Is the fight against global warming alarmism hopeless?

February 26th, 2012 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

NOTE: The following light-hearted and playful editorial was whipped up after seeing a new Washington Post editorial on their Post(-Normal)Opinions page entitled Is the fight against global warming hopeless? I took the text of that article (which I encourage you to read first) and added some creative modifications. Only a few of the sentences were left intact, which are their creations, not my own…although I doubt the WaPo editorial board will agree with the context I have used them in. Snicker.

Is the fight against global warming alarmism hopeless?

IS THE FIGHT against global warming alarmism hopeless? It can seem so. The long-term threat to humanity comes from fears that carbon dioxide, which is necessary for life on Earth to exist, will lead to damaging energy policies which kill perhaps millions of poor people around the world each year. Fortunately, after decades of effort, only about one-tenth of America’s energy mix comes from renewable sources that don’t produce life-enhancing carbon dioxide, and which are so expensive they reduce prosperity for all.

But two policies could allow inefficient, wealth-destroying carbon-free technologies to try to catch up to their less expensive competitors. One is aimed at greenhouse substances that clear out of the atmosphere after a few years, months or even days (as if the climate system really cares than much about them). Cutting back the emission of soot and ozone gases such as methane (sic) could reduce the world’s warming by an unmeasureable amount over the next few decades. Adding hydrofluorocarbons — another class of short-lived pollutants — to the list wouldn’t really help to delay the approach of temperature thresholds beyond which global warming could be catastrophic, since those thresholds are entirely in the realm of fanciful theories anyway.

Alarmists believe that reducing these emissions is relatively cheap, especially when the benefits to health are factored in — but at the exclusion of the dangers to health of the reduced prosperity which would also result. For example, primitive cooking stoves in developing countries produce much of the world’s soot; alarmists think using more efficient ones would prevent perhaps millions of deaths from respiratory illness, as if poverty can be alleviated by giving poor people a solar cooker.

Methane, meanwhile, is the primary component of natural gas — a commodity that pipeline or coal-mine operators could sell if they kept it from escaping into the atmosphere. Researchers have curiously concluded that global crop yields would rise…a speculative and even hypocritical claim considering the known benefits to photosynthesis of adding more CO2 to the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning.

Coordinating an effective international effort to cut funding to long-lived climate alarmism enforcers will be the hardest task. Science institutions worldwide have spoken out on the need to address global warming, despite no scientist really knowing how much of past warming (which ended ten years ago) is natural versus manmade, and despite those institutions knowing virtually nothing about the underlying science.

Climate alarmists will waste more than just American money. Regulators in the developing world push to enforce stronger air-pollution rules, which expands the role of government and provides job security for bureaucrats, while ignoring the downside of diverting too much of the taxpayers’ money away from other, more worthy goals.

Since many of the health benefits of fossil fuels have been taken for granted by people, politicians are too eager to cut carbon dioxide emissions, without realizing there are very good reasons that we use carbon-based fuels.

One development that promises to provide abundant energy without the meddling of environmental activists — America’s natural gas boom — faces a challenge of a very different sort: the environmentalists themselves. Innovative drilling techniques have made huge amounts of fuel deep below Americans’ feet retrievable at low cost. Most of it is methane, a greenhouse gas that produces only about half the carbon as coal after combustion. Environmentalists should be cheering: Cheap gas transported for the most part in existing pipelines can start the United States on a wealth-enhancing path with minimal added cost.

That path will be followed naturally, based upon market forces and the ever-present consumer demand for energy. This might well eventually steer us away from fossil fuels, if only because they will gradually be depleted and so their price will by necessity rise.

There is reason for hope – but not for complacency – over the coming years that the ill-conceived policy fantasies of climate alarmists can be fended off so that the poor of the world have a chance to prosper, with continuing access to our most abundant end least expensive energy sources – carbon-based fuels.

This editorial represents the views of Dr. Roy W. Spencer as a professional climate scientist and semi-professional economist wannabe, as determined through debate among the various voices in his head.

53 Responses to “Is the fight against global warming alarmism hopeless?”

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  1. Sean says:

    I read the editorial earlier this morning. All the standard climate change hand wringing was an effort to “sugar coat” the message that we ought to be developing and using more unconventional natural gas. That’s quite an admission for a newspaper like the Washington Post. Perhaps the liberal elite realize a little prosperity might be necessary if their favorite political party is going to have any hope of doing well in this election cycle. Read the original editorial again. They are holding their nose and saying yes to new fossil fuel development. It’s a win for the good guys.

  2. Claude Culross says:

    Clever. A Skeptic’s mirror and wit are an alarmist’s worst nightmare.

  3. Al Fin says:

    Great send-off, Doc! It is not likely that true-believing alarmists will be able to read their own point of view being satirised, however. They just don’t have it in them. The rest of us can certainly enjoy it, though.

    That is an interesting point, Sean. You can be sure that the WaPo editorial staff would never speak approvingly of unconventional methane production without having been given the okay by political higher ups.

    If they were truly serious about boosting the economy, they would have to also endorse the Keystone XL pipeline, offshore and Arctic oil drilling, oil shale kerogen production, coal gasification and CTL, and much more.

  4. RW says:

    Haha. Good one, Dr. Roy!

  5. Dude says:

    When you really need an answer climate change is it! It’s so easy!

