Thaago on December 22, 2010, 07:43:36 pm

I'm pretty much with NRNBR on nuclear power. Once we get small, cheap, safe, nuclear power plants that can be installed, say, under city streets and that can go a hundred years before anybody needs to dig them up to do anything about them, we should use them heavily. In the meantime, investing in giant expensive unsafe government-regulated nuclear power plants is probably a bad, bad idea. Do the R&D as quickly as possible for the good power plants, and leave the bad plants alone.


The problem with just doing the R&D is that R&D takes lots of time and lots of money. Some companies do research for its own sake (and for the resulting products) but not many. This translates to nuclear power as it simply being (much) more economical to build inferior plants now, with slower development in basic technology.

As a technology to do R&D in, fusion plants would be ideal. They do produce a little waste because of the neutron flux on the containment structures, but much less than a nuclear plant. Fuel is plentiful, cannot be used for weapons, and the plants themselves are incapable of meltdowns or explosions (it just don't work that way). The easiest reaction also provides incentive for space travel for harvesting H-3 on the moon.

However, pretty much no company will invest as the payoff date is so uncertain (always 50 years away).
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J Thomas on December 22, 2010, 11:33:00 pm
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The last time we were in this cesspool, (holocene climatic optimum) there was a bag of gold in it.

That was a different cesspool. The one we are creating is unprecedented.

In the holocene, things were obviously warmer than they have been in our recent past.  Today, things are not obviously warmer than in our recent past.

All of you keep on acting like you think temperature is the only thing that changes and the most important thing that might change.

"Oooh, everything was peachy-creamy in the Holocene so if we go back to the Holocene again everything will be peachy-creamy the same way."

The first claim is that human beings adding a whole lot of carbon to the ecosystem won't have any effect.

The second claim is that if it does have an effect, the effect will be much smaller than the effects of natural variations.

The third claim is that if it does have an important effect, the only thing it will affect is temperature. It will just turn up the thermostat until we get a temperature we like better, and that's all that will happen.

These are all arguments from ignorance.

jamesd on December 23, 2010, 12:09:13 am
All of you keep on acting like you think temperature is the only thing that changes and the most important thing that might change.

"Oooh, everything was peachy-creamy in the Holocene so if we go back to the Holocene again everything will be peachy-creamy the same way."

The first claim is that human beings adding a whole lot of carbon to the ecosystem won't have any effect.

  • The amount of carbon we are adding, while larger than recent fluctuations, is not dramatically larger.
  • Carbon dioxide is a fertilizers.  Greenhouses routinely add a lot of carbon dioxide to the green house atmosphere, far more than we are ever likely to add to the earth's atmosphere.  To the extent that added Carbon dioxide will have effect, those effects are likely to be good

The holocene was peachy-creamy, and greenhouses with artificially high carbon dioxide are peach creamy, so if humans are having a significant effect, that effect is likely to be peachy-creamy.

J Thomas on December 23, 2010, 05:57:35 am
All of you keep on acting like you think temperature is the only thing that changes and the most important thing that might change.

"Oooh, everything was peachy-creamy in the Holocene so if we go back to the Holocene again everything will be peachy-creamy the same way."

The first claim is that human beings adding a whole lot of carbon to the ecosystem won't have any effect.

  • The amount of carbon we are adding, while larger than recent fluctuations, is not dramatically larger.

Where did the other "fluctuations" in carbon come from? Are you talking about fluctuations in the amount of carbon in the biosphere, or are you talking about fluctuations in the atmosphere?

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  • Carbon dioxide is a fertilizers.  Greenhouses routinely add a lot of carbon dioxide to the green house atmosphere, far more than we are ever likely to add to the earth's atmosphere.  To the extent that added Carbon dioxide will have effect, those effects are likely to be good

The holocene was peachy-creamy, and greenhouses with artificially high carbon dioxide are peach creamy, so if humans are having a significant effect, that effect is likely to be peachy-creamy.

Argument from ignorance.

Wine tastes good, and wine-vats are good for making wine, so you'd enjoy living in a wine-vat.

You assume any change will just make the climate more like the Holocene, which you assume was good.

Good luck with that.

J Thomas on December 23, 2010, 06:06:20 am

I'm pretty much with NRNBR on nuclear power. Once we get small, cheap, safe, nuclear power plants that can be installed, say, under city streets and that can go a hundred years before anybody needs to dig them up to do anything about them, we should use them heavily. In the meantime, investing in giant expensive unsafe government-regulated nuclear power plants is probably a bad, bad idea. Do the R&D as quickly as possible for the good power plants, and leave the bad plants alone.


