Building For The Past, Remembering The Future

Michael Tobis (aka Dr. Doom) is someone I have opposed frequently and vehemently across the climate blogosphere. Nonetheless, he has a post up now that is thought-worthy, if not noteworthy. Titled ‘The Seventieth Generation, he makes an impassioned plea for all of us to remember the effects of our actions and choices for generations far in the future.

In it Tobis writes, “In this secular way of thinking, we owe little to the distant future. The more distant in time our impacts, the less we need care about them. Our ancient obligation to carry the torch of civilization is invisible to this way of thinking. Our new obligation to leave the world viable at all for our distant descendants is considered actually beneath mention, a sort of contemptible hysteria.”

“…We are behaving insanely. Insanity is, above all, a failure of love. And we cannot muster the imagination to act from love for our descendants, or for what remains of the world in which they will live.

It’s not as if ethical constraints on economic activity themselves are unimaginable. We no longer tolerate slavery or murder, at least not at the scale they occurred in the past. Money is no object. There is no amount of compensation that (we suppose and hope) absolves a person of murder. We just don’t do that.”

Once again I find myself on the opposite side of the fence from Tobis. We are not given to know the future. Given the incredible amount of change we have experienced in just my lifetime, what I see as real arrogance is to presume we know what will happen in 30 years time, let alone 300. Facebook is 13 years old, Google is 20. The Worldwide Web as we use it today is 25. Mobile phones didn’t start being commonplace until 20 years ago. What with the daily news about drones, driverless cars, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, biogenomics and nanotechnology, anybody who can say what the world will be like in 50, even 30 years, is truly a new Nostradamus.

Tobis is of course writing of climate change and of course is condemning those who don’t adopt his vision of the future, a future where our ‘inaction’ in curbing the burning of fossil fuels creates a planetary hell.

He wants us to build for the future, a greener place unperturbed by human contributions to global warming. In exhorting us to do this he is ignoring the present–a present where renewable energy is set to increase by 33% over the next five years, according to the IEA, after growing 9% in 2015Global emissions have plateaued for three years, again according to the IEA.  These and other actions (the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles, reforestation, etc.) have already rendered RCP 8.5 inoperative. We may not be doing enough to address climate change, depending on your point of view, but we are doing a lot.

To adopt his vision–building for a greener future for distant generations, we will have to make sacrifices. Well, not ‘we’–those who will pay the price will be those in the developed world who are poor, and those throughout the developing world. Tobis has insisted for most of this decade that we need to get to net zero emissions almost immediately. It is a draconian remedy, and one we are naturally reluctant to adopt without a clearer idea of what the future holds. Tobis doesn’t describe a future–not one based on our continuing in our evil ways, nor one where we successfully convert our entire way of living to satisfy his concerns.

But it is obvious that we will not have resources to build for a Utopian future with zero carbon emissions and address the clear and present environmental dangers we can see clearly by looking at the past. Those who have provided estimates for conversion to a green life have used figures in the tens of trillions of US dollars.

Here in America we can see that cities like Houston and Miami are vulnerable to hurricanes, and modest sea level rise coupled with large-scale subsidence makes them a ‘bowling pin for the gods.’ The same is true internationally, for cities like Manila, Havana and many more.

My very good friend and co-author Steve Mosher is enjoying a period of well-deserved recognition for his statement “We don’t even plan for the past.” And clearly we don’t.

But we could. Countries like the Netherlands and cities like Tokyo have addressed vulnerabilities highlighted by past storms or sea level rise and have managed to prosper despite these efforts. For a fraction of the money needed to eliminate fossil fuel emissions we could retrofit coastal cities (instead of rebuilding them in the same mindless manner we have rebuilt them before) and move people out of flood plains and river deltas (yes, even in Bangladesh).

We should build for the past–it is a far clearer guide to the dangers we will face than that provided by climate models and the fever dreams of those too long focused on the perils of CO2. After all, if the past is not there to learn from, why do we have a memory?

But we should remember the future. It exists and although it is uncertain, it should be a part of our planning.

We could prepare agriculture and agriculturists for the coming decades. We could build a safety margin in our construction to allow for sea level rise and higher temperatures, more violent storms and more frequent local flooding. Incorporating these into planning for future construction would be, again, an order of magnitude less expensive than tearing the planet apart and rebuilding it on an emissions-free model.

Michael Tobis is a terribly conflicted man. He is admirably concerned about the future of the planet, something that has caused him to make very poor choices in how he behaves in public discourse. We can admire his concern while lamenting his behavior. He is certainly not an optimist–so perhaps we can adopt the optimism on his behalf and remind him that not all is lost.

It isn’t even always all that serious.


64 thoughts on “Building For The Past, Remembering The Future

  1. Tobis is, as usual, projecting his own guilt about the glimmering realization that he is full of shit.
    If we are indeed entering the “anthropocene”, it is an age of verdant expanding healthy plant life, more resilient defenses against nature, improved lives for more and more, and better stewardship of the previous environment we all live in.


