Planet of the Stupid

April 25, 2020

Exhautive, devastating and much-deserved point by point takedown of Michael Moore’s sadly bogus energy doc. This is the the one I’ll be linking people to, for now.

The fact-checked response is, a film that is not just stupid, but lazy.
“Not only is the documentary bad, it’s old bad.

“All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient”

Ketan Joshi:

The film ‘Planet of the Humans’ opens with the director, Jeff Gibbs, operating a fossil-fuelled combustion engine vehicle, on a road full of combustion engine vehicles, followed up with some footage taken from the International Space Station (fossil fuelled rockets put that in space).

This is not a documentary about the environmental damage that had to occur for Gibbs to go on his drive – it is not mentioned. Nor is it about the harm from fossil fuels.

It is about why renewable energy is bad. I used to work in the renewable energy industry – first, with wind farms and later in research, government agencies and advocacy groups. So it was hard to resist both watching and reviewing this one, considering it launched on ‘Earth Day’, and it has been widely promoted.

Not only is the documentary bad, it’s old bad. Please join me on this journey back in time. It won’t be fun, but I’m glad you’re here with me.

All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient

It is clear that Gibbs has been trying to make this documentary for a long, long time.

“He is currently working on a film about the state of the planet and the fate of humanity”, read his bio, in 2012. It is clear, digging into these early posts, that he very passionately loathes the burning of trees to generate energy – a wildly controversial and genuinely problematic thing, for sure.

But as early as 2010, Gibbs was posting HuffPost blogs extending that into wind and solar, too.

This one, for instance, repeats a bog-standard list of anti-wind and anti-solar memes that, back in 2010, were fashionable among climate deniers. The ‘wind and solar are too intermittent’ meme, for instance, is a great hallmark of that era. “How much variable energy can a grid accept? Around ten percent, twenty percent tops it appears”, he wrote back then. I’d include examples of grids with higher percentages operating without a hitch today, but it feels almost cruel.

The extreme oldness of this documentary stands out. In one instance, he tours a solar farm in Lansing, Michigan, in which a bemused official states that a large farm can only power ten homes in a year.

It is the Cedar Street Solar Array, a 150 panel 824 kilowatt (that’s small) farm in downtown Lansing. Guess when that bad boy was built? 2008. Twelve years ago – an absolute eternity, in solar development years.

As PV Magazine writes, “The film reports on a solar installation in Michigan with PV panels rated at “just under 8 percent” conversion efficiency. It’s difficult to identify the brand of panel in the film (Abound?) — but that efficiency is from another solar era”. Efficiency gains in solar have been so rapid that by leaving the dates off his footage he is very actively deceiving the audience. The site generates 64-64 MWh a year, according to the owner – a more recent installation in the same area generates around 436. The footage really is from another era. It’s like doing a documentary on the uselessness of mobile phones but only examining the Motorola Ultrasleek.

Later, they visit the Solar Energy Generating System (SEGS) solar farm, only to feign sadness and shock when they discover it’s been removed, leaving a dusty field of sand. In the desert. “Then Ozzie and I discovered that the giant solar arrays had been razed to the ground”, he moans. “It suddenly dawned on me what we were looking at. A solar dead zone”.

Which is a weird one, because the latest 2020 satellite imagery shows a site full of solar arrays, and a total absence of any “dead zones”. The damn thing is generating electricity.

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A few months ago, I posted a piece, based on interviews with leading permafrost experts, that pushed back, hard, on the “we’re all gonna die and there’s nothing we can do” catastrophism around the so-called “methane bomb” in the arctic. (I’ll repost that one below if you have not seen it)

That’s not to say that we don’t have a problem. When people tell me that the world is about to end, my response is that we’re not getting off that easy.
Above, more from the same researchers, looking at a little more fine grained data from the permafrost – and observations of a phenomenon that is coming into sharper focus.
As the planet warms, permafrost is softening, causing microbes to awaken and begin feeding on the organic matter therein – releasing more CO2 and methane. Good enough – but a lot of folks don’t understand that THAT process alone is not a world breaker – in fact, as more vegetation springs from softened permafrost, photosynthesis is kicking in – carbon is being stored, and in some models, actually sequestering more carbon.

