Air Conditioning as a “Powerful Solution” to Global Warming

(p. A11) SEATTLE — For two decades, Becky Lichenstein embraced a custom of the Seattle area: doing without air-conditioning. . . .

But summers in the Pacific Northwest aren’t what they once were. With more regular bouts of soaring temperatures, Ms. Lichenstein a few years ago surrendered and bought a portable air-conditioning unit. This year, considering a changing climate and how it’s hitting home, she decided to turn to a more powerful solution — a permanent system installed just this week.

“I’m very grateful that I’m getting it done,” said Ms. Lichenstein, as workers finalized the installation at her split-level home in Tacoma, south of Seattle.

. . .

. . . , like many parts of the country where air-conditioning was once considered an afterthought or a luxury, the region’s relationship with air-conditioning has started to change. In 2013, just 31 percent of households in the Seattle metro area had some sort of air-conditioning, according to data in the federal government’s American Housing Survey. Just six years later, that had risen to 44 percent, accounting for hundreds of thousands of new units.

For the full story, see:

Mike Baker. “Once for ‘Weaklings,’ Air-Conditioning Wins Over a Baking Seattle.” The New York Times (Saturday, June 26, 2021): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated June 30, 2021 and has the title “Air-Conditioning Was Once Taboo in Seattle. Not Anymore.”)

Plethora of Creative Chip Startups Face: More Stable Demand, More Tools for Quick Design, More VC Funding

(p. B1) OAKLAND, Calif. — A global shortage of semiconductors has cast a cloud over the plans of carmakers and other companies. But there’s a silver lining for Silicon Valley executives like Aart de Geus.

He is chairman and co-chief executive of Synopsys, the biggest supplier of software that engineers use to design chips. That position gives Mr. de Geus an intimate perspective on a 60-year-old industry that until recently was showing its age.

Everyone now seems to want his opinion, as shown by the dozens of emails, calls and comments he received after addressing a recent online gathering for customers. Synopsys says people tuned in from 408 companies — more than double the number for an in-person event last held in 2019 — and many weren’t conventional chip makers.

. . .

(p. B3) Their overriding question: How do you develop chips more quickly?

Even as a chip shortage is causing trouble for all sorts of industries, the semiconductor field is entering a surprising new era of creativity, from industry giants to innovative start-ups seeing a spike in funding from venture capitalists that traditionally avoided chip makers.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Samsung Electronics, for example, have managed the increasingly difficult feat of packing more transistors on each slice of silicon. IBM on Thursday announced another leap in miniaturization, a sign of continued U.S. prowess in the technology race.

Perhaps most striking, what was a trickle of new chip companies is now approaching a flood. Equity investors for years viewed semiconductor companies as too costly to set up, but in 2020 plowed more than $12 billion into 407 chip-related companies, according to CB Insights.

Though a tiny fraction of all venture capital investments, that was more than double what the industry received in 2019 and eight times the total for 2016. Synopsys is tracking more than 200 start-ups designing chips for artificial intelligence, the ultrahot technology powering everything from smart speakers to self-driving cars.

. . .

The industry has historically been notorious for booms and busts, usually driven by purchasing swings for particular products like PCs and smartphones. Global chip revenue slumped 12 percent in 2019 before bouncing back with 10 percent growth last year, according to estimates from Gartner, a research firm.

But there is widening optimism that the cycles should moderate because chips are now used in so many things. Philip Gallagher, chief executive of the big electronics distributor Avnet, cited examples like sensors to track dairy cows, the flow of beer taps and utility pipes, and the temperature of produce. And the number of chips in mainstay products like cars and smartphones keeps rising, he and other executives say.

. . .

Chip design software gained popularity in the 1980s to streamline tasks that engineers once carried out with pencils and drafting tables, painstakingly drawing clusters of transistors and other components on chips.

. . .

Mr. de Geus said new growth was coming from what seemed like a problem: a slowdown in Moore’s Law, industry shorthand for the perennial race to shrink chip circuitry so chips do more with less silicon. In response, he said, some companies are using Synopsys tools to design entire systems and bundles of smaller chips that work like a single processor.

