Ken Fabian

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About Ken Fabian

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    Climate Science: Climate Politics: Energy technologies: Human Evolution

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  1. Interesting question. I think it is mostly about choice of words and I can't see it as a big problem - but is running climate models from the conditions current 100 years ago to see how well they "project/predict" climate changes only up to where we have real world data to compare to really prediction? Well, it does get called hindcasting to distinguish it from models that start with near-present known conditions to see what future conditions might be. Hindcasting is done to verify how well the models work given various inputs, such as including the known rise in things like GHG concentrations, solar input and occurrences of volcanic eruptions over the period. Or alternatively without the rising GHG to see how climate might have changed without them. Is it a prediction (or projection) if it only projects from further in the past up to when real world data runs out? I don't think calling it that is completely unreasonable, but it probably deserves clarification. _____________________________________ There are a lot of misunderstandings about climate model projections/predictions and, like claims of reasonable climate concerns being labelled alarmist, a lot of the claims about modelling getting it wrong originate in the counter-messaging by those opposed to climate action. The "pause/hiatus" controversy for example arose from mistaking - often on purpose and ignoring expert objections - the average of many model runs giving an 0.x degrees per year of warming as predicting that every year will be 0.x degrees warmer than the one before. Which is like saying because models of seasonal temperature changes based on Earth's axial tilt say that on average each Spring day will be warmer than the day before - and therefore, because we just had a string of cooler than that average days, the models are wrong and Summer won't be warmer than Spring. And then suggest it could be the start of a new ice age. Each individual model run actually show similar year to year variability that the real world does - ups and downs, pauses and accelerations, within the range of expected variability; that they do so is indicative of how well they work, not how badly. They just don't have those ups and downs in the same place each time. Which is why temperature trends look at averages over enough time that the expected variability doesn't mask underlying longer term changes. That variability from year to year averages out to a very wobbly line if the period averaged over is too short, such as with "The Pause" which showed less warming than the 0.x degrees per year - and large parts of that variability can be attributed to known climate processes. The largest would be ENSO - el Nino Southern Oscillation - which causes year to year temperature changes much larger than the underlying warming trend - take a ten year period and if there are more la Nina years than el Nino then global average temperatures will be lower, despite an underlying warming trend. The other way about and they will be higher and it could look like warming has speeded up - it takes about 20 years or more for averaging for them to see past the global average temperature swings ENSO induces. Climate scientists most often use 30 years to be sure and routinely point out that looking at shorter periods can be very misleading. Of all measures of global warming I think this one most directly shows actual gain of heat by Earth's climate system - and whilst it has year to year variability a much shorter period for averaging is needed to see past it. Ocean Heat Content shows no sign of an early 21st century Pause in warming (and is not explainable as ".. a consequence of growth of a city, and paving over of land.") -
  2. I live somewhere where half a degree is often the difference between frost and no frost on any given winter night - and perennial weeds that were kept in check by frosts can and are becoming rampant with warmer winters and fewer frosts. More labour, more cost for weed control. Around here the fire danger season starts sooner and finishes later with that "insignificant" half a degree of global average warming - and, significantly, the non-fire danger season is noticeably shorter. Burning during the cool season to reduce fuel loads is an important part of reducing the intensity and risks of out of control bushfires later - the opportunities for doing so are fewer and the risks of them escaping containment are increasing. More labour, more equipment requirements, more vigilance. The impacts of "hardly change at all" are actually very real. When I consider the likelihood of several more degrees I am legitimately alarmed. This relates to one of the questions I asked - "If where you live appears to benefit from global warming but other places suffer does that have any influence on your thinking?" Not irresponsible - looking at worst case scenarios is an essential part of risk management - although my own mention of 3-6 degrees of warming was not even looking at the worst case. I was asked for a citation for further temperatures rises reaching those levels and I gave one, and it showed the potential for higher temperatures than what I suggested. The 2000ppm CO2 levels probably is unrealistic - well, it is clearly labelled as an EXTREME scenario - but there are still influential people who do advocate maximising the use of fossil fuels, who want no limitations placed on their use, who want and expect all known reserves of fossil fuels to get used, which could indeed take it to that 2000ppm level - so scenarios for very high emissions continuing for the rest of this century are not impossibilities. A total breakdown of international agreements and internal policies to reign in emissions is something actively being campaigned for and undermining confidence in climate science has been a key theme being used to do so. I sort of presume views like Mistermack's, if widely shared by policy makers, would raise the likelihood of that, making "unlikely" and "extreme" scenarios more likely. If we don't end up with the extreme scenarios it will be in large part because of people taking the science on climate change seriously enough to seek and campaign for alternatives. One of the other themes of anti climate action campaigning is blaming the messengers - ie climate scientists and climate action advocates. Who is it labelling reasonable climate change proponents as alarmist? I suggest it is predominately people campaigning against strong climate action, as part of counter-messaging efforts to undermine overall confidence in all those expert studies and reports - who want the whole issue to be seen (falsely) as exaggeration. Suggesting we should try and avoid worst case scenarios (which, within those reports, are scenarios, not exaggerations) isn't what gets climate change proponents seen as alarmists, it is constant and widely disseminated counter-messaging claiming they are alarmists that is promoting the idea that they are alarmists. In the absence of constant counter-messaging what was in those reports - which is by any measure, genuinely alarming - would be much more likely to be taken seriously and acted upon. Which would, of course, make the extreme scenarios less likely. Organised opposition engaging in counter-messaging to prevent strong climate action has never been a reaction to irresponsible alarmist exaggeration, it is a response to the legitimately alarming mainstream expert advice. That opposition chose to do so for their own reasons - I think mostly responsibility avoidance although they may well have alarmed themselves with their own alarmist economic fears of going without fossil fuels.
