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  1. thanks so joining in on the wired bash. another reason to love real climate.

    at least one of my friends has declared their subscription voided over the horrendous shock-jock reporting in this series of featurettes.

    the bait-n-switch got wired onto many blogs (including mine) but not in the most favorable of lights.

    i guess since then gave worldchanging.org’s alex steffen the ‘final word’ to cut them down a bit makes it okay(?).

    Comment by greg harman — 15 Jun 2008 @ 9:14 PM

  2. Someone should tell this to the Forest Service as they have just started a new climate change PR campaign which states that the best thing for the agency to do is to log and replant since new young trees will sequester more carbon. My first reaction was to ask “where is all the carbon from these old trees going to go?” There was mention of burial of trees but all I think everyone has taken out of this was it was a new reason to agressively “get the cut out…”

    Comment by Brian W — 15 Jun 2008 @ 9:19 PM

  3. Methinks the good folks over at Wired Magazine, like many of the people I encounter on a daily basis, when faced with the unpleasant realities confronting them, chose to deny those realities. Hey, no body wants to admit that the party might be over and nothing scares the bejeepers out of people more than the possibility that they might actually have to change the way they do things.

    [Response: Actually, the party's just beginning. It's just a different kind of party, but it's one that will be no less fun. Building a whole new kind of world, seeing how you can live well and put out less carbon, well what's cooler than that? Lots of opportunities to think outside the box, and many of them a lot of people are going to make a lot of money out of as well. Like maybe heat pumps for home heating. They exist, but the creative engineering on them has just barely begun. --raypierre]

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 15 Jun 2008 @ 9:45 PM

  4. Woha! Slow down! Didn’t you missed the option of using a heat pump to heat the house? Isn’t that the same as the cooling option – ie a CoP of 2.92? At least that makes better use of the source energy and thus eases emissions per degree of heating achieved, doesn’t it? Better than just a furnace?

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 15 Jun 2008 @ 10:04 PM

  5. WIRED has shown its true colors; it is a vehicle for delivering advertisements to eyeballs. That article was diversionary, and when I saw it I just ignored it, but shame on them for adding to the confusion fog. And thank you for picking up the battle with them. They should thank you too.

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 15 Jun 2008 @ 10:12 PM

  6. Scientists and engineers who can clarify these chains of logic are a precious resource that I wouldn’t want to be without, but practically everything that is at issue between the WIRED piece and this post can be summarized for the average good-willed citizen by putting a price on carbon emissions. (And of course on other economic externalities, if they are important enough. But carbon is the biggie.) If this is done, with a minimum we hope of legislative tinkering and obfuscation, which tend to arrive in both well-meaning and ill-meaning varieties, the hitherto confused and hapless consumer needs only to look at the price tag to be sure they are close to the right decision. All the confusing bits of pseudo-wisdom pushing and pulling us are integrated nicely by the old (more or less) invisible hand. If WIRED and other over-clever commentators would push that action, which at its core is about as simple as you can get, they would be doing a real service.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 15 Jun 2008 @ 10:17 PM

  7. A perfect squelch for WIRED indeed. Quite amusing as well.
    Perhaps you’d enjoy doing a number on Alexander Cockburn’s
    Is Global Warming a Sin?
    http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn04282007.html
    and
    F. William Engdahl’s
    Global Warming gets the Cold Freeze
    http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8583

    Comment by Tim Jones — 15 Jun 2008 @ 11:12 PM

  8. If you want to know which car will last longer read my book: “How to Tell Which New Car Will Last Longer.” Almost everybody does exactly one wrong thing or another, allowing the manufacturers to easily dupe you into buying the worst one instead of the best one. My book is downloadable from:
    http://ebooks.ebookmall.com/title/how-to-tell-which-new-car-will-last-longer-greisch-ebooks.htm

