Obama’s strongest message on climate yet: John Holdren to be named Science Adviser

holdren.jpgScience magazine is reporting today that “Strong indications are that President-elect Barack Obama has picked physicist John Holdren to be the president’s science adviser.”

I have known Holdren for over a decade and have discussed energy/climate issues with him many times. He probably has more combined expertise on both climate science and clean energy technology than any other person who could plausibly have been named science adviser. You can see a video of an excellent talk he gave here (along with talks by Chu and me). For a more recent BBC interview, see “The Climate Quote of the Week“.

I would say that if Holdren is named (on Saturday), it is an even stronger signal than the terrific choice of Steven Chu for Energy Secretary that Obama is dead serious about the strongest possible action on global warming. After all, the science adviser works out of the White House and oversees science and technology funding, analysis, and messaging for all federal agencies.

Holdren ain’t in the “do something but not enough to avoid catastrophe” crowd that the NYT‘s Andy Revkin keeps on touting (see here and here). In fact, Revkin quoted him last year as an anti-moderate:

Some experts, though, argue that moderation in a message is likely to be misread as satisfaction with the pace of change.

John P. Holdren, an energy and environment expert at Harvard and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, defended the more strident calls for limits on carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

“I am one of those who believes that any reasonably comprehensive and up-to-date look at the evidence makes clear that civilization has already generated dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system,” Dr. Holdren said. “What keeps me going is my belief that there is still a chance of avoiding catastrophe.”

As I’ve said many times, the more you know about both climate and energy, the less moderate you are. Economists, who know little about either, can be found in Revkin’s murky middle, but not serious climate scientists, and especially not ones who understand as much about energy as Holdren.

Holdren has said many times that we must choose between serious mitigation or serious misery — geo-engineering isn’t the answer:

The ‘geo-engineering’ approaches considered so far appear to be afflicted with some combination of high costs, low leverage, and a high likelihood of serious side effects.

It is true that the science adviser has not been a particularly powerful player in recent Administrations, but Obama has already articulated his desire to elevate the importance of science and technology in his administration. As PEBO said of his choice of Chu, “His appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science.”

Another crucial role for the science adviser is to help educate the public on climate science and solutions. As Holdren says, it is too late to prevent dangerous human-caused warming. But after eight years Bush spreading disinformation and muzzling scientists, putting Holdren in charge of the “bully pulpit of science” is just what the nation and the planet need if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic warming.

Kudos to Barack Obama for another terrific choice. Here is the rest of today’s Science piece:

A top adviser to the Obama campaign and international expert on energy and climate, Holdren would bolster Obama’s team in those areas. Both are crowded portfolios. Obama has already created a new position to coordinate energy issues in the White House staffed by well-connected Carole Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and nominated a Nobel-prize winning physicist, Steve Chu, to head the Department of Energy. That could complicate how the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which Holdren will run, will manage energy and environmental policy. “OSTP will have to be redefined in relation to these other centers of formulating policy,” says current White House science adviser Jack Marburger.

Holdren had been planning to attend a staff meeting this morning with colleagues at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he heads the technology and science program. But instead, he flew today to Chicago to meet with the transition team and prepare for the announcement; initial plans are to release the official news of the appointment on a weekly radio program that Obama records and will be broadcast on Saturday. The transition office declined to comment.

Holdren is well known for his work on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Trained in fluid dynamics and plasma physics, Holdren branched out into policy early in his career. He has led the Woods Hole Research Center for the past 3 years and served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes Science) in 2006.


54 Responses to Obama’s strongest message on climate yet: John Holdren to be named Science Adviser

  1. tidal says:

    that would really be wonderful news!

    I’ll just take the chance to recommend the article in Science earlier this year that developed from John’s final presidential address to the AAAS… comprehensive and well-referenced… Science and Technology for Sustainable Well-Being

    and it’s a little scary to think how much the research landscape has shifted even since then!

  2. Dill Weed says:

    Darn, I’m second!

    Dill Weed

  3. kookiecookie says:

    I am scarred to death! Dr. Holden is named as science adviser. If he is truly interested in science, why is he loudly spouting the IPCC line of man-caused global warming??? A true scientist would be asking questions and keeping an open mind. I see none of this from any of the P-E Obama bunch. What I do see is not science but ideology. And that is a very reckless way to do business.
    To continue down this pathway is to further damage the reputation of science.

  4. Russ says:

    As I’ve said many times, the more you know about both climate and energy, the less moderate you are.

    Yes, it seems more and more clear that the so-called moderates are really dreamers, while the alleged radicals have a far more sure grip on reality.

