Unable to cure COVID-19, physicians turn to planetary physics

“Action on Climate Change Is Urged by Medical Journals in Unprecedented Plea” (WSJ, today):

Editors of 220 leading medical, nursing and public-health journals from around the world called for urgent action on climate change, in a joint editorial published on Sunday.

The editorial, which appeared in journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet, warns that current efforts aren’t enough to address health problems resulting from rising global temperatures caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world,” the journals’ editors say in the editorial. If unchecked, they say, rising temperatures “risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.”

In their shared statement, the editors press for “fundamental changes in how our societies and economies are organized and how we live” to limit future global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels—a goal arising from the 2015 Paris climate summit.

“It is an unusual happening and it is driven by unusual circumstances,” Dr. Eric J. Rubin, editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, said of the editorial. “It is evident that climate change is a problem. What is less evident to people is that it is a public-health problem, not just a physical catastrophe.”

“Health professionals have been on the front-line of the Covid-19 crisis,“ Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, said. “And they are united in warning that going above 1.5 C and allowing the continued destruction of nature will bring the next, far deadlier crisis.

I showed the article to a medical school professor friend: “Since doctors can’t help COVID-19 patients, they need something to stay relevant.”

I remain just as confused as ever about why people who predict impending climate doom also worry about COVID-19. Regardless of coronapanic level and government action or inaction, there is no country in which more than 1 percent of people have died with a COVID-19 tag (stats by country). If something like 50 percent of humans will soon be killed by climate change, absent some sort of dramatic coordinated action by all of the world’s nations (unprecedented in the history of humanity), why spend a huge amount of attention, time, effort, and money on COVID-19?

Maybe doom isn’t impending? The article itself contains enough information to predict certain doom. We are 1.1 degrees C warmer than 150 years ago:

Greenhouse-gas emissions from human activity have raised global temperatures by 1.1 degrees C since the Industrial Revolution began in the mid-19th century, according to scientific studies.

In the excerpt above, the article tells us that 1.5 degrees C is where Mother Earth will strike back by killing many or most of her human parasites. But if the mechanism by which we got to 1.1 degrees warmer is the greenhouse effect from CO2, isn’t it certain that there will be an additional 0.4 degrees of warming? Even if human C02 emissions went to zero tomorrow, wouldn’t there be enough CO2 in the atmosphere to keep us on the Venusian trajectory?

If the authors believe their own cited science, shouldn’t their recommendation be to shut down most health care services and put the money (20% of U.S. GDP!) into CO2 vacuums?

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Jet traffic jam on the way to hear Bill Gates talk about climate change

“FAA Throttles Bizjet Traffic To Idaho Billionaires’ Conference” (AVweb):

There were so many business jets headed to the 38th annual Allen and Company conference in Sun Valley that the agency had to throttle traffic to Friedman Memorial Airport, which is 13 miles south of the famed resort town.

Like many small mountain airports, Friedman has a single runway (13/31 7550 x 100) and while that seems ample, it’s also at 5318 feet. Idaho is also in the middle of a historic heat wave so density altitude has been a lot higher than that during the heat of the day. Despite the constraints, dozens of aircraft, from Citations to Global 7500s were funneled into the facility and crammed onto the ramp. Keynote speaker was Bill Gates, who delivered a speech on climate change.

Some good life advice from my own March 2016 trip to Sun Valley:

And we made it out of Idaho at a near-jet speed:

The approach plate for KSUN:

Note the 1600′ minimum ceiling required, i.e., better than VFR minimums to do an instrument approach. There is a somewhat lower procedure available, but only to those whose aircraft have heroic climb rates.

Related:

  • “Bill Gates joins Blackstone in bid to buy British private jet services firm” (Guardian): … an approach to buy Signature, which handles more than 1.6m private jet flights a year. … According to a study by academics at Lund University, Gates is one of the world’s biggest “super-emitters” due to his regular private jet travel. He took 59 flights in one year travelling more than 200,000 miles, according to the report, which estimated that Gates’ private jet travel emitted about 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That compares with a global average of less than five tonnes per person.
  • U.S. local and federal governments respond to an urgent safety situation (it is a mystery to me how we haven’t lost a billionaire or two if they’re actually using the airport closest to Sun Valley)
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Maskachusetts takes aggressive action against climate change…

… starting 14 years from now: “Massachusetts to Ban Sale of New Gas-Powered Cars by 2035” (Car and Driver).

Climate change is an existential crisis, which is why we are going to do nothing about it (other than abandon public transport in favor of private cars) until 2035.

I am waiting for our legislature to ban the sale of Wright Flyers.

How much will this help to heal Planet Earth? At least for now, a battery-electric vehicle actually emits more greenhouse gas over a 10-year life than a plug-in hybrid:

Note further that driving a small conventional gas-powered car would actually result in less emission of CO2 than driving a mid-sized electric car. Also note that the difference in lifetime CO2 emission between a virtuous Tesla and an evil non-hybrid Honda Accord is minimal. If you hate emitting CO2, #StayHomeSaveLives and/or ride a bike.

Related:

  • from the October 2020 debate between Virtue and Evil: Biden: Climate change, climate warming, global warming is an existential threat to humanity. We have a moral obligation to deal with it. And we’re told by all the leading scientists in the world that we don’t have much time. We’re going to pass the point of no return within the next eight to 10 years. (My comment on the foregoing: “Humanity is facing an existential threat? Why is Biden worried about Covid-19, which kills as many people as a few bad flu seasons even when a country mostly just gives the finger to the virus? Why not take the $trillions we’re still spending on Covid-19 and instead spend it on preventing Earth from turning into Venus?”)
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Solar electricity at 1.35 cents/kWh in Abu Dhabi

I haven’t been getting a good supply of climate change alarmism and panic due to coronapanic dominating the media. Here’s an item that I missed: the next big solar project in Abu Dhabi will deliver power for 1.35 cents/kWH (cleantechnica).

Related:

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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?

Related:

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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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