Follow-up: “What if corporations could sue governments?”

This is a follow-up post to the meeting on Friday 4th April. Our guest speaker Kat Boettge, the Green Party’s primary EU-election candidate for the East Midlands, recently wrote an opinion piece on the TTIP trade-agreement discussed at the meeting, and this is reproduced below.

The Guardian also has two recent viewpoints, one for and one against:

Here is a reposting of Kat’s opinion-piece (link to original):

At the recent Green Party Conference I attended a workshop on what on the face of it might sound like a not very exciting subject – Bilateral Trade Agreements, with particular reference to the TTIP. By the end of the workshop I realised what a minefield these agreements can be, often leaving Governments open to costly legal action by multinational corporations.

There are many different trade agreements or treaties between different countries. These treaties are agreed between two or more countries to help trade and bring in investment. The negotiations are all confidential and here in the UK they are dealt with by the unelected officials at the Foreign Commonwealth Office. Because of so called commercial confidentiality, little information gets out to the public or even to Parliament.

One of the big concerns of these agreements if that they allow Corporations or companies from one of the countries to sue the government of other country if they occur any losses due to changes of regulations. So if for example a country wanted to stop a company polluting a river, the polluting company could sue the Government for loss of profit. Also if a company believes that it has been treated differently to similar national company or organisation such as the BBC or NHS, it can demand the right to provide the service or sue for loss of profit. If the Government wanted to change the tax regime for business – increasing corporation tax on big business to help pay for public welfare for example, it would be open to a law suit. The disputes that arise between the foreign corporations and the Government are resolved by three arbitrators (one from each side and the third agreed by both), these are corporate lawyers discussing the claims behind closed doors. These cases are not heard by qualified Judges, they are outside the normal legal system which is not recognised by these arbitration tribunals. Yet their decision can cost the tax payer millions of pounds. One of these cases involved an oil drilling company, Occidental that sued Ecuador for losses after the Government demanded that they clean up a river they had polluted; the arbitration tribunal ruled that the government had to pay Occidental $1.77 billion for loss of profit. Scary and scandalous, isn’t it?

The EU is currently negotiating with the US the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement. This is a bilateral trade agreement, but the biggest ever negotiated and set to make the world’s biggest trading block. Please note that these negotiations are yet again kept confidential by the unelected European Commission. Some Green MEPs from Germany have recently leaked a document outlining the proposed agreement, which has raised considerable concern. The documents suggest that the Commission is about to sign over Europe’s right to set regulations around environmental, health and safety, economic, cultural and social issues. The rights of the Corporations will stand above those of the citizen.

What does this actually mean? For example, if the EU bans a drug due to health risks but a US company has been selling this drug in the EU, the company can then sue the EU for any losses they might occur. In the UK the treaty will give American companies the right to bid for any Government contract, its bid based on the expectancy that the regulations here will be ‘harmonised’ with those of the US. If the Government tries to keep higher standards, or to keep the service provision under its own control, it is open to being sued. This has big implications for the NHS and for state education.

We have endless examples of how badly these trade agreements can impact on our future. I feel confident in saying that the majority of British people would be horrified if they knew the full implications of TTIP. But strangely enough, this is not widely discussed. The Tories, Labour, LibDems and even UKIP are supporting this.

I was recently invited to speak on fracking to the Independent Group seminar of the Local Government Association. The group consisted of Independent, Green and UKIP councillors. I mentioned the TTIP, only the Green Councillor had heard of it, nobody else. I would have thought that at least UKIP would be against signing the UK’s sovereignty over to unelected bureaucrats.

I do not wish to have a future where decisions about our laws, tax and financial funding are being decided in private boardrooms. I do not want to see tax payers money being paid to multinational corporations to protect their profits. This would mean the end of democracy, all in the name of the so-called free market.

I already had some awareness on the controversial TTIP, and I have shared the Green’s serious concerns about losing our UK sovereignty. However, this workshop taught me that in the last decade many countries have already been signing up to similar treaties, and often even the Governments haven’t fully realised the implications of the deals that they are signing up to. TTIP will not be good for the the majority of people in the UK or in Europe, the Green Group in the European Parliament will oppose it. Vote Green on May 22nd to strengthen the Green’s opposition to this undemocratic proposal.

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23 Responses to Follow-up: “What if corporations could sue governments?”

  1. Kat, thanks for coming and telling us about this issue.
    ISDS means that we might be paying out large amounts of money via our taxes. Ok, we might not, but the scandalous thing is that we just don’t know.
    Is there any move to make public even minimal information? Can we be told the total amount being paid out? How many cases there actually are? (Can we get the Taxpayers Alliance onto this?)
    Can the EU use its weight to insist on greater transparency?

  2. Kat said at the meeting that Capitalism simply isn’t working. Good piece here to help with this framing: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/12/capitalism-isnt-working-thomas-piketty

  3. Martin Sears says:

    Unfortunately I missed the discussion to which Philip and John refer. I have, however, read the Guardian article written by Will Hutton for the Observer for which Philip has identified the link.

    IMHO those who claim capitalism isn’t working or claim it doesn’t add up are flying in the face of reality. In this country there are far more people owning their own home then ever there was a generation ago. Those homes contain electronic gadgetry for household convenience and leisure time beyond the imagination of people living at the start of the 20th century. The driveways of those homes more than likely have at least one car facilitating immediate transportation to anywhere in comfort, whatever the weather, on roads allowing speeds up to 70 mph making any part of England readily accessible at any time.

    The aspiration of those house-owners is that they will pass on those properties to their children.

    In the last few years the growth of owner- occupier properties has gone into reverse because between 1997 and 2010 the price of houses went through the roof; good news for those living in the 71% of households owned by the occupier at the time but bad news for those of the younger generation who have neither a well paid job nor well off parents inclined to bung them the necessary deposit. The result is that owner-occupier houses in this country now only account for 65% of homes.

    That is not the fault of capitalism. It is the fault of the planning system and the failure to match supply to demand, aggravated by governments who have got themselves into the ludicrous frame of mind where they are convinced they can control global weather by piling taxes on the industrial byproduct CO2, but that it is beyond the control of mankind to limit the excesses of the man made global banking system. Those whom the Gods wish to destroy……

    btw The countries with the lowest standard of living are those who did not adopt the western style of evolutionary capitalism and democratic progress.

    ps Am I bothered that the Duke of Westminster is very rich and that David Cameron went to Eton? Absolutely not.

  4. Martin, I think you may have missed the point of what I understand Thomas
    Pikketty is saying.
    Of course Capitalism has “worked” up till now. His big concern is the
    “potentially terrifying” effects of increasing inequality of wealth in the
    future
    , which includes the “undermining of Capitalist dynamism” itself.

    It also means democracy losing out to plutocracy. I would have thought you
    would be concerned by this!

    You hit the nail on the head when you bemoan the inability of mankind to
    “limit the excesses of the man made global banking system”.

    I think a strong case has been made that if inequality was lower then
    there would not be a housing shortage. You like the fact that house
    ownership has increased, but increasing inequality means that the poorest
    face an increasingly insurmountable barrier to owning a dwelling of any
    sort. This is unfair.
    Like many people, I like to walk in the countryside and there is
    widespread regret that so many fields being turned into housing estates.
    All of us are being deprived as result of unfairness.

    • Martin Sears says:

      John, my perception of Thomas Piketty’s concerns, of which uppermost is probably the sale of his book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, is through the conduit of Will Hutton’s piece for The Observer New Review.

      In Will Hutton’s piece he states: “Piketty deploys 200 years of data to prove them wrong.

      Presumably Hutton is referring to his assertion in his own previous paragraph that “……Thus Messrs Cameron and Osborne faithfully champion lower inheritance taxes, refuse to reshape the council tax and boast about the business-friendly low capital gains and corporation tax regime.”

      Hutton could, but didn’t, mention the fact that the coalition has also raised the personal tax allowance to £10,000.

      John, you state that “Of course Capitalism has ‘worked’ up till now.” And assert that Piketty is now terrified of the anticipated increasing inequality of wealth in the future……… In much the same way as Malthus (1798) was terrified of population outstripping agricultural production forcing everyone into a subsistence living in the long term?

