Tuesday, 20 October 2020

"A Saturated Gassy Argument"

I've been delving ever deeper into MMGW theories. Most of the common-or-garden ones are easily demolished*, their next line of argument is far more subtle and goes like this:

In the layers so high and thin that much of the heat radiation from lower down slips through, adding more greenhouse gas molecules means the layer will absorb more of the rays. So the place from which most of the heat energy finally leaves the Earth will shift to higher layers.

Those are colder layers, so they do not radiate heat as well. The planet as a whole is now taking in more energy than it radiates (which is in fact our current situation). As the higher levels radiate some of the excess downwards, all the lower levels down to the surface warm up. The imbalance must continue until the high levels get hot enough to radiate as much energy back out as the planet is receiving.

Fair enough, like most MMGW arguments it seems to stand up in isolation if you ignore the equal and opposite counter-arguments and evidence. But that claim does not square with the following statement:

In any event, modern measurements show that there is not nearly enough CO2 in the atmosphere to block most of the infrared radiation in the bands of the spectrum where the gas absorbs (1). That’s even the case for water vapor in places where the air is very dry. When night falls in a desert, the temperature can quickly drop from warm to freezing. Radiation from the surface escapes directly into space unless there are clouds to block it (2).

1) Either CO2 blocks a lot of infrared or it doesn't. You can't have it both ways. The clever diagrams show that CO2 blocks nearly all the outgoing infrared at 14 - 16 microns (terrestrial infrared goes from 4 to 100 microns). If that's not "most", I don't know what is. Then they cheerfully admit that "Radiation from the surface escapes directly to space unless there are clouds to block it".

2) Water vapour behaves in a similar fashion to CO2 as regards absorbing and re-emitting infrared (just at many more wavelengths). You cannot compare this with the effect of clouds i.e. actual water and ice droplets, which do indeed have a very strong blanket effect (cooling by day; warming by night; the overall effect is slight cooling). The acid test for all this would be to compare the rate of night time cooling where/when it's dry without clouds and times where/when it's moist without clouds.

Their maths is wrong as well:

In reality, that mere percent increase, when combined properly with the "thinning and cooling" argument, adds 4 Watts per square meter to the planets radiation balance for doubled CO2. That’s only about a percent of the solar energy absorbed by the Earth, but it’s a highly important percent to us! After all, a mere one percent change in the 280 Kelvin surface temperature of the Earth is 2.8 Kelvin (which is also 2.8 Celsius).

Nope. The "4 Watts" (often given at 3.7 Watts) was reverse engineered by assuming that the entire increase in temperature was down to increased CO2 levels over the same period, so can't be presented as evidence in support of the underlying assumption. Even if true, a one per cent increase in incoming radiation would lead to a one-quarter per cent increase in surface temperature = 0.7C.

* Such as:
(i) the IPCC energy budget diagram which does not add up or explain why the 'greenhouse effect' is negative during the day time;
(ii) claiming that the greenhouse effect adds 33C of warmth, ignoring the fact that this only applies at sea level and is entirely due to the gravito-thermal effect;
(iii) using Venus as an example of runaway global warming when its high surface temperature is also due to the extra gravito-thermal effect because its atmosphere is one-hundred times as massive as Earths;
(iv) glossing over Mars which has forty times as much CO2 per m2 but no greenhouse effect;
(v) pointing to experiments which show that CO2 warms up more than normal air under a bright light and saying it's because it traps infrared. Nope. This is because of its lower specific heat capacity - if you do the experiment with argon, it warms as much as the CO2; etc.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Daily Mash out-pedants itself

From The Daily Mash:

3am in the morning

‘AM’ means ‘in the morning’, cockwad. Saying them both is like asking ‘would you like some gravy meat sauce on that chop’ or ‘are you seriously smoking a cannabis drugs spliff before work?’ For f**k’s sake just choose one.

Agreed. But they overlook the next iteration:

Could you pop in your pin number for me?

Who else would I be doing it for? I’m the only person in the shop, my card is in the machine, I’m talking to you and only you. Save your breath.

It's not "PIN number". It's "PIN". The "N" in "PIN" stands for "number". That's the crime here, the rest of the sentence, while largely superfluous, is just general politeness and friendliness. In some places, they just point vaguely in the direction of the card reader.

Ah well, it is what it is, just saying etc.

"Money" again

From the comments to the previous post:

Graeme: I knew this from A level economics in the 1980s. Money is a medium of exchange (1), a unit of account (2) and a store of value (3). Depending on the transaction, one of these things is more important than the others. But the other functions still exist.

