Nov 19 2012

The Numbers Racket Could Kill Us All

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

From Rolling Stone:

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

By Bill McKibben

…here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.


The minus 99 above is a factorial in scientific number notation.  Mr. McKibben hasn’t shared any basis of the math with us that would allow anyone to verify the figure but I am not in the denial business.  I assume that Mr. McKibben is simply accepting the math done by geophysicists.

Rather surprisingly, one of the denialists is the new math superstar, Nate Silver.

Thereby hangs a tale showing that survival of the human species and maybe all species on earth is threatened as much by Mr. McKibben as by the Koch Brothers, Exxon and any number of bad guys.

The math is quite easy. You need not be a Tennessee inbred with extra digits giving him higher mathematical powers to see the problem.

To people like Mr. McKibben the primary answer is solar, the ultra-expensive energy source that gobbles up scarce resources in money, materials and labor and fails when it is most needed because the sun goes out every night.  It is not the only intermittent (sometime) power source that the new environmentalists push and they even give a call out to the greatest power source on earth, geothermal, but only that which requires cutting edge technology that has been pursued going on a century or so with the most meager results to date.  They fiercely attack thermal biomass that could save the forests and eliminate waste that pollutes land, air and water without any addition to carbon above ground while destroying far more potent greenhouse gases than CO2.

Here’s your math.  You will need only two fingers or two toes or whatever pair you have available, even two heads that the Bill McKibbens of the world fear you will get from eating GMO’s.

Experts looking at the energy supply figure that solar and wind can supply 20% of the power needed by humans to maintain civilization, 40% at most.  Let us call it 50%.

For the rest you need baseload renewables to replace fossil fuels.

Take away one of your two fingers or toes or heads or whatever and the remainder can end human life and perhaps all life on the planet.

Then Mother Earth, a most bounteous lady who can turn into a mass killer beyond compare (and has) when her simple rules are disobeyed, can try again to evolve an intelligent species if she is still up to it.  She has obviously failed this time.

Best,  Terry


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  1. terryhallinan

    than a mathematician.

    The Plumbers Union was delighted and made Einstein an honorary plumber.

    Einstein was smarter than even most give him credit for being.  

  2. ek hornbeck

    Solar isn’t as ultra expensive as you may think given the fossil energy subsidies and recent economies of scale in photo electric conversion.

    Nor is it so intermittent as to preclude it’s reliable use.  Screw exotic battery tech, a pump and a holding pond will do to even out supply on cloudy days.

    The problem is portability particularly in relation to transportation uses and I think diesel/electric hybrids will work just as well on roads as they have done for the last half century on rails.

    CSX notes in their ads that it takes just a gallon of fuel to move a ton of freight from D.C. to Boston.

    Not so bad.

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