The problem with just doing the R&D is that R&D takes lots of time and lots of money. Some companies do research for its own sake (and for the resulting products) but not many. This translates to nuclear power as it simply being (much) more economical to build inferior plants now, with slower development in basic technology.

Some experiences are so searing that the people who go through them never forget.

Some junior executive says "Hey, maybe we could build some nuclear plants" and everybody in the room stares at him until he cringes. He's reminded everybody that he wasn't there and he doesn't know what it was like.

We didn't get any interest in new nuclear power plants by energy companies until the managers who went through it the last time around were gone.

mellyrn on December 23, 2010, 08:03:58 am
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(jamesd) The holocene was peachy-creamy, and greenhouses with artificially high carbon dioxide are peach creamy, so if humans are having a significant effect, that effect is likely to be peachy-creamy. [emphasis added]

(J Thomas) Argument from ignorance.

No, actually, it's not.  You don't read for content, do you?

If he'd written, "that effect WILL BE peachy-creamy", then that would be an argument from ignorance -- because it would be an argument for a definite effect.

To argue for a possibility -- as in "is likely to be" -- sheesh, about the only way you can do that is to consider what has happened before, and what you already know or think you know:  i.e., "from knowledge".  The possibility may fail, of course, and things may turn out differently.  But I am arguing from knowledge when I say, "when I throw 3 six-sided dice, the effect is likely to be 11".

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You assume any change will just make the climate more like the Holocene [emphasis added]

You really don't read for content.  Neither jamesd nor I am making any assumption about what will be.

jamesd and I are both pointing out ways in which global warming (anthropogenic or not) could be a good thing.  The burden is on you to say that it is impossible.

Good luck with that.

You otoh are not arguing from ignorance, you are arguing for ignorance:  "That which is going on now is totally unprecedented!  Therefore nothing we have ever learned about anything can be applied to guess at an outcome because it might not apply any more!"

Well, yeah, it might not.  News flash, honey-chile:  tomorrow, referred to today as "December 24th, 2010", has never occurred before.  It's totally unprecedented.  We'll be 1.6e6 miles away, in some totally unknown region of space (since the last time we were passing near here was something like 250 mya, and "we" were not here then).  Tomorrow's full of surprises.  That doesn't stop me from buying groceries for the coming week.  Past experience (what you call "ignorance") says I'm likely to need them.

mellyrn on December 23, 2010, 09:01:49 am
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All of you keep on acting like you think temperature is the only thing that changes and the most important thing that might change.

That's an artifact of your failure to read for content.  Temperature, climate, is merely the variable under current discussion. 

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The first claim is that human beings adding a whole lot of carbon to the ecosystem won't have any effect [on climate -- added because we are, or at least I am, discussing climate].

I have not seen anyone make that claim.  For myself, I don't know that the carbon being added to the system is "a whole lot".  Carbon's the fourth most abundant stuff in the universe

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The second claim is that if it does have an effect [on climate], the effect will be much smaller than the effects of natural variations.

Could be, depending on what "natural variations" you mean.  Compared to the natural variation in solar output?  Yes, I think adding 0.0003% more CO2 to the atmosphere would have less of an effect on climate than a 0.1% drop in the energetic output of an object 1.3e6 times Earth's size.  I really, really hope it's only a 0.1% drop.

This guy is getting interesting results -- predicting weather (!!) simply by looking at what the Sun is currently doing, checking back into the (relatively) recent past to see what the weather was the last time the Sun was doing that, and making his call.

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The third claim is that if it does have an important effect, the only thing it will affect is temperature. It will just turn up the thermostat until we get a temperature we like better, and that's all that will happen.

And that would be the claim of the global-warming true believers, except that they claim any higher temperature than present is completely unacceptable and millions of people will starve and/or drown.  They don't adduce any reasons for why warmer conditions would be so deadly.

Why you appear to attribute the claim to either jamesd or me, I really can't say, apart from our noting that warmer conditions are highly likely to be favorable more than not, and certainly better than another glaciation.