  2. By the way, Tobis should note that insanity is a failure of the rational mind, for instance when a person obsessed about something that is difficult to define and impossible to manage, like say climate. And decides that he has THE key to controlling the object of their obsession. And only himself and his enlightened friends know how to work that special key.
    Insanity is to love what times are to playing pianos.
    Just like with climate, Tobis doesn’t actually know what the hell he is blockading about.


  3. The future is unknowable. This is well illustrated by the Forêt de Tronçais whose oaks were planted by orders of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (minister of Louis XIV) to supply the French Navy of the future By the time the trees had matured the French Navy was moving to steel ships and the oak wood was no longer required for that purpose. Nevertheless connoisseurs have reason to salute Colbert because his oaks are used to make Cognac barrels and the forest constitutes one of the principal stands of oaks in Europe.


  4. Yes, planting monumental predictions of the future can go from the delightfully uromuc, like the forest if oaks, to the sublime, like the pyramids, to the ridiculously destructive, like wind turbine farms.
    At least an oak forest contributes to the environment, and the pyramids stand as enigmatic monuments to the human spirit.
    Wind farms stand as blights upon the environment, destroying the landscape and killing anything that flies to close.


  5. Odd then Hunter that we in the UK and in The Netherlands treasure our remaining windmills and wind pumps. Even modern industrial developments may add to an otherwise pristine landscape. I recall a hydroelectric plant in BC whose dam added a sparkling ribbon lake and its electricity pylons climbing mountainsides, gave them scale. Altamont Pass in California, with its seeming endless ranks of wind turbines (nearly 5000) also has a certain majesty.


  6. The problem with climate alarmists is they are obsessed by what Tobis identifies as “the eternal”, “the seventieth generation”, the “far distant future”. This alone marks them out as ‘non secular’, ‘religious’ characters. It also reveals their lack of rationality because their “far distant future” is not even a fleshed out social, economic, technological, civilisational, environmental future but a limited environmental one which is generated by global circulation computer models, with all the other human ‘bits’ thrown in as the conjectured effects on our society, despite having zero knowledge of how we as a society might adapt to the projected changes in global climate which the models spew out.

    Tobis says:

    “I propose that part of the problem is that the eternal has been systematically removed from public discourse. “Religion”, we say, “is a private matter”. Our collective actions are necessarily “secular’. Only secular activities are informed by objectivity. Ethical responsibilities are too divisive to discuss, and must be ignored. We can leave all the actual discussions to technocratic discourse among professionals in decision-making.

    Those decision-makers are systematically “secular” in both senses. They ignore ethics, and they concentrate only on the foreseeable . . . . . .

    In this secular way of thinking, we owe little to the distant future. The more distant in time our impacts, the less we need care about them. Our ancient obligation to carry the torch of civilization is invisible to this way of thinking. Our new obligation to leave the world viable at all for our distant descendants is considered actually beneath mention, a sort of contemptible hysteria.”

    So he rails at the unethical “secular decision makers” who care little for the distant future. But what is the solution he proposes in order that we may ensure an ethical responsibility to the eternal? Why, it involves re-organising the foreseeable future in a manner which is unpalatable to a good section of humanity who not only question the requirement for such drastic policy but seriously question its effectiveness. So ‘loving the seventieth generation’, for climate alarmists like Tobis, involves behaving exactly like the prescriptive, short-sighted “secular decision makers” which he proclaims to be against.


  7. Part of the “building for the past” problem is that we ignore or disparage the wisdom of local elders for the “knowledge” of outside experts. Inuit villages are rebuilt on Alaskan coasts on the advice of non-Alaskan experts, which are then partially destroyed by wind blown ice buildup (and the disaster blamed on climate change). Settlements expand onto flood-plains which locals have deliberately avoided for millennia. Past weather extremes (remembered by old-timers) are conveniently ignored to promote global warming hysteria. Old planning regulations instituted decades ago for good reasons are deliberately breached as being restrictive, sometimes with dire consequences. In my local town a mature woodland has been felled to build a housing estate leaving a screen of individual trees lining a road. Advice that those trees might constitute a danger was ignored. The sense of this advice was shown last week when strong winds blew some of them down onto the busy road. The local planning officer was one of those poorly qualified “experts”.


  8. Alan, quaint wooden windmills, built when they were cutting edge technology, of wood, have as much in common with modern 100+ meter tall industrial wind farms, arrayed over square kilometers, visible from 10s of kilometers away, as a kite on a string gas to do with an Airbus 300.


  9. Alan, with your Orwellian argument about the majesty of industrial windmills adding to the otherwise pristine landscapes of open lands, you at least admit what mist have susoected: climate obsession means not caring at all for the environment.
    Thank you.


  10. Hunter. quaint wooden windmills on wetlands or on hill-tops have the same major visual impact on the scenery. We have grown used to them and they fit into our idea of a rural landscape. No doubt when they were erected and were new fangled, cutting-edge technology,l they were not liked by some locals. When working they are extremely noisy, cause light flicker and were the devil’s work.

    Strangely some people like wind turbines (not me) and we will come to accept them. A wind turbine erected close to a major road in Norfolk (yes there are some) initially came under severe criticism for distracting drivers. Now it is ignored.