      The assertion that wealth increases exponentially over the long term is as ludicrous as the assumption that the asserted modest, and totally inadequate (reference efforts/costs of heating homes for billions of people), global warming trend based on very incomplete data for global average land air and sea surface temperatures using maximum and minimum diurnal readings over the last seventy years (and total guesswork before that) can be projected forward to arrive at a catastrophic, man induced, exponential rise in global temperatures over the next 100 years.

      The Duke of Westminster is cited as a very rich man. His ancestor Sir Richard Grosvenor, 1st Baronet (1584-1645) was a Tory MP, apparently jailed in Fleet prison for years when his Brother-in-Law, for whom he stood as guarantor defaulted on his debts.

      According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2013, the wealth of the current Duke of Westminster is £7.8 billion and he has now slipped to the 8th richest person resident in the UK. There are two brothers with UK citizenship immediately higher than the Duke. The rest are 2 Russians, 2 Indians, 1 USA and a Cypriot family.

      Contrast this with the fact that the top fifty musicians resident in the UK, between them, account for wealth (>£12 billion) ie getting on for twice that of the Duke.

      It is a reasonable bet that most of the wealth of the current Duke is tied up in the property inherited over 400 odd years. The musicians have made their money over the last 50 odd years? I very much doubt that their very new wealth will rise exponentially over the next 50 years! And how about JK Rowling, the Beckhams and Wayne?

      Do I resent the wealth of any of them? Absolutely not!

      The insistence that all property ownership is registered and that freehold purchase has become the norm for home ownership, provides the opportunity for all UK residents to become owner-occupiers in the long term.

      Mansion taxes and taxes on second homes that hit the oligarchs, coupled with a rationalisation of UK pension contributions, funds (aggregated pension funds should finance mortgages – not banks or building societies), investments and benefits plus the matching of house supply with demand across the price range, will make 100% owner-occupier a realisable goal in the long term.

      A population of 71 million for the current UK by 2050, with every adult in a home owned by themselves is achievable and will still leave 88% of the whole country available for other purposes.

      Meanwhile a free trade agreement, as envisaged by Ken Clarke, between the EU and the USA, is a very positive step towards improving the living standards of >800 million people. Also, international trading ‘standards’ need to be harmonized and regulated to enable an EU single market to become a reality. Monbiot is as wrong on this one as he was on blaming hill farmers for the recent floods.

      But then the ‘environmentalists’ have got it totally wrong in thinking taxing CO2 is the way to help the people in lands short of water at some times and too much at other times. Instead of banging on about man made global warming they should be using the UN to ensure a global agreement is reached that guarantees for every $ spent on planning, building and maintaining gas and oil pipelines one $ is spent on doing the same for shifting water from where there is too much to where there is too little – and retaining it. But it is a reasonable assumption that the corrupt leaders of the most impoverished populations will allow such ‘imperialism’ over their dead bodies. The concept of national ‘independence’ is a foolproof way of ensuring the over-privileged in those countries continue to exploit their own people.

      But, hey, why invest time and money in really beneficial direct help when ‘do gooders’ can swan around at taxpayers expense on totally unaccountable and useless projects trying to prove that it is all man’s fault?

      That is what religion (aka climate science) does for you!.

  5. Martin, I think you need to reconsider your views re climate etc. In the world of engineering and science there is very little doubt about the effects of CO2 on the climate. Rather there is a huge, wide-ranging effort and investment in developing the technologies we need to survive in reasonable style.

    This investment is not a recent panic response. In the seventies some of my colleagues, familiar with the physics of the photovoltaic effect and semiconductor technology, were proposing PV energy projects. Both Shell and BP were early investors in PV technology and the level of investment worldwide will have increased exponentially at a typical rate. Investment in any new technology typically takes about four decades to build up from funding research to large scale production

    The message is that climate change is real and the potentially serious.

    It is the deniers who come from a position of faith rather than from understanding the science and technology like my colleagues did.

    As for taxing CO2, is it a bad idea?. I understand that there is a wide spread view amongst economists that we should be replacing personal taxes with environmental levies.

    The rest of the discussion is basically about inequality. You hold out the ideal of everyone owning their own house and I am sure most people would agree that everyone should have secure and adequate accommodation owned or not. You propose some very progressive taxation so I think this indicates that would agree that this ideal gets more difficult with greater inequality.

    As for the very rich, feelings are irrelevant. With the current level of inequality, a Gini index of around 38 wealthiest person has (I think) 10,000 times the average wealth. A plausible lower level of inequality, a Gini index of 25 the wealthiest person would have about 1000 times the average.

    The proper question is: what is the drain on the economy due to excessive inequality?

    As for the Duke, if he was still the richest man, would he notice the difference?

    • Martin Sears says:

      In reply to Lauren and John, my ‘belief’ system is based on my understanding of known facts, and a belief that it is natural for people to wish their children to be financially secure and to enjoy at least as high a standard of living as they themselves enjoyed whilst continuing to aspire to live in an evolving democracy where everyone (with no exceptions) is treated with respect and no-one is required to be deferential to those regarded as superior to others by mere accident of birth or inherited wealth.

      The latter is profoundly important. In this country we have travelled a long way, currently allowing for example, the fifty richest musicians with British citizenship to cast 50 votes in our elections, (as can the 50 poorest), but the Duke of Westminster can only cast one vote and then only if he is not a member of that affront to democracy, the House of Lords.

      Our democracy still has a long way to travel eg further limiting expenditure on election campaigns at local and national level, the abolition of the House of Lords and the right of British residents to vote for their own head of state.

      I also believe in cultivating a healthy scepticism of ‘evidence’ produced by those in the pay of governments in support of those same governments who have already previously settled upon the policies they wish to apply on a global scale and seek professional, unequivocal, propaganda to justify their position to the populations at large..

      I also believe that all man made systems that are required to operate within man made laws, rules and regulations are capable of being controlled by humans (and are in any event, by definition, in reality, already controlled by humans) for the good of the populations that they serve. All such systems should be run by democratically elected people. For example, the Care Quality Commission, the NHS and Ofsted.

      But it is the national and global financial systems that are in most need of fundamental change.

      Given the political will these can be legally adapted to the benefit of the populations as a whole and not run as if they were real life examples of theoretical perfect markets, where everyone is a price taker and not a price maker, beyond human intervention.

      But hey, let us ignore commonsense and go for controlling something over which we can never exercise control. The weather!

      Worse, let us develop a ‘solution’ to inconvenient weather events that rewards the very group of organisations that caused the near collapse of the global banking system.

      Yep, the carbon credit market, forecast to become the world’s largest commodity market (take a bow ex commodity trader Farage) rewards the very institutions that were at the heart of the banking collapse of 2008 (Reference the UK DMO website ’preferred participants’ as financial intermediaries in the UK government’s sale of carbon credits). And it does get worse. Not only have carbon credit prices tumbled since they were first introduced, the ’market’ has also seen an explosion of scams aimed at separating pensioners from their savings. Good one Gordon!.

      Now consider the factors that have the most profound impact and dictate our global weather patterns and local weather events, controlled by natural forces completely beyond the control of mankind.

      Our planet is tilted on its axis relative to the Sun which provides us with the electro-magnetic energy that heats every substance, either directly or indirectly, on the surface of the earth and also immediately above and below the surface. The tilt gives us our seasons. Away from the equator, the seasons give us very different temperatures depending on the time of year and our location relative to vast areas of land and/or water. Our planet revolves on its axis once every 24 hours with inevitable correspondingly different but very quickly changing diurnal temperatures.

      The surface area of the earth is 510,072,000 km^2. The sea water accounts for 361,132,000 km^2.

      Antarctica has a surface area of 14,500,000 km^2 (compared to Greenland’s 1,710,000 km^2) in summer and double that in winter because of the very cold winter temperatures. Its lowest temperature ever recorded was on July 21st 1983 (minus 89.2 degrees C) Temperature falls 1 degree C per 100 metres gain in altitude and on average Antarctica is 2,300 metres above sea level. The winds blow at speeds of up to 200mph downward from the centre due to gravity acting on the colder, denser, air. Why is it so cold? Because the Sun’s electromagnetic energy hits the surface at a very acute angle. That won’t ever change and the winter ice won’t melt until such an event actually took place.

      The vast winds coming off Antarctica cause billions of tons of liquid sea water to move, of which the so-called Gulf Stream is a mere fraction of the water consequentially affected (If water moves something has to take its previous position – maybe other water?. The winds add to the forces contributing to the momentum of the water ie the spin of the earth and the attraction of the moon.

