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.

 

 

1 HOW DO WE KNOW THINGS?

When we are  trying to understand how a machine or a process works we can approach via a study of each of its particular elements including its physical, chemical and metallurgical character, its motions, the sources of energy that drive the system and the lubricants that facilitate its smooth working.  That’s the long route.

By contrast just a moment or two of observation of the working machine can be revelatory.

In a flash we observe that the machine has two wheels; you sit on the seat, grasp the handlebars and provide energy with your legs going up and down. We witness its performance over time. It might be just a minute long, it might contain the going round in circles part, the climbing the hill part or the free-wheeling part and perhaps the falling off part. But just imagine how little we would learn if the only part we saw was the front wheel and the handlebars with the hands hanging on.

Until 1996 when a 48 year history of the atmosphere became available in the form of reanalysis data a portion of natural world was missing from the field of view. That portion was the mid to high latitudes of the southern hemisphere where the global circulation of the atmosphere is determined. Unfortunately, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change had already made up its mind that man was the agent of change and disaster was at hand.

Via reanalysis, we can now see the entire structure of the atmosphere. It is apparent that the nature of the atmosphere changes over time. Today, in 2015 we have nearly sixty eight years of data. But it appears that we need at least two hundred years of data to see the workings of the atmosphere through its shortest cycle of change.

The Earth system can be known via the results that it produces even though the  sixty-eight year period of observation is short…comparable to that where the bike rider  settles into his seat, takes his feet off the ground and starts pedalling.

We don’t have to travel into the Antarctic stratospheric vortex and measure the concentration of NOx that erodes ozone to know what the Antarctic vortex is doing. We observe the perennial deficit in ozone in the southern hemisphere by comparison with the northern hemisphere and the long cycle of change in Antarctic surface pressure. Ozone partial pressure, the temperature of the stratosphere, the kinetic energy imparted to the atmosphere, surface pressure, wind velocity and the evolution of the planetary winds are inseparably linked. If the tongue of mesospheric air over the Antarctic shrinks away, less erosive NOx is drawn into the stratosphere and ozone partial pressure increases, the air warms driving a further fall in surface pressure in a circle of self reinforcement that has headed in the same direction for the last sixty-eight years, the entire period of modern observational record.

To all those earnest chemists who will maintain that the ‘ozone hole’ is due to the works of man I would say, stand back.  Appreciate that the ozone hole occurs at that time of the year when the ozone content of the southern stratosphere PEAKS outside the perimeter of the ozone deficient polar vortex that is loaded with mesospheric air. Yes, it PEAKS. Think about the circular motion of the atmosphere over the pole and what governs the presence of mesospheric NOx that erodes ozone. Appreciate the fact that, in winter, the entire atmospheric column from fifty to seventy degrees of latitude is rich in ozone throughout most of its depth. At this time the high latitude stratosphere takes on the role that the troposphere seems to perform in determining the movement of the air. The stratosphere becomes the ‘weather sphere’. Outside the tropics rules of thumb that enable us to differentiate between a ‘troposphere’ and ‘stratosphere’ no longer apply. In terms of convection, neither surface temperature nor the release of latent heat of condensation can explain convection in high latitudes. That role belongs to ozone. It is ubiquitous, unaffected by cold traps, has a ready supply of energy to drive warming both day and night and that energy is at the very peak of the spectrum of long wave energy emitted by the Earth at 9-10 µm, virtually unlimited in its supply. Hence the warmth of the stratosphere and the vigour of a polar cyclone.

Why is the stratosphere warm? Is it primarily because the ozone molecule absorbs at 9-10 µm serendipitously at the peak of Earth energy emission rather than photolysis by very short wave radiation from the sun that impinges in the main at the upper margins of the stratosphere above 1hPa? Is the warmth of the stratosphere that varies little between day and night, much less in fact than the variation at the surface, not the result of the constant emission of long wave radiation from the Earth itself, day and night and via the transfer of energy from low to high latitudes, across the seasons? How can we account for the fact that the mid latitude stratosphere is warmer in winter than it is in summer?

