Scientific American Sokalized

By Howard “Cork” Hayden,

A few years ago, I learned of an article by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi in the November 2009 issue of Scientific American called “A Path to Sustainable Energy.” My first impression was, “These guys must be joking.” My second impression was, “Yes, they are joking, and the joke is on Scientific American.” Jacobson and Delucchi wrote a spoof to show what tomfoolery can be published in Scientific American, rather like Alan Sokal’s spoof of post-modernist jargon in Social Text. They did manage to squeeze in some calculations that detail what is really involved in a carbon-free economy, but avoided all precautionary words, lest the editors reject the manuscript. It’s a laugh a minute.

The authors have humorously gone way beyond Al Gore’s challenge to “to repower America with 100 percent carbon-free electricity within 10 years.” They have a plan “to determine how 100 percent of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar [WWS] resources, by as early as 2030.”

I suppose that if the authors had suggested power lines directly from wind farms to C-5A air transport planes, the editors of Scientific American would have caught on, but the ever-practical Jacobson (civil engineering professor at Stanford) and Delucchi (transportation expert at the University of California-Davis) used a more subtle approach.

For example, their analysis concluded that nuclear power was a poorer option than wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and hydroelectric power because some CO2 is produced when the plant is built and when the fuel is refined. Just think of all the CO2 released when they make concrete for the containment building. J&D correctly surmised that the editors wouldn’t think of the hundreds of times more concrete would be used in the bases for the wind towers required to replace a nuclear reactor. Ditto for the steel.

On that topic, there is a lot of CO2 released when uranium is refined; gosh, that electricity comes from coal-fired power plants. It would never occur to the Scientific American editors that the electricity could come from nukes instead, so Jacobson and Delucchi (J&D) could slip that right under their noses without fear that the editors would detect the spoof.

I have no idea how J&D got one patently absurd thought past the Scientific American editors, but it must have worried them that the spoof would be discovered. A J&D chart with some colored dots to represent coal, wind, and PV showed that coal plants are down on average for 46 days a year, whereas wind and photovoltaics only have 7 days of downtime. (If only the wind would blow, our turbines will work!) They say,

The average U.S. coal plant is offline 12.5 percent of the year for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. Modern wind turbines have a down time of less than 2 percent on land and less than 5 percent at sea. Photovoltaic systems are also at less than 2 percent.

A savvy editor would ask how much uptime they have. As a matter of fact, a savvy editor would know that the annual capacity factor of a coal plant is well over twice that of wind and 4-to-5 times that of PV. But that only shows that J&D are excellent spoofers, who recognize the gullibility of the Scientific American editors.

The spoof continues. Their mix of sources contains 1.7 billion rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, each of 3 kilowatts. They note that less than 1% of these are in place. True enough. If they were serious, they would have used a much smaller number. “Less than 1%” covers a lot of territory. Less than 1% of all men are 2.0155 meters tall with one green eye and one brown eye, yellow hair, a gray beard, a broken ankle, and only their four wisdom teeth in their mouths.

Let’s see. The world population is 6.7 billion. Likely, there are 5 people per household, making about 1.3 billion homes, some of which are single-family homes with good sunlight. (The US and Europe have anomalously low family size.) So, precisely where might these 1.7 billion sun-baked rooftops with southern exposure come from? J&G slipped another one past the number-challenged editors.

Perhaps the strongest clue that J&D wrote a spoof is that the hallmark of good engineering is overweening practicality. Given their fantastic credentials in California universities, one would expect an article by the authors to be intellectually brilliant, solidly analytical, and exquisitely practical. As their Scientific American article is none of the above, it was obviously intended to show that you can publish anything in Scientific American so long as it is fashionable nonsense.

So taken were Scientific American’s editors by the erudition[1] of the J&D article that they use the headline: “Wind, water, and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels.” J&D must have told the editors that their calculator said so.[2] If you know what they’re doing, these guys are funny!

It is extremely easy to solve problems if there are no constraints. A good example is in an ancient joke. “How do you get four elephants into a VW?” “Easy. Two in the front, two in the back.”

J&D joke: “How do you get all of the world’s energy from wind, water and solar?” “Easy. 490,000 tidal turbines, 5,350 geothermal plants, 900 hydroelectric plants, 3,800,000 5-MW wind turbines, 720,000 wave converters, 1,700,000,000 3-kW rooftop solar PV systems, 49,000 concentrated solar power plants, and 40,000 300-MW solar PV power plants.”

In a later Stanford publication [1], Jacobson and Cristina Archer (Associate Professor at the University of Delaware) wrote, “Thus, there is no fundamental barrier to obtaining half (approximately 5.75 TW) or several times the world’s all-purpose power from wind in a 2030 clean-energy economy.” [Emphasis added]

Evidently Andrew Myers [2], who is evidently a publicist for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, is just as gullible as the scribblers at Scientific American. He writes [2], “Adapting a sophisticated climate model, researchers show that there is plenty of wind available to supply half to several times the world’s total energy needs within the next two decades. “

To my knowledge, nobody has ever supposed that there was a shortage of wind energy. The problem has always been one of delivering steady power at a reasonable cost. Rather than help, wind makes the grid unstable when it supplies more than about 10% of the power on the grid at any moment.

Oh, and the wind can be weak over long periods of time. Scott MacNab writes in The Scotsman [3],

Electricity from wind power almost halved from 2,461 GW to 1,390 GW over the first two quarters of the year and was down more than 250 GWh year on year.

[1] From Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary…”Erudition: Dust shaken from a book into an empty skull.”