  3. Mistermack - the numbers were from memory, but I believe, within the expected range, depending on how our emissions in the future go. Assuming widespread agreement with you we would have no broad effort to constrain emissions, so at the high end of projections. Like this -
  4. Mistermack - if one degree C of global average warming looks good to you right now where you are, is that something you expect to be an enduring condition? Do you expect things to be just as good with 3 to 6 degrees - or to be even better? Or is that you do not expect that amount of warming can take place? If where you live appears to benefit from global warming but other places suffer does that have any influence on your thinking? Do you think what happens elsewhere will have no impact on UK prosperity or security? Whilst there are other contributors here I could ask questions like this I don't think I would get a civil discussion let alone answers. I am okay with lively discussion and disagreement but make no mistake, my own views unashamedly reflect the mainstream science based advice - which is not a matter of faith, but of trust in the institutions, practices and practitioners of science. I will say that I think your statement above trivialises the issues. We have had close to 30 years of consistent expert advice - unchanged by whether it was commissioned by Progressives or Conservatives (or however you want to label the 'sides'). I think that is a good indicator that the understanding of crucial climate processes is correct - but then, I am of the view that those reports and studies were competently done in good faith and genuinely represent what is known and not known.
  5. Olin, you can quibble over definitions of what is waste or pollution and what is not, but the climate consequences of rapidly raising atmospheric CO2 content, beyond the limits of natural variability in the absence of human influences, are real and they will have a profound effect on agriculture, infrastructure and economic systems - not my opinion, but the consistent conclusion of more than 3 decades of expert reports and studies. CO2 is a waste product from fossil carbon burning, and it is also modern civilisation's most abundant waste product. No matter whether commissioned by Progressives or Conservatives, the expert reports continue to say essentially the same things - because there is now a genuine science based understanding of the fundamental processes involved in climate and what causes climate to change. That was not true in the 1970's, but the groundwork within mainstream science - programs to build climate data and get a good quantitative understanding of the various elements began even before then. Your arguments are not consistent with the body of science based knowledge and it looks like you are burdened with some basic misunderstandings - mostly about the relative importance of things like CO2 to climate and to plant growth and how they are likely to impact human societies and economy. And it looks like you are resistant to being informed by people who are better informed about these things than you do - and I am not talking about the people posting here, or Al Gore or Greenpeace either, but about the people who have done the studies that raise this above mere differences of opinion. The IPCC reports, the State of Climate reports, National Academy reports, Royal Society, NOAA, NSIDC, CSIRO, BoM, CRU - well, every institution that studies climate and every peak science body says essentially the same. But close to 30 years of science informing on climate/emissions/energy has been accompanied by nearly 30 years of vigorous, well supported counter messaging by those who don't want climate responsibility to be legally recognised or the costs of it impacting their near term activities. One of the themes popular amongst the counter-messaging is that adding lots of CO2 to the atmosphere is a good thing. As long as you don't look too deeply - don't actually study these things or base your position on those studies - it is easy to believe raised CO2 will deliver an overall benefit. But people who do study them know it is not so simple and that some greening from CO2 fertilisation will not make the other concerns about raised CO2 go away or, given those other other factors, will lead to an overall benefit. Olin, I don't expect you to change your position or learn anything - teaching resistance to arguments based on science and reason, to reject the role of expertise, has been another major theme of climate change counter-messaging. You aren't making a good impression here by putting up false and misleading arguments and sticking to them no matter what.
  6. It is because the climate system is susceptible to change that adding lots of CO2 is such a dangerous thing to do - it would take a climate that is unchanging to be unchangeable. It is the vehicle with bad steering that is most likely to run off the road and crash. Olin - The consistent expert advice - three decades of every institution that studies climate and every expert report governments have gotten on it is that this is a serious problem. Why should I set that aside and believe that you know better than they do? That the consequences of AGW can and will seriously impact human activities and prosperity. Not that it takes a genius to figure that destabilising something as fundamental as our planet's climate system is very unwise and - given that persistent expert advice - dangerously irresponsible. I don't ask or expect anyone to take what environmental advocacy groups are saying on trust, but I do expect them to take what the world's leading science advisory bodies, like the US National Academy of Sciences and UK's Royal Society say about it very seriously. These organisations draw on the world's most accomplished and respected experts. My personal experience - of about 0.5 C of global average warming as experienced in this location - is that vegetation has been effected; perennial weeds that were kept in check by hard frosts are becoming rampant with warmer winters, leading to more work and more costs to deal with them. Bushfires are a real problem here - and that is not new. What is happening is that the 'fire danger season' is, on average, starting earlier and finishing later and the opportunities for 'controlled' fires to reduce fuel loads ahead of the high risk periods are becoming shorter with increasing risk of escaping containment, requiring more vigilance, labour and equipment. Fires could, by picking the right conditions, be expected to go out overnight as dew added a natural fire retardant - but less cool nights, less dew and more fires that don't go out on their own. More work, more expense, more risk.This means less of that hazard reduction is getting done and the consequences in the hot, high risk periods is intensified. That is with a mere 0.5 degrees of global average temperature change; the prospect of 3 to 6 degrees is something I find terrifying. Regions like this could become so unsafe that people cannot live here permanently without an added expense of fire resistant construction and endless vigilance. The appropriate perspective is needed - looking at too short periods, where normal variability appears to overwhelm gradual changes is a common way to get misled. So is looking at too long periods, where historic climate changes of great magnitude can make what is happening now appear inconsequential. Both blurr the reality and make it hard to see that gradual changes accumulate and will have serious consequences with dangerous economic and security implications.
  7. In Praise of Scientific Theory