  6. “Another development that promises to provide time for clean technology to scale up — America’s natural gas boom — faces a challenge of a very different sort: environmentalists.”

    Oh, the irony of it!
    The same thing is threatening oil extraction by franking in the UK.

    And I ask: How can something that does not exist, “clean technology”, catch up?

    And I ask: How can something that does not exist, “clean technology”, catch up with anything?

    I’m all for sustainable research and development, that is, non-governmental but privately funded.

    Cleaner environment? Yes, by all means!
    But CO2 is not dirty, it is carbon-based-life’s basis, evidently.

    Thanks Dr. Spencer!

  7. David L. Hagen says:

    For an efficient stove, see Tom Reed’s Wood-gas Stove. Just needs mass production to make it cost effective.

  8. Carbonicus says:

    Thank you for never letting us forget, Roy, that the US has spent $100 BILLION on “climate policy” over the last 13 years, while 1-2 billion people don’t have access to enough food, clean water, basic sanitation, and live in – literal – energy poverty.

    I ask all persons of reason, as a pragmatic environmentalist: what good for human health and the environment could’ve been done with $100 BILLION? And exactly what do we have to show for it? ($528 million – about 1/2 of 1% of that amount- went down the toilet with one single DOE loan (Solyndra).

    Even here at home, while data on air and water quality, surface water quality, virtually every major indicator shows significant environmental improvement since the WWII and post-WWII industrial boom, what good could’ve been done for human health and the environment here in the U.S. with $100 BILLION?

    Thanks for reminding us of the real economic and human consequences of this misdirection. Keep up the good work.

    • David Appell says:

      The US could have easily spent $100B more on the world’s poor in the last 13 years if he had chosen to do so. It didn’t, not because it spent that on climate research instead, but because it has other priorities.

      And just because the world’s poor need access to cheap energy doesn’t mean the developed world (i.e. you and me) also does. We are rich enough that we can afford to pay for the damage done by the generation of the energy we use.

  9. Sam says:

    I am a professional regulator in air pollution control and I can tell you that the majority of violations I write are based on paperwork violations in which there is no real environmental harm done. If we add CO2 regulations on top of this it will be the cherry on top of a pile of nothing that I’m already citing against industry on a regular basis. There are days I feel like I am doing nothing in my job. But I also operate and calibrate ozone monitors and to me that’s the best part. I feel like I am doing something worthwhile then. The inspections and report reviews I do are largely ticky tack violations. I do not wish to enforce something like CO2 because I have enough to deal with.

  10. “Regulators in the developing world must enforce stronger air-pollution rules”

    Very embarrassing to write nonsense of that sort. Higher priorities might include: food, shelter, sanitation, education, security and good governance, to name but a few.

  11. Turnedoutnice says:

    But the real agenda is to recreate via carbon offsets the colonialist policies of the past. These are the deals between Western logging firms and third world governments to clear land for plantations of crops such as Eucalyptus.

    These allow them to claim carbon credits and make the land unsuitable for farming thereby killing hundreds of millions as they are resettled to areas with no traditional fuels.

    At the same time, the peoples of the Western economies are to be put into windmill fuel poverty as we enter a new Little Ice Age, minimising in 2055, killing hundreds of millions.

    Why don’t we call the transport taking populations to internal resettlement ‘Hansen’s death trains’.

  12. Willywolfe says:

    Very interesting! Is it possible that the AGW crowd has actually decided to take a rational pragmatic approach for a change? Are they really going to tone down the bullying and sheer propaganda tactics in favor of step by step market driven forces? The current ratio of the cost of a barrel of oil to a million BTUs of natural gas is about 40 to 1. The amount of energy in a barrel of oil is only about 5.8 million BTUs for a ratio of 5.8 to 1. This disparity and the new abundance of available natural gas will drive use of natural gas no matter what the AGW crowd does. By embracing the use of natural gas the natural consequence will be to increase the price of natural gas. Currently even coal, nuclear and wind (not even accounting for unreliability of wind) can’t compete with natural gas for electric generation costs. Solar is several multiples of the cost of natural gas. No wonder solar panel companies can’t survive! Until we convert our ground transportation fuel source to natural gas there is no chance for alternative energy sources to compete. The only avenue for the AGW crowd’s pet energy sources to succeed is by destroying the economics of traditional energy sources through Cap and Trade or other artificial means and surprise, surprise, surprise the poor and starving masses aren’t going to take it lying down (read that as dead per Roy’s article).

    • David Appell says:

      Solar companies can’t survive because the coal and oil users are socializing the costs of their pollution. Why are you letting people dump their crap on you, for free?

      Generating power with fossil fuels creates more damage than value-added, according to a 2011 paper by Yale economist William Nordhaus:

      Muller, Nicholas Z., Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus. 2011. “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy.” American Economic Review, 101(5): 1649–75.

      Coal-based power is worst of all. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that fossil fuel use causes damages of at least $120 B/yr to health and the environment:

      “Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use”
      National Research Council, 2010

      Of course, no one on forums like this wants to mention external costs, because including them makes it clear that we are all subsidizing fossil fuels by a huge amount through worse health and higher medical costs.

      People need to be educated about external costs, which are real even if they don’t show up on one’s monthly electricity bill. That doesn’t mean developing countries shouldn’t use it — they desperately need more energy — but it’s a reason why rich countries should stop using it and develop (and subsidize) better methods.