[2] It is not uncommon for students in elementary physics or chemistry classes to calculate the mass of a sodium atom and get something like 15.229387543821 kilograms, a quantity ridiculous for its size and its unwarranted precision. The usual defense is, “But that’s what my calculator said!”

In other words, for a full six months, Scottish wind power was down by half because the wind refused to blow on schedule. Oh, but that doesn’t matter, because the wind was probably pretty strong in the stratosphere or somewhere.

Robert Bryce, writing in The National Review [4], points out something that was unknown to me: Jacobson and Delucci published essentially the same stuff in the Proceedings of the National Academies:

The paper, which claimed to offer “a low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem” with 100 percent renewables, went on to win the Cozzarelli Prize, an annual award handed out by the National Academy. A Stanford website said that Jacobson’s paper was one of six chosen by “the editorial board of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from the more than 3,000 research articles published in the journal in 2015.”

Perhaps Jacobson and Delucci meant to illustrate the low standards of the National Academies. In any case, Christopher Clack and 20 colleagues missed the humor, and took the intrepid Stanford scholars seriously enough to write a scathing rebuttal [5], and they published it in the very same Proceedings as the J&D paper.

Richard Heinberg of [6] didn’t get the message that Jacobson writes Sokal-like spoofs. He has taken note of the recent Clack et al paper in National Academies Press and claimed that before too long, we could get 100% of our energy from renewable sources. He and David Fridley, staff scientist in the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, write “A further challenge is that solar and wind yield electricity, but 80 percent of final energy is currently used in other forms—mostly as liquid and gaseous fuels.” So far, so good.

Heinberg goes on to say [6],

If, instead, the United States were to aim for an energy system, say, a tenth the size of its current one, then the transition would be far easier to fund and design. [Emphasis added]

As a matter of fact, we use about 10,000 times as much energy as did our ancestors of 1700, and a mere factor of 10 seems small on that scale. However, most of the increase in consumption is due to the increase in population. On a per-capita basis, consumption has only grown by a factor of 3.5 over the same time period, as shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2. US per-capita energy consumption. We now use 3.5 times as much energy per capita as our 1700s ancestors did. Heinberg thinks we can cut current consumption by a factor of 10.

Mr. Heinberg wants to decrease our energy consumption by a factor of ten, which would have us individually using about a third of what our ancestors used. If the population increases, the per-capita consumption might decrease to one-fourth, one fifth, or even a smaller fraction of that used by George Washington. His wish is shown in Figure 2. Good luck with that!

[1] Mark Z. Jacobson and Cristina Myers, “Saturation wind power potential and its implications for wind energy,”

[2] Andrew Myers, “Wind Could Meet Global Power Demand by 2030, September 10, 2012,

[3] Scott MacNab, “Scotland ‘not windy enough’ for green power,” The Scotsman, 27 September 2012, p://

[4] Robert Bryce, “The Appalling Delusion of 100 Percent Renewables, Exposed,” National Review, 6/24/17

[5] Christopher T. M. Clack et al, “Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar,” National Academies Press, June 27, 2017

[6] Richard Heinberg, “Controversy Explodes over Renewable Energy,” July 11, 2017, Heinberg’s CV ( shows no educational credentials of any kind.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Javert Chip
August 27, 2017 10:15 am

This (disclosure) is like last night’s Mayweather fight: anybody close to it tried to take it seriously; anybody more than 10 feet away knew it was a pile of crap (aka darn good spoof)

Javert Chip
Reply to  Javert Chip
August 27, 2017 6:19 pm

Hmmm…mea culpa.
QUESTION: What’s the difference between the Mayweather/McGregor “fight & Scientific American’s “A Path to Sustainable Energy.”
ANSWER: Everybody, except a couple Vegas gym rats, was smart enough not to take the fight seriously.
(you guys are really forcing me to dig deep on this one)

August 27, 2017 10:35 am

I dont think it was intended to be disclosed as a spoof. That’s the scary thing.

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 27, 2017 10:39 am

I agree. More likely than not they actually were serious. If it was a spoof, they would have fessed up by now.

Reply to  sailboarder
August 27, 2017 12:40 pm

The author seems to being sarcastic calling it a spoof paper.
Clearly it was written and published as a serious paper.

michael hart
Reply to  sailboarder
August 28, 2017 3:09 am

Yes, sarcasm often doesn’t work very well on the internet.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 27, 2017 10:56 am

Leo, indeed scary. But then, what is expected from our “elite” universities and our National Academies these days?

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 27, 2017 11:43 am

I think the paper is pretty accurate … as long as it applies to an alternate reality.

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 27, 2017 6:54 pm

There was a time several decades ago when Scientific American was a good publication to which I subscribed. That ended a long, long time ago, and junk like they publish now is the reason why.

Reply to  pyeatte
August 27, 2017 7:56 pm

“Scientific American (informally abbreviated SciAm) … In 1986, it was sold to the Holtzbrinck group of Germany, which has owned it since.” –Wankerpedia

Pop Piasa
August 27, 2017 10:41 am

“49,000 concentrated solar power plants”
49,000 false lakes.
There won’t be a flighted life form left by the time they’re finished.

August 27, 2017 10:46 am

Jacobson deserves all the ridicule you heap.

August 27, 2017 10:50 am

“5,350 geothermal plants”
This is such a small part of the overall piece but it bears pointing out – I remember in 2008, Obama was going to fund a host of geothermal projects to show how wonderful this tech was….
And unless you followed energy news closely, you would never have seen the news that almost all of them failed. A few in the Rocky Mountain areas are viable, but none of those are close to any large population areas.
Turns out, unless you live on top of some Volcanoes (like in Iceland) or in reach of some near surface magma pools (like in some ares of the Rocky Mountains) then geothermal is a useless pipe dream that has not a chance of providing any useful energy.

