Fritz Vahrenholt Climate Book

A lot of folks have asked me if I am going to comment on this

One of the fathers of Germany’s modern green movement, Professor Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, a social democrat and green activist, decided to author a climate science skeptical book together with geologist/paleontologist Dr. Sebastian Lüning. Vahrenholt’s skepticism started when he was asked to review an IPCC report on renewable energy. He found hundreds of errors. When he pointed them out, IPCC officials simply brushed them aside. Stunned, he asked himself, “Is this the way they approached the climate assessment reports?”

I have not seen the book nor the Der Spiegel feature, but I can say that, contrary to the various memes running around, many science-based skeptics became such by exactly this process -- looking at the so-called settled science and realizing a lot of it was really garbage.  Not because we were paid off in oil money or mesmerized by Rush Limbaugh, but because the actual detail behind many of the IPCC conclusions is really a joke.

For tomorrow, I am working on an article I have been trying to write literally for years.  One of the confusing parts of the climate debate is that there are really portions of the science that are pretty solid.  When skeptics point to other parts of the science that is not well-done, defenders tend to run back to the solid parts and point to those.  That is why Michael Mann frequently answers his critics by saying that skeptics are dumb because they don't accept greenhouse gas theory, but most skeptics do indeed accept greenhouse gas theory, what they don't accept is the separate theory that the climate is dominated by positive feedbacks that amplify small warming from CO2 into a catastrophe.

This is an enormous source of confusion in the debate, facilitated by a scientifically illiterate press and alarmists who explicitly attempt to make this bate and switch so they can avoid arguing the tough points.  Even the author linked above is confused on this

Skeptic readers should not think that the book will fortify their existing skepticism of CO2 causing warming. The authors agree it does. but have major qualms about the assumed positive CO2-related feed-backs and believe the sun plays a far greater role in the whole scheme of things.

This is in fact exactly the same position that most skeptics, at least the science-based non-talkshow-host ones have.  Look for my Forbes piece tomorrow.


  1. a leap at the wheel:

    The other argument is that even if all the climate science is correct, we have almost no good economic research telling us what the expected costs, payoffs, and probabilities of various proposed solutions are.

  2. tomw:

    If CO2 will lead to runaway global warming, I want to know why it didn't happen in the past when the concentration CO2 in the atmosphere was much higher. Where is the explanation of why the temperature is now as cool as it is?

  3. Daublin:

    What "a leap" said. The strongest argument to me is not about the science, but the basic argument that by reducing emissions we will improve matters. If we accept the claim that CO2 will kill us, then we need to not just reduce emissions, but eliminate them.

    Nonetheless, the weakness of the science is also rather alarming.

  4. Mike:

    Quality assessments like those I presume are in Dr. Vahrenholt's book should reduce the level of hysteria regarding GW and re-open interest in other, more worthy environmental concerns that have had the air sucked out of the room by GW.
    Looking forward to your article. I know it drives traffic to Forbes website and I hope the article will be in the print edition as well.

  5. Ted Rado:

    I have pointed out many times before that the AGW theory being right or wrong doesn't matter. There is no viable large scale alternative energy scheme with which to replace fossil fuels.

    Due to the intermittent nature of wind and solar energy, there must be standby power or energy storage. The standby power enables one to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 10-30%, depending on location. If one wants to replace more than that percentage, it is necessary to overproduce energy when the wind blows/the sun shines and store the excess. To convert entirely to wind energy would require wind generating capacity over four times the base power load, so that all the power can be generated during the time the wind blows. In areas where the wind does not blow as much as in the US great plains, even more capacity is needed.

    The standby power must be quick-starting. This limits us to open cycle gas turbines. However, the efficiency of these turbines is much lower than conventional power plants. Calcs show that the 10-30% saving in fuel when the wind blows or the sun shines is lost the rest of the time due to the lower efficiency. Thus, nothing net is gained despite huge cost. Trying to idle conventional power plants as standby sources is very fuel inefficient. Poland has outlawed importing Germans excess wind energy because the frequent ups and downs screw up the elctricity grid, in addition to the efficiency poblem.

    The most workable energy storage scheme is hydro storage. A few calcs show that because the wind power capacity must be over four times the final load, plus pumping the water to storage and running it back down through a turbine with its attendent losses, ten times as much electrical gear is required as the power plant it replaces. Also, about a third of the energy is lost.

    Compressed air storage is much worse than hydro due to thermodynamic effects in the compression and expansion of the air.

    Thus, we are in the situation that even if we were 100% sure that much global warming will result from fossil fuel use, there is nothing we can do about it but move north (unless we want to back to the pre-industrial age).

    The only reason that wind/solar exists at all is government subsidies and the fact that the amount of power produced is small so that no dedicated backup is needed as yet. The Germans have reached the point where this is no longer true, and the realization of what they have gotten themselves into is beginning to set in. (See recent posts on German news and other blogs).

    All of this can easily be determied by any competent engineer. The problem is that the enviroloonies have hijacked the global warming issue, and the scientifically and technically illiterate politicians have jumped on board. Then they subsidize researchers to try to prove they are right, thus corrupting the research establishment. A whole industry has been created feeding off of USG subsidies and research grants. A calm review of the whole subject of implementation of a no-fossil-fuel policy would quickly put the whole idea to bed. Does anyone care to bet that such a review will come out of the Obama administration? They are all mindlessly pushing the green thing.

  6. hanmeng:

    Not "bate and switch", but "bait and switch". Although some writers are master baiters.

  7. Gil:

    It can easily be argued that releasing CO2 can help release other GHG into the atmosphere, especially methane and H20. If water that is normally locked up as ice and is outside the hydrolic cycle but gets melted then if released it could help accelerate global warming and would technically be a pollutant. Then again if you're living in merry ol' England or Greenland then you're probably secretly hoping for global warming since I believe some cost-benefit analyses suggest such places would be better off.