  13. David Appell says:

    Sure, it’s easy to make fun of people… but if this were 1950 and someone predicted there would be 0.9 C of warming in the next 50 years, who here would not have written them off as “alarmist?”

  14. NLBwell says:

    Looking at the GISS graph it is just less than 0.6 deg. I think that would be put down as more than average, but within normal fluctuations. 1910 to 1950 was about 0.3 deg.

    • David Appell says:

      BEST’s result was 0.9 C in 50 years, and proving this is a “normal fluctuation” just by looking at a graph is meaningless. What is the average expected fluctuation in such a time period?

  15. I think that some on the “skeptic side” could be making a mistake by hyping the upcoming solar minimum.

    Suppose the sun does dip to near-Maunder-Minimum level of solar activity, and global temperature only decreases slightly or continues its recent stagnation another 2 decades? Then, increased importance of solar activity variation means that increase of CO2 kept the world from cooling, and that we will be in for a world of trouble when the sun rebounds.

    Hyping importance of solar variation could enable “IPCC types” to go another decade or two saying “we’re still on course to catastrophic global warming”.

    I am saying this as a “devil’s advocate”. Personally, I am expecting global temperature to continue stagnating to 2030, and between 2030 and 2115 increase by only .5-1 degree C.

  16. David Appell said on Feb 27, 2012 at 12:29 PM in part:

    “Solar companies can’t survive because the coal and oil users are socializing the costs of their pollution. Why are you letting people dump their crap on you, for free?”

    “Of course, no one on forums like this wants to mention external costs, because including them makes it clear that we are all subsidizing fossil fuels by a huge amount through worse health and higher medical costs.”

    I don’t see significant health/medical costs actually being caused by air pollution or mercury for that matter, now that past clean air legislation and regulation has been successful (and possibly implemented in excessively burdensome ways).

    What I am seeing are major health/medical costs from lifestyle factors – such as smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, eating too much calories, eating too much saturated fats, eating too much trans fats, eating too much added fats of any kind, eating/drinking too much added sugar, not eating enough fiber & veggies & fruit/berries, recreational drugs, driving badly and/or without a seatbelt, living by the sword (or handgun), etc. Also, people who are already in “terminal condition” incurring expenditures of hundreds of kilobucks to live just a few more months, and sometimes by decisions by ones other than the ones with one foot in the grave and the other pointing towards “the bucket”.

    (My apologies and condolences to dying people and their families and friends, including ones that would find what I just said being offensive.)

    My experience includes 3 decades of working in a major city with lots of coworkers, and over 2 decades having a delivery job in a semi-downtown neighborhood having 4 hospitals, 2 nursing homes, 3 dialysis units other than ones in or next-door-to hospitals, and plenty of other medical facilities merely in one zip code. There, I find the air to be good enough for inhaling more of it to deliver and even commute by bike, and the few instances of air violating pollution standards gave me only problems that were both minor and short-term.

    • David Appell says:

      Donald, your anecdotes are meaningless in a scientific sense. An economic analysis finds a lot of damage:

      “Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use”
      National Research Council, 2010

      Here’s an article on the study:

      The use of fossil fuels costs US citizens at least $120B/yr in health costs (in 2007 dollars), according to this report, and 20,000 premature deaths per year. Gasoline isn’t responsible for all of that (it’s, more generally, all coal and oil usage), but just for the sake of argument it would require a fee of only about $0.85/gal on gasoline to pay for this damage. Coal-fired generation facilities created at least $62B/yr in health costs in the U.S. (in 2005), or 3.2 cents/kWhr, or over $800 a year for a family of four.

  17. I recently said something about the success of “clean air” legislation and regulations already in place. Also, I mentioned that there were some times that I had to breathe air that was in violation.

    What I would like to add: In the past 25 years, I have noticed a downward trend in air quality violations.

    The main air quality violations in my area were for surface-level ozone. That comes from combining nitrogen oxides (especially nitrogen dioxide), organic vapors, sunlight, and hot weather.

    What I see is the biggest factors – regulations forcing decreased emittion of volatile organic compounds from automobiles and automobile fueling stations, and post-1995-reduced incidence of weather favorable to “smog violations” in comparison to central/eastern USA’s hellacious heatwaves of 1988 to 1995 and the hellacious one of 1983 and the southernish-centered hellacious heatwave of 1980.

    2nd and 3rd place causes of concern were particulate matter and carbon monoxide, successfully addressed mainly by improvements of motor vehicles and heating systems for buildings, with some of the pressure being for fuel economy (ans some of that pressure coming from increasing fuel prices) rather than pressure for less pollution.

    4th place concern my way is sulfur oxides, with a major concern of those being for production of acid rain. Even sulfur oxides already had a major downturn resulting from “clean air laws”, heavily from electric power generation stations implementing “scrubbers”.

  18. Doug Cotton says:

    No it’s not hopeless, but we do need to promulgate the truth. There can be only one truth and I suggest it runs along these lines …

    The reason radiation from a cooler object slows down the radiated heat transfer to itself from a warmer body is not because there is a compensating transfer of thermal energy back to the warmer body, because such would violate the Second Law. Rather it is because a standing wave is established which is represented by all the area under the Planck curve for the cooler body. This area represents the frequencies and intensities that are common to both the warm and cool objects.

