Thursday, 25 February 2021

Not sure why this is anybody else's problem.

From the BBC:

Local MP Liam Byrne spoke about the problem in the House of Commons this week. It is, he told MPs, "a story of two nations - rich and poor".

This is not unique to Birmingham. It is a pattern that is being repeated across the country. The people who are most at risk from the virus are the ones, it seems, who are least likely to come forward for vaccination.

Detailed data on uptake down to a community level is not being published by the government to the frustration of many - the figures for Birmingham were published by the council. But what information is available suggests the poorest and most ethnically diverse communities (there is a huge overlap between the two) are seeing the lowest levels of uptake.

The vaccines seem to be working - hooray
Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, the UK govermnent and the NHS between them are handling it all well - hooray
The vaccines are 'free' and well advertised - hooray
They are no compulsory - hooray
The corollary of 'not being compulsory' is that some people, for whatever reasons, will refuse - fair enough. That's the price of freedom.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

RE: ozone depletion - how does the extra Ultraviolet B radiation affect clouds?

That's a question to which I have found no obvious answer, but I assume that if there is a bit of extra high intensity UV-B hitting the atmosphere, it will evaporate some of the clouds, i.e. turn water droplets back into water vapour. The wavelength of UV-B is orders of magnitude less than that of infra red, so the chances of it being absorbed by a molecule in a tiny water droplet is commensurately higher. And 'absorbed' just means that radiation energy is converted to some other form of energy.

This can lead to a disproportionate effect on surface and atmospheric temperatures. This theory might be totally wrong of course but it seems plausible to me. The effect must be warming, however slight. I've not put numbers on the effect because you have to make far too many assumptions so that would 'prove' nothing. This is a wait and see operation. If I live long enough to see the 'ozone hole' repair itself (perhaps by the middle of this century?) and temperatures fall again even though CO2 levels have increased (and they will), then that would support the theory but not really 'prove' it either way:

1. Starting position pre-ozone depletion

Some sunlight hits the surface, most of it hits clouds and is partially reflected: 2. There is now more UV-B (imaginatively coloured violet, even though it is invisible)

Some hits the surface; most of it hits clouds: 3. Cloud cover is reduced

Some of the energy in UV-B evaporates water droplets and so is converted to latent heat of evaporation (no measurable temperature increase). That thins the clouds slightly and reduces the amount of cloud cover. This allows more sunlight at all other wavelengths through to the surface.

So it's not so much the bit of extra UV-B which warms the surface; it is all the other sunlight that isn't reflected and that now gets through. An average reduction in cloud cover of 2% reduces albedo and increases the amount of sunlight getting through by about 1%, sufficient to cause about 1 degree of surface warming: 4. At night, the water vapour condenses into clouds again

The energy converted to latent heat of evaporation during the day turns back into extra thermal energy when the water vapour condenses again (or the rate of cooling is lower than it otherwise would be). This warms the atmosphere slightly. The surface is also slightly warmer. The pink arrows denote the extra infra red and warmth generally:

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Access to LVTC site blocked?

Here for general reference, an email reply from the people who run the LVTC site:

The "you have been blocked" message comes up when a visitor triggers the website's firewall by doing something untoward, e.g. repeatedly attempting to log in to the admin area.

You get three chances before you're blocked for a day, and if you're blocked three times you get permanently blocked by the firewall.

To block visitors the firewall uses their IP address. Unfortunately, because IP addresses are usually shared that does mean some genuine visitors will also get blocked. This appears to have happened [name].

I have cleared the block lists, so [name] will have access. If he doesn't please advise him to clear his browser history (the same thing will apply to anyone else).

Going forward, I've revised the firewall configuration and changed part of the warning message to say:

"Contact with your IPv4 address (visit if you believe you were blocked in error."

Vaccinations are helping drive down new infections. Or not, as the case may be.

The UK government is doing a fine job with vaccinations, which started in December 2020 and really got up to speed in January 2021, averaging 2.5 million vaccinations per week. These appear to be driving down new infections (all data from
Slam dunk, you might think, 1-0 to the UK's strategy!