  8. I Got Bupkis, Not to be confused with Caspar Milquetoast:

    >>>There is no viable large scale alternative energy scheme with which to replace fossil fuels.

    Not to suggest any support for doing it, but, yeah, we could do it all with nukes and some form of fuel-cell vehicle to cut back on it sufficiently to make a huge difference.

    Wind and solar ain't gonna cut it, though.

    >>> It can easily be argued that releasing CO2 can help release other GHG into the atmosphere, especially methane and H20.

    Even if one grants this, increased heat+moisture means increased cloud cover, without any doubt. This means an increased albedo for the planet, and thence a notably lower fall of solar energy -- almost certainly far more than that trapped by the so-called GHGs.

    As always, the whole system is a nonlinear dynamical system far more complex than any simple model could ever hope to deal with.

    The only way we could ever possibly trust these idiotic models would be if we could put in data for existing historical situations, feed them through the model, and then observe it predicting real world results that followed. I have yet to see anyone publish results from such a thing, even a localized example. This suggests, to me, that the results so far are laughably inaccurate, or they WOULD use them to shut up critics -- being able to go: "See, it predicts like it's supposed to!"

    ...And if you can't use it to predict reliably short-term, then how the F**K is it you imagine it's going to produce accurate results further down the line after many more iterations on the exact same data?

  9. I Got Bupkis, Not to be confused with Caspar Milquetoast:

    Warren, don't forget Michael Crichton's experience when he was researching what eventually became "State of Fear".

    Crichton had always had a history of writing neo-luddite "Oh, look what can go wrong with THIS technology!!" type novels. As I understand it, he set out to write a book using some kind of eco-disaster as the centerpiece of it. As he researched it, he found that the so-called "science" behind AGW was utter crap. And, as a result, he wrote what is essentially an anti-ecodisaster book, SoF.

    You'll want to verify that for yourself, but he's just another of the ever-enlarging set of AGW skeptics who didn't start out that way.

  10. Ted Rado:

    I got bupkis:

    Nuclear energy is the only viable alternative method for producing electricity on a large scale. Using nuclear power ro electrolyze water to make hydrogen for fuel cells is certainly possible, but very expensive. The fuel cells are in turn only about 40% efficient. Also, there is the problem of storing and distributing hydrogen, which cannot be liquified under any reasonable conditions.

    Any number of schemes are THEORETICALLY possible. Gasoline can be made from CO2, for example. Hydro storage of wind energy is possible, but at huge expense. What is needed is an alternative transportation fuel that is feasible both from an engineering and cost point of view. The USG keeps pouring money down the rathole without the necessary preliminary COMPLETE feasibility studies of the proposed schemes. Hence a huge waste of money and resources with no attendent progress.

  11. caseyboy:

    Great stuff as usual. And finally some of you mentioning the potential benefits of a little warming. I'm about 12 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. A 12-14' rise in the gulf might just get me that oceanfront property I've always wanted. I

  12. I Got Bupkis, Not to be confused with Caspar Milquetoast:

    Ted, I'm pretty much in full agreement on the whole nukes thing all around. It's just *A* viable alternative, not saying it's a BETTER viable alternative.

    The chief thing about gasoline that makes it so difficult to replace is that it provides almost exactly the right mixture of power/energy, range, "risk level" (i.e., danger of use), and time-to-refuel vs. expense.

    There really are no other fuels which do anywhere near as well at all those different options, at this time.

    We need a far more effective choice/alternative that can store electricity better than batteries, which are an amazingly inefficient way to store energy.

    Of course, if we come up with something like that, you might be surprised at secondary and tertiary issues that arise from it in terms of political and social destabilization. I recall an SF story some while back (Collected in "Power", IIRC) which used that as a scenario, and you'd be surprised what such a thing potentially enables.

  13. I Got Bupkis, Not to be confused with Caspar Milquetoast:

    >>> A 12-14′ rise in the gulf might just get me that oceanfront property I’ve always wanted.

    Casey, the kind of rise which you are suggesting is much more ludicrously unlikely than you realize. The current "worries" are actually a foot or two, not much more.

  14. Ian Random:

    I initially was a believer then I came across and he'd plot graph after graph showing adjustments suppressing the past and amplifying the present. That along with the CO2 levels rising for 10,000 years through warm and cold periods was enough to make me a complete skeptic. Now I'm way too skeptical about everything, especially after hearing Russ Roberts critisize his own profession. Funny thing people are skeptical about models of a smaller object like Yucca mountain, but not of global climate models.

  15. Ted Rado:

    I got bupkis:

    The problem is that everything in the way of alternative energy that has been suggested has been thoroughly wrung out and is not feasible. My concern is that the USG keeps pouring money into schemes (research grants, prototype plants, etc.) that an inexpensive paper study would show (indeed, HAS shown) to be unworkable. I have done many such studies myself. These sort of studies are done routinely in industry to avoid finding out it is a loser on a large scale at huge expense. A few dozen hours of engineering time will smoke out the flaws in a scheme. All of the billions we have wasted could have been easily avoided.

    One can hope that some huge breakthrough will occur, similar to the advent of nuclear energy, but none of the current schemes are even remotely feasible. Yet we spend billions every year chasing rainbows. If I did this in industry, I would be fired immediately. I guess asking the USG to behave in a sensible and prudent way is asking too much! Everything degenerates into zealotry and hysteria.

    Solyndra is a great example of the problem. Whether Solyndra itself was a good idea is immaterial. Without economic energy storage, a large amount of wind/solar power is not feaible even with USG subsidies. Why pursue the first step (making solar panels) if the entire scheme is unsound?