    The atmosphere (with over 50 gases and water vapour) does not radiate everything that a true blackbody would, but water vapour does help fill the area under that curve. So there is a standing wave, but its total power is not as much as a true blackbody. This is why some radiation escapes directly through the atmospheric window.

    The standing wave has no thermal effect because none of its energy is ever converted to thermal energy. It just sends information back to the warmer body and a part of the warmer body’s radiation goes into the standing wave. The energy radiated by the warmer body which is represented by the area between the curves does get converted to thermal energy because it cannot resonate and thus contribute to the standing wave. The calculations of course agree with accepted physics, but the mechanism is not a two-way transfer of heat, as many appear to have supposed.

    But there is no build up of the effect of carbon dioxide due to multiple repetitions of the capturing and re-emitting process envisaged in the IPCC energy diagrams and models. Each carbon dioxide molecule can only play a single role in a very limited sub-section of the total standing wave. Its contribution per molecule would be no more than a molecule of water, and so its total overall effect is comparable with its relative proportion to WV and other emitters in the atmosphere – insignificant.

    Furthermore, there must be a compensating effect for reduced radiation by way of additional evaporation, diffusion etc because the very stable temperatures not far underground will be reflected in the close thermal equilibrium at the surface / atmosphere interface.

  19. Mr. Appell. What damage have we done? I travel the world and find developed countries the most environmentally responsible by far. Our efforts, including not wasting resources on unproductive and outrageously expensive green energy development, provide a market and a means for developing nations to rapidly progress and improve the lives of their impoverished multitudes. We reached our position by developing and using inexpensive energy sources, virtually all fossil-fuel based. Developing nations will be energy starved if they don’t do the same.

  20. Christopher Game says:

    A bit off-track, but:

    For those interested in thermodynamics, here is a link to an updated version of the article on the definition of heat transfer for open systems that I linked to in the thread ‘Yes, Virginia, the “Vacuum” of Space Does have a “Temperature”‘ in my post of February 23, 2012 at 10:30 AM, at

  21. Christopher Game says:

    Responding to the post of Doug Cotton of February 27, 2012 at 4:29 PM.

    Doug Cotton says that there can be only one truth.
    That sounds like a warning that he is about to tell us that only he knows it, or something like that.

    Nevertheless his comment makes at least some sense, and is clear enough to make it worth the effort needed to refute it.

    Doug Cotton writes: “Rather it is because a standing wave is established which is represented by all the area under the Planck curve for the cooler body. This area represents the frequencies and intensities that are common to both the warm and cool objects.”

    From the tightly restricted viewpoint of net energy transfer this claim makes some sense, at least superficially. But from a fully physical viewpoint it is mistaken, at least when considered in the light of the usually accepted view of quantum optics. I am reading the term “standing wave” to refer to a coherent standing wave; otherwise it seems hard to imagine what Doug Cotton’s proposal is trying to say.

    The problem for Doug Cotton’s proposal is that the absorption and emission of thermal radiation is from molecules which are moving chaotically and which emit largely practically spontanteously, that is to say incoherently with surrounding radiation, so far as is currently generally considered to be so in quantum optics. True, there is such a thing as stimulated emission which is coherent with incident radation, but this stimulated emission is in the same direction and sense as the incident radiation and so is no candidate as a contributor to a putative “standing wave”.

    The effect is that practically all the radiative energy that Doug Cotton’s proposal attributes to its “standing wave” is indeed thermalized as the chaotic motion and excitation of atmospheric material molecules, at least in particular in the troposphere and stratosphere; this is contrary to the idea of a coherent “standing wave”. Below about 70 km, the atmosphere is mostly in a condition known as ‘local thermodynamic equilibrium’, which means that the molecular motions and excitation states are well dominated by molecular collisions (according to the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution), which are far more frequent than are radiative molecular events.

    This means that Doug Cotton’s proposal “The standing wave has no thermal effect because none of its energy is ever converted to thermal energy” is not accepted by the usual view of quantum optics. Doug Cotton is thus proposing a radical departure from the usual view of quantum optics. I suppose he didn’t make this story up for himself, but got it from somewhere else? (I have to admit I am not interested to know where it came from.)

    I don’t know the arguments for this proposed radical departure from the usual view of quantum optics, and perhaps I am naughty in saying that for the moment I see no reason to find them out; I think they are most probably invalid; perhaps naughty of me, not to investigage this radically departing proposal; but there it is, I am a naughty fellow.

  22. The world should be preparing for global cooling, and this will be the straw that will break the camels back when it comes to the global economy.

    This decade will wind up quite bad in my opinion.

    It is sad , but as usual one has to learn the hard way.

    I have tried to convey my thoughts , but I might as well be talking to a wall ,for the most part. Pretty much ignored, when it comes to the climate and why it is likely do for the rest of this decade, and why.

    That study ,in itself ,never mind other evidence (which we have much of), is enough in my opinion to prove that the CO2 global warming theory is 100% wrong.

    It is just a matter of time.

  23. Turnedoutnice says:

    Unlearn IPCC propaganda. There are four mistakes in its physics [‘back radiation’ can do no thermodynamic work, IR cannot be thermalised locally, real present GHG warming is << 33 K and the cooling by polluted clouds is the real warming] all bets are off as far as predicting future temperature changes.

    The evidence is piling up that CO2 has little or no net warming capacity because the earth's atmospheric control system via clouds operates at constant IR optical depth. And yes, I have worked out the correct optical physics of clouds and I am now working on the IR physics.

