mellyrn on December 23, 2010, 10:17:49 pm
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Oh, then I have no problem with that. We really don't know what to expect, and sure it could be a good thing.

Thank you.  On that, I ask no more.  Now: how would you like another glacial period, mile-deep ice in Nebraska, tundra in Oklahoma kind of thing?

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Let's make Earth a true Twin of Venus

Booga booga.  We have oceans.  When they warm, water evaporates from them.  Clouds form, vastly raising a thing called "albedo", which means sunlight gets reflected off into space instead of (that's important -- "instead of") warming the rock, so there is actually less heat to be trapped in the greenhouse.  We could as easily get a runaway cooling cycle -- which may very well have been what happened in the Cryogenian Period, when 90% and more of the planet was under ice . . . for two hundred million years.

We speculate as to how Venus "lost" its water but we don't know definitively that it ever had it to lose.  We do have water.  The physics of phase change is pretty solid.  Moreover, thanks to the inverse-square law (more basic physics) Earth gets half the solar irradiance, on average, that Venus does.  Half.  And Venus' atmosphere is 96.5% CO2; Earth's is only 0.003% CO2.  Seems as though we have some leeway before we can twin Venus.

We are currently in an ice age.  From wikipedia:

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Glaciologically, ice age implies the presence of extensive ice sheets in the northern and southern hemispheres; by this definition we are still in the ice age that began at the start of the Pleistocene (because the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets still exist)

Pick one:
1) it's all over and done with, no more glacial phases.  If you pick this one, know that it means that the planet will continue to warm up even if all humanity and all its works vanish from the planet overnight.

2) it's just an interglacial and the ice will return -- next year, next decade, next century, next millenium or more, but it will return, mile-deep ice over Chicago and all that.

Here's a possibility for you to contemplate:  that anthropogenic global warming is real #and# it is powerful enough to prevent the next glacial phase of The Current Ice Age.

My fear is that all man's carbon releasing activity, which does have a slight greenhouse effect, does not have a strong enough effect to prevent a return of the continental ice sheets.  You think your year-long hurricane seasons are bad; try shoveling snow out of New York City when the receiving lots are still full of last year's snow.  The glacier won't "come" to you; it'll grow on top of you.  Unless you move south and cram in with all the other northerners doing the same.

The planetary climate will either warm (leaving this the shortest ice age in the geologic record) or cool (into the next glacial).  Staying the same is not an option.  It just isn't.

If you want something to worry about, how about "Where are we going to get all the oxygen to burn all that fossil fuel?"

jamesd on December 24, 2010, 12:36:13 am
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?

Things warmed during the Holocene up for reasons unrelated to CO2.  Warmer seas, especially warmer arctic seas, released a lot of CO2.  Later, cooler seas, especially cooler arctic seas, absorbed a lot of CO2

J Thomas on December 24, 2010, 05:09:39 am
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?

Things warmed during the Holocene up for reasons unrelated to CO2.  Warmer seas, especially warmer arctic seas, released a lot of CO2.  Later, cooler seas, especially cooler arctic seas, absorbed a lot of CO2

If we put out a lot of new CO2 then we might get a different result than the Holocene. Maybe a very different result.

J Thomas on December 24, 2010, 06:04:45 am
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Oh, then I have no problem with that. We really don't know what to expect, and sure it could be a good thing.

Thank you.  On that, I ask no more.  Now: how would you like another glacial period, mile-deep ice in Nebraska, tundra in Oklahoma kind of thing?

It depends on how fast it comes. Get big changes in the next 10 years and probably billions of people will die. Big changes in the next 100 years, maybe likewise but slower. Change gradually In the next 1000 years, and we'll adapt. If we gradually get a full ice age over the next 10,000 years we probably will hardly notice.

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Let's make Earth a true Twin of Venus

Booga booga.  We have oceans.  When they warm, water evaporates from them.  Clouds form, vastly raising a thing called "albedo", which means sunlight gets reflected off into space instead of (that's important -- "instead of") warming the rock, so there is actually less heat to be trapped in the greenhouse.  We could as easily get a runaway cooling cycle -- which may very well have been what happened in the Cryogenian Period, when 90% and more of the planet was under ice . . . for two hundred million years.

That sounds plausible to me. So, what effect do you expect from a trillion tons of extra CO2? Would it tend to warm things? Would it tend to warm things enough to bring on a sudden ice age? Would it have some other effect? Do you think you know?

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Seems as though we have some leeway before we can twin Venus.

Yes, I hope that was rhetorical on his part.

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We are currently in an ice age.  From wikipedia:

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Glaciologically, ice age implies the presence of extensive ice sheets in the northern and southern hemispheres; by this definition we are still in the ice age that began at the start of the Pleistocene (because the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets still exist)

Yes, and that's been true through the entire evolutionary history of humanity, right? It's the climate we evolved for. We've never known anything else.

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Pick one:
1) it's all over and done with, no more glacial phases.  If you pick this one, know that it means that the planet will continue to warm up even if all humanity and all its works vanish from the planet overnight.

Until the next time. Perhaps humanity could do something to create a new ice age, if we wanted that. We might figure out how. We might even figure out how to keep it roughly interglacial for a long time -- if we wanted that. Or if we could make sudden climate change -- in 10 years or less -- we might use it for military purposes. Humanity makes short-term choices for short-term reasons, and we tend not to make long-term choices at all.

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2) it's just an interglacial and the ice will return -- next year, next decade, next century, next millenium or more, but it will return, mile-deep ice over Chicago and all that.

You present two choices, but we don't actually get to choose at this point. Something will happen and we don't know what. Our fossil fuel use will have an effect but we don't know what effect.

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Here's a possibility for you to contemplate:  that anthropogenic global warming is real #and# it is powerful enough to prevent the next glacial phase of The Current Ice Age.

That's a possibility. Now try this possibility. If you take your firearm to the mall, and you turn your back on a crowd and shoot blindly into the crowd, there's a possibility that you will kill somebody who needed killing. And there's a possibility that you will miss everybody and your shot will have no effect.

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My fear is that all man's carbon releasing activity, which does have a slight greenhouse effect, does not have a strong enough effect to prevent a return of the continental ice sheets.