You otoh have concerns about "more carbon in the system" in general, not just CO2.  You don't offer any possibilities, as you seem to have an "all bets are off!" approach.  I'm left imagining that you're concerned that some Monster from the Black Lagoon will arise.  If all you're saying is, "we can't know", I can only reply, "Yeah; so what?" because if we can't know, then, hey, you can't know that doing whatever it is you'd like to be done won't be the fast track to disaster (for your own value, whatever it is, of "disaster").


quadibloc on December 23, 2010, 10:49:10 am
Some experiences are so searing that the people who go through them never forget.

Some junior executive says "Hey, maybe we could build some nuclear plants" and everybody in the room stares at him until he cringes. He's reminded everybody that he wasn't there and he doesn't know what it was like.

We didn't get any interest in new nuclear power plants by energy companies until the managers who went through it the last time around were gone.
So the government builds them. And you take one set of blueprints that resulted in a working plant, and you make as many copies as you have plants to build - thus eliminating the need for an army of nuclear power plant designers.

Assuming we need to shut down fossil fuel use now, and preferably yesterday, but can't actually afford to until an alternative energy source is in place, the direct approach is in order.

J Thomas on December 23, 2010, 11:11:18 am
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(jamesd) The holocene was peachy-creamy, and greenhouses with artificially high carbon dioxide are peach creamy, so if humans are having a significant effect, that effect is likely to be peachy-creamy. [emphasis added]

(J Thomas) Argument from ignorance.

No, actually, it's not.

jamesd and I are both pointing out ways in which global warming (anthropogenic or not) could be a good thing. 

Oh, then I have no problem with that. We really don't know what to expect, and sure it could be a good thing.

On the other hand, if you want to argue that it's likely to be a good thing, then be sure to show your statistics.

It's like we're thinking about going to Assateague beach next July. You say, I heard it was really great once 80 years ago when the temperature was 86 degrees. However it goes the temperature will be higher than it is now, and it might be 86 degrees. So it's likely to be just fine.

I say, sometimes the water is full of jellyfish. Sometimes there are big sharks. An 86 degree rain may not be pleasant, and you sure don't want to be there ten days after it rains because there are millions of starving mosquitoes desperate for your blood. We really don't know what to expect, and "warmer than December" is not enough to go by.

And I'd be less right for the beach next July because nothing fundamental has changed. We could collect statistics from the last 70 years, as good as we can get, and get a sense of how often the jellyfish and sharks come, and how often it rains, and average temperatures for July, etc.

But our fossil fuel burning is changing something basic. It surely will have consequences beyond the immediate greenhouse effect. There is no reason to think we will or can have the Holocene again. We will have something different.


But I'm still arguing from ignorance. There's a way I could be wrong. Suppose that we're getting tens of billions of tons a year of abiogenic methane coming out of cracks in the ground. The only part that turns to oil is what gets stuck under impermeable domes etc; most of it leaks out to where bacteria turn it to CO2, and we also have carbon sinks that remove tens of billions of tons a year. In that case human-produced carbon is likely to have little effect. There's an equilibrium that has occasional shocks it recovers from fast, and human CO2 will just be one more blip.

Does that seem plausible? It doesn't seem real likely to me, but I don't have the data to really say. I don't believe anybody else does either. If it turns out I'm wrong and this is true I'll be vastly relieved.

Why are you even arguing with me? I already gave in on national policy. We don't understand the situation well enough to decide what to do, so our priority has to be to find out and then later decide based on what we know -- then. We won't get the political will to make big changes even if we get solid evidence that climate change is likely to drive humanity extinct. OK, live with that or die with it.

What are you arguing with me about when I already gave in? I say we don't know. You say we know enough to estimate how it will likely be great. Are you a sore winner or what?

J Thomas on December 23, 2010, 11:28:31 am

We didn't get any interest in new nuclear power plants by energy companies until the managers who went through it the last time around were gone.

So the government builds them. And you take one set of blueprints that resulted in a working plant, and you make as many copies as you have plants to build - thus eliminating the need for an army of nuclear power plant designers.

Your faith in big government is touching. Or touched. Something like that.

I can understand that you would be enthusiastic to get government bureaucrats to rush in where private enterprise fears to tread. But something about that bothers me.

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Assuming we need to shut down fossil fuel use now, and preferably yesterday, but can't actually afford to until an alternative energy source is in place, the direct approach is in order.

If we're clearly going to die off unless we take immediate drastic action, then sure, go ahead. What do we have to lose?