The more pressing issue coming into focus is that the permafrost does not melt uniformly, and tends to collapse here and there into thousands, maybe millions, of lakes – that break through the surface “active layer” of the permafrost, and into the reservoir of more deeply stored carbon.
These lakes are hot-spots of carbon and methane release, and could add substantially to the total output in coming centuries.
It’s not the sudden catastrophic impact of disaster movies, but, as one of the experts, Katey Walter Anthony, told me, “..it’s a strong headwind.”

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The idea of a “Team B” to produce intelligence more politically palatable to a Republican administration is not new.

In the 80s, hard-liners not satisfied with intelligence community expert estimates of Soviet capabilities, formed a “Team B” group to provide more threatening and dire assessments to the President. The group was promoted by Donald Rumsfeld, and included Paul Wolfowitz, both later architects of the war in Iraq.
Also in the lead up to that war, Vice President Dick Cheney famously oversaw the manipulation of intelligence to deceive both the executive branch and the American people about the need for an invasion.

The Atlantic:

(1) During the several months preceding the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and thereafter, the vice president became aware that no certain evidence existed of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a fact articulated in several official documents, including: (a) A report by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, concluding that “there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has–or will–establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.” (b) A National Intelligence Estimate, compiled by the nation’s intelligence agencies, admitting to “little specific information” about chemical weapons in Iraq. (c) A later section of the same NIE, admitting “low confidence” that Saddam Hussein “would engage in clandestine attacks against the U.S. Homeland,” and equally “low confidence” that he would “share chemical or biological weapons with al-Qa’ida.” (d) An addendum by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, asserting that Hussein’s quest for yellowcake uranium in Africa was “highly dubious” and that his acquisition of certain machine parts, considered by some to be evidence of a nuclear program, were “not clearly linked to a nuclear end use.” (e) A report by the United States Department of Energy, stating that the machinery in question was “poorly suited” for nuclear use.

(2) Despite these questions and uncertainties, and having full awareness of them, the vice president nevertheless proceeded to misrepresent the facts in his public statements, claiming that there was no doubt about the existence of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq and that a full-scale nuclear program was known to exist, including: (a) March 17, 2002: “We know they have biological and chemical weapons.” (b) March 19, 2002: “We know they are pursuing nuclear weapons.” (c) March 24, 2002: “He is actively pursuing nuclear weapons.” (d) May 19, 2002: “We know he’s got chemical and biological…we know he’s working on nuclear.” (e) August 26, 2002: “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons… Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” (f) March 16, 2003: “We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

Now the Trump administration has renewed its intention to produce similarly skewed pseudo-scientific assessments of global climate change.

What could go wrong?

New York Times:

President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis.

Now, after two years spent unraveling the policies of his predecessors, Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.
In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.
And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.

“What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics,” said Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the government’s most recent National Climate Assessment. “It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”


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Climate change was showing up as a frequent question in Townhall meetings that terrorized Republicans following Donald Trump’s election.
It was a harbinger of climate’s emergence this year as a top-of-mind issue for voters, if not ever-clueless mainstream journalists.

With his recent announcement that he had actually read the Mueller report, Rep. Justin Amash, from Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, came out in favor of impeaching Donald Trump – the first GOP representative to do so.
May it be a wave.

Meanwhile however, good to remember that on other issues, the honorable Rep is still mired in primordial goo. Skip to about 1:30 if you want to avoid the nice lady’s long winded question.
Now that he’s done with the Mueller report, Rep. Amash might take time to read the IPCC report.

Below, the video I made on the flurry of Townhall queries includes my own attempt to pin down a squirmy Republican denier.

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The First Climate Election

November 6, 2018

In a country so closely divided as the US is right now, the emergence of climate as an issue that a significant number of voters care about can be a game changer in close races.
We have seen in this cycle a number of Democratic politicians embrace climate, and more broadly, a respect for science and fact, as an issue – as well as advocating for clean energy strategies.

