDGEABLE PERSON CLAIMS THAT CO2 IS A FERTILIZER.

It's not difficult to find out about such matters, you know! For your edification, I've put together a brief primer on photosynthesis, gathered from sources on the net, such as Wikipedia and extracts from various research papers.

But first let's examine Barton Paul Levenson's straw man argument which caught me by surprise because I never even considered that CO2 could be a fertilizer for plants. I didn't have to dig at all deep to find the following explanation.

The biggest confusion is that people talk of CO2 as fertilizer. Fertilizer is to plants what vitamins are to people. CO2 is not fertilizer, it is food, the principle food of plants. Each plant's body, and therefore all bodies of living things, are built primarily from CO2. Most people do not understand this. It is one thing to say that CO2 is essential for life, which every biology book does. It is quite another to actually get people to understand that when they eat a steak they are eating processed CO2. That when they watch the leaves come out, they are watching CO2 being processed. That when they watch their child grow, they are watching processed CO2 being further processed. Plus that CO2 is a rare gas, therefore not to be blithely curtailed.

Okay! Is that settled? Let's move on to our basic primer on photosynthesis.

(1) Photosynthesis is the conversion of carbon dioxide and water into a sugar called glucose using sunlight energy. Oxygen is produced as a waste product.

(2) Chlorophyll is the green chemical needed by plants for this process.

(3) Photosynthesis results in an increase in biomass.

(4) The amount of energy trapped by photosynthesis is immense, approximately 100 terawatts which is about six times larger than the power consumption of human civilization.

(5) Plants usually convert light into chemical energy with a photosynthetic efficiency of 3-6%. Actual plants' photosynthetic efficiency varies with the frequency of the light being converted, light intensity, temperature and proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere, and can vary from 0.1% to 8%.

Did you get that, or did you conveniently gloss over the inconvenient fact? PHOTOSYNTHETIC EFFICIENCY VARIES WITH THE PROPORTION OF CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE.

(6) There are three photosynthesis âpathwaysâ, known as C3, C4 and CAM. CAM is unimportant for food crops, being the method used by cacti, succulents and agaves. Pineapple is the only food crop of any importance to use CAM, so CAM can be neglected for the present purposes. World food security depends on C3 and C4 photosynthesis.

(7) Less than 1% of all plant species in the world use the C4 photosynthesis pathway. Of the 86 plant species that supply most of the worldâs food, only five use the C4 photosynthetic pathway.

(8) Those crops using the C3 pathway include nearly all cereals (wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, triticale etc), all legumes (dry bean, soybean, peanut, mung bean, faba bean, cowpea, common pea, chickpea, pigeon pea, lentil etc), nearly all fruits (including banana, coconut etc), roots and tubers (potato, taro, yams, sweet potato, cassava etc). C3 is also the pathway for sugar beet, for fibre crops (cotton, jute, sisal etc) and oil crops (sesame, sunflower, rapeseed, safflower etc), and for trees.

Got that folks? It is the C3 photosynthesis pathway which is the one to watch.

(9) C4 plants show a relatively small improvement in photosynthesis rate with increasing atmospheric CO2 above present levels; however, at increased levels of CO2 the leaf pores (stomata) of both C4 and C3 plants increasingly close up, which also reduces the amount of water lost by the plant (transpiration). Thus C3 and C4 plants significantly improve their water efficiency as CO2 levels increase.

(10) C3 photosynthesis is less efficient than C4 partly because of an effect known as photo-respiration, which results in the loss (to the atmosphere or soil) of a substantial proportion of the carbon that has been extracted from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. C3 photo-respiration increases under heat stress and drought, which is a major factor behind the choice of C4 crops for hot dry climates.

However, as CO2 levels increase, photo-respiration is suppressed, such that at double todayâs levels of atmospheric CO2 the efficiencies of C3 plants (in photosynthesis rate and water use) are as good as or better than C4 plants. Moreover, at higher levels of CO2, C3 plants can maintain efficient photosynthesis rates at considerably higher temperatures than todayâs conditions â their optimal temperatures for photosynthesis increase.

(11) As CO2 concentrations increase, the photosynthetic efficiency gap between C3 and C4 plants rapidly closes, and at double todayâs CO2 concentration (i.e. at 780 ppm instead of todayâs 390 ppm), the photosynthesis rates are the same. Incidentally, the majority of the worldâs most troublesome weeds use the C4 pathway, and so have a competitive advantage over C3 crops at current CO2 concentrations. At higher CO2 concentrations, competing for the same resources on the same patch (light, water, CO2, nutrients etc), C3 crops increasing out-compete the weeds.

Well, I hope I've enlightened some of you. Such a pity those points were not 10 instead of 11. With 10 points I might have been able to appeal to the Bible bashers, LOL!

If anyone wishes to correct me on any those points, citing an authoritative source, please feel free. I have an open mind.

Here is what happens when we go to the 'middleground' on the environment.
Cod fishermen catch 1.2 million tons of fish. Fishery biologists say the sustainable yield is 740,000 tons and the catch needs to be limited to that level. There is hue and cry. The biologists are accused of not caring about people or about jobs. The fishery managers compromise on a 'middle ground,' and set a catch level of 900,000 tons, with a proimise to monitor.
Posted by: Lee | August 15, 2009 1:25 PM

With cheap energy and increased crop yields from increased CO2 concentrations, we can build economically viable fish farms. We could attempt the same with expensive energy from Windmill power, but then the price of fish would be higher.

Our best chance of preventing the wipe-out of fish species in the sea is to provide an alternative source of fish from fish farms at a competitive price to netted fish from the sea. Cheap energy makes that feasible. Expensive energy makes it less feasible.

Plain common sense really. Not difficult, surely!

David W. Wolfe, Dept of Fruit and Vegetable Science, Cornell, and Jon D. Erikson, Dept of Agricultural Economics, Cornell:
In "Carbon Dioxide Effects in Plants: uncertainties and implications for modeling crop response to climate change."

In the first paragraph: "An assumption of a positive crop response to CO2, a so-called "CO2 fertilizer effect," can have a substantial impact..."

In the second paragraph: "Depending on the magnitude of the CO2 fertilizer effect.... " and "Models are sometimes run with and without the CO2 fertilizer effect..."

S, Fred Singer and Denis T Avery, "Unstoppable global warming: every 1,500 years" Quote: "CO2 acts like fertilizer for trees and plants and also increases their water use efficiency"

Gifford et al, "The CO2 Fertilizing
Effect: Relevance to teh Global Carbon Cycle." In TML Wigley and DAvid Steven Schimel, ed , "The Carbon Cycle"

Tim Curtin: "CO2 is a fertilizer, without which..."

And on and on - a mix of the very knowledgeable and the clueless. These are found easily by a google search of some mix of the terms co2, fertilizer, climate

But once more, Ray shows himself to be the one without knowledge.

David W. Wolfe, Dept of Fruit and Vegetable Science, Cornell, and Jon D. Erikson, Dept of Agricultural Economics, Cornell: In "Carbon Dioxide Effects in Plants: uncertainties and implications for modeling crop response to climate change."
In the first paragraph: "An assumption of a positive crop response to CO2, a so-called "CO2 fertilizer effect," can have a substantial impact..."
In the second paragraph: "Depending on the magnitude of the CO2 fertilizer effect.... " and "Models are sometimes run with and without the CO2 fertilizer effect..."
S, Fred Singer and Denis T Avery, "Unstoppable global warming: every 1,500 years" Quote: "CO2 acts like fertilizer for trees and plants and also increases their water use efficiency"
Gifford et al, "The CO2 Fertilizing Effect: Relevance to teh Global Carbon Cycle." In TML Wigley and DAvid Steven Schimel, ed , "The Carbon Cycle"
Tim Curtin: "CO2 is a fertilizer, without which..."
And on and on - a mix of the very knowledgeable and the clueless. These are found easily by a google search of some mix of the terms co2, fertilizer, climate
But once more, Ray shows himself to be the one without knowledge.
Posted by: Lee | August 15, 2009 11:31 PM

LOL! Well, Lee, you've certainly put Barton Paul Levenson in an awkward position. I've accused him of a lack of knowledge because he's disproved mathematically that there is no fertilizer effect from increases in CO2 (despite my making no such claim that there was), and you accuse me of a lack of knowledge because both Barton Paul Levenson and myself are wrong on the grounds that Fred Singer et al claim that there is a fertilizer effect from increased CO2 levels.

How curious! Both Barton Paul Levenson and myself, with opposing arguments on the AGW issue, are both wrong, because certain AGW skeptics claim that CO2 is a fertilizer.

Well, let me help dispel your confusion, free of charge. (But bear in miond there is no free lunch).

Did you notice in your quote that Fred Singer and Denis Avery wrote "CO2 acts like a fertilizer for trees and plants. Like is the operative word.

That means, it is not a fertilizer, but its effect is like a fertiliser because increases in CO2 emissions promote growth, as fertilizers also promote growth, but not necessarily by the same mechanism.

The mechanism, as I tried to explain in my previous post, is connected with an increased efficiency of the photosynthesis process.

Got it? Smart bloke!

Ray, for heaven's sake don't go down that long discredited 'C02 is like a fertilizer that will increase crop yields' malarky. This was demolished by myself and about 10 other posters on the now defunct Tim Curtin thread. Increased C02 levels will lead to reductions in foliar nitrogen that will have huge consequences on food webs and soil communities. Moreover, the effects of enhanced carbon depend on the evolutionary history of the plant to high ambient atmospheric C02 concentrations. Mopreover, nitrogen is the primary limiting nutrient for most consumers and not carbon. As nitrogen is shunted out of plant tissues in favor of carbon, thus increasing the C:N ratio, herbivorous organisms, and particularly insects, will compensate by feeding more. More feeding damage = reduced plant fitness. Those few scientists promulgating this myth categorically do not understand ecology. They work on individual organisms but are singlularly incapable of putting them into a community framework. Singer and Avery don't count. Singer, as far as I know, has never done nay ecological research in his life, and Avery is a think tank hack. The fact that Ray has read their drivel (but apparently none of the primary literature) tells me even more about silly old simple Ray than it did before.

Its quite remarkable that, as Ray's anti-AGW arguments were systematically shredded, he's fled to this 'new' area of ecophysiology. What we do know is that enhanced atmospheric C02 will not create a 'green' utopia. Anyone advocating this knows nothing about the complex ways in which communities and ecosystems function. This argument is essentially just as stupid as the one made by many contrarians that a warmer world will enable many sparsely inhabited parts of Canada and Russia becoming 'bread baskets' because of a more temperate climate. This also ignores a wealth of ecophysiological processes that regulate system productivity. Soil chemistry, for instance, in boreal regions is acid and supports a unique biota; a sudden temeprature shift will unravel food webs that are critical in driving system resilience and productivity.

So many morons cannot see the wood for the tress and believe that a simple change in parameter 'x' will lead to a change in processes 'a' through 'm'. Ray, get it through your head: natural systems are complex and function in decidedly non-linear ways. Cause and effect relationships over even large scales cannot be simply extropolated on the basis of a chnage in one parameter. This change will cascade through systems in unpredictable non-linear ways. Ecologists know this!

It does not surprise me that Ray, who wears his denialist heart on his sleeve, resorts to another feeble excuse for 'doing nothing'. Ray, you claimed yesterday that you are an independent obesever in the phenomenon of global change and global warming. That's bullshit. You read a very selective overview of the contrarian literature, probably from web sites that are easy to access. I get the impression that you've hardly read any of the empirical studies probably because you do not understand them. You thus ignore vast tracts of information. Sorry to be so blunt, but facts are facts.

Barton was correct. This thread is a waste of time now. Ray will resort to any excuse he can on the basis of wafer thin arguments proposed by the likes of Fred Singer and Dennis Avery to support his worldview.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 16 Aug 2009 #permalink

Against my better judgement, I am back in this cesspit to point out to Ray what a scientific ignoramus he is.

Considering just one quote (as I simply am not motivated to trawl through all of them) it is interesting to read that Ray thinks:

(7) Less than 1% of all plant species in the world use the C4 photosynthesis pathway. Of the 86 plant species that supply most of the worldâs food, only five use the C4 photosynthetic pathway.