Reply to  wws
August 28, 2017 5:00 am

Carbon spewing from a geothermal plant in Iceland.comment image

Melvyn Dackombe
Reply to  Bernie
August 28, 2017 5:12 am

I thought carbon was a solid.

August 27, 2017 10:53 am

So-Kalled Scientific American

Reply to  Brad Keyes
August 27, 2017 11:25 am

No longer either scientific or american.

Reply to  ristvan
August 27, 2017 12:53 pm

Yup, In 1986, it was sold to the Holtzbrinck group of Germany, which has owned it since. In the fall of 2008, Scientific American was put under the control of Nature Publishing Group, a division of Holtzbrinck.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.” ― Walter Scott,

Thomas Lester
August 27, 2017 11:00 am

Actually, Heinberg advocates a “humane” reduction in population combined with reduction in energy usage per capita to reach the goal of 100% renewable energy usage. How a “humane” reduction in the earth’s population might be effected is left to the reader’s imagination.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Thomas Lester
August 27, 2017 12:38 pm

Thomas, good comment. Notice that those who want population reductions (humane?) never seem to want to lead by example.

Reply to  Thomas Lester
August 27, 2017 12:43 pm

A bolt gun as used on cattle is generally regarded as “humane”.

Reply to  Greg
August 27, 2017 3:33 pm

So, a ‘humane’ reduction – not my term – will need about 6,750,000,000 bolts into skulls – 7.5 billion less (at most) 750,000,000, for the watermelons to achieve their ends.
And most of the surviving 750 million will be concubines or slaves.
Nice world the Greenies want to lead us into [eyes closed] – is it not?

joe schmoe
Reply to  Greg
August 27, 2017 9:51 pm

No country for old men, indeed.

Michael C. Roberts
Reply to  Greg
August 28, 2017 11:41 am

Yea – Just watched the movie “No Country For Old Men” again the other day – graphic use (in movie format, still ominous) of the bolt gun…

Yours in graphic imagery,

Reply to  Thomas Lester
August 27, 2017 3:33 pm

@ Thomas Lester
“How a “humane” reduction in the earth’s population might be effected is left to the reader’s imagination.”
Allow them to get fat and lazy. Let them eat and drink all the wrong things while not being very active, they’ll all soon die off. Diabetes, heart attack, circulation problems, liver failure, kidney failure, early onset dementia, etc, etc…

Reply to  tom0mason
August 27, 2017 5:16 pm

And yet we live ever longer, and in increasingly good health in old age.

Reply to  Menicholas
August 28, 2017 7:15 am

“live ever longer, and in increasingly good health in old age.”
Currently I agree, however that is not how the future looks….
The cost of aging and health care is not falling. I can not imagine today’s flabby, borderline diabetics are going to need less of these services. As they age will they have the means, or the socialized care, enough to keep them going? I wonder.

Reply to  tom0mason
August 27, 2017 6:21 pm

And then cut back on medical coverage.

Reply to  Thomas Lester
August 27, 2017 7:04 pm

Is that “humane” human reduction plan a German plan? If so, back in the early 1940s it had already been field tried…didn’t work out well as it produced too much “ash”.

August 27, 2017 11:10 am

“Scientific American” is neither.

Pat Frank
August 27, 2017 11:15 am

One can only hope that Mr. Hayden sent the article link and a hearty ‘well-done!’ to Mark Jacobson.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Pat Frank
August 27, 2017 1:10 pm

What, and risk being sued? 🙂

Pat Frank
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 27, 2017 4:44 pm

That *is* the state of things, isn’t it Clyde. 🙂

Roger Knights
August 27, 2017 11:19 am

“From Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary…”Erudition: Dust shaken from a book into an empty skull.””
Mencken said, “They didn’t call him bitter Bierce for nothing.”

August 27, 2017 11:24 am

Not surprising that this was lapped up by Scientific American and others. It’s actually pretty consistent with a lot of global warming studies, nonsense dressed up in “sciency” language.

August 27, 2017 11:32 am

The Jacobson and Delucchi figures also included, apparently deadpan, alongside other suspiciously spoofy references in [1, page 527].
This includes a plan to find a desert area one thousand kilometres by one thousand kilometres and cover it with solar pholtovoltaics, and a suggestion to cover 10% of the UK with windmills.
There is a conference[2] next month to advance these ideas. In Seville.
[1] Ö. Özçevik, C.A. Brebbia, S.M. Şener: Sustainable Development and Planning VII page” (2015) WIT Press
[2] C A Brebbia: Energy and Sustainability 2017 (Call for papers)

August 27, 2017 11:51 am

The costs for a utility scale wind turbine range from about $1.3 million to $2.2 million ‘per’ MW of nameplate capacity installed (google number).
“3,800,000 5-MW turbines” would cost $24.7 to $41.8 TRILLION dollars.
Considering nuclear costs around $9 billion per unit, 2,744 reactors could be built for the same money. Considering there are only about 100 reactors installed in the USA at the moment, that is a lot of reactors.

Reply to  Duncan
August 27, 2017 12:02 pm

Another interesting fact, there are only 449 nuclear plants in operation around the world. With this money, 6 times as many could be built.

Reply to  Duncan
August 27, 2017 5:20 pm

Much of that cost has nothing to do with construction or materials costs of anything tangible…it is due to regulatory hassles and impediments.