      The basic thermodynamic facts as I understand them are as follows:

      1 Energy cannot be created or destroyed but merely converted from one form to another. There are no exceptions to that rule. Therefore CO2 can not use/re-emit more energy than it receives. At approx 0.04% 0f the world’s atmosphere by volume it is, surely, statistically very unlikely that CO2 receives more than that percentage of incoming and outgoing electromagnetic energy…. unless it also acts as a magnet? Any electromagnetic energy re-emitted by particles of CO2 are subjected, absolutely, to the inverse square rule – a mathematical certainty that intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source. Most atmospheric particles of CO2 are anything between zero and 5 km above sea level? They are also subjected to the drop in temperature that occurs as height above sea level increases. Btw The atmosphere is a tiny fraction of the weight of the sea water and an even smaller fraction of the weight of the Earth but we are expected to believe that a tiny fraction of randomly circulating atmosphere (CO2) can heat the sea surface and the land air plus all other substances on the surface of the Earth irrespective of the naturally occurring convection forces at work (most noticeably above Antarctica).

      {John you rightly make the point that those great companies, Shell and BP, spend vast sums of money on R & D endeavouring to diversify and increase our supply of reliable and secure energy to meet our needs, (eg keeping us warm and minimising the chances of elderly people dying from hypothermia); thereby also keeping prices down to minimise the need to choose between food and heating for the poorest people in our society}.

      2 Heat will always travel from the warmer substance to the cooler substance. Thus all substances can gain and lose heat. The substances that comprise our atmosphere, of which CO2 is a mere 0.04% by volume) are no different. Witness what happens when opening the door of a heated oven or a working refrigerator. When two adjacent substances are at the same temperature no heat transfer takes place between them. ie there is thermal equilibrium.

      3 We receive energy from the Sun via electro-magnetic energy at the speed of light most of which converts into heat and this is passed by convection and conduction around the world’s surface and atmosphere. Overall, as the warm, less dense, air drifts upwards, its pressure and thus its temperature drops, falling to earth again as it becomes more dense with the drop in temperature. Ie a self balancing system.

      4 The temperature difference between the poles and the equator (inevitable because the world is a sphere, not flat) and local differences in air pressure cause air streams with variable amounts of water vapour, to move and collide causing seasonal weather that, at ‘random’ intervals, become ferocious local storms of variable magnitude in reasonably predictable geographical locations.

      Lauren and John, if you think humans can control all that you have great faith in the infallibility and omnipotence of mankind. We could of course try building better structures to withstand Nature.

      For my part I think better control of the man made financial systems is a subject worthy of at least as much concentration by our ’best brains’ as is given to the evolving science of climatology.

  6. “Energy cannot be created or destroyed but merely converted from one form to another. There are no exceptions to that rule. Therefore CO2 can not use/re-emit more energy than it receives. At approx 0.04% 0f the world’s atmosphere by volume it is, surely, statistically very unlikely that CO2 receives more than that percentage of incoming and outgoing electromagnetic energy…. unless it also acts as a magnet? “.
    I am not going to try and dissect all of this long article but the quote above from Martin’s previous post proves that a little knowledge really is a dangerous thing. I am afraid you do not get it at all Martin. The effect of CO2 in the atmosphere is that it allows radiation from the sun through down to the Earth’s surface but when that radiation is re-emitted by the Earth’s surface it blocks it from escaping out into space again. If Martin knew a bit more science he would know that the wavelength of the radiation emitted by a body depends on the surface temperature of that body. The Sun’s surface is a lot hotter than the Earth’s surface so the incoming radiation is shorter wavelength than the radiation re-emitted by the Earth’s surface. Lots of substances, not just CO2, absorb Infra-red radiation, but they do not do so indiscriminately. They absorb only selected wavelengths and which wavelengths they absorb is a characteristic of the substance itself. Indeed, this property is used in analytical chemistry to identify substances. This is why CO2 in the atmosphere has the effect of trapping heat from the sun inside the earth’s atmosphere. The fact that there is ‘only’ 0.04% CO2 in the atmosphere does not nullify the argument. Even 0.04% equates to a layer of pure CO2 several metres thick (according to my back-of-an envelope rough estimate) and that is plenty.

    • Martin Sears says:

      Cut out the insults Steve. I am fully aware of the fact that CO2 absorbs electromagnetic radiation of certain wavelengths. So do all the other substances at the surface of the planet. They would not heat up otherwise. It is total nonsense to claim that CO2 traps heat. It heats up and cools down as do all other substances in the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth. Are you claiming that the CO2 over the Antarctic is at a higher temperature than the adjacent particles of Oxygen and Nitrogen that outnumber the CO2 particles, on average, by 2,500 to 1?

      Your concept that atmospheric CO2 subjected to winds of up to 200 mph is capable of organising itself into a global band several metres thick is pure fantasy.

      The reaction of people such as yourself is identical to the experts of the day who claimed the earth was flat and that only those capable of reading Latin were competent to understand the omnipotence and generosity of a God no-one had ever met and had undoubtedly required the sacrifice of his son to ‘save’ the world. Such people claimed that not to ‘believe’ was heresy. Human nature has not changed.

      Can you explain how particles of CO2 at 0.04% of the atmosphere by volume, tumbling at random through the atmosphere and subjected to high winds shifting it in all directions ‘allows’ the complete range of the wavelengths of the incoming electromagnetic energy to pass through but prevents significant amounts of the long wavelengths, traveling at the speed of light, to exit? If this miracle can indeed take place continuously, what are the particular wavelengths returned to Earth, which substances on the surface of the earth are heated by that particular range of wavelengths and what is the intensity required to increase the temperature of each of the affected volumes of the substances by say 0.1 degrees C at night?

      It is patently obvious that the heating abilities of the wavelengths of electromagnetic energy outgoing from Earth are nowhere near at the same level as that received from the Sun. To claim otherwise is to deny reality. Why not test that, at night, by putting a slate (or perhaps you would prefer to try it with a bottle of CO2?) that has heated up during the day, say, 1 metre above the ground and see if it again reaches the temperature achieved during the day. But, Steve, you claim that CO2 accounting for 0.04% of the atmosphere, most of which occurs perfectly naturally and is used to enable plants to thrive, can heat not one slate, or a bottle of CO2, but countless billions of tonnes of water and minerals.

      You believe it if you like.

      Those of us brought up to question the infallibility of the prevailing orthodoxy have a different perception.

      What constitutes reality for the millions of people who suffer from too much water in some locations and too little in others? I think you will find that most people like the affects of the Sun even in those countries. It is water they are short of (and at other times may have too much) – not lower temperatures.

      The problems of water shortages and floods could be overcome directly by ensuring that for every $ spent on planning, constructing and maintaining oil and gas pipelines, shifting those commodities, and the subsequent refining processes; one $ is also spent on doing exactly the same for water. But hey, that requires all political leaders to work for the benefit of their populations, not themselves.

    • Martin Sears says:

      Steve claims to know a lot about science and asserts that anyone who differs from his view on what causes our weather must be at least wrong and even very dangerous. He states: “The Sun’s surface is a lot hotter than the Earth’s surface so the incoming radiation is shorter wavelength than the radiation re-emitted by the Earth’s surface.”

      The reality is that the Sun emits electromagnetic energy across most of the known wavelengths, from very low frequencies (the long wavelengths) to very high frequencies (the short wavelengths): The higher the frequency the greater the energy contained in that wavelength.

      Mercifully, the shortest wavelengths emitted from within the Sun do not reach its surface and are converted to wavelengths with lower frequency before they are transmitted into space. A relatively small proportion of the initial intensity hits Earth because of the mathematical reality known as the inverse square rule.

      Steve states: “Lots of substances, not just CO2, absorb Infra-red radiation, but they do not do so indiscriminately. They absorb only selected wavelengths and which wavelengths they absorb is a characteristic of the substance itself. Indeed, this property is used in analytical chemistry to identify substances. This is why CO2 in the atmosphere has the effect of trapping heat from the sun inside the earth’s atmosphere.”

      Steve, correct me if I am wrong but electromagnetic energy is not heat. In any event nothing can trap heat in the atmosphere – ever heard of convection and the fact that the basic laws of physics tell us that air reduces in pressure and temperature as altitude increases? Also check out the Laws of Thermodynamics.