    Assume as the worst case that there will be no offset of the solar cooling factor as we head into the new LIA. In the 1690s, a quarter of Scotland's population died from poor crop yields and cold. Canada and the Northern Great Plains might not be able to grow wheat. Europe will go back to starvation as its crop yields fall.

  24. salvatore del prete said in part 2/28/2012 8:32 AM:

    “A STUDY

    The problem I see here is that increase of CO2 is not
    supposed to cause an imbalance between outgoing radiation and incoming radiation above the atmosphere, nor an imbalance between outgoing and incoming energy (radiation or otherwise) at any level of the atmosphere, or the surface.

    What increase of CO2 *is* supposed to do is add atmospheric opportunities of outgoing radiation to be absorbed, and something like half of the added absorption to be reradiated in the incoming direction.

    So, increase of CO2 *is* supposed to necessitate an increase of surface temperature in order to keep outgoing radiation just above the atmosphere balanced with incoming absorbed by the surface and the atmosphere.

    I see the question being *how much* or *how little* increase of surface temperature results from a given increase of CO2. As I have recently said elsewhere, the answer could easily by a fraction of what IPCC mentioned as “most probable” in its AR4.

  25. Turnedoutnice said in small part on 2/29, 2012 1:09 AM:

    “Unlearn IPCC propaganda. There are four mistakes in its physics [‘back radiation’ can do no thermodynamic work, IR cannot be thermalised locally,”

    As for IR being unable to be thermalised locally: Try telling that to anyone operating a CO2 laser (wavelength
    around 10 micrometers), or a high power 1064 nm one whose active ingredient is neodymium (and often having a major inert or semi-active ingredient being “YAG”). Such lasers,
    especially the CO2 ones, get a lot of use for machining purposes such as cutting. This is done because IR *is*
    “thermalised locally” where the IR is absorbed.

  26. Willywolfe says:

    Mr. Appell,

    You obviously don’t get it. The entire joke is on you. All of your bogus economic evaluations are based on the false premise that fossil fuels are causing extreme out of control global warming. All of the evidence says they aren’t. You might as well go out front of wherever you are and evaluate that the Earth looks flat to you and conclude all of the Earth is flat!

  27. Willywolfe says:

    P.S. Mr. Appell, the NY Times article cites a preposterous study using a value of $6 million per each life allegedly cut short. Since the majority of the alleged shortened life spans would be elderly and infirm who probably only have their lives shortened a few years making the figure extremely high. It also completely fails to take into account the loss of life that would be caused by the poverty imposed by the likes of you and Al Gore through spending trillions of dollars replacing fossil fuel plants prematurely with inefficient solar and wind sources.

  28. From Peru says:

    What a big amount of nonsense condensed in a single post!

    I live in Peru in South America. Most of tropical glaciers are here, and 25% of their ice have melted in the last century.In a few decades their will be gone.Then our water supply will depend of just seasonal rains, that are subject to the incontrollable variability due to El Niño/La Niña.

    And we have a big problem with fossil fuels. They are not the wealth-creating factory of Roy Spencer fantasy world. Unlike in the USA and Europe, we have almost no pollution regulations, and a big portion of peruvian cars are imported 20-year old used cars that the 1990-2001 government of Alberto Fujimori (the dictator that among other things have stolen billions of dollars from peruvian taxpayers in the biggest corruption episode in our history)authorized to import.

    Now our streets are full of cars and buses that emit huge amounts of sulfur dioxide and soot, making Lima one of the most polluted cities in the world. Now air pollution is a major cause of respiratory illness and premature death. The 2006-2011 Environment Minister department estimated that the cost of pollution ( sewage, landfills, old mines, industrial waste, air pollution, agrochemicals,etc. ) was aproximately 4-5% of our Gross Domestic Product. This number obviously does not count the value of dead people, because measuring the value of a human life is materially impossible (I would, for moral and religious reasons, assume it to be infinite. Since infinite is mathematically problematic, to say the least, this cost usually count only the productivity of the dead people, something that can be estimated, and included in the above number, but obviously severely underestimate the value of human life)

    Pollution is evidently a major cause of wealth destruction, death and poverty. Poor people are the most vulnerable to pollution, because they have no money to go to live in a better environment, and have no money to pay for healthcare.

    This do not mean that we must return back to the stone age. It means that economic activities must be regulated to prevent the damage of pollution. The total cost of this, that is, the cost that society pays for pollution prevention and remediation, is negative: is not a cost at all, is a gain!

    But for ideologicaly blinded market fundamentalists this is anathema, because “the state does not have to intervent in the economy”.Tell that to the millions of people affected by pollution and to the tens of thousands that are dying of poisoning.

  29. From Peru says:


    “completely fails to take into account the loss of life that would be caused by the poverty imposed by the likes of you and Al Gore through spending trillions of dollars replacing fossil fuel plants prematurely with inefficient solar and wind sources”

    Actually solar energy is one of the best ways to give energy to poor people in my country mountain and rainforest countryside that are not linked to the electrical grid.

    And solar energy can be much more equally distributed than power plant energy, because solar photovoltaic arrays can be made as small as needed, obtaining, unlike with current power plants, a decentraliced electrical grid.

    Too costly?

    Just observe the prices of solar panels: they are falling like stones in a pool due to the great supply of PV units due to finacial support of states like China to renewable energy producing companies. Now the price of solar panels is below 1$/watt, and still shrinking!