  11. Hunter, if you have been to BC you will realize there are thousands of square miles of untouched magisterial virgin forests and mountains (many in National Parks). Without anything to give them scale their shear enormity is almost impossible to judge. In a few places add a line of “midget” electricity pylons with draping cables commonly too slender to see, climbing apparently precariously up a mountain and you realize the scale of what you are seeing and come to realize how feeble human efforts really are.
    So I reject your efforts to paint me as someone not concerned with the environment. I can excuse your ignorance of my true feelings. I must be one of the very few who’s recommendation to set up a National Park was acted upon. Struck by the beauty of the Clearwater Valley on the edge of the Canadian Shield in western Saskatchewan during a season of geological mapping there I spoke with officials about it being protected. Several years later I saw a map of the Province, now showing the new Park. So I’ll take no guff from you Hunter.


  12. Jaime. Exactly. Notice how both dominate their landscapes. I cannot deny that I like the old one better (but it is visually intrusive), but note how the seemingly random visual intersection of the turbine blades has some appeal – I have seen highly prized modern art with much less attractiveness.

    I do wonder if some of our onshore wind turbines, if they survive, will be valued and preserved as part of our heritage.

    In any case what I was speculating upon was whether windmills in the past were once considered as blots on the landscape or devilish devices, whereas those that survive are cherished.


  13. Alan, I’m sure that windmills of the past were likewise considered to be blots on the landscape. But that’s relative and subjective. There is a sense that our reaction to current turbines is also subjective, i.e. some people don’t seem to mind them, others hate them. I detest them for their environmental impact, their visual impact and I loathe them especially for their impact upon my bills and the fact that they suck money from the poor and siphon it off to the wealthy. I might, in time, be tempted to overcome all these facets of ‘turbine rejection’ were it not for the fact that, in terms of their stated purpose of ‘saving the planet’, they are next to bloody useless. At least windmills were fit for purpose and, in absolute terms, had far less impact on the scenery and the environment than modern onshore wind farms do.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jaime. with respect* I do believe you are mixing up your objections to the physical objects that are wind turbines and objections to why they are being used, the subsidies they attract and so on. My discussion concerns only the first objections. I am advancing the view that many people’s objections are because the turbines are new and change familiar and cherished views of local scenery, and that, with time, such objections will diminish. I must admit that I regret the addition of turbines at Scoby Sands off Great Yarmouth, which to my mind ruin the sea view. However my granddaughter has never seen the view without turbines and sees nothing wrong.

    I looked long and hard at the two views you submitted and thought which would I accept on my wall. I decided the windfarm was the more interesting. There is no hope for me, I am irredeemably lost!

    * often when this opening is used you know that it means the opposite. But I do treat your arguments and opinions with respect. We shut down a previous discussion because you felt it might get too heated. I had no such fear.


  15. Alan, I thank you for your patience and your respect. Neither one of us feels we are being insulted here so I don’t think the conversation will get overheated. I am indeed mixing up my objections to the physical objects with my ideological objections to them, mainly because the two, at least as far as I’m concerned, are inseparable. Like I said, I might be tempted to overcome my negative reaction to their obtrusive presence if they served any purpose other than redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich and mincing raptors. But they don’t. So that kind of consolidates my already existing distaste for their appearance. There, I admitted it, I’m human!


  16. Jaime. When it comes to wind farms I must express some ignorance. I read the occasional newspaper article and blogpost (especially Paul Homewood’s). I see an enormous chasm between people like yourself who hate every aspect of them, considering them a waste of space, and those that consider them to be our salvation. I know that the energy obtained is intermittent and currently requires subsidies to make it economic. In terms of being a replacement for nuclear and fossil fuel electricity its a non-starter but, nevertheless, it does produce electricity. So they are not totally wasteful and could make a significant contribution (in spite of being intermittent).
    The reason I am not totally anti-wind is for two reasons
    1. Seven years ago I lived in a converted barn complex divided into 7 family units. I looked into the possibility of supplying part of all our electricity supply by a singled intermediate sized wind turbine, with much of the remaining electricity supplied by several ground sourced heat pumps and using submarine type batteries to even out supplies. Calculations showed our setup would last 25 years before any major replacement or repair would be required, and with the then current price of electricity we would pay back costs within 12 years (shorter if prices increased). We didn’t go ahead because 1) we couldn’t convince everyone to invest 2) we realized that our home in particular would be affected by light flicker, and 3) the extra land we needed was purchased under our noses for development.
    2) when we lived in California we invested in renewable energy in the form of a passive water heating system. You cannot imagine the outright delight of getting “free” hot water and not having to pay our rapacious energy supply company for it. I envisage the same pleasure is obtained by those who have invested in wind energy.
    So I am far from being anti-wind.


  17. When writing about climate mitigation, the issues should be put in their context. For global emissions to decrease means that countries reducing their emissions must do so by a greater amount than the aggregate increase of all other countries. To decrease global emissions to near zero means that every major country needs to reduce their emissions to near zero, and many need to have net negative emissions. To put this in context, most countries did not sign up to the Rio Declaration that involved a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These countries accounted for just over 100% of the net increase in global emissions between 1990 and 2012. In 2012 they had almost two-thirds of the global emissions (from the EU EDGAR dataset) and over 80% of the global population (6250 out of 7500 million people).

