September 11, 2013 | Graham

Skeptics confuse cause and effect

There’s 60 per cent more sea ice in the Arctic this year than there was last year, which means claims that the Arctic would be ice free in summer by 2013 were ridiculously over blown.

It does not mean, however, that this happened because of a “chilly Arctic summer”.

Rather the summer was chilly because of all that ice.

Too many participants in this debate just don’t get the fundamental physics – it is sea temperature that drives surface atmospheric temperature, not the other way around. When the sea warms it makes the air warmer, and a bit of extra CO2 in the atmosphere acts like a jumper, making it harder for heat to be emitted and raising the average temperature as a result.

The really hot temperatures that we experience are caused by the land, particularly deserts, being heated, but as they don’t retain the heat in the way that oceans do, there effect is transient.

It’s as silly to say that the ice is there because the summer was “chilly” as it is to say that global warming has stopped because it is hiding in the ocean.

If it is “hiding in the ocean” what is the mechanism that apparently suddenly reversed 15 years ago and started sucking warmer surface water down to depth?

And why can’t we find the increase in ocean temperature?

But there is more misattribution around. Tony Abbott did not win the federal election by pushing an agenda of climate skepticism. What he did was promise that dealing with climate change wouldn’t hurt electors, and moved to scrap those programs that were hurting electors.

He still notionally accepts that climate change is an issue, which is sensible politics, as most of his electors believe it is too – they just don’t see why they should have to pay for it.

The problem with confusing cause and effect is that it leads one to make basic mistakes – whether in the physical sciences, or the political ones.

Posted by Graham at 6:59 am | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Our planet follows an elliptical orbit around the Sun, and therefore, some regional variation is to be expected.
    However, it is the long term trend lines we ought to be guided by, rather than aberrations or anomalies?
    Yes Graham, we could do this thing a great deal better!
    As seen in Europe, cap and trade is a mechanism that simply churns money rather than acts to reduce carbon.
    Moreover, as evidenced in Europe, it seems full of rorts, rip offs and out and out ponzi schemes?
    A better scheme would be a broker free cap and tax, with only that above the cap creating a penalty; whereas, those coming in below, able to earn credits or tax returns. And it would fall on the claimant to prove their reductions.
    Ideally, the cap would be set at current levels, and gradually reduced at a rate that the economy and commercial realities can manage!
    Incentives will enable those who can see a commercial (advantage) case for change, say in (Australian innovation) gas fired ceramic fuel cells. Will have a mechanism, that might assist them painlessly change over. [A much better use of the direct action billions already committed to this change!]
    Some or all of the gas could even be generated onsite, by treating locally made waste.
    Given this methane is converted by a chemical reaction to (24/7) on demand electrical energy, rather than released as green house methane, even more credits could be earned?
    A smell free compact two tank generation system, (more Australian innovation) could make much or most of the (scrubbed) gas, making the resultant energy virtually free!
    Given a gas fired ceramic fuel cell has a 72% energy coefficient, (more than three times better than coal-fired power) and, produces mostly water vapor, there is a significant commercial case to be made, before you factor in carbon reduction, tax (penalty) or credits (rewards).
    Who in their right mind would argue against power (gas) bills that cost at least two thirds less?
    And that is before a single cent of carbon credits are earned!
    And this very local power supply would also be safe from wind, storm and tempest, or even the occasional bush fire, that can knock out huge swathes of the current reticulated power supply system!
    We need to quarantine some of our copious gas production, rather than race to export as much of it as possible, thereby flooding the international market and killing profitability!
    [Done on a large enough scale, this alternative will force price gouging foreign energy companies, to finally compete; and indeed, know/find all the reasons, we shouldn’t do this to them!]
    The change over to much more reliable local energy production, will give our non mining local manufacture and commercial activity, a significant very long term boost!
    The credits earned would likely still be improving bottom line profitability, long after the ceramic cell systems and the bio-gas generators has fully paid for themselves! Moreover, there would be no additional costs to pass on to long suffering consumers!
    The addition of food scraps/waste to the two tank digestor system, could even create a salable energy surplus.
    The right system would create a win/win all round!
    Unless you are a price gouging foreign carpet bagger?
    Finally, we need to turn our coal-fired power into carbon neutral energy. And a genuine punish or reward system would compel more than just endless talk about what could be done!
    This could also earn a significant profit for the power supplier, if they relied exclusively on companion algae farming.
    Algae absorb 2.5 times their own body-weight in Co2 emission, and under optimized conditions, (closed cycle production) can literally double that body-weight/absorption capacity every 24 hours.
    Some algae are up to 60% oil!
    The oil extraction is as simple as filtering some of the algae, sun-drying then crushing it to produce ready to use fuel.
    One type produces a naturally occurring Diesel, while another type produces ready to use jet fuel.
    I’ve read some estimates, that suggest either of these naturally occurring products, could be transported via the current systems; and given economies of scale, retailed profitably for around 44 cents a litre! Even more via a producer direct sales system!?
    Given 50% of our current emission is created in our coal fired power stations; turning all of that carbon into hydrocarbon transport fuel, via companion algae farming, would create a total transport fuel self sufficiency, as well as reduce our total carbon emission by at least half!
    Moreover, no arable land is required, and such water as is needed, could be more than oversupplied by just recycled water, or even sea water!
    None of what is proposed here would harm our economy, in fact, just the very opposite!
    Alan B. Goulding