    Trust in scientific institutions, methods and practices - and practitioners working within professional codes of conduct - is not the same as believing something because random people claim something. People who study stuff and work with it full time are almost always more knowledgeable than those who don't. People who study stuff and commit to permanent records the data and the reasoning can and do have their conclusions reviewed and critiqued by others before it gets accepted more widely. Ridicule and abuse is what people tend to get when they think they know better than the post-review and critique knowledge that has earned it's right to be widely accepted by other experts.
  8. Predicting lottery numbers.

    NortonH - the problem is exactly that; the initial set up and the environment changes each time - and we have no means to determine the differences down to the precision that is required to predict the final outcome. As has been pointed out, if it were pre-determined, because of the physics of balls in motion with collisions, air flow turbulence etc, the result would be the same every time. If anyone is accurately predicting lottery numbers it is news to me - and if they are, I would be looking for some kind of fraud before I would assume someone can calculate the outcome by predicting the motions of the balls.
  9. The "Climate has always been changing" argument actually has it backwards; like the vehicle with bad steering that is more likely to run off the road and crash, it is a climate system that is susceptible to change that is most at risk of change from things humans do. The planet is warming - multiple different measures and indicators all show it. And - " There are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. " (The US National Academy of Sciences). The nasty bit of personal slander has no place in these discussions; if you have evidence of serious criminal behaviour, you should inform the police. If not, it is your behaviour that looks criminal. Fake accusations from behind the safety of internet anonymity - I'm surprised it hasn't been deleted by moderators. I recommend the Royal Society or National Academy of Sciences for non-partisan expert assessment; making sense of complex science for policy makers and public is their job. Their exemplary reputations are earned. The people they draw upon are not incompetent or biased. Or part of a conspiracy or driven by any political agenda apart from that of pursuing excellence in science for the benefit of humanity. I see the science getting it mostly right. I see real world consequences of climate change in the landscape around me - weeds that had previously been kept in check by heavy frosts becoming rampant because there are fewer frosts, bushfire hazard reduction made more difficult by warmer winters and the fire hazard 'season' coming earlier and finishing later - that's with about half a degree C of average warming (of personally experienced change in this location). 3 to 6 degrees is terrifying to contemplate. Sure, if your region is mostly cold, rarely hot, that might not seem so terrifying, but most of the world's (too large) population lives in places that get very hot, where a few degrees can make the barely bearable conditions unbearable. People ordinarily have a right to believe what they like, but if they hold positions of trust and responsibility ignoring or rejecting expert advice can be negligence. Should lives and fortunes be harmed, that can become criminal neglegence.
  10. Giant solar collectors in space?

