Trusting Science: Oh Yeah, THIS Plan Sounds Promising…

Remember “Snowpiercer”? It was a nearly unwatchably grim movie about a climate change solution that goes horribly wrong, reducing the Earth to a frozen, deadly wasteland populated only by the passengers of a single train doomed to circle the globe forever. It became a cable series on TNT for three years because anything can become a cable series for three years now.

Well, now in an example of real life threatening to imitate bad fiction, Wake Smith, who teaches “a world-leading undergraduate course on climate intervention” and is a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School specializing in “solar geoengineering” has written a paper, published this week, that lays out his plan to have jets flying at high altitude  inject microscopic sulfur dioxide particles into the atmosphere above the North and South Poles. This, see, will reflect sunlight back into space and slightly shade the surface below, retarding the warming of the poles that threaten to extinguish all life, or so the current government of the United States seems to believe. The scheme would be extremely expensive, require international cooperation, and even at best would only “buy some time” until a better and more lasting solution could be developed.

Or it might doom the world to a frozen apocalypse. As the old saying goes, “Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice.” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Electric Cars And The Following The Science” Lie

Come to Ethics Alarms for the mile-wide and inch deep reflections of the ethicist, stay for the enhancement, perspective and enlightening analysis by the readers who know what they are writing about.

Sarah B.’s superb Comment of the Day needs no more introduction, and besides, don’t read me on this topic when you should be reading her.

Here is her COTD on the post,”Electric Cars And The “Following The Science” Lie.”

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First, anyone who says “follow the science” has forgotten what science means. Science is a process that states a method for determining the most likely reason for something. Science requires us to observe a phenomenon, hypothesize about the phenomenon, posit a fair test of the hypothesis, complete the test several times with the same inputs, and compare the results of the tests with the observed phenomenon. The better correlated the test with reality, the better the hypothesis and the more likely it is to be true. Conversely, if you cannot replicate your test or your test or your test does not correlate well with reality, it is either time to scrap the test or the hypothesis.

Anthropogenic climate change is not science by the centuries old definition. The tests are mostly unable to be replicated, and the results have been proven false, time and again. To follow the science, it is time to scrap that hypothesis and move on.

Second, I was amazed to see such low requirements for electric cars to validate their “green” existence. Most studies I have read on this subject put the threshold far closer to 100,000 miles before even coming close. The best I have seen before this one puts us nearer to 75,000 miles than 25,000 miles.

Third, this study only deals with the formulation of the battery. If one considers where we are getting the energy, and as other commenters have noted, solar and wind are not nearly so clean as you would like to think. Heck, think of all the chemicals that need to go into making those panels, even though they cannot give us power 24/7/365 like burning fossil fuels. Life cycle analyses on electric cars, considering batteries, electricity, grid concerns, etc tend to push them to obscene mileage, well above expected battery life. In this instance, they are not unlike windmills, with an expected 30 year life and a 37-52 year payback period, sans government intervention.

Fourth, no one bothers, when discussing electric vehicle, to discuss the basic laws of thermodynamics. These laws are just like the laws of gravity, not caring whether or not you like them. They don’t care what is fair. They don’t care what is socially acceptable. They don’t care if they inconvenience some more than others, because if you are too stupid to get on the wrong side of these laws, you will pay the price. So, thermodynamics state that whenever one transforms matter to energy, or energy to another type of energy, or energy to matter, that there will be a loss in total energy. To take a simple example, we get most electricity by burning coal. The rock is in the ground. We have to spend energy to get it out of the ground and pulverized. Now we’ll start into some of the math. Coal is burned. The gas is used to make steam, the steam is used to turn a turbine that makes electricity. The gas is cleaned. This process has a maximum theoretical efficiency of around 45%. Most of the power plants run at about 33% because theoretical efficiency is not anywhere close to real world possiblity. So for every 100 units of energy the coal gives off, you get 33%.

Let’s now get some minor math happening for electric cars. I’m going to skip the big equations and use easily available numbers from reputable sites. For this exercise, we are going to assume that preparing coal for electric generation uses the same amount of energy as preparing gasoline for car consumption, as gasoline and coal are equivalent primary sources, but electricity is not a primary energy source unless you are hooking up your power lines to silk kites. Now, a car that gets gasoline loses 64-75% on inefficiencies and powering auxiliaries. So a car that was given 100 units of power from gasoline gets 25 units of power when all is said and done, with the WORST assumptions on gasoline cars. Continue reading

Electric Cars And The “Following The Science” Lie

Policy-makers often use science, or perhaps more accurately “science” as dishonest justification for the policies they want to inflict for ideological motives. Climate change is perhaps the most glaring example, though the handling of the Wuhan virus runs a close second. Most government experts allow their political biases to slant their application of science in their advice and recommendations, and few elected officials comprehend science and relevant research sufficiently to make competent policy consistent with the nuances of the scientific matters involved.

Let’s look at electric vehicles, for example, which are currently being encouraged by tax credits.

Ashley Nunes, Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program fellow, has pointed out that a gas guzzler may, in some circumstance, actually be better for the environment than an electric vehicle. When did you hear anyone in the Biden administration admit that?

Nunes found that many owners of electric vehicles (EVs for short), usually wealthy Americans who take advantage of  federal tax credits to purchase one as a second car, are harming the environmental because they aren’t driving enough.

Manufacturers of electric cars need lithium, and finding and mining lithium  takes a lot of energy, with more still required to make a functional car battery out of it. Creating a clean-burning EV battery creates twice as much greenhouse gases as making an internal combustion engine.
Because, as Nunes explains, “an electric car is almost always cleaner to drive per mile compared to a gasoline-powered one, you can burn off the emissions associated with manufacturing the car.” Still, it takes 28,069 miles of driving, or about 2.73 years, for the EV to overcome its initial polluting disadvantage to gain a “green lead” on a gas-powered car with its low per-mile emissions. Paradoxically, you need to get people to drive more in order to get an emissions advantage…and all of the climate change propaganda is aimed at getting Americans to drive less. And since EV purchasers tend to be wealthier people who use them as a second cars, it takes about a decade for the electric cars to produce any emissions benefit. How many wealthy household hold on to a car of any kind for ten years?

Thus, Nunes has concluded, some people are “better off driving a gas-powered car if they care about the environment.” EV owners tend to sell the vehicle before it’s reached the green break-even point in miles. 

But wait—there’s more.  Nunes’  research indicates that people who own both gas  and electric-powered vehicles choose to drive the gas-powered one most of the time. It is the  people who buy EVs secondhand, the poorer households that drive them for many miles and years as their primary vehicle, who achieve  the emissions reductions that electric vehicles are supposed to provide. But government subsidies miss this group entirely! The federal government tax credit of up to $7,500 only accrues to those who purchase new electric vehicles. Even with some states like California offering additional rebates on top of that, new electric vehicles often cost more than the average American earns in a year.

“If you’re a poor American and all you can afford is a $10,000 car, this rebate isn’t going to matter to you,” Nunes concludes. “And by and large, we find that, guess what, the person buying a $120,000 [electric vehicle] would have still gone out and bought the car without a $7,500 subsidy.” 

Policymakers’ EV hype is self-defeating, and doesn’t “follow the science,” because the politicians have a shallow understanding, to the extent that they have any at all, of al the relevant factors. 

The policies are wasteful and ineffective, no matter how smug and certain the climate-change scolds are about them. The electrical car advocates are assuming expertise and scientific justifications they simply don’t have.

It’s incompetence seasoned with dishonesty, abusing science rather than using it properly.

Last-Ditch Ethics Catch-Up, 8/1/2022: Strange Questions And Answers

This was a strange day that kept me out of the office and Ethics Alarms from morn til dusk. Sorry: couldn’t be helped. It will stand in my memory as the day I was asked, in an official appearance as an ethicist in a bar deliberation over the fitness of a young man to be allowed into the august profession of “lawyer,” this question: “Do you believe character should be taught in law school?”

It might be the most bizarre question I have been asked by anyone over the age of 9 in my life. “Character” isn’t a subject or even a definable feature. If someone hasn’t developed character by the age of 21, I cannot imagine how a law school would teach it.

1. Quickly approaching “Julie Principle” territory is The Nation’s Elie Mystal, who has a long dossier at Ethics Alarms from the days before his mind snapped like a dry twig in the wind, leaving him a perpetually furious, racist, hatemongering fool. Yet that’s good enough for MSNBC, which would feature a drooling lunatic in a straitjacket if he or she spouted sufficiently venomous insults about Republicans (and Donald Trump, of course).

Here’s what poor, mad Elie said on MSNBC today:

“It’s going to be a close election in Georgia because Walker has the backing of the Republicans. You ask why are Republicans backing this man who’s so clearly unintelligent, who so clearly doesn’t have independent thoughts, but that’s actually the reason. Walker is going do what he’s told, and that is what Republicans like. That’s what Republicans want from their Negroes: to do what they were told. And Walker presents exactly as a person who lacks independent thoughts, lacks an independent agenda, lacks an independent ability to grasp policies, and he’s just going to go in there and vote like Mitch McConnell tells them to vote.”

I am definitely not a Walker fan, but the denigrating “Negro” slur should have been flagged and reprimanded by the MSNBC host, except that it was Tiffany Cross, who is almost a female version of Elie. Moreover, it is hilarious for a Democrat to mock any Republican for “doing what he is told,” when the current Democrats in the House and Senate have voted in lockstep with their leaders’ demands almost without exception.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2022: Twitter Wars And More

But first, a cheerful song, because it’s all downhill from here…

Speaking of music, some opening notes are in order:

  • Yesterday was the anniversary of the much-heralded Scopes “Monkey Trial,” a 1925 ethics train wreck that I wrote about extensively last year, here and here.
  • Today, July 11, marks two of the most vivid examples of how random chance changes everything—history, culture, values, traditions– in ways that cannot be imagined. The first was the foolish duel in 1804 between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr that resulted in Hamilton’s premature death (but ultimately in a boffo Broadway musical!). The second was Count Claus von Stauffenberg’s close-but-no-cigar assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler in 1944.
  • Nearer to the present, the apparent collapse of Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is disappointing, because it would make reporting on various Twitter-Twiggered ethics issues a lot easier if I could start an account again in good conscience, as I was prepared to do once the service got out from under the clutches of its current censorious and progressive-biased masters.
  • I also haven’t felt like participating in Facebook of late, as the Woke Hysteria among my once rational friends there over the recent SCOTUS decisions is too great a temptation–as in “target”— for me. Right now they just want an echo chamber to scream in, and that’s what they have. Someone somewhere on the web opined yesterday that late night talk shows,  “Saturday Night Live” and its ilk were no longer primarily about comedy, but rather therapy sessions for angry and depressed progressives and Democrats, with the shows using mockery and insults to reaffirm their convictions about “the others”—those dumb, evil, racist conservatives. I think that may be a perceptive analysis. “Saturday Night Live” is a particularly vivid example: the show that once reveled in portraying Gerald Ford as a bumbling klutz and George W. Bush as an outright moron week after week while they were in the White House now hesitates to exploit the comedy gold represented by Biden’s misadventures and Kamala Harris in general. It proves that SNL is more interested in hanging out with the cool kids than actually being funny—which is supposedly its mission. This is a conflict of interest, and the producer and writers aren’t even attempting to resolve it ethically.

1. Twitter Wars #1: @Ka1zoku_Qu0d, an idiot of the sort that literally clogs Twitter, posted this: “Hold on I want to make sure I say this carefully. Yeah Anne Frank had white privilege. Bad things happen to people with white privilege also but don’t tell the whites that.” This caused so much static on the platform that “Anne Frank” ended up “trending.” Continue reading

Pre-Independence Day Ethics Warm-Up, July 3, 2022: What Might Have Been [Broken Link Fixed]

Typically, Ethics Alarms has highlighted July 3 with reflections on the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, for which the 3rd was the dramatic last and decisive day. I know it must be hard to believe, but I do get tired of writing the same things over and over again, an occupational hazard of being an ethicist during a mass ethics breakdown in our democracy and among the increasingly corrupt people we have put in power to protect it. I still can’t ignore Pickett’s futile charge and Custer’s charge as well, so I direct you to last year’s post on both events and their ethics implications.

However, this year I am introducing the July 3 warm-up with another crucial anniversary, one that may have had even more impact on the history of the United States, its prospects and its values than Gettysburg. July 2, 1776 is when the Continental Congress finally agreed to take the leap and forge a new nation (John Adams thought the 2nd would be the day we celebrated) and July 4, 1776 was the date the document was signed. But in-between those more noted dates the Continental Congress began debating and editing Jefferson’s draft Declaration, eventually making 86 edits that cut the length by about a fourth. 

Because the Declaration of Independence is the mission statement of America, framing and sometimes compelling what followed, especially the Constitution, the editing decisions of July 3, 1776 affected our laws and culture in many ways that are unimaginable after more than 200 years. You can read the original here. It is this deleted paragraph, however, that most inspires reflections on what might have been (and what might not):

“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”

Now on to the present day’s ethics concerns...

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More Strange Tales Of The Great Stupid: Attack On The Mona Lisa

Silly me. I thought actor James Cromwell (“Babe,” “The Queen”) super-gluing himself to a Starbucks counter to protest the high price of vegan milk was the dumbest protest I had heard about in years, and it turns out that it wasn’t even the dumbest protest this month.

