The Heat Wave

Ah, yes, everyone’s favorite subject. Ugh. If you prefer not to get into AGW discussions, you can just skip this post. I’ve tried to ignore it, but the news has gotten too backlogged to kick this post down the road any further, especially given today’s developments in the idiocy that is carbon credits.

The latest data are in and looks like July was the hottest month on record for the United States, causing a drought that is actually worse that the Dust Bowl but has not actually caused a dust bowl due to gigantic advances in land management.

Now, according to the satellite data, July 2008 was worse planet-wide. But, no matter how you slice it, we are entering a third very warm decade. Several studies, including the newest BEST results, are converging on a global trend of 0.15 degrees celsius per decade. Despite terrifying headlines, that is actually more or less in line with what we have identified as the preferred ceiling for the next century.

So is there a connection between global warming and the severe drought? Yes and no, but mostly yes. There is large variation in weather in any particular year. What global warming does is shift that variation so that high temperatures are more likely and low temperatures less likely. You can still get cool summers, but they will be fewer and further between. And the likelihood of extreme events really skyrockets. Take a look at this plot from the latest NASA research, showing the shift in temperature distribution. The green line is the range of temperatures we had from 1950 to 1980. The filled in parts are the last decade. The shift to the right is the warming. Note, however, that far right edge: that’s where extreme temperature events take place. And as you slide the bell curve over, those events become exponentially more likely. They are not destined to happen, but they are more likely to.

Caveat time again: even in this representation, 2012 is an outlier, a ridiculously hot and dry summer. It’s well beyond what any climate model can account for. But as time goes on and the planet warms, these outliers are becoming more likely. A few years ago, when we had a cold winter, it was Australia and East Asia getting hit by record high temperatures. Northern Canada has been getting hit by a lot of them. And about 97% of Greenland’s ice sheet is currently showing signs of melt due to a warm summer.*

(*Note to idiot Leftists: this does not mean that 97% of the ice sheet is melting. This means 97% of the surface ice is showing signs of melt. The ice sheet is thick. Even under the worst case scenarios, it would take centuries, if not millennia, to melt away. You don’t make this issue clearer by exaggerating.)

This isn’t just a matter of setting the thermostat a little lower. The heat wave is causing massive economic damage, from failing crops to dying fish to livestock farmers having to go elsewhere for feed. I have not seen hard estimates but I would be surprised if it weren’t in the tens of billions of dollars. This is a real price of climate change, not some Volume III IPCC fantasy.

We simply don’t have the luxury of pretending this isn’t a problem. While it’s not 100% proven that rising greenhouse gas levels are causing the warming, that is the explanation that best fits the data and best explains what we’re seeing. That CO2 would drive up the temperature of the planet by a degree or so per century was first predicted back in the 1950’s. That’s the basis of science: making a prediction. That it has not quite been as accurate as hoped is irrelevant: Richard Muller’s data shows quiet clearly that the broad theory is basically confirmed.

So the question becomes: what do we do about it?

Well, there are a lot of things we shouldn’t do. For example, shooting the messenger. Vilifying climate researchers, threatening them, slagging their research without reading it … these things are not helpful.

We also need to ditch carbon credit schemes and cap-and-trade schemes. You can read here about the latest global warming boondoggle. Companies were being given carbon credits for getting rid of gases that were far more potent warming agents. The result? They made more of the agents to get the money. They even made more of related coolants that are even worse for the environment so they could cash out on destroying the byproducts. Anyone familiar with basic economic would have seen this coming a mile away but economics has never been the Left’s strong suit.

Probably the best commentary I’ve read is from Roger Pielke. After noting the disaster that was the Copenhagen meeting, he suggests:

The key to securing action on climate change may be to break the problem into more manageable parts. This should involve recognizing that human-caused climate change involves more than just carbon dioxide. This is already happening. A coalition of activists and politicians, including numerous prominent scientists, have argued that there are practical reasons to focus attention on “non-carbon forcings” — human influences on the climate system other than carbon dioxide emissions. The U.N. Environment Program argues that actions like reducing soot and methane could “save close to 2.5 million lives a year; avoid crop losses amounting to 32 million tons annually and deliver near-term climate protection of about half a degree Celsius by 2040.”

This really isn’t controversial, or at least shouldn’t be. Even Inhofe, who thinks AGW is a hoax, is on board with it. Non-carbon forcings are a result of waste, inefficiency and incompetence. Reducing them doesn’t hurt the economy, it helps it. He also notes, as I have, that using natural gas dramatically improve the “bang for buck” — i.e., how much energy you get against how much CO2 you are producing. This is one of the big reasons the United States has actually cut it’s CO2 emissions over the last few years while the glorious forward-thinking European countries have stalled or gotten worse.

Neither of these is the solution, long-term. But the key here is that they buy time. They slow down the warming of the planet. And, in both cases, they do so while keeping our economy going.

