Met Office’s Supercomputer consumes the power of 700 Ferraris

A major problem of the AGW enthusiasts is that they cannot get figures a proper, objective, perspective. This same method has been used by the Daily Mail yesterday (and repeated on wattsupwiththat) to make fun of the Met Office’s new £33m supercomputer. The Daily Mail compares it to using the power of more than 1000 homes. However a supercomputer running 24/7 should not be compared with the average load of a household, where most appliances are used for a small fraction of the time at maximum load.

 A similar comparison would be to say it uses the power of 700 Ferraris. How so?

In actual running the computer uses 1200KW or 1600bhp. This is about equivalent to the maximum power output of 3 Ferrari F360s.

However your typical Ferrari will only cover 3000 miles per year. Let us say that is 150 hours, with an average energy power output of 100kw (134bhp) when running. 150 hours is 1.7% of a year, so average energy output is a puny 1.7kw (2.3bhp). 1200kw/1.7 is about 700, hence the supercomputer consumes the power of 700 Ferraris


Many might think this is fair game for an organization that makes forecasts like the one below.

 If no action is taken to curb global warming, temperatures are likely to rise by 5.5 °C and could rise by as much as 7 °C above pre-industrial values by the end of the century. This would lead to signficant risks of severe and irreversble impacts.  (page 13)

 However, the exaggerated and shrill claims made for global warming climate change are due to lack of proper perspective. For instance  

  1. Not putting recent warming in the perspective of natural climate trends over centuries or millennia.
  2. Not looking for alternative explanations of recent warmings, such as the sun.
  3. Alarming predictions or record events being widely publicized, but later corrections not being broadcast such as on July 2009 seas surface temperatures; recent Antarctic warming (or the full detail here);  the failure of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to collapse; or claims of the imminent disappearance of the arctic ice sheet.
  4. Extrapolating a short-period of (unusual) data over a long period to get an absurd result. For example the 2005 hurricane season (with Katrina) to say that hurricanes will become stronger and more frequent in the future.


The example of the supercomputer’s power consumption provides a simple illustration of how we can get that perspective wrong.

Balance Sheet Accounting for the UK economy

The true health of the economy is not to be judged by the growth rates, nor the state of the government’s finances on the size of the annual deficit, nor upon the balance of payments. It is upon the state of the balance sheet.


In simple terms, a balance sheet consists of liabilities and assets.


Liabilities – examples


  1. The National Debt £800bn
  2. The Final Salary Pension of public sector employees £1,000bn
  3. State Pension and disability benefits       say £1,000bn
  4. NPV of PFI schemes
  5. Maintenance of exiting assets, e.g. NPV of maintaining buildings and roads in their current state.
  6. Commitments, such as increasing the school leaving age to 18, emissions reductions, or the cost of reducing poverty. 




            This is not the actual assets that a government holds – the land and buildings at market rates, the cost of computer equipment. For a business these are assets, as they will provide future returns, but for a government they are the means of carrying services. The major asset is the future tax revenues. The government’s asset is the future capacity of the general public to pay tax.


It may not be possible to get a full balance sheet, and any conclusions will be contentious. But from year to year, it will be slightly easier to look at the change in the balance sheet from year to year. Such an approach will be a focus for debate, and move politicians away from short-term expediency and towards long-term stewardship of the Nation’s finances.

Getting Swine Flu in Perspective

Dan Hannan posted yesterday on the Swine Flu Pandemic.

The swine flu outbreak consists of the following

– a fast-spreading virus, that in the vast majority of people causes a fairly mild and short illness.

– The mortality rates are extremely low, and usually are to people in a very poor state of health. The group most vulnerable – the elderly – seem to be immune.

– There is a very small risk of the swine flu mutating into something more deadly, but as yet this has not happened.

The consequence of this – the government is spending huge amounts of money they do not have, simply to damp down talk that they are not doing enough. The scare stories are started by drug companies, keen to see a profit opportunity.

This is clearly a situation where the costs of action far outweigh the benefits. The more reasonable course of telling folks to stock up on Lemsips (or Beechams Powders) and if they suspect they have the flu to stay at home.  The major effort should be put into monitering and the sensible advice currently been put out.

There are similar panics where the proposed cost of solutions far outweigh the benefits

– The expenditure on track and signals following rail disasters.

– The reaction to the credit crunch (we must do whatever it takes)

– The combatting of Global Warming with expensive schemes, with little impact.

The ways to avoid such waste is to first assess the situation, then devise a proportionate (and cost-effective) response. The failing with our current way of working is that the public’s perception is more highly prized than good stewardship of our valuable resources.