My fear is that it will have unpredicted effects, that might happen fast enough that we get hurt.

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You think your year-long hurricane seasons are bad; try shoveling snow out of New York City when the receiving lots are still full of last year's snow.  The glacier won't "come" to you; it'll grow on top of you.  Unless you move south and cram in with all the other northerners doing the same.

Again, if it happens over 10,000 years we will hardly notice. If it happens quickly (and you point out that maybe it could happen very fast, in your lifetime) then it will be very disruptive. Until we understand how it happens we don't know how to predict. Why argue that human-caused CO2 might prevent an ice age, when it's just as plausible that it might trigger one?

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The planetary climate will either warm (leaving this the shortest ice age in the geologic record) or cool (into the next glacial).  Staying the same is not an option.  It just isn't.

It could stay pretty much the same for the next few thousand years. It's stayed pretty much the same for the last few thousand. Little tiny climate changes may have been responsible for the end of the Roman empire or the movement of the Mongols and the Vikings etc, but on the whole it hasn't been bad. There's genetic evidence that sometime humanity got reduced to a few thousand individuals. The genetic diversity of the species got severely cut. But not recently.

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If you want something to worry about, how about "Where are we going to get all the oxygen to burn all that fossil fuel?"

Is that an issue? I had thought the numbers came out with plenty of oxygen even if we got enough CO2 that people can't breathe. (And I'd expect lots of survivors who would adapt to too much atmospheric CO2, if it built up slowly enough.)

Incidentally, your Cryogenian period -- the last time we had extremely extensive ice ages -- was before the fossil fuels got sequestered, right? Back then we presumably had a lot of extra carbon available. Then it went away, over a period of over 100 million years, and the ice ages have never been as bad since. And humanity is restoring that carbon in just a few hundred years.

And you keep repeating talking points that assume that this will result in a slight greenhouse effect and nothing else.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2010, 06:09:46 am by J Thomas »

mellyrn on December 24, 2010, 08:45:06 am
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If we put out a lot of new CO2 then we might get a different result than the Holocene. Maybe a very different result.

Different in what way(s)?

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what effect do you expect from a trillion tons of extra CO2?
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That's a possibility. Now try this possibility. If you take your firearm to the mall, and you turn your back on a crowd and shoot blindly into the crowd, there's a possibility that you will kill somebody who needed killing. And there's a possibility that you will miss everybody and your shot will have no effect.

If I take my peashooter to the mall and shoot blindly into the crowd, there is a nonzero chance that I will kill someone, too. 

Regarding carbon, you seem already convinced that it's a firearm.  I am not convinced that it is, and I do ask, "What if it is, and the crowd at the mall is a resurgence of the zombies that were here before?"

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Yes, and that's been true through the entire evolutionary history of humanity, right? It's the climate we evolved for. We've never known anything else.

We evolved in the tropics.  We are evolutionarily fit for warmer climates.  It's our technology that allows us to survive towards the poles -- where only researchers live, and even them not for their whole lifespans.  Put a human out in the Congo with nothing but what he was born with, and he can only die by some accident.  Do the same in Maine in summer, and he could die overnight of exposure, never mind the poles.

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Get big changes in the next 10 years and probably billions of people will die. Big changes in the next 100 years, maybe likewise but slower. Change gradually In the next 1000 years, and we'll adapt. If we gradually get a full ice age over the next 10,000 years we probably will hardly notice.

And that won't be true of the warming (or your unmentioned "differentness") -- why, exactly?
From what we've seen in the geologic record, the change from interglacial to glacial is likely to be quite sudden.  Maybe one of your unanticipated effects of the release of carbon will be to slow it down.

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If you want something to worry about, how about "Where are we going to get all the oxygen to burn all that fossil fuel?"

Is that an issue? I had thought the numbers came out with plenty of oxygen even if we got enough CO2 that people can't breathe.

You're the guy saying "unprecedented" and "we can't know because things are so different", without suggesting what kind of different, not me.  Loss of oxygen is one I could guess at.

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Incidentally, your Cryogenian period -- the last time we had extremely extensive ice ages -- was before the fossil fuels got sequestered, right?

IF you assume the fossil fuels really are fossils, yes.  The abiotic origin of oil is currently controversial, though I can't see why (except for sheer inertia of thought):  hydrogen is the most abundant stuff in the universe, carbon the fourth; it's hard to imagine Earth coalescing out of interstellar dust with very little of either getting mixed into the deeper rock.  Just add gravitational squeezing and how could you not have a planet oozing with complex hydrocarbons?

Oil, like gold and silver, used to be found abundantly on the surface.  The Romans used it (medicinally, I believe).

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And you keep repeating talking points that assume that this will result in a slight greenhouse effect and nothing else.

Because it's a possibility, and the data suggesting a runaway greenhouse is compromised, and the pathways for warming to be the doom of the planet keep getting alluded to but never spelled out.  I can say how advancing ice will kill; you brush it off with, "Oh, if it happens slowly enough it won't be a problem".  Well, maybe a slow advance wouldn't be deadly -- even though it would turn more and more of the planet into a place where technology would be necessary for survival instead of merely a nice addition.  Neither would a slow warming be a problem, so why bring up the rate of change at all -- except to avoid saying that you can't say why warming, qua warming, is a concern.

Fwiw, I tend to live with rather a small "carbon footprint", if I do say so myself.  I don't do it for fear of global warming, though, which of all the booga-boogas thrown at me over the last several decades is quite possibly the most obviously political, and not science at all.


Prof B Hunnydew on December 24, 2010, 11:41:59 am

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Get big changes in the next 10 years and probably billions of people will die. Big changes in the next 100 years, maybe likewise but slower. Change gradually In the next 1000 years, and we'll adapt. If we gradually get a full ice age over the next 10,000 years we probably will hardly notice.

And that won't be true of the warming (or your unmentioned "differentness") -- why, exactly?
From what we've seen in the geologic record, the change from interglacial to glacial is likely to be quite sudden.  Maybe one of your unanticipated effects of the release of carbon will be to slow it down.

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Incidentally, your Cryogenian period -- the last time we had extremely extensive ice ages -- was before the fossil fuels got sequestered, right?