That is, until you look at daily new cases in other north European countries which have barely started with vaccinations. In these three countries, daily cases also peaked in late December or early January and have been falling since then. I am aware that you could also cherry pick countries which show a slightly different pattern, but that is not the point. More things for which there is no obvious explanation:

Saturday, 20 February 2021

"Silver bullet housing policy could make homeowners millions"

Lola emailed me a link to this regurgitation of the press release:

New modelling shows that the average homeowner who did take up the scheme could make hundreds of thousands, or even millions of pounds, depending on where they live – after building costs and costs of finance. One worked example in the paper shows how a post war cul de sac in Barnet could voluntarily decide to uplift. This would transform the 26 bungalows worth £14 million in total, to be given an additional £54 million in uplift, £10 million of which goes to the council, £44m of which goes to the homeowners (£1.7 million each).

Economist Sam Bowman tells Guido that the policy could solve the housing crisis by unusually making everyone a winner:

“This is the silver bullet that could solve the housing crisis – unlike almost all other proposals, this one works by enriching existing homeowners when they allow more homes to be built. The solution to this decades-long problem is to make it a win/win for people who own their own homes and people who want to. If the government goes ahead with these plans it could make Thatcher’s right-to-buy look like a drop in the ocean in terms of increasing homeownership in Britain.”

This superficially sounds like the grey market in air rights in Manhattan or some Home-Owner-Ist Ponzi scheme. So I followed the links to the actual proposal in order to see if it really was that dumb.

It isn't actually. What it boils down to is that under current rules, one person on a street puts in a planning application to significantly extend his home, and all his neighbours oppose it. Under their cunning plan, those on a street who want to extend come up with a planning application for the whole street which gives every owner the same right to extend, and they all take a vote. If a majority agrees, then everybody can extend up to the new maximum.

Those who are opposed will vote against. Those who aren't bothered either way have to make a calculation - being surrounded by larger/higher buildings depresses the current rental value of a home, but the automatic right to extend it by a certain amount increases its potential selling price. If it's a net uplift, then it makes sense to vote in favour and bank the uplift.

So actually it's quite a sensible suggestion. In theory, it pushes the balance towards densification rather than sprawl, which is believed to be A Good Thing. But clearly, it will make very little difference to anything. I can only see it taking off on streets where all homes are similar, so everybody's uplift is the same.

And as per usual, it just funnels money/value towards people in high value areas. In an average residential area with averagely spaced semi-detached houses worth £200,000, the ones with a third storey are worth (say) £50,000 more, but the third storey costs £50,000 to build. In an expensive area where an average semi-detached costs £600,000, the extra storey might increase the value by £150,000 for a build cost of £50,000, so that's a straight profit of £100,000 for just ticking the "yes" box.
As ever, this is a job for Land-Value-Tax-Man.

For a start, existing buildings would be used more efficiently so there's less need for new construction.

Councils can also be more generous with the right to extend. Every time a home is extended (or improved), the average rental value of all homes in that area goes up ever so slightly, so everybody's LVT goes up slightly. The first ones to extend (or improve) are getting a good deal, because they are only paying for a small fraction of the extra rental value.

When enough people have extended (or improved), the last few who haven't might as well extend (or improve) as well (or sell on to somebody who will) to catch up - there is no point paying for something (i.e. the market value of planning permission i.e. the LVT bill as if they had done an extension or improved) which you aren't using.

This is a very gradual thing, but it sorts itself out in line with market forces. If it's a low demand area, few will extend so there's not much impact, LVT bills don't go up and not much gets extended. Even if the council in a low demand area gave everybody permission to extend by two-storeys, very few would bother - it would be cheaper to just move to a bigger house. In high value areas, it will be a more rapid race to the top.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

"My confusion and anger ended when our host showed me the real physics"

I did a bit of light trolling at Science of Doom and elicited this response:

You are confusing several topics.

No I'm not. They are confusing the issue, as he later confirms:

Elsewhere I have discussed why it is simplest to consider the steady-state balance or imbalance at the TOA [top of atmosphere]. An imbalance at the TOA is created by rising GHGs slowing down the rate of radiative cooling to space. DLR is an internal radiation flux that moves heat WITHIN our climate system and therefore isn’t important to the radiative imbalance at the TOA. A “rising effective emitting layer" is important to the balance at the TOA.

Since AGW is a very complicated subject, it is often explained with a variety of models paradigms including: Increasing DLR “warms” the surface, CO2 “traps” heat, CO2 acts as a blanket or insulation, GHG’s act as shell or layer around the Earth (Willis promotes a “Steel Greenhouse” Model) and a “rising effective emitting layer” model (promoted here and by Linden among others). IMO – and others probably do disagree – all of these models are flawed.

