11 POPULATION, SCARCITY AND THE ORGANIZATION OF SOCIETY

There is a notion that the climate of the Earth is deteriorating under the influence of generations of ‘developers’.  It is asserted that the burning of fossil fuels is increasing the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing the air at the surface of the planet to warm. The word sustainability is hip. The generation  taking up the reins of power, the best educated ever, seeks to act responsibly. In particular they see they want to curtail is the rape and pillage of scarce resources.

Concurrently with the issue of sustainability it is asserted that population growth must be contained and same sex marriage legitimized. The left has abandoned Marxism and taken on the environment. Coal is the new demon.  The exploitation of animals should cease whether on the land or in the sea. This bandwagon has been especially popular in places where living standards are already high and the social security net well established. The thought is that we should be satisfied with less because ‘more now’ will mean less for succeeding generations. The waggoner’s look around and they see is other snouts in the trough. That disturbs them mightily.I see this behaviour when I feed my animals. The dog gets very agitated when the cat is fed.

But hey, before we get too excited we should ask the question ‘what temperature regime is most desirable’.

A good place to begin is with an assessment of the range of climates that the Earth currently provides.

With the advent of satellite surveillance from the late  1970s we have comprehensive data for the atmosphere across the entire globe. Prior to that time, the climate record is deficient lacking data for much of the oceans and the great bulk of the southern hemisphere. With the knowledge of relationships between atmospheric variables that are a product of the satellite age, and taking advantage of computers, it has been possible to project backwards on the basis of rather sketchy data, but only with any confidence as far as 1948. The resulting climate record was made available in 1996 as ‘reanalysis data’ and is accessible at: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries1.pl  This data is good enough for a broad brush analysis.

Striking an average for the last 69 years  we can describe the situation with respect to surface temperature. In so doing we create a snapshot of the planet.

Broadly speaking temperature varies with latitude. But by virtue of the unequal distribution of land and sea between the hemispheres the thermal regime in the northern hemisphere is very different to that in the southern hemisphere. In the mid latitudes summers are warmer and winters colder in the northern than in the southern hemisphere. The Arctic has a summer of almost five months when temperature rises above the freezing point of water. The Antarctic is frozen on a year round basis, an impossible situation so far as human habitation is concerned.

What is most comfortable? When people retire from work and are able to relocate to the places they prefer, they go to the Mediterranean, to Florida, the Bahamas and to Queensland.  In the south west of Western Australia at 30° of latitude I observe that retired people hook up their caravans and migrate north in the winter. In general, people migrate to the tropics to avoid cold winters. On that basis, let’s face it quite squarely; much of the planet is on average too cold for personal comfort. People vote with their feet.

Imagine that you are a businessman, a farmer or a retired person from another planet visiting Earth to assess its suitability as a location to spend your leisure time,  invest your inherited wealth or hard won superannuation. You are a warm blooded creature. You like a free-wheeling life and can see no virtue in decorating your frame with multi-coloured clothing. If the mind boggles at this prospect perhaps imagine that you are the seed of a hermaphroditic plant travelling on the wind. Where would you like to land?

Here are the choices according to latitude. Average temperature by latitude

If you are a photosynthesising plant you will prefer the zone inside the red rectangle where photosynthesis at a sustaining rate is possible.If you are not wearing multi coloured clothing look for all round temperatures in excess of 25°C. If you are a cold adapted plant consider the data in the table below.

Optimum Temperature Cold limit for CO2 uptake
Agricultural C3 plants that have open stomata during the day 20-30°C 0 to -2°C
Deciduous trees in temperature zone 20-30°C -3 to -1°C
Coniferous trees 10 -25°C -5 to -3°C

How do you rate the real estate?

The life forms that inhabit Earth have evolved over time. We know that species can adapt to some extent when circumstances change. When conditions become too adverse organisms migrate to seek what they need elsewhere. The  Earth provides multifarious environments. However, looked at in the broad, and without the rose coloured glasses, cold weather is the Achilles heel of planet Earth, and in particular pole-wards of 30° of latitude. Cold is the circumstance that is most threatening when one is caught outdoors, even when one is endowed with the multi coloured clothing.