    France has 85% nuclear power and recycles spent fuel. Nuclear power both here and in France is 30% cheaper that coal without subsidy. A good book on the French system is: “Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy”, by B. Comby. The only place to order it from is: http://www.comby.org/livres/livresen.htm
    Wind is too variable to replace coal and nuclear. Solar only works in the daytime. Wind and solar are hundreds of times more expensive than coal or nuclear. We don’t have either the energy storage technology or room temperature superconductors that would make wind and solar work at an even higher price. This planet isn’t windy enough to get all of our energy from wind.
    Did you know that coal contains uranium, among other poisons? In fact, coal contains so much uranium and thorium that more energy goes up the stack and into the cinders of a coal fired power plant in the form of uranium and thorium than you get from burning coal. If breeding fuel is allowed, you could get hundreds of times as much energy out of the uranium and thorium in coal as you get from burning the coal. See:
    http://www.ornl.gov/ORNLReview/rev26-34/text/coalmain.html
    and other articles by Alex Gabbard.
    Nuclear power is the safest source of electricity, counting Chernobyl, which killed a total of 52 people. Coal smoke kills tens of thousands every year in the US and millions every year in China. There is really no way to stop AGW without replacing all coal fired power plants worldwide with nuclear. 32 countries already have nuclear reactors. Only 9 have the bomb if you include North Korea. Nuclear power plants cannot have nuclear explosions. Western built reactors cannot do what Chernobyl did.
    I have no connection with the nuclear power industry. I am not being paid to say this.

    [Response: Thanks for the information about nuclear power. What you say about coal is true. What you say about wind, solar and other renewables is facile and wrong. Also you seem to be quite confused about the proliferation implications of more widespread nuclear power. They're not necessarily a showtopper, but they need serious though. --raypierre]

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 15 Jun 2008 @ 11:15 PM

  9. It seems that the test in UK between a Diesel BMW and a Prius has been “forgotten”? The test showed that under real conditions a modern diesel car consumes less fossile fuel than a hybrid. The best you can do for the environment would than probably be to buy a second hand BMW diesel rather than a new Prius. Then, of course, you´ll also have all the other superior qualities never achieved in a Japanese car. The hybrids cannot be defended, yet. They are toys to calm the conscience for a lot of money.

    Comment by Jan Lindström — 15 Jun 2008 @ 11:38 PM

  10. On the SUV topic.

    You give them too much credence in assuming they are even partially right.

    The study they are basing their false argument on comes from CNW Marketing. And it’s completely wrong.

    http://climateprogress.org/2007/08/27/prius-easily-beats-hummer-in-life-cycle-energy-use-dust-to-dust-report-has-no-basis-in-fact/

    Comment by David Ahlport — 15 Jun 2008 @ 11:45 PM

  11. Not so sure about your argument regarding buying a new vs. a used car. Most cars are junked before the end of their potential useful lifespan, so buying a used car increases the average age of the vehicle fleet and thus reduces the number of new cars that need to be manufactured each year to maintain the fleet. Whether or not this actually results in a net saving in energy is not exactly clear, but it is at least plausible.
    Of course, if you really want to save energy, money and keep fit, ride a bicycle.

    [Response: When he was reading over my post, Eric Steig brought up a similar point regarding used cars. Certainly, it's better for somebody to buy that used compact car than to have it go off to the crusher when it still has useful life in it. My point, though, is that you do little for net manufacturing carbon emissions when you decide to buy that used Accord rather than a new Prius. As long as each car stays on the road somehow until it dies, it is going to be better to be feeding in the most efficient cars at the top end, whether that be Prius or something else like an efficient diesel. The person who buys new cars at the top is just a pass through device -- a means of pumping money to the car manufacturers while saving money for used-car buyers downstream. Yes, it's better to have a pool of used-car buyers to help keep cars on the road for longer (at least the more fuel-efficient ones), but the way WIRED put it obscures the fact that the main thing is to improve the fuel efficiency of the fleet that's on the road. --raypierre]

    Comment by David — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:03 AM

  12. A couple of things, largely questions. 1.) does anybody know of a website with a “carbon calculator” that takes into account how much you drive to determine the best car for your personal carbon foot print. One that considers manufacturing processes, not just mileage. And 2.) why is it so often when we greenies start talking about new energy sources it almost always becomes an “either/or” situation. Nuclear or Wind? Hybrid or Diesel? This kind of energy monotheism is what got us in trouble in the first place. We need to expand all forms of renewable energy and place them where they are best suited. A A friend of mine read a “Time” article “the dangers of going green” or some nonsense and it said if everyone who drove drove a prius the batteries would all explode and kill all the polar bears or something equally ridiculous. That kind of monoculture thinking is what keeps us in a state of suspended animation. Variety is the spice of life and it may just save the planet.