Which was exactly my point. Notice how he first says that the "'effective emitting layer' is important" and then says that the "'rising effective emitting layer' model [is] flawed". I have spent a year wading through these endless layers of crap:

When I first came here (on the advice of Steve McIntyre), I was continuously frustrated and intemperate, because I KNEW that doubling CO2 would double the number of photons emitted by CO2 and usually halve the distance they traveled between emission and absorption. I couldn’t see why doubling CO2 would change anything – which turns out to be an excellent first approximation to the truth. The reduction in radiative cooling [to] space from 2XCO2 is barely more than a 1% change despite doubling the emission of photons by CO2. (As best I can tell, the rising effective emitting layer model doesn’t take into account the doubled emission of photons by doubled CO2.)

Luckily, Salvation is at hand for those Who Know And Want To Believe:

My confusion and anger ended when our host stopped talking about models and paradigms for AGW and showed me the real physics: Schwarzschild’s equation for radiation transfer. This is the equation that climate scientist use to predict that a doubling of CO2 will slow radiative cooling to space by about 3.5 W/m2. Unfortunately, this equation is a differential equation that must be numerically integrated over the path radiation takes, and therefore may or may not be meaningful to you...

I do not pretend to understand this equation numerically, but the gist of is what common sense would tell us: some gases are better 'insulators' against radiation than others, in the same way that some gases are better for thermal insulation than others, so radiation (or thermal energy) comes out of one side more slowly than went in on the other - but it still gets through in the end. Wow, big deal.
Basic physics tells us that everything can radiate (we are told hat N2 and O2 can't, let's just accept that) and that the temperature of the atmosphere falls with increasing altitude (because of the gravity-induced lapse rate). Therefore, stuff which is higher up will be radiating less than the surface. Outgoing radiation is about one-third from the warmer surface and two-thirds from cooler clouds (which themselves have only about 75% emissivity) and if you average those out, you get the same answer as what is actually observed, which is what is needed to keep the atmosphere at a steady-state temperature.

PS, the figure of 3.5 W/m2 (which he himself dismisses as "barely more than a 1% change") is a key part of the Alarmist belief system. This was originally derived by simply assuming that warming over an arbitrarily chosen time period was directly caused by changes in CO2 levels. They later reverse engineered the answer they wanted from an equation not necessarily designed for this purpose. Even if correct, that equates to a surface temperature which is about 0.7 degrees warmer for every doubling of CO2. Again, big deal. (This is of course wholly at odds with Al Gore's claim that temperatures rise by about 1 degree for every 5% extra CO2, not that he ever retracted it or that the Alarmists even notice the discrepancy - if Al Gore's chart had been a good predictor, then temperatures would be about 10 degrees warmer than they actually are.)

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

"Why did COVID fail to take off in India and has now collapsed?"

A good article in The Daily Mail (whose covid-19 related reporting has been very good):

Scientists are baffled by the relatively low rate of coronavirus infections in India after at one point it looked as though it might surpass the US as the country with the biggest case toll.

Infections began to plummet in September, and now the country is reporting about 11,000 new cases a day, compared to a peak of nearly 100,000, leaving experts perplexed.

They have suggested many possible explanations for the sudden drop, seen in almost every region, including that some areas of the country may have reached herd immunity or that Indians may have some preexisting protection from the virus.

I had noticed that, and I am as baffled as they are. As the charts in the article show, India had a steady increases in cases/deaths for a few months, followed by an equally steady decline. Peak daily deaths were no higher in India than in the UK, even though India's population is twenty times as large. There was no exponential growth or fall, it's a straight line up and a straight line back down.

Brazil had been following a similar straight up and down path to India until late last year, when they were hit by a second wave and/or the Brazil variant. But India is approx. one-fifth of the world population, so you've expect there to have been a far few new variants there as well.

Answers on a postcard, your guess is as good as mine.

Something else that baffles me is that the lockdowns/easing don't seem to have had any discernible impact on daily UK cases/deaths. The easing of the first lockdown in July (in the middle of a gloriously warm summer) had no discernible impact - there was no sudden increase. Numbers didn't start ticking up until two months later (when it started getting cold).

They peaked and started falling again just before the December lockdown, and they peaked again two months after that. In other words, the number of infections continued going up for nearly two months after the lockdown started. Of course we'll never know what would have happened without lockdowns, but hey.
Also, well said Mr Z. From the BBC:

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that it's his "very strong instinct... to say, those who through no fault of their own other than their work, have to come into contact with the virus, should be prioritised". He listed shopkeepers, teachers and police officers as those who might be prioritised next.