We are always curious as to how plants and animals can exist in the most adverse circumstances. This is because, outside the tropics, our planet is by and large, inhospitably cold in part of, or even the entire year.  We feel the pinch of it.

Why then do we assume that a warming planet is a bad thing?

A QUESTION OF PRODUCTIVITY

If we look at the question simply in terms of the productivity of the Earth as dictated by surface temperature and precipitation a stark reality emerges. The map below shows net primary production (or carbon output from photosynthesis less that used in respiration). Mysteriously, many of the most productive parts are as yet sparsely populated.

Net pimary production

Source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/HANPP/

One is surprised at how little of the Earth performs well in terms of plant productivity.  All life forms depend upon the productivity of plants. Carbon output (as carbohydrate and cellulose) depends upon photosynthesis and is limited by temperature and precipitation. The most productive areas lie between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, the warmest and wettest areas on the surface of the Earth. The bulk of the rest of the Earth is by comparison a relative wasteland of, at best ‘seasonal’ productivity. Here food must be preserved, stored or transported from more productive locations to sustain a population over the period when nothing much grows. The alternative is to grow plants in a heated chamber supplemented with light and fed with compressed carbon dioxide out of thick steel walled steel cylinders at considerable expense.

In the tropics temperature ranges between 20 and 30°C across the year.  Three crops are possible within the space of a year. Latitudes south of 60°south, in every month, and north of 60° north, between October and March, are uniformly inhospitable to plant life. No plant survives permanent burial in ice and snow. Between these extremes, at 30-60° of latitude the northern hemisphere winter months can be excruciatingly cold and although cold adapted plants can assimilate carbon at quite low temperatures the rate  is excruciatingly slow. Snow adapted species have needle shaped leaves that hang down to inhibit the accumulation of snow so that they can remain free of that burden and access light. Trees with broad leaves drop them prior to winter choosing to hibernate rather than lose branches as they accumulate snow. In the subtropics of the southern hemisphere, although winter temperature is less limiting and there is little chance of a damaging burden of snow  the area of suitable land is relatively small and much of  it inhospitably dry. This is the domain of the hardy, drought tolerant, evergreen eucalypt that, when introduced to Africa and the Mediterranean, greens the dry country and displaces the local vegetation much to the chagrin of the local inhabitants who see this interloper as a weed.

A dispassionate view of the Earth, considering its ability to promote plant life, sees the planet as distinctly cooler than is desirable.  Earth could support more life if it were warmer, especially in winter. Accordingly we find that the most populated parts of the globe lie in the well watered tropical and subtropical  climates, mostly on the eastern side of the major continents where precipitation falls in the warmer summer months. These climates favour photosynthesis at rates that are respectable.

The basic premise that a warming planet is bad for mankind is just plain silly. The reverse is in fact the case. Modern civilization enables humans to live in relatively cool circumstances only when provided with food, elaborate and expensive shelter and energy for heating the interiors of structures. Its called ‘central heating’.Venturing outside one must don many layers of clothing, making work tedious. But it’s less tedious and precarious than working in space or on the moon. Humans do adapt very well, but there is always inconvenience and cost involved.

In locations where winters are cold animals are provided with warm shelters. They no longer forage because there is nothing to forage on. Food grown in summer is stored for the winter.

The pattern of consumption of carbohydrate  by human species appears below:

Consumption

It is plain that there is a mismatch between production and consumption. This reflects:

1. The ability to move commodities. In short, transportation involving machines and energy.

2. Diversity in living standards. Machines and energy are not universally available.

3. A great deal of spare capacity for further growth of population based on exploitation of potentially productive areas currently sparsely populated. Much greater numbers could be catered for if water can be made available in warm but dry locations where population density is currently very low. With machines and energy this is possible.

Given that the temperature of so much of the globe is limiting because its too cool, a little extra warmth is highly desirable. The increase in the length of the growing season associated with extra warmth, a characteristic of climate change in the northern hemisphere, has been beneficial.It should be welcomed. It should not be the cause for concern.

Given that plants use less water as the carbon dioxide content of the air increases that circumstance should be welcomed.

Relax, its all good on the climate front.