    The majority of the world's population live in climates that can make good use of solar energy. I think Hydrolysis will supplant Hydrogen from fossil fuels; even with pro-fossil fuels government support, Hydrogen from Australian brown coal, for example, has not been very successful. Meanwhile a half megawatt electrolyser is going to be trialled in Sydney. Being cynical, I do think the gas suppliers supporting it are more interested in being able to add "green" and "renewable" into their ongoing marketings of fossil fuel gas than in actually displacing the gas - but it is a start. I do understand some of the resistance to wind turbines - nice views are highly prized. I just don't prize them so highly that preserving the views are good justification for failing to commit to low emissions. It may turn out they are a transitory technology that will not be replaced at the end of their working life - I hesitate to predict how the end game of a transition to low emissions will play out; solar will improve, tidal and wave power will improve, storage will improve, long distance power transmission will improve. I don't expect space based solar - at multi-millions US$ per ton to launch to LEO - to become a real thing, although I still do wonder if the transmission elements of space based solar proposals might somehow be turned to a global energy transmission network. Beam up from summer daytime Australia, around the world and back down to winter night in Russia or Scandinavia. Nothing really happening in that area, but we are going to end up with things we didn't expect - like we have with low cost solar. Nuclear has serious issues beyond the mess of partisan politics (that I think doesn't reflect the reality), but it will improve also - and be popular in those climates and regions that have poor solar resources and limited transmission links to RE rich regions. Efficient storage is going to be vital - and if, a decade ago I thought the R&D commitment to storage was inadequate, not any more. If a household of the future requires the equivalent of one new car's worth of technology in the form of batteries, to complement the solar on their roof, I don't think that will impoverish anyone. The large scales for any new technologies to make a difference don't daunt me; whatever we do, right or wrong, is going to be at unprecedented scales.
  11. Giant solar collectors in space?

    In fact solar energy is proving very popular in Australia. About 1/5th of suitable rooftops already have solar panels on them (I think that is by number of buildings, not their total available area) and the rate of installations has surged. A lot of larger scale solar farms are both coming on-line and under construction. Solar and wind are delivering the lowest cost new electricity generation options in the Australian electricity market and even long established, mostly coal and gas reliant electricity producers are investing in them - even with strong expectations that subsidy support will be withdrawn. There are some serious proposals for Hydrogen production including for export, but this is still in it's infancy. Proposals to add Hydrogen into gas supply lines are also being considered - taking advantage of existing infrastructure. However, use of pure Hydrogen will require it's own infrastructure. My own view is that Hydrogen will be most valuable for industrial purposes - smelting steel for example. On the subject of steel, the new owner of Whyalla's steel works, Sanjeev Gupta, is investing in wind, solar and storage in a big way, because he sees those as providing the least cost power for the facility - although not yet for steel smelting.
  12. The science is clear:

    My own view is that the main game for the informed and concerned is currently with support for renewable energy - that the current circumstance where adding new electricity generation using wind, solar and "firming" is cheaper in most places than new coal, is an extraordinary and unexpected opportunity that should not be wasted. The most profound near term outcome this makes possible isn't solving the climate/emissions/energy conundrum as such or measured in CO2 emissions avoided, but in changing the political landscape by undermining the depth of support for obstructionist opposition. We have an unlooked for opportunity for breaking through the deadlock of divided politics and allowing a more rational unity of purpose to emerge within governments and policy makers. Alarmist economic fear of abandoning fossil fuels and becoming dependent on renewables is a main PR thrust of opposition and obstruction - persistent undermining trust in climate science being the other main meme. Just as denying the reality of the problem has become untenable in the face of global warming's reality, fear of economic harm from shifting to renewables no longer has the persuasive punch that it did only a few years ago because of cut price solar and wind. When businesses that have no PR skin in this began putting solar on their roofs - to save on electricity costs - the overwhelming unity of opposition by business lobby groups to strong climate policies was and is undermined. When long running electricity companies began taking on large renewables projects - willingly, even with the expectation that ongoing subsidy support would be phased out - a profound change in thinking has taken place. When Solar and Wind became cheaper - even intermittently and seasonally - nothing would be the same after; we are only just at the beginning of that, it's full implications still not well understood. To me it looks like just the right time and issue to push back against the denial and obstruction. I tend to see the long running doubt, deny, delay response of conservative-right politics as reflective of the wishes of commerce and industry, for whom the alarmist economic fears of high cost energy and devalued fossil fuel assets were central to the stance they made. Renewable energy has driven a wedge into that collective agreement to oppose and obstruct and that, rather than the extent of near term emissions avoided, is what presents us an unexpected opportunity to shift the way policy makers approach the problem. I expect even nuclear will find itself much advantaged if this gets used effectively to bring about the end of mainstream climate obstructionism - supporters of nuclear can come out from behind the wall of denial conservative right politics made within itself, that prioritised denial and obstruction over contributing meaningfully to future energy policy development.
  13. is homosexuality unnatural and can be cured?

