The Real Scope of the Problem – Energy Access – Iron Age to Modern Age in a single generation – Avoiding the drawbridge mentality

The true scope of the problem  ©Center for Global Development

The true scope of the problem                                                             ©Center for Global Development

FAIR WARNING - you may have some reading to do.  This article is mostly a slim collation of other articles you may want to read if you want to bring yourself up to speed on the subject of ‘energy access’ and energy poverty.

The other day Pielke the Younger unwittingly, handed me the perfect graphic to illustrate the scope of the problem that lies at the crux of the good humored dispute I have been having with Willis Eschenbach from WUWT regarding Willis’s scheme for The Powerhouse School Concept.

The Graph of the Day: Africa Power Needs, at the top of the page originally came to Pielke the Younger from an article titled: How Much Power Does Africa Really Need? by Todd Moss,  Todd is director of the Emerging Africa Project at the Center for Global Development.

Willis’s rural power generation and transmission scheme for the rural poor arose out of his insight that Expensive Energy Kills Poor People, an insight with which I am in total agreement with Willis.  The problem I see with Willis’s scheme is that it doesn’t go far enough to solve the real problem of energy access in the developing world.  I commented at Willis’s article at WUWT and expanded upon that comment here with my article Powerhouse School Project-unintended consequences of what works.

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The Psychic Octopus – Modeling Magical Oracles of Irrational Processes, A Comment on Pielke and Silver

Wygart has a comment in over at Pielke the Younger’s blog on his recent post Parlor Games and Predicting Presidential Elections in which he discusses an article by Nate Silver at the NY Times on the ability of political scientists to predict elections based upon measurements of various [mostly economic] “fundamentals”

Silver asks:

Can political scientists “predict winners and losers with amazing accuracy long before the campaigns start”?

And his answer

The answer to this question, at least since 1992, has been emphatically not. Some of their forecasts have been better than others, but their track record as a whole is very poor.

And the models that claim to be able to predict elections based solely on the fundamentals — that is, without looking to horse-race factors like polls or approval ratings — have done especially badly. Many of these models claim to explain as much as 90 percent of the variance in election outcomes without looking at a single poll. In practice, they have had almost literally no predictive power, whether looked at individually or averaged together.

Pielke the younger says:


And he goes on, in his usual inimitable way, to dissects the issue, establishes the parameters of what a ‘skillful’ model would have to accomplish in order to prove its, er, skillfulness, how modelers fool themselves and others into thinking that their pet model has some skill, and then lays out the actual track record – not good.

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All Other Things are Never Equal – Pielke the Younger on the Simplified Math of 7 Billion – or what is wrong with this picture

Glass Empty, c. 1000CE

Dr. Roger Pielke Jr, ['Pielke the Younger' around here] my go-to-guy for science policy related topics posted a video on his excellent blog produced by NPR  entitled, “Filling Up – 7 Billion, How Did We Get So Big So Fast” a several days ago which hasn’t attracted much comment, but was particularly interesting to me in light of having spent an electricityless weekend two weeks ago reading David P. Goldman’s [the online columnist 'Spengler' over at Asia Times Online] very new book, “How Civilizations Die, (and why islam is dying too)” – a must read for people interested in the geo and socio-political implications of demographic trends [well worth looking at as long as you remain aware that his thesis has some theoretical limitations]  If you are frightened of the Islam angle for some reason, it is possible to  subtract out that aspect and you still come up with a fascinating thesis – which I will let you read the book to discover – or maybe I will write more at a future date.

The take away I will leave you from that book is that the radical decline in fertility rates in the Western world in the last three centuries and the currently collapsing fertility rate in the muslim [you didn't know either?]  and much of the developing world requires a radical rethink of the neo-Malthusian paranoia, of overpopulation apocalypse we have been force fed since the Ehrlichs and their ilk made their onto the scene in the ’60′s and continues to be a core assumption of a great many people, as we grope out way forward into a global future that may be dominated by demographic decline rather than a population bomb.  In other words, it reintroduces that concept of depopulation to the modern vocabulary, which used to be a subject of great concern in the premodern and classical worlds.

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