Sunday, 16 May 2021

You win some, you lose some.

From The Barents Observer:

Russia’s Arctic and Far North regions could become arable in as soon as 20 to 30 years as climate change accelerates permafrost melt, opening up vast swathes of land to agriculture, the country’s environment minister said Tuesday.

From The Guardian:

A third of global food production will be at risk by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current rate, new research suggests. Many of the world’s most important food-growing areas will see temperatures increase and rainfall patterns alter drastically if temperatures rise by about 3.7C, the forecast increase if emissions stay high.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Very feeble attempt at a KCN from the Tories

The Welsh have decided to trial a UBI scheme.

Bravo Wales, but, predictably the Tories are against it:

But the Welsh Conservatives said: "The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is clear that UBI is not the answer to solving poverty, in fact they claim it can actually increase poverty."

Well, clearly it isn't the answer, if you are a Tory and the idea of giving money to the undeserving poor is anathema. I'm sure there are a tiny minority of cases where UBI can actually increase poverty, but this is just the tired old political tactic of "it's not the perfect panacea, so let's just continue with the broken system we've got,shall we?"

"The first minister needs to get on with kickstarting the Welsh economy, creating long-term, well-paid jobs for people rather than using Wales as a petri dish for failed left-wing policies."

Well we could trial it in Scotland, but the Tories have that reserved as a petri dish for failed right-wing policies like the Poll Tax.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

He needs it as down-payment on his yacht.

From The Independent:

In the latest setback to European Union efforts to tackle corporate tax avoidance, a court on Wednesday annulled a ruling by the European Commission that a tax deal between the Luxembourg government and Amazon amounted to illegal state support.

The European Commission ordered the U.S. online retailer in 2017 to pay around 250 million euros ($300 million) in back taxes to Luxembourg. But judges at the EU's General Court said the European Commission didn't prove “to the requisite legal standard that there was an undue reduction of the tax burden of a European subsidiary of the Amazon group."

If I understand correctly, Amazon will get a refund of the $300 million.

Also from The Independent:

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and the world’s richest man, will reportedly soon be the owner of a mega-yacht he bought for $500 million, almost double the price he paid to buy the Washington Post newspaper in 2013.

While the details of the vessel have largely been kept under wrap, the 417-foot superyacht is so massive that it has a yacht of its own, along with a helipad, reported Bloomberg.

They would say that, wouldn't they?

Item 1, from Business Insider:

WeWork's CEO said your desire to go to an office depends on how "engaged" you are at work.

Sandeep Mathrani, who stepped in as CEO of the coworking startup last year, said that people most comfortable working from home are the "least engaged" with their company, while the "overly engaged" want to go to the office.

Is he seriously trying to guilt trip people into paying rent?

Item 2, from the BBC:

Queen's Speech 2021: Key points at-a-glance

A Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill will get rid of the fixed five-year period between general elections and return the power to call early elections to the prime minister.

Wow. This law came in under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition in 2011. David Cameron stuck to it, and called a General Election after his five years were up (which he won convincingly). Then his successors called snap elections in 2017 and in 2019 and made a mockery of the whole thing. It must be one of the least observed laws in living memory.

Plans to force voters in Great Britain to to prove their identity when they vote at general elections will be introduced in an Electoral Integrity Bill

A Judicial Review Bill will set out the government's plans to change how its decisions can be challenged in the courts

I do not like either of these at all, but that's Tories for you (and I'm not saying that Labour haven't been just as authoritarian).

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Place your bets now.

From the BBC:

The UK has benefited from both fast [vaccine] rollout and good uptake. Currently, a third of the adult population is fully vaccinated, with another third having had one dose. Among those at most risk - the over-50s and younger adults with health conditions, where 99% of Covid deaths have occurred - uptake for the first dose has been 95%.

Which is all good stuff. I'm not sure why they think it's better to give people in their 40s and younger a first jab rather than giving the over-50s their second jab, but hey. Sometimes the government does the right thing.