    My own view is it is a consequence of our evolutionary history - and entirely natural. Humans don't have a clear fertile season, nor is a single sex act very effective for reproduction; humans need to have sex often, throughout the Oestrus cycle to reliably reproduce. That means it's an evolutionary advantage to have a strong sex drive that is not closely linked to specific conditions or signals. It isn't focused narrowly on a single partner or a single kind of sex act or a clear signal of fertility; a whole range of triggers for arousal exist that have no direct connection to fertility, including some that have no physical basis at all and are purely thought and imagination based. Socially however, that strong sex drive can be a source of serious conflict. I think having alternatives for those without mating ties (homosexuality as well as masturbation) for that unproductive (or unreproductive) sex drive, would have been a way to reduce conflict. That variety of potential triggers for arousal also mean that people who might have a preference for their own sex can still be aroused by the opposite sex and still be capable of reproducing. Plenty of gay people still want - and succeed - at having children. So any genetic component can, will and has persisted within the population.
  14. SpaceX may not end up with the re-usable giant rocket they envisaged - I will be surprised if they do - but they could very well end up with a useful heavy lift system, to service Near Earth space activities and launches of bigger and more numerous robotic probes/astronomical instruments - which may always have been the realistic rather than dream goal for the company. Improved tunnelling technology for the HyperLoop company, but not necessarily the grand dream transport system. Could well be that within these companies that, whilst certainly in their thinking, the extreme successes have never been expected, nor even necessarily their principle goal; it gives these companies a big PR boost and lots of public interest. There are things still to do in space, including closer examinations of Mars and moons of Jupiter and Saturn looking for evidence of past or present life. Cooperative efforts to develop meteor defence - or uncooperative efforts to militarise space seem to offer more realistic near term possible opportunities for a space tech company - although I would not welcome the militarisation; if nothing else that suggest moving towards the kind of world that is still not managing it's big issues effectively (and possibly handling them worse as things like climate instability start to bite). I do think a stable, healthy Earth economy is a requirement for some of the more ambitious space enterprises, to both kick off and succeed. And, yes, there are the valuable on-world explorations - including the very small, like the astonishing and still surprising biochemical machinery of life, which looks profoundly important to future agriculture and medicine, and things like the complex nature of films and surface interactions, that may deliver much improved electrical devices, energy storage and efficiencies of use.
  15. Musk is dreaming - the timeline he has proposed won't work. With technologies within his/our reach, a Mars colony is not going to be viable. I don't know when or even if we will put people on Mars. It would be a notable achievement but not necessarily something that leads to where you think it will go. I see nothing inevitable in Mars colonies nor any great loss if we don't end up with them; when all is said and done it's a wasteland and the opportunities there are greatly exaggerated. The potential for being a viable backup planet in case Earth is rendered uninhabited is, with the real technologies within reach, unreachable. The threshold size for true self-reliance under such conditions is, I think, going to be that of a substantial nation, population and economy. I think that can only be an emergent outcome from a long history of being a successful - economically successful - outpost. If it isn't economically successful as part of the Earth economy it will fail to thrive and self-reliance will not occur - to become one more ghost town in one more place that began with high hopes.Terraforming Mars is just fantasy. Maybe we will get good at living in wastelands - but I think our technology will have to be extraordinary to be able to have a productive, advanced economy and society somewhere as desolate and unforgiving as Mars. That level of capability would make space habitats possible, in which case, why Mars at all? I think you saying the political and economic concerns are temporary and will change is one more example of wishful thinking - hype - and does not address the practical concerns I have raised with Musk's Mars ambitions - from the proposal to run things on solar when months long, planet wide dust storms are a regular occurrence to how such a colony, that can't even engage in return physical trade, pays for the continuing supplies they will require, they go unanswered.