  30. NLBwell says:

    From Peru has some good points with regard to the pollution associated with fossil fuels. This is completely different than the made-up global warming hysteria. There are known and indisputable costs to society and the environment from fossil fuels.
    However, cleaner energy is a luxury good. First people need to eat, have clean water, have heat and electricity, have some sort of medical care, and yes, even have transportation and an economy before they worry about whether pollution will take some years off their lives if they get old enough.
    China is just now getting to the point of beginning to worry about pollution. Peru has many modern areas and it is right to begin worrying about pollution, but forcing many of the citizens into extreme deprivation to make the wealthy feel better is not moral. Are pollution controls on cars or scrubbers for power plants monies better spent than on water and electricity for the poor? Are the benefits from the drag on the economy from regulation worth the poverty and death that results from greater regulation? There are no clear answers, only tradeoffs. The tradeoff of environmental purity is deprivation for the poor. When the economy grows enough and the poor become better off, the balance can change somewhat.

  31. NLBwell says:

    Oh, by the way, electricity in the US is ~$0.15 per kilowatt-hr for residences. A small solar power setup can be the right answer in areas where it is extremely costly to get the electric grid to that area, but paying 6,667 times more for electricity is an economic drain and it is not feasible to have a large amount of wealth for a large amount of people. Cheap energy leads to a greater creation of wealth (and therefore a cleaner environment).
    Remember, prior to the automobile horses caused far greater environmental and health damage in cities than the automobile has ever caused.

  32. Willywolfe says:


    Nothing you say makes any sense. Melting glaciers in the Andes proves absolutely nothing about why there may be warming and right now the Earth is cooling in complete contradiction of the AGW theory. It doesn’t matter how much the price of solar panels have come down until they make electricity at night and cost less than other energy sources. Solar still is far more expensive than any other electricity source. The article that Appell referred to was not talking about 20+ year old automobiles and unregulated dirty power plants in Peru. It was about the relatively very clean plants in the USA. Yes, regulation and clean technology needs to be used and natural gas is the way to go, especially here in the USA. No, you really can’t put a dollar value on life, but you can see that there are trade offs between the advantages of having electricity, food and water versus living in a cave.

  33. From Peru says:


    I am happy that at least you recognize the problem of pollution externalities and the need for regulation as a true and legitimate problem, but you still don’t understand that we have NOT to choose between clean energy and poverty. We can not only have both, but clean and decentralized energy is more effective for inclusive development and reduction of poverty than centralized and dirty power plant energy.

    “Peru has many modern areas and it is right to begin worrying about pollution, but forcing many of the citizens into extreme deprivation to make the wealthy feel better is not moral”

    No, pollution is a problem that dates back decades, if not centuries, in our history. Extreme deprivation is exactly what unregulated pollution causes, and the main victims are just the poor, not the rich who can migrate to cleaner places and pay healthcare when they get ill.

    “Are the benefits from the drag on the economy from regulation worth the poverty and death that results from greater regulation? ”

    The clean regulation os NOT, unlike pollution(that destroy each year some 3-4% of our gross domestic product and kill thousands of people) a drag on the economy, and it reduces poverty and prevents death.

    There are plenty of examples of clean development in Peru and also disturbing examples of pollution. Open your mind to reality, don’t get stuck in the ecology vs. economy false choice.

  34. From Peru says:


    I wrote:

    “we have NOT to choose between clean energy and poverty”

    I wanted to say “wealth” where I wrote for error “poverty”.

  35. NLBwell says:

    Since I don’t have direct knowledge, I’ll accept your number that GDP in Peru is decreased 4% by pollution. It certainly doesn’t seem to be totally wrong. GDP per capita in 1990 (a year you mentioned as a start of the problems) was $1,213 (US dollars) per year. In 2010 (last year of the data) it was $5,401. To go back to a time of less fossil fuel use, you would have to cut everyone’s income by about 78%.
    Which is worse, losing 4% or losing 78%.
    Of course you could use the model of Spain, which invested heavily in solar energy and reduced the GDP per capita AND is close to bankrupting the government.

    I heard a quote today which is applicable:
    Politics is asking “What do you want?”
    Economics is asking “Which do you prefer?”

  36. From Peru says:


    GDP in Peru is decreased by pollution 8.2 billion soles EVERY YEAR, it is not the cumulative damage since 1990.

    That’s 3.9% of the 2003 GDP. In those year the dollar/sol ratio was around 3.4 Soles/$, so the damage is around 2.4 billion $ every year (I remembered the number 4% from an interview to the environment minister I saw some years ago on national television. Now I found the World Bank paper that shows it, and I found the minister was using 2003 data. At the end I will give some links to the estimates of pollution damages by the World Bank).

    To obtain the 1990-2010 damage by pollution, you must first know the national statistics:

    The numbers are:

    1990: GDP= 34 billion $ ; GDP per capita= 1 500 $/year ; Population = 22.6 million
    2010: GDP= 153 billion $; GDP per capita= 5 200 $/year ; Population = 29.4 million

    Source: Peruvian Central Bank (the link is in Spanish, I hope that is not a problem. Just jump to slide 12 to see the data):

    Now I can update the world bank estimation of pollution damages using 2010 GDP and population:

    %GDP(2010)= 2.4 billion $/153 billion $ ? 1.5%
    Damage per capita = 2.4 billion $ /29.4 million people ? 81.6 $/year
    %GDP per capita(2010)= 81.6 $/year)/( 5 200 $/year ) ? 1.57%

    Then you compute the CUMULATIVE GDP destruction ?2.4 billion/year*20 years= 48 billion

    Without pollution, in 2010 instead of having a GDP of 153 billion, we could have had 153+48=201 billion $/year.