Ray, nice trawl through statistics. Unfortunately, you have twisted them in a way that would make Benjamin Disraeli gag. You appear to be implying that C4 plants are insignificant in terms of food sources, but anyone who relies upon maize, sugar cane, sorghum, and/or millet (not to mention C4 pasture species) might beg to differ. Have you actually stopped to consider how many humans rely on C4 staples for their survival?

Oo, and guess what? As these plants are concentrated in the tropics, where a large proportion of humanity also lives, and as they are the staples for hundreds of millions, if not billions, of (largely third world) people, your cavalier dismissal of the importance of C4s is staggering.

A few more points about C4s...

They may comprise just 1% of plant species, but this is an irrelevant statistic because [they are responsible for fixing 30% of carbon captured by plants](http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/361/1465/173.full.html).

Given the sensitivity of C3s to drought, higher temperature and nitrogen limitation, C4s are going to be proportionately more important in a warming climate, increased CO2 or no. That's going to require that Western agriculture and eating practices undergo some profound shifting...

And even under apparently favourable future conditions the jury is still out on [whether C4s will benefit](http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/02/21/rspb.20…).

Not all C3s are as susceptible to the climate milieu that will present during the 21st century, but unfortunately for humans (and other species), many of the C3s that will do well are the weed species. Oops.

As Jeff has mentioned above, and as I repeatedly tried to instill in Tim Curtin's skull on his eponymous thread, increased uptake of CO2 [results in proportionately less nitrogen content](http://tiny.cc/fIAzE) in the plant. The same seems to occur with trace elements such as zinc. Further, much of the extra bulk goes into leaf production rather than to grain. These sequelæ have significant direct nutritional implications for consumers of crops, and also for the degree to which pests damage crops in order to maintain their own nutritional intakes.

I could go on, but there's no bloody point is there? You just don't want to even countenance the possibility that perhaps humans are shitting in their own nest, rather than turning it into a Utopia of CO2- and heat-driven productivity.

Oh, and on "cheap energy"... can you explain how that'll work in 20 or 30 years, and especially in the food production contexts? A page should suffice...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 16 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray, you dishonest imbecilic little fucktard of a twit.

Barton said:
"There is no CO2 fertilization effect."

Ray responded:
"No knowledgeable person claims that CO2 is a fertilizer."

I responded with a list of quotes of both knowledgeable and unknowledgeable people, including agronomists and climate scientists, and climate denialists, discussing CO2 fertilization effect, using the phrase "CO2 fertilizer effect."
Exactly, precisely the phrase Barton used. "CO2 fertilizer effect."

Ray responds, 'but if I cherry pick the one of those quotes that doesn't use precisely the phrase Barton used, Singer (the absurd dishonest S. Fred) says it's LIKE a fertilizer, not that it IS a fertilizer, and therefore Barton is wrong.' Ray - the phrase "CO2 fertilizer EFFECT" is used to say that CO2 acts LIKE a fertilizer. That is why its called an "EFFECT," you fucking dishonest twit!

Ray, this whole portion of your ongoing diatribe here reduces to, "I misquoted Barton on a minor issue, My misquote implies something that isn't quite true, so even though Barton didn't actually say what my misquote claims he said but did use the jargon that is common in the field, Barton must be an idiot and wrong about everything."

There is an idiot here, Ray, but it ain't Barton.

> Lee at 280: Here is what happens when we go to the 'middleground' on the environment.

Beauty. Savin' that one.

Now that the foul airs have subsided, perhaps I can continue.

Perhaps I should warn everyone in advance, that outbreaks of abusive, foul-mouthed insults have no impact on me. I see them for what they are, a projection onto others of the abuser's own fears about himself; an attempt to deceive, not only others, but himself. This is a well known psychological mechanism to protect oneself, in Al Gore's words, from an inconvenient truth.

I found it quite fascinating to read recently that Ahmed Ahmadinejad, who has been so vitriolic in denouncing the Jews and denying the holocaust, probably has Jewish blood.

He no doubt suspects it himself, which is why he changed his name, but he needs to convince others (and himself) that there is no possible hint that he has Jewish blood.

Such are the powers of human deception. We can not only deceive others, but ourselves in the process.

Let's get back to photosynthesis. Bernard J. has responded to my primer with a few issues that I did not address. Obviously a primer cannot address all issues.

He writes, "Given the sensitivity of C3s to drought, higher temperature and nitrogen limitation, C4s are going to be proportionately more important in a warming climate, increased CO2 or no. That's going to require that Western agriculture and eating practices undergo some profound shifting...

I simply don't find any evidence for this, after trawling the internet for recent research papers. What I do find is that increases in CO2 levels may not benefit, in their net effect, the productivity of C4 plants (although that is still a contentious issue), but will certainly benefit the growth of C3 plants, on average.

There is of course, a distinction to be made between the proportion of C4 plant species that are used in agriculture, and the proportion of total food production from those species. It's quite possible for 1% of the agricultural species to provide 50% of the food output, for example.

In my primer, I simply quoted resources on the net. I understand there are always other issues and ramifications. My understanding is, that most plant life on the planet, including the rain forests in the Amazon, use a C3 pathway. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Let's look at Jeff harvey's rebuttal.

Ray, for heaven's sake don't go down that long discredited 'C02 is like a fertilizer that will increase crop yields' malarky. This was demolished by myself and about 10 other posters on the now defunct Tim Curtin thread. Increased C02 levels will lead to reductions in foliar nitrogen that will have huge consequences on food webs and soil communities. Moreover, the effects of enhanced carbon depend on the evolutionary history of the plant to high ambient atmospheric C02 concentrations. Moreover, nitrogen is the primary limiting nutrient for most consumers and not carbon. As nitrogen is shunted out of plant tissues in favor of carbon, thus increasing the C:N ratio, herbivorous organisms, and particularly insects, will compensate by feeding more. More feeding damage = reduced plant fitness. Those few scientists promulgating this myth categorically do not understand ecology. They work on individual organisms but are singlularly incapable of putting them into a community framework. Singer and Avery don't count. Singer, as far as I know, has never done any ecological research in his life, and Avery is a think tank hack. The fact that Ray has read their drivel (but apparently none of the primary literature) tells me even more about silly old simple Ray than it did before.

Let's put this into perspective. First, my understanding of increased CO2 effects on photosynthesis has nothing to do with Singer and Avery. It was that foul-mouthed guy under the pseudonym of Lee, who brought Singer and Avery into the discussion. As far as I'm concerned, Barton, Singer and Avery are all misprepresenting the issue by describing CO2 as acting like a fertiliser. I don't always take sides here, like most AGW believers appear to do. But I have some sympathy for the simplified, metaphorical language approach of describing CO2 as actimg like a fertiliser. But it's not really true. Both Barton and Singer are at fault. I'm not a partisan.

It should be apparent to all, that plant growth is dependent on the amount of fertilisers and trace elements in the soil, as well as the structure of the soil, the microbial activity in the soil, the temperature, and obviously of course, the amount of water available.

CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are just one factor which happens, with most plant life on the planet, to increase the efficiency of the photosythesis process. It doesn't increase the photosynthesis efficiency of all plant life, just most plant life.

There may well be some disadvantages of this increased efficiency. If the soil simply doesn't have the nutrients to support increases in protein production, then certain plants, despite increased production and mass, may suffer inversely proportional reduction in protein content.

This is a problem that happens today without any consideration of CO2 emissions. There has been more than one shipment of Australian wheat overseas that has been rejected on the grounds that the protein content of the wheat was not high enough.

Did I hear any excuse like, "Oh! We can't help it because of increased CO2 levels"? Of course not. Protein content depends on many factors including general soil health as well as nitrogen, sulphur, calcium and a host of trace elements.

What really concerns me about the AGW adherents is this 'glass half empty/ half full' concept. I consider all AGW adherents as 'glass haf empty' types. I'm a 'glass half-full type'. I'm optimistic about humanity's ability to solve problems through application of technology, intelligence and common sense. AGW adherents seem to nip at one's ankles like a small variety of dog defending its territory.

Exploiting our environment is our forte. If there are problems along the way, let's solve them. That's also our forte.

The AGW movement should not be totally ignored, however. They have some relevant points, however much exaggerated, but let's not succumb to this dumb 'glass half empty' attitude. Let's grasp the opportunities as they become apparent, and use them to humanity's advantage, including increases in atmospheric CO2.

I simply don't find any evidence for this, after trawling the internet for recent research papers.

The problem here is not that you didn't find "any evidence", but that you couldn't. But don't beat yourself up about it - you're just a business person with a background in engineering, so it's not completely surprising that you have been unable to thoroughly (or even basically) assimilate the ecological complexities of photosynthetic carbon fixation.

Perhaps "trawling the internet" was a part of your downfall...

Which reminds me...

In my primer [sic], I simply quoted resources on the net.

That's a great way to teach your grandmother to suck eggs. Have you ever thought about gaining a formal educaton in plant physiology before you attempt to explain it to the biologists here?

What I do find is that increases in CO2 levels may not benefit, in their net effect, the productivity of C4 plants (although that is still a contentious issue), but will certainly benefit the growth of C3 plants, on average

You "find" this, do you?

It seems that you are conveniently ignoring the concurrent temperature and water availability effects resulting from global warming, and also Leibig's Law of the Minimum, and also the previously mentioned disproportionate effects resulting from nutritional shifts and pest herbivory. Oo, and need I reiterate the problem of C3 weeds? Oh, and the hassles that come with peak oil and the resulting scarcity of industrial fertiliser practice? And oo, oo again - the problems that result from the shiftings and contractions of suitable agricultural land?

And, and... and so on...

Of course, if you believe the converse - that (according to your logic):

C4s are going to be proportionately less important in a warming climate, increased CO2 or no.

knock yourself out.

I would love to see your evidence that supports this stance.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 18 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ping: Lee

In another forum, your history of a cod fishery's decline and the causes thereof has been challenged.

Do you have a cite that gives details?

The problem here is not that you didn't find "any evidence", but that you couldn't.
Posted by: Bernard J. | August 18, 2009 8:30 AM

It's no problem for me, Bernard. We're in the information age and the internet is one of the greatest resources of readily accessible information I know of.

If you have some secret information about these issues that's not readily available to the general public, then perhaps you could inform us all, provide a link, or at least explain why the information is secret or difficult to find.

It seems that you are conveniently ignoring the concurrent temperature and water availability effects resulting from global warming, and also Leibig's Law of the Minimum, and also the previously mentioned disproportionate effects resulting from nutritional shifts and pest herbivory. Oo, and need I reiterate the problem of C3 weeds? Oh, and the hassles that come with peak oil and the resulting scarcity of industrial fertiliser practice? And oo, oo again - the problems that result from the shiftings and contractions of suitable agricultural land?
Posted by: Bernard J. | August 18, 2009 8:30 AM

Not at all. I haven't ignored any of those problems. I live on a 5 acre property and have experimented in growing a wide variety of plants. Some do better than others for a host of reasons; temperature, availability of trace elements, soil structure, pH of soil, amount of water and availability of basic fertilisers such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous etc.

If a plant needs a particular element for healthy growth, and the soil is lacking in that element, or the soil pH is simply not suited to a particular plant, then the plant will simply not thrive, and any increase in atmospheric CO2 will not necessarily help. Mangoes don't grow well in cold climates and apples don't grow well in the tropics.

Increased atmospheric CO2 can be of benefit to many C3 plants, according to circumstances. There may be more problems with C3 weeds. On the other hand, with increased levels of CO2 there would likely be less problems with C4 weeds competing with C3 plants.

If it becomes necessary to change agricultural practices and/or genetically modify plants for any reason, whether CO2 issues are involved or not, then we should do it. What's the problem? Not smart enough?

re: DanL

What forum?

No single link - my knowledge comes from a lot of places.

I got interested in fisheries management from reading National Fisherman magazine cover to cover, every issue, back in the late 70s and early 80s when it was the best general boat design and boat building magazine on the market. Cod management and cod fishery decline was a common topic even then.

