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« Does anyone believe GM can survive? | Main | Rep. John Murtha: ‘If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district’ »

March 30, 2009

Comments

Kevin

It makes me sad that you give the environmentalists the time of day.

Almost as sad as the fact that you give the global warming worshipers credence without applying the scientific method to the data that is available in aces (i.e. it's very clear by the last 9 years of data that there is no correlation between CO2 and temperature).

CO2 levels continue to minorly rise, temperatures continue to minorly drop. Yet at least one of you (I'm glaring at jj) still believes that CO2 drives the temperature of the planet.

It took 40 years for the world to realize that environmentalists are not very smart about nuclear power. Hey, at least it happened. But how long is it going to take to realize that they don't know what they are talking about when it comes to carbon dioxide?

So, great. We might (I'll believe it when I see it) start building new nuclear power plants, 40 years after we should have. We might move mankind forward, 40 years late. But how many decades is this crazy environmentalist belief that CO2 is bad going to cost mankind?

I really hate environmentalists. They are the fundamentalist muslims of the civilized world.

CJW

I take all of my cues from the current administration. They have all of the answers and I clearly can't be trusted to think for myself to figure out the world's complex problems. tic

George

Let's hope we are entering a "nuclear renaissance." If it happens, it will be no thanks to Barack Hussein Effin Obama. He pulled the rug out from under the Yucca Mountain waste storage site and, despite spending $trillions and signing into law 8000 earmarks, he actually reduced spending for nuclear energy.

Frank Warner

You have a figure on the nuclear reduction?

jj mollo

Scientists are not the same as environmentalists. Scientists will change on a dime if they feel that the evidence warrants it. Environmentalists have a strong emotional commitment to their cause, and find it very difficult to back down. They're trapped in the narrative. Conservatives, and to a certain extent Libertarians, are more like Environmentalists. They tend to believe things that they prefer to believe.

Personally, I'm inclined by nature and experience to have a lot of faith in scientists. I recognize, however, that you can have your Vitamin C and your cold fusion debacles. Scientists are, first of all, not reliable outside their fields of expertise, and secondly, often wrong to start with.

It is my perception that, for one thing, most physicists and almost all nuclear engineers believe that nuclear energy is the way to go. They have believed this without letup for 50 years or so, even when Carl Sagan's nuclear winter idea was widely accepted. I'm sure you can find exceptions, though. Secondly, most climatologists believe that anthropogenic global warming is a fact of life. Not all of them find it alarming. The extent of the change and the consequences are where the real debate resides.

My own viewpoint, as I have stressed here several times, is related to the systems analysis. I believe that there is little cause for alarm. It is unlikely that truly bad things will happen, at least for a couple of hundred years, and we will probably have the fix by then. However, and this is a very big however, I am concerned about the possibility that something very bad will happen sooner rather than later. The possibility is based on the fact that CO2 is, without any doubt, increasing steadily. CO2 has peculiar properties that are known to be associated with climate change. The nature of the relationship is very poorly understood because the Earth System is monstrously complex, and probably chaotic. There are also potential positive feedback loops within this system, some of which have been identified. A simple example would be loss of albedo leading to more loss of albedo. If you really think about the nature of a positive feedback loop, it is somewhat disturbing. There are other known feedbacks which are even more disturbing, but the most disturbing feedback features are the ones we don't know about yet.

You take a known fact, the relentless increase of CO2, and a put it together with a teeming world of unknowns and even unknowables. What do you come up with? For myself, I would be very much more comfortable if we could reverse the direction of the CO2 change. The reason I feel that way is that I don't know for sure what the climate is capable of.

My kids got caught in a hailstorm yesterday. They thought it was a lark, but I was a little disturbed. I remember, when I was a child, my father pulled a hailstone out of the freezer and showed it to his friends. It was the size of a grapefruit. In this case, it was something I knew about that disturbed me.

Frank Warner

Kevin, have temperatures been dropping over the last nine years?

CJW

"Conservatives, and to a certain extent Libertarians, are more like Environmentalists. They tend to believe things that they prefer to believe."

rofl

Kevin

Frank, yes, minorly, according to satellite data. Less so according to Hansen's NASA data, but still it's a minorly downward trend. And as you've reported, Hansen is not one of those scientists who's opinion will 'change on a dime' as jj says.