August 27, 2017 12:10 pm

Scientific American have been publishing junk about renewable energy for nearly over 45 years. The term ‘renewable energy’ first appeared in print in 1971. Guess where? Yes, in SciAm [as the OED, 2e, vol-XIII, 1989 attests]comment image

Reply to  mark4asp
August 27, 2017 3:51 pm

Now, give Scientific American credit.
Carbon Dioxide is a FERTILIZER:

Reply to  rd50
August 27, 2017 6:14 pm

Scientific American hasn’t memory-holed the old stuff yet?

August 27, 2017 12:22 pm

I am a regular reader of Cork’s monthly newsletter ‘The Energy Advocate’. It is packed full of sound physics and common sense commentary on related topical subjects. So Cork reads nonsense spoofs by ‘elite’ Stanford academics for entertainment – what an utterly moronic experience, which can only be relieved by a sense of humor! Their pipe-dream writing exemplifies an oxymoron – a contradiction posed by real world practicality. I foresee that the term ‘Stanford academic’ will soon take on the connotation of an oxymoron.

August 27, 2017 12:34 pm

One likely fallacy in all this occurs when one adds up all the renewable but mostly (except short term hydro) uncontrollable energy and compares it to what’s needed. Obviously the generation must match the consumption, an impossibility when dealing with renewables. And to come close a large duplicative overcapacity is needed, NOT good. And, of course, when people like this talk of nuclear, they talk mostly nonsense. Similar to their silly claims about “down times” they could claim, for example, that nuclear plants are down roughly 7 – 8 % for refueling (rarely are they taken down for repairs – any repairs almost always are scheduled for refueling downtimes). HOWEVER, those refuelings are scheduled to occur about every 18 months and are always performed during a period of low power demand – the Spring or the Fall, and DO NOT affect supply needs. The downtimes are, therefore, totally irrelevant with respect to meeting demand. As for the claim that lots of carbon is produced in building a nuclear plant, well, that’s going to change, big time, along with refuelings downtimes, with the advent of molten salt nuclear reactors which do not require massive concrete reactor containment structures – they hardly require any concrete at all, and can be built entirely within factories and trucked to site – and they don’t need to be shut down for refueling either, as that occurs on a continuous basis. They also can load follow, which renewables can’t do and require fossil fuel plants to accomplish. They also have a very long lifespan – 60 plus years, far
longer than wind or solar, and of course, they will produce power at a lower cost that any other technology. And renewability doesn’t matter either – they will never run out of fuel, be it uranium or Thorium.

Reply to  arthur4563
August 27, 2017 12:46 pm

“Obviously the generation must match the consumption, an impossibility when dealing with renewables. ”
Car before horse. consumption must match the generation. Physical reality. There is not “must” in the other direction. It is a “would be nice”, not a must.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Greg
August 28, 2017 8:34 am

Greg, please tell us you forgot the /sarc tag in your post. Otherwise, you lack a fundamental understanding that ALL electrical grids are load-following. They can’t function any other way.

Reply to  arthur4563
August 27, 2017 3:44 pm

Perhaps, just perhaps, a utility will provide what its customers want.
Shock Horror for the watermelon tendency!
Extra power available when demand goes up.
How good is that?
I appreciate that this was not the way in Soviet days – electricity, bread, cars, handbags, whatever, were all rationed pretty severely – but I think many-to-most folk today expect this.
They have got used to it, after all.
I do hope you are not advocating the ‘West’ sensu lato – must revert to the stifling, life-restricting, days when Brezhnev was the head honcho, and Andrei Gromyko was the Foreign Minister?

August 27, 2017 12:44 pm

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe. Beware the Jabberwock, my son! Lewis Carroll has arrived at Stanford and Scientific American!

Reply to  Pierre
August 27, 2017 7:47 pm

how refreshing to encounter another aficionado of the jabbering of wock-eyed so-kalled scientists. Hystery repeats herself (far be it from me to accuse her of plagiarizing herself):

In a “jabbering” address to Lords, Victorian pseudonaturalists warn that with brillig brilling earlier each day, mome raths may be forced to grib farther outwards in search of the toves that make up the bulk of their yearly snatch. An air of uffish mimsy whiffles through the House as Little Timmy, the leading orphan of the period, gimbles forth to perform An Ode To Silent Spring for the edification of the Marquesses and Marquessesses in attendance. The song pre-mourns the chortle of the last Jub Jub, explain scholars of Late Middle Gibberish.

August 27, 2017 12:47 pm

As of 12:40pm Pacific Time, googling for:
“Mark Z. Jacobson” spoof
has only one hit (which does not contain “spoof”); this WUWT post is somehow not reported by Google

Gary Kerkin
Reply to  NeedleFactory
August 27, 2017 2:11 pm

09:10am NZT, seventh in a Google search on Jacobson spoof.

David L. Hagen
August 27, 2017 12:51 pm

Required: Cheap capacity & storage to bridge renewable lows.
To achieve a transition to sustainable resources requires a combination of cost effective seasonal energy storage and sufficient excess capacity to accommodate the full range variations. These need high net Energy Return On energy Invested (EROI or EROEI).
German Doldrums – only 3% Solar/Wind
Germany experienced the extremes of cloudy weather with midwinter “doldrums” on 12 th December 2016 which combined to reduce wind and solar power to 3% of grid demand – while France and Spain imported power to meet high heating demand. See:
The End of the Energiewende? By Heiner Flassbeck January 10, 2017×564.jpg
In July 2017, China’s 3 Gorges plant cut capacity 67% (from 18.12 GW to 6 GW) due to flooding.
In drastic move, China’s top hydropower plants slash capacity Reuters Tue Jul 4, 2017
Ferruccio Ferroni et al. (2017) Further considerations to: Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) for photovoltaic solar systems in regions of moderate insolation, Energy Policy Volume 107, August 2017, Pages 498-505

“. . .Any attempt to adopt an Energy Transition strategy by substitution of intermittent for base load power generation in countries like Switzerland or further north will result in unavoidable net energy loss. This applies both to the technologies considered, to the available data from the original study and to newer data from recent studies.”