    A recent paper at Nature Geoscience “Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5◦C” – Millar et. al 2017 – claimed a much less drastic emissions pathway was required than previously thought (by IPCC AR5) to constrain warming within 1.5◦C, the new dangerous warming boundary. I have superimposed the approximate policy gaps between the aggregate impact of all proposed policies and the revised targets in Millar et. al 2017 onto a UNFCCC graphic produced for COP21 Paris. (NB the figures are in billions of tonnes of CO2e, whilst the above graphic is in millions of tonnes of CO2e)

    If the countries with over 80% of the global population are not signed up to emissions reductions, then none of the targets will be achieved. But they will not sign up as this would slow economic growth. Further, climate mitigation increases energy costs. The fact that the EU countries have significantly increased energy costs puts gives some of the non-policy countries at a comparative advantage. The marginal cost of switching to aggressive climate mitigation policies is therefore much higher than if all countries had adopted policies together. Michael Tobis, and others of a like mind, ignore the wider realities pretending the world responds to their desires as if it were a computer model.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Tobis’ piece is OK as far as it goes, but it is not persuasive as Tom observes. It lacks any moral vision of mankind and what he can become that persuades people of his solutions. And that’s the problem in the West in the 21st century. We have not moral or ethical framework to guide us on anything. Christianity was that framework in the 19th Century. The 20th Century saw Fascism and Communism put forward as new frameworks. Both were total failures morally and practically. Tobis is frustrated because he has nothing really to offer that is persuasive. It’s the same reason we cannot combat Islamism. We have nothing that is compelling to offer in its place. This is partly I think due to laziness, we can’t seem to spend any time understanding Islam and what its doctrine demands people do. And very few even understand the differences between the world’s major religions. Its also why postmodernism continues to gain ground despite its desire to substitute subjectivism for science and Christianity. Stupidly, Islam is OK with multiculturalists, despite its inherent totalitarianism and fanaticism. But multiculturalism is itself disconnected from reality. No one cares or bothers to talk much about it. It ominously reminds me of the 1930’s when Fascism was intellectually fashionable and few cared.


  19. Yes, manic, Enforcing artificial scarcity has never worked in human history and is not going to work with the climate issue either. Technological innovation is the only politically possible solution. Bill Gates is correct to focus on that avenue.


  20. “but, nevertheless, it does produce electricity. So they are not totally wasteful ” AK

    Since wind and solar are intermittent you have to keep 100% back up ready and available at most at a few hours notice. Those stations can’t switch off, they have to idle. While renewables dominate the scene the others run inefficiently, wasting CO2. They also suffer stress damage due to temperature fluctuations. Staff need to be paid, and other bills like insurance don’t vanish just because the station isn’t on all the time. The plant still ages. New people still need to be trained. Security need to watch, maybe even increase because there is less staff. These organisations still need to make a profit, they still need to invest in new equipment. Pensions still need to be financed. How are they going to do all that if half the time you won’t let them run? So then they want a subsidy too. Loads of infrastructure is only used part time. It still ages at the same rate. It still needs maintenance. A lot of our power stations are clapped out. Who is going to build a new one if you’re threatening to force them to shut and will only let them run some of the time?

    Imagine we run out of supply. How many billions would a really big shortage cause? Continuous production can be damaged by even a second’s blackout. Look at what happened in Australia when they had a big blackout, it took days to get back running which meant metal solidified in the rollers at a foundry. Think about health care, the elderly, security systems.

    Renewables might be cutting CO2 a bit (although I’ve never seen it quantified) but it’s costing us more money. I’d call that wasteful.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Tiny. How come then that the proposed system at my old residence would have been economic? The problem it seems to me is that wind turbines are being considered as the prime source of electricity rather than a supplement. Opponents of wind seem to be opposed to all forms of wind. Yet a drive along any highway will show that at the smallest scale it is relied upon. Many surveillance systems,weatherstations and the like are powered by mini wind turbines (probably with backup batteries).


  22. Yes, when I said that industrial wind power was next to useless, what I should have said is that it’s worse than useless.

    Alan, I’m all for decreasing reliance on the national grid by using small scale solar power, heat pumps, wind power etc. as long as taxpayers are not subsidising it, i.e. you’re not feeding back into the national grid and being paid over-generously for doing so.


  23. DPY6629
    The best way to reduce the human impact of natural disasters is sustained long-term economic growth. This is noticeable in the death tolls in earthquakes. For instance, compare the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011 with the Haiti earthquake of 2009. The former had an earthquake about 1000 times that of the later and most of the damage was caused by the tsunami. Yet in Haiti the death toll was over ten times that in Japan, and the economic effects are far more reaching.
    Also, Bill Gates focuses on particular, managed projects. Those that are not producing results are dropped. If climate change were an issue, and mitigation clearly cannot work, then the best way forward is adaptation to forecast changes. But with finite resources, that requires getting the forecasts at least within a justifiable range, then planning on a timescale relevant to that range. Two examples I have found of sea level rise where that has not happened.
    In Miami-Dade a Climate Change Advisory Task Force, has views on future sea level rise that are way more extreme than the available evidence was chaired by a geology professor who over the years has provided grossly exaggerated claims. This resulted is projected that from 2016 to 2100 sea level rise would be three to nine times the average rate of rise from the tide gauges over the previous 100 years.