    The 1990-2010 growth in the pollution vs. no-pollution scenarios are:

    Dirty growth? (153-34)/34 = 350%
    Clean growth? (201-34)/34 = 490%

    It is evident how the damages of pollution have slowed our growth.

    And a final thought : imagine what happens when the economic growth slows (for any cause other than pollution, like an international recession). It is not enough to prevent recession due to just economic/social causes, but a growth of 2.4 billion$/year is needed to just stabilize the economy ( prevent the GDP from shrinking).

    Of course this assumes that environmental damages do not change with time. In reality, they likely grow with time, because thanks to economic growth there is more wealth that can be destroyed. I assumed no change as a gross estimate.

    Here is the link to the World Bank paper:

    Republic of Peru-Environmental Sustainability: A Key To Poverty Reduction In Peru

    The relevant part is Chapter 3 “Aligning environmental priorities with the needs of the most vulnerable”

  37. From Peru says:


    I want to make clear:


    I wrote: “GDP in Peru is decreased by pollution 8.2 billion soles EVERY YEAR, it is not the cumulative damage since 1990”

    sorry, after the comma the text “8.2 billion /year” is missing for error.


    A per capita cost of ?81$/year is not so much terrible for the middle and upper classes. However, for the poor it is an additional burden for an already precarious budget.In Peru we have the following:

    Anyone that has an income of less than 1770$/year is poor. 81$/year destroyed by pollution is 7% of that.

    Anyone that has an income of less than 660$/year is poor. 81$/year destroyed by pollution is 12% of that.

    If you consider that the consecuences of pollution are in great part consecuences on the people’s health, you must remember that some people are more vulnerable than others even if their income is equal. So diseases are “concentrated” in some people. The infortunated families then must expend lots of money to cure themselves and their families, driving them into total misery and that might be not enough to save them from dying.

  38. From Peru says:

    correction: “Anyone that has an income of less than 1170(not 1770)$/year is poor.”

  39. From Peru says:

    correction 2: “Anyone that has an income of less than 660$/year is EXTREMELY poor.”

  40. Doug Cotton says:

    Christopher Game:

    Since writing that post I have come to the conclusion that those who proposed standing wave concepts were applying such to the usual two parallel plate concept. Basically I thought along similar lines to yourself in that particular regard. However, resonant scattering (as I call it) is not limited by anything other than the frequency of the radiation which resonates with the target molecule and, effectively, emits another replacement photon with each wave beat. There is no associated conversion of radiated energy to thermal energy, and that is the important point – as shown by Claes Johnson. The “normal” process of thermal energy being converted to radiated energy as a photon is emitted spontaneously in the absence of incident radiation (at that moment) is not applicable here.

    Broadly speaking, I am sticking with what Claes has said about resonating. The main point still holding that the only thermal energy comes from the radiation represented by the area betwen the Planck curves, and is thus only associated with one way (spontaneous) heat transfer from hot to cold of course.

    I can’t divulge the exact content of my peer-reviewed Radiated Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics but it will be available within the next 36 hours or so. It does not claim the existence of standing waves, and doesn’t need to do so

    Claes has read my paper and fully endorsed it, saying I was one of only a few who understood his paper.

    If you feel you have any valid argument against anything in my paper, or Claes Computational Blackbody radiation I’m happy to discuss. Mine will be on

  41. NLBwell says:

    From Peru –
    To bring the 4% per year costs of pollution down to the lower 1990 levels – which were not zero, you would have to drop the yearly income of the people down by ~78% instantly and keep it there forever (or for 50 to 100 years when there truly may be alternative useful forms of energy) in order to bring the fuel use down to that level.

  42. Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

    DR. SPENCER says:
    “… how much of past warming (which ended ten years ago) …”
    I can´t understand why you say that, when scientists at the Berkeley Earth Project, even with well known sceptics such us Judith Curry, had to accept what Prof. Muller said:
    “Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK,” and
    “This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions”,
    including last decade, as shown at:

  43. Christopher Game says:

    Responding to the post of Doug Cotton of March 11, 2012 at 10:46 PM.

    Doug Cotton writes: “There is no associated conversion of radiated energy to thermal energy.”

    Christopher responds that this statement of Doug’s is loosely worded so that it could be read to have several meanings. Christopher thinks that there seems to be mixing up some of those several meanings in Doug’s mind. Loose wording is apparently symptomatic of loose thinking in Doug’s mind.

    One meaning that Doug seems to have in mind is that by radiative transfer there is net transfer of energy from the hotter body to the colder; Christopher thinks that this is right.

    Another meaning that Doug seems to have in mind is that radiative exchange does not occur and is not a valid explanation of the net transfer of energy; Christopher thinks that this is wrong.

