Al Gullon gives the whole transportation and climate change debate a politically scientific angle.
“I hasten to add that it is not ‘another opinion piece’. I put many hours (and my two undergraduate degrees) into an analysis of the IPCC and NASA data on trends in “global warming” and solar radiation. The linked article is my attempt to “vulgarize” the data for the intelligent non-scientists among us.”
A. C. Gullon, BSc., PEng.
Consulting on Safety & the Environment
Technical Articles & Lectures
Rule #1 Regleof/deampSYdalalu
“It’s the happy thought that’ll kill ya!”
“C’est la pensée heureuse qui t’tuera!”
The question “why is there another global warming article in Thinking Highways?” was answered just as I finally decided to put my thoughts onto paper. The radio reported on the UK’s “60 per cent by 2050” announcement and the news was not good on two fronts, except for those moved more by faith or photo opportunities than science. Not good, because that grandiose goal ignores both the economic benefits of improving productivity – for every member of human society – and, with respect to the required/expected improvements in fuel efficiency, the iron ‘law of diminishing returns,’ not to mention several past and recent scientific developments. Not good, because of the probability that the pursuit of such a false and unattainable goal will divert material and human resources, in the ITS community as elsewhere, into dead ends (e.g. CO2 payments to governments who have so abused both their citizens and their economy that their productivity is already in decline) at the same time as everyone’s standard of living declines – in tempo with decreasing productivity.
Enough of the ’why’ and now for the ’what’
When the Kyoto Accord and the working methods of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) first came to my attention I was; pensioned off after 23 years as technocrat with Environment Canada, initially very understanding, even sympathetic at seeing the work of the climatologists severely misrepresented in summaries and sound bites prepared by the politicians. Later, when it appeared that at least some of my fellow scientists were pre-misrepresenting their work in order to remain ‘on the list’ for research contracts, sympathy turned to shame and I was looking for ways to disown my science degree. Fortunately I also have an engineering degree to fall back on. Whereas it is the scientist’s job to develop an understanding of what is theoretically possible, including speculating on scale-ups from proven laboratory results, it is the engineer’s job to calculate whether the laws of nature thus revealed can be economically combined to produce useful objects and/or processes which can be (safely) placed at the service of humans. This ‘division of labour’ works well in the private sector but is derailed when politicians arrive, few of whom are scientists and fewer engineers. In whichever country or issue they pay no attention to the engineers and, as in global warming, seem to extrapolate on the scientists’ speculations.
Honest to a fault?
It was in October 1999 that Prof. Dr. Dusan Gruden, now retired but then Porsche’s Director for Environment and Energy, responded to my invitation to bring their message on global warming to Ottawa. As I had heard his presentation at several international meetings, it’s actually a two-part message: firstly, “The combustion of petroleum products by the private automobile contributes an insignificant portion of the global CO2 emissions” and, secondly, “NEVERTHELESS, the automobile industry will continue its ongoing, and fruitful (an average of 1 per cent per year over the past 25 years), efforts to improve fuel consumption.” Unfortunately the emotional controversy surrounding the first part often obscures the second part of the message. The research behind the presentation [Emissions and Air Quality, Lenz and Cozzarini, SAE Publications (with 148 references!)] was carried out by Dr. Gruden’s alma mater, the Technical University of Vienna. Given the ‘facts’ we have been fed by the media, the first part is surprising, at least. Nevertheless it is easily understandable (even by those of us without Dr. Gruden’s academic qualifications) once you realize that true scientists are the most honest inhabitants of this planet. They won’t even let you misunderstand the accuracy of their calculations. They insist on providing what they call an ‘error band’ around the answer. (Unfortunately they can do little about the misquotes and misrepresentations of their work by the mass media – and by the small and large “p” politicians.)
Being precise about imprecision
You ask for the answer to the ‘burning question of the day’ (pun intended) and they don’t give you one answer, they give you three! Translated into everyday English itcomes out something like, “Well, using currently published research on presently known emission sources, our best guess at the CO2 emissions from natural sources is 770 Gigatonnes per year. However, many of the ‘measurements’ are in fact of dubious accuracy so it could be as low as 600 or as high as a number slightly north of 1000.” “What about the automobile?” you say. And they say, “We have some better numbers for total man-made CO2. It’s somewhere close to 28. Say plus or minus 2. And we’ve got some real good numbers for the personal automobile itself. All you have to know really is the amount of gasoline (of each formulation) sold each year and, because it is everywhere subject to taxes, every government keeps a good count. What? Oh, yes. The number is 1.54 … roughly. Plus or minus 0.075.” We can now put the automobile’s role in CO2 emissions in perspective. We will ignore that huge error band (600 to 1000+) for a moment and just focus on the ‘best guess’ 770 for natural emissions to which we will add the maximum amount of manmade (28+2) to get a round number 800 for total global annual emissions of CO2. Within that best-guess total of 800 Gigatonnes/year our automobiles contribute just 1.54. (For the mathematically minded that’s two tenths of 1 per cent.) Somehow the word “insignificant” comes to mind.