Gordon Dobson, who developed the use of a spectrophotometer almost a century ago, to measure total column ozone, discovered that ozone distribution mapped surface atmospheric pressure with 25% less ozone in the core of a high pressure system than at its perimeter. Zones of low surface pressure exhibit the highest total column ozone. Plainly there is more ozone in the upper air, and the stratosphere is warmer when surface pressure is low.  A cold core polar cyclone is a warm core polar cyclone aloft.  Is it not the warming aloft that drives uplift?  Indeed, warming in the stratosphere is linked to the creation of polar cyclones. Palpably ozone drives surface pressure and the high latitude jet stream. Ozone variation is therefore linked to the annular modes of inter-annual climate variation and its northern hemisphere manifestation, the Arctic Oscillation. Why, where and how do variations in ozone occur and at what time? Dobson established the fact that there is a direct relationship between ozone and weather phenomena. That was a vital clue as to the origin of climate change. That all important ‘clue’ just slipped through the cracks. It was replaced with a particular notion that, while it has no relation to what we actually observe, is a better fit to the ideology of the age. We choose to believe what we desire to believe.

We establish the presence of a high pressure cell of descending air by measuring atmospheric pressure at the surface. There is a zone of high pressure centred on latitude 30° in both hemispheres. But where is the head of a high pressure cell located? Is its head in the stratosphere, and at what level?  How does that play out in determining the quotient of cloud that shelters the Earth from the rays of the sun? If ozone came and went on a 200 year time scale what would that mean? Would we not need 200 years of observation to properly describe the climate of any particular place?

The temperature of the surface of the Earth will vary if there is change in either the input side or the output side. Changes on the input side can account for both warming and cooling. In the 1960s the northern hemisphere cooled and Antarctic summers have been getting cooler for the last fifty years. Logic and observation are important.

At particular places the direction of the wind changes coming from a warmer or a cooler place, it contains more or less moisture and there is more or less cloud to shield us from the burning rays of the sun. Surface temperature is intimately tied to the global circulation of the air and the distribution of cloud. This in turn is governed by shifts in atmospheric mass to and from Antarctica. Ozone is inextricably linked to surface pressure phenomena and shifts in atmospheric mass from high latitudes.

So far as the ‘greenhouse effect’ is concerned, is this mental construct compatible with cooling? The temperature of the surface across the entire globe varies strongly in winter tied to polar atmospheric processes that are inseparably linked to the arrival of the polar night and the intensification of the stratospheric circulation in winter. Is the greenhouse effect compatible with warming that occurs only in winter, only in one hemisphere? Is it compatible with a hiatus in warming. Is it consistent with the cooling of the entire system that is evident in the last decade? At a very basic level, we need to answer this very simple question: Can air that is free to move constitute an effective insulator? Or is it better described as a medium for energy transfer from one place to the other just like the ocean, except that in the case of the atmosphere the ‘other place’ is in the vertical dimension……’space’ where that energy is dissipated, never to return.

Science could be described as the practice of critical examination of the validity of the interpretations drawn from data. The problem with ‘climate science’ as it manifests in the works of the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C) is that it fails to offer a plausible explanation for the patterns of warming and cooling that we observe. In the 1960s and early 70s, the Earth warmed in the southern hemisphere while cooling in the northern hemisphere. Of what use is a brand of climate science that cannot explain the patterns of variation  that we actually observe?

Here is the ultimate kicker: The basis of the alarm concerning the way the globe has warmed over the period of record needs to be critically assessed at the most elementary level. Is the warming that has undoubtedly occurred beneficial or harmful? Looked at dispassionately, the tropics is the only location where the Earth is sufficiently warm in all seasons to enable photosynthesis to achieve peak rates of carbon assimilation. The remainder of the globe experiences temperatures that are sub optimal for photosynthesis for part of, or the entire year. Plants use carbon dioxide in the air to create complex carbohydrates that are the basis of the food chain upon which all species depend. Carbon dioxide at 400 ppm., from a plants point of view, is at a concentration that is very close to starvation levels. When CO2 concentration is enhanced, plants require less water and the entire planet greens. This improves the environment, a thoroughly desirable end. From the point of view of mankind, sitting at the head of the food chain, from the point of view of man as farmer, the Earth is cooler than is desirable.

What I offer in the chapters to come is a novel explanation of the real world of climate change. That explanation is grounded in the reality of temperature change as it is observed. If you are keen to see the book of about 30 chapters that I have written on this subject over the last year simply subscribe to this blog to receive it in serial form.

I want to make a difference. The sooner the better. Don Quixote is riding again and this time he is not tilting at windmills but building them at our expense. One would not mind perhaps if he did not have his hand in our pocket.

I need help to make a difference. If you could pass on the address of this blog to your friends that will materially help.

If there is anything that is unclear, obscure, badly expressed, poor grammar, lousy spelling or needs further explanation or you want to challenge my conclusions I want to hear about that too. Please email me erlathapps.com.au