Heard et al. 2017 lay out the challenge of the detailed analyses required for transitioning from fossil to sustainable energy sources. These have not yet been seriously addressed.
Heard, B. P., Brook, B. W., Wigley, T. M. L., & Bradshaw, C. J. A. (2017). Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 76, 1122-1133.

. . .While many modelled scenarios have been published claiming to show that a 100% renewable electricity system is achievable, there is no empirical or historical evidence that demonstrates that such systems are in fact feasible. Of the studies published to date, 24 have forecast regional, national or global energy requirements at sufficient detail to be considered potentially credible. We critically review these studies using four novel feasibility criteria for reliable electricity systems needed to meet electricity demand this century. These criteria are:
(1) consistency with mainstream energy-demand forecasts;
(2) simulating supply to meet demand reliably at hourly, half-hourly, and five-minute timescales, with resilience to extreme climate events;
(3) identifying necessary transmission and distribution requirements; and
(4) maintaining the provision of essential ancillary services.
Evaluated against these objective criteria, none of the 24 studies provides convincing evidence that these basic feasibility criteria can be met. Of a maximum possible unweighted feasibility score of seven, the highest score for any one study was four. Eight of 24 scenarios (33%) provided no form of system simulation. Twelve (50%) relied on unrealistic forecasts of energy demand. While four studies (17%; all regional) articulated transmission requirements, only two scenarios — drawn from the same study — addressed ancillary-service requirements. In addition to feasibility issues, the heavy reliance on exploitation of hydroelectricity and biomass raises concerns regarding environmental sustainability and social justice. Strong empirical evidence of feasibility must be demonstrated for any study that attempts to construct or model a low-carbon energy future based on any combination of low-carbon technology. On the basis of this review, efforts to date seem to have substantially underestimated the challenge and delayed the identification and implementation of effective and comprehensive decarbonization pathways.

M Courtney
August 27, 2017 1:03 pm

How do you get two whales in a VW?
Down the M4 and over the bridge.

Reply to  M Courtney
August 27, 2017 3:48 pm

And it still takes 6 hours from London to Pembroke – road, rail, air, pogo stick.
[Perhaps a little more by pogo stick].
Used to visit ships at Pembroke Dock, Dragon, and other terminals in Milford Haven.
Pretty much six hours, however you did it.
Well, not pogo-stick, in fairness!
The new Severn Bridge notwithstanding.

Reply to  Auto
August 27, 2017 6:32 pm

It once took us 6 hours to go from Kensington to the M5 interchange – perfect weather, just to many cars and lorries.

Gary Kerkin
Reply to  M Courtney
August 27, 2017 4:29 pm

Avoiding the obvious puns, you couldn’t—its full of elephants.

Clyde Spencer
August 27, 2017 1:06 pm

I quit subscribing to Scientific American more than three decades ago. It is but a shadow of what it once was.

Gary Kerkin
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 27, 2017 2:15 pm

I subscribed to Scientific American for 20 years or so from the late 60’s. In the early 70’s it contained some very good articles on the sociology surrounding the treatment of poor cultures which struck a chord with me, and, of course, I used to enjoy Martin Gardner’s mathematical puzzles. But in the 80’s its tenor changed (for the worse IMHO) and I discontinued my subscription. I hadn’t realised, or remembered, the change in publisher to Germany. Perhaps that was reason.

Reply to  Gary Kerkin
August 27, 2017 6:34 pm

Gary Kerkin, Clyde Spenser: Around 1969+/-, Sci.Am. was the best available (perhaps the only) source of visual material & text for teaching plate tectonics/continental drift. It had good graphics. U.S. college texts had not caught up yet. Europe was way ahead. Harvard’s Wm Morris Davis had obstructed it in U.S. Too bad Sci. Am. deteriorated so much.

Malcolm Carter
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 29, 2017 11:59 am

Sciam changed from a journal written by scientists to ‘science’ written by journalists. My decision to cancel a subscription I have had since the 60’s was ‘the swallows of Fukishima’ , another kick at their nuclear whipping boy based on the ain’t it awful, “those poor swallows haven’t returned’. The ‘science based on a browse around town and noticing a few empty swallow nests.
The obvious bias of the editors makes it impossible to trust any but the most apolitical articles, a sad demise of a once worthy magazine.

Old Grump
August 27, 2017 2:17 pm

“If only the wind would blow, our turbines will work!”
And, if the dog hadn’t stopped to {defecate}, he would have caught the rabbit! So the old-timers would say when I was a boy whenever someone said ‘if’ as part of an excuse.
Good spoof. Helps remind me why I haven’t even looked at the cover of Scientific American the last 20 years.

Chris Hanley
August 27, 2017 2:59 pm

Entertaining article.
Mark Z Jacobson’s Wiki entry notes that he is associated with actor and 9/11 truther Mark Ruffalo and Gasland director Josh Fox.