    Comment by Alan Goulding — September 11, 2013 @ 11:43 am

  2. As an aside but keeping to the established alternative energy thread. It is possible to pass methane, NG, CSG, biogas, through a simple catalytic converter, to produce liquid methanol!
    As the gas is passed through, the system knocks off a few hydrogen atoms, (collectable) thereby increasing the carbon component, and converting a gas into a much more easily and safely transported liquid.
    Methanol can be added to standard petrol (4.7%) to turn standard petrol into high octane fuel.
    Methanol can also be used on its own, as a very suitable liquid tanker transported replacement for Petrol/Avgas!
    So why do we use the much more dangerous and costly compression process, just to transport compression liquified gas.
    Perhaps there are additional significant profit lines to be earned for the foreign investor, in first compressing the gas, then transporting it in specially constructed tankers?
    When say, a simple pipeline, however long, would be able to transport it as is, and possibly at less risk, up through the belly of Asia, keeping more of the available profits for we Australians, the alleged owner of these exported energy products?
    Yes, purchasing the patent for the methane>methanol catalytic process from the American inventor, may cost the Australian taxpayer billions, but not anywhere as much, as continuing to import more and more of our refined fuel needs.
    We need a government finally ready willing and able to get off of its hands and act in the national interest!
    Can’t died in a cornfield over a century ago!
    Indie cars already run on pure methanol, therefore it follows, so can ordinary Aussie road users.
    Yes sure, methanol fires can burn with a colorless flame. This can be easily remedied with the addition of a harmless chemical, like that already added to our natural gas supplies to color up the flame!
    We have it in our means, and simplicity itself to completely divorce ourselves from foreign fuel supply and foreign carpet baggers!
    The only question remains; why haven’t we?
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan Goulding — September 11, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

  3. There isn’t a vehicle currently plying road or rail that can’t run on CNG.
    A cubic litre of gas has the same calorific value as a litre of petrol. And some suppliers are on the public record as claiming, even with a fuel excise, they could supply automotive NG, for around 40 cents a litre.
    That’s like running the family wagon for just 40 a litre for petrol!
    Moreover, all while producing around 40% less carbon pollution!
    We have copious quantities of natural gas and well head condensates,(LPG) and it’s not rocket science to tune engines to run on either!
    [How long are we to continue to mindlessly import around 85%+ of all our refined fuel products?]
    But the good news doesn’t end there.
    Given it might be possible to replace the conventional engine with a locally produced solid state ceramic fuel cell, which would then drive whisper quiet electric motors, why do we need to keep importing increasing complex, but still vastly less reliable, internal combustion engines?
    The main difference between battery electrics and ceramic cell electrics; would be, one would be able to top up the gas supply in just minutes, rather than charge batteries overnight, with who knows what energy, and at what measure of carbon pollution!
    Moreover, there’d be other savings and efficiency gains, in the CNG> ceramic cell combination, given one would no longer need to haul around around a half ton or more of batteries!
    And given the ceramic fuel cell produces mostly water vapor, arguably, a lot less polluting than batteries, charged overnight with coal fired power e.g.
    One can even conceive, that the inordinately expensive overhead wires in trains, trolley buses and trams, could be replaced with a combination of electricity producing CNG and ceramic fuel cells.
    This would even allow, ultra simple, extraordinarily reliable electric trolley buses, to follow any route public transport wanted them to? Depending on peak demand etc?
    In conclusion, we can and should replace fully imported fossil fuels, with locally available alternatives, particularly if those alternatives produce less carbon pollution, and are able to be used in vastly more reliable locally derived cleaner running, less expensive alternatives, than conventionally powered derivatives!
    A solar panel paint job, (more local innovation,) and regenerative braking, and the energy coefficient of 72% of the ceramic fuel cell; most of which would drive the wheels rather than a flywheel, would allow a gas powered ceramic cell driven electric motor vehicle, to stretch out fuel economy, to as far as 200klms+ per cubic metre?
    And at 40cents per cubic metre for locally sourced fuel, we’d be able to haul our caravans again?
    Not only that, anything currently powered as a diesel electric combination, could be just as easily powered as a gas powered ceramic cell combination, albeit for a lot less than we currently shell out for diesel?
    And, with little or no exhaust fumes, engine wear and or, consequent maintenance schedules!
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan Goulding — September 11, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