But what if we actually have ten years leeway? We could hurt ourselves badly with a whole lot of identical fission plants. They could perhaps all have the same flaw which has not been discovered yet, but which will show up about the same time.... Until it's obvious we don't have much time, I'd rather look for a better solution. Let's not jump from the frying pan into the fire until we're sure we can't find a better choice.

My two shining examples of working government crash programs are penicillin and the bomb. I'd feel better about a government crash fission reactor program if the ones that I know of that worked didn't seem like such anomalies.
 

jamesd on December 23, 2010, 01:36:49 pm
The holocene was peachy-creamy, and greenhouses with artificially high carbon dioxide are peach creamy, so if humans are having a significant effect, that effect is likely to be peachy-creamy.

Argument from ignorance.

Argument from experience.

J Thomas on December 23, 2010, 03:54:42 pm
The holocene was peachy-creamy, and greenhouses with artificially high carbon dioxide are peach creamy, so if humans are having a significant effect, that effect is likely to be peachy-creamy.

Argument from ignorance.

Argument from experience.

Your experience living in the Holocene and living in greenhouses counts for something.

But you have provided no evidence whatsoever why we should expect future climate to be like living in a greenhouse in the Holocene.

Why would you expect it to be more like the Holocene and less like the Carboniferous? Not that I'm saying it would be like the Carboniferous, just that there's more theoretical reason to expect that than the Holocene.

jamesd on December 23, 2010, 05:00:13 pm
But you have provided no evidence whatsoever why we should expect future climate to be like living in a greenhouse in the Holocene.

High CO2 is good, evidence being what happens in greenhouses with artificially high CO2, and warmer climates are good, as evidenced by conditions seven thousand years ago when the Sahara was pretty nice, and the shores of the arctic ocean were pretty nice.

And, since rising CO2 has not changed climate detectably, we really need to release a hell of a lot more CO2.

J Thomas on December 23, 2010, 06:36:02 pm
But you have provided no evidence whatsoever why we should expect future climate to be like living in a greenhouse in the Holocene.

High CO2 is good, evidence being what happens in greenhouses with artificially high CO2, and warmer climates are good, as evidenced by conditions seven thousand years ago when the Sahara was pretty nice, and the shores of the arctic ocean were pretty nice.

And, since rising CO2 has not changed climate detectably, we really need to release a hell of a lot more CO2.

I have the strong feeling that you're just trolling me. But OK, where do you think the high CO2 came from 7000 years ago, and where did it go when it went away?

Prof B Hunnydew on December 23, 2010, 07:48:21 pm
But you have provided no evidence whatsoever why we should expect future climate to be like living in a greenhouse in the Holocene.

High CO2 is good, evidence being what happens in greenhouses with artificially high CO2, and warmer climates are good, as evidenced by conditions seven thousand years ago when the Sahara was pretty nice, and the shores of the arctic ocean were pretty nice.

And, since rising CO2 has not changed climate detectably, we really need to release a hell of a lot more CO2.


My My We haven't turn up the thermostat far enough, Oh no Let's push it to the limit.  Let's make Earth a true Twin of Venus,    Thankfully With the moon in orbit that will not happen.
 The Earth's temperature drives the climate and the weather.  Climate change is more just than the temperature. Higher temperature in the long term means ocean currents will change.  Rain patterns are now changing.  The Middle East is facing water shortages for years, but they are getting worst enough for war.
Yet, So what if Greenland become a truly green? it means the Gulf Stream will be going more north, and Europe will be freezing like Russia does now.  Russian  fields will see stronger winter storms and snow-covered field longer with hotter drought-filled summers.

Hurricanes could will happen year around turning into northeastern in the winter and flooding storms in the summer.  Crops must have gentle rains during their growing seasons in good soil area.   Not all at once flooding and then not at all with droughts.  The US wheat belt could move to Canada which doesn't have as good as soil for wheat or corn.  

Greenhouse s keep the CO2 at level that will kill the plants and they have sprinkler systems for watering.  High CO2 means more acidic oceans, which is killing coral and that kills fishing areas.   Billions are just holding on with food and resources at present levels.  
Civilizations have collapsed over simpler changes in climate, and stressed resources. Will ours? Any change in our climate will mean major adjustments in production of food, clean water supply and places to live without fear of the storms, floods, or civil war.

PBH
« Last Edit: December 23, 2010, 07:52:23 pm by Prof B Hunnydew »

 

anything