    Unfortunately, on the whole it seems Obama is moderate-leaning-right, based on most of his nominations and policy prescriptions.

  5. Rick says:

    Can you really trust a guy with that particular hair, beard and eyeglass combination? I mean since about 1971.

  6. kookiecookie says:

    Yeah Rick. Makes you wonder what he is hiding.

  7. For years, I have been mining Holdren’s powerpoint files (and Jim Hansen’s, etc.) for slides for my own climate talks, so I have some idea of how they think about climate issues and the changes since3 2004.

    Holdren has been very clear on the science so when he lapses into policyspeak, he still carries the authority of the climate community. So often, when an economist (say) discusses climate policy, they never come back from their abstractions (say, emission-reduction wedges) to the broader issues and goals. Holdren will be very good at the job.

  8. darth says:


    “I am scarred to death!” Umm, “scared” only has 1 “r” in it. Your lack of ability to use spell check causes you to lose all credibility. No further reading of your posts is necessary.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    kookiecookie — Well, you could learn something about the science yourself, instead of just spouting off. I suggest beginning with “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

    Much easier reading that IPCC AR4 WG1 report.

  10. John Holdren is among the very best scientists on the planet. He ranks second to no other scientist I know. Great choice, that is for sure.

  11. Bob Wright says:

    It will be interesting to see Obama’s reaction when these science appointees tell him corn based ethanol is a waste, and he has to disappoint all those well heeled lobbyists, and many of his allies in Congress. Its called “Leadership!”

    Let’s hope the new team makes some progress.

    Kookie: You really don’t have to be a great scientist to understand fossil fuel GHG and global warming. Sorry if it interferes with your economics or religion, but its real and its here.

  12. kookiecookie says:

    Sorry about the incorrectly spelled word. I usually proof my writing better than that.
    My point was that I see only ideology, not science. In science, one is constantly looking for more answers. These people seem to know all the answers (about AGW) and would gladly cripple the global economy with their “solutions”.
    To quote anything from the IPCC or use it to make policy decisions is bordering on criminal. They themselves have backpeddled from their original theories.
    Consensus= politics.
    I have been reading posts from both sides. The fact that these various blogs exist proves “the debate” is not over.
    And Darth (oops. darth) if, as you say, my one incorrectly spelled word cancels any credibility, you obviously have no other argument.

    [JR: Okay, you have posted enough disinformation for five people. Basing one’s decisions on science is not criminal — listening to deniers is. This is not the blog for you — and vice versa!]

  13. Bob Wallace says:

    Rick –

    “Can you really trust a guy with that particular hair, beard and eyeglass combination?”

    Sure, every time I look in a mirror I see a very trustworthy guy with a beard and eyeglasses looking back at me. I only wish I had that much hair left…..

    Joe –

    Is it time that this site had the sort of function that some other sites have in which garbage can be buried?

    Suppose “denier” posts could be replaced with a standard notice link, say “Crazy Uncle Fred speaks…” and by clicking on that link one could read the post if they cared. The rest of us could get on with our discussions….

  14. Rick C says:

    KookieCookie, ideology is what has been trumping science these past 8 years. That’s what’s scary. Since when was listening to what scientists where telling us so bad. If there had been scientists during the Bubonic plague in Europe the dogs and cats would not have been sacrificed on the alter of someone’s whim. They could have acted on observations that the disease was carried by the fleas on rats and acted appropriately.

  15. MCB says:


    I don’t know about criticizing Yohe. Sure, he may not be an energy expert, but he was a leading author on the IPCC adaptation section.

    [JR: That says it all, really. Apparently he missed the other chapters….]

  16. David B. Benson says:

    kookiecookie — Moving away from fossil fuels has to be done anyway due to peak (or plateau) oil and then coal. Restoring the climat4e of the Holocene will be good for agriculture.

    Like to eat, don’t you?

  17. kookiecookie says:

    David: Sure I like to eat. But the climate of the holocene in the northern hemisphere was just coming out of the ice age. And I don’t claim to know enough about the “plateau” to comment. But the Bakken formation looks interesting.
    Bob: I don’t claim to be a denier. Rather a skeptic. And skepticism in the first step toward truth.
    JR: I have read enough entries (if that is the correct term) on both sides of the debate to have many doubts. Science is never conclusive. People are always testing the accepted. That is what science does. And if listening to another theory is wrong, science dies.
    And I have read AR4.
    Understand. I am not trying to change anyones mind. But only bring to the discussion that there might just be other reasons for what is going on.
    Something other than anthropogenic.

    [JR: It’s called denier magic!]

  18. David B. Benson says:

    Forgot to earlier mention:

    Holdren is a good choice. Excellent.