The real problem is that our societies are so poorly organized that, although energy is cheap and the capacity to produce machines has never been greater than it is at the present time there is currently a deficit in demand for machines. In many parts of the globe, including the heartlands of western civilization youth can not find useful employment. Banks are awash with funds and interest rates are at historic lows. Governments are spending a lot more than they earn without taking up the economic slack. Commodity prices are falling. No-one wants to buy.

This will end badly. Flights of fancy are counter-indicated. We must look to create the greatest good for the greatest number.

 

 

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11 thoughts on “11 POPULATION, SCARCITY AND THE ORGANIZATION OF SOCIETY

  1. A reaaly great article until the end. The greater good is a myth, a means to justify the end. It pay little head to the impact on those that are affected. Who will the chosen ones to play god and that make the decisions on whatbthe greater good shall be? And how will such power not corrupt? This is an ethics discussion well beyond climate science. Heck, not long ago some of these self elected gods wanted to seed clouds, put detergent in the ocean, and gaol CAGW deniers. Where does it End? Banning race cars, jet flights only for gov. Approved officials, etc. Hmmmm. I Don,t think so.

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  2. Macha, Perhaps I need to explain myself better. I see the global warming craze as society on a diversion. Waylaid.

    We elect governments and hope for wise men. The climate scare is complete nonsense. Our elected representatives have failed us badly in taking that argument on board.

    There will always be elected officials My training is in economics and that’s where the real problems exist. It is these problems that should be the concern of elected officials. The misallocation of resources to combat a non-problem is bad enough……but a complete breakdown of the economic system in prospect. That’s what the stockmarket is currently telling us. The usual remedies of lowered interest rates and enhanced government spending have already been flogged to death. The precipice that we are currently overlooking is the descent into a depression of economic activity.

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  3. Agree totally with your responses first two paragraphs, not so much the ladt….again. Ie yes to waylaid, and yes to climate nonsense. Economic misallocations always occur, just like climate always changes so the debate is muted and one that can chage with an election. The CAGW debacle seems to cross both electoral boundaries and national sovereignty. Thats the sad outcome of this fixation on CO2 gas to date. this is also why I am so captured by your comments on ozone, circulation, and convection.

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  4. Over at “Tallblokes Talkshop” there is a discussion on the following scientific paper:

    AN EMPIRICAL TEST OF THE CHEMICAL THEORY OF OZONE DEPLETION
    JAMAL MUNSHI
    ABSTRACT: The overall structure of changes in total column ozone levels over a 50-year sample period from 1966 to 2015 and across a range of latitudes from -90o to +71o shows that the data from Antarctica prior to 1995 represent a peculiar outlier condition specific to that time and place and not an enduring global pattern. The finding is inconsistent with the RowlandMolina theory of chemical ozone depletion.

    Just thought you might be interested. The discussion was posted on 3 Feb 2016.

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  5. But then there is this new article in “Geophysical Research Letters”:

    Quantification of relative contribution of Antarctic ozone depletion to increased austral extratropical precipitation during 1979–2013
    Authors- Kaixu Bai, Ni-Bin Chang, Wei Gao

    Abstract

    Attributing the observed climate changes to relevant forcing factors is critical to predicting future climate change scenarios. Precipitation observations in the Southern Hemisphere indicate an apparent moistening pattern over the extratropics during the time period 1979 to 2013. To investigate the predominant forcing factor in triggering such an observed wetting climate pattern, precipitation responses to four climatic forcing factors, including Antarctic ozone, water vapor, sea surface temperature (SST), and carbon dioxide, were assessed quantitatively in sequence through an inductive approach. Coupled time-space patterns between the observed austral extratropical precipitation and each climatic forcing factor were firstly diagnosed by using the maximum covariance analysis (MCA). With the derived time series from each coupled MCA modes, statistical relationships were established between extratropical precipitation variations and each climatic forcing factor by using the extreme learning machine. Based on these established statistical relationships, sensitivity tests were conducted to estimate precipitation responses to each climatic forcing factor quantitatively. Quantified differential contribution with respect to those climatic forcing factors may explain why the observed austral extratropical moistening pattern is primarily driven by the Antarctic ozone depletion, while mildly modulated by the cooling effect of equatorial Pacific SST and the increased greenhouse gases, respectively.

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  6. Rob R. Thanks for the interaction:
    What we have here is a bunch of statisticians who make no attempt to understand the climate system. I wonder if they have heard of the Southern Annular Mode?