    The usually accepted physics is that each of the two bodies, the hotter and the colder, in radiative exchange, spontaneously emits thermal radiation with a source function given by Planck’s law for the respective body temperatures, and that each of them absorbs thermal radiation from the other in accord with Lambert’s and Kirchhoff’s and Helmholtz’ laws. The absorbed thermal radiation is mostly nearly instantaneously converted to kinetic energy of atmospheric gas molecules, so as to agree with the Maxwell-Boltzmann molecular dynamical distribution; this is called the maintenance of local thermodynamic equilibrium. That thermal energy thereby is available for spontaneous thermal emission again as in the first sentence of this paragraph. The reason for the local thermodynamic equilibrium is that the intermolecular collisions are very frequent and so are dominant over molecular radiative emission and absorption events. Christopher would say that this usually accepted physics is the right microscopic explanation of the macroscopic net transfer of energy from the hotter to the colder body, by way of radiative exchange, as first made clear by Prevost in 1791.

    Christopher thinks that there is mixing up in Doug’s mind between the macroscopic way of thinking of thermodynamics and the microscopic way of thinking of statistical mechanics. Such mixing in the mind is encouraged by “clever” textbook writers who think they are so “modern and clever” that they don’t need to make it very clear to the student that the distinction between macroscopic thinking and microscopic thinking should routinely be carefully observed. Time saved by blurring the distinction is far outweighed by the resulting time lost in confusion and muddle.

  44. Doug Cotton says:


    People have only to read my paper to see what I am actually saying.

    As you say “That thermal energy thereby is available for spontaneous thermal emission again as in the first sentence of this paragraph.

    Provided you state that, if the target is warmer than the source of spontaneous emission, then (on a macro scale) there is no measurable conversion to thermal energy then I’m happy that we are in agreement. In other words, if you say the radiated energy is absorbed then you also need to say that it must be immediately re-radiated. In fact the radiation resonates with molecules that are able to emit identical frequencies. I call it “resonant scattering” and some others call it “pseudo-scattering” because, strictly speaking, a new identical photon is emitted, but it looks like diffuse reflection, energy wise.

    The problem lies in the use of the word “absorbed” for people think of that as a conversion to thermal energy (on a macro scale) which can then be utilised for any purpose or transferred by any process including evaporative cooling, diffusion etc.

    Let me know what you think of sections 1 to 5.

  45. Doug Cotton says:

    The PHYSICS of “Heat” Flow

    [Note that phase change (eg evaporation) does not violate the Second Law because the Second Law really applies to total entropy. In this summary I will only be talking about the “heat” component of thermal energy and only about processes not involving phase change or any other process than “heat” transfer.]

    What is colloquially called “heat” is technically the movement or transfer of thermal energy from one body to another. Body A “heats” Body B if A is hotter than B.

    We are all comfortable with the fact that thermal energy flows along metal barbecue tongs from the fire to our hand, not the other way. But, physics tells us that the temperature gradient is determined by the temperatures at the ends of a metal rod, or the boundaries of a wall, for example.

    How does the energy coming from the hot body “know” what the temperature at the other end is going to be so that it starts out following the correct temperature gradient? This is what happens as thermal energy flows from the Earth’s core to the surface. The temperature plots from boreholes as deep as 9Km all extrapolate from deep underground to the surface temperatures.

    The mechanism by which it knows does in fact involve two-way molecular transitions, even though the thermal energy can only be observed going from hot to cold. There is a similarity between conduction and radiation: there’s a two-way signal, but one way energy transfer.

    As you can read on Wikipedia the Clausius statement:… No process is possible whose sole result is the transfer of heat from a body of lower temperature to a body of higher temperature.

    Physics tells us that you cannot send thermal energy from cold to hot unless you “pump” it there with extra energy, as in a blast furnace for example. So, if it went by itself it would have to create energy. And it cannot create energy even for a small fraction of a second in the “hope” that some future event will send at least as much energy back to the cooler source. That’s just not physics.

    Just as the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to conduction, so it must apply to radiation, for if it didn’t, you could create energy that way.

    The mechanism by which it happens with radiation is really quite simple. If a body receives radiation with familiar frequencies which it can emit itself then it just “rejects” that part of the radiation and effectively sends it on its way. But if the radiation it receives has higher frequencies or a greater intensity of the frequencies it can handle, then the extra radiated energy is converted to thermal energy because it’s too much to handle with resonant scattering, sometimes called pseudo scattering because in fact new identical photos are created in lieu of the old ones.

    Thus “heat” appears to flow from hot to cold, but in fact what moves is two-way radiated energy which is not thermal energy, and which is not necessarily going to be converted to thermal energy in full or in part the first time it strikes an object. It all depends how hot or cold that object is, relative to the temperature of the source of the radiation. Such is well-known physics, nothing else.

  46. Christopher Game says:

    In his post of March 17, 2012 at 10.01 PM, Doug Cotton writes: “if you say the radiated energy is absorbed then you also need to say that it must be immediately re-radiated.”

    Christopher replies: Dear Doug, I suggest you study the Einstein theory of A and B coefficients for radiative emission and absorption, if you wish to understand the physics here. Until you do understand it, you will just further damage your credibility if you persist with comments such as the one I have just above copied here from you. The physical situations of interest are those of local thermodynamic equilibrium, which are near enough to the strict thermodynamic equilibrium condition for which Planck’s law is derived by use of the A and B coefficent theory.

  47. Christopher Game says:

    Sorry, I should have written March 16, 2012 at 10:01 PM as the time of Doug Cotton’s post that I quoted.

  48. Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?

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