IF you assume the fossil fuels really are fossils, yes.  The abiotic origin of oil is currently controversial, though I can't see why (except for sheer inertia of thought):  hydrogen is the most abundant stuff in the universe, carbon the fourth; it's hard to imagine Earth coalescing out of interstellar dust with very little of either getting mixed into the deeper rock.  Just add gravitational squeezing and how could you not have a planet oozing with complex hydrocarbons?

Oil, like gold and silver, used to be found abundantly on the surface.  The Romans used it (medicinally, I believe).


Venus and Snowball Earth
These are the two extremes for this debate, there are many more likely climate platues, the Earth’s climate can rise or fall into in the next 10-100 years.
Venus has two things which make it what it is today.
1)   A moon, which will stir up Venus’s inner core and create a magnetic field, (protect against the solar blowing away your hydrogen so quickly.)
2)   No Rain reaching the surface means CO2 is not taken out of the atmosphere by silicate rock, to off set the CO2 released by volcanoes.

Snowball Earth, Cryogenian period, would require that polar ice sheet to get down to the 30 degree latitudes, which is unlikely at present.  We would need to be in the height of a Ice age, and with most of the land mass in the tropics.  

But Really What are we debating, the Survival of Civilization, the Survival of Man, or the Survive of life on Earth?  
No time in human History, has Man been so close of Escaping Terra and going somewhere we could maintain a balance to survive without a threat of natural disaster taking out all of Man.  Regardless, If climate changing because of Man or if we are just pushing the natural order of things faster.  The good times of the last century are not going to carry over to own children.   We are finding that US food aid has not really help the world’s poor in the long run, that millions will starve when we get to $200 barrel oil in the long term.  More and More people are demanding to “live” like the Americans, which we ourselves can't maintain much longer. .  India and China now have middle classes which each are as large as the US population.   More shortage of basics are showing up, as we watch more mountain tops around the world become more bare and less water for billions

Today we find ourselves, like the Easter Islanders, we could keep to the status quo, and find ourselves eat our dead for food.  Or We can try a build a boat and bring resources from the black sea of the solar system.  History of ourselves has shown once we distrust the government or our leaders enough, we return to our individual survive instincts.  The Temple of civilization collapse

We may never see the final results of our CO2 experiment, because war, flood and storms will throw us back into the caves of the last Ice Age to starve.  And this path may not come again for another 10,000 years or more..      
PBH
« Last Edit: December 24, 2010, 11:49:00 am by Prof B Hunnydew »

J Thomas on December 24, 2010, 01:31:42 pm
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If we put out a lot of new CO2 then we might get a different result than the Holocene. Maybe a very different result.

Different in what way(s)?

I keep telling you, we don't know. Likely a lot more carbon in the biosphere -- bigger forests, lusher jungles, etc. Faster-growing kudzu. Maybe algae growing faster in the oceans, leading to more things that eat algae. Maybe lots and lots of jellyfish and fewer fish. Maybe lots and lots of diatoms and fewer fish.

Warm and moist and faster growth may give us lots of marshes Lots of bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Warm and dry may give us new deserts. I dunno. These are all just first-order thoughts, more X gives more Y. Since it's all connected in ways we don't understand well, it's hardly worth trying to predict. But adding a lot more carbon to the system is a fundamental systemic change. Not like just moving things around. Cut down forests and burn them, and if you then leave things alone you can expect new forests in a few hundred years. Move things away from equilibrium and they'll tend to go back. They get a lot of other things moving them away from equilibrium too, and they might do limit cycles etc, not like things stayed at equilibrium before you. But your effects will be temporary. But if you change the equilibrium then things will vary around a new equilibrium and you have made a bigger longer-lasting change.

So, there's a claim that there are places in the ocean where very little lives, because there just isn't enough iron. Living things get what iron they can out of the seawater and then when they die they tend to take their iron to the bottom of the sea, and it never comes back. They get a little iron from micrometeorites, and that's it. What if humans were to distribute iron over those places? It's predictable there would be a lot more life there. Would it be the same kind of life that survives there now? Probably not. The life that's there now is specialised for eking out a living without much iron. The fish are good at spotting food a long way away. Etc. Get plenty of iron and other kinds of life will invade. Which kinds will survive in a new environment? We don't know. We won't know unless we do the experiment.

Would more carbon have much effect on the places that don't have much iron? Probably not. Maybe. Unless they find a way to use the extra carbon to keep the iron better, or an acidity change or something else affects them with unknown results. But may other places, yes. There is no particular reason to think our existing crops would do well. Some crops will do better than others. If the yield on rye goes up and wheat goes down, we can adapt easily. If we have time to breed new crops we'll do fine. If we get a hundred times the bugs eating crops maybe we can use lots of insecticides, or breed resistant crops with time. Etc. More first-order thinking. The big problems will likely be things we did not anticipate.

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what effect do you expect from a trillion tons of extra CO2?

.... chirp    chirp     chirp ....

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Regarding carbon, you seem already convinced that it's a firearm.  I am not convinced that it is, and I do ask, "What if it is, and the crowd at the mall is a resurgence of the zombies that were here before?"

And my answer as before, is that we don't know what's going on so we can irresponsibly hypothesize whatever we want. Maybe if we burn all the fossil fuel it will result in the Second Coming. Maybe it will bring paradise on earth. Maybe it will result in US domination of the world. Maybe there will be no effect whatsoever except that a grateful public sends you a check for a billion dollars for predicting right. Who knows? You seem to think that the possibility of good results has some special meaning.

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Yes, and that's been true through the entire evolutionary history of humanity, right? It's the climate we evolved for. We've never known anything else.

We evolved in the tropics.  We are evolutionarily fit for warmer climates.  It's our technology that allows us to survive towards the poles -- where only researchers live, and even them not for their whole lifespans.  Put a human out in the Congo with nothing but what he was born with, and he can only die by some accident.  Do the same in Maine in summer, and he could die overnight of exposure, never mind the poles.