    Another example is the low-lying village of Fairbourne. In 2014 the BBC reported that the council claimed that due to sea level rise it would have to stop maintaining flood defences in 2025 and 400 homes would have to be abandoned by 2055. Even with exaggerated forecasts, the council would no longer maintain flood defences when sea levels are 5-7cm higher than present, and the village would be abandoned when they are 14-40cm higher. The villages are mostly retirement homes, where people have seen their value wiped out by the crazy alarmism.



  24. Manic. I have known Hal Wanless since the 1970s and have great admiration for his work on recent carbonate sedimentation in Florida and the Bahamas. I have spent many pleasant and unpleasant weeks with him looking at this work and taking sediment cores. He was also employed to advise on the construction of the rail transport system because of the need for stability (tolerances of less than a millimetre were needed between the vehicles and their rail tracks). I know he was interested in sealevel rise and introduced him to the idea of using old photographs of shorelines/pier supports to determine changes in the position of animal and seaweed zones that are precisely determined by tidal positions. These in turn are controlled by sea level change, storminess, and by a long-term cyclic change whereby tidal range expands and shrinks. I am therefore very surprised that you believe his predictions of future sealevel in south Florida to be so wrong. I am not doubting you, just surprised.


  25. AK because you weren’t paying enough for the system. You were getting the backup for normal prices. It works until everyone does it, then the economics breaks down. You were being subsidised by the normal users, even if you didn’t get a penny in real subsidy. You would have got power when the wind didn’t blow. You would have got cheap products made with power paid for by fossil fuel users. You got street lights and schools and libraries and cheap supermarkets. Your impact on society doesn’t stop at your front door.


  26. Tiny,I don’t think so. Our heating and hot water would have come from the heat pumps, powered by a small amount of wind electricity. Wind generated electricity would be used for light, TV and the like. Any spare would be stored in batteries for calm periods. We would have been more or less independent of the grid, not selling into it. So, if we occasionally used backup we would have paid normal prices but what’s wrong with that? Street lights (actually none in our road) schools, libraries and the like would have been paid by taxes we paid. In fact we would have provided society a service, by providing our own power avoiding the necessity for local authorities to supply it.

    BTW I never knew my electricity and gas costs paid for our libraries.

    We also had septic tanks which we periodically had to pay to empty, yet also had to pay a small charge in our water bills that went to pay for other properties in our parish to have sewerage. No doubt you will be arguing that somehow because we paid for our own sewerage we were somehow being subsidized by the rest of society. Somehow I don’t understand the logic you are using.


  27. AK, so the fossil fuel generators should just keep going for when you did want them? That would be very generous of them. And I was talking about the energy that schools etc use, not about money. Were you generating enough for your tranche of society? Batteries might be good for a few hours but what about days? Would you be toring enough for your tranche of society too? If you only want a service intermittently they’re going to either get their money while they can or go bust.


  28. Alan
    Hal Wanless’s article at the Conversation on 28 May 2014 appears quite level-headed until you compare it with to the underlying data. He bases his estimates on a NOAA 2012 article where sea levels rises are anticipated to rise 1.25 to 2m by 2100. This due to some positive feedbacks leading to a massive acceleration in the rate Greenland and Antarctic ice melt.

    A bit of context. A few years ago there were modelled estimates of an acceleration in sea level rise. Two notables
    Rignot et al 2011 “Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise”
    Veligcogna and Wahr 2006 “Measurements of time-variable gravity show mass loss in Antarctica.”

    On the basis of these, one could estimate a resultant sea level rise of 1.25 to 2 metres by 2100.
    However, these authors and many others produced in ScienceMag Shepard et al 2012 “A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance” that formed the basis of AR5 WG1. This has nothing like the massive acceleration of ice melt that the earlier papers projected. AR5, under the non-policy RCP 8.5 scenario projects 0.45 to 0.82 metres of sea level rise by 2081-2100. To maintain the more extreme and older estimates after the authors have moved on seems, in my view, quite wrong. To base policy recommendations on such flawed estimates means massive unnecessary spending on sea level defences along with huge losses in property values through false alarmism.



  29. Alan,
    When you said “Many surveillance systems, weather stations and the like are powered by mini wind turbines (probably with backup batteries)” I hope you were not confusing the weather station anemometers with a mini wind turbine. I would not include a wind turbine of any size on a meteorological monitoring station because it would interfere with the wind measurements. The only wind blades I can think of would be on an anemometer, some of which look like a wind turbine.