  19. DavidONE says:


    Your rhetoric mirrors perfectly creationists – “the dogma of evolution!”, “teach the controversy!”, “many leading scientists do not accept the ‘consensus’!”, “it’s only a theory!”, “big science is suppressing honest enquiry!”. And like creationists you’re taken as seriously by anyone with an honest and modest understanding of science.

    Unlike creationists, you and the rest of the Deniers are very dangerous. Your idiocy, denial and delay are literally endangering the viability of the planet to sustain life as we have known it for all of modern human history. Your ignorance needs to be exposed and shut out.

    In the unlikely event that you are one of those rare beasts – an intellectually honest Denier, you should read . See if you can recognise why you are denying the massive global scientific opinion ( What compels you to deny the decades of accumulated evidence? Why would you think for a second that you know more than the decades of climate science knowledge?

    Spend some time reading this site,,

    Get a clue and become part of the solution – not the problem.

  20. Steve Bloom says:

    And now Jane Lubchenco as NOAA head! Yowzah!

  21. Jim Bullis says:

    I am begining to worry that no one at Obama staffing knows that scientists are not the only part of the “technology” world.

    Global warming has a lot to do with science but solving the problem requires expertise and experience that includes, but goes far beyond the world of science. I would tend to call that technology, and it is a word frequently dropped, but I see no involvement of engineering, business, manufacturing, marketing, and economics in the new cabinet and advisor list.

  22. Stuart says:


    I think that many in the business and economics fields don’t even see that there is a problem. Marketing can help this, but too many people see this as just another political debate, or as “enviro-whackos” trying to destroy capitalism. God, if I had money I would be buying wind turbine and solar companies. The smart capitalists know that green=green in the new economy.

  23. Bob Wallace says:

    Smart, pragmatic people at the Cabinet level. Perhaps the specific background is not extremely important at the top.

    Smart, pragmatic people are likely to bring the technology/manufacturing/economics level people in as they build their staff. I suppose if they don’t they’ll prove themselves to not be very smart and pragmatic? ;o)

    But what really interests me…

    There’s a lot of money in the US that’s looking for a place to make more money. It might seem tight to many of us and things might be very bad for some people, but there are a lot of people with significant funds parked on the sidelines.

    I’m betting that it becomes more obvious that wind and solar are going to be the electricity sources of the near/mid future money is going to start pouring into those areas.

    They’re the more conservative “utilities sector” investments of the past.

    You’re buying something real, not a derivative (” whatever that might be”) but a bunch of hardware that will produce something that people will buy.

    Hope someone proves the dry hot rock geothermal concept soon. Wind, solar, and geothermal and we’ve got it licked….

  24. to kookiecooki:

    “Criminal” you say?

    So when fire breaks out in a crowded theater, someone yells “fire!” And as the careful exit begins a denier calls out “There is no fire! Go back and sit down!” I would call that criminal.

    Or if a soldier on guard duty fails to spot the approaching enemy, and even denies the clear and present danger close at hand. Given the situation, that is astoundingly dangerous to the safety of corps.

  25. jorleh says:

    If only this team had been together eight years ago. To repair the Bushian ruins take eight years or more, so we are possibly late already.

  26. Pharmer says:

    Forget this site, even the moderator is a namecaller. I checked out some of their links, they’re even scarier. Real koolaid drinkers. There was also a “concensus” that the earth was flat at one time, so you “flatearthers” are in good company. Hope to see your clear thinking on other sites Kookiecookie.

  27. L Tawney says:

    After studying with Prof. Holdren at the Belfer Center, I’m not worried that he will be too focused on the science and not enough on the technical solutions or the links to business. He has a firm grasp of the innovation cycle, understands the public goods inherent in R&D (and how difficult they can be to tap), and doesn’t underestimate the scope of the revolution required. I think that’s why he speaks with such urgency. I’m confident he’ll help craft smart, wide reaching policies that bring all the players to the table (though much of that job will actually be Carol Browner’s).

    As for the hair and glasses – He is way too busy thinking about saving the world to bother with a wardrobe update. The look comes from a wholehearted engagement with the important questions before him and nothing more.

  28. kookiecookie says:

    OK. I read the thing on denialism. And I can see where the denial is coming from.
    And as a skeptic, I like to read both sides. Keeps my BP up!
    So one more time. Where can I go to find scientific evidence that CO2 has any great effect on climate change? URL, whatever.
    To save time, please don’t mention the IPCC, Al Gores “movie”, ice core samples, Michael Manns “hockey stick”, James Hanson, PEBO, or Dr. Holden.