We evolved during glaciations and interglacials. Maybe for the edge of deserts, we have some special adaptations for hot dry weather. Humans have expanded pretty much everywhere using minimal technology. The Inuit survived adequately in the arctic with stone-age tools. Once they got adequate files they cut sewing needles and fish-hooks out of meteorites. Meanwhile in the south american tropics, humans survived with other stone-age tools, particularly hammocks. Humans don't survive there trying to sleep on the ground. There are supposed to be places in the tropics that humans don't go -- the mosquitoes keep them out. I'm not certain that's true because the scientific expeditions that might have found out, turned back.

Human beings have been tremendously adaptible, and given time they might likely adapt to entirely unprecedented circumstances. Given sufficient time to prepare, humans might survive a glaciation that covers the entire land surface. Particularly if the polar bears survive. They might learn to live on ice floes and steer them, live on fish and kill enough polar bears to provide clothing and shelter. We might even learn to survive with millions of mosquitoes per human.

But I point out that we are heading for something unprecedented. We don't know what to expect.

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Get big changes in the next 10 years and probably billions of people will die. Big changes in the next 100 years, maybe likewise but slower. Change gradually In the next 1000 years, and we'll adapt. If we gradually get a full ice age over the next 10,000 years we probably will hardly notice.

And that won't be true of the warming (or your unmentioned "differentness") -- why, exactly?

It would be, of course. Provided we don't get something new we can't adapt to. If it's cold we could also get something we can't adapt to. But 10,000 years provides a lot of room for adaptation in either case. Or even in both cases -- we could get whipsawed one way and another, and survive if it comes slow enough.

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From what we've seen in the geologic record, the change from interglacial to glacial is likely to be quite sudden.  Maybe one of your unanticipated effects of the release of carbon will be to slow it down.

Maybe. Who knows? I have never denied the possibilities you point out. We are driving blind. We don't know what we will run into.

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If you want something to worry about, how about "Where are we going to get all the oxygen to burn all that fossil fuel?"

Is that an issue? I had thought the numbers came out with plenty of oxygen even if we got enough CO2 that people can't breathe.

You're the guy saying "unprecedented" and "we can't know because things are so different", without suggesting what kind of different, not me.  Loss of oxygen is one I could guess at.

As a first guess, the amount of currently-unburned fossil fuels would provide only around 20 times as much CO2 as is already in the atmosphere. Currently the atmosphere consists of around 21% oxygen and around .039% CO2. So if we could somehow collect all that fossil fuel and burn it instantly, the CO2 percentage in the air would go up to something like .82%, and the O2 level would drop to something like 20.1%. (I counted only the carbon, but burning oil would use close to double the oxygen as coal, while methane would use 3 times as much. Still we'd be above 18% oxygen, right?) We can't predict all the interactions, but we can do arithmetic on some things.

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Incidentally, your Cryogenian period -- the last time we had extremely extensive ice ages -- was before the fossil fuels got sequestered, right?

IF you assume the fossil fuels really are fossils, yes.  The abiotic origin of oil is currently controversial, though I can't see why (except for sheer inertia of thought):  hydrogen is the most abundant stuff in the universe, carbon the fourth; it's hard to imagine Earth coalescing out of interstellar dust with very little of either getting mixed into the deeper rock.  Just add gravitational squeezing and how could you not have a planet oozing with complex hydrocarbons?

OK, you finally considered this after I gave you the hint. Good.

We don't expect the whole planet to ooze with hydrocarbons because the rock used to be liquid, and a lot of it still is, and the lighter things tend to fractionate out. Carbon could stay low if it was precipitated out in heavy minerals, though. The complex hydrocarbons have had 3 billion+ years to ooze out already. Of course, in gas form the lighter gases tend to fractionate out high -- check your intro physical chemistry text. Hydrogen gas winds up so high that it tends to be lost. We get some replacement from the solar wind, but not enough to replace losses. We lose some carbon too, but not nearly as much.

The abiotic fuel hypothesis as it's usually presented has carbonates and water taken down from the surface to the hot rocks with subduction, and then given just the right combination of heating and cooling, methane and even complex hydrocarbons can be the result. They then leak upward to the surface. This is controversial because there is no agreement about how often the special condidtions needed for it to happen actually do happen.

I think it's not necessary to assume the special conditions for complex hydrocarbons -- once methane, water, and sufficient other compounds are trapped in a cool enough place for life, bacteria will eke out their energy needs by creating increasingly complex hydrocarbons. All you need from the deeps is methane, though the rest could occasionally happen with hot rocks. But again, there's no consensus how often the methane does happen.

Wherever the oil came from, we know that some of it gets trapped and some does not -- methane seeps are one of the indicators of fossil fuel deposits. So the important thing is how fast the methane is being released without human help. If there's a whole lot being released then there must be a whole lot being sequestered too because carbon has not been building up before. In that case it might not matter that we release a lot of extra carbon -- maybe the removal process will just speed up a little and take it away. If it's real slow then it doesn't matter much.

So, how would we find out how much abiogenic methane reaches the surface each year? This is a question that could be answered. It's important. Do you know the answer?

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Oil, like gold and silver, used to be found abundantly on the surface.  The Romans used it (medicinally, I believe).

So?

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And you keep repeating talking points that assume that this will result in a slight greenhouse effect and nothing else.

Because it's a possibility, and the data suggesting a runaway greenhouse is compromised, and the pathways for warming to be the doom of the planet keep getting alluded to but never spelled out.  I can say how advancing ice will kill; you brush it off with, "Oh, if it happens slowly enough it won't be a problem".  Well, maybe a slow advance wouldn't be deadly -- even though it would turn more and more of the planet into a place where technology would be necessary for survival instead of merely a nice addition.  Neither would a slow warming be a problem, so why bring up the rate of change at all -- except to avoid saying that you can't say why warming, qua warming, is a concern.

The possibility of drastic climate change is a concern. We don't know whether to expect drastic climate change. We don't know what sort of drastic climate change to expect. You seem to be saying you think that any kind of warming would be just fine, while cooling would be a big problem. I don't see why you make such a big deal of this. Do you want to claim that since we don't know what to expect, we might as well assume that it's 50% warming and 50% cooling, and anything that gives us warming is good but anything that gives us cooling is bad, so we might as well assume that it's a 50% chance everything turns out peachy-creamy? No, I don't think you're saying that because that would be a really stupid argument from ignorance. i don't get what your point is.