And that’s key. One thing we’ve learned from the “green energy” debacles is that government’s ability to address global warming is limited. It throws money at companies that are politically connected rather that innovative. It drowns us in bullshit like ethanol and biofuels. It embraces cockamamie schemes like painting rooftops white or building windmills. Funding general research, like the kind that produced recent solar breakthroughs at UCLA, is good. But when you’re talking about specific technology, government has to stay out.

But it’s more than that. As Pielke notes, there is a simple crude estimate of how much CO2 you’re going to produce. It’s basically “Emissions = GDP x Technology”. He argues that reducing GDP is non-negotiable and we should instead concentrate on technology (really: you should read his entire article, which is excellent). I agree but would add something else to the math:

Technology = GDP x Innovation

Put simply: the technology can not advance without a healthy economy. Government can invest all it likes. All it will do is waste money on such things as Solyndra. For basic research, government funding can work. But when it comes to developing specific, applied, marketable technology, government is hopeless. We need healthy businesses to make the real advances.

This is not just academic theory. Over the last four decades, the US has seen dramatic improvements in GDP per unit carbon while the economy has swelled. We have seen that a healthy economy produces more technological breakthroughs than an unhealthy one, no matter how much government is pushing and prodding. So suggestions like this:

Only a period of planned austerity and an intensive effort to build a carbon-free energy system could now achieve the goal of avoiding dangerous climate change.

are not a solution, they are recipe for disaster. They are practically a guarantee that global warming will get worse.

A crippled economy can not produce innovation. Big government’s approach to energy efficiency has been a disaster in Europe and in the United States. Private innovation — switching to natural gas, controlling carbon forcings, developing efficient cars and appliances — has been the only real success. It may sound like an oxymoron, but you really do have to burn carbon to save carbon.

Calling for what amount to caps on human development while putting more money into government climate schemes is proven failure. To call for more of that is to sacrifice yet more goats on the altar of the pagan god of big government. We should reject these ideas not despite the reality of global warming but because of it.

We don’t have time to fuck around anymore with government carbon schemes and hyper-regulation. The biggest thing government can do is cut its own red tape. We are in a regulatory environment where just putting in a power line can take a decade. That has to stop.

Government can also fund basic research like ITER as long as it stays away from the applied research needed to bridge the gap from science discovery to science application. In short, fund research into solar cells but let the solar cell manufacturers figure out how to market their wares on their own. Give American companies the freedom — in taxation and regulation — to innovate. That is our only real hope.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating the words of Gregg Easterbrook: if a clean, renewable, large-scale energy technology is ever developed, we won’t need government to force us to use it. People will be lining up to get their perpetual motion machines. Our long hot summer is most definitely not making the case for poverty, control and central planning. It’s making the case for freedom. Now more than ever.

Comments are closed.

  1. Mississippi Yankee

    Hal,
    your economic solutions, with or without climate change, are brilliant (imo) and will propel us to the innovative fore-front once again. A position the US held since WWII.
    And yes foreigners I am a bit jingoistic.

    It’s also no secret I believe AGW to be, by and large, a hoax. After all I did survive Global Cooling in the 1970’s.

    Thumb up 1

  2. hist_ed

    Yep, July was the hottest month ever in the US. It was just slightly hotter than July 1935. That’s a big gain for 80 years, right? It would be nice if your cool graph went back to the 1930s, a decade that was just about as hot as it is now. Greenland’s glaciers were melting, ships could transit the Norwest Passage and there was a whole lot less carbon in the air. Wonder how that happened?

    Thumb up 2

  3. Hal_10000 *

    It would be nice if your cool graph went back to the 1930s, a decade that was just about as hot as it is now.

    No, it wasn’t. It was warmer in the United States, not globally, and only for a short time. The global temperature is about 0.5 degrees C (1 degree F) warmer than it was in the 1930’s. You can go here to see BEST’s plot that goes all the way back to the 1850’s. They actually have data back to the 1750’s, but it’s very unreliable.

    Thumb up 0

  4. Hal_10000 *

    After all, one hot month definitely proves that AGW is true.

    One hot month? No. 240 hot months? Yes. And it’s not just a hot month. It’s one of the hottest months in the last century. A hot month can just occur naturally. But, as the new research shows, they become more likely as the planet warms. That’s independent of whatever is causing the warming.

    Thumb up 0

  5. hist_ed

    Thought we were talking about the US heat wave there Hal, but maybe not. As Harley pointed out, it isn’t a global heat wave.

    If Jimk will indulge us a little before bringing down the Awesome-Thor-Hammer-of-no-AGW-Discussion I’d like to respond to one thing.

    No, it wasn’t. It was warmer in the United States, not globally, and only for a short time.