    Comment by C2thaD — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:07 AM

  13. Excellent post Raypierre, and shame on Wired for what appears to be a very fuzzy / shabby analysis.

    Comment by Joe Hunkins — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:12 AM

  14. Wired’s featurette entitled “Old Growth Forests Can Actually Contribute to Global Warming” claims that “during many years, Canadian forests actually give up more carbon from decomposing wood than they lock down in new growth.”

    Since this sounds like nonsense, we need only follow the link that Wired provides, where a report from Natural Resource Canada provides a graph that, as they themselves write, clearly “shows that between 1990 and 2005 Canada’s managed forest was an overall sink except during five years when it was an overall source, due mainly to emissions from extensive natural forest fires.”

    Wired got the causation wrong, the frequency of occurrence wrong, and they switched it from managed to old growth.

    Wired should apologize for being scientifically illiterate. Old growth forest ecosystems do not have the biomass productivity of younger growth, but they appear to have the highest soil biodiversity of any forests. Old growth’s high predator-insect diversity tends to reduce the chances for tree-killing pest infestation. Old-growth fires usually do not kill the biggest trees, so their carbon is not released to the atmosphere.

    It should be unnecessary here to mention here the priceless biological, aesthetic and spiritual value of genuine old growth forests, which are increasingly rare on every continent.

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:14 AM

  15. Thanks so much for correcting this WIRED mess.

    There is a pattern of timber industry misinformation on forests, carbon, and climate, for example:

    “The dynamics of forest growth under different silvicultural practices tells us that sustainably managed forest projects can sequester more carbon over time than unmanaged forests. … [A]ny unmanaged forest) will eventually stop sequestering additional net carbon as it reaches biological maturity, where sequestered carbon equals emitted carbon through decay. … Managed forests provide climate change mitigation benefits over time through the delay of wood decay CO2 emissions from harvested wood products, as compared with the decomposition or burning of wood in unmanaged forests.”
    Steven Ruddell, R. Sampson, Matt Smith, R. Giffen, James Cathcart, John Hagan, Daniel Sosland, John Godbee, John Heissenbuttel, Stephen Lovett, John Helms, William Price, and Robert Simpson. 2007. The Role for Sustainably Managed Forests in Climate Change Mitigation. Journal of Forestry • September 2007. http://www.safnet.org/policyandpress/climate_change_mitigation.pdf

    And here is a link to an equally misguided Winter 2006 publication of the California Forest Products Commission with lots more BS: http://www.calforests.org/media/enhanced/Winter06-CalForest-FINAL.pdf

    Here is a link to a slideshow I put together to try to bring a wider perspective:
    http://www.slideshare.net/guestf419ee/debunking-myths-about-forest-carbon-and-global-warming/

    Comment by Doug Heiken — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:15 AM

  16. #8 “Wind and solar are hundreds of times more expensive than coal or nuclear” simply cannot be true, if (1) “coal smoke kills tens of thousands or millions of people,” which wind and solar are unlikely to do, and if (2) you factor-in the government’s indirect subsidy to the nuclear power industry by promising to cover, from the public purse, damages over $10 billion in a catastrophic accident. How much would total liability insurance cost in the market, if it were even available? What is the true cost of nuclear power?

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:29 AM

  17. I’m far from being informed on the science of alternative energies, but the comments on wind and solar by Edward Greish stick out and deserve a red flag. Wind energy is now competitive with power from new conventional power plants, and the up-front value can be high but there are also no fuel costs; taking into account the the cost of operations and maintenance over the lifetime of the plant, etc it is actually very competitive (and of course green!). Wind farms generate electricity most of the time, but it’s true that it will generate power at full rated capacity only a very small percentage of the time. But the grid provides electricity when the wind doesn’t blow. Economics aside, when it comes to global warming impacts, pollution, mining/exraction, mercury, waste, habitat impacts, and other factors wind energy is probably the best.

    I’m certainly for nuclear power. The main issue I guess is overcoming the public conception that implementing nuclear power= explosions and three mile islands all the time. As far as I know, all radioactive waste is kept on site at nuclear power plants in large pools of water. There was also the Yucca Mountain project but I haven’t kept up with those details. But people stop listening after a person says they can’t make something 100% safe, even if it can be 99.9999999999999999999999632% safe.