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....global warming, though, which of all the booga-boogas thrown at me over the last several decades is quite possibly the most obviously political, and not science at all.

I think I see where you stand on that one. You have been influenced by the politics.

It's been predictable (and predicted) for 60 years that our fossil fuel burning would cause ecological changes. But people who knew nothing about ecology claimed that they understood better than the ecologists, and that there could not possibly be any effect. So the question came up about global warming. This is a simple possible change due to extra CO2. If the guys who claim there cannot be any problem can't show that this won't be a problem, then they don't actually know. It's the simplest first thing to look at. And it turned out that the people who claimed they understood the whole thing had no evidence whatsoever.

But the way the political process worked, the deniers got to say that the burden of proof was on the scientists. Either the scientists can prove that they know exactly what will happen, or they don't know exactly what to expect and therefore they are wrong and the deniers are right. Extremely strange logic, but it seems to work for some people.

The deniers have no evidence, and the scientists do. So they claim to have an argument that some of the science was done wrong, and therefore they will assume that all the science was done wrong. Therefore nobody has any evidence and that proves the deniers are right.

All very strange, especially when global warming was only one possible effect of this fundamental change to the ecology. But you believe the deniers and ignore the evidence.

jamesd on December 24, 2010, 04:18:43 pm
Quote from: J Thomas
If we put out a lot of new CO2 then we might get a different result than the Holocene. Maybe a very different result.

Different in what way(s)?

I keep telling you, we don't know.

If we don't know, we don't know if it is going to be better or worse, in which case, premature to take costly collective action in fear that the sky might fall

J Thomas on December 24, 2010, 05:12:05 pm
Quote from: J Thomas
If we put out a lot of new CO2 then we might get a different result than the Holocene. Maybe a very different result.

Different in what way(s)?

I keep telling you, we don't know.

If we don't know, we don't know if it is going to be better or worse, in which case, premature to take costly collective action in fear that the sky might fall

Yes, of course. We're stumbling around in the dark. Big expensive action would turn into a giveaway for somebody politically connected. We might as well let them make their profits from military boondoggles.

So I say, spend some money on climate research to find out. And do our best to get cheap alternative energy, because if that succeeds it has multiple good results apart from climate change.

Incidentally, as RA Fisher pointed out in the 1930's, the bigger the change the less likely it is to be an improvement. This is easy to see graphically. Assume that changes come in only two dimensions. The ideal is at (x1,y1) and the current state is (x2, y2). Draw a circle around center (x1,y1) that crosses (x2,y2). A tiny change in a random direction is almost 50% likely to be closer to (x1,y1). But the bigger the change, the smaller the chance it will be closer. Once you get to a change bigger than (|x1-x2|, |y1-y2|) then there is no possibility it will be closer to the optimum. The optimality function could have some strange shape but it takes a really pathological function before the rule isn't generally true.

mellyrn on December 25, 2010, 03:16:58 pm
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You seem to be saying you think that any kind of warming would be just fine, while cooling would be a big problem. I don't see why you make such a big deal of this.

You've finally taken the hint.

The risk of putting the brakes on anthropogenic warming (assuming it's even enough of a factor to change climate) is that of a cure worse than the disease.  I say warming could be just fine (the word "could" is one you will ignore AGAIN and change to a much more assertive "would" as you did above); I do think we know enough to say that cooling would (see, now I am using the more assertive voice) be a problem and likely (with which word I drop back to cautious qualifying) a big deadly one.

Since I myself have no idea what will come of any of it, I am not willing to act either to brake or accelerate climate change. 

You cite "scientists" who are afraid that something will change (it will, whether it's anything to do with us or not) and "deniers" -- political language again, a smear word, though there are thousands of scientists who simply get different results than the ones you favor, and even though your favored ones have been so unscientific as to hide their methodology from peer scrutiny -- and you say that I have been swayed by the politics, as if you have not.  Umm, yeah.  I'll just tiptoe away from that one, as a poster on this forum once wrote.

And you cite those "scientists" and their predictions in one breath, and in the next say, "We can't know."  You're trying to have your cake and eat it, too, in the old saying.  All the arguments you've given about how we can't know that all our carbon might be just a blip, I return unto you.  You raise them against "the deniers" but lower them against the ones you believe.  OK.

J Thomas on December 25, 2010, 09:25:22 pm
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You seem to be saying you think that any kind of warming would be just fine, while cooling would be a big problem. I don't see why you make such a big deal of this.

The risk of putting the brakes on anthropogenic warming (assuming it's even enough of a factor to change climate) is that of a cure worse than the disease.

Yes, there's a big risk either way. Note though, if we had some abundant cheap alternative energy, then it would cost very little to stop burning fossil fuels. In that case, would you say we should burn fossil fuels to create anthropogenic warming, because if we did not the cure would be worse than the disease?  

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I say warming could be just fine (the word "could" is one you will ignore AGAIN and change to a much more assertive "would" as you did above); I do think we know enough to say that cooling would (see, now I am using the more assertive voice) be a problem and likely (with which word I drop back to cautious qualifying) a big deadly one.

OK, that's clearer. Global cooling "could" be just fine if it was not too extreme. Global warming also "could" be just fine if it was not too extreme. Satisfied?

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Since I myself have no idea what will come of any of it, I am not willing to act either to brake or accelerate climate change.

I say that the temperature change is only one factor to consider. Adding carbon to the ecosystem will predictable lead to unpredictable changes, unless there are unknown mechanisms that maintain an equilibrium in carbon in the biosphere.

We should slow down our carbon release, if we can. But it looks to me like we can't. If you reduce your use of fossil fuels, the result is only to make it a tiny bit cheaper for the rest of us to burn them. If the USA reduces its use of fossil fuels, the result is only to make it considerably cheaper for the rest of the world to burn them. If the entire world made agreements to reduce use of fossil fuels, then much of the world would cheat on the agreements. Even if the research was completely unambiguous, the human world does not have the sort of organization that would let us act on it. We act on short-term goals.

