Warm and well fed, or hungry in the dark?

Vic Forbes asks, which is worse – gradual man-made global warming or sudden electricity blackout?

Vic Forbes asks, which is worse – gradual man-made global warming or sudden electricity blackout?

Alarmists try to scare us by claiming that man’s activities are causing global warming. Whether and when we may see new man-made warming is disputed and uncertain. If it does appear, the world will be slightly warmer, with more evaporation and rainfall; plants will grow better and colonise some areas currently too cold or too dry; fewer old people will die in winter and sea levels may continue the gradual rise we have seen since the end of the last ice age.

There may even be a bit more “green” in Greenland. There is no evidence that man’s production of carbon dioxide is causing more extreme weather events. Any change caused by man will be gradual and there will be plenty of time to adapt, as humans have always done. Most people will hardly notice it.

What is certain, however, is that global warming policies are greatly increasing the chances of electricity blackouts, and here the effects can be predicted confidently – they will be sudden and severe.

Localised short-term blackouts can be caused by cyclones, storms, fires, floods, accidents, equipment failure or overloading. People will cope with them. The more widespread blackouts, caused for example by network collapse or insufficient generating capacity, will have severe effects.

All modern human activities are heavily dependent on electricity. Blackouts will stop lifts, trains, traffic lights, tools, appliances, factories, mines, refineries, communications and pumps for fuel, water and sewerage. People will be trapped or stranded in trains, ports, airports, lifts, hotels, hospitals and traffic jams. ATM’s, credit cards and supermarket checkouts will not work. Cash, cheques, IOU’s and pocket calculators will be required to buy anything.

Immediately a blackout occurs, those with emergency generators, fuel or batteries will start using them. But within a very few days, batteries will run flat, emergency fuel supplies will be exhausted, food supplies will disappear from stores and pumped water will not be available. Intensive dairies, hatcheries, piggeries and feedlots will all face critical problems in keeping their animals alive and cared for.

If the blackout is extensive and prolonged, looting will infect the big cities and then spread to country areas. People who are old, sick, incapacitated or alone will be forgotten as able-bodied people focus on feeding and protecting their own.

The real threat to humanity today is not the theoretical dangers from gradual man-made global warming. A far bigger real danger is the growing threat to reliable electricity supplies from deep-green climate policies.

The most reliable electricity supplies come from coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, geothermal or oil. Misguided politicians and uncompromising nature are conspiring to ensure that few of these will be available to generate Australia’s future electricity.

The carbon tax and renewable energy targets threaten the financial viability of using coal, gas or oil to generate electricity. Banks and investors will not risk their capital on new carbon-powered stations dependent on an unstable and polarised political environment. And the declining profitability of existing stations under the carbon tax and mandated market sharing makes it risky and uneconomic to spend money maintaining existing aging stations.

The same green zealots who plot to destroy carbon energy will also work to prevent the construction of new nuclear or hydro plants in Australia. And Australia’s geothermal resources, being generally deep and remote, are unlikely to provide significant electricity for decades.

We are thus being forced to rely on fickle breezes and peek-a-boo sunbeams to generate expensive and intermittent electricity. And it will not be economic to continue building backup gas plants that are run below capacity or sit idle, earning insufficient income as they try to fill the unpredictable production gaps in the supply of green energy. The margin of supply safety will disappear.

Therefore, if we continue to allow green zealots to dictate our electricity generation, blackouts are inevitable. Britain and Germany already face this grim prospect.

All actions have consequences. We cannot continue pouring billions of dollars of community savings down the climate-change sink-hole, without starving our essential infrastructure. We cannot keep adding taxes and political risk to traditional electricity generators without reducing new investment in real base-load generating capacity. And we cannot keep adding unstable solar and wind elements to our electricity network without adding greatly to electricity costs and the risks of network failure.  

When the lights fail, and the supermarket shelves are cleaned out, we will return, at great cost and after much misery, to cheap reliable continuous electricity using coal, gas or nuclear fuels.

Gaia worshippers will find that “Earth Hour” will not be such fun when it becomes “Earth Week”.

Viv Forbes has no vested interest in electricity generation, except as a consumer. And he gets no funds from the government Climate Change Industry. He holds shares in a small Australian coal exploration company which will benefit by exporting coal if expensive unreliable electricity in Australia forces more power-using industries overseas.

