Why are climate change alarmists also coronavirus alarmists?

My Facebook friends who previously posted mournful and/or urgent messages regarding climate change are now posting messages about the calamity of coronavirus (also how it would hardly bother us at all if Obama were still the Great Father in Washington).

One inveterate climate change alarmist posted on Facebook, for example, “We need trillions of dollars to radically change the economics of health care and work in the US in an instant.” (because spending 20 percent of GDP on health care is not enough?)

The 14th century Black Death resulted in significant cooling due to farmland reverting to forest (Wikipedia). Presumably even the most alarmed coronavirus alarmists aren’t expecting a reduction in human population along the same lines as the Black Death, but for folks whose #1 priority is arresting global warming, why is any epidemic fatal disease a cause for constant alarm?

I can understand being a climate change alarmist. I can understand being a coronavirus alarmist. I can’t understand how someone can be simultaneously alarmed about both phenomena.

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Haircuts for climate change?

My iPhone went for a brief inadvertent swim in the Bahamas. Afterwards, it refused to charge due to the detection of water inside the Lightning connector. My companion is a collector of classic English automobiles (he’s Irish so I don’t know why he would want the automotive products of the country that colonized Ireland) and thus has extensive and bitter experience with Lucas electrics. “Use a hair dryer on it,” he suggested.

As I consumed hundreds of watts of power in what turned out to be a successful quest to restore the iPhone to full health, it occurred to me that long hair might be bad for Mother Earth.

Consider that maintaining long hair requires a lot of shampoo and conditioner plus huge energy consumption if blown dry. By contrast, it costs almost no energy to cut hair short.

Greta Thunberg appears with long hair in photos and therefore plainly wearing one’s hair short cannot be a condition of climate sainthood. But why isn’t it?

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Fight climate change by paying people to have fewer children?

One point from a geology class (previous post) was that the Black Death resulting in global cooling due to agricultural land (roughly 37 percent of Earth’s non-glacier-covered land) being returned to forest (see also “Immigration is the Reverse Black Death?”). So if the climate change alarmists are right that there will be a catastrophic loss of human life, the result should be an Earth that quickly returns to equilibrium state.

What about avoiding a sudden catastrophic reduction in human population?

The geologist teaching the course steps back from 40+ lectures and concludes towards the end that humans are currently the world’s biggest agent for geological change, perhaps dominating even the Milankovitch cycles that formerly got us into and out of ice ages. Considering all of the Earth’s resources, he thinks that a human population of around 2 billion is the sustainable number.

(Having seen what the Chinese are able to do with infrastructure and the latest “Crazy cheap solar power plant”, I think this estimate of the Earth’s carrying capacity might be low.)

We’re close to 8 billion right now. What are the governments and non-profit organizations that say they’re concerned about climate change doing? Paying people to have children! In the U.S., we have tax credits for the middle class who have kids, free housing, health care, and food for low-income Americans who have kids, free K-12 education to replace what used to be a parental expense (and soon, thanks to Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, free college). (see birth rate versus family income for how effective these programs are and also for how eventually most Americans will be descended from those who don’t work) In poor countries, various non-profit orgs are especially keen on providing services to “families” (i.e., adults who have chosen to have children). Traditionally, people in poor countries had children as a form of retirement financial security.

[In the U.S., there are also people having kids in order to harvest child support. Recent example from the news: Lunden Roberts is pursuing the unlimited child support profits available in Arkansas via a lawsuit against Hunter Biden, the former VP’s son (Biden is married, though, so this is really a financial tug-of-war between two women, the plaintiff former stripper and the Trump-hating previously-married wife). Would the plaintiff have been enthusiastic about populating the Earth with this additional CO2 source if not for the cash incentive? As noted in “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage,” there are plenty of Americans who are happy to sell an abortion at a discount to the net present value of the expected child support cashflow, indicating a fondness for cash rather than children.]

What if we took the scientists seriously on the subject of human population being the main source of climate change? Wouldn’t a good first step be stopping the cash incentives to have more children? After that, why not actually pay people who refrain from having children? World median household income is roughly $10,000 (Gallup). A $1,000/year payment would therefore provide a significant bump. What about paying adults with no kids $1,000/year and those with one child $500/year? We’d have to continue the payments into retirement to make up for the fact that children might otherwise provide retirement security.