    [JR: You should read my post “How do we really know humans are causing global warming?*” Yes, it’s a tricky task to provide scientific evidence that CO2 has a great effect on climate change without being able to refer to the scientific evidence. Start here. But I think you’ll find he is one of those untrustworthy purveyors of scientific evidence like IPCC, Hansen, Holdren, and, of course, me!]

  29. Sensible says:

    Kookiecookie & Pharmer:
    The evidence of human-caused warming is simply overwhelming, and there is NO legitimate scientific evidence that it could be due to something else. Even the Bush administration admits this. What is even more critical, that not enough realize, is that INACTION in response to the climate change challenge is causing tremendous damage to our economy already: floods in the midwest, tornados in Kansas, wildfires in California, etc. Not to mention the impending threats to our national security. While it is true the IPCC reports are politicized, they are actually dumbed-down by the political pressure, not the other way around. The actual damage this century will be far worse than the IPCC predictions. Millions will be displaced, coastline American cities will be under water, by the time your grandchildren have a chance to visit Washington DC it will look more like Venice, Italy. Wake up, do some simple homework.

  30. Bob Wallace says:

    Kookie/Pharmer – let’s assume that you are “unconvinced” rather than simple trolls.

    OK, that assumed, let me add that most – probably all – of us and probably all climate scientists were disbelievers when first presented with the idea. The more we read the data, the more we moved into the “likely” category.

    Many of us have backgrounds as scientists. And one thing that all most every scientist has in common is a rigid hold on skepticism. It’s rare that you will hear a scientist use the words “always” or “never”. We think more in probabilities and not often in absolutes.

    A few years back I would have given global climate change about a 50:50 change of being ‘for real’. No real information on my part, so a simple maybe/maybe not analysis.

    Over time as I look at the data I’m moving more toward the “Yes, it’s for real” end of the continuum. I’m above 90%. In the high 90s.

    Keep an open mind. Look at the data. Being a skeptic is a good thing. But being an intentional believer (or non-believer) is not.

  31. Andy Gunther says:

    As a doctoral student of John Holdren’s, I can assure Kookiecookie (why don’t you use real name?) that this man is a brilliant physicist. The reason he speaks forcefully about the problem of climate change is because the physics driving it is so clear. The exact future path of our climate cannot be foretold, because we don’t understand all feedback mechanisms and we don’t know future emissions, but we do know why carbon dioxide concentrations are forcing the changes.

    Check out Spencer Weart’s website for starters, and then learn a bit about the scientific method. The temperature distribution we’re seeing on the plant today was predicted by scientists several decades ago!

    If the IPCC is incorrect, somebody needs to provide a scientifically defensible alternative explanation for why CO2 concentrations are climbing, why temperatures are rising, and why everything we’ve determined about the radiative physics of the atmosphere is incorrect. If you cannot provide these alternate explanations (even if just as hypotheses), you are not a skeptic, you are just a denier.

  32. David B. Benson says:

    kookiecookie — You could find and read John Tyndall’s 1867 CE paper about his experiments with atmospheric trace gases. But it is easier to see what a physicist turned historian has written about it: “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

  33. Jim Bullis says:

    I have given the world of physics a little test. The results are not encouraging. I do not expect engineers will do any better. Both physicists and engineers have had the imagination drummed out of them by the brutal analytical education emphasis. Many can solve very complex problems, but far fewer are willing to stray into new territory. On the other hand, business managers respond exclusively to what marketing people tell them and marketing people go out and ask people what they think should happen. Very little real innovation actually happens. (Notice that our once powerful auto industry looks like a turtle on its back.)

    The test of physicists was conducted by responding to the calamity they predict with a solution that is only slightly more complex than simply demanding that coal be banned. I described a solution involving an application of well known aerodynamics in combination with a mechanical apparatus that is slightly complex but hardly sophisticated. Curiously, this solution could dramatically affect the CO2 emissions, probably more so than anything else on the table. With associated measures, the total effect could be, well maybe, sufficient. Especially if it were adapted world wide.

    From the business point of view, the test solution can be simply shown to have no significant cost to anybody.

    The reaction of the man in the street is typically, “Huh.” Marketing surveys show that no one would ever buy such a thing. This is reported to management and the door is politely closed. Engineers do not have a handbook that explains the appropriate calculations.

    I am at a loss to explain the absence of reaction from physicists. You can not be a physicist without understanding thermodynamics, a little aerodynamics, and basic mechanics.

    So is there an emotional block where climate scientists would rather demand that coal be banned, knowing full well that it will not be, so that in the end they can sit on a mountain top and say they were right?