      Most? of the wavelengths of the electromagnetic energy we get hit by contain far more energy than the infra red part of the spectrum. Humans and many other living things (animals etc) have adapted to create ‘eyes’ that can make a ‘visual’ sense of the most abundant part of the electromagnetic spectrum. We call it ‘light’. There is massively more energy contained in that part of the spectrum and above than there is in the infra red frequencies and below. Steve, what happens to the energy received from the Sun contained in the spectrum above infra red?

      One last thing. You rightly state that many substances on Earth can absorb infra red electromagnetic energy. What leads you to think that CO2 traps it?

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  8. John Samson says:

    To reiterate Steve’s clear explanation and answer some of Martin’s points, my understanding of the greenhouse effect is as follows. Hot bodies radiate over a range of wavelengths (the black body spectrum). Much of the sun’s radiation is in the visible range. The earth, being cooler, re-radiates largely in the infra-red. The difference is crucial when we consider the effect of the atmosphere, which is largely transparent to visible light. Some gases, notably carbon dioxide and methane, absorb infra-red and act somewhat like an insulating layer above our heads, but one which blocks the outgoing radiation from the earth more than the incoming radiation. The net result is to increase the surface temperature of the earth.

    The weight of carbon dioxide above our heads is the same order of magnitude as that of glass in a greenhouse roof (although in the latter case blocked convection is another contribution). It doesn’t matter that the greenhouse gases are mixed with, and exchange energy with, all the other constituents of air and are not in a discrete layer; they still absorb the radiation.

    As to the significance of greenhouse gases, molecules interact with radiation at specific frequencies. In this context it is the vibration frequencies of the carbon-oxygen bonds that matters, which lie in the infra-red range. Because carbon and oxygen atoms have different electric charges, the electromagnetic radiation (an oscillating electric field) can interact strongly with the CO2 molecule. This is not the case for nitrogen or oxygen, where infra-red radiation has less of a handle.

    The details of how the excess heat is transported, as well as the feedback from melting ice sheets, cloud cover, etc, mean that models are very complex and offer a range of predictions. However, the basic physics of heat trapping stands. We can’t control the atmosphere, but we can control our carbon emissions.

    [Disclaimer: I am a physicist, but not an atmospheric physicist, and would welcome correction on any scientific point.]

    • Martin Sears says:

      Firstly, thank you John for taking an interest in what I have to say.

      In the stream of comments we have strayed a long way from the original issue of whether the potential for a free trade agreement between the USA and the EU is a threat or an opportunity.

      Personally I do not think that such an agreement, if implemented earlier, would have allowed the makers of DDT, CFCs and thalidomide to have succeeded in law suits just because their own scientists had assured them they were all safe and yet governments had subsequently banned their production and sale, thereby directly causing loss of investment in development costs and potential profits for the manufacturers and distributors.

      Free trade allows for safety regulations to be applied and has the added advantage of a) Increasing total wealth through the increased rate of circulation of money (ie growth) in the short run and b) Redistributing wealth from the richest to the poorest countries in the long run as free trade is pursued at a fully global, international, level.

      But IMHO, the investment in man made global warming theory, in terms of human capital, time, money and productive resources, detracts from the urgent need to concentrate on the real global problems of solving acute water shortages, floods and the global financial system that is not fit for purpose when it comes to making real investment in the future of mankind. All of these problems could be resolved with current technology if the politicians and the respective heads of state were so minded.

      Returning to the ‘science’ basis of the man made global warming theory.

      You state that the weight of carbon dioxide above our heads is in the same order of magnitude as that of glass in a greenhouse roof.

      Er, do you have any figures for the aggregated weight of all the world’s greenhouse roofs?

      Let us be clear. The terms ‘greenhouse gas’ and ‘greenhouse effect’ are used, pejoratively, to have the same controlling effect, on the population as a whole, as the concept of original sin was/is used in religious circles.

      The glass of a greenhouse is a solid and traps the air inside. If the glass was powdered (God forbid because global warming would be the least of our problems in such an event) and by some miracle suspended above the plants in a column at the intensity of CO2 in the atmosphere (0.04% by volume) would it raise/maintain the temperature of the air around the plants?

      The surface of the Earth is around 510,000,000 km^2. The weight of the atmosphere is (taking atmospheric pressure to be 14.7 lb/in^2 at sea level) 3.6 x 10^14 tonnes. The weight of the global sea water is estimated to be 1.5 x 10^18 tonnes (about 0.023% of the mass of the Earth?) and has an average depth of 3.8 km. (I would welcome any correction to these figures). It would take one hell of an effort to raise that lot by a global average of 1 degree C from around 14.5 degrees to 15.5 degrees – and we ain’t there yet.

      The micro workings of a particle of carbon dioxide, although interesting, are not relevant to the real world macro problems. It has taken the terrible incident of the missing Malaysian Airline passenger jet to bring home the fact that while unaccountable scientists using taxpayers’ money can claim they have discovered the ‘god’ particle and ’know’ how everything began, current knowledge of our own planet and its accessibility, is very limited and very inadequate.

      My own understanding of the electromagnetic energy emitted from the Sun and received by system Earth is as follows:

      The highest energy, shortest wavelengths (and most dangerous) are Gamma, X-rays and ultraviolet C, B and A. Most of these are absorbed by the ozone layer before they reach the surface of the Earth. Given the concern about the ’global energy budget’ that scientists have ie that incoming energy must equal outgoing energy, for heat equilibrium to be maintained, this begs the question in my mind; what happens to that high level energy that is absorbed within the ozone layer? If it isn’t re-emitted, does it build up?

      The main constituents of the atmosphere are not affected by any of the remaining incoming electromagnetic energy including the residual amounts of ultraviolet B and all of ultraviolet A, the narrow but prolific ‘visible’ spectrum, infra red and ‘radio’ waves. But the Earth’s surface and all living things are affected, to a greater or lesser degree, for good or bad.

      The fact is that electromagnetic energy is not heat.

      If it were, the ‘wall’ of electromagnetic energy reaching us from the Sun would heat up the entire atmosphere as it passed through it – ie by convection and conduction. Btw The inverse square rule means that the intensity of the electromagnetic energy we receive at system Earth is nowhere near at the intensity leaving the Sun. The inverse square rule also applies to any electromagnetic energy emitted by a particle of carbon dioxide anywhere in the atmosphere.

      The main constituents of the atmosphere (oxygen and nitrogen) are not affected by (‘transparent’ to) incoming electromagnetic energy, including the infra red range. How are they affected by the outgoing infra red range absorbed and re-emitted by carbon dioxide?

      Carbon dioxide absorbs infra red electromagnetic energy but it does not trap heat as measured by temperature. It warms up and cools down depending upon its height above sea level, its proximity to the poles, equator and the temperature of adjacent substances. Exactly as does any other substance, it obeys the second law of thermodynamics.

      • John Samson says:

        While it would be better to discuss this in person over a whiteboard or refer you to the IPCC reports and opther literature, here are replies to some of your comments.

        “ the investment in man made global warming theory, in terms of human capital, time, money and productive resources, detracts from the urgent need to concentrate on the real global problems of solving acute water shortages, floods and the global financial system”

        Except that climate models show how the first two of these problems are being exacerbated by global warming.

        “You state that the weight of carbon dioxide above our heads is in the same order of magnitude as that of glass in a greenhouse roof.”

        Sorry if my comment was ambiguous. What I meant is that, if you are standing in a greenhouse, the weight of glass directly above your head is roughly the same as the weight of CO2 above your head, If 0.06% of the atmosphere by mass is CO2, then the pressure due to CO2 is 60 Pa, or a 6 kg weight per square metre. This ties in with Steve’s estimate of a layer of CO2 a few metres thick. Vapourising the glass would give a layer roughly that thick; it would allow convection and reduce the effectiveness of the greenhouse, but there would still be some contribution from the radiation.

        “The terms ‘greenhouse gas’ and ‘greenhouse effect’ are used, pejoratively, to have the same controlling effect, on the population as a whole, as the concept of original sin was/is used in religious circles.”

        Except that there is a vast amount of evidence in the former case that we will fry if we ignore warnings.

        “It would take one hell of an effort to raise that lot by a global average of 1 degree C from around 14.5 degrees to 15.5 degrees – and we ain’t there yet.”

        An extra watt of heating on one square metre (one thousandth of the solar constant) maintained for one year would put in 30 megajoules, enough to heat water to a depth of 8 metres by 1 degree C. Over a century that would be a lot of heating.