M.W. Plia.
August 27, 2017 3:14 pm

For the last 40 years, when I fly, I grab my favorite reading magazines. Scientific American is always the first choice and National Geographic the second along with The Atlantic and Mad Magazine. I don’t subscribe.
I’m always non-impressed (going on ten or more years now) with the constant presence of the imagined man-made climate threat (excluding Mad Magazine of course)…I just turn the pages. As long as they’re not emphasizing the man-made greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide) “scare” the articles are ok.
I have to ask…why are they so convinced there’s a threat? Sure, CO2 is a radiative gas. It absorbs and disperses energy in the far infrared at an amplitude in the area of 15 microns for which the corresponding temperature is cold, really cold, very high up, they call it the “top of the atmosphere”. The supposed downward back scattered radiation coming from the additional CO2 up there is a formidable…a “forcing”, enough to change the world as we know it.
I think I’d like to see a bit more clarification.
To what extent this phenomenon increases surface temperatures so as to affect climate change is not determined, not evidenced and without a test mechanism. There is no accepted method of calibration. So far all there is for “evidence” is numerical models programmed with mathematically imagined parameters, extrapolations of short term trends, comparisons of instrumental data with the mush of proxy and a group of tax-payer funded academics calling themselves a “consensus”.
And yet and yet…I’m dismissed as a fool (among other things) for having doubts. Hopefully, in the next few years, with a short term period of cooler temps in the northern hemisphere, this will change, however, I have my doubts.

Reply to  M.W. Plia.
August 28, 2017 2:56 am

M.W. Plia
I wish I had followed secondary school science more attentively.
What a magnificent way to describe the entire lack of credible, empirical evidence for CO2 causing global warming, global cooling or global anything else other than plant growth.
It is the single most important subject (not) under discussion in the AGW arena.
Whilst sceptics are forced to wait 30 years to establish if the ‘pause’ is real (because climate alarmists determine this the time frame over which climate should be measured) research into CO2 derived global warming has been going on for generations now, and not a shred of evidence has been produced.
When do we call a halt to this futile and grossly expensive wild goose chase?

M.W. Plia.
Reply to  HotScot
August 28, 2017 4:14 pm

Well thank you HotScot. Indeed, a futile and grossly expensive wild goose chase.
I live near Toronto, Ontario Canada. One of the best (worst?) examples (per capita) of the $damage the alarmists can do is Ontario. A fiscal boondoggle of waste unmatched in Canadian history.
And it’s approaching $100 billion. Shutting down coal (even though our air quality was and remains superb), refurbishing old nukes (that should have been de-commissioned), building wind and solar parks with the necessary and costly conventional back-up and finally, the excess power from wind and solar sold to the spot market for a fraction….total $fiasco and no reason for it.
Even more mind boggling is the support. All of our educated and political class are on board the good ship AGW. They have to be, otherwise they are irrelevant and no one wants to be branded by these people.
Now we have a carbon tax combined with cap and trade. They will never admit to being wrong, they can’t, there is too much water under the bridge. Even though the man-made climate “scare” is just another hobgoblin of the times I don’t think this creature is going to go away any time soon.
Madness, just insane madness.

Reply to  HotScot
August 28, 2017 4:27 pm

M.W. Plia
I think there’s hope. Unfortunately it means the planet has to cool substantially over the next 50 years or so. Unfortunate because I probably won’t be around by then, nor, I suspect will many on WUWT.
But we may at least be able to rest easy when a visiting family member passes by our tombstones and says “the mad old bastard was right”.
Now I’m just a layman, no scientific or professional credentials whatsoever, but this video, and accompanying paper made sense to me.
Your observations on it would be greatly appreciated. As indeed would any other denizens of WUWT.


M.W. Plia.
Reply to  HotScot
August 29, 2017 5:32 am

LOL…“the mad old bastard was right”. I’ve had exactly the same thought, so yes, there is hope.
I’ve saved the presentation, it’s excellant, thanks again HotScot. Eventually the science simply has to win. For now, as far as the AGW issue is concerned, perception trumps reality.
My father was an aeronautical engineer (an Avro Arrow guy) and instilled in me an interest in theoretical physics (Why is the Sun red dad? Why is the sky blue?) He always had very good answers and my curiosity impressed him. However, math was not my thing and I pursued a career in graphic art.
I find myself forgiving people for not really understanding the uncertainties surrounding the AGW issue. The media has dumbed down the message to sound precise and unquestionable. For very obvious reasons detached, well argued and understandable explanations of what is and isn’t known concerning the radiative properties of CO2 and its relationship with the temperature of the air simply do not exist in the public domain. You can, of course, search for things but people, on this issue, lack the incentive.
As a result the man-made climate “scare” has been horribly oversold.