JJ, I'm glad I misjudged your position as panicky, so that you could set me straight. It was my honest belief, and I'm glad to know that I was mistaken about you. But then you turn around and say,

There are also potential positive feedback loops within this system, some of which have been identified. A simple example would be loss of albedo leading to more loss of albedo.

This is just another claim that was worked into models that doesn't play out in the real world. It actually appears that loss of albedo raises world temps, which raise humidity, which raise cloud cover, which raise albedo, which lower global temps! Rather than positive feedback, we have a buffer.

And then you say,

There are other known feedbacks which are even more disturbing, but the most disturbing feedback features are the ones we don't know about yet.

That's your inner environmentalist speaking. You might as well say, "Don't split that atom, we don't know what's in there!" Or, "We don't understand quantum mechanics well enough to know whether CERN is going to create a black hole and destroy the Earth once it becomes fully operational. It's not worth the risk. Turn it off."

For all we know, an increase in the CO2 levels could be a good thing. Our food supply is certainly happy with the change so far.


ps - 'minorly' is not an actual word. Can you believe it? Should be. I call coinage rights.

Kevin

Sorry, I didn't mean to hijack the thread. It's very good news that nuclear is coming back into fashion. I just don't trust it. I bet 50 cents that the guy from Fast Times at Ridgemont High will rally Hollywood against nuclear power, and maybe Radiohead will have a no nukes concert, and Obama will issue a presidential injunction against nuclear power for a few years to 'study' the issue. As if it hasn't been studied enough.

Or some scenario like that.

Please don't think that I'm anti-environment simply because I'm anti-environmentalist. I've planted ~81,000 pine trees (some got killed by last years two hurricanes) on my own property in the last 7 years. Know any environmentalists who can claim as much?

Frank Warner

It's not hijacking. It's completing a thought. That's what threads are for.

Kevin

F U S I O N ! ! ! !

Yahoo! Fusion reactors might be in our near future. The laser part is done, at least.

jj mollo

What's the benefit of fusion? Nuclear fission is already a lot cleaner than coal, relatively inexpensive and well researched. And we have enough fuel to last for centuries if we use it properly. When the uranium peters out we can use thorium reactors for a few hundred years more. The thorium cycle has the added advantage that it doesn't produce any isotopes useful for fission weapons.

I'm not against fusion development, btw, but I've just come to realize that we've been hoping for decades for this magical source of endless energy while it was, for all practical purposes, already here.

Kevin

"Kevin, have temperatures been dropping over the last nine years?"

To re-answer your question but this time with a little technical data, Frank, I'm linking this. To be fair, these guys think that Holy Global Warming (pbuh) has not reared it's ugly messianic head in 9 years. I say differently.

I say the globe has cooled in these last 9 years, and will continue to do so for another 15. After that, I'm not qualified to make an estimation. They don't show a graph, unfortunately. Because if they did, you'd see the downward slope. AGW is dead. Admit it and get on with your lives, guys who want to take my money to combat dutch windmills. It didn't work with Don Quixote, and it won't work with you.

If you want some of my money to make fusion generators a reality though, call me. I'm very cool with that.

(hey, did you see what I just did? I made you, for a second at least, think that I AM qualified to make a guess on the future climate as much as fifteen years out! Hehe. Still, I stand by my statement.)

Frank Warner

Fusion won't need Yucca Mountain.

However, storing our existing fission waste still will need Yucca.

jj mollo

Kevin, We have adapted over centuries, at least, to the world as it is. The implication is that we have opportunistically maximized the productivity of the planet in its current configuration. Any substantial change is most unlikely to be beneficial on the whole.

Optimism as a response to rising CO2 is in the same vein as, and makes as much sense as, continuing to smoke cigarettes because your grandfather smoked and lived to the age of 92. So if you want to live long, don't stop.

CO2 has a known relationship with the acidity of sea water. The recent issue of Nature has an article purporting to prove that coral reefs will dissolve and disappear after CO2 levels exceed 500ppm. I don't know what happens after that. What are the consequences if all the coral reefs dissolve?