During his recent speech to users, Mr. de Geus demonstrated how artificial-intelligence enhancements could allow Synopsys tools to automatically decide how best to situate and connect blocks of circuitry on a chip. A system managed by a single engineer did the work two to five times faster than a team of designers, Mr. de Geus said, while its design used up to 13 percent less energy.

For the full story, see:

Don Clark. “No Shortage Of New Ideas About Chips.” The New York Times (Saturday, May 8, 2021): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 7, 2020, and has the title “Despite Chip Shortage, Chip Innovation Is Booming.”)

French Regulators Give Restaurant Owners a “Sledgehammer Blow”

(p. 12) PARIS — France will ban heaters used by cafes and restaurants on outdoor terraces as part of a package of measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption, the French ecology minister said on Monday.

The French government’s announcement came at a difficult time for cafe and restaurant owners hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with many largely relying on outdoor dining to comply with social distancing rules.

In an attempt to give businesses time to continue in their recovery and adapt to the new law, the ban will not go into effect this winter, when many experts expect a resurgence of the virus.

In a country famous for its terrace culture, heat lamps running on electricity or gas have flooded outdoor terraces for over a decade, making sitting outside in cold weather not only possible but comfortable. In Paris alone, some 70 percent of cafe terraces are estimated to have heating devices.

. . .

“Restaurant owners were already down on their knees,” said Marcel Benezet, a representative of the GNI-HCR, the country’s main union for cafes, hotels and restaurants. “Now, with this ban, the government is giving us a second sledgehammer blow.”

Mr. Benezet said that as the reopening of cafes and restaurants came with new health restrictions limiting attendance in enclosed areas, outdoor terraces had become the only place where “you can make a little money.”

. . .

Despite the government delaying the ban until next spring, Mr. Benezet said that since no one knew how long the epidemic would last, it could come into force at a time when outdoor seating is still needed to mitigate the economic effects of social distancing rules.

. . .

“We need more time to adapt ourselves,” Mr. Benezet said. “We should not be sacrificed in the name of ecology.”

For the full story, see:

Méheut, Constant. “Lost Winter Warmth: France to Ban Heaters on Cafe Terraces in ’21.” The New York Times (Weds., July 29, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 28, 2020, and has the title “Cold Comfort: France to Ban Heated Terraces, but Not This Winter.”)

World Population Decline Will Slow Global Warming

(p. 1) All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women.

For the full story, see:

Damien Cave, Emma Bubola and Choe Sang-Hun. “World Is Facing First Long Slide in Its Population.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, May 23, 2021): 1 & 17.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated May 24, 2021, and has the title “Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications.”)

“No Sign” That World’s Largest Iceberg Is Due to Global Warming

(p. 16) An iceberg nearly half the size of Puerto Rico that broke off the edge of Antarctica last week is now the world’s largest, researchers said.

The iceberg, known as A76, following a naming convention established by the National Ice Center, naturally split from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf into the Weddell Sea through a process known as calving, the center said.

It measures about 1,668 square miles (4,320 square kilometers), making it larger than A23a, an iceberg that formed in 1986 and had a total area of more than 1,500 square miles (4,000 square kilometers) in January [2021].

Researchers sought to put the formation of A76 in context, saying that the forces that severed it from the Ronne Ice Shelf were part of the shelf’s normal life span and may not be directly related to climate change.

The iceberg will not add to sea level rise as it melts; as floating ice, it is already displacing the same volume of water it will add as it melts.

Christopher A. Shuman, a research professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, likened the Ronne Ice Shelf’s calving process to a manicure: If it’s the white part of your fingernail that gets clipped off, it’s not a problem.

“There is really essentially no sign that this is an unusual event with climate significance,” Dr. Shuman said.

For the full story, see:

Claire Fahy. “World’s Largest Iceberg May Not Be a Result of Climate Change, Experts Say.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, May 23, 2021): 16.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 20, 2021, and has the title “Iceberg Splits From Antarctica, Becoming World’s Largest.”)