0.6 degrees of separation
So, is CO2 even the major driver for the purported Greenhouse Effect? Intrigued by that Porsche presentation I then did some surfing on the Internet for the base IPCC data behind their contention that anthropogenic CO2 was the major driver of the greenhouse effect. I quickly discovered that all the fuss was over a purported warming of just 0.6ºC … over the past century! My first thought was that it was technically impossible to take the earth’s temperature with such precision. However, the next steps proved me wrong on that point. A little more surfing revealed that some scientists were suggesting that small, cyclical variations in the radiation of the sun might be at the root of the observed warming trend. When I put the temperature trendline on a graph with that Solar Cycle (Figure 1) I soon noticed that the small perturbations along the length of the temperature trendline corresponded very well with the Solar Maximums. Whatever might be moving that temperature trendline it was now certain that the technicians manning the weather stations throughout the world were doing an excellent job. An email exchange with the IPCC administration directed me to a downloadable source of the corresponding, century long, trendline for anthropogenic emissions of CO2. When added to Figure 1 it produced a gigantic X through the theory that CO2 was moving the earth’s temperature. The CO2 line rises strongly and steadily right through the mid-century, three decade long decline in the temperature line. Note that this does not disprove the greenhouse effect. CO2 is a minor greenhouse agent, with both water vapour and methane being much stronger. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine that either of those took that three-decade long drop in mid-century. So, if not a effect, then what is causing the indisputable rise in global temperature? Before leaving Figure 1 for Figure 2 you should note two things about the Solar Irradiance line. Firstly it does show that mid-century decline. Of almost equal importance it carries the adjective ‘reconstructed’. Although no regular measurements of solar irradiation had been made until 1979, irregular measurements could be correlated with sunspots which have been regularly recorded since the early 1600s. In this way scientists could ‘reconstruct’ the probable annual irradiance levels shown in Figure 1.
A completely credible correlation
However, since 1979 satellite measurements have been made of the intensity of the sunlight reaching the top of our atmosphere and regular measurements have been made of CO2 levels near the surface of the earth and oceans. Those measurements and the magic of the Internet have enabled the construction of Figure 2 which both extends Figure 1 into this century and provides a more accurate and detailed look at the past 25 years. The three block-arrows point to the three maxima marking off two Solar Cycles. The first covers the 1980’s and is the standard length of 11 years. The second, however, is only 9-10 years which leads to a higher minimum and thus a higher average annual energy inflow than in the 1980s. This correlates well with the global temperature line over those two decades. When first assembled the correlation between the temperature line and the, rather irregular, solar radiationline was poor (R=0.2). However, while researching on the ‘net I was reminded that volcanoes can have a lengthy impact on global temperatures and so explored both them and El Ninos. As you can see at the bottom of Figure 2 it was an Eureka moment. Actually several moments, because each of these extreme events locked into one of the aforementioned irregularities, until finally all of them were covered. They are colour-coded so that blue indicates an event which pulls the temperature down in their year(s) of operation and red indicates one which tends to raise global temperatures. By mentally moving the temperature line back to where it would have been without each event one can clearly see that the global temperature line has a great visual correspondence with the solar irradiance line. Although it was not done accurately enough to include in this article I did succumb to the temptation of nudging the numbers in the indicated direction in my Excel spread sheet and then ran the correlation again … and the R jumped to 0.6!
Now all this is most definitely NOT to say that we should do nothing about the energy consumption of the automobile or more generally the energy consumptive nature of today’s human society. What the environmentalists are forgetting is that engineers, including automotive engineers, are the original conservationists. As a personal example, I shudder every time I see a two tonne SUV with only the driver on board. That, however, is a judgement on consumer choice. The engine in that SUV has a very good efficiency (measured as BSFC) and most SUVs employ very sophisticated controls to deliver emission performance much better than the government requires. The problem is that most SUVs have way too much weight for the load they are carrying. I shudder because they are mostly used inefficiently. We must stop whipping the willing horse. Aided by informed consumers automobile engineers will continue progress on improving both engine efficiency and overall vehicle efficiency. In that manner we will usually find that, instead of paying an exorbitant price for minuscule reductions, we will find that environmental improvementswill actually save us money.
For more information about Al Gullon and his findings, go to: www.alsaces.ca
About the author
Mr. Gullon retired from Environment Canada in February, 1996 to establish ACEs. Immediately prior to retirement he had spent five years managing a program which assisted small business in the development of innovative recycling technology. His work experience includes about a decade each as a motor transport officer in the Canadian military, as the chief of motor vehicle emissions for Environment Canada and, latterly, in various technical management positions with that department. He has separate (by ten years) science and engineering degrees and, in his off-hours over the past decade, has been nosing around in economics.