Prominently, Andrew Gillum in his run for the extremely important Florida Governor seat, and Beto O’Rourke in his Texas Senate race, have been fearless and out front on climate change and renewable energy.

In regions like South Florida, Rep. Carlos Curbello, a Republican, has joined a bipartisan “climate caucus” as a means of demonstrating concern about climate and the sea level rise so obvious in his district.

Regardless of today’s results, the importance of climate and clean energy as a political issue has crossed a threshold.

Vox:

The industry’s dilemma is brought home by a recent bit of market research and polling done on behalf of the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for utilities. It was distributed at a recent meeting of EEI board members and executives and shared with me.

The work was done by the market research firm Maslansky & Partners, which analyzed existing utility messaging, interviewed utility execs and environmentalists, ran a national opinion survey, and did a couple of three-hour sit-downs with “media informed customers” in Minneapolis and Phoenix.

The results are striking. They do a great job of laying out the public opinion landscape on renewables, showing where different groups have advantages and disadvantages.

The takeaway: Renewables are a public opinion juggernaut. Being against them is no longer an option. The industry’s best and only hope is to slow down the stampede a bit (and that’s what they plan to try).

In our polarized age, here is something we almost all agree on: Renewable energy is awesome.

Here’s the most striking slide in the presentation:

poll18

In case you don’t feel like squinting, let me draw your attention to the fact that a majority of those surveyed (51 percent) believe that 100 percent renewables is a good idea even if it raises their energy bills by 30 percent.

That is wild. As anyone who’s been in politics a while knows, Americans don’t generally like people raising their bills, much less by a third. A majority that still favors it? That is political dynamite.

Meanwhile, there are some on the climate action side who view Republicans like Rep. Curbelo as “climate peacocks”, more show than substance.

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Dear Lamar,…

December 2, 2015

msusat

Rabbit Run:

The news has been full of Lamar Smith, Chair and Poohba of the House Science Committee fulminating about NOAA and his attempts to gangplank Tom Karl.  In a recent op-ed in the Washington Times (fishrap whose time and sugar daddy has come and gone) Smith writes

NOAA often fails to consider all available data in its determinations and climate change reports to the public. A recent study by NOAA, published in the journal Science, made “adjustments” to historical temperature records and NOAA trumpeted the findings as refuting the nearly two-decade pause in global warming. The study’s authors claimed these adjustments were supposedly based on new data and new methodology. But the study failed to include satellite data.

Atmospheric satellite data, considered by many to be the most objective, has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades. This fact is well documented, but has been embarrassing for an administration determined to push through costly environmental regulations.

Now this is very popular on the SKS list of denial as the El Nino driven SURGE is pushing global temperatures through the roof.  Certain folk, including Congressman Smith, invoke the UAH MSU global temperature record as their gold standard.  Yet anybunny looking into the matter knows of the serial screwups and the teeth pulling needed to get any information about the majic Spencer and Christy use to transform microwave intensity to temperatures and how it is hard to figure out what and where is actually being measured.

All is not clear in Alabama.

A friend of the Rabett Run knows quite a bit about MSU units and how Roy Spencer and John Christy have danced with the data.

He wrote a letter to Lamar Smith.

Eli thought reproducing the letter would be a public service.  It is a bit long for a tweet, and, indeed some additional comments have been added at the end.

————————————————–
Rep. Lamar Smith,
Chairman House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
2321 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

RE: your Op-Ed  26 November in The Washington Times

Chairman Smith:

I read your op-ed with considerable interest.  I’m a retired engineer whose work experience included several years in satellite design.  As I read your article, my impression was that you do not understand the so-called “satellite temperature” data developed by Roy Spencer and John Christy of UAH.  Allow me to provide some information.

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Citing unnamed, (ie nonexistent) “experts”,  Inquisitor Lamar Smith of the House Science Committee engages in hallucinatory arm waving in attempting to convince Miami residents that the water around their ankles is completely normal.

Office of Lamar Smith, Chairman, House Committee on Science, Space and Technology:

Dec 1, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today released the following statement after President Obama delivered a speech this morning before the U.N. climate change conference in Paris blaming climate change for recent flooding in Miami, Florida. The president stated, “You go down to Miami and when it’s flooding at high tide on a sunny day, the fish are swimming through the middle of the streets, there’s costs to that.”