Again, if we had a cheaper energy source then it would be easy to stop burning fossil fuels and we would stop, whether you thought we should continue to burn them for the good of the world or not. Since we do not, we will not and cannot collectively stop.

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You cite "scientists" who are afraid that something will change (it will, whether it's anything to do with us or not) and "deniers" -- political language again, a smear word, though there are thousands of scientists who simply get different results than the ones you favor

Mostly not. It's mostly deniers making that claim without adequate reason.

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I'll just tiptoe away from that one, as a poster on this forum once wrote.

OK.

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And you cite those "scientists" and their predictions in one breath, and in the next say, "We can't know."

The global warming controversy so far looks to me like it parallels the ozone layer controversy. I used to follow Jerry Pournelle's arguments about that. He said that there was no reason to think CFCs had any effect on the ozone layer. Sure, there were laboratory studies that predicted an effect, but things don't work the same in the real world. And anyway volcanoes sometimes put out lots of chlorine which could have a similar effect. So CFC levels kept going up, and ozone levels kept going down. An ozone hole got publicised, and Pournelle said that there had always been an ozone hole, just people hadn't paid attention to it before. It got bigger. CFCs went up and ozone went down. At the end he argued with me about biological effects of the reduced ozone. Only 20% more UV was getting through, and he said there was no way that could have any significant biological effect. It just stood to reason that it couldn't. He said that various scientific experiments were badly done, but he couldn't tell me how they were badly done. It looked to me like the main way to say they were wrong was to claim they had been falsified on purpose. But rather than explain, he stopped answering me.

Quite similarly, we look at the amount of CO2 we put into the environment from outside the environment, and predict that should have an effect. Deniers said that's just theory, like they said lab results for CFCs was just theory. Scientists measured an effect. Deniers said it wasn't real. It becomes undeniable that we are getting short-term climate change of various sorts. Deniers say it might come from natural sources. Give it time, and the deniers will have to retrench more and more.

But the ozone layer had only a few variables. There's the amount of UV light coming from the sun, creating ozone, and the various things that break down ozone. A little bit of ozone falling, replaced by oxygen. Etc. A simple system. Climate is not simple at all. It's predictable that extra CO2 will cause some climate change, before it gets absorbed by the oceans, increasing ocean acidity and perhaps allowing quicker algae growth etc. Ocean acidity is an issue for things that depend on calcium carbonate for structures or teeth etc, and much less an issue for things with silicate skeletons. The short-term result of atmospheric CO2 is kind of predictable, but the rest is not. And as you point out we can't be sure of our baseline. The ozone baseline was reasonably clear.

So anthropogenic carbon could result in global warming or cooling in the longer run -- we don't know. It could have lots of other effects, to the point that we don't even know which questions to ask.

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All the arguments you've given about how we can't know that all our carbon might be just a blip, I return unto you.  You raise them against "the deniers" but lower them against the ones you believe.  OK.

?? I say that we need more research. We need to find answers as quickly as we reasonably can. We might find out which problems to expect and what to do about them.

And if we can get cheap alternative energy, the political choice will become moot. The world will switch as fast as it reasonably can, and we will stop adding carbon to the ecosphere. And all the arguments about how we don't know enough to stop will vanish because nobody will care. We'll just stop because we want to, because it will be cheaper to stop than to keep polluting.

And then if climate scientists think we need, say, 30 million tons a year of fossil fuel burning to optimise the climate, we can argue about whether some other method would be better. It looks to me like burning fossil fuels would have too many side effects. Also it would be expensive. We'd have to compare against particular alternatives, which might have their own different side effects. But all that is for a future which may not arrive.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2010, 09:31:20 pm by J Thomas »

quadibloc on April 11, 2011, 05:56:22 am
You cite "scientists" who are afraid that something will change (it will, whether it's anything to do with us or not) and "deniers" -- political language again, a smear word, though there are thousands of scientists who simply get different results than the ones you favor, and even though your favored ones have been so unscientific as to hide their methodology from peer scrutiny -- and you say that I have been swayed by the politics, as if you have not.
You are correct that a term like "deniers" has emotional content.

However, the fact remains that the major peer-reviewed journals seldom publish papers about climate change that challenge the... received orthodoxy, if you will. And it is also the case that some - not all - of those who do challenge it are recipients of oil company funding.

I simply see no reason whatever for any doubt or mistrust aimed at the mainstream scientific community. They are good judges of what is quality research and what is not.

We already have a level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is significantly higher than at any previous time in human history. It's reasonable to conclude that even if natural cycles would have led to an ice age by now, there is enough there to prevent it. In fact, that is one argument that's been given to end our reliance on fossil fuels - to save them for when we do need them to prevent the next ice age after the one we've already prevented.

If we have in place enough hydroelectric dams, enough nuclear power plants, to supply our energy without burning fossil fuels, that doesn't prevent us from switching back to fossil fuels rapidly should we need the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When our fossil fuel infrastructure has rusted away, we could even just burn the stuff and waste the energy if we had to. But if we don't have the means to produce the energy we need in some other way, then we don't have the choice.

Of course, I will admit that the current set of public policy recommendations on the issue are inane. Cutting down our energy use won't save enough energy to matter, unless it also causes catastrophic economic consequences.

Since the goal is to keep a huge chunk of the planet's oil reserves still in the ground, instead of being burned by someone else - not to make oil cheaper for China to buy - obviously, what is needed is this...

Don't just build enough nuclear and hydroelectric capacity (plus the minuscule contributions from wind, tidal, geothermal and solar) to provide all our electricity. Also build some more to input energy so as to take hydrogen from water and carbon from the carbon dioxide in the air to make synthetic fuels, which, being made that way, are carbon-neutral when burned.

Then subsidize them. Not just for our own use. But for export, so as to drive all the exporters of oil extracted from the ground out of business - even after they give up on stuff like oil shales and oil sands, and just offer to sell old oil at pre-1973 prices.

Of course that will cost a huge amount of money. That is a problem if you pay the people doing this work in money that can be exchanged for gold or used to buy imported goods and services. After World War II, the Allies executed Baldur von Schirach as a war criminal. They should have put him to work, like Wernher von Braun. (EDIT: Baldur von Schirach was only imprisoned, not executed; he was the leader of the Hitler Youth, however - I seem to have had him confused with Hjalmar Schacht, who not only was not convicted of war crimes, although he was placed on trial, but he even continued to practice as an economist, giving advice to developing nations.)