UPDATE 15th July

Nadine Dorries has a similar post today

 “I was also struck by the protestations of those who claimed that the true picture of the swine flu outbreak can not be truly known, as many people are not seeking medical help and therefore we need some form of large scale testing to obtain a true picture of the scale of the outbreak. The inference being that on the contrary, this is not something simply as mild as seasonal flu, it’s much worse?!

Er, no, surely not? The reason why people aren’t seeking medical help is because in the vast majority of cases, the symptoms are so mild that they don’t need to,  possibly tipping the scales well over to the point of fact that swine flu is demonstrably milder that seasonal flu and in most cases as severe as a mild cold.”

UPDATE 2 15th July

John Rewood makes comment in “One Flu out of the Cuckoo’s Nest”

So far I have avoided comment on the great pandemic.

In the early days Ministers and government told us they were valiantly combatting it, to stop it reaching us. I bit my tongue. It reached the UK.

Then Ministers told us they would stop it spreading in the UK. I kept quiet. It spread.

Government implied it was virulent and serious. They would fight it in the hospitals and in surgeries, with huge quantities of drugs. Fortunately so far it has proved quite mild for most people catching it, unless they already have some other serious condition.

Now we are told flu is flu. This one is like regular flu. You may not need drugs at all, or if you do a phone call to the GP should suffice to sort it out.

So all we have is a lot of wasted money, a profitable bonanza for the drug companies and undue worry for those infected, or being close to those infected. Another example of the true cost of Politics.


Barry George and Sean Hodgson – A Connection

Barry George was convicted and later freed over the murder of TV personality Jill Dando. Sean Hogdson was free today for the murder of Teresa De Simone in 1979.

There are obvious similarities – both single men of low intelligence and not really connected with the world, convicted on faulty forensic evidence.

But there is a more subtle link. The case against Barry George was strengthened by the fact that a number of photographs of Jill Dando were found in his home. It turns out that Barry George had loads of old newspapers in his home. The police had searched through them, and, not surprisingly, found a number of pictures of a well-known and popular TV personality. There was no evidence presented that Barry George has marked these pictures, just that he had them in his possession. The case against Sean Hodgson was based around his confession, on a number of occasions, to the crime. This is clear-cut, until you learn that he was a pathological liar, who had confessed to a number of other murders, which he could not have committed.

The link is the putting the evidence in context. It is weighing the argument against the counter-arguments, the significant facts. It happens not just in the judicial system, but in religion, in politics and in our work and in our personal life. If we are not always on our guard against putting the evidence in context, then wrong decisions will be made just as easily as the juries made the wrong decisions in these two cases.


Weighing up Waste Recycling – Impact on future generations

Tim Worstall’s article on waste got me thinking, manically.


The cry goes that we should not leave our rubbish, or more broadly our environmental problems, for future generations. However, this is only part of the issue. Future generations will benefit from better technology to deal will environmental problems. Further, with economic growth, they will have better resources to deal with this. This is not a trivial point. In real terms western countries are over 30 times richer per capita than 250 years ago. Looking at the UK, with GDP of £1200bn (USD2100bn), with a steady growth rate of 2%, would mean that the economy will be 7.24 times greater in one hundred years and 52.48 times richer in two hundred years. Reducing average output growth  by just 0.1% means that they will be 6.57 times richer in 100 years and 43.14 times richer in 200 years. If the future generations have to clean up our mess, in 100 years they will have £810bn (USD1420) extra to do it with (67% of current output), whereas in 200 years they will have £11,219bn (USD 19,633bn) extra to clean up with (935% of current output).


There is always a problem of running out of landfill, but this if a political rather than a physical problem. There is also a problem of containing the waste and containing the chemical run-off. The methane can be tapped and used as a fuel.


The limit to waste creation


If the waste is to be contained, the problem becomes one of a trade-off between re-processing or recycling now and generating sufficient capability of future generations to recycle later. There is a risk that the problem will become a runaway one, growing faster than the increased capacity to produce later. However, with proper assessment this then becomes a small risk. as the technological advances will mean the real cost of dealing with the issue reduces over time. It is the flip side of the growth equation. The best method of improving this is for small, but long-term incentives. In particular directing research along disparate avenues, like venture capitalists putting small amounts of money in various ventures. It is probably something for philanthropists, rather than governments, as it is necessary to be eclectic, but also cut funding should avenues not be fruitful.  


As a final point, what is most important is developing a framework for our thinking, not to provide solutions. One that goes beyond just listing the advantages and disadvantages, but relating them to one another. It is finding the best answer, not justifying our particular views with pseudo-facts.