Chairman Smith: “The president’s statement that Miami flooding is linked to climate change is entirely false and in fact disputed by meteorologists at the National Weather Service. The experts have reported that the lunar cycle and wind patterns are to blame for unusually high floods in Miami, not climate change. The fact is there is little evidence that climate change causes extreme weather events. The president is ignoring the facts and misleading the American people in order to advance his extreme climate change agenda.”

sea-level_estimates_1-preview

2000 years of sea level: Kemp et al

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inquisition

“Science” Committee’s Bully tactics not getting any love from the science community.
Inquisitions not popular among the intellectually curious.

Who knew?

Washington Post:

A top House lawmaker’s confrontation with government researchers over a groundbreaking climate change study is provoking a national backlash from scientists, who say his campaign represents the most serious threat Congress has posed to scientific freedom.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has subpoenaed scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and demanded that they turn over internal e-mails related to their research. Their findings contradicted earlier work showing that global warming had paused, and Smith, a climate change skeptic, has accused them of altering global temperature data and rushing to publish their research in the June issue of the journal Science.

So far, NOAA officials have resisted Smith’s demands, and the showdown has escalated.

On Tuesday, seven scientific organizations representing hundreds of thousands of scientists sent an unsparing letter to Smith, warning that his efforts are “establishing a practice of inquests” that will have a chilling effect.

The Post article indicates the science committee may have blinked.

A legislative aide at the Science Committee said this week that Smith is open to discussions with NOAA to resolve the conflict.

Pope Francis’ visit to the US catalyzed the growing sense across the country, and across the globe, that climate change is, above all, a moral issue.

More and more scientists have realized that speaking to this moral dimension is far more persuasive than speaking the language of science and fact, as compelling as those are.  Most people simply respond better to an issue that is framed in moral terms.

supportdarksnow

The emerging story of what Exxon knew, and when they knew it, shows that the differences have never really been about the science questions – even the major oil companies knew the basic science truths 4 decades ago.  They simply made a moral decision that the lives of the next ten thousand generations of human beings were not as important as their own profits, and we are now witnessing the early impacts of that decision.

“So what’s a Republican, like me, doing at a wind farm?” asks GOP Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner in the ad above.
Damn good question, given the hostility to renewable energy that leading GOP funders and interest groups have been showing in recent years, and the current political campaign.

NYTimes:

In Senate races in the general election, the analysis found, energy and the environment are the third-most mentioned issue in political advertisements, behind health care and jobs.

The explosion of energy and environmental ads also suggests the prominent role that the issues could play in the 2016 presidential race, especially as megadonors — such as Thomas F. Steyer, a California billionaire and environmental activist on the left, and Charles G. and David H. Koch, billionaire brothers on the right — take sides. Leaders of major environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters said they had collectively spent record amounts of money in this election cycle.

“Candidates are using energy and environment as a sledgehammer to win a race,” said Elizabeth Wilner, the senior vice president for politics at Kantar Media/CMAG.

Groups representing the energy industry and environmental advocacy have typically been the lead players in presenting policy positions in ads, but this year the candidates themselves and party political committees are also taking on that role.

“What’s important about what’s going on right now is the extent to which the Democrats feel confident playing offense on environmental and energy issues, and the extent to which polling shows that they are scoring when they do that,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster.

What pollsters know, and what candidates are finding out, is that climate and energy issues work to move voters.  In Mr. Gardner’s home state of Colorado, renewable energy is popular, and concerns about climate and environment are high – leading Democratic interest groups to seek to tie Mr. Gardner’s record of climate denial to his stands on other social issues where he seems to be out of step with his constituency.

The election results will tell us something about how well these kinds of attacks, and responses, have worked – but the swing in voter attitudes on climate change is unlikely to stop, especially given the possibility that 2014 could be the hottest year ever in the NASA surface temperature record, and if a developing El Nino warming event in the Pacific plays out in coming months, 2015 could be hotter still.