Basically, there are three variables.

The money a country earns from selling exported goods and services. (A)
The money the people of the country spend abroad importing goods and services. (B)
The amount of wealth people produce within the country by doing work. (C)

Because of the presence of the WTO and the absence of exchange controls, ensuring that B is not greater than A requires taking economic measures that reduce C. (If people have jobs, they have money in their pockets, which they can use to buy imported goods.)

What is needed is to decouple B from C, so that even if the rest of the world is in the throes of something like the Great Depression, everyone in your country is busy making stuff, increasing the wealth of your country just about as much as is physically possible.

So nobody is out of a job, but stuff in the stores does cost more, because it's American-made quality. The people who would have had a job anyways are poorer, but the poor are poor no longer - and it's because they have jobs, not because they're receiving demoralizing welfare handouts! (Yes, the jobs were created by interference in the market. But they'll hardly notice that, and they'll still have to show up to work on time and so on.)

Once this is done, we will be able to build all the nuclear power plants we want. And that's better than using the trick to build guns and tanks and military aircraft, which is what it has usually been used for.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2011, 06:06:16 am by quadibloc »

J Thomas on April 11, 2011, 10:17:22 am

.... the fact remains that the major peer-reviewed journals seldom publish papers about climate change that challenge the... received orthodoxy, if you will. And it is also the case that some - not all - of those who do challenge it are recipients of oil company funding.

I simply see no reason whatever for any doubt or mistrust aimed at the mainstream scientific community. They are good judges of what is quality research and what is not.

In all fainess, the scientific community can get things wrong. That's particularly likely when somebody speculated about a result a long time ago, and later a lot of specialists simply assumed it was right and it was outside each specialty so that nobody thought to test it. When the wrong result doesn't cause any obvious problems nobody has reason to track it down.

Also it's hard to put together results from lots of specialties and get everything right. Jared Diamond is a poster child for that. He put together things from a tremendous variety of specialties, and he got a coherent whole that he could easily explain to laymen. Every time I have tried to track down one of his details, i find specialists who say he is wrong about that detail. But they don't say he's wrong in general, because they only know about their own specialty. And it could happen that he could get every detail wrong and still be right in general....

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We already have a level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is significantly higher than at any previous time in human history. It's reasonable to conclude that even if natural cycles would have led to an ice age by now, there is enough there to prevent it. In fact, that is one argument that's been given to end our reliance on fossil fuels - to save them for when we do need them to prevent the next ice age after the one we've already prevented.

Then what will we do about the one after that?  ;)

If we get lots of cheap energy then we won't lack for methods to change climate. We could for example make some big thin mirrors and put them into solar orbit to reflect more light on the earth. And there are more effective greenhouse gases than CO2. Methane for one. With plenty of energy, we could put lots of methane into the high sky. Maybe we'd send up giant balloons full of methane, with balloons full of hydrogen to help them reach the right height. Then people in orbit empty the methane balloon and pump the hydrogen into storage, perhaps for fuel or propellant (particularly if we have easy fusion by then).

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Of course, I will admit that the current set of public policy recommendations on the issue are inane. Cutting down our energy use won't save enough energy to matter, unless it also causes catastrophic economic consequences.

We could cut down a lot if we wanted to. Europe gets by nicely with much less fuel than we do. But we don't want to. It's political suicide to suggest it. So there's no point talking about how to do it. If we get into a big war and people see they have to sacrifice, then they will sacrifice without making the investments that would give them luxuries with much less energy use. They'd rather sacrifice. People do not usually make rational economic choices.

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Since the goal is to keep a huge chunk of the planet's oil reserves still in the ground, instead of being burned by someone else - not to make oil cheaper for China to buy - obviously, what is needed is this...

Don't just build enough nuclear and hydroelectric capacity (plus the minuscule contributions from wind, tidal, geothermal and solar) to provide all our electricity. Also build some more to input energy so as to take hydrogen from water and carbon from the carbon dioxide in the air to make synthetic fuels, which, being made that way, are carbon-neutral when burned.

If we manage that, we'll likely want just hydrogen. It burns clean and hot. It's easy to hydrolyze water, though of course it takes a lot of energy. Why do something more expensive so we can have all the problems of burning more carbon? Well, we could devote lots and lots of farmland to synthetic fuels. So far that looks like another boondoggle to me, but it might improve.

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Then subsidize them. Not just for our own use. But for export, so as to drive all the exporters of oil extracted from the ground out of business - even after they give up on stuff like oil shales and oil sands, and just offer to sell old oil at pre-1973 prices.

We might keep right on using various petrochemicals, and if the price rose to meet that demand the oil producers might be reasonably happy. It's usually expensive to transport energy. It's expensive to transport electricity, for example. Oil is reasonably cheap to transport in supertankers and in pipelines, and that's one of the things that works so well for it. So if we get cheap energy we might easily wind up exporting power plants more than power itself.

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Of course that will cost a huge amount of money. That is a problem if you pay the people doing this work in money that can be exchanged for gold or used to buy imported goods and services.

Money is a way to trade ownership, it isn't primary. The issue is allocating resources. In WWII the USA stopped producing a lot of consumer goods, but paid a whole lot of workers in US dollars to make war stuff. We put intense social pressure on them to buy war bonds, at a low interest rate. They had nothing to spend their money on, so they tended to do just that. After the war they felt like they had money, and there was still nothing to buy, and in just a few years we had lots of jobs making stuff to sell to people who had money.

Given the political will, we could do something like that again. Pay people in worthless tokens that they can perhaps cash in at some later time. Meanwhile, pay industrialists gigantic sums to build factories etc producing the things we think we will need, and later they will own the factories and use them to make even more money. But in the short run mostly they can just buy the things they need to build factories and run them.

If you try to run a consumer economy, people will see how much they can consume. But when necessities are expensive on the black market they'll put off consumption quite a lot.

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Basically, there are three variables.