Yup, give the teachers a jab and let's get the kids back to school ASAP. I trust that bus drivers are also in his list.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

"The Amazing Case of 'Back Radiation' – Part Three"

I dipped back into Science of Doom again for a giggle and ended up at this fine article, it's the third article in a series which is basically a long list of things which are undisputed. The series builds up to this:

Wavelength Dependence on the Temperature of the Source

Of course, radiation from different temperature sources do have significant differences – in aggregate. What most, or all, believers in the imaginary second law of thermodynamics haven’t appreciated is how similar different temperature Planck curves can be:

Notice the similarity between the 10°C and the -10°C radiation curves. Alert readers who have pieced together these basics will already be able to see why the imaginary second law is not the real second law. If a 0°C surface can absorb radiation from 10°C radiation, it must be able to absorb radiation from -10°C radiation. And yet this would violate the imaginary second law of thermodynamics...


[Downward longwave radiation] is emitted by the atmosphere, reaches the surface and is absorbed by the surface. This absorption of energy changes the surface temperature. The physics behind this are [sic] very basic and have been known for around 100 years. Proving that the surface doesn’t absorb DLR should be a walk in the park for anyone with a small amount of cash. But only if it’s true.

Say what now?

Let's assume the ground is zero degrees C. Case A: air from the south wafts in which is +10 C. We'd expect the ground to warm up a bit (and the air to cool a bit). Case B: air from Siberia wafts in which is -10C. A sane and rational person would expect the ground to cool further (and the air to be a bit less cold), but apparently, the ground will warm up almost as much as if the air were +10C rather than -10C. This would to energy appearing out of nowhere (because the air is also getting less cold) and so is clearly impossible.

And I'm not aware that the Second Law says that objects can't absorb radiation from cooler objects. That is a red herring and neither here nor there - if the warmer object is emitting more than it is absorbing, it is cooling down. What the 'Law' says, among many other things, is that heat goes from warm objects to cold objects. Whether that is due to conduction or radiation or anything else is a secondary issue. The word "radiation" only appears once in the very lengthy Wiki article (and once again in the footnotes). Rather conveniently for the forces of common sense and reason, it's in the following sentence:

The second law is concerned with the direction of natural processes. It asserts that a natural process runs only in one sense, and is not reversible. For example, when a path for conduction and radiation is made available, heat always flows spontaneously from a hotter to a colder body.

They seem to be trying to convince themselves of something that in their hearts they know is not true.
The Alarmists sometimes use the warming effect of clouds, which is noticeable at night, as evidence to support this nonsense.

That is a different effect. The clouds are emitting their own 'colder' radiation (which has no effect), and also reflecting 'warmer' radiation emitted by the surface back to the surface (which does have an effect), at exactly the same 'warm' frequencies (colours don't change when reflected in a mirror) which the surface absorbs, reducing the net energy radiated away by the surface, thus warming it up (or at least, slows down the cooling process).

Even if you go with the Alarmist theory, if clouds reflect 60% of radiation at all frequencies, this makes it (say) 5 degrees warmer. CO2 can't re-emit downwards more than half of one-tenth of frequencies of radiation, so pro rata, that means about 0.42 degrees of warming and it can never be more than this, no matter how much CO2 there is.

Furthermore, if we are dabbling in crude radiation calculations, CO2 emits at 14 - 16 microns. Using Wien's Displacement Law, this is the peak radiation emitted by a blackbody which is only about 200K, i.e. about negative 70 degrees C. Which sure as heck can't warm the surface, that's just not happening.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Gloriously missing the point.

From the BBC:

Vaccines and treatments could mean that - by the end of the year - Covid-19 is an illness we can live with "like we do flu", the health secretary has said. Matt Hancock told the Daily Telegraph he hoped new drugs by the end of 2021 could make Covid a "treatable disease". The drugs - and vaccines - represent "our way out to freedom", he said.

This appears to be the majority opinion nowadays and nothing controversial. Can't fault him for saying it out loud. But...

Dr Sarah Pitt, a virologist at the University of Brighton, told the BBC: "It's not a type of flu. It's not the same sort of virus. It doesn't cause the same sort of disease, it's very, very nasty."