(1) and (2) are clearly true. That would apply to things with intrinsic value as well, gold in historic times or cigarettes in prison. "Money" has no intrinsic value (numbers on your bank statement or bank notes or shopping vouchers) but is still (3) a store of value, because it is a claim on something else. The fact that you can swap these for goods and services gives them value. If a shop sells vouchers, it has cash in the bank and an equal and opposite liability to provide goods in future. It does not make a profit by selling the vouchers (unless they lapse, in which case it's a win for the shop and a loss to whoever let them lapse) and the existence of those vouchers does not change the total amounts of goods available to consume now or in future.

Ralph Musgrave: But government/central bank created money (with which the above article started is very different). That is, what exactly does the BoE owe you in respect of your £10 notes? Nothing much!

The BoE is part of the government. When it's time to pay your tax, you could pay it in bank notes which the self-same government printed in the first place. Once you've paid your tax, they could throw all those bank notes on a bonfire. Basic Modern Monetary Theory. The same logic applies to numbers on bank statements, they appear out of nowhere (printing) and disappear into nothing (incinerating).

What's in it for the government and what gives those bank notes value?

You can see them as permission slips to earn money. If you want to earn £100,000 real money in the private economy, you need to acquire £40,000's worth of those permits by the end of the year to hand back as income tax. Even if you invoice only in foreign currencies and earn €110,000 or $120,000 or whatever, you will still need to get your hands on £40,000's worth of permits.

The government puts the permits into circulation by printing them (out of nowhere) and using them to pay public sector salaries, old age pensions, welfare etc (and increasingly, giving money to their mates for nothing in return). Businesses and workers have to get hold of those permits to pay their tax and they do this by providing a certain fraction of their output to public sector workers, pensioners etc in exchange for the permits. Those salaries and pensions transfer output from private businesses to public sector workers and pensioners, which is the whole idea.

If you yourself have more permits than you need to pay tax, you use them to buy goods and services from a business which needs more. The logic applies just as well to rationing vouchers. A non-smoker who wants to bake a cake swaps his tobacco vouchers with a smoker who doesn't need his full quota of eggs or flour. Or the non-smoker can sell them to a smoker and use the cash to buy something else that isn't rationed. The rationing vouchers have no intrinsic value and cost very little to create, but they still have value. Once used, they go on a bonfire.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

"Money and Cryptocurrencies"

From J W Mason's blog:

In the quantity view, “money” is something special. The legal monopoly of governments on printing currency is very important, because that is money in a way that other assets aren’t. Credit created by banks is something different. Digital currencies are a threat or opportunity, as the case may be, because they seem to also go in this exclusive “outside money” box.

But from the Minsky-Mehrling-Graeber point of view, there’s nothing special about outside money. It’s just another set of tokens for recording changes in the social ledger. What matters isn’t the way that changes are recorded, but the accounts themselves. From this perspective, “money” isn’t an asset, a thing, it is simply the arbitrary units in which ledgers are kept and contracts denominated.

The starting point, from this point of view, is a network of money payments and commitments. Some of these commitments structure real activity (I show up for work because I expect to receive a wage). Others are free-standing. (I pay you interest because I owe you a debt.) In either case money is simply a unit of account. I have made a promise to you, you have a made a promise to someone else; these promises are in some cases commitments to specific concrete activities (to show up for work and do what you’re told), but in other cases they are quantitative, measured as a certain quantity of “money.”

Good summary. It's what I've always said. Things like gold or the metal in coins have an intrinsic value, but they aren't "money" in the true sense. True "money" is just a measure of indebtedness. I go to work, my employer owes me my wages. For every hour I work, he owes me a bit more. This accrued debt is formally settled at the end of each month when the balance in his account goes down and the balance in mine goes up. If - coincidentally - I use the same bank as they do, then as regards the outside world, absolutely nothing has happened. It's just a ledger entry.

Thought experiment #1. I am free to agree with my employer that he will pay part of my salary in Tesco vouchers. In which case Tesco's bank balance goes up by the amount he paid for the vouchers. Those vouchers are "money" in the narrow sense (no intrinsic value). I can take them to Tesco and exchange them for food.

Tesco is now indebted to me - they owe me some food. The outstanding vouchers which I haven't used yet show up as liabilities on Tesco's balance sheet and are assets from my point of view, I tuck them into my wallet alongside a few fivers or tenners. Tesco and I are both heartily indifferent whether I pay for my shopping with their own vouchers or with fivers and tenners. If I don't use them this week, I'll use them next week instead.