    I wonder if you are right, but I don’t think so. They are so close to busy roads that any passing truck would affect readings. I’ll check next time I drive on a motorway, but this may be for some time, since I have virtually stopped driving long distances. Perhaps what I was seeing were not weather stations but wind-powered pollution monitoring devices.
    Thank you for your input.


  31. Manic thank you for your summary of how Hal may have become mistaken. I haven’t seen him in over 7 years now, and then he was past normal UK retirement age. If I were to speculate I would bet that he took up a consulting job that was outside his comfort zone, perhaps because previous involvement with Miami’s transit system had been successful. However this time, rather than basing it upon his own observations (at which he was so excellent at) the new study was so dependent upon other people’s input. How sad.


  32. Tiny. Your objections are groundless. You seem to assume that by generating our own power and heating that we would have selfishly not paid our contribution to society. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were an isolated ex-farm community with no gas supply or sewerage and initially no internet connection except through a phoneline. Society provided links in the form of electricity, telephone, and water supply and access via a country road (all of which we paid for, either directly or through taxes). We were like countless small rural communities across the country. These were upgraded through an expensive process of rural electrification which if our connection was anything to go by, had high maintenance costs (squirrels were always committing suicide in our substation). What we were proposing to do would have released power companies of the necessity of maintaining a connection. I suppose that if we did find that we needed backup during long still periods we would have eventually invested in diesel generators. However I spent just over a year monitoring wind in our location and there was no extended period of stillness. Submarine batteries (very expensive) hold a great deal of electricity.
    As for the provision of power to schools, libraries and the like, that would be supplied by power companies who also would have supplied the many households in the vicinity that were not situated at sites suitable for generating their own energy. Use of those facilities by us would be paid for by our taxes.
    You seem to think I was proposing that everyone could take advantage of the scheme we were considering, whereas it could only be viable for isolated, closely packed communities with access to land like our converted barn complex. In fact the farm originally had an old windmill but I doubt this was used for electricity. I would guess that our power companies, if offered the chance of dropping the requirement to supply us power would have jumped at the chance. Maintenance cost must have swallowed up much of any profit.


  33. Alan,
    I apologize for sounding much harsher than I intended.
    Congratulations on both having the sense to notice a beautiful area of pristine beauty worth preserving and for playing a role in getting that preservation realized.
    Windmills are fundamentally different in size and intrusiveness than industrial wind turbines if the modern era.
    One can take the drive from Limerick to Killarney in Ireland and see the giant wind turbines dominating the hill tops from many kilometers away. They are over 120 meters tall, the size of a jet airliner.
    And they are getting larger onshore and offshore.
    Old grain or pumping windmills are a few stories tall and even in flat plains or marshlands do not dominate the landscape for miles around. The photos Jaime provided are excellent at showing the difference.
    Cattle can graze next to old windmills.
    Cattle and wildlife avoid large wind turbines.
    The noise problems and burd/bat killing is pretty well documented.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I must have missed the bit where you were suggesting that you cut yourself off entirely AK. But regardless, you would have been benefitting from the vast national investment in renewables that has improved them from their dire beginnings. I wouldn’t disagree that renewables have a niche market for remote locations but as a percentage of the whole it is so minute as to be almost entirely useless on the larger stage. If small locations started going off grid then the providers would love it. They’d start encouraging it, even maybe forcing it on small communities. Good luck getting reconnected if you opted out.

    Did you really consider the practicalities? Did you work out who would be responsible for getting it repaired and maintained? What if that/those people were on holiday or moved? Did you work out who could maintain it if the supplying company went bust? The early versions were particularly poor and didn’t last 25 years. If you had a diesel generator, would you have one each or a community supply? Who would look after that/them? There is a reason why so many people signed up to mains supply when it was first rolled out. Reliability. When it goes off, there is an organisation that you can moan at. If it’s damaged, even if it takes a week, someone will come and fix it.

    In those circumstances, solar hot water, ground source heating even a solar supply aren’t unreasonable investments but they’re very small scale. A well stocked grid can even cope with some large scale renewables. We are almost at the point though where those renewables make the system unworkable. The fossil fuelled suppliers are not replacing old stations. They’re holding the system to ransom to make up for lost profitability. The intermittent supply threatens both shortages and over supply. Wind is controllable but as Australia discovered, if things go wrong, things can also go bang and it’s not a few hours to get the system back up again. And it all costs.


  35. You are correct, we didn’t entirely work everything out, but that was because the scheme quickly became non viable when some neighbours declined to be involved and we lost the land. If I recall correctly we would had a contract with the system suppliers to maintain it.

    I’m reasonably sure you are incorrect about the size of the potential market. If every farm and small community converted to small scale renewables, backed up by diesel (already installed in many cases) the savings in terms of having to supply power to rural areas, might be very large.

    With respect to larger scale wind power, I have already expressed my view that the problems reside in considering wind power as a primary source rather than it being the backup.