Reply to  HotScot
August 29, 2017 7:01 am

M.W. Plia
On the important issues, my late Dad, a humble motor mechanic who left school at 14, then self educated himself, was usually right. Although I never believed him at the time. He told me in the early 70’s to pursue a career in Computers, I didn’t. He told me I didn’t have to marry my first wife (it was a shotgun job) and I knew he was telling me she wasn’t for me, he was right. He was a cynic, and sceptical of everything until he had the irrefutable facts in front of him, which he seems to have passed on.
Personally, I don’t think the science will prevail in the climate debate. It’s already to clouded and confused. Probably tens of thousands of government funded scientific studies undertaken with the intention of proving the AGW hypothesis, few devoted to questioning it.
One of the problems is that as admirable as WUWT is (Anthony will be hailed as a scientific hero eventually) on first encounter with the site I was presented with multiple articles with supporting scientific evidence to condemn AGW. I almost passed it by because it was way above my head. But I was curious and decided to ride it out and learn as much as I could.
Whilst I still don’t understand the maths or scientific intricacies, I learned to take the underlying message away, usually with the help of commenter’s. And this is the important bit, no one can persuade a largely scientifically illiterate readership using science.
The public need convenient sound-bites and little anecdotes they can tuck away in their memory for those moments when they are confronted with an alarmist bully. That’s not to say lurid headlines, but lots of easily digestible information they can form into a short argument.
My favourite is of course your original point that there is no credible empirical evidence that CO2 causes global warming. There is one study that purported to have done so but it was comprehensively rubbished because temperature measurements it used started at the depths of a La Ninia, to the heights of an El Ninio (I had no idea what these two events were until I spent some time on WUWT). Patent nonsense, even I know measurements must be consistent, but it’s still flouted as evidence by the alarmists, one study in 40 years of endeavour, not a good strike rate.
However, string that together with NASA’s study proving the earth has greened by 14% over the last 30 years of satellite measurements, supplementing it with the fact that this is the only measurable manifestation of increased atmospheric CO2, and even alarmists begin to flounder, because both undermine the fabric of their arguments.
The fact is, all the educated stalwarts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians of WUWT, and all the other sceptic sites, need to communicate to the public in simple, informative, entertaining language rather than in complicated scientific terms.
I often wonder if a “Layman’s guide to WUWT” might not be fruitful. A compilation of all the vital information from the really important scientific studies presented in a simple, indexed format. I don’t suppose it will ever happen, but it would be nice for dummies like me to have a reference point.

August 27, 2017 3:19 pm

Wind is currently 4% of total energy as of 2015. It was 3.3% in 2014. At this rate by 2030 I’m not sure we’re getting those extra few million windmills.
And even if those windmills were built, would they generate the energy needed? Two comparisons:
Germany (TWh electricity generated)
2015: 88.0 TWh
2016: 77.4 TWh
2015: 39.8 TWh
2016: 29.65 TWh
Despite adding many GW’s of additional capacity in both cases.
1. Wind as % of Energy and Germany. IEA, Renewables Overview for 2016 and 2017 –—2017-edition—overview.html
2. UK Wind –

Geologist Down The Pub
August 27, 2017 3:25 pm

No one seems to mention the very large amount of CO2 emitted in the production of silicon for those solar cells. The IPCC says it is trivial, but none of them have ever worked in a silicon smelter where the stuff is made. Lots and lots of CO2 is produced by the electrical process, which uses electrical power produced by coal-fired power plants. Silicon solar cells are a very CO2-intensive means of producing electricity

August 27, 2017 3:52 pm

Scientific American used to be a serious publication, about 30 35 ago.

Reply to  techgm
August 27, 2017 3:53 pm

That’s 30-35 years ago.

Kalifornia Kook
August 27, 2017 3:57 pm

Actually, I suspect most articles written about climate science are known by the author to be ridiculous. There are a few true believers – Mann, Hansen, Orestes, However the very idea that CO2 is bad for the planet, or that in such low concentrations can have any negative effect on the weather is too silly to believe in light of Earth’s history. To say that CO2 will hurt plants when greenhouses have been pumping it in for many decades makes the claim a joke. To say that animals will get smaller when plants are more abundant and nourishing is another joke. I suspect many of these authors (not including those written by undergrads) do it just to tweak the scientific world. There is a lot of stupidity out there, but educated people who stop to think about it (instead of accepting someone else’s story) have to laugh.
Or maybe I think most scientists are like the kids (in physics classes) I went to college with. Ready for the easy prank, but not gullible.

Bob Hoye
August 27, 2017 4:27 pm

Geothermal power is difficult. Even with a hot springs system. A friend did a Masters in epithermal gold systems in New Zealand. At a geothermal site which is also just such a system. Great for learning about geology, but his comment is that the heat-extracting side suffers clagging up and corrosion.
Back in the 1980s, when it was a bad market for mining stocks in Vancouver some consulting geologists advised the BC Provincial government on drilling a hot springs north of Vancouver. Could not find enough heat. Because of the poor mining market they pushed the project for as long as they could.
No hope.
Now a new government wants to have another go at it.

Reply to  Bob Hoye
August 27, 2017 6:41 pm

My wife and I visited a resort in Alaska that gets all its electricity and heating from a nearby hot spring. When I asked about the corrosion problem, the plant manager told me that they had installed two complete electrical generating systems, and once a year they switch off the one currently in use and bring up the other, They then basically rebuild portions of the one they were using.
Heat in our room was hot water, not electric. It was excessive, with no thermostat – the only solution was to open the window.
But this was better than having to get the electricity from town, 60 miles away.

August 27, 2017 5:02 pm

I used to read “New Scientist” until I realized it too was a spoof magazine.

Dr. Strangelove
August 27, 2017 6:31 pm

The article that made Judith Curry famous and Scientific American infamous. Mariette DiChristina, instead of publishing this kinds of crap, I challenge you to debate Curry. Chicken?