  34. Bob Wallace says:

    Jim, I suspect one of two reasons why you’re not getting anywhere…

    1) You’ve got a crackpot idea. People who know stuff see why it doesn’t make sense, or

    2) You haven’t figured out how to explain your idea to people. Perhaps you’re using one or more terms incorrectly thus throwing people off. I’ve seen it happen.

    It sounds like you’ve tried selling the idea to lots of others and no one has bit. Perhaps you should try to write down as many of the specifics of what they said as possible and look for some common thread of disagreement or misunderstanding.

    Statement such as “physicists and engineers have had the imagination drummed out of them” just doesn’t ring true to me.

    At some point it seems that you have to accept the responsibility for having a poor idea or an inadequate presentation.

  35. Jim Bullis says:

    Thanks for the good advice.

    I am assuming that others have the same set up that I do to click on the name of the commenter to see a web page. Would you do that?

    Some people who know stuff say the idea has merit.

    Other people who might know stuff say, “your car is too visually different and people can’t identify with it.” Very true. Others say that, ” It does not satisfy the social requirement since the seating is in tandem rather than side by side.” This is a violation of convention.

    The car is designed to enable people to get around quickly and safely over distances similar to current car travel.

    And at the same time it would use 80% to 90% less energy.

    I fail to understand why this would not be of great interest to people who are concerned about global warming.

    Presentation is certainly a question, though it seems the only effective presentation is to actually complete construction. That will take a little longer but I am ok with that.

  36. Mike Lopez says:

    Well, I just hope John Holdren does a good job.

  37. Bob Wallace says:

    Jim, let me suggest that cultural changes rarely occur in the form of great leaps. Gradual transformation is the more likely route.

    Seems like that’s what some people have been telling you.

    Now, it never occurred to me to click on your web page. Furthermore, I hardly ever click on an embedded web page unless the poster presents a good argument that convinces me to do so.

    Now that I’ve taken a brief look at your idea, let me suggest you study the Aptera. They’re a lot further down the road that are you and, IMHO, they’re going to have trouble selling their product due to its extreme appearance.

  38. Jim Bullis says:

    Bob Wallace,

    Very interesting information. I usually click to see where people are coming from and interpret what they say in that context.

    But at least now we have something to talk about. You are absolutely right about the Aptera being further along. Yes, that will be a slow sell as will the Miastrada. Both cars require that people adapt. I think Miastrada will ultimately prevail over the Aptera because people have demonstrated over history a preference for “riding tall” over “riding puny.” A look at the entire automotive history since the cutting loose of the horse is interesting in this regard. But let me get to a much more important point.

    Here at we read continually of the impending disaster of climate change. It is well known that CO2 in the USA is about a third due to burning fuel in transportation and a little more than a third due to production of electricity. Change is required. If that is believed, we can go to the next step of how it should come about.

    Widely endorsed is the need to stop burning oil at the present rate, and for many who care nothing about global warming this is still needed to reduce dependence on foreign oil. We also are aware of peak oil issues. All of this says we can not continue to use cars as we are now accustomed.

    Clearly we could all move to high rise housing communities clustered around train stations and our employers could similarly move to tightly clustered sites. It is often thought that this is the European model, and to some extent it is, but I was surprised to see on a recent trip where it was necessary to travel by taxi from the Airport to Rome that the road system was developing much like ours, and I took that to demonstrate that people fundamentally like to live in more suburban, distributed style communities. I conclude that there will be an insurmountable resistance to this kind of transformation.

    In the end it seems to me that the choice will be whether to adapt to a different kind of car, whether it is Aptera or Miastrada or other, or adapt to a different kind of living communities, and rarely use a car at all.

    But then comes another option which is to convert to electricity as a way to propel cars, and prolong the suburban life style of the American dream, and apparently the world dream as well. The overwhelming consensus here at least is that the use of coal must be stopped. It seems obvious to me that this will cause a very large increase in the cost of electricity, like maybe double or triple. (A real analysis is needed here.) You might also have noticed that there is a serious money problem developing, or I should say, becoming apparent. I anticipate a painful limitation on the amount of electricity that we will be able to afford.

    Along with the proposals for electric car propulsion comes deceit. We hear from many directions that fantastic improvement in MPG can come from making cars “plug-in” hybrids. Then the number of actual gasoline gallons is the only energy that is counted in the calculation and stupendous claims are made. For those who do not understand that the claims are gibberish, this practice is predatory and fraudulent.

    And also, along with many of the proposals about electric car propulsion comes incompetence in physics. It is quite amazing that relatively simple lessons in physics are ignored, specifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics which explains some very bit inefficiencies in heat engines, whether they are central power plants or car engines. People who really should know better still compare the efficiency of an electric motor with the efficiency of a car engine, and fail to include the efficiency of the power plant heat engine.