  36. Hunter, it’s all a matter of scale. When windmills were first installed they would have been the tallest buildings (excepting the lord’s house or castle). They certainly do dominate flat landscapes. Those visible from the road between Norwich and Great Yarmouth can be seen for several miles (one of them on the road for 4 miles). I’m not sure cattle would have grazed contentedly next to a working windmill or windpump – they create quite a racket.6 7


  37. AK, the problems you describe are integral with the issue, not incidental. Like you did. Neighbours object to the flicker, the noise, the loss of view. Somebody like me thinks that go it alone power is a pain in the butt and doesn’t agree to join in. The more kit you add, the more difficult it is to manage. So batteries need to be kept dry. Their turn on needs to be controlled (look what happened at Heathrow). If you accidentally get too much supply, things blow up and then you’re out of power for weeks or worse somebody gets killed. Who looks after the diesel store? What if it’s nicked? If an entire state or a massive airport can get managing wind, diesel and batteries wrong, what chance has a small community? Maybe some local hero would do all the hard work managing it but what about when they died or got ill, was on holiday or just moved?

    ‘contract with the system suppliers to maintain it.’ AK
    Many of which have gone bust. You must have read plenty of examples over at BH.

    There are too many decision makers out there that think these problems are mere foot notes and ‘lets go for it anyway.’ Little issues add up. They haemorrhage money and enthusiasm. There’s always a slick salesman selling the best case scenario no matter how improbable, but reality bites every time.


  38. For a brief moment I felt a bit of sympathy for the silly fool. He really does seem to believe the nonsense he writes about “vast ethical transgression” and “we impoverish and desecrate the future of our planet”, and he seems pretty miserable about it.

    Then I looked back to his Jessop-denying thread, where he refused to believe that Jaime was concerned about doggy welfare, even after I pointed out to him that a simple google search could have confirmed this immediately, and any concern for him vanished – as did any desire to try to engage him in rational debate.


  39. Strange Tiny that before rural electrification many (most?) farms had electricity supplied by diesel generators without any problems. In the 1960s my wife’s farming relatives used oil lamps, went to bed at dusk or had generators.
    Heating in our converted barn complex was using kerosene stored in tanks and delivered by tanker. I see little difference between having kerosene or diesel storage on site.
    Yes there would be difficulties to resolve but I think you are over egging them. I know of one nearby barn conversion complex that has had renewable energy supply for almost a decade now. The reason our proposal failed was not for any reason you list, it was because two of our neighbours felt they didn’t wish to fork out the up-front costs.


  40. Alan, you just cannot argue that, in absolute terms, quaint windmills dotted across the rural Norfolk landscape are, in terms of visual impact, in any way comparable with forests of giant turbines, 300-400 feet high. They are monstrous intrusions upon the natural landscape. You may think that cattle graze happily nearby, but it’s been scientifically proven that infrasound from turbines at night can disturb peoples’ sleep, giving them nightmares and causing them to wake up suddenly, heart pounding. This ‘fight or flight’ response is probably common to all mammals and originates from our natural fear of geological upheaval (earthquakes, tsunamis etc.) and low frequency noise generated by large beasts. I call it the Jurassic Park Effect.


  41. I’m just back from another hill-walking jaunt in Scotland.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and different people have different views (pardon the pun) regarding wind turbines. However, what I see every time I go to Scotland is, in my opinion, the continuing destruction of a beautiful landscape. It gets worse every time I go. Huge wind turbines are increasingly visible even from quite remote Munros. There is a truly ghastly desecration of the landscape near the Aultguish Inn between Garve and Ullapool within close distance of some of Scotland’s most wonderful mountain scenery.

    Driving back yesterday from Braemar and dropping south from the Spital of Glenshee, fresh industrial vandalism of the landscape was in progress. I never cease to be amazed at the determination of “environmentalists” to destroy our beautiful visual environment.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. AK, we could go back to grinding corn with two oddly shaped rocks but few people really want to take a backward step. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean people will. Cutting CO2 isn’t that hard, it just involves not having stuff.


  43. Reading what climate scientists write is sometimes annoying but, occasionally, it makes you wonder what they are smoking. Take Tobis:

    . Our ancient obligation to carry the torch of civilization is invisible to this way of thinking. Our new obligation to leave the world viable at all for our distant descendants is considered actually beneath mention, a sort of contemptible hysteria.”

    “…We are behaving insanely. Insanity is, above all, a failure of love. And we cannot muster the imagination to act from love for our descendants, or for what remains of the world in which they will live.

    It’s not as if ethical constraints on economic activity themselves are unimaginable. We no longer tolerate slavery or murder, at least not at the scale they occurred in the past.

    This ancient obligation….. Is that what Alexander had in mind in his rampage around Asia Minor or Ghengis Khan in Asia? Which civilisation has felt obliged to carry the Tobis torch? Maybe those monks who went to remote Hibernian Isles to found monasteries?

    And if anyone here really feels obliged to leave the world a better place, then no more coca cola for you. Don’t do damage is my maxim. I fear that most of my neighbours do not subscribe.

    And about no longer tolerating slavery or murder…. I wish. But the world is not a Tobis world. He is a white privileged American. He has no idea where Africa is. Nor Syria. Nor Venezuela. He seems unaware of the wars of the last 20 years in Europe, Ossetia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria…. All those places where the darkies live

    Who heeds the Tobis?