The money a country earns from selling exported goods and services. (A)
The money the people of the country spend abroad importing goods and services. (B)
The amount of wealth people produce within the country by doing work. (C)

There are physical things (and software and such) that leave a country. (A)
There are physical etc things that come into that country. (B)
There are things made in the country and consumed in the same country. (C)

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Because of the presence of the WTO and the absence of exchange controls, ensuring that B is not greater than A requires taking economic measures that reduce C. (If people have jobs, they have money in their pockets, which they can use to buy imported goods.)

Money is used as a somewhat-arbitrary way to balance A and B. Governments manipulate it in arbitrary ways. But even without government there would be problems. The natural result of a single worldwide currency would be to concentrate capital in the places it can do the most good. If you live in Mali and you have $5000 to invest, you could provide 20 subsistence-farming families with what they need for a year -- and the resulting wealth would not come close to what you would probably get by gambling it on the NYSE. If those 20 families die, the economy as a whole is better off. They are surplus, they are not good investments. Mechanised agriculture would pay off better if it's worth doing at all.

Increasingly the USA is becoming a good place to live if you are an owner, an investor. Not so much pollution, cultural activities, lots of luxuries to buy, etc. It is increasingly a bad place to make stuff for export.

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What is needed is to decouple B from C, so that even if the rest of the world is in the throes of something like the Great Depression, everyone in your country is busy making stuff, increasing the wealth of your country just about as much as is physically possible.

You are talking about autarky. In theory this is worse than allowing free trade. The problem is, as you pointed out, the demand your nation can supply may not be enough; you may find yourself importing more than you export to nations that are themselves still in recession despite their sales to you, and so your limited demand is not enough to sustain the whole world economy. There are people who say that demand cannot be an issue, that demand always rises to meet supply, that there are always jobs for people who want them, etc. They are wrong.

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So nobody is out of a job, but stuff in the stores does cost more, because it's American-made quality. The people who would have had a job anyways are poorer, but the poor are poor no longer - and it's because they have jobs, not because they're receiving demoralizing welfare handouts! (Yes, the jobs were created by interference in the market. But they'll hardly notice that, and they'll still have to show up to work on time and so on.)

Once this is done, we will be able to build all the nuclear power plants we want. And that's better than using the trick to build guns and tanks and military aircraft, which is what it has usually been used for.

The trouble is, we need the nuclear plants quick, so we will have the cheap energy to use for all these other projects. "Cheap, Fast, Good, choose two."
We don't know how to build them cheap.
We don't know how to build them fast.
Maybe we can make them good, we won't know until we try.
We might possibly get one out of three. Eventually.

If we had put a serious effort into this 35 years ago, when it was obvious this would be a serious problem which would only get worse, we'd be a whole lot better off now. If we'd made real efforts to conserve starting then, we would likely be using no more than 2/3 as much fossil fuel as we are now, for comparable results. And much less expense at compound interest. Now Obama says we can reduce oil imports by a third in 10 years. As if we had a choice!


spudit on April 11, 2011, 03:28:27 pm
I gleaned a couple concepts from the last post. One about fixing it 35 years ago. For a lot of the mid 70's voters it is fixed, they are safely dead and unconcerned. Seems like the hard way though.

Another about the creation and spending of money. Thoughts on getting paid. Say a big employer had 10,000 employees and as payment offered to pay off their plastic. They would negotiate a bulk deal and do it at say 40% of the total. They pay, credit, endorse, whatever the word is, the workers at 50 or 60%. So the company and the workers both get a discount. The workers are paid less by say a third but in so far as their dealing with Visa go, they are ahead of the game. Or sort of like stock options pay the staff in something like federal savings or war bonds, 95% now and let the feds make up the balance.

Just ideas.
 
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sam on April 11, 2011, 09:39:29 pm
However, the fact remains that the major peer-reviewed journals seldom publish papers about climate change that challenge the... received orthodoxy, if you will.

The climategate files reveal that if a journal does publish such papers, it suffers reprisals.

They also reveal that the peer review process is distinctly incestuous.

And it is also the case that some - not all - of those who do challenge it are recipients of oil company funding.

Bullshit. 

And why should the oil companies oppose a program that proposes to raise the price of carbon compounds for end users?  Carbon trading, as originally envisaged, gives the oil companies carbon credits, the concept being to make it more rewarding for them to not produce oil than to produce oil, so they make money out of both ends of anthropogenic global warming, like a farmer being paid to not grow corn in order to raise the price of corn to end users.

Everyone, every single researcher, who produces results that conflict with global warming is self funded.  If your results are politically incorrect, you don't get grants.

I simply see no reason whatever for any doubt or mistrust aimed at the mainstream scientific community.

Read the climategate files.  The only people who cared whether was any relationship between the alleged data and reality were Harry, Stepan and Rashit.  These are not the emails of a scientific inquiry, but a political and religious campaign.

They are good judges of what is quality research and what is not.

Again, read the climategate files, read them gloating that they have successfully concealed flaws in their research from the skeptics.

We already have a level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is significantly higher than at any previous time in human history.

Still significantly lower than it was during the holocene climatic optimum, when the arctic was ice free in summer, and the Sahara was green.

Don't just build enough nuclear and hydroelectric capacity (plus the minuscule contributions from wind, tidal, geothermal and solar) to provide all our electricity. Also build some more to input energy so as to take hydrogen from water and carbon from the carbon dioxide in the air to make synthetic fuels, which, being made that way, are carbon-neutral when burned.

Observe, however, that whenever an alternative energy source turns out to be somewhat practical, for example the Severn barrage and the tower of power, the Greenies find grounds to ban it.  The objective is not to continue technological civilization by lower carbon means, but to destroy it, which program will result in the reduction of the population to “sustainable levels”, the goal being a world population of ten million or so, the likely result a world population of a hundred million or so.

The intent to reduce population by artificial famine is already visible in the food to fuel program, as much as in the absurd hysteria over very minor radiation leaks in Japan.

If someone flew from New York to Japan then stood in front gates of the reactor for an hour, then flew back, he would have received more radiation from the flights than the gate.  It is perfectly obvious that these guys intend to fix the alleged carbon problem by de-industrialization.