        “what happens to that high level energy that is absorbed within the ozone layer? If it isn’t re-emitted, does it build up?”

        In the steady state there will be a balance between the energy coming in and going out.

        “The fact is that electromagnetic energy is not heat.”

        Correct. When absorbed by matter the energy becomes heat.

        “The inverse square rule means that the intensity of the electromagnetic energy we receive at system Earth is nowhere near at the intensity leaving the Sun.”

        True; the sun subtends a small angle in the sky. That’s why the Earth is cooler than the surface of the sun and radiates mostly in the infra-red.

        “The main constituents of the atmosphere (oxygen and nitrogen) are not affected by (‘transparent’ to) incoming electromagnetic energy, including the infra red range. How are they affected by the outgoing infra red range absorbed and re-emitted by carbon dioxide?”

        Two mechanisms spring to mind: infra-red radiation re-radiated downwards will be absorbed and heat the earth’s surface, and collisions between excited CO2 molecules and other air molecules will share the energy. As mentioned before, this is not my field, so I don’t know which mechanism dominates. However, my blanket still keeps me warm at night.

        “Exactly as does any other substance, it obeys the second law of thermodynamics.”

        We can agree on this.

      • Martin Sears says:

        Hi John

        Thank you for your detailed response

        My reply to your responses are as below:

        J: While it would be better to discuss this in person over a whiteboard or refer you to the IPCC reports and other literature, here are replies to some of your comments.

        M: I am happy to take part in a Friday Room debate on the topics raised, at a mutually convenient date, if your group is interested in such an event. I have skim read ‘the science basis’ (working group 1) of several of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assesasment Reports that come out every five to seven years. btw why did publication of AR5 get delayed after the final draft was issued to member governments last August?

        “ the investment in man made global warming theory, in terms of human capital, time, money and productive resources, detracts from the urgent need to concentrate on the real global problems of solving acute water shortages, floods and the global financial system”

        J: Except that climate models show how the first two of these problems are being exacerbated by global warming.

        M: Analysis of the ARs show that the climate models used started out with very simplistic views of the complex factors that impact on our weather. btw There is no such thing as climate – only weather. Weather is reality – climate is the human perception of reality over time. The contributors to the IPCC reports have lost their objectivity (given the origins via UNEP and WMO did they ever have objectivity?). They are ‘unequivocal’ – a weasel word used when contrary ‘evidence’ was never actually looked for in the first place.

        “You state that the weight of carbon dioxide above our heads is in the same order of magnitude as that of glass in a greenhouse roof.”

        J: Sorry if my comment was ambiguous. What I meant is that, if you are standing in a greenhouse, the weight of glass directly above your head is roughly the same as the weight of CO2 above your head, If 0.06% of the atmosphere by mass is CO2, then the pressure due to CO2 is 60 Pa, or a 6 kg weight per square metre. This ties in with Steve’s estimate of a layer of CO2 a few metres thick. Vapourising the glass would give a layer roughly that thick; it would allow convection and reduce the effectiveness of the greenhouse, but there would still be some contribution from the radiation.

        M: Sorry but a column of powdered glass rising thousands of metres above the plants at a density of 0.04% by volume would have a negligible effect on the temperature of the air surrounding the plants. What a pity we can’t build one in practice to prove this assertion beyond doubt – but see the reference to your blanket below!.

        “The terms ‘greenhouse gas’ and ‘greenhouse effect’ are used, pejoratively, to have the same controlling effect, on the population as a whole, as the concept of original sin was/is used in religious circles.”

        J: Except that there is a vast amount of evidence in the former case that we will fry if we ignore warnings.

        M: I think you will find there is an uncanny similarity between your response and those of a religious disposition who are convinced we will all fry if we do not believe/ignore the orthodoxy that God required the sacrifice of his only son in order to save the world. The ‘evidence’ is merely in the written word, not in practical experience. btw As I have implied before, most people like to take their holidays where there is guaranteed summer sun and the indigenous population live in relative poverty because wages have to be low to enable cheap holidays to be offered..

        “It would take one hell of an effort to raise that lot by a global average of 1 degree C from around 14.5 degrees to 15.5 degrees – and we ain’t there yet.”

        J: An extra watt of heating on one square metre (one thousandth of the solar constant) maintained for one year would put in 30 megajoules, enough to heat water to a depth of 8 metres by 1 degree C. Over a century that would be a lot of heating.

        M: Radiative forcing is a concept not a reality. If you think that CO2 at 0.04% by volume can heat that amount you should try to bottle it. The people who have to decide between heating and eating would be very grateful.

        “what happens to that high level energy that is absorbed within the ozone layer? If it isn’t re-emitted, does it build up?”

        In the steady state there will be a balance between the energy coming in and going out.

        But how is the steady state achieved at the level where ozone kicks in and absorbs the high energy wavelengths? What is ‘going out’ in order to achieve the equilibrium?

        “The fact is that electromagnetic energy is not heat.”

        J: Correct. When absorbed by matter the energy becomes heat.

        M: Agreed.

        “The inverse square rule means that the intensity of the electromagnetic energy we receive at system Earth is nowhere near at the intensity leaving the Sun.”

        J: True; the sun subtends a small angle in the sky. That’s why the Earth is cooler than the surface of the sun and radiates mostly in the infra-red.

        M: The inverse square rule has nothing to do with the angle of the Sun. It is a mathematical certainty derived directly from the formula for the surface area of an expanding sphere.

        “The main constituents of the atmosphere (oxygen and nitrogen) are not affected by (‘transparent’ to) incoming electromagnetic energy, including the infra red range. How are they affected by the outgoing infra red range absorbed and re-emitted by carbon dioxide?”

        J: Two mechanisms spring to mind: infra-red radiation re-radiated downwards will be absorbed and heat the earth’s surface, and collisions between excited CO2 molecules and other air molecules will share the energy. As mentioned before, this is not my field, so I don’t know which mechanism dominates. However, my blanket still keeps me warm at night.

        M: So colllisons only occur due to CO2; and the CO2 particles, subject to the inverse square rule, can heat billions of tons of substances in the air and on the surface – pull the other one. If your blanket was suspended in a column thousands of metres high, with a density of 0.04% by volume you would soon swap it for an electric one!

        M: btw Amongst the random exhibits in the link provided by Steve there is a diagram showing water vapour emitted from cooling towers with the caption that CO2 is invisible to sunlight – Goebbels would be proud!

        “Exactly as does any other substance, it obeys the second law of thermodynamics.”

        J: We can agree on this.

        M: Yep. But it totally destroys the MMGW propaganda.

  9. Firstly, I do know a bit about science – I worked in the pharmaceuticals and chemicals industry for 35 years, I have two Chemistry degrees and led a team of graduate and PhD chemists developing new chemical processes. Secondly, I have neither the time nor the patience to talk you through a science foundation course. If you are really interested in this sort of thing, you really ought to enrol on one.
    Thirdly, infra-red is a form of electromagnetic energy and when materials absorb IR energy it makes the molecules vibrate more energetically and that is what heat is.
    Lastly, if you want to know what CO2’s IR absorbtion spectrum is you can just google it:
    https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=carbon+dioxide+infrared+spectrum&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=N3VbU9O8JMPBPJqFgegB&ved=0CDAQsAQ&biw=1600&bih=751
    I don’t think this conversation is going anywhere, so this is my last word on the subject.

  10. Martin Sears says:

    Steve, that response is the standard total cop out of the people who support the concept of man made global warming. The truth is you won’t answer the points I have raised because you know you can not defend the current orthodoxy with logical argument. But hey, those of us on the receiving end of the misdirected actions of politicians and heads of state must just put up with it and not ask difficult questions. ‘Authority’ knows best. As I stated before – human nature never changes.

    You state you are highly qualified in certain aspects of ‘science’ and therefore you ‘know’ the truth about weather and the rest of us don’t.

    But you are being very economical with the truth. For instance, you have asserted that the Sun emits shortwave electromagnetic energy and the Earth emits longwave electromagnetic energy. That is not the whole truth. The Sun emits shortwave electromagnetic energy because its internal energy is sufficient to generate high energy electromagnetic wavelengths and the Earth can’t compete with that fact. But the Sun also emits electromagnetic energy across virtually the whole spectrum including the longer wavelengths. The overwhelming abundance of the energy hitting the earth is in the wavelengths above what are known as the infra red part of the ‘spectrum’.