Two of the known positive loops that I am concerned about are methane outgassing from the tundra and the possible catastrophic conversion of large stores of frozen methane hydrate at the bottom of the oceans. Unfortunately, we don't know what the possible triggers might be. There are volcanic lakes in the Cameroon that provide a plausible model for this kind of thing. They retain their C02 for years and years, then release it catastrophically in minutes, killing thousands of people.

I'm still more worried about the things we don't know than the things we do know about.

Kevin

JJ, In reply to your previous post discussing why fusion generators are important let me say that:

-fusion generators would produce no waste products. All of the radiation emitted from fusion is gamma rays. Sure, they would damage humans who are exposed to them, but they have no residual effect, unlike the alpha particles and rogue neutrons that you find in a fission reactor. They don't create radioactivity. Fusion reactions are clean in a way unheard of in today's nuclear power.

- The heavy water used in fusion does not need any precautions to acquire or refine, unlike dangerous uranium or the ultra-deadly plutonium that it creates.

-There is NO danger of a nuclear meltdown with fusion. It simply cannot happen, scientifically.

-Fusion plants would require a much smaller footprint to deliver the same power, or more likely, they would require the same footprint to deliver 20x electrical power.

-Fusion power would force the envirohippies to shut the hell up. That alone makes the whole venture worthwhile.

jj mollo

That's my point though. There is really no danger with modern fission technology either. It's just a matter of perception. People will start bellyaching about fusion just as soon as we figure out how to do it. I mean, no one knows what happens if the heavy water gets into the water supply (actually, I already saw a TV detective show about that very scenario). And I think those lasers probably cause brain cancer if you listen to them on a cell phone.

Kevin

As to your last comment, let me say this:... eh, before I say it, I want you to know that I respect you (and Frank) above all liberals, past or (especially) present. Neither of you seem to play the victim card like most liberals do. I sincerely have great respect for you, JJ.

Ok, enough brown-nosing. Now for the fisking!

"We have adapted over centuries, at least, to the world as it is. The implication is that we have opportunistically maximized the productivity of the planet in its current configuration. Any substantial change is most unlikely to be beneficial on the whole."

I disagree. Mankind has not adapted. We don't even have the ability to adapt. Instead, we've changed the world to fit our needs. We're a massive juggernaut that fixes the problems that nature imposes upon us. For example, remember those pesky buffalo that got in the way of our ability to grow wheat, rice, rye, safflower, barley and corn? *BLAM* They're gone. The result is that a land that could feed six million people (the LA purchase) can now feed ~a billion. Adapt my ass, nature. Let's face facts. We're in an ongoing struggle between man and nature. And we're winning.

Substantial change to the natural order is usually beneficial to mankind. I've no idea where you get the idea that change is unlikely to be beneficial.

Optimism as a response to rising CO2 is in the same vein as, and makes as much sense as, continuing to smoke cigarettes because your grandfather smoked and lived to the age of 92. So if you want to live long, don't stop.

Don't be silly. 1 - I'm not optimistic, I'm ambivalent, and 2 - Smoking is bad for you. CO2 is not.

I get the impression that what you're REALLY saying is that change is bad. But... didn't you VOTE for change quite recently? Seriously.

I must be honest and say that I have no idea what increased CO2 would do to coral reefs, but I'm forced to be even more honest and say that I don't particularly care. They're cool, but they play no part in the advancement of humankind. I doubt that coral reefs will die because of us (except in special circumstances), but if they do, I don't really care. Those little coral things aren't even edible, for Christ's sake.

I don't want to get into your outgassing claims other than to say that PV=znRT and it always will. I'd mention that you are tilting at windmills, but honor would require you to deny that, so consider it unsaid.

But this is the line that kills me, jj:

I'm still more worried about the things we don't know than the things we do know about.

That statement should get you a free subscription for Haldol. It's so paranoid! I'll be honest yet a third time and say that your worrying about the unknown spooks me just a bit.

Kevin

Crud, I have to admit that you are probably right about fusion, jj.

FWIW, the water your and I drink every day contains heavy water. It behaves exactly like normal water and is completely non-radioactive. But you're right. Explaining this fact to the masses would be as hard as explaining that CO2 is not a pollutant.