    But once the near criminal element and incompetence in physics is sorted out, the question remains where the energy to make the electricity is going to come from. The initially attractive options that are “renewable”, when evaluated according to standard accounting practice without the deceptive effect of rebates and when evaluated as to the other world impacts, turn out to be varyingly less attractive if not prohibitive. It takes a lengthy discussion to get through the economic and political process, but in the end it comes down to the fact that coal is overwhelmingly the fuel that will be used to generate the electricity in response to an additional load due to electric cars propulsion.

    So the ultimate effect of electric car propulsion is to deceive us into thinking we are solving a problem when we are not. When that is sorted out, we are back to the fundamental adjustment that has to happen, which means the choice between our current life style unchanged, complete conversion to urban transportation and living patterns, or adapting to unusual looking cars.

  39. Bob Wallace says:

    That picture – top of the page. Apparently it is from the ’70s.

    Here’s something more recent. A little less hair, still the excellent taste in beards, quite a bit of gray, still a taste for large glasses….

  40. Bob Wallace says:

    Jim – that’s a lot of stuff. Let me make a few points….

    Electricity is getting cheap. Especially wind. As we create more wind power to satisfy our daytime/peak needs we create even more power at night as the wind tends to blow stronger and demand declines.

    Solar PV is very close to grid parity.

    With $0.10 kWh electricity (wind is less than that now) we could do our average 33 miles per day in a 0.35 kWh per mile (high end of BEV range) for about $1.20 per day.

    We will build up our grid to carry all the power we need for peak hours. That will provide more than enough capacity to charge all the batteries we will ever own. There’s a huge economy in being able to use a single distribution system for multiple uses. (Think not having to pay for gas stations, refineries, and tankers.)

    Batteries are showing great promise. Multiple car manufacturers are planning to bring BEVs to market as soon as year after next. Nissan in 2011, for example.

    PHEVs with ~40 mile ranges give people the ability to do ~80% of their driving with electricity alone. And it gives the freedom to drive two days to Grandma’s house, should they want to. PHEVs make a lot of sense for some people and will be attractive while we wait for BEVs with 150-200 mile ranges and quick charge batteries.

    Big change scares a lot of people. The Prius was too weird looking for many when it hit the market. Most people would take a look at the Aptera and walk away to look at Civics. Maybe in a decade or three the general buying public will be ready for Jetson cars.

    Finally, when I read stuff like “once the near criminal element and incompetence in physics is sorted out” my alarm bells start ringing….

  41. Jim Bullis says:

    Bob Wallace,

    As to the alarm bells, I am trying to get them to ring.

    Don’t you see a real problem with promoters claiming “miles per gallon” for car performance that only counts the actual gallons of gasoline? Look at the Calcars page, at where the “100 MPG+” gibberish started, I think. Then look at the Google page,, where they do the same arithmetic but drop the “+” sign.

    And do you not see it as incompetence in physics to compare efficiency of car engines with electric motors without counting the energy needed to make the electricity?

    If we let this go so very wrong where many people spend a lot of money on what they think is positive action, it will be even more difficult to get meaningful action.

    So let the bells ring loud and clear.

  42. Bob Wallace says:

    “incompetence in physics”?

    No. Just a lack of standardized reporting methods for PHEVs. Once we get some purchase choices then the EPA will set some.

    In the meantime we will have to do a little pencil work in order to compare the apples that we might get to buy some day to the oranges that another company is talking about selling.

    Sorry that I can’t sort out the calcars vs. rechargeit stuff for you. Your links didn’t work.

    So, good luck with your crusade.

    Just try not to make the ringing bells the ones that summon security….

  43. Jim Bullis says:

    My links lit up but did not work either. These do.

    Sorry for wasting our time on this.

  44. john says:


    You obviously don’t have a clue as t how science works. Yes, science keeps an open mind to challenges of prevailing theory. But that is not the same as ignoring the preponderance of data.

    Climate science is not a question of “balance” as you suggest; it is not an issue of being persuasive in your argument — OJ Simpson’s first trial for murdering his wife shows how persuasion can divert from facts.

    Science is about marshaling the available facts into a coherent hypotheses, testing that hypothesis, and when it looks convincing enough, developing it into a theory.

    Climate science — having been tested as much as anything around — is now one of the strongest theories ever assembled.

    Gravity is a theory of equivalent standing. Even if you deny it, you will not be able to fly (unless you’re in an airplane — which also is up there based on Bernouli’s theory).