  4. Well it seems somewhat curious. The “science” or rather scientific sounding “stuff” has been thrown about with care free abandon by both sides often self appointed mouth pieces. Disinformation blown out of proportion by self interested “opinion” writers and beaten up in corporate media have made the entire climate change debate a farce. Cause and effect…..

    On the other hand, the idea of ongoing pollution being unhealthy in a closed system would seem at face value to be a more profound debate to have, yet no one seems to want this. Perhaps there is no genuine commitment to upset the status quo and effect real change.

    Further, I am confused about why, in a capitalist system, people would not think a financial oriented solution would not be appropriate. Perhaps it is an effect caused by the nature of capitalistic practices…

    Comment by Kipling — September 12, 2013 @ 8:27 am

  5. The very cornerstone of the capitalist system, is competition, Rudyard.
    Yet when it come to fuel/energy sales? We seem to be a captive market controlled by a monopolistic cabal/foreign cartel?
    Given no VOLUNTARY change is envisaged into this extremely cosy arrangement? The only possible circuit breaker can be the government and some government investment/competition!
    Given we are talking about producing can’t lose energy, rather than picking possible winners or losers, or actually risking public monies; there can be no excuse for the government, for failing to act in the national interest!
    It’s our gas and oil, and surely we are entitled, to at the very least, quarantine some of it as domestic use only!
    Failing that, how difficult can it be to punch a few holes in the ground?
    I mean, Governments already have geophysical depts and machinery designed to locate and estimate OUR mineral wealth! And I’ve heard reports of hundreds of capped oil producing wells in the west, from someone who flew men and supplies in and out.
    Meaning, we already have the requisite expertise and the drill rigs. All that’s missing is a Government owned marine drill platform.
    And I can suggest where they need to start looking; namely, the Great Barrier Reef.
    We can be certain as it is possible to be, that we have 5 billion barrels plus of sweet light crude in the Townsville trough; a starting point, and lots more further out?
    And even more gas? Which may well be a virtual treasure trove of much lower carbon producing products.
    All of it in comparatively shallow water and lots of it at relatively shallow geological depths.
    Hence the sheer levels of mystery oil slicks over the decades, which could not possibly have any other cogent explanation?
    If we need to still import some heavy crude for bitumen etc, then Brazil has plenty and would probably welcome a direct swap? I mean, they have to heat theirs just to pump it into the tankers.
    Our own Australian sweet light crude, traditionally leaves the ground as a very valuable, almost ready to use, naturally occurring diesel, needing only very basic chill filtering to make it ready for the truck, train or tractor!
    We need to get back into the energy business, instead of mumbling moribund monosyllabic moronic mantras about a government having no business in business!
    Essential, given energy is half our increasingly fragile economy, which can be destroyed tomorrow by an international hike in energy prices!
    And easy enough as a very likely outcome, given further unrest or a conflagration in the Middle East.
    Wait and see or simply sitting on the hands by our government is not an option!
    Capitalism Rudyard? Yes, lets finally at long last have some please, or rather, its handmaiden or procurer, genuine and fierce competition.
    I mean our current foreign energy suppliers are not our political masters; are they? Well?
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan Goulding — September 12, 2013 @ 11:05 am

  6. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really
    something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and
    extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post,
    I’ll try to get the hang of it!

    Comment by สอนพิเศษที่บ้าน — October 30, 2013 @ 1:46 am

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