I've followed regional fisheries debates since - I may have the precise numbers mingled between fisheries, because I wrote that from memory - but the "middle ground" dynamic is clear. There were other issues in play, too - technology enabling massive overfishing, unregulated overfishing from nations that didn't join regulatory frameworks, and (another middle ground, actually) reluctance to use foreign policy muscle to limit nations that were overfishing, for example. But the regulated fisheries routinely did what I said - set regulatory quotas between the sustainable yield and the overfished current catch, and follow that strategy all the way into fishery collapse.

One of the major steps was when Canada finally abandoned the safe 'middle ground' of watching and wringing hands, and asserted regulatory control over the NW Cod fishery. Canada used the military to enforce a fishing ban, and siezed foreign fishing ships. Nearly started a war - but it was too late to save the fishery, which was already in terminal collapse.

The book "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World" by Mark Kurlansky covers some of this.

The Wikipedia article hints at it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_cod

For example, for example:

"In the 1970s, the annual catch [North Sea Cod stock] rose to between 200,000 - 300,000 tons. Due to concerns about overfishing, catch quotas were repeatedly reduced in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, ICES stated that there is a high risk of stock collapse if current exploitation levels continue, and recommended a moratorium on catching Atlantic cod in the North Sea during 2004. However, agriculture and fisheries ministers from the Council of the European Union endorsed the EU/Norway Agreement and set the total allowable catch (TAC) 27,300 tons."

"The North-East Arctic cod catch reached a historic maximum of 1,343,000 tons in 1956, and bottomed out at 212,000 tons in 1990. Since 2000, the spawning stock has increased quite quickly, helped by low fishing pressure. However, there are worries about a decreased age at first spawning (often an early sign of stock collapse), combined with the level of discards and unreported catches. The total catch in 2003 was 521,949 tons, the major fishers being Norway (191,976 tons) and Russia (182,160 tons)."

There is one moderately healthy cod fishery left, in the Barents sea, but probably not for long - fishign quotes currently allow take substantially higher than the sustainable yield.

"Ãsmund Bjordal, director of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research [16] who stated that in view of the health of the Barents Sea cod population, cod should not be placed on an endangered species list. Cod is among Norway's most important fishery export items and the Barents Sea is the most important cod fishery of Norway. In a 2004 report [17], the WWF agreed that the Barents Sea cod fishery appeared to be healthy but that that may not last due to illegal fishing, industrial development, and high fishing quota."

Ray, the problem is that you are apparently not smart enough. Plants depend on more than soil pH of nutrients for growth - they depend upon an array of soil biota, including mutualists and antagonists: microbes, mycorrhizal fungi, plant parasitic nematodes, entomopathogenic nematodes, soil dwelling arthropods etc. Moreover, as a recent colleague in soil ecololgy said at a seminar here, carbon is not the main limiting nutrient for system productivity but phosphorus is. Nitrogen is limiting for consumers.

With respect to soil biota, nitrogen fixing bacteria, for example, are a critical factor in promoting plant growth. Increases in temperature are likely to profoundly impact soil biota in non-linear ways, and will certainly impact soil food webs. This will have a knock-on effect on plant productivity and above ground ecological communities. A PhD student recently studied this here at the institute where I work and she found that gradual increases in soil temperature had significant effects on the soil community, effects that were hard to predict beforehand.

The other post, where you write about 'half empty versus half full glasses' is utter jibberish. Given your worse than basic understanding of ecology, how can you of all people make such an observation about the state-of-the-art in any scientific endeavor? Let me put it this way: you are starting with an intellectually largely empty glass whereas people working in science possess glasses that are much more full. I am afraid that you aren't particularly qualified to make value judgements of any substance on the environment. Your opinions are therefore based on a very limited empirical base.

As far as Dan L's question is concerned, I suggest he reads up the emprical data and reviews in the ecology literature. A wide range of studies have been published reporting collapses in predatory marine fish stocks, amny by well over 90%. Pretty well all fish populations at the terminal end of the marine food chain have been decimated: the consequences for the ways in which marine food webs function is likely to be dire. A review was written about this in Trends in Ecology and Evolution in 2007. I'd like to know any luminary which challenges the facts of human impacts on marine fish stocks. I cannot believe that any marinbe biologist would question the fact that 11 out of 15 of the world's major fisheries are at or beyond the brink of collapse. K-factor analyses has shown the average size of cod and other fish cpatured for human consumptioon has been in decline for years. Moreover, humans are now having to fish down the food chain, a clear example of the fact that we have decimated the fourth trophic level.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 18 Aug 2009 #permalink

Can't remember where I saw it recently (traveling a lot), but I saw a term 'Peak Fish' with the peak around 1986 or so. Anyone who asserts we aren't fishing down the food web is a dim-bulb.

BTW, interesting recent study that confirms the 2002 paper that projected nutritional value of grains would be less in higher CO2 regimes...

Best,

D

The other post, where you write about 'half empty versus half full glasses' is utter jibberish. Given your worse than basic understanding of ecology, how can you of all people make such an observation about the state-of-the-art in any scientific endeavor? Let me put it this way: you are starting with an intellectually largely empty glass whereas people working in science possess glasses that are much more full. I am afraid that you aren't particularly qualified to make value judgements of any substance on the environment. Your opinions are therefore based on a very limited empirical base.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 18, 2009 11:49 AM

What an extraordinary arrogance, Jeff. Don't comment because I know more than you!!

Whatever a person's speciality and qualifications, he/she cannot help but comment from a perspective of limited understanding. However much a person knows, there is always more to learn, in every field.

Are you suggesting that no-one should comment on any subject whatsoever, unless he is in a position to claim to be amongst the most knowledgeable of experts in the field?

What sort of strange world do you inhabit, Jeff? People have always been ready to comment on any subject that interests them and that affects them, and quite rightly so.

I get a sense that you are actually a little 'dictator' in disguise, ready at the first opportunity to impose a world order run by environmentalists.

With respect to soil biota, nitrogen fixing bacteria, for example, are a critical factor in promoting plant growth. Increases in temperature are likely to profoundly impact soil biota in non-linear ways, and will certainly impact soil food webs. This will have a knock-on effect on plant productivity and above ground ecological communities. A PhD student recently studied this here at the institute where I work and she found that gradual increases in soil temperature had significant effects on the soil community, effects that were hard to predict beforehand.

Even little old ladies who take up gardening in their spare time probably understand that the soil is a seething mass of invisible microbes and bacteria. I've seen it often quoted that the total mass of life under the soil surface, exceeds the total mass of plant and animal life above the surface. The number of different species of microbes is also staggering and, correct me if I'm wrong, I believe we've identified and catalogued only a small proportion of those microbial species.

What I find puzzling about your attitude is the implicit assumption that there is a normal and natural balance in climate which should be preserved at all costs. I don't know if you really think that or whether it's just my impression I get from your arguments.

Let's try at least to be clear on certain points that we can perhaps both accept. Climate is always changing, for better or for worse, is it not? In fact, one could go further and state that change in all matters is simply a fact of life. Nothing, absolutely nothing in life remains static and unchanging. Do you not agree on this point?

Trying to preserve some sort of imaginary and illusory status quo is a fool's game.

As climate changes, for whatever reason, due to anthropogenic causes or not, the types of crops that grow best in any particular locality will also change.

I believe during the Medieval Warming Period, grapes began to be grown in parts of Northern Europe and the Vikings found the southern shores of Greenland suitable for certain types of agriculture. As we moved into the Little Ice Age, it became increasingly difficult to grow grapes at the same northern latitudes, and the Vikings were no longer able to sustain themselves in Greenland.

Is it not a basic principle of evolution that all creature will attempt to adapt to their changing environment?

That's what we should be doing, and in my view, in order to adapt successfully, it helps to have cheap energy.

Ray.

I also have a property, a number of times larger than yours, upon which I grow dozens of different types of fruit trees. My land is in a prime horticultural region of the state, and my neighbours have been pome-fruit and berry growers for three generations.

I once asked them if they have noticed any change in yields or productivity that they could ascribe to the increase in atmospheric CO2 over the last century. Although anecdotal, a short conversation between father and son indicated that there was no noticable increase that couldn't easily be attributed to changes in cultivation practices, which tended to occur in very quick bursts.

Indeed, the old bloke was not entirely convinced that there might not have been an underlying decrease in productivity once improvements to cultivation techniques were accounted for, and he was especially sour about the increase in pest and weed species that they had had to deal with over the decades.

When I suggested that AGW denialists considered CO2 to be a boon to production, he snorted and said "well, I 'aven't seen it in my years". In fact he was rather dirty about the distinct moderation in winter temperatures that has occurred over the last decade or two, and the consequent the fact that the numbers of chilling hours each winter were declining - in some cases to the point where old orchards were ripped up and replaced with varieties that were better suited to low chill hours.

I noticed the same reduction in chilling hours: so much so that I have installed a weather station to monitor temperature (and wind/pressure/et cetera) at twenty minute intervals over the course of each day. It's not quite the end of winter yet, and I've only been recording for one season, but there appears to be a dramatic reduction in the chilling hours compared with that which used to be reported for the region in past years.

My brother-in-law works on a salmon farm, and his company is extrememly concerned about the increase in ocean temperatures here, to the point that they anticipate having to shift from salmon to new finfish species in the near future. In summer the farms hover a degree or two below the threshold for mass mortality arising from the warm currents - that never happened when the farms were first established.

So, perhaps CO2 is somehow a panacæa in your world, but in the real world where I rub shoulders with professional primary producers it has yet to show any benefit, and more importantly, to show that its negative impacts are not going to be severely damaging to those same primary industries.

So Ray, can you provide details of which primary industries are going to reap the benefits of the CO2 manna from heaven, and where in the world these industries are/will be located?

Perhaps you can collaborate with Tim Curtin. He [seems to think](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/03/tim_curtin_thread.php#comment-1…) that he's nailed the CO2 effect, and we're waiting with bated breath for his [October](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/03/tim_curtin_thread.php#comment-1…) publication. If you're quick, maybe you could jump on board his wagon...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 18 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray | August 18, 2009 10:56 AM
âIncreased atmospheric CO2 can be of benefit to many C3 plants, according to circumstances. There may be more problems with C3 weeds. On the other hand, with increased levels of CO2 there would likely be less problems with C4 weeds competing with C3 plants.â

âMayâ? âCan be?â âLikely?â âAccording to circumstances?â Steady on there Ray, youâre beginning to sound as though youâve got Doubts, whatâs going on? Donât tell me a little of the copious amounts of information and links that Jeff Harvey, Bernard J. and others have posted is starting to sink in? Donât tell me youâre beginning to realise the ecology of plant communities is a bit more complex than âjust add carbonâ?

Then again, perhaps not...
âIf it becomes necessary to change agricultural practices and/or genetically modify plants for any reason, whether CO2 issues are involved or not, then we should do it. What's the problem? Not smart enough?â

OK, so now you think youâve solved most of the big issues wrt plant growth on your 5 acre block, and you think youâre well on your way to fixing up agriculture. For the sake of argument (and even though it conveniently ignores innumerable bagatelles like management of microclimates, soils, water quantity and quality and pest and disease management), letâs pretend thatâs handled the issues for most of the plant species humans use (for food, clothing, medicines, fuels, drugs, paints, lubricants and building materials). What, then, do you propose to do about the other ~250 000 plant species that appear not to matter to you or are simply in the way of you and your lifestyle? You know, all that tropical rainforest jungle stuff you have to clear to put in a coffee or banana or coca leaf plantation, all that broadleaf deciduous forest you have to get rid of before you can turn the place into a giant barley plain, all that diverse eucalypt woodland you have tidy up with a bulldozer before you can put in your pine plantations, all those wetlands you have to dredge before you can get at the water you need for your rice crops and cotton plantations? You know, all that pesky diversity stuff those blasted eco-nazis are always banging on about, all those useless hundreds of thousands of species of autotroph that take CO2 from the atmosphere and make oxygen as a by-product, condition the soil, regulate weather systems, filter surface and ground water, serve as shelter or foraging habitat for (and are partly or wholly dependent on) thousands of vertebrate and invertebrate species, are host to (and are partly or wholly dependent on) innumerable species of fungi and bacteria, which assist in the weathering of bedrock to produce soil, which are responsible for nutrient cycling and create entire energy systems? How do you propose to fix the effects of not just shifts in the carbon and nitrogen cycles but a shift in the balance between the two? Or the individual and combined effects of these on other cycles (potassium, phosphorus for example)? What are you going to do â douse the planet with superphosphate (like a mirror image of the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam)? Then thereâs the effects of a climate warming so fast that many (if not most) of these plant species that are adapted to specific temperature ranges canât migrate fast enough to keep up? What are you going to do â erect giant temperature and humidity controlled greenhouses?