“If It’s Consensus, It Isn’t Science”

(p. C9) . . . science itself is not conducted by polls, regardless of how often we are urged to heed a “scientific consensus” on climate. As the science-trained novelist Michael Crichton summarized in a famous 2003 lecture at Caltech: “If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.” Mr. Koonin says much the same in “Unsettled.”

. . .

As for “denying,” Mr. Koonin makes it clear, on the book’s first page, that “it’s true that the globe is warming, and that humans are exerting a warming influence upon it.”

The heart of the science debate, however, isn’t about whether the globe is warmer or whether humanity contributed. The important questions are about the magnitude of civilization’s contribution and the speed of changes; and, derivatively, about the urgency and scale of governmental response. Mr. Koonin thinks most readers will be surprised at what the data show. I dare say they will.

As Mr Koonin illustrates, tornado frequency and severity are also not trending up; nor are the number and severity of droughts. The extent of global fires has been trending significantly downward. The rate of sea-level rise has not accelerated. Global crop yields are rising, not falling. And while global atmospheric CO2 levels are obviously higher now than two centuries ago, they’re not at any record planetary high—they’re at a low that has only been seen once before in the past 500 million years.

. . .

Mr. Koonin’s science credentials are impeccable—unlike, say, those of one well-known Swedish teenager to whom the media affords great attention on climate matters. He has been a professor of physics at Caltech and served as the top scientist in Barack Obama’s Energy Department. The book is copiously referenced and relies on widely accepted government documents.

. . .

Never have so many spent so much public money on the basis of claims that are so unsettled.

For the full review, see:

Mark P. Mills. “The ‘Consensus’ On Climate.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 26, 2021): C9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 25, 2021, and has the title “‘Unsettled’ Review: The ‘Consensus’ On Climate.”)

The book under review is:

Koonin, Steven E. Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2021.

Some Oil and Gas Landmen Seamlessly Transition to Being Wind and Solar Landmen

(p. A1) Carter Collum used to spend mornings shoulder to shoulder with competitors in the record rooms of East Texas courthouses, hunting for the owners of underground natural-gas deposits. At night, he made house calls, offering payments and royalties for permission to drill.

Mr. Collum worked as a landman, tracking the owners of oil and gas trapped in rock layers thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface and getting their signatures, a job about as old as the American petroleum industry.

. . .

These days, the jobs are going dry. Landmen, after riding the highs of the boom, face weakened demand for fossil fuels and investor indifference to shale companies after years of poor returns. Instead of oil and gas (p. A10) fields, some landmen are securing wind and solar fields, spots where the sun shines brightest and the wind blows hardest.

The difference is shale wells eventually empty and, in good times, that keeps landmen on the prowl for new land and new contracts. Wind and solar energy never run out, limiting demand for new leases as well as landmen.

For the full story, see:

Rebecca Elliott. “Oil-and-Gas Landmen Now Hunt for Wind and Sun.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 19, 2021): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 18, 2021, and has the title “Landmen Who Once Staked Claims for Oil and Gas Now Hunt Wind and Sun.”)

British Entrepreneur Shattered French Wine Pretension

(p. A23) The world was paying little attention on May 24, 1976, when a small wine tasting was held in Paris at the Intercontinental Hotel. But the echoes of that tasting, later called the Judgment of Paris, have resounded for decades.

The instigator, Steven Spurrier, an Englishman who owned a wine shop and wine school in Paris, had set up a blind tasting of 20 wines — 10 white and 10 red — for nine French judges, including some of the top names in the French wine and food establishment.

. . .

It was hardly thought to be a fair fight. As has been recounted countless times, the judges were thoroughly convinced that California wines were inferior.

“Ah, back to France,” one judge sighed after tasting a Napa Valley chardonnay. Another, sniffing a Bâtard-Montrachet, declared: “This is definitely California. It has no nose.”

When all was done, a shocking consensus revealed the favorite wines to be a 1973 chardonnay from Chateau Montelena and a 1973 cabernet sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Cellars, both in Napa Valley.