On the topic of death stats, I assumed that excess deaths in 2020 would be offset by lower than average deaths in the next couple of years i.e. the people who died from it would have died from something else in the next couple of years anyway.

It looks like this effect is starting to kick in - the black line for 2021 is dipping below the dotted line for 2015-19 average - but who knows? Most predictions about all this have been very wrong (including, I hasten to add, most of my own), so that's the question - how much lower will 2021 deaths be compared to the 2015-19 average? Just a bit? A lot?

Here's a chart to summarise data from the ONS: What's odd is that the January 2021 peak is a noticeably lower than the April 2020 peak. Worldometers shows it the other way round:

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

You can see why people assume London is full of pretentious wankers.

From the Evening Standard:

[Re-elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan] vowed to “work day and night” to deliver “safer streets” saying: “On crime – we’ll continue to be both tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. This includes putting even more police officers on the streets at the same time as investing record amounts in new opportunities for young Londoners.”

This is especially bitter - he's the one who took the police officers off the streets in the first place.

"The key thing is to make sure our city recovers. It’s the biggest challenge our city has faced since the Second World War, and that’s what Let’s Do London is about - getting our city back on its feet after the awful 15 months we have had, and try to bring our city together and our country together.

"We have got to avoid this culture war which is tearing our country apart. We have got to make sure we have the Brexit scars healing and we ought to try to bring people together. My mission in the second term is to bring our city together.

"Next Monday restaurants will reopen, many theatres will reopen. On June 21, fingers crossed, our city will return to a semblance of normality. It’s going to be an amazing summer."

... he insisted he had a "decent mandate" overall, having secured more than 1.2m votes. "I didn’t realise I secured the biggest vote ever received by a candidate, other than myself, of course, in 2016," he said. "But also I discovered I have got the biggest majority, other than myself in 2016. Quite a decent mandate, if I say so myself."

City Hall promised “the biggest domestic tourism campaign the capital has ever seen” to help London’s economy get back on its feet as Covid restrictions are eased. There will be a series of one-off events, outdoor film screenings and late-night openings under the London Lates initiative to ease social distancing.

None of that really means anything to a normal voter, does it?

As contrast, from Politics Home:

[Re-elected Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham] used his victory speech to accuse the Prime Minister of failing to deliver on his promises to areas like Greater Manchester... He pointed to a perceived "widespread cluelessness" in government as to what "levelling up", and offered to spell it out for Johnson.

"Here is where I can help you, Prime Minister. Let me define it," Burnham said. "It can't be achieved by scattering funds across a few favoured places.

"It can be achieved when you give millions of people in a city region like this one a modern, affordable public transport system, when it costs the same to catch a bus in Harpurhey as it does is Haringey. £1.55, not £4 or more that people pay here".

He continued: "Levelling up is achieved when you give all people the dignity of decent work and wages that don't have to be topped up by visits to the food bank, and when you have the kind of jobs here which mean our young people don't have to move south to get on in life, which I had to do 30 years ago."

I've no strong opinion on Andy Burnham one way or another, but at least he says real things that actually mean something and are within his remit as Mayor.

Monday, 10 May 2021

"US backs waiver on vaccine patents to boost supply"

From the BBC:

The US has thrown its support behind a move at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily lift patent protections for coronavirus vaccines.

Advocates of the move say it would increase global vaccine production, but drugs manufacturers argue it will not have the desired effect. Critics say it strips financial rewards from cutting-edge drug developers.

Hang on, didn't President Trump pay you $10 billion to develop the vaccines? At whose risk and expense was that? You are also earning $20 or $30 a pop for the hundreds of millions of doses that the self-same US government is buying from you. And the further hundreds of millions which you hope "rich countries" will buy off you at full price and distribute to the developing world (see below).

The head of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, Thomas Cueni, told the BBC's Today programme that technology transfer should not be enforced.

"I'm deeply concerned if you hand this over and allow companies to try to get it done the right way, safe and high quality, you could compromise the quality and safety of vaccines which we see now and it would be disruptive."