(sorry for the dig, jj. When it comes to science or jihadism, I can't help myself.)

David Holliday

I'm with Kevin on this one. I'm a skeptic. But regardless of which side of the debate you are on, this is not settled science. And that is the position AGW'ers take that is most disturbing. They call those who do not agree "deniers" and levy various personal attacks against them. For instance, when Freeman Dyson came out against AGW they said he was past his prime and feeble minded.

There is a growing mountain of evidence produced by the research of some very prominent scientists that says that AGW is false. Note this is different than climate change. Climate change is real and ongoing. The question is whether humans are causing it.

Here is a post that debunks the "positive feedback" mechanism which is central to the AGW theory. It was posted just the other day in my favorite climate blog (Watts Up With That) and is by Richard Lindzen, PhD., Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, MIT.

Lindzen on negative climate feedback

And with respect to global temperature, according to every major data reporting organization, it has remained stable or declined slightly since 1998. This is a very big nail in the coffin of AGW. Because CO2 has been increasing and temperature has not. This disproves the theory. You can't have it work sometimes and not others and still be valid.

jj mollo

Kevin, I'm not saying that all changes that we deliberately engineer are bad. The changes we make actually represent a tremendous amount of work, though. They are essentially the collective wealth of humanity. We have been building cities, roads, canals and levees and dams for ages. We have carefully located all this infrastructure in productive places.

Rome, for instance, flourished because of its location. It was ideally suited for agriculture, close enough to the sea to allow trade, and far enough from the sea to discourage pirates. So people invested a lot in creating the city of Rome. They essentially adapted themselves and their environment by careful site selection and substantial human effort to change what they could, including their own behavior. (E.g., Eskimos don't wear tunics.)

At first, boat traffic on the Tiber sustained the city of Rome. The traffic became more and more frequent. Eventually, however, the demand for transportation outstripped the capacity of the Tiber. At that point the Romans built an entire new city, Ostia, at the mouth of the river. They invested a tremendous amount of labor and materials to make it secure and productive. But guess what! It's useless today because the sea receded leaving Ostia high and dry. All the blood sweat and tears that went into Ostia were gone without recompense -- all due to a minor environmental change.

It works in the other direction too. When the sea ice melts in the North, there will be a mad scramble for the newly available wealth that was previously inaccessible. Russia has already asserted its claim. Lots of money will be made, but in other places lots more will be lost. I suspect that the loss of the coral reefs might be one component of the losses, eliminating a number of income streams that depend on the reefs.

David is correct about the positive feedback. Scientists are studying these issues intensively. Every positive feedback hypothesis that is proposed has a counter-proposal suggesting that negative feedbacks will modulate it. So we probably don't have anything to worry about. Unfortunately, we don't yet know that for sure. Lindzen's viewpoint is comforting. But I am not completely comforted. Negative feedbacks have protected us for thousands of years. Why can't they continue to do so forever? Because the world is organized the way that it actually is organized, not the way we think it is organized. Things can happen.

Before you call me paranoid, though, you should look into the phenomenon of limnic eruptions, which we didn't even know about until 1986. Here's a somewhat more technical discussion (pdf) from the University of Michigan which is worth reading. The fact that we didn't anticipate this event is disturbing to me. It is conceivable that the oceans are capable of a similar kind of limnic eruption. Under what conditions could the methane hydrate break down? No one knows for sure.

I know it's far out, but the idea of meteor impacts and super-volcanos used to be considered impossible. But to repeat, the question which keeps coming to me is, "What else?" The Earth is such a complex system that there remain things we cannot predict. We are making a pretty big splash in the water here. So will that attract the crocodiles? My advice is to very slowly get out of the water until we know where the crocodiles are.

Ten years, btw, does not make a trend. Even twenty years is iffy if the variation is large, which it is. (Skeptics have also suggested that a hundred years is too short.) There could also be countervailing effects which explain why the current temperature is not rising, in much the same way that Mt. Pinatubo affected the planet. I am of the opinion that the unusually quiet solar cycle has something to do with it. I don't think we understand the interaction between the Sun and the Earth's magnetic field very well.

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