    I suppose any comprehensive solution to global warming involving alternative energies will involve many things: wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, tidal, geothermal, etc

    Comment by Chris Colose — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:36 AM

  18. I’ll add my thanks for taking Wired to task for that anti-scientific assault on readers’ reason; I am especially grateful you’ve addressed the “clearcut old growth forests to fight global warming” idea. I fear this dangerous falsehood is so useful to its proponents that it will take great effort to repudiate.

    In its essence, the idea is bad science (as you point out), bad ecology (the spotted owl’s not the only critter that needs old forests), and plain old bad forestry (boom & bust liquidation logging produces less fiber over time). But that doesn’t stop Sierra Pacific Industries, California’s largest landowner and notorious clearcutters, and the American Forest Resource Council, the timber industry’s national lobbying and litigation front, from pushing the idea that industrial logging is an answer to global warming.

    SPI is pushing particularly hard. Here’s a page with links to various of their papers, including the December 12, 2007 Carbon Sequestration in Californian Forests; Two Case Studies in Managed Watersheds, which SPI says shows that “intensive management” — clearcutting, herbicides, fire suppression, and short rotation logging — sequesters more carbon than does letting big old forests stay forests.

    AFRC is pushing the same line, with different spins where useful. Under “Fighting Global Climate Change/ Climate Change and Forest Management” they write

    Everyone can agree that the earth’s climate is changing, while the disagreements lie in to what extent man or natural cycles are to blame. The good news is that well managed forests and the use of lumber products that sequester carbon can help address this issue. It is widely accepted that forests are a great sequester of carbon and tree planting is the number one carbon offset. Healthy, fast growing forests are critical to capturing and storing carbon, but unfortunately a majority of our nation’s federal forests are in an unhealthy condition, growing poorly and at risk to catastrophic wildfires.”

    All of which is a very long-winded way of asking why Wired is providing an echo chamber for the timber industry’s propaganda.

    Comment by scott g — 16 Jun 2008 @ 1:52 AM

  19. Dear Sirs; I really eager to know on how I can have the nuclear plant in my country and free of threaten and bad intervention of the superpower such as the news issues that in UN issues and what was happening and on going in mid-east counties and afgan’s country are very bad and horrible, Whereas my objective is for our people welfare and usefulness and safety defend, improving technology and science and developing my national industries, our business development to be more faster and improve more qualified education and skill-ability become much more better spreading over all in my big and large countries, more efficient and more saving energy and for high competences for our people and country as well as other developing countries such as USA, GB, Euro’s industries countries, Japan, and others. And it will making more employment opportunity, since my country have a lot of natural resources and have sufficient people which very friendly but mostly poor and have no much opportunity for improving their life. Mostly people think that superpower is very horrible due to the super power will destroy our country, if we have nuclear. In other side, they took natural resources from our country to their country which is indicated riches of uranium content, gold and the other valuable minerals. Pls advise us on how I have to do for the best of our people and for the future our country and young and future generation. I really keen very much to have support and assistance to implement the idea. thank and appreciate very much for your attention and the positive response.
    Regards, zainul ariefin

    Comment by zainal ariefin — 16 Jun 2008 @ 2:40 AM

  20. If you are using a air conditioner/heater with a COP figure of 2.92, then I realy think you should consider scraping it. Its not worth the space. The new ones are almost 6.0 nowadays.

    [Response: I believe that newly manufactured A/C in the US is supposed to have a SEER of at least 13, and it's true that you can do better than that. In using 10 for the illustrative calculation, I was making some allowance for the installed base. --raypierre]

    Comment by George Robinson — 16 Jun 2008 @ 2:46 AM

  21. **OFF TOPIC**
    Feedback on comment policy: I think you guys do yourself a disservice by moderating comments before they appear. It smacks of the same ‘control the message’ that almost every climate denier blog uses because they’re scared of the arguments from the ‘other side’.

    Sites such as Pharyngula, ERV, RichardDawkins do not moderate prior to publication and function successfully. It makes for more spontaneous and lively discussion.

    You still have the option to post-moderate and ban trolls. It’s also interesting / amusing to see what the reality deniers are thinking in response to real science(tm).

    Thanks.