Well, he would say that wouldn't he? Does he mean that they are nobly saving lives in the developing world by preventing them from making their own vaccines? He's earned a "that's racist" as well.

"And it is also right now the disappointing unwillingness of rich countries to early share doses with the poor countries."

I'd shut up right now if I were him.

... pharmaceutical companies have called the decision by the US to back the sharing of secret recipes for vaccinations short-sighted, claiming it is understanding the production process that is the real challenge, particularly when it comes to the new breed of mRNA vaccines - such as Pfizer and Moderna - as well as the availability of raw materials. It is, they say, akin to handing out a recipe without sharing the method or the ingredients...

If it's the know-how that matters, why are they objecting to waiving the patent protection?

Friday, 7 May 2021

Hey Prof! Where can I buy this "cheap, strong alcohol"?

From the BBC:

Alcohol killed more people in 2020 in England and Wales than in any of the previous 20 years, official data shows. There were 7,423 deaths from alcohol misuse last year [compared to a total population of about 65 million] - a rise of 20% from 2019, the Office for National Statistics says.

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance - a coalition of charities and campaign groups - said the increase in deaths linked to alcohol was "devastating". "Each of these numbers represents a life of an individual cut short by alcohol consumption and a family that has been left in mourning."

Prof Gilmore said the government must urgently introduce an alcohol strategy which addresses health inequalities, improves access to treatment "and stops the sale of cheap, strong alcohol that is so harmful to health".

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

AGW theory is based on two blatant 'diagonal comparisons' (Part 2)

In Part 1 I showed how they use a sneaky 'diagonal comparison' (i.e. they don't compare like-with-like) to create the illusion that Earth is warmer than it should be.  Part 1 covers the balance between Earth's system and the Sun/outer space.

Then there's what goes in within the Earth's system itself. The other sneaky thing they do is to say that the atmosphere is far warmer than it is, it's just a straight lie. From NASA's Earth Factsheet:

Terrestrial Atmosphere
Surface pressure: 1014 mb
Surface density: 1.217 kg/m3
Scale height: 8.5 km
Total mass of atmosphere: 5.1 x 1018 kg
Total mass of hydrosphere: 1.4 x 1021 kg
Average temperature: 288 K (15 C)

Say what?

Imagine you are asked to measure the average temperature of the water in a deep lake. If you just take the surface temperature, you might get ~288K. But that's not the average temperature of the all the water in the lake. By and large it gets colder as you go down, so the true average is much lower.

The reverse applies in the troposphere (the lowest ~11km of the atmosphere). This is the bit we are interested. It's where the weather happens and the layer which warms and cools the surface.

It gets cooler as you go up, so if you only measure the temperature in the warmest layer, at or slightly above sea-level (where most measuring stations are), you will get an artificially high average temperature (i.e. ~288K).

~288K is fair estimate of the average surface temperature, but that's something completely different to the average temperature of the air in the troposphere. That's a lot colder. If you take a fair sample of readings at all altitudes, you would get ~255K, which is not uncoincidentally the temperature we expect from looking at the Earth vs Sun/outer space balance. See also Climatologists are Flat Earthers.

The vertical temperature gradient is no mystery. Basic maths, a rudimentary understanding of the Gas Laws and common sense (principles and worked example) tell us that it must be warmer than the ~255K average at sea level and colder than the ~255K average at the top of the tropopause. They worked this out in the 19th century and it was part of normal physics textbooks until a few decades ago. There's a given amount of thermal energy, and gravity and the Gas Laws constantly recycle it downwards.

The precise temperature gradient (aka 'lapse rate') is primarily the trade off between thermal energy (temperature) and potential energy (altitude). We all know that warm air cools as it rises. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, so what happens to the 'lost' thermal energy? Easy - air loses thermal energy as it rises... and gains potential energy. The reverse happens with Chinook and Föhn winds (Föhn is German word, pronounced 'fern' and is also the name for a hand-held hair dryer), when falling air warms up. So the lapse rate = gravity ÷ the specific heat capacity of 'air'.