In defence of skepticism on climate change

Major Karnage explains that skepticism is the only way to believe the science and not the spin

Reviewing the "Heartland affair", Robert Murphy notes how one climate scientist did not think that the actual evidence against Heartland was enough and decided to forge a more "damning" document; and how gleefully the rest of the climate change movement began adopting this clearly forged document with no skepticism whatsoever: Diminished Climate Alarmism: Lessons from L’Affair Heartland — MasterResource

Now to be sure, climate science isn’t the same thing as politics and the blogosphere. Just because these climate alarmists showed ridiculously bad judgment when it came to the Heartland affair, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wrong about the trajectory of global temperatures in the absence of mitigation strategies. However, I do think this episode—and the reaction of the skeptic community during Climategate—are quite illustrative of the two camps’ approaches to the actual science. Back when the Climategate emails were first spreading around the Internet, I distinctly remember many people in the comments at blogs such as ClimateAudit warning their peers by saying things like, “Guys, remember, we’re skeptics. This is too good to be true. Let’s not jump up and down on this, because it might be a trap to make us look gullible.” In contrast, the major players on the other side—when Heartland was “caught” saying things that were far more absurd than what the Climategate emails revealed—jumped with glee. For example…

Walter Russell Mead posits his analysis of the incentives leading to distortions in the climate debate: How Green Gullibility, Hyperpartisanship Are Wrecking The Climate Movement | Via Meadia.

  • The climate movement’s proposals (above all, the global carbon treaty that in theory will subject the economic output of  every country on earth to global controls) are radical, costly and virtually certain to fail.
  • To be enacted, these unpromising measures require an unprecedented degree of consensus, as every major country on earth would have to accept, ratify and then enforce the climate treaty the movement seeks.
  • The climate movement must therefore be, in Dean Acheson’s words, “clearer than truth” in order to stampede public and elite opinion around the world into a unique and unparalleled act of global legislation.
  • Because many in the climate movement believe that this treaty is literally a matter of life and death for the human race, the moral case both for stretching the evidence and attacking critics of that agenda as aggressively as possible looks strong to weak minds.
  • The absence of any central authority or quality control in the climate movement (and the tendency of unbalanced foundation execs and direct mail contributors to provide greater support to those ready to take more aggressive action and espouse more alarming ideas) gives more radical and less responsible voices undue prominence and entangles the whole movement in dubious claims.
  • The increasing obstacles encountered by such a poorly conceptualized and poorly advocated agenda cause the embittered and alarmed advocates to circle the wagons and become both more extreme in their rhetoric and less guarded in their claims when precisely the opposite approach would work better.

I must say that I have a lot of sympathy for this position, although I do not think the phenomenon is limited to the "the world is ending" side of the debate; the other side is just as irrational and just as selective in its facts/deliberately deceptive for policy reasons. What we essentially have is a political debate posing as a scientific one. The best example of this is the fact that the most commonly cited reason to believe in the climate change alarm is the supposed "scientific consensus" shown through petitions like this one – the idea being that if 31,487 scientists agree with something, it can't possibly be wrong. The very idea makes a mockery of

the scientific process. Since when was science measured by opinion polls?!? By politicising the issue so radically, scientists are forced to take sides, and measuring the number that each side has is hardly productive towards settling the debate. Just look at this paragraph from NASA's website: Climate Change: Causes | NASA

In its recently released Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.

The "Intergovernmental" is revealing of quite how politicised the debate has been from the very beginning — the "science" of climate change is not being determined independently, but by people with clear vested interests in a certain outcome. This leads to situations like that 90% figure, which I will translate for the non-mathematicians amongst you:

The 90% is the significance level of the model that they have created to show changes in the climate over the past 250 years. A mathematical model is similar to other models, in that it is a smaller, simplified version of a complex original. What they have done is taken all known measurements of temperature in the world and averaged them out per year to try and find the "global average temperature over time"; then they have incorporated all of the factors that they know to affect the environment in order to find an equation that "models" the effects these things have; then they test how well the model fits the actual recorded temperatures. The "significance level" shows the probability that any one point on the model will reflect the actual observed temperature.

To say that there is a 90% probability that human activities have warmed the planet is misleading. In actual fact, the model that the IPCC generated including estimated human greenhouse gas emissions has a 90% chance of fitting the observed results — which is a far less persuasive statement; especially since, as anyone who has formally studied statistics would know, general practise is to work to a 95% significance level.

This is not at all to say that CO2 emissions are not playing a role in warming our climate or that the climate is not warming: both of these points are, more or less, beyond dispute. What I am saying is that — contrary to what a certain Australian Government keeps telling us — the science is not "settled". There is a lot we have left to learn and a lot that is uncertain.

Of course, to deny the proven science is not productive either. In fact, I would recommend a healthy dose of skepticism whenever you read anything related to climate change, pro or anti. Nothing outside of the internal debates in the scientific community hold much water these days.

And no Ms Gillard, the science is not "in". Science does not come "in", we're not talking poll results. That's not how science works.

Major Karnage is a Sydney-based young professional. This was originally posted on his personal blog

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