To think technology can solve these issues is not just mere fantasy, but is a display of an ignorance of the complexities involved so fantastic that Iâm beginning to suspect âRayâ is really Julian Simon.

By Steve Chamberlain (not verified) on 18 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray.

This has been bugging me for weeks, but I left it alone because I wanted to see if you 'developed' your idea further...

You have been a great one for insisting that money directly and proportionately represents energy. And yet you have referred in not [one](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1802696), not [two](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1807103), not [three](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1837164), not [four](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1843795), not [five](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1845118), not even [six](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1846984), but in at least [seven](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/ray_thread.php#comment-1846984) different posts to "cheap energy", and how necessary it is for our society.

If money directly embodies energy, can you satisfactorily explain how there can be "cheap energy" and "expensive energy", and how the same dollars that buy each are represented by a fixed number of joules?

Please.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 18 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray,

I am not suggesting that you should not comment on matters relevant to scientific debate. What I am saying is that your comments are largely vacuous and based on little knowledge. Go ahead, comment all you like, but don't expect me or others here to take much of what you say seriously. Your optimism is sadly misplaced. It is based on an exceedingly narrow and simple view of the world and of man's place in it. In essence, you are suggesting that we all ought to sit back, cross our fingers and hope for the best. You think we'll muddle through, even as the empirical base grows revealing that things are clearly going in the wrong direction.

Given what I know, I can tell you that your optimism is largely without foundation. In fact, I see it as dangerous, because so many people out there want to believe that they can have their cake and eat it while our global ecological life support systems are being nickeled and dimed to death. Just because you lack the relavant expertise to make value judgments in no way alleviates the fact that humans are simplifying nature at an astonishing rate.

I also didn't say that there was a normal balance in climate - what I do say is that climate control is a largely deterministic process that requires a massive forcing to knock out of short term equilibrium. Climate changes of course through time but rarely if ever at the rate it is now. Regional changes probably exceed anything the planet has experienced in millions of years. Against this background humans are dramatically altering other parameters such as global forest cover, nutrient cycles, and through biological 'homogenisation'. We are co-opting 50% of freshwater flows and over 40% of net primary production. We are depleting soil fertility, extinguishing species at rates unseen in 65 million years, overextracting fossil age groundwater supplies, and altering a range of other processes vital to human well being.

You must remember that when previous changes in climate occurred, they were not nearly as rapid as the current rates of change, and at those times the planet's ecological systems were not dominated by Homo sapiens. We have already reduced a huge amount of genetic variation that is a pre-requisite for adaptation. I must also say that the MWP was categorically not warmer than today. This is a tale spun by the denial camp when they had to abandon their original position that warming was a 'doomsday myth'. Some time in the late 1990s, realizing that it was warming after all, they shifted to the new strategy that the warming was natural and within normal ranges. The very fact that they keep shifting the goalposts on the subject of AGW should be a clear indication that they are distorting the science to promote a pre-determined world view.

I wouldn't care if you acknowledged what most scientists are actually saying, but, in spite of your ignorance, you downplay the empirical evidence in favor of the tooth fairy. You then accuse scientists such as myself as being 'environmentalists' because of the ways in which we interpret the results of our research. Note that, for their part, most of the sceptics do not do any primary research; all they do is take existing studies and distort the conclusions derived from them.

The bottom line is this Ray. Let me put it clearly. There are many things that you do not understand in environmental science yet you have strong opinbions on them. Most importantly, you do not understand the importance of scale - the difference between stochasticity and determinism. You do not understand a huge range of ecophysiological processes that critically support human welfare. Your comments reveal this. I may be being harsh, but you give the denialists, most of whom are utterly unqualified, a free pass but are deeply sceptical of the vast majority of the scientific community which means the ones actually doing the research who are profoundly concerned about the future.

This is why I dispense with your 'value judgments'. Until you can show me that you understand some of the points I have raised, I will continue to criticize the points that you raise.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 18 Aug 2009 #permalink

âMayâ? âCan be?â âLikely?â âAccording to circumstances?â Steady on there Ray, youâre beginning to sound as though youâve got Doubts, whatâs going on? Donât tell me a little of the copious amounts of information and links that Jeff Harvey, Bernard J. and others have posted is starting to sink in? Donât tell me youâre beginning to realise the ecology of plant communities is a bit more complex than âjust add carbonâ?
Posted by: Steve Chamberlain | August 18, 2009 10:09 PM

Of course I have doubts. If I didn't, how could I call myself a skeptic? Never, ever in any of the hundreds of posts I've made on this site have I ever stated that I belief AGW is a complete hoax devoid of all scientific evidence.

I've always maintained that the influences on climate and the interactions of those influences are so unbelievably complex, that simplified computer models are not adequate to make reliable predictions. Any certainty that appears in the IPCC reports is therefore not a scientific certainty but an exaggerated certainty for political purposes.

I don't expect you to read my posts to confirm that I've made this point several times. You've no doubt got better things to do, as I have, but it's interesting to note that, whenever I've made reference to the stochastic nature of climate on this site, and the difficulty and unreliability of dealing with chaotic systems in computer models, I've been howled down.

But I'm used to this. As time goes by, the proposition that those who believe in the anthropogenic causes of climate change are actually into a type of religion, becomes more compelling.

What I am saying is that your comments are largely vacuous and based on little knowledge. Go ahead, comment all you like, but don't expect me or others here to take much of what you say seriously. Your optimism is sadly misplaced. It is based on an exceedingly narrow and simple view of the world and of man's place in it. In essence, you are suggesting that we all ought to sit back, cross our fingers and hope for the best. You think we'll muddle through, even as the empirical base grows revealing that things are clearly going in the wrong direction.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 19, 2009 5:31 AM

Here's another reason why I have great difficulty in accepting the AGW hypothesis. You AGW adherents seem to be wrong on so many other matters that I can personally verify is the case, how could I trust you to be right with regard to such complex matters as climate change?. You don't even appear to know the difference between denialism and skepticism.

But what disturbs me most is that you would be prepared to be dishonest with the public and exaggerate the certainty about the disastrous consequences of anthropogenic GHG emissions in order to get action at any cost.

I'm also rather amazed that you should attempt this smoke-screen of accusing me of simplifying matters, when I've always claimed that the entire basis of my skepticism (not denialism) is an appreciation that the subject is so unbelievably complex that it's not credible that any good scientist could be certain about the issue, especially considering the fact that the case for AGW doesn't appear to lend itself to the established principles of falsification.

Your notion that I'm suggesting we sit back, cross our fingers and hope for the best also implies a complete lack of judgement on your part. Let's face it Jeff, if you can't make a correct interpretation of the motivations of a simple and vacuous person, how could anyone expect you to get a complex matter like climate change right? Eh?

I've wasted a lot of time, it seems, trying to explain the bleeding obvious to you guys. There are fundamental economic realities related to the cost of energy. Nothing happens in our civilization without expenditure of energy. Without energy, there can be no research into climate change, no research into PVPs, or tidal power or electric cars etc. etc. There can be no economic activity, period.

Without energy, we're all back to a hunter/gatherer existence.

Those who are the real denialists, in my view, are the AGW fanatics who seem unwilling to face the reality that increased energy costs will inevitably result in reduced living standards, in terms of material prosperity.

Such a scenario of rising prices of just about everything does not worry me too much because I have a 'potential' self-sufficiency life-style on 5 acres in the country and no debt. Although I'm not actually living a self-sufficiency life-style at present (because I don't need to), the potential is there should the economy turn belly-up through mismanagement by rabid environmentalists, incompetent politicians or wars.

It's my ultimate insurance policy, but I don't see the threat coming from AGW. There are far more serious problems to be fixed, in my view, and to fix those problems, we need cheap energy, but not only cheap energy of course. We are also in desperate need of competent management and clear thinking.

I also have a property, a number of times larger than yours, upon which I grow dozens of different types of fruit trees. My land is in a prime horticultural region of the state, and my neighbours have been pome-fruit and berry growers for three generations.
Posted by: Bernard J. | August 18, 2009 10:04 PM

I think I probably have the advantage, Bernard. My 5 acres is not prime horticultural land. There's been no easy pathway for me, which is probably why I'm a tough optimist.

The soil, just a few inches below the surface, is highly reactive clay. The trees that flourish naturally on my block are 'broad leaf' and 'narrow leaf' iron bark.

My initial plan was to plant a variety of types of fruit trees and see how they thrived. I've long been of the view that normal gardening practices consist of the gardener struggling to get plants to thrive where they don't want to grow, and discouraging other plants (weeds) to grow where they just love to thrive. There has to be a smarter way.

About 10-15 years ago, in the subtropical climate of Queensland, I planted a number of different fruit tree types, including custard apples, nectarine, peaches, apple, guava, mango, pear, plum, avocado and two varieties of banana, Lady Finger and McWilliams.

I established them by laying 20mm irrigation pipes with drips, and watering them from bore and dam water. The bore water was slightly brackish (I had it analyzed) but was considered suitable (although not necessarily ideal) for the trees I was irrigating.

After the trees were established, I left them completely unattended for about 6 years. No watering, apart from natural rainfall, and no fertilising. They were completely on their own. I didn't expect any of them to survive, especially considering the recent drought we've experienced.

During those 6 years I was busy doing other things; travelling overseas, living with friends in other locations and so on. The 5 acre property was a sort of week-ender in any case.

With the recent good rain during the past couple of years in Queensland, I was surprised to find that some of these fruit trees were actually thriving and producing. A lot had died, however. The apple trees, modified for the subtropics, had long since died. Surprisingly, with the recent rains, new shoots sprang up from the roots below the soil surface. No use to me, of course, because these were grafted apple trees, although, out of curiosity I could have let them grow just to see if they eventually produced any apples.

The trees that have survived the Darwinian Evolution test and actually produced a few buckets of fruit last season, are 2 Custard Apple trees, 2 Peach trees, 1 Pear tree, one Mango tree, the one and only Guava tree that I planted, and a number of Lady Finger banana plants which received extra rainfall from the roof of a near-by farm shed. The one Mango tree probably survived because of its close proximity to the overflow of a water tank. Half a dozen other mango trees died.

The point I'm trying to make here of course, is that it's only common sense to grow the crops that are best suited to your location, climate and land type. The traditional attitude, my great, great grandfather, and my great grandfather, and my grandfather and father grew wheat here and therfore I must also grow wheat here, is just dumb if the wheat doesn't want to grow for any reason that cannot be fixed with a bit of reasearch and experiment or genetic modification. Survival implies a certain capacity for flexibility.

Shorter Ray:

I put in a lot of work to plant my farm and then abandoned it, and a few trees actually survived. Therefore, I know more about agricultural flexibility than Bernard, and agriculture can adapt to any changes.

Ray, how can I take you seriously when you write:

*But what disturbs me most is that you would be prepared to be dishonest with the public and exaggerate the certainty about the disastrous consequences of anthropogenic GHG emissions in order to get action at any cost*

When on Earth did I say that I was prepared to exaggerate? I call the shots as I see them as a scientist. What should worry you is that a small coterie of very well funded people, mostly non-specialists, with links to large multinational corporations are prepared to lie and distort science for short-term profit. Its these people who are putting at risk a secure future for everyone. Yet I don't very often see you attacking those whose perpectives are driven by short-term political agendas. Methinks you have your priorities all messed up.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 19 Aug 2009 #permalink

> re: 295 Lee

> What forum?

Skeptics Guide to the Universe

When on Earth did I say that I was prepared to exaggerate? I call the shots as I see them as a scientist. What should worry you is that a small coterie of very well funded people, mostly non-specialists, with links to large multinational corporations are prepared to lie and distort science for short-term profit. Its these people who are putting at risk a secure future for everyone. Yet I don't very often see you attacking those whose perpectives are driven by short-term political agendas. Methinks you have your priorities all messed up.
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 19, 2009 11:23 AM

Well, perhaps I've misinterpreted you, Jeff. If I have, then here's your opportunity to make a correction.