    How do you know it wasn’t hotter globally? How extensive and accurate do you think the temperature monitoring was in Zimbabwe, Senegal, Thailand, Guatemala, China and the South Pole in 1935? How about the the 70 percent of the world that is covered by ocean? The only areas that we have reasonable accurate temperature records from that time are the US and Western Europe. One of those two areas was really fucking hot.

    Thumb up 4

  6. CM

    Disappointing to see that Ryan seems to buy into climate change conspiracy nonsense.

    At issue in the Journal Times’ recent editorial and on the minds of many Copenhagen observers are published e-mail exchanges from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). These e-mails from leading climatologists make clear efforts to use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.

    The CRU e-mail scandal reveals a perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion. The e-mail scandal has not only forced the resignation of a number of discredited scientists, but it also marks a major step back on the need to preserve the integrity of the scientific community. While interests on both sides of the issue will debate the relevance of the manipulated or otherwise omitted data, these revelations undermine confidence in the scientific data driving the climate change debates.

    http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=193671

    No, failing miserably in your responsibility to discuss the issue accurately is what undermines confidence.

    Ryan’s actions with respect to climate change are consistent with this. He’s not far removed from Romney’s current position (as opposed to his previous one where he not only accepted the basics of the science, and even unveiled a detailed plan to curtail the Massachusetts’ carbon pollution).

    Thumb up 0

  7. Seattle Outcast

    Wow, you had to come all the way back here to find a way to suck Obama’s cock by pointing out how “dangerous” Ryan is on your pet envirotard canard.

    You do realize that “global warming” as an issue died a couple years back, and your side, the one that cooked the books and lied for a decade, lost, right?

    Thumb up 1

  8. CM

    Wow, you had to come all the way back here to find a way to suck Obama’s cock by pointing out how “dangerous” Ryan is on your pet envirotard canard.

    Gosh you’re in quite a state aren’t you. Ryan’s position on climate change has nothing to do with Obama or his successes or failures on the same issue.
    I didn’t say he was ‘dangerous’, or anything similar. Yet again you’re making shit up.

    You do realize that “global warming” as an issue died a couple years back, and your side, the one that cooked the books and lied for a decade, lost, right?

    Hal’s post outlines why the opposite is the case. The ‘issue’ has moved on to what to do about it (how much govt, how much private, mechanisms etc). Yes, some people are still stuck arguing that up is down, but there are few enough of them now to not worry about. The rest are gathering around the grown-ups table to discuss what to do.
    BTW they would have had to have lied for about a century.

    Thumb up 0

  9. Poosh

    Ryan’s position on climate change has nothing to do with Obama or his successes or failures on the same issue.

    Then why have you magically brought up President Obama’s competitor’s running mate, then?

    ….must be a co-winki-dink eh?

    Thumb up 0

  10. CM

    Then why have you magically brought up President Obama’s competitor’s running mate, then?

    ….must be a co-winki-dink eh?

    My god he probably breathes oxygen too??!!! OMFG!!!!
    Arent we ALL assessing Ryan’s positions? It IS possible to do that in a number of ways. Look at it in its own right, compare it to your own thoughts/opinions, to Romney’s, to the GOP’s, the Ryan’s previous positions, and yeah of course also to Obama.
    I had no idea what his take was on this issue until I just start looking. As outlined, I was disappointed to see he’s in there with the conspriacy theorists. I thought he was smarter than that. He seems pretty smart. I guess he might be just going for ‘electorally smart’ though (like Romney’s most current, different, position), which can be quite different to regular smart.

    Thumb up 0

  11. Seattle Outcast

    HAl is the one person here that still drinks the AGW kool aid, so using him as a solid reference point isn’t doing you any good.

    Thumb up 0

  12. CM

    HAl is the one person here that still drinks the AGW kool aid, so using him as a solid reference point isn’t doing you any good.

    Nah it’s not just Hal. And he’s not the reference point. The information he links to is a reference point. As well as the thousands and thousands of published papers. And all the world’s relevant scientific bodies. And around 98% of scientists working in the field. And a century of scientific discovery and advancement. And the many many overlapping pieces of evidence. But you have your kool aid analogy and grand conspiracy/fraud theory, which apparently trumps all that. Nothing can penetrate good old staunch political ideology, no matter how strong it is. What’s the name of the theory which says the more evidence some people are presented with, the greater their belief in the opposite?

    Thumb up 0

  13. CM

    For basic research, government funding can work. But when it comes to developing specific, applied, marketable technology, government is hopeless. We need healthy businesses to make the real advances.

    Hal, what are your thoughts on this funding:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/16/the-one-part-of-obamas-stimulus-that-romney-loves/

    It’s the precisely kind of federal intervention that research scientists and energy firms have been demanding: a link between basic research and development and demonstration projects that could ultimately find their way to the commercial market. And it’s among the reasons why Time reporter (and WaPo alum) Michael Grunwald believes the stimulus “was the biggest and most transformative energy bill in history.”

    Thumb up 0