    So, don’t wrap yourself in the garb of a skeptic; don’t use the language of science to hide your ideological BS, until and unless you show some faint glimmer of understanding what sceince is and how it works.

    For starters, it doesn’t throw out the facts it finds inconvenient.

  45. Jim Bullis says:

    Bob Wallace,

    I can cheerfully ignore your concern that I am a crackpot and that I should beware that security might be coming to get me.

    The word “crusade” requires something more.

    I am only trying to drive a sick friend to a hospital where he is scheduled for a complicated operation that is covered by insurance. I discover on arriving at his house that Joe is there trying to get him to get his legs amputated at a hospital that does not accept insurance. We are both confronted by a crowd of witch doctors promising cures in return for large cash donations.

    At least please substitute the word campaign for crusade.

    I am trying to be careful and short since my last got “moderated”. What are my chances with this one?

  46. Bob Wallace says:

    Jim – I’m reserving judgment as to whether you are are not adequately connected to reality. Or whether you have “the” idea to save us all or not.

    I’m just suggesting you try stepping aside from your current “conflicts” and try to see if any of the problems might be ones you are causing.

    Truthfully, I can think of only three possibilities:

    1) You have a flawed idea and aren’t listening to feedback about why your idea is flawed. (It could even be something as simple as being ahead of your time. Perhaps the world isn’t ready for tandem seating.)

    2) You have a workable idea but you haven’t found a way to adequately present it to others.

    3) You might be approaching your potential audience in a way that keeps them from listening to your idea. Flawed or wonderful.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in academia and a a lot in the “private” world. I’ve seen people who have a bad idea and won’t accept that something is wrong.

    I’ve seen people who have good ideas but very poor communication skills so that their ideas aren’t well understood.

    And I’ve seen people who are so unpleasant that people just don’t want to listen to them. They never get an opportunity to tell their story.

    Now, none at all of these might apply to you. I’m just suggesting that you might benefit by seeing if there is something you can do to improve your success.

  47. Jim Bullis says:

    Thanks Bob for your thoughts on this campaign I am trying to run.

    Absolutely, the world is not ready to change the way we sit in cars.

    My thinking is that if people are given the choice between changing the way we sit in cars or not riding in cars at all, then there will be an opportunity to sell my tandem concept. We are not there yet.

    The Miastrada car could be an important way to attack global warming. It is fairly simple physics to understand how low frontal area and very low drag coefficient would make a huge difference in the basic demand for energy. The Aptera and other such radical cars offer similarly huge reductions in energy. I had thought that there was enough interest in solving the global warming problem that there would be sufficient motivation for people to consider changing to very radical cars. Then the relative merits of the different radical cars would be on center stage. Maybe there will be an era where there is a variety of radical cars to choose from. But this requires that there be a widespread sense of an urgent need to change. That has not yet happened.

    Now I understand that the process will have to wait until we sort out a long list of false pretender solutions. I had thought that hard data and simple physics would have been more successful in showing many of the defects. There is truly a lot of misinformation and general misunderstanding standing in the way. Key examples of hard data that many seem to be unaware of are (1) coal power plants convert heat to electric energy at 33% in the USA, (2) the Prius gasoline engine has been measured by Argonne National Lab. to have an efficiency of 38%, and (3) coal puts out about 35% more CO2 than gasoline to make the same amount of heat. A truth that I consider self evident is that when there is a choice between power sources the one representing the best economic advantage will prevail over the long term. It is inconceivable that scientists capable of calculating the cooling rate due to the spectrum of radiated heat propagating upward, would not be able to see that batteries charged from the grid might not be a very good solution. If only they would take a moment to do the arithmetic.

    Other impediments to what I consider to be real solutions are proposals to avert the disaster by limiting the CO2 using legal measures such a cap and trade for CO2 or outright banning of coal. My sense that these are flawed is tied to my sense of what the public will stand for, especially in hard times. I see varying degrees of improbability for the success of wind, concentrated solar, PV solar, or such in actually working on the scale needed. But we will have to work through these options also.

    Perhaps I should be clearer about what I am doing. I am (1) designing and building a demonstration car, (2) gathering input that could influence design decisions still open, (3) trying to instigate some public anticipation for something better, and (4) trying to point out flaws in the long list of things standing in the way of incentivising the public to adapt to new car concepts. Comments on blogs like this are my means of moving forward with (3) and (4).

    Where I can pick up thoughts and suggestions along the way the process moves more quickly. But I think I have plenty of time to build the demonstration car.

  48. Jim Bullis says:

    Sorry that I might have pushed the discussion of Dr. Holdren off the page.