(The lapse rate is reduced by the latent heat of evaporation, which has the opposite effect. The surface is cooled when water evaporates, the latent heat manifests itself again higher up when water vapour condenses. The latent heat in one gram of water vapour is enough to warm a cubic metre of air by about 2 degrees, it's a lot.)
The AGW theorists make great play of the fact that Earth's surface (being ~288K, not ~255K) radiates ~390 W/m2 but only ~240 W/m2 gets to space. They claim that the missing ~150 W/m2 is trapped by 'greenhouse gases'. This is part of Diagonal Comparison #1. Two-thirds of the surface doesn't radiate directly to space because it's covered by clouds; some of the surface radiation is reflected back down (in a quite literal sense, like clouds reflecting visible light) and the clouds themselves emit the required ~165 W/m2 to space. The average emitted to space ≈ 240 W/m2, which is what Earth receives from the Sun.

The AGW steamroller never stops of course. For sure clouds reflect some infrared radiation back down (which is why a cloudy night is warmer than a clear night), but clouds don't 'trap' radiation or warm the surface overall; on the whole, it's cooler if it's cloudy (there's no 'positive feedback'). And clouds certainly do not warm the atmosphere overall, the extra warmth under a cloud is equal and opposite to the missing warmth above it.

Radiation isn't pollution like plastic in the oceans, it can transform into other forms of energy instantaneously. Trying to account for it is like trying to catch sunshine in your hands. You cannot add, subtract, multiply 'radiations', the maths is insane but entirely unnecessary to explain and understand the basic equilibrium position with temperatures etc. You need to bring in radiation to reconcile the warming effect of Ozone Depletion, but that's another story...

Monday, 3 May 2021

AGW theory is based on two blatant 'diagonal comparisons' (Part 1)

The theory goes as follows:
1. Earth is 33 degrees warmer than it should be based in incoming solar radiation alone;
2. This is due to 'greenhouse gases' and 'trapped radiation';
3. Hence more greenhouse gases = higher temperatures.

Item 1. is based on the most outrageous Diagonal Comparison of all time. If this is not a valid comparison, then we need not concern ourselves with whether 2 and 3 are valid*.

The Hansen approach is to calculate the Effective Temperature** of clouds, land and ocean surface and then compare that with the actual temperature of land and ocean surface... completely ignoring the actual lower temperatures of clouds.

A proper scientific comparison compares like with like. So if you calculate the Effective Temperature of clouds, land and ocean surface, you have to compare it with the actual temperature of clouds, land and ocean surface... and you end up with a 'Greenhouse Effect' of +/- zero, zilch, nothing. Here are the numbers. (Cloud top altitude in pale blue as that is my best estimate and the variable most worthy of research or debate).

It all matches up nicely. Actual temperature ≈ expected temperature and outgoing infrared radiation ≈ incoming solar radiation. There is no 'missing radiation' or 'trapped radiation':
Tutorial on the Greenhouse Effect, this explains how it is calculated.
How high in the sky are clouds?
Scientists detect world's coldest cloud hovering over Pacific Ocean
What is Earth’s surface emissivity?

* The real explanation for the apparent 33 degree difference is far simpler. The most plausible reason for the recent slight increase in temperatures is Ozone Depletion, but these have been crowded out. Whether you understand or agree with these is irrelevant to the question of whether there is any evidence for 'greenhouse gases' causing 33 degrees of warming in the first place.

** Effective Temperature is the hypothetical temperature that a planet would have to be to emit as much radiation as it receives from its star, assuming 100% emissivity. But it is a good first approximation for the actual temperature for a fast-spinning planning planet with a thick atmosphere, like Earth.
The other Diagonal Comparison is that the official average surface temperature is NOT representative of average troposphere temperature, which is what we are interested in. Surface temperature measurements are 33 degrees warmer than the average temperature of the troposphere because measurements are weighted towards very low altitudes. This would not be so if Earth were covered with very high mountains. I'll cover that in Part 2, and then I'm done with this nonsense.