August 27, 2017 6:40 pm

This scenario of achieving massive emission cuts isn’t just being sold as being possible in the future. It’s being included as a de facto pledge in the Paris Agreement. As a result, exaggerated figures for the reduction of surface temperatures in 2100 are being bandied about by MIT, Climate Interactive and Climate Action Tracker. Here’s MIT’s report showing how difficult it will be.
They use this sort of analysis to spur politicians into action but then include all the pipe-dream plans anyway for their projections which they sell to the public. That makes the Paris Agreement look like a resounding success. It’s highly irregular.
The report above is from the MIT department that admonished Trump for using their research in his Paris Agreement speech. They say the so-called ‘Mid-Century Strategies’ that cut CO2 emissions by 80% require “extraordinary political agreement” and “unforeseen breakthroughs in technology”. That’s because they require carbon capture, wholesale electric vehicle deployment and eye-watering carbon taxes. In other words, it’s a pipe dream to get even to 80%.
And yet MIT are selling this myth as if it was agreed at Paris and will go ahead, no problem. The Mid-Century Strategies are vague plans and were certainly not commitments agreed to at Paris. MIT incorporated the Mid-Century Strategies in order to make the claim of “on the order of 1 degree Celsius” for a reduction in global surface air temperatures in 2100. They claimed the 1°C figure in their statement admonishing Trump. They claimed this while insisting they weren’t using any post-2030 commitments (post-2030 commitments are the as-yet unagreed Mid-Century Strategies). So they were telling us they weren’t including them when in fact they were.
But MIT know what the true figure is for the impact of the Paris Agreement on the 2100 SAT because they researched it themselves and publicised their finding in the run-up to the signing of the agreement: it’s 0.65°C, not 1°C. They added 0.35°C by including these pipe-dream plans to reach an 80% cut in emissions while saying they weren’t. Here’s their study that finds its a 0.65°C impact for the Paris NDC’s alone (the Paris Agreement) i.e. without the Mid-Century Strategies (Page 9: 4.25°C-3.6°C = 0.65°C).
Their statement was published by all the big news outlets worldwide. Everyone now believes this 50% hiked-up figure of 1°C for the impact of the Paris Agreement is the true figure because it came from a very indignant MIT statement telling us that the administration was being “misleading”.

Reply to  scute1133
August 27, 2017 6:45 pm

And it is because this sort of “science” is being published by my alma mater that I changed my giving priorities. Until the CAGW / CCC hysteria stops at what was once on of the greatest institutes in the world, they don’t get a penny from me.

Reply to  scute1133
August 28, 2017 6:00 am

And in that report they say the difference between Paris or No Paris won’t even be detectable until about 2040-2050, by which time 2C will have already been hit.
It is certainly “convenient” that MIT want us to spend $100 billion+ a year from 2020 which even according to them won’t have any measurable effect until 20-30 years later.

Eric Gisin
August 27, 2017 10:16 pm

The latest Sci Am is on Sex/Gender. It rejects biology in favour of postmodern social “science” that rejects male-female brain differences.

Willem Post
August 28, 2017 2:19 am

A few years ago I wrote an article debunking Jacobson’s nonsense.
What surprises me, there are not more energy systems analysts taking his reports apart. His capital costs are grossly underestimated to be attractive to believers.
His schedule is compressed to 2030 and 2050 also to be attractive to believers.
The world presently spends about $280 billion of renewable systems and world CO2 is still increasing.
Obviously that spending should be doubled to at least flat line the CO2, and tripled to get it to decrease, i.e., about $1 TRILLION/y, and quintupled to meet COP-21 pledges by 2030, and even greater multiples thereafter.
This very clearly is not going to happen with the US leaving COP-21, and the EU watering down RE and EE goals, and China, India, Japan, etc., building about 300,000 MW of ADDITIONAL coal plants, and Germany, the paragon of RE holiness, not meeting its Energiewende CO2 goals for 2020 and 2030.
All is detailed in these articles.

Willem Post
August 28, 2017 2:29 am

To curator,
I made my original comment without having signed up.
When I did not see it, I signed up and made my comment again.
It came back to me as “you made a duplicate comment”
The comment is below.
Please post it.
A few years ago I wrote an article debunking Jacobson’s nonsense.
What surprises me, there are not more energy systems analysts taking his reports apart. His capital costs are grossly underestimated to be attractive to believers.
His schedule is compressed to 2030 and 2050 also to be attractive to believers.
The world presently spends about $280 billion of renewable systems and world CO2 is still increasing.
Obviously that spending should be doubled to at least flat line the CO2, and tripled to get it to decrease, i.e., about $1 TRILLION/y, and quintupled to meet COP-21 pledges by 2030, and even greater multiples thereafter.
This very clearly is not going to happen with the US leaving COP-21, and the EU watering down RE and EE goals, and China, India, Japan, etc., building about 300,000 MW of ADDITIONAL coal plants, and Germany, the paragon of RE holiness, not meeting its Energiewende CO2 goals for 2020 and 2030.
All is detailed in these articles.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek
August 28, 2017 9:42 am

News from one of the most volcanic nations on Earth: There are almost 30 viable geothermal sites in Indonesia already explored and quantified. In round numbers, they only need to find 5300 more.

August 28, 2017 11:52 am

Best succinct summary of Jacobson’s work I’ve ever seen:

August 28, 2017 5:27 pm

Jacobson’s article was particularly mendacious with respect to nuclear. You have to dig deep into his references to find it, but he has a reason why he attributes high CO2 emissions from nuclear. One of his (own) references notes that he and his co-authors expect a nuclear weapons exchange every two decades or so. The CO2 emissions from burning buildings and vegetation is added by him to the emissions life cycle of nuclear power.
It is not sufficient to say that Jacobson is silly or foolish. He’s a liar and a cheat.

August 29, 2017 9:52 am

Are there many people that take Scientific American seriously? If so, then perhaps that is the serious problem here. It seems to be used as a propaganda tool sometimes. I’d love to believe that sterling academic credentials might guard against this type of abuse but of course most know they won’t, and often those credentials are used to commit the abuse.

August 30, 2017 3:10 pm

Scientific American went the way of Omni Magazine a long time ago.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights