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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Denier weirdness: Wondering Willis takes to beer, not understanding the Kaya Identity

Sou | 5:33 PM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment

Update 3

Willis Eschenbach has written another article on this topic (archived here), this time showing he doesn't understand economics. He thinks that driving his car doesn't contribute to a nations gross domestic product. It does.

I'll leave it to readers to figure out the multiple ways Wondering Willis could contribute to GDP while driving his car along the Lincoln Highway.

Sou 13 July 2014

Update 2

Very strange goings on at WUWT. The article by Willis Eschenbach, which looked as if it was intended as a mild if misplaced "gotcha" of no particular noteworthiness, has suddenly generated a whole heap of comments - 473 as of now. Anthony has replaced one of the additions with another (archived here). This is his latest, in which Anthony has decided to straddle the fence and agree with everyone. Is his grip slipping? This is what he added:

[UPDATE: Comment from Anthony: There has been a tremendous amount of discussion and dissent on this topic, far more than I ever would have imagined. On one hand some people have said in comments that Willis has completely botched this essay, and the Kaya identity holds true, others are in agreement saying that the way the equation is written, the terms cancel and we end up with CO2=CO2. It would seem that the cancellation of terms is the sort of thing that would rate an "F" in a simple algebra test. But, I think there's room for both views to be right. It seems true that *technically* the terms cancel, but I think the relationship, while maybe not properly technically equated, holds as well. Here is another recent essay that starts with Willis' premise, where CO2=CO2 and expounds from there. See: What is Kaya's equation?
Further update: from the post readers know that Willis has been returning from ICCC9 and had travel issues. I was finally able to reach him by phone tonight about 10PM. It seems that to add insult to misery his laptop hard drive didn't survive the travel and he's been working to restore it. He'll be back online and respond when he is able. - Anthony]

I suspect this over-the-top reaction by the idiots at WUWT is not unrelated to the fracas at WUWT over David Evans' Force X from Luna Park. (Willis was a very outspoken critic of Force X and the notch, which didn't endear him to the ignorant masses.) Might bear watching to see if this is a sign that the fake sceptics are teaming up, battling with each other. Or it might just be a temporary venting of frustration that the ice age still hasn't cometh.

You can see the earliest version here (with 22 comments), then the interim version here (132 comments) and now the latest version here (473 comments).

Sou Friday 11 July 2014, 8:09 pm AEST

Update - see below for how Willis piles stupid on incompetent

I reckon there must have been something strange in the beverage served up to deniers at their recent gabfest in Las Vegas. I've just written about some stupid from Anthony Watts. Now it's the turn of Wondering Willis Eschenbach (archived here).

Funnily enough, Wondering Willis' article was on the theme of my recent observation about Anthony Watts being a stubby short of a six pack. Willis wrote about beer.

Willis wrote about a newly-released interim report: Pathways to Deep Decarbonisation. It's put out by The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). From the Preface:
The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) is a collaborative initiative to understand and show how individual countries can transition to a low-carbon economy and how the world can meet the internationally agreed target of limiting the increase in global mean surface temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius (°C). Achieving the 2°C limit will require that global net emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) approach zero by the second half of the century. This will require a profound transformation of energy systems by mid-century through steep declines in carbon intensity in all sectors of the economy, a transition we call “deep decarbonization.”
Currently, the DDPP comprises 15 Country Research Teams composed of leading researchers and research institutions from countries representing 70% of global GHG emissions and different stages of development: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA. 

What a plonker!

Willis tried to be a smarty-pants. He found a passage in Chapter III of the report in which the authors were discussing the drivers of carbon emissions They used the following expression:
CO2 emissions = Population x (GDP/Population) x (Energy/GDP) x (CO2/Energy)
If we take as given the population trajectory and assume a rising trajectory of GDP per capita in line with a successful economic development program, then CO2 emissions are driven mainly by two factors: Energy/GDP and CO2/Energy. The first term is the energy intensity, meaning the amount of energy per unit of final output. The second term is the carbon intensity of energy. 

That's obviously a simplification but useful for illustrative purposes. The paper expands:
The energy intensity of GDP (Energy/GDP) can be reduced through energy efficiency and conservation measures in energy end-use sectors (passenger and goods transportation, residential and commercial buildings, and industry). ...
...The carbon intensity of energy (CO2/Energy) can be reduced in two ways. First, the decarbonization of electricity generation (low-carbon electricity) through the replacement of uncontrolled fossil fuel based generation with renewable energy (e.g. hydro, wind, solar, and geothermal), nuclear power, and/or fossil fuels (coal, gas) with CCS. Second, switching end-use energy supplies (fuel switching) from highly carbon-intensive fossil fuels in transportation, buildings, and industry to lower carbon fuels, including low-carbon electricity, other low-carbon energy carriers synthesized from electricity generation or sustainable biomass, or lower-carbon fossil fuels.

Not simple enough for Willis

Willis wasn't satisfied with the simplicity of that approach. It wasn't simple enough for him. So he decided that he'd simplify things even more and restate the above as "CO2 emissions = CO2 emissions"; getting rid of any concepts such as the carbon intensity of energy and energy intensity.

He went one further and replaced gross domestic product (GDP), which Willis termed "gross domestic production" with what he called "gross beer production" or GBP. He then rewrote an equation as:
CO2 emissions = Population x (GBP/Population) x (Energy/GBP) x (CO2/Energy)

Except of course he's wrong. CO2 emissions come from many more things other than beer production.  So if Willis wants to highlight the amount of CO2 used in making his favourite brew, his equation should read:
CO2 emissions = Population x [(GBP/Population) + (GDP-GBP)/Population)] x [(Energy/GBP)+(Energy/(GDP-GBP)] x (CO2/Energy)

And Willis had been going so well lately, trashing the Rocket Scientist from Luna Park's Force X and his notch.

Energy-efficient beer

Some beer producers are working to reduce their CO2/Energy. For example Heinekin, which is popular in the USA.  A quick Google search suggests there are quite a few breweries that have reduced their carbon footprint (and their water usage too).

Update - both falsified and self evident

I see that Willis has now changed his mind about the Kaya Identity. He's now discovered it has a name. He's also decided that it's not self-evident, he reckons it's been "falsified".  Actually, I think he's arguing that it is both self-evident and falsified. He's added this bit to the top of his article but hasn't changed the body of his "argument".
The “Kaya Identity” carbon equation has been falsified – due to a stupid maths error.
Click here for his original article and click here for his updated version.

From the WUWT comments

Hoser is worried he might be on someone's hit list and says:
July 9, 2014 at 10:31 pm
Notice how they emphasize Population. Well, would that not indicate what they believe is the biggest problem? And the solution is of course to make the biggest problem smaller. I wonder what their plan is?

Alan Poirier thinks it's all too hard and human ingenuity isn't up to the task, and says:
July 9, 2014 at 10:33 pm
Too funny. The UN and the eco-freaks are gripped by madness. Decarbonization is impossible unless we are prepared to forego air transport and international trade of any kind, to say nothing of modern economies. And for what? To solve a non-existent problem!

Travis Casey thinks that carbonated water is the real problem and says:
July 9, 2014 at 10:43 pm
Nobody ever mentions all the CO2 in beer and soft drinks. There are other example of course. It’s worse than we thought. 

I wasn't the only person who picked up Willis' mistake, but Willis won't acknowledge that he made a blue. Willis Eschenbach says:
July 9, 2014 at 10:51 pm
4 eyes says: July 9, 2014 at 10:39 pm Their equation is OK. So is yours Willis but yours will only work out the amount of CO2 emitted from producing beer. The GDP variable is meant to include everything that can possible produce CO2 including beer.
Sorry, 4 eyes, but neither equation can “work out the amount” of anything. All either one can do is prove that CO2 emissions = CO2 emissions.

Mooloo tries to help out Willis but I don't think much of his initial analogy. Mooloo says (extract):
July 9, 2014 at 10:58 pm
The point of equations is that one side equals the other. That’s what an equals sign means.
Momentum = mass x velocity. Cancelling out variables we get momentum = momentum. As we should.
The point of the Kaya Identity (Identity, as in being the same thing) is that it allows us to figure out what effect a 10% growth in population will have, all other things being equal. And how much energy efficiency we would need to cancel out a given GDP growth.
It’s no use in using it in relation to a zero carbon future, of course, since only by getting CO2 emissions per unit of energy equal to zero can we get CO2 emissions down to zero, which is rather obvious. It’s a tool used by those who actually want to rationally look at reducing carbon emissions without ruining the economy. And it shows it is more or less impossible with modern (and foreseeable) technology.

In fact, the further you go in the thread there are a few people are pointing out the error of Willis' ways. Peter Sable says:
July 9, 2014 at 11:39 pm
as many have pointed out, the equation is wrong if the units aren’t the same on both side of the equation…this is how I verify all sorts of equations starting with analytical chemistry to name-an-engineering field. (matching units on either side of the equals sign are another “necessary but not sufficient” type of condition for equations).
I’ve caught many an engineering mistake by verifying the units are the same on both sides.
Willis you are chasing the wrong thing here… 


  1. Shouldn't that last equation read

    CO2 emissions = Population x [ (GBP/Population) x (Energy/GBP) + (GDP-GBP)/Population) x Energy/(GDP-GBP) ] x (CO2/Energy)

    to make the units cancel properly?

  2. I think what I wrote is fine.

    The main point, though, is that Willis is wrong. Global CO2 emissions come from many human activities, not just beer production :)

  3. You may know this already, but there was a "fight" between Paul Krugman and Roger Pielke Jr, which was essentially based on Roger's use of the Kaya identity to claim that we can’t limit emissions without destroying economic growth are nonsense.

    1. It should have said we can't limit emissions without destroying economic growth. Ignore the are nonsense.

    2. Oh that's right ATTP. I remember coming across that a little while ago.

      Here's a link to the Krugman article, quoting Roger Pielke, in which Roger doesn't seem to understand the Kaya Identity.

  4. I've added an update. That rather silly little article by Willis has so far generated 473 comments. I'm wondering if it is a symptom of a deeper ailment within the ranks of the denialati. After all, they've been promised for years that global warming is a hoax, but it won't go away. The ice age still hasn't cometh and the signs are for more global heating, not global cooling.

  5. Another update. Willis has written a long article all based on the false premise that his driving along the Lincoln Highway doesn't contribute anything to GDP.

    1. And now Willis shows he doesn't know what the D in GDP stands for, or else he thinks that Saudi Arabia is part of the USA, writing in response to Caveman who pointed out that consumer purchases of fuel are counted in GDP:

      Thanks, Caveman, but nope. I’m buying fuel inter alia from Saudi Arabia, where it is counted correctly as part of their GDP, and thus it can’t be part of ours.


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