Since it is tough to track the number of children that a human identifying as “male” might have, we can look at only those identifying as “female”. Assume roughly 2 billion “women” of childbearing age currently on Planet Earth (2011 source says 2 billion out of 7 billion, but they use an age range of 15-49). Let’s say that roughly 1 billion have fewer than 2 children and that we need to pay an average of $750/year to these 1 billion. That’s a total annual spend of $750 billion that will perhaps trend up to $1.5 trillion over the coming decades. World GDP is roughly $80 trillion (and will grow quite a bit as the cost of payments rises). So this is less than 1 percent of GDP to save the planet from the climate change and other environmental damage that scientists say is inevitable when human population is above 2 billion.

How does this compare to other ideas for mitigating climate change? Morgan Stanley estimates a $50 trillion cost for a combination of solar panels, wind, electric cars, carbon capture, etc.

Readers: What do you think? Is it inconsistent to bemoan climate change and simultaneously encourage population growth?

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Bury the Christmas Tree to save Planet Earth

Annals of defriending, installment #4681…

A friend posted a picture of the impeccably dressed family standing in front of a burning fireplace: “Not to distract from the impeachment bonanza, but Merry Christmas and Happy other Holidays!”

This garnered nearly 200 Facebook likes and 40+ positive comments, e.g., “Beautiful Family! Happy Holidays.”

On the other hand, me:

Looks like carbon that had been sequestered in those logs is now being released into the atmosphere. You are stealing [depicted boy] and [depicted girl’s] childhood. HOW DARE YOU?!?

Then a follow-up:

May I gently suggest that next year’s photo depict the family digging a hole in which to bury the wood instead. [Link to “Carbon sequestration via wood burial”]

From the cited 2008 paper:

Here a carbon sequestration strategy is proposed in which certain dead or live trees are harvested via collection or selective cutting, then buried in trenches or stowed away in above-ground shelters. The largely anaerobic condition under a sufficiently thick layer of soil will prevent the decomposition of the buried wood. Because a large flux of CO2 is constantly being assimilated into the world’s forests via photosynthesis, cutting off its return pathway to the atmosphere forms an effective carbon sink.

Based on data from North American logging industry, the cost for wood burial is estimated to be $14/tCO2($50/tC), lower than the typical cost for power plant CO2 capture with geological storage. The cost for carbon sequestration with wood burial is low because CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by the natural process of photosynthesis at little cost. The technique is low tech, distributed, easy to monitor, safe, and reversible, thus an attractive option for large-scale implementation in a world-wide carbon market.

The proposal is to (1) collect dead trees on the forest floor and (2) selectively log live trees. Then the tree trunks are either buried in the trenches dug on the forest floor (burial) or suitable landfills, or logs piled up above ground sheltered away from rain (Fig. 3). The buried woody material will have significantly longer residence time, and it effectively transfers carbon from a relatively fast decomposing pool (about 10 years) to a much slower carbon pool (100–1000 years or longer).

The 10 GtC y-1 dead wood production rate could also be enhanced by active forest management. Instead of waiting for the trees to die, one can also harvest relatively mature trees via techniques such as selective cutting. At first sight, this seems to be a carbon source as live trees take up CO2. However, if trees are selected properly, it may lead to an overall sink because younger forest tends to be more productive, and somewhere in the development stage, productivity significantly exceeds respiration and decomposition loss [24]. Since the less productive trees that do not do well compete for light and other resources, their removal will leave younger trees to grow more vigorously in the gaps, forming a net carbon sink. In an even-aged forest, self-thinning is a major step of the secondary succession in which a major fraction of young trees die to give way to other trees. In this case much younger trees can be selectively cut or collected after death.

It is an interesting question whether this can be a useful geoengineering strategy. Readers: Do you know of newer research in this area?

For trees that have already been cut, however, like the 25-30 million Christmas trees (source) sold each year in the U.S., wouldn’t burial of the trees do more to save the planet than a lot of the empty environmental gestures in which Americans engage?

In other Christmas news, a Facebook meme that seems to have been widely shared…

Boston Museum of Fine Arts tree, in which flags of Islamic nations are featured on a Christmas tree:

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Geologist says Black Lives Don’t Matter…

… and neither do any other lives.

I’ve been listening to How the Earth Works, a survey course in geology from Michael E. Wysession, a professor at Washington University (St. Louis). It would surely be better as a video, but it works reasonably well in audio from Audible.

Wysession has a great knack for analogy, e.g., if the history of the Earth is your arm then you could erase human history with one swipe of an emery board over a fingernail.

What are we standing on? “The crust is literally the scum of the Earth,” says the professor, and more than 90 percent oxygen by volume.

The course dates from 2008 and therefore does not reference TIME Geophysicist of the Year Greta Thunberg. Wysession is a specialist in seismology, not in climate modeling, but he delivers the standard modeler result that the Earth is going to get warmer from the abuse it has suffered at the hands of humans, a child-like species in the professor’s view. He offers some practical tips, e.g., don’t live in the interior of a continent, especially near the Equator, because in the worst case it could be 8 degrees C hotter in 100 years. Areas near the ocean (but obviously you don’t want to buy a house right at current sea level!) will experience more moderate temperature increases.

Does he wail from his parents’ $10,000 chair like Greta T? No. He seems to take the long view. The Earth’s climate has been unusually stable for the past few hundred years. Back in the pre-Babylonian times there would be huge floods and multi-year droughts (thus leading to the stories we find in the Hebrew Bible, for example). As a geologist, he doesn’t get all that excited if the Earth gets hotter or colder for a while (“while” = tens of thousands or millions of years). What if climate change causes half of the human race to perish? Famine is the standard mechanism for controlling overpopulation of any species.

Climate is important for humans, according to the notes:

Between 0–100 C.E. warm, stable climates allowed the Roman Empire to thrive and expand. However, in 400 C.E., the climate went into an extended period of freezing. Starving Europeans migrated south and eventually overrode the Roman culture, contributing to its demise.

He also describes how the colder climate starting circa 1300 brought flood to China, which caused a boom in the rat population, which led to a boom in the flea population, which led to the Black Plague as the rats and fleas spread to the Middle East and Europe. The Plague in turn made the climate colder as “Millions of trees sprang up in now-abandoned fields, pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and cooling the climate.”

But humans aren’t important for the Earth in the long run.

For those who do want to worry about our species, Wysession brings up a lot of additional risks that don’t make it into the New York Times. When the Earth’s magnetic field “flips” from north-south to south-north, the flip happens almost instantaneously… in geologic time. There is hardly any magnetic field for 1,000 years during a “flip” and that means no magnetosphere. With no magnetosphere, cosmic rays rush in and destroy almost all of the life on our planet.

Can we predict volcanic eruptions? Not really. When a big one occurs, it can plunge us into a 1,000-year cooling period. Supposedly this happened 75,000 years ago with Toba.

What about geoengineering to stave off a big climate change? Wysession says that the sunspot cycle, which changes insolation by less than 0.1 percent, can have significant effects on the Earth’s climate (the Little Ice Age from 1550-1850, for example). So if we can build a big sunshade up in space, paint a bunch of stuff on Earth white, or fill the upper atmosphere with reflective particles we should be able to set the Earth’s temperature more or less as desired. (Failing that, plant some trees in the Sahara.)

Unlike our media and politicians, How the Earth Works covers both positive and negative feedback mechanisms for all of the cycles on our planet. Despite the discussion of human-caused climate changes, the course overall is a story in remarkable stability (not as bitingly sarcastic and funny as when told by this Nobel-winning physicist, though). Why aren’t our oceans as salty as the Dead Sea? Subduction keeps them in equilibrium by dragging ocean crust, filled with salt, down into the Earth.

Given that Americans want to talk about geoscience, but without doing any studying, watching or listening to this class could make you the life of the party (assuming that it is a very dull party).

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Better choice for TIME Person of the Year than Greta Thunberg?

The year is almost over so nearly all of the accomplishments of 2019 have already happened.

Some people are complaining that Greta Thunberg shouldn’t have been chosen as TIME Person of the Year on the grounds that she didn’t accomplish anything (China and India are still growing and burning coal;, American say-gooders are still driving their pavement-melting SUVs, etc.).