Duh. Of course it's not a type of 'flu or the same virus, he didn't say anything of the sort. Industrial accidents aren't like car crashes. A fight outside a pub is not like a climbing accident. Heart attacks are not like cancer. His point was that we have to accept a certain level of injury, hospitalisation and death. We focus our efforts on reducing those risks which are easiest/cheapest to reduce, but there's a cost-benefit analysis and there are residual risks that would be too difficult/expensive to reduce any further. And yes, the disease can be "very, very nasty", but so can 'flu.
On a related matter, the UK seems to have really got its act together with these vaccinations. The 15 million in the four highest risk categories will have had, or at least been offered, their first jab within the next week or two.

What is not clear to me is what is the best thing to do next (and whether the government has even made up its mind):
a) Spend a month or two giving these people their second jab (and make everybody else in the next, lower risk categories wait for their first jab) or,
b) Let the people in the first four categories wait another few months for their second jab and offer people in the next categories their first jab?

It's a very finely balanced calculation and depends on all sorts of assumptions about probability, cost of outcomes and weightings. My gut feeling is that a) is better, just in case Pfizer are right and there shouldn't be more than 12 weeks between jabs. I suppose the question is, what is the likely total number of hospitalisations/deaths under either course of action (which I don't know, probably nobody knows)?

Friday, 12 February 2021

Land Value Tax implementation - the easy way

Anytown District Council
1 High Street
Anytown AN1 1AA
xx January 202x

Mr & Mrs Smith
1 Acacia Avenue
Anytown AN2 4BQ

Dear Mr & Mrs Smith

Your Domestic Rates bill 202x-2y - property ref. XYZ1234
Following enactment of The Tax Simplification Act 202x, various taxes will be abolished and replaced with a single tax on land and buildings with effect 1 April 202x. The taxes which will be replaced include Council Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Inheritance Tax and the TV licence fee (for full list see enclosed leaflet). These taxes were arbitrary; economically inefficient; prone to avoidance and evasion; and had high compliance and collection costs.

The new Domestic Rates will raise the same total revenues as the taxes it replaces in a fair and economically efficient way, with low collection and compliance costs. This will make budgeting and planning easier for government and households alike. Each household's share of the total taxes paid will be largely unchanged over the medium or longer term. Your local council's funding will be unaffected.

Valuation and assessment
Your property has been allocated to Band D (large terraced house or typical semi-detached house). According to data compiled by the Valuation Office Agency and HM Land Registry, the average gross rental value of all Band D homes in your assessment area (postcode sector AN2 4, see enclosed area plan) is £11,000 per annum. We have subtracted a general deduction of £4,000 for building and maintenance costs to arrive at a net rental value of £7,000 for Domestic Rates purposes. This is multiplied by the official rate of 25%, so your annual bill is £1,750. Please refer to the enclosed leaflet for details and worked examples.

Ways to pay
Please complete and return one of the enclosed forms within 30 days in the prepaid envelope provided:
* If you receive income subject to PAYE (salary or private pension), we recommend that you complete and return the attached 'PAYE details' form which will enable your employer or pension provider to deduct the amount due directly from your salary or pension in monthly instalments and pay it to HMRC.
* If you are not in receipt of a salary or a private pension and/or prefer to pay directly, please complete and return the enclosed 'Direct Debit' form.
* If you are over retirement age, you can apply for deferment using the enclosed 'Deferment' form.
* If you have suffered a recent change in circumstances and feel you are unable to pay (involuntary redundancy, divorce or death of a spouse), please complete and return the 'Hardship' form.

Failure to complete and return the appropriate form within 30 days may result in interest and penalties being charged.

Please contact us within 30 days by completing and returning the enclosed 'Appeal' form in the prepaid envelope if any of the following apply:
* you are not the owner of the above property (please pass a copy of this letter to your landlord or other owner).
* your property has been converted to flats or you otherwise believe that it does not belong in Band D.
* you believe that there are other reasons why the net rental value of your property is significantly less than £7,000 per annum.

Please keep a copy of the form for your own records. An unsuccessful appeal may result in your property being allocated to a higher Band. If you submit an 'Appeal' form, you must still also complete and return one of the payment forms.

If we do not receive an 'Appeal' form within 30 days, you will be deemed to have accepted that your property has been allocated to the correct Band and that you accept the assessment. This will be binding on you and any future owners of the property.

Yours faithfully

Ms Henrietta George
Director, Council Finance Department