I was a bit surprised this morning to learn that
An asteroid as big as five football fields is set to narrowly pass by Earth tonight — and should be visible as it scraped by.
The rock, which has been named 2004 BL86, will be the nearest any asteroid will get to us until 2027.
It will come closest to us at 4.19pm GMT, but should be visible into the evening.
My first thought was that it was so overcast here in Britain that there was no chance me seeing it. My second thought was to wheel out my home-built orbital simulation model, and get hold of the state vectors (position, velocity) of BL86 from NASA, and check out just how close it was going to come. Half an hour later, I’d found that its closest approach was going to be 1,199,582.5 km from the Earth on 26 Jan 2015 at 16:21 UT/GMT. Since the mean distance from Earth to Moon is 384,400 km, that’s a bit over 3 times the distance of the Moon. They were right about the date and time, but in my book it’s an exaggeration to call that “narrowly passing”, or “scraping by”.
Why Climate-Science Denialism Should Disqualify Anyone From Holding Office
which attacks US senator and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee James Inhofe:
This is his [Inhofe’s] stated belief: It is not even possible for human activity to contribute to climate change. It is arrogant to think so.
It is hard to imagine how such a bizarre conclusion could survive even a mind as primitive as Inhofe’s. To believe that human activity contributes to climate change, you need to believe two things. One, that certain gases trap higher levels of heat than other gases. Second, that burning fuel containing those heat-trapping gases releases them into the atmosphere. Which one of those beliefs is arrogant?
Policies to ‘stop climate change’ are based on climate models that completely failed to predict the lack of warming for the past two decades. Observational data show clearly that the predictions of unacceptable warming by more carbon dioxide are wrong. Economic discount rates aside, policies designed to save the planet from more carbon dioxide are based on failed computer models.
Now I wish I had a climate computer simulation model like my orbital simulation model. In fact, I wish I had a climate simulation model running inside my orbital simulation model, which already includes a tilted, spinning, 3D-mapped Earth. Since I always know where the Sun is, I could calculate the power of the incident solar radiation at any point on the Earth’s surface, minute by minute, day by day, and calculate how the Earth’s surface and atmosphere warmed and cooled throughout the day. It’s the sort of thing I used to do when I was a university research assistant.
But I don’t have any such model. I’ve tried several times to build one. But every time I’ve ended up walking away baffled. Because I don’t know how to simulate clouds and cloud formation, and I don’t know how to simulate convection currents and winds, and I don’t really know how to simulate carbon dioxide absorption and emission.
And above all, I don’t know how to tell when my model is working right. With an orbital simulation model, if your Earth goes round the Sun in about 365.25 days, it’s working pretty well. How do you tell if your climate model is working well?
And what that means is that I can’t do with climate claims what I did today with the prediction about asteroid 2004 BL86. I can’t sprinkle some carbon dioxide on my climate model and see what happens.
So I’ve got no way of telling whether Jonathan Chait in the New York magazine (and a whole bunch of climate scientists like James Hansen and Michael Mann) is right, or James Inhofe and William Happer. You either believe one side, or you believe the other. And whether you believe them may well boil down to whether you like the suits they wear, or their hairstyles, or the number of letters they’ve got after their names.
And nobody else has got any way of independently checking the rival claims these people are making. Because they haven’t got their own climate models either.
So I really don’t know how anybody can form a scientific opinion about global warming, one way or other, if they haven’t got their own way of checking. But if you’re the kind of person who believes what “experts” tell you, then you’ll probably follow Jonathan Chait. And I’m not inclined to believe everything that “experts” tell me. But when William Happer tells me that climate alarmism is based upon “failed computer models”, I can readily believe him. Because I’ve written a whole bunch of failed computer climate models myself, as I’ve just explained. In fact, I could even claim to have considerable expertise in writing failed computer climate simulation models. And I suspect that climate scientists’ computer models aren’t very much better than mine. After all, they don’t work either.
Interestingly, Jonathan Chait explains his own personal climate model when he writes:
One, that certain gases trap higher levels of heat than other gases. Second, that burning fuel containing those heat-trapping gases releases them into the atmosphere.
Now when something is “trapped”, it can’t get out. So he’s got a model of the atmosphere which has got all these gases with heat “trapped” inside them. And presumably higher levels of trapped heat manifest themselves as higher temperatures.
And he’s also got fuel that contains these gases, and which releases them into the atmosphere when burned.
So it’s very easy to see how his climate model works. When you burn fuels, you release more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, and as they trap heat they get hotter. And, voilà, you’ve got global warming. In fact you’ve got runaway global warming, because the atmosphere just gets hotter and hotter and hotter, as more and more heat gets trapped in it.
If I used the same model as Chait, I’d be really, really worried about global warming. I’d be a thoroughgoing alarmist. I’d probably be out campaigning every day.
But he’s using the wrong model. Firstly, trivially, fuels don’t contain heat-trapping gases. They release them when they combine with oxygen in the air during combustion. And secondly, gases don’t trap heat. They absorb heat, but they can also emit heat. The “trapped” heat gradually leaks away, just like when a hot cup of coffee loses heat and cools.
Or, not to be unkind to him, he’s got an incomplete model of how heat behaves. Or an over-simple model. And maybe it’s precisely because he’s using an over-simple model of the atmosphere that he can’t understand why, unlike him, the “primitive” or “deranged” mind of James Inhofe can’t grasp the terrible danger posed by global warming. It’s a matter of simple addition:
If a candidate for a managerial job at your office insists that two plus three equals seven, it wouldn’t matter how well-qualified this candidate may be at any other aspect of the job.
All those heat-trapping gases pumped into the atmosphere add up.
And on the basis of this simplistic model, he’s calling for a Republican climate sceptic senator to be disqualified from office. That’s his goal. And it’s a political goal.
In the 500+ comments under the article, I came across a video, with someone called Art Robinson explaining that the political struggle underlying the climate debate in America is “a battle to save our constitutional republic”. And I think he’s right.