    Andy Gunther and David B. Benson, do you think that Dr. Holdren would be adamant about prohibiting use of coal in the style of Hansen, or would he be willing to think about a combination of solutions that might accomplish this more indirectly? I am referring to a strategy that would cut the amount of heat energy needed by the whole of industrial and emerging society. This alternative has an associated requirement for adjustment, but the fundamental burden could be a lot more attractive than the prospect of very high priced electricity which seems inherent in proposals to ban or cap and trade coal usage.

  49. msn nickleri says:

    Where I can pick up thoughts and suggestions along the way the process moves more quickly. But I think I have plenty of time to build the demonstration car.

  50. Gary says:

    The Oct 2007 National Geographic had a large poster showing CO2 vs. temperature for the last 400,000 years similar to the one in “An Inconvenient Truth”.

    Four things stand out on the graph:
    1) The present temperature is about 2 degrees C lower that the peak temperatures during the last 3 interglacial warming periods.

    [JR: Untrue. Link please.]

    2) The rise in CO2 followed the rise in temperature but more noticeable is the fact that temperature decreased for hundreds and thousands of years while the CO2 stayed high.
    3) The present warm period has gone on for longer than the last 3 warm periods and we’re due for the start of another ice age.
    4) The earth’s temperature was continually making drastic changes long before mankind had any influence.

    [JR: Why do people post this silliness? It changed when it was FORCED to change in the past by natural forcings. Now we are forcing the change.]

    I see very little discussion about water vapor as a greenhouse gas but it’s huge compared to CO2. Water vapor’s infrared characteristics in the green house range of the spectrum overlaps CO2 and it exists in much higher concentrations. Imagine the banning of fountians and irragation. the draining of marshes and other measures to reduce water vapor. I can’t imagine that either. I think water vapor and clouds are not a part of the IPCC’s computer models.

    [JR: Quite, quite wrong. You “see very little discussion about water vapor as a greenhouse gas” because you don’t read this blog or the scientific literature. Nothing to flaunt!]

  51. Gary says:

    Concerning the past interglacial peak temperatures being warmer than now: Refer to the EPA site:
    Notice the zero degrees C on the right and the + 3 C at the peak of the last interglacial.

    Which is quite wrong? Is there a lot of discussion about water vapor and what to do about it or is it quite wrong that water vapor and clouds are not part of the IPCC’s computer models?

    I’ll let the readers consider how much they’ve seen about water vapor vs. CO2.

    [JR: Nice try. You wrote: “The present temperature is about 2 degrees C lower that the peak temperatures during the last 3 interglacial warming periods.” Find a link to any set of data that supports such a statement or retract it. Please do find one that includes current temperatures.

    As for water vapor, the matter is pretty much settled in the literature, as my readers know, since I’ve blogged recently, Study: Water-vapor feedback is “strong and positive,” so we face “warming of several degrees Celsius.” ]

  52. Gary says:

    I can find numerous graphs from Antartic ice core data that go up to at least the year 2000. The graphs show the same thing. Look at this one:

    Are you saying these people made mistakes when they graphed their data? After all, most all them are making the same points about the CO2 problem as you do.

    [JR: This chart doesn’t have the recent warming on it, as noted previously.]

    Of course water vapor feedback is strong and positive. My point is it’s a much stronger than CO2 and little is said about it compared to CO2. If it’s settled in the literature, what are some considerations for dealing with it?

    [JR: We deal with the feedback by eliminating the original forcing, i.e. mitigation.]

    I bring up water vapor because I forsee a time in the not too distant future when a wealthy desert country decides it can turn it’s desert green by building huge sea water evaporation systems off it’s shores. I’m thinking a power plant that does nothing but power a huge spray nozzle system. Heck, it might even be the USA off the west coast. I’ve read that there was about a 150 year drought in the southwester US about 1000 years ago during the nonexistent Medieval Warm Period.

  53. Gary says:

    From what I can tell, the present temperature is about .6 degrees C above mid 20th century which is the ‘0’ on many graphs. Here’s where I got the .6 degrees:

    The ice core graphs show the peak of the last interglacial about 3 degrees above ‘0’ , the interglacial before that at +2 C and the one before that at +3 degrees C from the mid 20’th century ‘0’. Again, here’s the site where I got that info:
    The graphs look pretty clear to me. Present temperature is below previous peaks and we’re overdue for the beginning of the next ice age.

    [JR: As I said in my post, the present temperature is below the recent peak (I just assert that your statement, as written, was wrong). We are overdue for the next Ice Age. That makes human activity and emissions all the scarier — we’ve overwhelmed the natural cycles and were only at a fraction of the forcing we’ll be at in a few decades.]