A few threads ago I posted the following quote from Professor Schneider:

"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but â which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts.

On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people weâd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the publicâs imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage.

So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This âdouble ethical bindâ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."

Your response was as follows:

SCIENCE DOES NOT ADVANCE BY CONSENSUS BUT PUBLIC POLICY MUST BE BASED ON IT. THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND ON THE ENVIRONMENT. There is enough evidence now, in the view of the vast majority of the scientific community that humans are profoundly forcing climate. Just as most scientists argue that humans are disrupting a range of biogeochemical cycles, reducing biodiversity at rates exceeding those in 65 million years, and are threatening the future for all. Against this background I can cite names in even my own field of research (population and evolutionaary ecology) who broadly disagree with the finer details. But public policy must go one way or the other. There is no middle ground on the environment. Either we do or we don't. You are saying we don't. As I scientist I believe that this is highly irresponsible, given our utter dependence on nature to generate the conditions that permit our existence. You appear to be quite confident in the ability of humans to thrive while our species increasingly assualts (and simplifies) natural systems in a variety of ways. I, and most of my colleagues do not. We have science on our side.

Now, my interpretation of your response is something like, "Well, it's regrettable that exaggeration and depiction of scary scenarious may be necessary in order to get public action. However, since AGW is such a serious issue and since the scientific evidence to date suggests that it is probable or likely that our GHG emissions, at some time in the future, will contribute towards a more troublesome climate change than would happen naturally, we need to galvanise swift action right now. Sometimes the ends justify the means."

Would the above be a fair interpretation of your response?

Now my objection to this line of reasoning is not that I think we should not move towards cleaner and more sustainable methods of getting our energy. I definitely think we should. In fact I'm amazed that we still don't have economical and viable electric cars to replace the internal combustion engine. I remember as a small boy in the U.K, in the days when bottles of milk were delivered to the front door in the early hours of the morning before most people had had their breakfast, the milkman used an electric van in order not to disturb the slumbering customers. The van carried dozens of crates of milk bottles, sufficient for his run. I remember also being amazed that a battery-operated vehicle could manage to carry such a heavy load, stopping and starting at every house on the way.

My objection rather is to the dishonest attempt by some AGW adherents to attribute or associate all environmental catastrophes to climate change, and all climate change to anthropogenic emissions. If a river is polluted because certain chemical factories are dumping their waste into it, or certain dwellings are dumping their grey and black water into it, and the fish appear to be floating on the surface, dead or dying, one doesn't need to have a scientific discussion as to whether or not the river really is polluted and whether the fish really are dying. There is 100% certainty that there's an environmental problem.

You can either fix the problem with the river, or you can build a windmill farm, but you can't do both. I'm speaking metaphorically, of course. In practice, you might be able to accomplish both tasks in this example, but at the expense of not tackling another problem elsewhere.

In other words, there are lots and lots of environmental problems that we are 100% certain are real problems, that are a mess and a pollution. There's extinction of Australian wildlife taking place right now because of feral cats that have escaped domestication and hang out at scarce waterholes and pounce upon anything that moves. Such species extinction has nothing whatsoever to do with CO2 emissions.

The atmospheric haze that one usually sees hanging over every big city, if you get high enough for an overview, is not caused by CO2. Acid rain is not caused by CO2. Deforestation is not caused by CO2. Species extinction is not caused by CO2. Soil degradation and rising salt levels are not caused by CO2. Depletion of fish reserves in the sea is not caused by CO2. Need I go on, or have you got the point?

CO2 is a clean, odourless gas essential for all life as we know it.

The economic reality is, we can only produce in proportion to the energy supplies at our disposal. The less energy available, whatever the source of that energy, the less we can produce and the fewer environmental problems we can fix. And, of course, the fewer fridges and plasma TVs we can produce.

We're back to this basic, common sense, irrefutable reality. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

The choices are stark. Reduce CO2 emissions now at the expense of your living standards and at the expense of leaving lots of known and certain environmental problems unfixed. Or continue using fossil fuels with best-practice emission control of the nasties, such as Nx, SO2, particulate carbon, CO, mercury, lead etc, and make a gradual move to more sustainable and cleaner energy resources with the advantage of a vibrant economy.

Finally, I would like to quote an excerpt from Margaret Thatcher's speech at the 2nd World Climate Conference in 1990, at the risk of being accused of not providing the whole quote. It's a long speech which you can find at http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=1082…

We shan't succeed if we are all too inflexible. We shan't succeed if we indulge in selfrighteous point-scoring for the benefit of audiences and voters at home. We have to work sympathetically together. We have to recognise the importance of economic growth of a kind that benefits future as well as present generations everywhere. We need it not only to raise living standards but to generate the wealth required to pay for protection of the environment.

It would be absurd to adopt polices which would bankrupt the industrial nations, or doom the poorer countries to increasing poverty. We have to recognise the widely differing circumstances facing individual countries, with the better-off assisting the poorer ones as we agreed to do under the Montreal Protocol.

Now I wouldn't disagree with that, would you?

Ray,

First, with respect to Margaret Thatcher's opine, the only problem is that, in my view, like most politicians, she is lying. If you want to understand what drives economic policy in the UK, and the US for that matter, as well as just about every other developed nation, I suggest that you read Mark Curtis' quite excellent books, "Web of Deceit""(2003) or Unpeople" (2004). They quite clearly expose the words of Thatcher, her predecessors and successors as a sham.

Moreover, economic growth is not the cure all that the MSM make it out to be. Economic growth requires an increase in production accompanied by (of course) an increase in consumption and waste production, unless there is an increase of efficiency per unit of consumption. The problem is that to support effectively 15% of the world's population we are consuming natural capital like there is no tomorrow. I haven't the time here to deconstruct the expansionist myth of economic growth, as that has been done elsewhere by the likes of Brian Czech ("Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train") and economists and ecologists like John Gowdy, Herman Daly, Mathis Wackernagel etc. The fact is that the countries developed world foster enormous ecological deficits that can only be maintained by reaching beyond our own borders and obtaining much needed resources as cheaply as possible from countries with ecological surpluses. This would mean undeveloped countries with low per capita ecological footprints mostly in the south. It also explains why the quad in the G8 manipulate trade policies to stack them in favor of the rich countries, and why we chiefly export goods for consumption by southern elites while plundering their resource wealth (e.g. by looting, as economist Paul Bond refers to it in his book, "Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation"). Samir Amin, one of Africa's leading economisats, said at the World Social Forum in Peurto Alegre, Brazil in 2003 that the developed world is not interested in cultural, economic or social integration of underdeveloped countries into a cohesive world order - it aims only at looting their resources.

This about sums it up. If you actually believe politicans to tell the truth when in actuality they are promoting the business interests of their own corporate community, then I seriously believe that you need to rethink your arguments. Read quotes from influential planners (e.g. Kennan, Nitze, Brezinski) politicians (e.g. Kissinger) or men in the military (e.g. Smedley Butler) and the naked fact that western economic policy is driven by expansionism rather than any notion of humanitarianism becomes clear. To me Ray its obvious you rely too much on the MSM for your information. Bad move, mate.

As far as your constant misquoting of Steve Schneider's words, I have also deconstructed that before. You have only included a partial quote (a no-no!!!) rather than the whole thing which places it in context. Moreover, the fact that you probably haven't heard of most of the books/people I described in the last paragrpah and yet you focus laser-like on a rather obscure quote made in some years ago reveals clearly to me that you spend too much time perusing anti-environmental web sites. Clearly this is where you get much of your information. You are one of the lay public who is being targeted by sophisticated PR campaigns by the antis using whatever smears they can. They'd be proud of you Ray, as they know that their disinformation campaigns are hitting home when they can get people like you to rehash their smears and nonsense. I have been dealing with these deceivers for more than 10 years now and I know their tactics well. We have a thriving anti-environmental lobby here in Holland, too, and they've also regulalry used the Schneider quote while targeting guys like you. Its sad really, but this kind of PR works.

My advice is to start checking out their tactics for yourself - start by reading Andy Rowell's quite excellent 'Green Backlash' and look up web sites where the PR groups and think tanks are analysed in detail. Sharon Beder's book, 'Global Spin' is also a good read.

As far as exaggerating is concerned, I categorically deny that I and most of my colleagues are exaggerating the seriousness of the current predicament. Again, the very fact that the number of well known species, according to the IUCN that are threatened with extinction is 10-40% should be of profound concern to all. With respect to climate change, it will very likely lead to mass extinction (see Thomas and Parmesan papers in Nature) because ecological communities will have to reasmeble themselves quite rapidly; food webs are reinforced by these interactions. Ecological systems are compelx and adaptive but function as the sum of their parts. Therefore, given the strong link between C02 and climate, C02 is indirectly linked with extinction; you are therefore wrong (as usual). Moreover, as I have said before, but which you habitually ignore, climate change is synergized with other forms of anthropogenic global change. If we are to avoid potentially serious consequences then we have to tackle a range of human stresses on nature. Admittedly humans arepaving, ploughing, damming, dredging, biologically homogenizing, dousing in synthetic organic pollutants, slashing and burning, logging, eutrophicating, altrering the chemical composition of the air and water, AS WELL AS driving rapid changes in climate across the biosphere. Natural systems are therefore already under severe stress ebcause of human activities over variable scales of space and time. Climate change will exacerbate other stresses, forcing species and genetically distinct populations to adjust their behavior and physiology; there will be many losers. This is NOT an exaggeration: it is hard fact. Like it or lump it.

As I said yesterday, your tactic is to 'hope for the best' and to 'cross your fingers and wish for the tooth fairy'. You've been reading too many contrarian web sites Ray. It's time you read some more of the primary literature. Ray, I am a senior scientist. I used to be an Editor at the journal Nature. I have read a lot of primary empirical literature over the past 20 years. My wide and I have no children. Why should I care aboput the future and thus trumpet on about the possible consequences of climate change and other anthropogenic assaults on out global ecological life-support systems? I do it because I think we owe it to future generations to leave a planet that is is good as the one we inherited. We won't, and that is because of strong policital forces maintaining a concentration of wealth (and power) in the hands of a very few; moreover, these people and their institutions have immense power and do not want things to change. They are terrified of democracy because that puts hands into the power of the 'bewilddered herd' as (I think) Lippmann referered to the general public. These people do not think about long or even medium trend consequences of their actions: they are concerned about the next quarterly or (at most) yearly profit margins. Policies protecting the environment are, in their words, a 'denial of liberty' and are viciously opposed. To do this, they need to target people like you by telling them that all will be fine if you leave the world in their hands. Their refrain: business-as-usual. Before you start misquoting scientists again or attacking our motives, look up the vast information base on the prophets of denial.

For my part, I give lectures on this subject and get some quite jaw-dropping responses whern I discuss the tactics of these people and their organizations. Most of the public have no idea what is really going on with respect to the manipulation of information on issues dealing with the environment. Part of the problem is that most of the MSM is ownned or depends on advertising from multinational corporations that benefit from ongoing policies and denial. You will almost never see articles in newspapers describing the vast body of anti-environmentalist organizations. When I started researching them I found only the tip of a large iceberg. The movement is huge, and you are its target. So far your posts reveal a staggerign amount of naivete that reveals to me quite explicitly that you have been reading many of their sites. Whether it is the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxice and Global Change, the Greening Earth Society, the National Wetlands Coalition, C-Fact, or any other of thosands of web sites sponsored by polluting industries, you have found them. Now its time you began to question their conslusions instead of parroting them here.

I have research to do, and until I see more critical analysis on your part of the 'other side' I will not bother to respond. It is a waste of my time.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 19 Aug 2009 #permalink

My wide and I have no children.

Forgive me Jeff, but a Freudian slip such as that could leave one in the doghouse for a month!

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 20 Aug 2009 #permalink

Posted by: Ray | August 20, 2009 12:15 AM
"There's extinction of Australian wildlife taking place right now because of feral cats that have escaped domestication and hang out at scarce waterholes and pounce upon anything that moves. Such species extinction has nothing whatsoever to do with CO2 emissions."