    Statistical analysis can never actually attribute a particular result to any particular cause. A consistent relationship does not imply causation.

    Here is another I found when searching for full text on the article you cite:

    Wavelet analysis of polar vortex variability over the twentieth century
    Authors
    Grant M. Glovin,
    Todd E. Arbetter,
    Amanda H. Lynch
    First published: 26 January 2016
    Abstract

    Recent increases in extreme weather events in the Northern Hemisphere have been linked to amplified planetary waves. Changes in planetary wave properties are linked to changes in climate; hence, finding a mechanism that links the planetary wave variability under climatic forcing and midlatitude blocking events has engendered a great deal of interest. In this study, wavelet analysis is applied to time series of planetary wave phase speeds at high latitudes as a first step to assessing the potential for identifying these mechanisms in the observational record. A circumpolar multiannual cycle increase is found but signals also demonstrate a complex westward propagation pattern with periods of intense wave variability. Significant correlations between wavelet power at all time scales and albedo, snow cover, atmospheric ozone levels, and surface air temperature are demonstrated.

    Now lets look at modes of causation because statisticians will never do that for us:
    Planetary waves = polar front.
    Polar Front is dictated by the distribution of polar cyclones that are a response to ozone warming above 500hPa.

    These peanuts are not aware of the mode of causation. But they confirm that ozone is correlated with surface temperature. One day, someone will wake up to why that is so. They will then ask how it is that ozone varies so much in the winter time. Then the guys who wrote the first paper might ask if winter rainfall is also, like surface temperature, correlated to change in ozone in the stratosphere.

    Maths and stats are useful but in the hands of those who are unaware of the physical interactions in the atmosphere, virtually useless. Whatever happened to the study of geography and climatology?

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  7. At least there is some hope. They are making some linkages even if they have a poor understanding of the causes.

    I note that through his blogging activities Bob Tisdale has managed to have some influence over Kevin Trenberth and a few of his co-workers in terms of the causes and effects of the El-Nino/La-Nina cycle. Naturally he does not get any acknowledgement for his efforts. Similarly, Steve McIntyre has had a profound effect on the paleoclimate proxy brigage and they also refuse to give him credit.

    So how do you get your ideas out to a wider readership so that eventually the experts start to take notice? I don’t know the answer to that. Tisdale gets a wide readership via Anthony Watts. Climate Audit is regular reading for a large number of technically minded folk. I suspect Watts doesn’t like the way you present your stuff and finds it hard to understand. You do have to concentrate fairly hard to follow the general line of argument. I don’t think he has the time for that.

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  8. Rob R. You are an unusually acute observer over a wide field of activities.

    I don’t know how one finds a broader readership. Except perhaps to try and make it is easy as possible to read ones stuff There is nothing like question and answer to bring an illuminating focus onto topics that are obscure, poorly explained etc. In that respect, the real measure of the success of the blog enterprise is whether it engages people and they are led to argue the point, put a different interpretation forward….just engage.

    One does feel like a fly in a bottle.

    There is little attempt to put forward explanations of cause and effect on the part of practitioners. There is an assumption that the Earth is a closed system. There is no subject called ‘historical climatology’ that looks at where and when things change and ask why?

    Those who study the annular modes are closest to an explanation of cause and effect. If only they would look at the evolution of surface pressure as seen in reanalysis data! They are aware that the ‘troposphere and the stratosphere’ are somehow ‘locked together’ in high latitudes. If only they were to ask themselves what is meant by those terms!

    It was the engagement of Lief Svalgaard at Climate Audit that inspired me to get involved. Unfortunately, as he readily acknowledged, although he has a first class knowledge of the heliosphere and physics in general its not backed up with any understanding or interest in the Earth’s atmosphere.

    I, fortunately do not have the advantage of a formal education in the field and I have not been deselected and cast adrift in the process of getting an education. Therefore, blissfully unaware of my errors. On so many occasions I see people with an interest in a subject lose that interest under the pressure of a formal education.

    I remember, as a straight A graduate in economics and actively teaching in the field being forced to study the subject at an inferior institution ( for a management degree) where I was graded C with monotonous regularity. I vacated the field in disgust.

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