    [Response: We've thought about different ways of doing this, but given the amount of time and energy we have to do this (small) compared to the trolls (much more), the threads would quickly disintegrate and by the time we would get around to fixing it, people would have already been put off. I think we end up with some of the most informative comment threads on the subject (with a few off-topic digressions), without the noise, nonsense and aggression that can sometimes fill DotEarth or Pharyngula threads for instance. I don't think it is too much to ask for commenters to think about being polite and constructive when they post - spontaneity is a little overrated when it comes to science. - gavin]

    Comment by MAZ — 16 Jun 2008 @ 3:12 AM

  22. The toyota prius only really makes a difference on the urban cycle because as soon as you go out on the open road (freeway/motorway) etc it switches to its petrol engine and you end up dragging a battery around for no good reason it would seem hence urban driving in a prius can make a difference.

    Solar can store heat in the form of CSP – concentrated solar power plants which uses mirrors to heat oil. These CSP plants can do 250 MW of power and with HVDC cables that can do 3000 Km distances makes placing them in deserts attractive they can be erected quickly and once the oil is heated to nig on 800 degrees C it can provide electricty at night. wind can also provide additional night time electricty and intermittency via compressed air solutions etc. PV and solar heating of hot water are coming down in price as new silicon factories come online. Renewables are starting to reach a critical mass for cost and it will not be long before economies of scale make them competitive with fossil fuels. Countries only want the continue using coal due to political lobbying and the power that these conpanies can exert plus energy security issues that coal seemingly help out with. However Coal to Liquid plants are no way to go and burning gas for electricity is not either.

    The big question is one of scale. We use 14 TW globally today and 7 TW more come 2030. Oil provides 5 TW, Coal 4, Gas 3 and other around 1.5 to 2. Come 2050 that has to be significally changed but its looking doubtful that it can be significantly altered in time even with the momentum that sustainables are gaining because 7 TW of additional power is a lot.

    Comment by pete best — 16 Jun 2008 @ 4:33 AM

  23. As far as the heating vs air conditioning question is concerned, as I always tell my wife when we fight over the thermostat setting, the most efficient form of heating is a woolly jumper. By the same logic a t-shirt and shorts are powerful weapons against heat.

    [Response: Yeah, but the difference is you can always put on a second wooly sweater, or a down jumper. What do you do when you get to the point where you have to take off the tee-shirt and shorts and it's still too hot? Wasn't there a Shel Silverstein poem on that theme? Anybody remember it? --raypierre]

    Comment by Tim S — 16 Jun 2008 @ 4:40 AM

  24. >New England heating vs. Arizona cooling

    Iguess comfortability inside is much better than outside in the day in Arizona thanks to low humidity. At night you can sleep well putting AC off there. Comfortability does not depend only on temperature but on humidity. You must use electricity to decrease humidity.
    Why not New England heating in winter vs. New England cooling in summer?
    Wired showed a very tricky comparison.

    Comment by Satohhide — 16 Jun 2008 @ 4:50 AM

  25. raypierre, re your comment about the party just begining.
    I actually agree with you, it is, and we will be creating whole new ways of doing things. However my point was that people in general are afraid of change. When confronted with it they usually resist it kicking and screaming and want to stick with the way things were. The folks at wired are no different.

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 16 Jun 2008 @ 5:13 AM

  26. Edward Greisch says:

    Solar only works in the daytime.

    Large solar thermal electric plants store excess heat in molten salt and use it to keep the turbines turning even at night or in bad weather. Some solar thermal plants achieve almost 24/7 operation.

    Wind and solar are hundreds of times more expensive than coal or nuclear.

    Prove it. Cite a source, gives the figures, and show your work. I don’t believe it.

    We don’t have either the energy storage technology or room temperature superconductors that would make wind and solar work at an even higher price.

    Why would we want to make them work at a higher price? And we don’t need superconductors to store energy.

    This planet isn’t windy enough to get all of our energy from wind.

    This is just wrong. You haven’t done the math, have you?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:11 AM

  27. “To do this effectively, you’d have to run the
    heat pump off of natural gas rather than electricity (or perhaps run it off of locally
    generated solar power or wind).” You also mention wood decaying into methane in landfills (in a parenthesis).

    I could add a “(with methane recapture)” to negate your new growth wood in landfills and then you could add a paren stating how most landfills don’t have recapture and I could add one saying that it would be easy to add. You and WIRED are engaging in a never-ending game of cherry picking and speculation.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:26 AM

  28. There are heat pump electrical heaters too. Ie an AC turned around, they cool the outside air and heat the inside air.