  44. MiaB I misread your last sentence, substituting ‘needs’ for ‘heeds’ and realized it makes the sentence just as relevant.

    Do you think those like Tobis are self delusional? Has he no knowledge of history or of the modern world? There are people who work towards bettering our existence and so work towards a better future (that’s why in much of the world there is no slavery) but most are aware of the difficulties and therefore have a more realistic understanding of human nature and of our potential futures than “deep thinkers” like our Tobis. Cherish those who understand and ignore those that don’t.


  45. I finally had the time to read Tobis’ article that spawned this one and wonder if I should continue given his second sentence is 100% wrong.

    “There is no conceivable rational self-interest in expending resources to build a cathedral.” he writes.

    He’s never heard of the afterlife then? For that was why wealthy patrons funded cathedrals. Eg Godiva and Leofric funded Coventry’s first Cathedral and the Bottoners funded much of the mighty church that became its second. Cathedrals and churches were investments by wealthy people for their future. It was an era where keeping people in poverty was considered a benefit to them… a bit like climate change activists.

    Liked by 2 people

  46. Not another person who, because he is atheist, thinks that people with different views are irrational. I am not very religious but the parish churches and cathedrals of the UK are one of the glories of our civilisation. I have to admit being puzzled why our ancestors put so much effort into building Stonehenge, though. And even more puzzled why someone built a replica in Oregon.


  47. What makes it even more amusing is that some mediaeval churches were constructed or expanded to cash in on a tomb cult. This was the mediaeval tourist trade. Churches and hospices were built along the trails to house the pilgrims, who often included wealthy people doing penance. Didn’t Henry IV make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to atone for killing Richard II ? Ironically some of these pilgrimage trails are still part of the tourist industry. The Road to Santiago is still walked, for example. Even if you are sceptical of the existence of the bones of Saint James the Greater in a cathedral coffer. Tourists still flock to Becket’s tomb at Canterbury. Across the square from Amiens Cathedral is the pilgrim house, for use by people people on the road to Santiago. In Spain, the monks at Cardena promoted the story that they housed the bones of El Cid, probably to attract some of the Santiago pilgrims to drop in, pay for a few masses etc. The idea that there were no rational reasons for building cathedrals is obviously b/s. Tobis is ignorant as well as intolerant


  48. Of course the modern pilgrimages are to places like Kilamanjiro, the Great Barrier Reef and the Polar regions – places under threat by our profligate use of carbon. Repent oh sinners and offset our carbon footprints by our good testimony and tree planting indulgences. But don’t YOU go to those holy sites, they are reserved for those of us who really matter and who are so so concerned with the planet. You are unworthy and your carbon emissions will kill us all. Tobis can go.


  49. Doubly true since pilgrimages always were the equivalent of a holiday of a lifetme with added bonus points for the next life.

    Great feats of what looked like social cohesive action were a mix of forced labour, superstition and a lack of anything more interesting to do. Warmists have to genuinely persuade people of both the justification for action and the viability of those actions. Standing about, whining about the good old days won’t do anything.


  50. Whatever Tobis “in it for the $” is, don’t compare him to a white person of privilege.
    Tobis is a high functioning jerk, no matter his ethnic or societal position.
    His self loathing is only matched by his historical illiteracy and, ironically, his arrogance.


  51. Windmill, dams, buildings, bridges, the bigger the better. Do you think beavers look at the dam another beaver built and say “damn he’s spoiling the river!” We built shit. Its what we do. Its just as natural as the beaver building a dam.


  52. Mosh, I’m imagining Green beavers abandoning the building of traditional dams and going for ‘eco pods’ made of grass and reeds which don’t interrupt the river flow, and then erecting signs at the sides of the river saying – in Beaver language – ‘Keep it on the trees’.


  53. Jaime.
    But what will the trout do?
    In Yellowstone Park wolves were removed, leading to a huge increase in the Wapiti (Elk) population which led to a lack of young aspen trees, much loved by beaver in constructing their lodges and dams. They moved away. A lack of beaver dams led to a massive decline in wetlands and changes to the flow of streams and rivers. The changes led to the demise of the local trout and an increase in the frequency of heart attacks in redneck fishermen (well I made the last one up). Interference by well meaning eco warriors who couldn’t let the public see little wapiti calves being eaten by wicked evil wolves had devastating and widespread effects. But even these were exceeded by the effects of the deliberate policy of preventing wild fires. The mega fires that then erupted burnt a good percentage of the whole park and lands beyond it and killed thousands and thousands of animals. Yellowstone was the crucible in which eco-ecologists learned the extent of their ignorance and folly.


  54. Alan, nature is a marvel to behold. It’s joined up, unlike we humans who are fractured and fragmented and can only focus obsessively on one or a few components of the environment at a time. Yellowstone’s recovery following the introduction of wolves is one very good example, the ‘re-wilding’ of the Chernobyl exclusion zone is another.


  55. Pingback: Building For the Past, Remembering the Future | Watts Up With That?

  56. Pingback: Building For the Past, Remembering the Future |

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