Let us destroy those myths

Modern climate misapprehensions spread like dandelion seeds on the wind and have become intricately tangled in our everyday lives. Rampant repetition converts these empty myths into eternal truths. Refuting them with observations and reason risks mockery and scorn but it is reasonable to try.

The West Coast Environmental Network (WCEN) opposes coal mining operations on the grounds, among other things, that burning coal will destroy the earth. The following statements about coal and climate change are published on their web site. Let’s see if they’re right.

Burning and mining coal is the most efficient and fastest way to bring about disastrous climate change.

Well, some people need a rhetoric licence. This breaches several principles of logic. First, there’s surely no connection between mining anything and any kind of climate change, either disastrous or benign. Second, burning coal produces some CO2, which probably causes a little warming, but such warming is so far undetectable. Thirdly, there’s absolutely no difference between the CO2 from coal and the CO2 from any other source, so there’s no reason to put coal at the top of some demon list of dangerous fuels.

The rest of coal’s emissions don’t affect the climate one bit, but many of them are certainly bad for the health and the WCEN is quite right to agitate for precautions against them. If that’s what they’re doing.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) represents the major portion [of] climate-changing greenhouse gases.

This is plain wrong. Water vapour has a far stronger greenhouse effect than any other gas. If this single fact were more widely known, the climate change scare would swiftly die down. Because we cannot control water vapour.

Coal emits 29% more CO2 per unit of energy than oil and 80% more than natural gas. The long-term costs of coal seriously outweigh any short-term economic benefits.

Let’s take that one sentence at a time. Different types of coal emit varying amounts of CO2 under varying uses, although the figures given here are typical. There’s no reason to suppose that the planet is at risk from burning coal just because you get more CO2 per BTU released. In fact, if warming is more beneficial than cooling, it could be advantageous to plump for coal instead of natural gas. What’s the “long-term” cost of coal? There’s none I’ve heard of.

Coal mining cannot be seriously considered if New Zealand is to maintain its reputation as ‘clean and green’, nor its commitments to international climate change agreements.

New Zealand’s reputation as “clean and green”, to use the cutely rhyming phrase, is more internal than external. People outside the country count on us for little more than great scenery and friendly people.

After the end of this year there is no international climate change agreement and we don’t have to restrict our productive activities for that reason.

There’s so much wrong with these statements one wonders if the WCEN did any research.

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5 Thoughts on “Let us destroy those myths

  1. Andy on 06/05/2012 at 10:17 am said:

    As I pointed out at Hot Topic, you need coal to smelt steel to manufacture windmills. In fact wind energy uses 5 times as much steel and concrete per mW generated compared with nuclear.

    NZ coal is high quality often used for steel manufacture.

    No steel, no bird choppers

  2. Research? Who needs ‘research’ when you know you’re right, time is short, and you have a planet to save?

    Oh wait, you do need research to find out what line of spin will be most successful with the political class. Your analysis above undermines the foolish sentences of WCEN, but they may well be music to some other ears.

  3. Richard C (NZ) on 11/05/2012 at 7:44 am said:

    OK so CO2 ppm is rising but what is happening to the respective proportions of ALL the other atmospheric constituents?

    Neither is the atmosphere a constant-volume process.

    We’ve been over this before but I can’t remember what was resolved (Huub Bakker, are you there?).

    [NB: thinking a bit woolly at the moment, just done 9 10hr night shifts straight]

  4. Richard C (NZ) on 11/05/2012 at 8:39 pm said:

    More on the corruption of the CO2 record, this from Tim Ball:-

    Pre-Industrial And Current CO2 Levels Deliberately Corrupted.

    I’ve told this story before but it requires repeating because of awareness of climate science corruption. Even skeptics realize claims of incompetence are inadequate. Official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate science was completely orchestrated for a premeditated result. T.R.Wigley’s 1983 paper “The pre-industrial carbon dioxide level” was pivotal in the evolution of climate science corruption. It was a flawed paper that cherry-picked data to claim pre-industrial CO2 level was 270 ppm. G.S. Callendar did the same thing (diagram), as Zbigniew Jaworowski illustrated in a paper to a 2004 US Senate Committee.

    [See plot]

    There are 90,000 samples from which Callendar selected a few. Notice they also change the slope of the trend, to show a steady rise from 1750.



    The rest of the post is equally damning, CO2 levels were 470 ppm in the 1920s and 1940.


    “Eliminating variability is done with the Mauna Loa and all current atmospheric readings, which can vary up to 600 ppm in the course of a day. Information is lost with smoothing. Elimination of high readings prior to smoothing makes loss greater. Statistician William Briggs says you never smooth a time series”

    • Richard C (NZ) on 11/05/2012 at 9:15 pm said:

      In case it was missed in the scrum, I’ll re-post from ‘State of the science’ the beginning of the story in previous comment of the CO2 record starting with Charles Keeling’s record from 1955 and then the fudged splice of a disparate dataset onto the beginning of it it:-

      [b]The lynching of innocent CO2[/b]


      The scare science has been building up for quite a while. Over a hundred years ago, Arrhenius suggested that if our CO2 emissions built up, they could cause global warming. Interestingly, his grandson joined the same laboratory in the US as Roger Revelle, who later became Al Gore’s mentor. Revelle became concerned that our emissions could become a problem – but how to measure the CO2 levels well enough? So he set up a station at Mauna Loa in the Pacific, far from any land-borne influences, subject only to seasonal fluctuations, to measure CO2, and appointed Charles Keeling as record keeper.

      [See plots demonstrating the actual curve vs Keeling’s]

      Now the old, forgotten chemical CO2 records are being re-examined by Beck, Lansner and others. Keeling’s son would like to see this evidence suppressed. Yet Beck’s records have a very high level of accuracy. They are still effectively as accurate as Keeling’s system (with different issues) and were used, interestingly, for a short overlap period in Scandinavia when Keeling started. Therein lie some important observations that cast doubt on the “infallibility” of Mauna Loa. There is a problem of location, since winds from forests and industries can create huge daily differences. It is possible Beck’s records indicate higher CO2 levels that collapsed suddenly – this reflects the old Central England temperature record (below left).

      [See plots, [b]particularly these ones[/b] http://www.greenworldtrust.org.uk/Science/Images/primer/CO2hockeyStick.gif

      [b]The ice core CO2 record (above centre) has been shifted forward, to splice neatly onto the start of Keeling’s record in 1955. But this is a highly suspect splice, not checked over a proper overlap period[/b]. Most suspiciously, it produces a “hockey stick” with a sudden, recent, alarming rise, like the temperature Hockey Stick. There are serious questions about the reliability of ice core CO2 records regarding past levels of greenhouse gases: the stomata proxy record (above right) suggests far more variability, and a higher level of CO2, than the ice core shows. Prof Jaworowski, top expert in ice core studies, describes all this and more. Jaworowski deserves proper study of his Atmospheric CO2 and Global Warming (pdf) that he co-authored with Prof Segalstad of Norsk Polarinstitutt.
      The CO2 story in the above 2 comments are an indictment on climate science in my view,

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