At the Louvre last night, a man disguised as a handicapped woman was rolling past Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” in a wheelchair when he leapt to his feet and threw a custard pie at the painting. Why? Can’t you guess? He attacked the lady with the ambiguous smile to protest climate change, of course!

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Unethical—And Ignorant!—Quote Of The Month: The Washington Post

“The air in humid, hotter environments contains more water, which can condense onto the virus particles, make them bigger and theoretically fall to the ground faster. Wu compares the particles to a rock in this case — the more mass, the faster it falls.”

—-Washington Post Reporter Kasha Patel, forgetting about Galileo and gravity in an alleged science article headlined,  “Covid-19 may have seasons for different temperature zones, study suggests.”

Her editors also seem to have missed 6th grade science. In truth, I believe I learned about Galileo’s experiment with the Leaning Tower of Pisa before the sixth grade, after Santa left a children’s book about “great moments in science” in my sister’s stocking. We shared it, and it ended up with me: it’s around the house somewhere. I think about the book every time I end up on Walter Reed Drive in Arlington, which is often. His story is also in it; I wish I could think of the title.

The full quote is… Continue reading

Ethics Workout, “Get In Ethics Shape For 2022 Edition,” 12/27/21: No Pain, No Gain!

1. On second thought, who needs work? The United States has been a nation that embraced work as a value and a mark of character as no other. Naturally, this core value has been under assault from the Left as part of its cultural overhaul strategy. The pandemic created an opining that has been brilliantly exploited politically, leading to a large part of the work force now unwilling to work. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, the biggest bloc of liberal lawmakers in Congress, has endorsed a bill proposed by Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., which would seek to implement a four-day workweek. Americans work far more than people in most other affluent countries, and we also produce more without using, as some countries do that I might mention, slave labor. But the work ethic is weakening.

The anti-work ethic is the goal on one of Reddit’s fastest growing sites — r/antiwork. The subreddit is “for those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, [and] want to get the most out of a work-free life.” It is up to 1.4 million members, ranking among the top subscribed-to subreddits.

Members discuss tactics workers can use to slack off, cheat, sabotage, and steal from their employers. You would learn there, for example, that April 15th is “Steal Something From Work Day.” [Pointer and source: Linking and Thinking on Education]

2. Observations on the Gallup Poll on public approval of Federal leaders (You can find the poll here).

  • Yes, I know, polls. But Gallup is straighter than most, and while the specific numbers should be ignored, the relative values are interesting.
  • The big finding, and what has been attracting all the headlines, is that Chief Justice John Roberts is way ahead of anyone else on the list, with a bipartisan 60-40 favorability split. This undercuts the pro-abortion strategy of warning that the Supreme Court can’t afford to make its decision on Roe v. Wade cases without considering the potential harm to the Court’s legitimacy. The Court seems to have the most trust of any of the branches, which means that it can (and should) be courageous if legal principles require.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is second. How many Americans know who he is or what he does? 20%? Less? What is it they approve of?
  • Dr. Fauci is third at 52% approval, which shows you can fool a lot of the people all of the time.
  • Mitch McConnell is dead last, even behind Nancy Pelosi. Good.

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Democratic Party Trump Derangement Actually Does Some Good, Including A Tacit Confession

Trump Derangement

The House last week passed the so-called “Protecting Our Democracy Act” by a near strict party-line margin of 220 to 208. The bill seeks to impose new limits on Presidential power, many of which bi-partisan critics of “the Imperial Presidency” have advocated in the past (including me). Amazingly for anything coming out of the House of Pelosi, it’s a mostly good and reasonable bill….but there’s a catch.

“Disturbingly, the last administration saw our democracy in crisis with a rogue president who trampled over the guardrails protecting our Republic,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, framing the proposed law as one more partisan slap at the previous President. “Now, Congress has the solemn responsibility and opportunity to safeguard our democracy, ensuring that past abuses can never be perpetrated by any president of any party.”

Uh, but laws are the “guardrails of democracy,” not “norms,” which are merely what most Presidents have done but didn’t have to. The “norms” trope was one of the most transparently false of the Democratic Party phony Big Lies, and frankly I’m sick of explaining why. Here was one exposition on the topic (Big Lie #6), in which I quoted an earlier EA discussion of the topic:

This deliberately misleading talking point comes from the quieter Siamese Twin of Fake News, Fake History. Every President defies previous norms, or makes up new ones, and the stronger the Presidents involved are, the more norms they shatter. This doesn’t automatically threaten democracy…What threatens democracy is efforts to de-legitimize presidential power as an alternative to winning elections…

The bill passed by the Democrats includes,

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