If not Greta T, then who? On a planet of 7.6 billion souls, who among us is worthy of this singular honor? (a tougher challenge than what the Nobel Prize committees face since they are able to spread out the honors among 20+ people)

Some possibilities:

  • Donald Trump, since he has generated more media stories than anyone (and CNN viewers consider him a god; he already won in 2016, but that was when he was merely a human and Obama was selected twice)
  • Harvey Weinstein, since he kicked off the lucrative #MeToo industry (Person of the Year need not be a saint; Adolf Hitler was selected in 1938; note that the people getting paid were selected in 2017 as “The Silence Breakers”)
  • Robert Mueller, who spent two years and tens of $millions in tax dollars to figure out that some young Americans wanted to be paid to have sex with older Americans and that some Americans wanted to evade paying income tax
  • Volodymyr Zelensky, who has managed to keep roughly 50 percent of Americans spellbound with tales of a country that almost none of them would be able to locate on a map
  • Bill Dally, chief scientist at NVIDIA, the hardware behind the end of the AI Winter
  • someone in China who accomplished something awesome that we can all use? (the folks behind the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge are disqualified, though, since it opened in 2018)
  • Xi Jinping, since he directs the world’s most important economy without hogging the headlines all the time
  • Martin Herrenknecht, whose tunneling machines are transforming the world and enabling the Chinese to get everywhere quickly on their new metro systems
  • Bernard Ziegler, who has kept tens of millions of people safe with the fly-by-wire systems that he pioneered at Airbus

Readers: Better ideas? (I hope!)

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Let Greta Thunberg fans trade places with people in low-carbon countries?

From the guy who runs the U.S. when nobody from Ukraine is available to act as the hidden power behind our government (NY Post):

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday took aim at teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, telling an energy forum he did not share the excitement about her United Nations speech last month.

Putin, chairing a session at an energy forum in Moscow, said: “I may disappoint you but I don’t share the common excitement about the speech by Greta Thunberg.

“No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and … people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.”

Why not implement an exchange program around this? People in poor countries that have low per-capita carbon output can swap with those in rich high-carbon countries who want to reduce their personal footprints. Thus the person from the poor country can immediately enjoy the more lavish material lifestyle within there being any net increase in carbon consumption (try to do the exchange via a standby flight reservation so that there is no extra carbon output from the airline trips).

It could also be a fun TV show depicting the adaptions of those who agree to participate in the swap, in the artistic tradition of Trading Places.

Readers: What to call this? The “Putin-Thunberg Shuffle”?

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United Premier 1K members warn us about the climate emergency

“World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency is signed by 11,258 scientists worldwide.

Let’s have a look at principal author Thomas Newsome’s conference papers, indicating travel from his Sydney, Australia base. In 2018 alone, he visited at least Cleveland, Minneapolis, Brisbane, and Hobart. How about principal author Phoebe Barnard? In addition to organizing and attending conferences around the world, she splits her time among Namibia, South Africa, and the U.S.

When will the climate emergency become so dire that these authors decide to use Skype rather than take transcontinental airline trips every few months?

Related only in the reference to United Premier 1K:

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Shanghai has already accomplished what will take Californians more than 4 years

I’m planning a trip to Shanghai, November 13-24.

From the Okura Garden web site:

In accordance with the Shanghai municipal environment regulations, unless requested by staying hotel guest, the hotel no longer proactively provides single-use toiletry amenities such as toothbrush, comb, razor, nail file and shoe mitt from July 1st, 2019. If you have further inquiry please contact the hotel’s guest services.

I think this proves my theory that it will be the Chinese who will save Planet Earth. Californians will need until 2024 to achieve this goal (previous post).

Separately, who wants to get together in Shanghai, Suzhou, or Hangzhou?

What about hotels? Okura Garden comes up as “best value” in the booking engines. Is it better to stay right on the Bund? I will be visiting NYU Shanghai across the river, but mostly hitting all of the tourist sites, museums, etc.

(Airfares to China show the absurd lack of competition for domestic travel. The basic fare plus tax from Boston to Shanghai, 14+ hours of flight time, is $590 (United, with a connection) or $640 (Hainan, nonstop).)

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We are in a climate emergency, but Californians can wait 3-4 years

Nobody can accuse Californians of being slackers when it comes to tackling the climate change emergency: “California bans hotels from using tiny plastic bottles” (USA Today).

When does the planet-saving ban take effect?

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday he had signed a law banning hotels from giving guests plastic bottles filled with shampoo, conditioner or soap. It takes effect in 2023 for hotels with more than 50 rooms and 2024 for hotels with less than 50 rooms.

Violators could be fined $500 for a first offense and $2,000 for subsequent violations.

So it will be 3-4 years before (a) hotels have to go to CVS and buy some Softsoap and shampoo with a pump, and (b) people can apply for government jobs (with health care and pension!) inspecting and fining hotels that are filled with hate for Planet Earth.

If we’re in an emergency situation and hotels don’t typically stock more than a few months of supplies, why wouldn’t the ban take effect sooner than 2023-2024?

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