The Americans celebrated, the French shrank in consternation, and everlasting fame awaited Mr. Spurrier, who went on to a long career as a wine entrepreneur.

. . .

The Paris tasting might have swiftly been forgotten had not a single reporter, George M. Taber of Time magazine, been on hand to witness the events. His article, “Judgment of Paris,” gave the California wine industry a much-needed boost, lending its vintners international credibility at a time when they were searching for critical approval and public acceptance.

. . .

Mr. Taber, the reporter, in 2005 published a book, “Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine.” A 2008 film, “Bottle Shock,” with Alan Rickman playing Mr. Spurrier, depicted the tasting as the climax of a triumph-of-the-underdog story.

. . .

As for Mr. Spurrier, he leveraged the tasting into different careers in wine, with both triumphs and failures.

. . .

In 1987, the Spurriers bought a farm in Dorset near the south coast of England, and he decided that the chalk soil, similar to what can be found in Champagne and Chablis, was a perfect place for vines.

They did not start planting until 2009, by which time a burgeoning sparkling wine industry had taken root in southern England. Their sparkling wine, Bride Valley, had its first release in 2014.

For the full obituary, see:

Eric Asimov. “Steven Spurrier, 79, a Merchant Who Upended the Wine World With a Taste Test.” The New York Times (Thursday, March 18, 2021): A23.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated March 18, 2021, and has the title “Steven Spurrier, Who Upended Wine World With a Tasting, Dies at 79.”)

The Tabar book mentioned above is:

Taber, George M. Judgment of Paris: California Vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine. New York: Scribner, 2005.

Hundreds of Thousands at Risk From Blackouts That Shut Off Air Conditioning

(p. A15) Because both heat waves and blackouts are becoming more frequent, “the probability of a concurrent heat wave and blackout event is very likely rising as well,” Dr. Stone said.

So Dr. Stone, along with a team of eight other researchers — from Georgia Tech, Arizona State, the University of Michigan and the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada — set out to gauge the human health consequences when power failures coincide with heat waves.

. . .

Crucially, the researchers wanted to know how hot the insides of homes would get under those conditions — something that Dr. Stone said had never been tried before.

. . .

The results were alarming. In Atlanta, more than 350,000 people, or about 70 percent of residents, would be exposed to indoor temperatures equal to or greater than 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the level at which the National Weather Service’s heat classification index says heat exhaustion and heat stroke are possible.

In Detroit, more than 450,000, or about 68 percent, would be exposed to that indoor temperature. In Phoenix, where a vast majority of residents rely on air-conditioning, the entire population would be at risk — almost 1.7 million people.

Even without a blackout, some residents in each city lack access to air-conditioning, exposing those residents to dangerous indoor temperatures during a heat wave. Those numbers range from 1,000 people in Phoenix to 50,000 in Detroit, based on the characteristics of their homes, the authors found.

That exposure is most pronounced for the lowest-income households, who are 20 percent less likely to have central air-conditioning than the highest-income households.

For the full story, see:

Christopher Flavelle. “Blackouts Are Growing Threat to U.S. Cities.” The New York Times (Tuesday, May 4, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated May 5, 2021, and has the title “A New, Deadly Risk for Cities in Summer: Power Failures During Heat Waves.”)

The research co-authored by Stone and mentioned above was described in:

Stone, Brian, Jr., Evan Mallen, Mayuri Rajput, Carina J. Gronlund, Ashley M. Broadbent, E. Scott Krayenhoff, Godfried Augenbroe, Marie S. O’Neill, and Matei Georgescu. “Compound Climate and Infrastructure Events: How Electrical Grid Failure Alters Heat Wave Risk.” Environmental Science & Technology (published online in advance of print on April 30, 2021).

“As a Species, We’re Very Good At Adapting”

(p. A11) Barack Obama is one of many who have declared an “epistemological crisis,” in which our society is losing its handle on something called truth.

Thus an interesting experiment will be his and other Democrats’ response to a book by Steven Koonin, who was chief scientist of the Obama Energy Department. Mr. Koonin argues not against current climate science but that what the media and politicians and activists say about climate science has drifted so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly, demonstrably false.