    It is not sufficient to claim that CO2 absorbs some wavelengths (btw that does not equate to ‘trapping’ heat – your earlier statements recognise that many other substances also absorb ranges of IR – what do they do with the energy absorbed?) and that, ipso facto, it has a very significant impact on our global weather.

    A candle produces light and warmth but I prefer to use my car headlights and its heater when travelling at 70 mph on a very cold night.

    Have a good day Steve and keep dodging the CO2 molecules. btw In your career did you develop a sun tan lotion that protects you from the pesky infra red rays? No? You missed an opportunity there! Snake Oil made a fortune for those flogging it in the USA.

  11. Antony says:

    I would like to further expand on what both Steve and John have already addressed.
    I will bullet point a few items and then try to explain the main issue.
    – Current radiative transfer equations can calculate how much energy CO2 absorbs and re-radiates. However, as to the effect the main GHG, water vapour, has on the climate is still in debate because it responds to climate changes via feedback and there is not enough detailed measurements currently to adequately provide enough resolution to the climate models used.
    – The Earths surface warms the lower atmosphere by radiation, (as well as convection and latent heat transfer) and the atmosphere in turn then radiates energy in all directions, including back down to the earths surface. Therefore the earths surface is warmer than would be without this radiation.
    – Temperatures in a system can be higher than the boundary temperature without violating thermodynamic laws.

    As has already been said, both bodies, Earth and Sun emit radiation, but by the time the solar radiation from the Sun reaches the earth it has reduced its intensity by a factor of around 46,000. Radiation from the Sun is also discernable from radiation from that of the Earth. In climate science, anything lower than 4μm is from the sun, classed as shortwave radiation (SW) and energy greater than 4 μm is from the terrestrial system, classed as long wave (LW) radiation, (IR is radiation greater than 0.7 μm). We can therefore know the amount of energy that
    arrives from the sun at the top of atmosphere and at the surface
    reflects back into space by the atmosphere or the earth’s surface
    emitted by the earth

    The main gases in the atmosphere absorb the LW and re-emit the radiation all around, including back down to the surface, these are water vapour, CO2 and C4, hence the ‘greenhouse’ effect through absorption. O2 and N2 don’t absorb in the LW they are transparent to terrestrial radiation. Ozone and oxygen combine in the ozone cycle that also releases heat to the stratosphere.
    It is ironic that the smallest volumes of gas in the atmosphere are the most important in the absorption characteristics of the GHG’s but different molecules absorb at different frequencies and accross a varying range. The primary property that creates the strong “greenhouse” effect is to have a strong and wide absorption around a wavelength the earth radiates, centered at about 10μm, so the further away from the peak energy the absorption occurs, the less relevant that absorption line becomes in the earth’s energy balance. CO2 has a wide absorption band around the 15 μm, where LW is highest; water vapour is around the 6 μm, where its slightly less in LW, but there is about 10 times as much water vapour in the atmosphere compared to CO2, making it an important GHG. Methane absorbs about 20x as much as CO2 but thankfully is still only present in smaller quantities, (feedback mechanism is a different topic).
    The reason the molecules, CO2, H2O and CH4 absorb more is because they are triatomic and bend as they vibrate, so they can move into different energy states by changing shape, they can then absorb the energy from an incoming photon if its energy matches that state.

    We are of course talking very simplistically, the complex nature of the climate means we’re only discsussing the limited model of the radiative balance in the earth’s climate system and there are still more complex issues with saturation, re-emittance, tramsittance, radiative forcing, climate sensitivity etc.
    I am no expert and merely an environmental scientist but I would recommend this site for more detailed research, this page concerns CO2, but it covers many areas including the theromdynamics, (http://scienceofdoom.com/roadmap/co2/).

    As you can probably tell I am a ‘believer’, and although I do not fully understand all of the physics that underpins the science, I do not think it is mere faith I put my belief in. In order for theories to hold account, an agreed consensus needs to be achieved from the majority of experts in that field. No-one really fully understands gravity either, just the concept, but we tend to accept the predominant theory from the experts.
    Interestingly enough, a recent survey and review reported on the ‘Motivated Rejection of Science’ and showed that an endorsement of laissez-faire economics, predicted a rejection of climate science. Endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of other established science, such as the fact HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer, whereas acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with the perception of a consensus among scientists. Suggesting the disingenuous idea that climate science is a new ‘religion’ is akin to saying NASA faked the landings on the moon to ensure further funding. The atmospheric science underpinning AGW is now well known, the measurements that build the parameters in the climate models are getting better, the scientists doing this are not now wealthy because of it, even arguing that it continues their funding is irrational at this juncture. This is something that needs to happen, and even will have to happen with or without the impending potential catastrophe.

  12. Martin

    Your discussion with Steve and John is basically about the physics of atmospheric absorption. This is not what is in dispute.

    The climate system is complex. Making predictions of the effects of undisputed phenomena like the greenhouse effect is difficult and needs sophisticated models.

    My understanding is that the evidence from this modelling is strong enough to show that carbon dioxide emissions do need to be limited.

    You seem to dismiss this as some sort of conspiracy and I suspect that nothing Steve, John or I say will shift you from this view. I think we should therefore agree to differ.

    In contrast to this is your belief:

    “that it is natural for people to wish their children to be financially secure and to enjoy at least as high a standard of living as they themselves enjoyed whilst continuing to aspire to live in an evolving democracy where everyone (with no exceptions) is treated with respect and no-one is required to be deferential to those regarded as superior to others by mere accident of birth or inherited wealth.”

    Yes! then you say

    I also believe that all man made systems that are required to operate within man made laws, rules and regulations are capable of being controlled by humans (and are in any event, by definition, in reality, already controlled by humans) for the good of the populations that they serve. All such systems should be run by democratically elected people. For example, the Care Quality Commission, the NHS and Ofsted.

    Yes again!

    “But it is the national and global financial systems that are in most need of fundamental change.”

    Absolutely!

    “Given the political will these can be legally adapted to the benefit of the populations as a whole and not run as if they were real life examples of theoretical perfect markets, where everyone is a price taker and not a price maker, beyond human intervention.”

    If this is a rejection of the sort of free market philosophy of the TPT (Tea Party Tendency), again yes!

    I am therefore a bit bemused by your apparent hostility to the idea, based on evidence, that excessive inequality might be a bad thing.

    We have rather strayed from the original subject!

  13. Martin Sears says:

    Rather belatedly, the following is a reply to John Greenwood:

    J: “Your discussion with Steve and John (M: also Antony) is basically about the physics of atmospheric absorption. This is not what is in dispute.”

    M: John the discussion should not be about the absorption properties of CO2; It should be about whether CO2 is the real cause of the greatest problem facing millions of people in their everyday lives.

    The real problem is blindingly obvious. There is too much water in some places and not enough in others. Roughly one third of the Earth’s land surface is classified as desert (admittedly, Antarctica is categorised as a desert). Trying to hold the measured global average temperature to 14.5 degrees plus or minus 1 degree will not change that and in any event the self balancing nature of system Earth controls the temperature range for us.

    The reason there is still too much water in some places and not enough in others is because governments do not organise investment in the technology and processes that could minimise these problems both locally and globally. Co-operation between governments and world leaders could generate investment in shifting water and make an immediate direct positive impact on the living standards of millions of people adversely affected by water related problems. Instead of that the UN has gone off on a red herring enterprise of attempting to control global temperatures through cutting emissions of CO2.

    Concurrently with this pointless enterprise, tens of thousands of miles of crude oil and gas pipelines have been constructed with another 30,000 miles under construction and a further 90,000 miles planned. If you add in the pipelines required for local distribution the existing global figure is over 1 million miles. An identical investment in shifting water would alleviate the most pressing problem for impoverished people and allow the deserts (discounting Antarctica) to be transformed into productive areas. Instead of a one $ investment in water pipelines for every one $ investment in crude oil & gas pipelines, the world’s leaders have gone down the path of taxing (aka carbon credits) a byproduct of combustion that also mostly occurs perfectly naturally and is necessary to allow plants to thrive. The very institutions that caused the global finance crisis have been rewarded by being made the preferred intermediaries for buying and selling the carbon credits.