Or instead of giving me vouchers, my employer could pay Tesco to deliver me certain staple food items each week (and cut the salary payment into my bank account). My employer's bank balance goes down and Tesco's goes up - they now owe me some food, exactly the same as if my employer gave me Tesco vouchers. Once delivered, that debt has been paid (in kind rather than in "money") and we are back to where we would have been.

Thought experiment #2. All bank balances and debts (including govermnent bonds) are simply cancelled, bank notes in circulation are declared invalid. Every adult is given a small amount of the new notes in cash and we all start again. A modified version of this actually happened in Germany in 1948, and it did them their economy the world of good. As unfair as it might seem, did the total real wealth of that country plummet or even change in 1948 (ignoring balances held or owed by foreigners)? Clearly not. One man's loss is another man's debt relief and it cancels out to zero.

It would be quite a different thing if the German government had confiscated all gold in the country and dumped it in the Marianas Trench. Gold has intrinsic value and Germany as a whole would have clearly been a lot poorer afterwards.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Well I thought it was funny

Timing wise, I think her left hand pigtail should have come up a fraction of a second earlier, at the same moment as her right hand pigtail, but hey.

"Hot!!" is the new "Skorchio!".

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

"Natural disasters are turning the world into an uninhabitable hell"

From The Daily Mail:

The number of natural disasters around the world has doubled since the turn of the century, with climate change to blame according to the United Nations.

Speaking on Monday, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said 1.23 million people have been killed in natural disasters since 2000.

Around the world, 7,348 disasters including earthquakes, tsunamis and droughts have cost nearly $3 trillion, nearly double the numbers for the previous 20-year period.

That sounds a bit worrying, but is it really?

Remember that most 'natural disasters' are failures of town planning. If you build in areas prone to earthquakes, floods, forest fires or tornadoes; on cliff edges or unstable ground; if inequality is so extreme that people are forced to live in shanty towns on steep slopes or flood plains or do subsistence farming on marginal land (yes, it always boils down to land inequality...), then it's only a matter of time.

Although they try to pin this all on 'climate change', they state that "Geo-physical events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes have killed more people than any of the other natural hazards reviewed". If more than half died as a result of "geophysical events"*, that brings the total deaths which might or might not have been caused by 'climate change' (rather than failures of town planning or land inequality) down to about 600,000 in about 7,000 events classified as natural disasters over 20 years.

That averages out at 350 events a year (or two per country per year) with 85 people dying in each event = 30,000 deaths per year. There are over seven billion people, about 100 million of whom die each year on average. The extra 30,000 deaths a year (slightly less than the number of road deaths in the USA each year) are nowhere near turning the world into an "uninhabitable hell", are they? And $3 trillion is a lot of money, but that averages out at $150 billion a year. Global GDP is about $80,000 billion a year, so the cost of sorting this all out is about 0.2% of global GDP or about $20 per person per year. And half of that is due to earthquakes and volcanoes.

* I think that's what they meant. The two biggest disasters were caused by earthquakes, which have nothing to do with 'climate change'. About 450,000 people died in the Boxing Day Tsunami and the Haiti earthquake (Haiti is an uninhabitable hell anyway, I believe, that's a political thing), with plenty of other earthquakes and volcanic eruptions which you've forgotten about that would bring up the total deaths to more than half the headline 1.23 million.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Baffling throwaway comment about nitrogen and infrared

From sciencemag.org:

Ho-kwang Mao at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Washington DC, tried to create this new form of nitrogen at room temperature.

Mao's team used a diamond anvil that can inflict the highest pressures ever created in a laboratory. It works like the name suggests: Two flat-topped diamonds are mechanically pressed together. Between the diamonds is a metal gasket with a small hole, where a nitrogen sample is loaded. Squeezing the diamonds together flattens the gasket and subjects the nitrogen to pressures nearly half that at the center of Earth.

Mao could watch the sample through the diamonds. At this high pressure, nitrogen lost all signs of being a molecule - infrared light that normally is absorbed by nitrogen-nitrogen bonds passed right through the sample, they report in the 7 August Physical Review Letters.

"Normally"? Didn't these clever scientist chaps get the memo that nitrogen neither absorbs nor emits infrared radiation?

Monday, 12 October 2020

"Bank of England questions banks over negative rates"

From the BBC:

While the Bank of England may set its base rate below zero, it is unlikely most consumers will immediately enter the topsy-turvy world of being paid to borrow money. Those on fixed-rate mortgages will see no difference, while variable-rate mortgage terms often state that borrowers will never pay less than zero.