The single most important primary cause of species extinctions and reduction in range and abundance is removal of habitat (i.e clearing of native vegetation). Clearing of native vegetation is a (if not the most) significant contributory factor in increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions. If you want to be taken seriously, stop talking bollocks.

By Steve Chamberlain (not verified) on 20 Aug 2009 #permalink

Posted by: Ray | August 20, 2009 12:15 AM "There's extinction of Australian wildlife taking place right now because of feral cats that have escaped domestication and hang out at scarce waterholes and pounce upon anything that moves. Such species extinction has nothing whatsoever to do with CO2 emissions."

The single most important primary cause of species extinctions and reduction in range and abundance is removal of habitat (i.e clearing of native vegetation). Clearing of native vegetation is a (if not the most) significant contributory factor in increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions. If you want to be taken seriously, stop talking bollocks.
Posted by: Steve Chamberlain | August 20, 2009 10:43 PM

So I take it that you would subscribe to the theory that the Little Ice Age was caused by the Black Death (plague) which decimated populations in the 14th century. It's on record as the deadliest pandemic in human history.

Lots of cleared and arable farm land lay unattended for many years because of the decimation of the population, and the forests began to grow back, sucking CO2 from the atmosphere, and causing the climate to cool as a result.

Is this what you believe? Yes or no? Don't squirm and try to wriggle out of it.

"Lots of cleared and arable farm land lay unattended for many years"

Ray, define "lots" and "many" how do these terms compare to the annual figures for tropical forests in the 20th & 21st centuries?
For extra credits, please expound on the effects of the black death on forests outside Europe.

My wide and I have no children.
Forgive me Jeff, but a Freudian slip such as that could leave one in the doghouse for a month!
Posted by: Bernard J. | August 20, 2009 9:54 PM

Now! Now! Bernard. Let's be fair to Jeff. F is next to D on the keyboard. It's more than likely a typo error. I make such errors myself all the time, due to the fact I never learned to type. I also don't bother using a spell checker.

What susrprises me with Jeff's response is that, despite my making a plea that so many of our environmental problems are not directly related to CO2 emissions, and that despite my dismay that AGW adherents tend to drag all such problems into the CO2 basket, Jeff has attempted, in his response, to conflate an even wider range of issues into the one problem of CO2 emissions.

316
"Lots of cleared and arable farm land lay unattended for many years"
Ray, define "lots" and "many" how do these terms compare to the annual figures for tropical forests in the 20th & 21st centuries? For extra credits, please expound on the effects of the black death on forests outside Europe.
Posted by: Chris S. | August 21, 2009 2:47 AM

There are no precise statistics available, of course, which is one cause of significant doubt about the whole AGW issue, not only from a historical perspective but from the perspective of imperfect computer modelling of currently imperfect data.

However, there is evidence from the study of tree growth rings, that increases in CO2 levels in recent centuries from industrialisation, has increased the growth rate of forest trees in general, compared to earlier eras.

However, I can't speak for the protein content of such modern trees.

My wide (er... wife - she is actually quite slim!) was a REAL typo on my part!!! If she knew what I wrote she'd probably kill me... But I've made gaffes even worse than that before that are even more embarrassing on contrarian sites!

Anyway, in response to Ray's last post:

I have not attempted whatsoever to conflate other environmental problems with atmospheric C02 levels and attendant climate change. What I am saying is that the effects of all of these changes are all synergized, explaining the high extinction rates extrapolated by Thomas and Parmesan.

Note also that Rays rarely if ever addresses the points I raise in my posts, except for snippets... he tends to place a lot of faith in the immensely wealthy and politically powerful anti-environmental movement but is highly suspicious of the motives of scientists and environmentalists whose budgets are a small fraction. The very fact that Ray made the Schneider quote tells me which web sites he regularly blogs and where he gets his information. As I said yesterday, Ray, its time to do some homework on your part. Sharon Beder is an Aussie and her outstanding book, 'Global Spin' should educate you...

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 20 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ray, your response in #318 is just handwaving. Do you seriously believe the effects of forest regrowth in Europe after the black death is comparable to the deforestation taking place in the tropics?

Here's some numbers for you: (from [here])(http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/297/5583/999), but bear in mind the [comment](http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;299/5609/1015a)(http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/297/5583/999) ) Between 1990 and 1997, 5.8 ± 1.4 million hectares of humid tropical forest were lost each year, with a further 2.3 ± 0.7 million hectares of forest visibly degraded. This equals 35.2 - 57.6 million hectares lost during the time period (8 years) or between 3.5 and 5.5% of the surface area of Europe.

Now, please define your "lots" and "many" in this context.

Oh, and whilst you're at it, a cite for your claim on increased tree growth rate should be easy for you to provide? I can access most journals online if all you have is a title...

Anyway, in response to Ray's last post:
I have not attempted whatsoever to conflate other environmental problems with atmospheric C02 levels and attendant climate change. What I am saying is that the effects of all of these changes are all synergized, explaining the high extinction rates extrapolated by Thomas and Parmesan.
Note also that Rays rarely if ever addresses the points I raise in my posts, except for snippets... he tends to place a lot of faith in the immensely wealthy and politically powerful anti-environmental movement but is highly suspicious of the motives of scientists and environmentalists whose budgets are a small fraction. The very fact that Ray made the Schneider quote tells me which web sites he regularly blogs and where he gets his information. As I said yesterday, Ray, its time to do some homework on your part. Sharon Beder is an Aussie and her outstanding book, 'Global Spin' should educate you...
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 21, 2009 3:47 AM

Jeff,

I always address the points you raise, but not all of them individually otherwise I'd be here all day sitting in front of my computer. I have other work to do, as I'm sure you have too.

The general impression I have is that it is your views which are idealogical and politically motivated. I'll repeat, until I heard Professor Ian Plimer being interviewed on the radio about a year ago, I assumed like most contributors to this blog, that the science pointing to a serious environmental calamity resulting from anthropogenic GHG emissions was settled.

I had some nagging doubts because it always seemed apparent to me, to at least some degree, that here was a subject which didn't lend itself to the usual scientific process of falsification. I was also a bit suspicious of the extreme views of people like James Lovelock who clearly indicated that he thinks we are already near the point of no return and that our best chance of averting climatic catastrophe is to switch to nuclear power as fast as possible. But in general, I was more or less converted to the AGW cause, but with some reservations.

It was only after I began searching the internet for opinions on Plimer's latest book "Heaven & Earth", that I discovered there were literally hundreds and possibly thousands, of highly qualified scientists, not all of them climatologists but nevertheless highly qualified, who either completely disagreed with the IPCC conclusions or who were highly skeptical of them.

Your suggestion that most of these scientists are working for the big industrial polluters is not convincing, although I'm sure in any list of such scientists one will always find one or two who have had a dubious career supporting the tobacco companies and a few more who are employed by directly coal mining and oil companies.

All scientific research has to be funded one way or another. In a society which relies mainly on fossil fuels for its energy supply, all scientific research can be said to be funded ultimately by the fossil fuel industry (indirectly through taxes), because without the fossil fuel industry, there ain't no economic activity and there ain't no science.

Ray, your response in #318 is just handwaving. Do you seriously believe the effects of forest regrowth in Europe after the black death is comparable to the deforestation taking place in the tropics?
Posted by: Chris S. | August 21, 2009 6:48 AM

No, but I thought you might. If deforestation increases CO2 levels, then regrowth of forests would logically reduce CO2 levels. I believe the regrowth of forests as a result of reduced agriculture following the Black Death would have had only a very marginal effect in cooling the planet. The deforestation that has taken place in recent times is no doubt on a larger scale.

However, there is no doubt that increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere tends to promote increased growth. If you think this is not the case, then I'm afraid I shall have to brand you as a denialist.

Perhaps the confusion arises because of the frequent references to CO2 acting as a fertiliser. We expect all plants to respond with increased growth after the application of a fertilizer, but not all plants will respond with increased growth as a result of increases in CO2. They may need an application of fertilizer and an increase in water. Increased CO2 facilitates increased growth if sufficient water and nutrients are available.

For example, in a 7 year study at the University of Michigan, it was found that elevated levels of CO2 without the application fertiliser caused only a 7% increase in growth rates of trees, whereas an application of fertilizer without any elevation of CO2 levels (ie. normal, current CO2 levels) produced a 15% increase in growth rates. Fertilizer can be more effective in promoting growth than increases in CO2.

However, when the same application of fertilizer was combined with increases in CO2 levels, WOW! WOW! WOW! A 47% inrease in growth rate was observed. Here is the link to the article. You might have to copy and paste the address.

http://www.scienceblog.com/community/older/2001/E/200115241.html

It's also interesting to note that many gardeners using hydroponic methods in greenhouses are very well aware of the benefits of elevated levels of CO2; in fact, massively elevated levels, as high as 2,000 ppm can be beneficial.

Of course, under such conditions, not only increased water and fertilizer may be required but also higher temperatures. Here's an interesting link.

http://www.jasons-indoor-guide-to-organic-and-hydroponics-gardening.com…

The environmental issue of deforestation is an administrative problem. I don't see it as being related to the use of fossil fuels. Once again, you can replant a forest or build a windmill farm, but you can't have both. Which is it to be?

Ray,

This being the same Plimer who allegedly has investments in mining firms?

Moreover, what political advantage do I get from arguing in support of the AGW hypothesis? My research doens't depend on this; I study genetic variation in plants and their consumers in a multitrophic framework. Many of those you cite have vested interests in denial. Plimer's views have been deconstructed anyway; you just don't want to believe it. In my view Plimer is NO authority at all in climate science; his publication and citation record is pretty meagre. Certainly its not exceptional.

Many of the prominent sceptics, like it or not, have been on the payroll of corporate funded think tanks at one time or another. If there were tens or even hundreds of thousands of scientists who doubted the authenticity of AGW, then you would know about it. The MSM has given the anti-environmental lobby a veritable megaphone. The think tanks are desperate for credible voices willing to join them in denial. Much of the media is owned by big powerful industries anxious to downplay AGW. The infamous petitions sent over the past few years by the think tanks have had to scrape the barrel to find qualified scientists to joint their ranks. Many of the names I recognize as known contrarians; most of the sceptics had very poor publication records and were not statured in their fields.

Ray, you just don't know what the hell you are talking about. Your sole source of information is the internet and books by pseudos like Plimer. You won't touch books by Beder, Rowell, Helvarg, Rampton & Stauber, or Gelbspan that don't fit your narrative but lay out the political agendas of the contrarians for all to see. It is clear to me that your arguments smack of intellectual lightness. If we were scheduled to debate I'd withdraw out of sympathy for you.

Its clear that you want to believe in whatever the contras say, and damn the empirical evidence.

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 21 Aug 2009 #permalink

This being the same Plimer who allegedly has investments in mining firms?
Posted by: Jeff Harvey | August 21, 2009 10:26 AM

There would be very few people in Australia, a country which gets a big proportion of its wealth from mining activities, who don't have money invested either directly or indirectly in mining companies. It's just that most people, whether AGW believers or not, don't know how their investments and savings are being managed.

One might expect that wealthy people, who genuinely believe in the threat of AGW, would take control over the fine detail of their own investment portfolios to ensure that all of their money is invested in the renewable energy sector, and none of it in airline companies, coal mines or any industry which is a heavy user of fossil fuels.

It would be interesting to get an insight into the precise detail of the investments of all those who publicly declare that they accept the case for AGW as being proved beyond doubt. If it were possible to get such details, and it probably isn't without a witch hunt which I would not approve of anyway, I think there might be quite a few surprises. The true hypocrites would be revealed.

This is where the situation becomes a bit farcical at all levels. The Government encourages people to switch off lights to save energy, which is of course quite sensible. No wastage can be justified.

As a result of switching off lights and economising in other ways on the electricity bill, it is claimed that in a big city we might be able to manage with one less power station. All those little savings added, make one huge saving. From little things big things grow.

Now that's just fine and dandy, except, where do all those little savings in money go? Can one track them? A large proportion might go into various savings accounts with various banks. The banks have a duty to provide the best return to their shareholders, so they invest that money in the latest, hi-tech, low emission, coal-fired power station in China. The circle is complete. One less coal-fired power station in Australia; one more in China.

Ray, you just don't know what the hell you are talking about. Your sole source of information is the internet and books by pseudos like Plimer. You won't touch books by Beder, Rowell, Helvarg, Rampton & Stauber, or Gelbspan that don't fit your narrative but lay out the political agendas of the contrarians for all to see. It is clear to me that your arguments smack of intellectual lightness. If we were scheduled to debate I'd withdraw out of sympathy for you.
Its clear that you want to believe in whatever the contras say, and damn the empirical evidence.

Nope! My sources of information are from reading a wide variety of material on all sorts of subjects, including Philosophy in general, the Philosophy of Science in particular, Evolutionary Theory, Quantum Mechanics, anything that interests me. I listen to informative discussions and debates on the radio, and watch the few informative TV programs I can find on Australian television, such as Lateline and Four Corners.

I used to listen a lot to Phillip Adams who has a regular radio program on ABC National called Late Night Live. He specialises in interviewing a wide range of authorities at the top of their field on all sorts of subjects ranging from modern interpretations of Sigmund Freud, to the historical evidence relating to Pontius Pilate's role in the crucifixion, to climate change issues. He's interviewd James Lovelock more than once.

Phillip Adams prides himself on being as skeptical as it's possible to be on all subjects, but particularly on religion. He describes himself as an atheist rather than an agnostic, which is a bit puzzling but perhaps understandable considering his real father was a congregational minister whom he hardly knew as a result of the disruptions of WWII and a later split-up with his mother. Phillip's relationship with his stepfather was apparently horrific, and one has no difficulty sympathising with him and admiring how he was able to rise above those early experiences.

Nevertheless, on the subject of AGW, Phillip is no skeptic. He's found his religion. He likens people such as myself, who actually are skeptical about the alarmist predictions of anthropogenic GHG emissions, to Holocaust deniers. It's rather sad that he's become so ridiculously partisan on this issue, but I guess everyone has to believe in something.

Jeff,
Plimer is apparently director of three mining companies.
Posted by: Mark Byrne | August 21, 2009 11:21 PM

Oh my God! Director of 3 mining companies. Not those nasty, evil companies that dig holes in the ground to provide us with iron and steel, and aluminium and other metals, as well as non-metals such as silicon, and clay, and coal, for our houses and fridges and TVs and motor cars, and computers, and combine harvesters, and tractors, and air-conditioners, and bricks, and cement, and windmills, and photovoltaic panels.

Not those evil bastards that are ruining our whole life style. I just can't believe it. Ian Plimer is actually a director of such companies and has the temerity to comment on climate change.

I'm just flabbergasted!

From Ray's link at #322: "Trees can sustain increases in biomass only as long as they find enough water and nutrients in their ecosystems," Ellsworth said. "I don't think we can assume existing forests, with their fertility limitations, will completely offset rising CO2 without soil amendments. We will more likely find solutions in measures such as burning less fossil fuel and planting more trees in high-nutrient soils."

Anyway, still haven't seen definitions for "lots" and "many" Ray, nor a cite for your tree growth rings claim...

Ray | August 21, 2009 2:19 AM
âSo I take it that you would subscribe to the theory that the Little Ice Age was caused by the Black Death (plague) which decimated populations in the 14th century. It's on record as the deadliest pandemic in human history.
Lots of cleared and arable farm land lay unattended for many years because of the decimation of the population, and the forests began to grow back, sucking CO2 from the atmosphere, and causing the climate to cool as a result. Is this what you believe? Yes or no? Don't squirm and try to wriggle out of it.â

So far as I understand it, the principal contributory factors for the LIA were shifts in sunspot activity and increased volcanic activity, plus effects on and effects of shifts in the North Atlantic Oscillation. If youâve got any evidence (peer-reviewed papers in respectable scientific journals thanks, illogical pseudo-scientific rantings from your favourite blog sites wonât cut it) that the cause of the LIA was the plague, post it. Iâm sure the all the geologists, atmospheric scientists and oceanographers whoâve studied this would value your input appropriately...

As I said, if you want to be taken seriously...

By Steve Chamberlain (not verified) on 24 Aug 2009 #permalink

Chris S @ 328, odd isn't it that Ray didn't quote that bit, nor the bit that says:
"These findings suggest that growth responses of pine forests to elevated CO2 will be highly variable and depend on site fertility, to the point that trees growing on nutritionally poor sites may not respond at all. Moreover, other factors, such as water deficits, also could limit forest response to atmospheric CO2"

In other words, what Jeff Harvey, Bernard J and others have been saying all along - that carbon is not the primary limiting factor in plant growth. Even if it was, Ray's obsession with crop growth consistently (and conveniently) ignores the fate of the other 99.99% of plant species under even mild climate change scenarios, not to mention all the innumerable species of insects, birds, mammmals, bacteria and fungi and their connections with those plants.

By Steve Chamberlain (not verified) on 25 Aug 2009 #permalink

From Ray's link at #322: "Trees can sustain increases in biomass only as long as they find enough water and nutrients in their ecosystems," Ellsworth said. "I don't think we can assume existing forests, with their fertility limitations, will completely offset rising CO2 without soil amendments. We will more likely find solutions in measures such as burning less fossil fuel and planting more trees in high-nutrient soils."
Anyway, still haven't seen definitions for "lots" and "many" Ray, nor a cite for your tree growth rings claim...
Posted by: Chris S. | August 24, 2009 11:43 AM

Here are a few links to studies indicating increased growth rates of forests as atmospheric levels of CO2 rise.

http://www.cifor.cgiar.org/Publications/Corporate/NewsOnline/NewsOnline…

http://www.co2science.org/articles/V12/N19/EDIT.php

http://forests.org/shared/reader/welcome.aspx?linkid=119015

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/media/press_releases/current09/rainforest.htm

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/225/4666/1019

As regards the definition of 'lots' and 'many', imagine if all the sewage from the 6 billion inhabitants of our planet were processed to a stage where the effluent could be used to water and fertilize replanted forests. How many tree could we grow? Lots.

Kansas City has the right idea.

http://www.centredaily.com/green/latest/story/1445086.html

Ray,

Thanks for those, here's a [response](http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7232/full/457969a.html) to your first link ([The paper Ray links to, albeit through a third party](http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7232/abs/nature07771.html) ) this can also be regarded in terms of Ray's second link, [the paper is here](http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5919/1344), readers of Ray's co2science link may be surprised at the tone of the abstract in the Science paper...

Funnily enough, Ray's third link is a story based on the same paper as the first link, as is the fourth, in other words 3 of the 5 links Ray gives are based on one paper. The the response I give above highlights a major flaw in said paper...

But, hallelujah, the fifth link provides a cite for the study I've been asking for. Thank you Ray.

But look, at the bottom of the page Ray links to are a list of papers that cite it. Here's a couple of quotes:

"LaMarche et al. presented one of the first studies which purported to find evidence for a possible CO2 fertilization effect in tree rings. Their study was based on ring-width chronologies of high-elevation bristlecone and limber pines growing in the southwestern United States, which show unusual enhanced growth over the past century. One reason for their conclusion that this enhanced growth is due to CO2 fertilization is that high-elevation plants may be more CO2-limited than those at lower elevations. Yet no quantitative modeling was presented by LaMarche et al. to rule out the possible contribution of favorable climatic change to account for the growth increases." [Jacoby & D'Arrigo](http://www.pnas.org/content/94/16/8350.full)

"This bias problem is demonstrated in an annual tree-ring chronology of bristlecone pine from Campito Mountain, which has been used previously in global change studies. We show that persistent growth increase since AD 1900 in that series is over-estimated by 23.6% on average" [Cook](http://hol.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/7/3/361)

In other words, the study Ray cites failed to take other environmental changes into consideration and they overestimated the growth rates.

Ray, I'd reccommend having a close read of the links I've provided, they are the original research untainted by the third-party bias you get from weblogs (including this one).

As for your "Lots" & "many" you seem to be moving the goalposts, all I'd like is a definition as regarding your claim "Lots of cleared and arable farm land lay unattended for many years" in #315 - is that so hard?

Chris S @ 328, odd isn't it that Ray didn't quote that bit, nor the bit that says: "These findings suggest that growth responses of pine forests to elevated CO2 will be highly variable and depend on site fertility, to the point that trees growing on nutritionally poor sites may not respond at all. Moreover, other factors, such as water deficits, also could limit forest response to atmospheric CO2"
In other words, what Jeff Harvey, Bernard J and others have been saying all along - that carbon is not the primary limiting factor in plant growth. Even if it was, Ray's obsession with crop growth consistently (and conveniently) ignores the fate of the other 99.99% of plant species under even mild climate change scenarios, not to mention all the innumerable species of insects, birds, mammmals, bacteria and fungi and their connections with those plants.
Posted by: Steve Chamberlain | August 25, 2009 6:42 AM

I see the problem now. You, and Jeff Harvey and others, it would seem, know absolutely nothing about gardening and agriculture. I've assumed that you do. Conventional farming uses massive amounts of inorganic fertilizer to maximise crop yields. It's widely understood that plants do not thrive in poor soils whether they are trees, grasses or vegetables.

Most suburban gardeners know if their roses or ornamental trees are not doing well, then an application of a bit of fertilizer, well-watered in, and a bit of lime if the soil is too acidic, will do wonders for the plant growth.

I've done my best to explain that CO2 is not a fertilizer. I even quoted specific results, in post #322 from the link below, which I thought were very significant. To repeat, in low nutrient soil, at CO2 levels predicted in 50 years time, fertilizer alone was more effective in promoting pine tree growth than increased levels of CO2 alone. However, combine both fertilizer and increased CO2 levels, and increased tree growth was spectacular.

Below is the precise quote from the article at http://www.scienceblog.com/community/older/2001/E/200115241.html

To test whether nutrient limitations reduce the tree response to elevated CO2, the researchers added a balanced fertilizer to half the FACE area. Averaged over 1999 and 2000, trees grown under elevated CO2 without nutrient addition increased growth at an annual rate of only 7 percent while the fertilized trees grown in ambient CO2 increased annual growth by 15 percent.

The combination of improved nutrition and elevated CO2 increased growth by 47 percent at the site. This clearly indicates a synergistic effect of CO2 and nutrient supply, the researchers concluded.

At the infertile site, trees without added nutrition showed virtually no growth response to elevated CO2 in two years. Under optimal nutrition and ambient CO2, growth increased 21 percent. In trees subjected to the combination of improved nutrition and elevated CO2, growth was 74 percent---more than three times the sum of separate responses.

So let me emphasis this point again. Growth of all plants, irrespective of variation in CO2 levels, is always variable depending on the amount of water and nutrients in the soil, as well as many other factors such as the pH of the soil, soil structure and drainage, availability of necessary trace elements, and temperature etc.

The above test results would imply that there may be benefits of increased CO2 levels, for us and the planet, or at worst, the situation may not be nearly as catastrophic as some AGW adherents claim, provided we have the political will and nous to fully exploit the 'growth facilitating factor' of increased CO2 levels.

My own preference would be for reforestation helped along with a bit of urban sewage, at least until the new forests are established. Disposal of urban sewage has always been a problem. I believe most of it is processed to a certain level then poured in the sea. What a waste of a good, natural resource!

As regards your comment about the extinction of species of insects, birds and mammals, I don't see how this is a consequence of increased CO2 levels. Can you provide a citation.

As I've mentioned before, there are many environmental problems which have nothing to do with rising CO2 levels. For example, if a particular chemical factory uses a lot of cheap electricy produced by an ageing coal-fired power station which throws a lot of particulate carbon, SO2 and NO2 into the atmosphere, then there is a case to be made that the power station be modernised.

However, modernising the power station, or even building a windmill farm, will not help a situation of environmental degradation caused by the chemical plant pouring its toxic waste into the river. In fact, rising electricity costs will likely make it more difficult for such a chemical plant to tackle the pollution problem.

Ray,
Thanks for those, here's a response to your first link (The paper Ray links to, albeit through a third party ) this can also be regarded in terms of Ray's second link, the paper is here, readers of Ray's co2science link may be surprised at the tone of the abstract in the Science paper...
Funnily enough, Ray's third link is a story based on the same paper as the first link, as is the fourth, in other words 3 of the 5 links Ray gives are based on one paper. The the response I give above highlights a major flaw in said paper...
But, hallelujah, the fifth link provides a cite for the study I've been asking for. Thank you Ray.
But look, at the bottom of the page Ray links to are a list of papers that cite it. Here's a couple of quotes:
"LaMarche et al. presented one of the first studies which purported to find evidence for a possible CO2 fertilization effect in tree rings. Their study was based on ring-width chronologies of high-elevation bristlecone and limber pines growing in the southwestern United States, which show unusual enhanced growth over the past century. One reason for their conclusion that this enhanced growth is due to CO2 fertilization is that high-elevation plants may be more CO2-limited than those at lower elevations. Yet no quantitative modeling was presented by LaMarche et al. to rule out the possible contribution of favorable climatic change to account for the growth increases." Jacoby & D'Arrigo
"This bias problem is demonstrated in an annual tree-ring chronology of bristlecone pine from Campito Mountain, which has been used previously in global change studies. We show that persistent growth increase since AD 1900 in that series is over-estimated by 23.6% on average" Cook
In other words, the study Ray cites failed to take other environmental changes into consideration and they overestimated the growth rates.
Ray, I'd reccommend having a close read of the links I've provided, they are the original research untainted by the third-party bias you get from weblogs (including this one).
As for your "Lots" & "many" you seem to be moving the goalposts, all I'd like is a definition as regarding your claim "Lots of cleared and arable farm land lay unattended for many years" in #315 - is that so hard?
Posted by: Chris S. | August 26, 2009 5:20 AM

Chris,
You are merely attempting to score points. Please bear in mind that I am not trying to set myself up as an expert with privileged information that proves the AGW scare is a hoax. Rather, I am trying to emphasise that the scientific results on AGW so far, their interpretation and predictions based upon computer models, are uncertain, and that view also applies to the claims that elevated CO2 levels will have a net effect of increased forest growth without human intervention and the application of fertilizers.

There may be some areas where an increase in CO2 will substantially increase growth rates, and other areas on the planet where no increase in growth rates will happen. There may be yet other areas where increased growth rates will be very marginal.

However, the fundamental science, in controlled conditions such as covered greenhouses, indicates without doubt that increases in CO2 levels can substatially promote growth beyond the effect of additional fertilizer and water. Let's employ certainties in our fight against a possible reality of AGW. Let's tackle first the 'certain' environmental problems, and after we've solved those, lets move on to the uncertain problems and devise pre-emptive strategies.

I believe that the lie that the results in favour of AGW are certain, will get humanity into even more trouble than we are in already. That's my main concern. That's the reason I bother posting on this site. I'm not here just to attempt to outsmart people in a debate. I don't have any denialist view that increasing anthropogenic CO2 levels will never pose a future problem and that we should do nothing. I am simply skeptical of the consensus science which I believe is politically contaminated.

I don't believe that a policy based upon a lie, that the science is settled, will serve us well. There are so many, many real and certain problems for humanity to contend with, I just don't think it's sensible to throw our valuable resources at such an uncertain problem as AGW.

I'm very much in favour of the sewage solution to this tentative AGW problem. Those turds we flush down the toilet (don't even look at them) and understandably forget because it's not a nice topic, could be a major factor in tackling the perceived problem of AGW through effective reforestation which at the same time would increase the habitat for endangered species.

As for your "Lots" & "many" you seem to be moving the goalposts, all I'd like is a definition as regarding your claim "Lots of cleared and arable farm land lay unattended for many years" in #315 - is that so hard?

There's reference to the CO2 consequences of the Black Death at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4755328.stm and more detail in the pdf at http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/dissertations/2004-1214-121238/full…

Surely you understand that there is unlikely to be any precise account of the amount of arable land that lay unattended 1,000 years ago. When dealing with uncertainties, all I ask is that you recognise the uncertainty.

Ray, I'm not trying to score points, just pointing out that the links you gave do not support your case. Let's go through them case by case.

The 1st, 3rd & 4th link you give above are to a paper who's case is not proven. The authors say the increased uptake is due to CO2 but commenters say that they have not sufficiently ruled out other reasons - there is no consensus. Perhaps once the authors improve their methodology then they may be able to make that claim and have it accepted, as it is there is reason to doubt - you can doubt can't you Ray?

The second link is a classic example of bias. The article you link to reports the paper as showing that the Amazon absorbs CO2 means "they had better not be in too great a hurry to drastically curtail anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In light of the overwhelming evidence for (1) no global warming over the past decade or so, and (2) the significant biological benefits provided by atmospheric CO2 enrichment". Now the paper in question actually says, effectively, that any CO2 absorption effects in the Amazon will be nixed if the present trend continues as drought conditions means that the CO2 will not be absorbed.

The final link you give is, again, to a methodologically flawed study "Yet no quantitative modeling was presented by LaMarche et al. to rule out the possible contribution of favorable climatic change to account for the growth increases." In other words, the authors of your study did not rule out the possibility that the trees grew better not because of increased CO2, but because it got warmer/wetter/other climatic factor. Like the first paper there is significant room for doubt.

Moving on, do your controlled greenhouse experiments take [this](http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080324173612.htm) into account? In my view as an agricultural entomologist the benefits may not outweigh the risks - particularly if you take [this](http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080806113145.htm) into account too.

"Lots" & "many": I do recognise the uncertainty Ray, do you recognise that, no matter how much agricultural land reterned to secondary growth forest after the black death it can in no way equal the amount of deforestation that too place in the 20th Century and continues today?

My last comment here - I find it rather amusing that you accuse a senior scientist at the Dutch Institute of Ecology & author of such papers as "Consequences of constitutive and induced variation in plant nutritional quality for immune defence of a herbivore against parasitism. (Oecologia 160:299-308. 4533)", "Performance of generalist and specialist herbivores and their endoparasitoids differs on cultivated and wild Brassica populations. (Journal of Chemical Ecology 34:132-143. 4261)" and "Temporal changes affect plant chemistry and tritrophic interactions. (Basic and Applied Ecology 8:421-433. 3971)" of knowing "absolutely nothing about gardening and agriculture". Can you see the irony Ray? Take a look at the last paper - do you also claim that Jeff doesn't know about the possibilities of CO2 uptake in plants?

Sorry, this was nagging at me on my way to work & I can't let it go. Ray, in post #332 you give five links to support your claim. Three of these links are in regard of the same single paper - [this one]( http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7232/abs/nature07771.html).

Now, to me there can only be two reasons why you did this, neither I'm afraid paint you in a very good light. 1) You didn't know all three links were about the paper in question (which implies you a) hadn't read it and b) hadn't paid enough attention to your own links to notice) or 2) You didn't think anyone would notice.

Which is it Ray - are you commentating on a subject you haven't deigned to research properly, or are you arrogant enough to believe people won't check? I'm not sure which is the most egregious, but I'd plump for 1).

Sorry, this was nagging at me on my way to work & I can't let it go. Ray, in post #332 you give five links to support your claim. Three of these links are in regard of the same single paper - this one.
Now, to me there can only be two reasons why you did this, neither I'm afraid paint you in a very good light. 1) You didn't know all three links were about the paper in question (which implies you a) hadn't read it and b) hadn't paid enough attention to your own links to notice) or 2) You didn't think anyone would notice.
Which is it Ray - are you commentating on a subject you haven't deigned to research properly, or are you arrogant enough to believe people won't check? I'm not sure which is the most egregious, but I'd plump for 1).
Posted by: Chris S. | August 28, 2009 4:34 AM

Of course I knew the 3 links were to the same research. How could I not??

The fact is, unless one pays for the benefit of downloading the full documentation from Google Scholar, if one can find the original research, often all one gets are reports about the research. I linked all the information I could get on this particular research from Leeds University.

I'm completely objective on this issue. I have no shares in coal companies and have no biased agenda. But I do get a sense there are a lot of egg heads pontificating on this AGW issue, who have little practical nous and who like to boast about their mathematical prowess proving that such and such is the case or not.

Now, what was the name of that mathematician who proved that heavier-than-air objects, like planes, could never fly?

Found it! It was Lord Kelvin, the guy who defined the absolute temperature scale. He declared in 1895 that heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.

The following extract is from http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1152/2

History is littered with examples of brilliant, yet arrogant, people who knew what was, and was not, possible. One of the most accomplished scientists of the 19th Century was Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, the United Kingdomâs national academy of science. Lord Kelvin defined the absolute temperature scale (named after him), created the first physics laboratory at a British university, conducted research leading to the second law of thermodynamics, championed the undersea cable, introduced Bellâs telephone to Britain, published more than 600 scientific papers, and filed 70 patents. And in 1895, Lord Kelvin declared: âHeavier than air flying machines are impossible.â

We should always bear this in mind when discussing the anthropogenic influences on climate change. No matter how brilliant a scientist may appear to be in his specialised field, he can often be wrong, especially when the subject is so multi-discipline as AGW is.

Maybe I should post a weekly article of wisdom on this troublesome issue of AGW.

I look at the other posts on this site, and all I see is the usual bickering. I see no intelligent proposals for policies that might work. It's really, really sad.

If the consensus of the IPCC climatologists is actually correct (and I've never said they are not. I'm just skeptical) we are totally and absolutely stuffed as a species.

Most species have a natural life span of so many million years before extinction. Homo Sapiens may well be heading towards extinction as a natural and unavoidable consequence of inherent and uncontrollable tendencies which we are powerless to combat.

I think maybe (I'm not sure of course)that AGW adherents and those advocating reduced economic growth and more expensive energy are fighting an unwinable battle. They are perhaps fighting against human nature which might eventually cause its own extinction as a matter of course, as a matter of a natural process. There is a concept of fate. Can we as a species control our own fate?

As I see it, the problems of humanity are always due to our lack of attention to the basics. Some claim that the food supply of the planet cannot support the burgeoning population.

Total codswallop. For many years we have been supplying more than sufficient food for the healthy nutrition of every man, woman and child on the planet. People starve because other people waste food. It's as simple as that.

One third of the world's population makes itself sick through overeating, and 2 thirds suffer malnutrition through undereating. The dollar value of food wasted in the West, not eaten, past its use-by date etc, is huge. It amounts to billions of dollar annually.

The solution to the world's problems requires an attendance to basics, an application of plain common sense and an awareness of fairness and morality on a global scale. This has never, ever been done before in the history of humanity. We've always had an extent of hunger and starvation amongst a large proportion of humanity, wars, consequent destruction of property and absolute abominations and atrocitities with regard to our treatment of our fellow human beings.

It's totally amazing to me, that anyone aware of the history of our species, would think that having failed to attend to these basic essentials for human happiness and well-being, on a global scale, we can now succeed in controlling our climate, on a global scale. Where are the priorities?

Sorry! Maybe a monthly article of wisdom. I'm very busy.

The essential problem of AGW is this.

How can an overweight person tell an undernourished person to eat less?

Obviously he can't, with any moral authority.

Can an overweight person tell an undernourished person, I'll eat 50% less if you eat 10% less?

Of course not. If a person is undernourished, the only sensible advise is, eat more, not less.

Herein lies the fundamental problem of all AGW advocates. There's a fundamental 'selfish gene', Darwian 'survival of the fittest' principle at work here.

Those who are already on the bread line should not, and cannot be expected to, make any concessions at all to the perceived AGW problem.

Any concessions must come completely and 100% from the well-off nations and the wealthy individuals within those well-off nations.

There is also a case to be made for the carbon footprint to be reduced in respect of all wealthy individuals whatever the country they reside.

It's clearly not going to happen.

It is the nature of human society, and animal society, in accordance with Darwinian principles, to take care of #1.

The instances of people claiming to make sacrifices for the benefit of society at large are far and few between. Jesus Christ is one example. We need millions more examples for tackling AGW to be successful.

I simply don't see it happening. The very existence of a nation implicitly implies, "We in charge of this nation are bound to give priority to the well-being of our proud inhabitants in preference to the well-being of other nationalities".

Global warming is a global phenomenon. To successfully combat it is not possible unless we have a global nation with common interests.

Let's face it, there's no chance at all of that happening.