    As an example of the recent investment in crude oil pipelines the 1,100 mile long pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Eastern Mediterranean first discharged crude oil in May 2006 and can discharge 160,000 cubic metres of crude oil a day (If that is defined as heavy crude oil the weight shifted each day is 160,000,000 kgs). The oil flows at 2 metres per second. Water could be made to flow much faster? The pipeline cost $3.9 billion. The owners are a consortium of 11 energy companies, with BP holding 30% of the shares.The construction created 10,000 short-term jobs and the operation of the pipeline requires 1,000 long-term employees. 70% of the costs are funded by third parties, including the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, export credit agencies of seven countries and a syndicate of 15 commercial banks.

    Why are governments taxing CO2 instead of facilitating similar investments in water pipelines?

    J: The climate system is complex. Making predictions of the effects of undisputed phenomena like the greenhouse effect is difficult and needs sophisticated models.”

    M: The theory of man made global warming is not undisputed. But the Establishment and its allies (BBC et al) close down any discussion to the contrary and actively push overwhelming propaganda aimed at motivating well-intentioned people to follow the UN line. That is why we are regularly subjected to watching cuddly(!) polar bears walking on melting ice flows in the Summer months of the Arctic circle but never see, concurrently, the conditions that Emperor penguins are subjected to in Antarctica in the Winter months.The propaganda works because well-meaning people, who don’t have the opportunity of holding scientists to account, are prepared to believe that if scientists say so, it must be right. This ‘wish to believe’ led directly to the disasters of DDT, CFCs and Thalidimide: The directors of the companies that produced those products believed what they were told by their own scientists.

    Earth’s natural weather system is undoubtedly complex and chaotic, seeking always to achieve a stable equilibrium and inevitably failing miserably, with consequential very inconvenient weather at relatively ‘local’ level.

    Overall, system Earth can be regarded as a solar powered, heat engine driven, system.

    The basic short term equation for such a system is Energy Input (EI) ie the solar electromagnetic energy = Work done (energy used) by the system + Energy Unused (EU) where unused energy is either stored or re-emitted to space.

    If the work done by the system is > zero then EU < EI in the short term (unless you believe that the concept of perpetual motion engines can be a reality or that the creation of energy is actually possible). The work done by system Earth on a daily basis includes (but not limited to) the movement of billions of tons (ie macro kinetic energy) of air and water. And just how much energy is expended across the globe, by the latter, in the form of weather, on a daily basis?

    There is no such thing as climate – only weather. Climate is merely the name given to the statistical assessment of actual weather over a period of time. And there are lies, damned lies and statistics

    Regarding the statistics for temperatures, it is very difficult to obtain reliable global coverage for measuring temperatures that are continually changing, locally, throughout any 24 hour period.

    'Average' temperature is therefore a statistical calculation currently based on inadequate data, and not an actual temperature. Concurrently, the actual temperatures can range from minus 60 degrees C at the top of Everest and the coastal areas of Antarctica to plus 60 degrees in Northern parts of Africa. We are still relying on the maximum and minimum, diurnal, recordings used in an inadequate grid system. Global coverage is gradually increasing but still inadequate. Our lack of knowledge of what goes on in the southern Indian Ocean, for instance, is indicative of the inadequacy of the coverage in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Then, of course there is the issue of cloud formation. Scientists are still baffled by clouds. One thing you can be sure of: Warmer air increases moisture in the atmosphere and cooler air deceases the moisture in the atmosphere.

    We know a great deal of what happens in certain land areas of the Northern Hemisphere, notably in the cities and countryside of the UK where it is clear that urban areas get warmer and remain warmer than the surrounding, very much larger, 'un-built up' areas. That is mainly because the lumps of 'concrete' contain a massive amount of heat which is gradually lost to the atmosphere. Conversely, it is because concrete requires a lot of heat input to raise its temperature, the structure of the buildings feel very cold in winter.

    Because it is easier for temperature readings to be taken convenient to where people interested in daily temperatures actually live, there has historically been far more recordings made in the UK, for instance, than the sea water around the globe. BTW There are no such thing as 'oceans' – only global sea water – which thankfully, through evaporation and condensation, provides us with the 'fresh' water and, via global circulation, also helps to shift heat from the Equatorial area.

    The terms 'greenhouse gas' and 'greenhouse effect' are misnomers. The use of these highly inappropriate unscientific(?) phrases is done, deliberately, to present an image that misleads the public.

    Current culture is obsessed with 'image' and knowledge of basic physical laws have been thrown out the window and forgotten. Hence we now have expensive bicycles with no mud-guards that allow water and mud to be thrown straight up the back of the rider and even more expensive, 'prestigious image' concave towers of glass clad buildings in our cities that fry the pedestrians and parked cars below.

    Water vapour gains heat and loses heat. As it loses heat we get precipitation (rain, snow etc). This process is inevitable because of the temperature difference between the Equator and the Poles and at sea level compared to higher altitudes. Neither CO2 nor any other substance can stop the temperature difference from being maintained on a continual basis. The tilt of the Earth guarantees that storm events will occur at certain times of the year, and in relatively limited global locations, as the circulation of the air streams at different temperatures and different levels of humidity crash into/interfere with each other at 'random' intervals.

    IPCC AR4 (Climate Change 2007: Working Group 1: The Physical Science Basis 3.2.2 'Temperature in the Instrumental Record for Land and Oceans' contains temperature data for land air temperature trends that go back as far 1850 and up to 2005. They show that recorded temperatures were rising faster in the Northern Hemisphere land areas than any of the other areas; ie Northern Hemisphere sea water, Southern Hemisphere land areas, and Southern Hemisphere sea water. With the latter showing the smallest current temperature rate of rise per decade at around 0.09 degrees C per decade between 1979 and 2005.

    It was too easy, and fits the pre-fixed agenda of the UNEP, to say that just because a gas, CO2, can absorb a certain range of low energy infra red electromagnetic wavelengths emitted by the Earth's surface; 0.04% of the atmosphere can, ipso facto, a) trap heat and b) kick off a runaway rise in global average temperatures of the land, air and sea surface.

    It is impossible for CO2 to trap heat because i) heat always transfers from the hotter to the colder substance, irrespective of the substance. ii) Warm air (including the 0.04% as CO2) rises and its pressure and temperature decreases as its altitude increases within the troposphere ie the bit that gives us the weather; The theory of a runaway rise in global temperatures has now been abandoned by many climatologists, along with the 'Gulf Stream will Stop' nonsense. Given the self balancing nature of system Earth how was that ever deemed possible?

    Currently the average global temperature is, inadequately, measured to be approx 14.5 degrees C. The atmosphere, land and sea contain substances of total weight far greater than the CO2 in the atmosphere and therefore require far more energy to raise them through 1 degree C and maintain them at that level than does the gas CO2 at 0.04% by volume of the atmosphere.

    CO2 can't create energy and can't emit more energy than it receives. The energy emitted by the individual isolated particles of atmospheric CO2 (outnumber by 2,500 to one in every direction) is subject to the inverse square rule and its intensity diminishes rapidly as the distance from each emitting particle of CO2 increases. The relatively tiny amount of energy emitted by a cooling planet that is absorbed by the atmospheric CO2 particles, decreasing in temperature with altitude, is miniscule compared to the incoming solar energy required to heat the sea water and land on the surface of the globe in the first place.

    Convection of the atmosphere, with the bitterly cold winds off Antarctica acting as a major driving force, is what keeps the very wide range of temperatures in balance as natural forces strive but can not achieve a fully stable equilibrium. Mankind thinks it knows better and can achieve what nature fails to do. Madness.

    But just as scare stories used by religious leaders were/are precisely aimed at controlling the population by 'omnipotent authority that knows best'; so too are the scare stories of impending man made global catastrophes, caused by our 'selfish' need to keep warm and improve our standard of living. The scare stories are political, not scientific, aimed at modifying our behaviour.
    The IPCC is, first and formost, a political organisation – the clue is in the name – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    J: "My understanding is that the evidence from this modelling is strong enough to show that carbon dioxide emissions do need to be limited."

    M: Or John, is it your acceptance of the propaganda rather than actual practical 'evidence' that informs your understanding?

    J: "You seem to dismiss this as some sort of conspiracy and I suspect that nothing Steve, John or I say will shift you from this view. I think we should therefore agree to differ."

    M: Possibly, but all major decisions and judgements that affect billions of people should be revisited from time to time.