Savers with deep pockets such as the wealthy and the banks themselves, may be charged to deposit their money. Banks depositing cash overnight at the European Central Bank currently pay 0.5% to do so. In November, Swiss bank UBS began charging up to 0.75% for cash deposits from wealthy clients.

From the BoE:

Bank Rate determines the interest rate we pay to commercial banks that hold money with us. It influences the rates those banks charge people to borrow money or pay on their savings.

This is Emperor's New Clothes stuff. Read the bit in bold!

I know that commercial banks are required by regulations to deposit a certain amount of money with the BoE, so the BoE can pay any old interest rate it likes on that, even if that is negative i.e. the BoE can charge commercial banks for holding their money. That's just a cost of doing business or a modest payment towards the value of a banking licence.

I know that there are some loan agreements where the interest rate is expressed as the BoE base rate plus or minus a certain percentage, so the contractual rate might go negative (unless the loan agreement stipulates a minimum interest rate).

And I know that in extremis, if most banks were perceived as risky, then people would accept a (small) negative interest on their deposits with those banks perceived as safe (whereby NS&I is the central bank for mere mortals), just for the peace of mind.

But there's no underlying economic reason why it should happen. It's pushing a piece of string. If it were the other way round, and banks could borrow from the BoE for negative interest rates, they would have more money to lend on to borrowers and so they might well drop the interest rates they charge. But they aren't. They are just losing money on the token amounts that they have to deposit with the BoE. So you might as well argue, commercial banks will push up the rates they charge borrowers to try and make up the shortfall (or indeed reduce deposit rates to make up the shortfall). But they are already charging as much (or paying as little) as they can get away with.

Banks do not take deposits from customers with the sole purpose of depositing them with the BoE, that just wouldn't be worth the hassle. So it's not like commercial banks have to reduce the interest rates they pay to discourage people from depositing with them. If they can get away with it, they will do it, whatever the base rate is.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Life copies satire

From The Daily Mash, 5 August 2020:

TEACHERS have announced that they would be willing to relocate schools to pubs as a compromise to keep both open.

As scientists warned that curbing coronavirus might mean closing pubs so schools can operate normally, educators have volunteered to teach classes from behind the bar.

I'm sure they did one about 'home working' from the pub, but I can't find it right now. The principle stands however.

From the BBC, 11 October 2020:

Some pub-goers have queried whether "pub desks" offer a safe way of working, but industry leaders argue more coronavirus transmissions take place in educational settings and care homes than in pubs and restaurants.

In this village pub in Kent, a tenner gets you a table by a plug socket, wi-fi, lunch (I went for a halloumi wrap) and unlimited tea and coffee. (Pints, sadly, are not included.)


Lies, damn lies and coronavirus statistics

The BBC has to big up lock down and diss the Brazilian President (a right wing-populist, apparently, politics is weird down there):

The number of people to have died from Covid-19 in Brazil has passed 150,000, the country's health ministry says.

Brazil has the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, after the US, and the third-highest number of cases after the US and India*. The country also passed five million total infections earlier this week.

President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of downplaying the risks of the virus throughout the pandemic, ignoring expert advice** on restrictive measures.


Brazil has a population of 211 million. Pro rata, it's death rate was only slightly worse than the UK (705 per million against 629)

In Colombia, the next worst-hit country in the region, 27,495 people have died and there have been 894,300 confirmed cases.

To be fair, Colombia's death rate was indeed lower (542 per million) but not that much better than Brazil's. Also, the countries on or near the equator appear to have fared slightly better (more sunshine).

However the daily number of new cases in Brazil has been slowly falling since it plateaued in the summer, when there were about 1,000 new deaths per day for two months.

Geography lesson - Brazil is in the southern hemisphere. There were chalking up about 1,000 deaths per day from late May to late August (i.e. their winter). Daily deaths have been falling slowly but steadily for the past six weeks. Whether that is because or herd immunity or because sunshine kills the virus, I don't know, but good news is good news whatever the cause.

* The comparison with India is meaningless and misleading in the extreme. They have a population of 1.4 billion and a surprisingly low official death rate of only 78 per million. Their daily deaths crept up steadily (not logarithmically, Neil Ferguson please take note) to 1,200 a day at the peak in mid-September and now appear to be falling again (thankfully).

** Maybe he listened to those experts who said that lock downs were fairly pointless? Or maybe he just accepted that lock down measures would be unenforceable in an inherently unstable country?