. . .

Mr. Koonin still has a lot of Brooklyn in him: a robust laugh, a gift for expression and for cutting to the heart of any matter. His thoughts seem to be governed by an all-embracing realism. Hence the book coming out next month, “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.”

Any reader would benefit from its deft, lucid tour of climate science, the best I’ve seen. His rigorous parsing of the evidence will have you questioning the political class’s compulsion to manufacture certainty where certainty doesn’t exist. You will come to doubt the usefulness of centurylong forecasts claiming to know how 1% shifts in variables will affect a global climate that we don’t understand with anything resembling 1% precision.

. . .

Mr. Koonin is a practitioner and fan of computer modeling. “There are situations where models do a wonderful job. Nuclear weapons, when we model them because we don’t test them anymore. And when Boeing builds an airplane, they will model the heck out of it before they bend any metal.”

“But these are much more controlled, engineered situations,” he adds, “whereas the climate is a natural phenomenon. It’s going to do whatever it’s going to do. And it’s hard to observe. You need long, precise observations to understand its natural variability and how it responds to external influences.”

Yet these models supply most of our insight into how the weather might change when emissions raise the atmosphere’s CO2 component from 0.028% in preindustrial times to 0.056% later in this century. “I’ve been building models and watching others build models for 45 years,” he says. Climate models “are not to the standard you would trust your life to or even your trillions of dollars to.”

. . .

Let technology and markets work at their own pace. The climate might continue to change, at a pace that’s hard to perceive, but societies will adapt. “As a species, we’re very good at adapting.”

. . .

. . . , the mainstream climate community will try to ignore his book, even as his publicists work the TV bookers in hopes of making a splash. Then Mr. Koonin knows will come the avalanche of name-calling that befalls anybody trying to inject some practical nuance into political discussions of climate.

He adds with a laugh: “My married daughter is happy that she’s got a different last name.”

For the full interview, see:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., interviewer. “How a Physicist Became a Climate Truth Teller.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 17, 2021): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date April 16, 2021, and has the title “Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher’ Review: A Heart in the Right Place.”)

Koonin’s climate book, discussed in the interview quoted above, is:

Koonin, Steven E. Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2021.

Biden Plan “Lurches Into” the “Quagmire” of Government Picking Tech Winners and Losers

(p. A23) The Biden administration has put forward the biggest, boldest, most expensive expansion of government in at least a half-century.

. . .

The Biden plan doesn’t just tiptoe around the quagmire of the government picking winners and losers, or what has been termed “industrial policy” — it lurches into it. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be invested by government agencies, whose record of success with direct involvement in the commercial world is, at best, mixed.

A recent case in point: the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which, at $787 billion, was much, much smaller than the more than $4 trillion sum of the two Biden plans put forward thus far. While the 2009 stimulus did put much-needed dollars into the economy without fraud or abuse (as Mr. Biden likes to remind us), it didn’t achieve another of its goals: a swifter transition to clean energy.

As a 2015 Congressional Research Service report reviewing stimulus projects further noted, “Solyndra declared bankruptcy in late 2011 and defaulted on its $535 million loan, Abound Solar received about $70 million of its $400 million loan before shuttering its solar panel operation and filing for bankruptcy in 2012, and SoloPower never met the requirements to initiate its $197 million loan guarantee.”

None of this should be too surprising. Going all the way back to the creation of the Synthetic Fuels Corporation in 1980, which I covered as a New York Times correspondent, the federal government’s recurring efforts at directing energy transitions have mostly struggled.

. . .

No one should want the Biden plan to fall short. But given its vast sweep — I conservatively counted more than five dozen initiatives — the administration should increase its chances of success by leaning more heavily on private models for help and using tax incentives to a greater extent for efficiency.

For the full commentary, see:

Steven Rattner. “Handle Big Government With Care.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 13, 2021): A23.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 9, 2021, and has the title “Biden’s Big Government Should Be Handled With Care.”)