    J: "In contrast to this is your belief:

    M: “that it is natural for people to wish their children to be financially secure and to enjoy at least as high a standard of living as they themselves enjoyed whilst continuing to aspire to live in an evolving democracy where everyone (with no exceptions) is treated with respect and no-one is required to be deferential to those regarded as superior to others by mere accident of birth or inherited wealth.”

    J: Yes! then you say

    M: I also believe that all man made systems that are required to operate within man made laws, rules and regulations are capable of being controlled by humans (and are in any event, by definition, in reality, already controlled by humans) for the good of the populations that they serve. All such systems should be run by democratically elected people. For example, the Care Quality Commission, the NHS and Ofsted.

    J: Yes again!

    M: “But it is the national and global financial systems that are in most need of fundamental change.”

    J Absolutely!

    M: “Given the political will these can be legally adapted to the benefit of the populations as a whole and not run as if they were real life examples of theoretical perfect markets, where everyone is a price taker and not a price maker, beyond human intervention.”

    J: If this is a rejection of the sort of free market philosophy of the TPT (Tea Party Tendency), again yes!

    I am therefore a bit bemused by your apparent hostility to the idea, based on evidence, that excessive inequality might be a bad thing."

    M: Lack of circulation of money is a bad thing and so is exploitation and excessive global inequality. Investment in projects, such as water pipelines and processing, causes money to circulate (firstly by creating employment in necessary research and development of the processes involved, followed by the production of construction equipment and the actual construction and maintenance stages) is a necessary pre-requisite to addressing real global inequality.

    Effective regulation of the global financial system, including the banning of short selling and the limiting of casino banking where betting on price movements of financial assets is used to 'make' money rather than using money for real investment, will create an environment where the incidence of excessive, undeserved, inequality is minimised.

    Real investment, whether funded by borrowing from individuals or by increases in governmental debt, is not stealing from future generations. Rather the reverse is true. Financial bubbles, where assets are priced way above what their current and future earnings can realistically justify effectively steal from future generations when the inevitable crash occurs.

  14. Martin:
    Water
    You are right when you say that “There is too much water in some places and not enough in others” Simple problem, but not an easy solution. I think a reality check is needed into the actual amounts of water involved. The volume of water for urban use is much larger per head than oil. The Victorian pipeline supplying Leicester area is being replaced in one section by two pipes nearly 1 m in diameter. I think an oil pipeline supplying a whole continent, very roughly 100 times as many people, would be smaller than this. Supplying the south of England from Scotland has been under consideration for some time and would require a river sized channel. Most cities around the world do have a water supply. However in many cases this is inadequate in quality and quantity. Improving these supplies would be a feasible major civil engineering project.

    I think the amounts of water needed for agriculture are very much larger. There will be major obstacles to moving water significant distances and an absence of adequate sources.

    There is a whole field of water management, industry, academia, charities, political etc. with people that have done the sums and worked out the potential costs and benefits of many schemes. Armchair solutions are a bit pointless, but I would agree that we could and should do better.

    Climate change
    I repeat: you dismiss climate change as some sort of conspiracy and I suspect that nothing anyone can say will shift you from this view. We should agree to differ.

    Economics
    You seem to agree that:
    exploitation and excessive global inequality are a bad thing and we need:
    – Investment in projects, such as water pipelines and processing.
    – Effective regulation of the global financial system, including the banning of short selling and the limiting of casino banking.
    – Real investment and not Financial bubbles.

    Clearly we need better, more democratic, governance of the global financial system, The question is how and what.

    • Martin Sears says:

      Firstly, John, thank you for your response.

      My reply is as follows:

      J: Water. You are right when you say that “There is too much water in some places and not enough in others” Simple problem, but not an easy solution.

      M: The problems relating to water are complex. But we do currently have a range of technologies and the civil engineering expertise to resolve the problem on a global scale. As an example of what can be done to resolve water shortage problems near to home, you may like to access the guardian.com article dated Tuesday 23rd May 2006 by Matt Weaver: Q & A ‘Desalination plants. Thames Water at the time wanted to develop a desalination plant using the ebb tide to supply London with 140 million litres a day; enough for 400,000 homes. It could have been achieving that by 2009. The plan was blocked at the time by ‘environmentalists’ who ‘knew’ better, led by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone because the plant would produce CO2 which, the ‘experts’ claimed would actually lead to – more water shortages! Good one Ken. What was the problem confronting many southerners this Winter exactly? Water up to their necks – what was blamed by the environmentalists? Man made CO2! You couldn’t make it up. Oh, hang on a minute, they did!

      J: I think a reality check is needed into the actual amounts of water involved. The volume of water for urban use is much larger per head than oil. The Victorian pipeline supplying Leicester area is being replaced in one section by two pipes nearly 1 m in diameter. I think an oil pipeline supplying a whole continent, very roughly 100 times as many people, would be smaller than this.

      M: I was not suggesting that one pipeline would be sufficient for a whole continent. My suggestion was that for every $ invested in researching, constructing and maintaining oil and gas pipelines one $ should also be invested in researching, building and maintaining water pipelines where needed. The 1,100 mile crude oil pipeline that I referred to has a diameter of 42 inches for most of its length, reducing to 34.1 inches as it nears the eastern Mediterranean. The technology required to shift crude oil is not identical to that required for shifting water. I would suggest shifting water is considerably less problematic. Currently there are over 100,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines either under construction or planned. It is only the lack of political will that prevents similar investment in shifting water. That political will and the allocated resources are concentrating on limiting CO2 emissions. But hey, why get involved in construction projects where people can be held to account if they fail to deliver, when you can have thousands of people gadding about the world comparing notes on a theory for which none of them will ever be held accountable?

      J: Supplying the south of England from Scotland has been under consideration for some time and would require a river sized channel.

      M: Why shift water from Scotland to London and the South when there is effectively an infinite supply of water nearby? We call it the North Sea.

      J: Most cities around the world do have a water supply. However in many cases this is inadequate in quality and quantity. Improving these supplies would be a feasible major civil engineering project.

      M: Beijin, for example, on average, has severe water shortages. If you are not already familiar with what the Chinese are doing to alleviate their water problems, access The New York Times article dated 15 April 2014 by Edward Wong: ‘Desalination Plant said to be Planned for Thirsty Beijin.’ The article also cites the massive South – North Water Diversion Project. That project alone is aimed at shifting six trillion gallons of water each year. The Norwegians are collaborating with the Chinese on that particular project.

      J: I think the amounts of water needed for agriculture are very much larger. There will be major obstacles to moving water significant distances and an absence of adequate sources.

      M: I have supported the charity undertaking ongoing Sand Dam projects in Africa and they have achieved greater productivity in agricultural output at a very local level. There are always challenges in any major civil engineering projects but civil engineering professionals are up to those challenges. As for sources being inadequate. John, over 70% of the surface of the globe is made up of reasonably conveniently placed water.

      J: There is a whole field of water management, industry, academia, charities, political etc. with people that have done the sums and worked out the potential costs and benefits of many schemes. Armchair solutions are a bit pointless but I agree that we could and should do better.

      M: I don’t think you can classify the Chinese civil engineering projects ‘armchair solutions’. They are already doing better.

      J: Climate change
      I repeat: you dismiss climate change as some sort of conspiracy and I suspect that nothing anyone can say will shift you from this view. We should agree to differ.

      M: I don’t dismiss it as a conspiracy. There is no such thing as ‘climate’. Weather changes with the seasons – always has – always will. The ‘logic’ of man made global warming is unraveling and the ‘experts’ change their story to fit the latest turn in the weather. The governments have listened to nonsensical ‘solutions’ from people who should be confined to their armchairs

      J: Economics
      You seem to agree that:
      exploitation and excessive global inequality are a bad thing and we need:
      – Investment in projects, such as water pipelines and processing.
      – Effective regulation of the global financial system, including the banning of short selling and the limiting of casino banking.
      – Real investment and not Financial bubbles.

      Clearly we need better, more democratic, governance of the global financial system, The question is how and what.

      M: The longest journey starts with the first step. Barclays Bank has today taken the first step because of the changes in financial services regulations. It is sad for the highly paid directors and traders who use other people’s money to gamble on short run variations in the prices of financial assets to make personal fortunes, and now face redundancy, but if this means the start of real investment in beneficial projects rather than trying to make money out of money, it is a price worth paying.

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