    The temp differences can be greater in cold climates. Sometimes it’s 40 degrees Celsius.

    Of course, insulation almost always saves a lot of energy. I read about an expatriate in Silicon Valley who was appalled how people heat the house at night and run ac during the day when you could just do with better insulation.

    Comment by mz — 16 Jun 2008 @ 7:01 AM

  29. I think you should also remind everyone that worse than any of the heat/AC options is electric heat. Not only is it terribly inefficient, but it requires about 20x the demand of a traditional AC unit. So, for the electric utilities in the north, they have to put peak plants online which are usually either very expensive or very inefficient (or both!). For those houses, AC is wayyyyy “better” for the environment than heating.

    Comment by Swade — 16 Jun 2008 @ 7:13 AM

  30. Let me add my thanks for this article putting WIRED’s article into proper perspective. It’s a good example of why RC is in my RSS feed reader.

    I often remind people of this in online discussions, but let me trot it out again: Publications are in the business of selling advertising. Period. They will do whatever it takes to maximize their profit from paid ads, and horrible mistakes, like this AC/heat article, will only disappear if the magazine sees a financial hit. Upset readers canceling subscriptions leads to lower ad rates leads to lower ad revenues leads to lower profits leads to editorial changes.

    Yes, there are honorable people in the magazine business–I know, I worked with many at various computer publications over the years. But that’s a business just lousy with slippery ethical slopes, from giving in to sensationalism to taking payment from companies for editorial content or slanted reviews. That’s why we need places like RC to call them on their mistakes and indulgences.

    Comment by Lou Grinzo — 16 Jun 2008 @ 7:56 AM

  31. I think Wired wanted to do a story about the complexities of environmental issues, but used misinformation to do it.

    Its true that the issues are complicated and there are no easy answers, but there are many factually accurate things Wired could have written about. The article stated environmentalists were giving easy answers to complicated questions and these answers were too easy to be correct. The problem was Wired gave answers that were just as easy and factually incorrect. The take-home message of the article was to bash environmentalists as too stupid or ideologically blinded to be trusted.

    Science had a news story about the spotted owls a few years back and discussed how another species of owl, the barred owl, was entering the spotted owl’s forests and hindering recovery efforts. This was an unexpected result and an interesting story. There was no need to push the talking points created by political lobbyists the way that Wired did.

    #8 (Edward Griesch) links to the web site of “environmentalists for nuclear energy”. The founder and president has stated that Greenpeace and the WWF are oil company front groups.
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Environmentalists_for_Nuclear_Energy

    Comment by Joseph O\'Sullivan — 16 Jun 2008 @ 8:57 AM

  32. gavin, thanks for the reply. I can see your point, although my preference would still be for a more lively comment system that the deniers could not accuse of censorship.

    The sidebar shows a link to ‘RC Form’ (…postings of a less formal kind), but does not actually lead to a forum. A free-for-all forum could be used for more ‘rough and tumble’ discussions?

    Comment by MAZ — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:11 AM

  33. I just now (ca 7am Pacific time) tried to post a reasoned and (I thought) well-worded comment. I was kicked off summarily as having submitted “Spam”, and advised to look for (examples given) illegal words.
    How do I find out if I have been counted as a “troll” and automatically get rejected by a computer program?

    [Response: Sorry about that. The volume of spam postings for medications, and what have you has become so great it may be making the spam filter overactive. If this continues, we might have to find some other scheme to keep spambots from posting. Could you try posting again? --raypierre]

    [Response: It's also worth pointing out that the filter is only looking for key words associated with spammers. Mainly drug names, gambling references, specific spam sites etc. Do a scan for 'cialis' (which appears in specialist or socialist) or 'soma' (in Somalia etc.), and put in a space or hyphen as appropriate. Unfortunately, unless trolls are also working for a Russian based internet gambling ring with a sideline in online pharmacies, this is unlikely to catch them. - gavin]

    Comment by Charles Raguse — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:17 AM

  34. What about storing the daytime solar electricity (whether from photovoltaic or solar thermal) as potential gravitational energy, for nighttime release? Use some of the generating capacity to lift enormous concrete weights up inside silos hydraulically; fix their positions with ratchets; let them go again at night and direct the hydraulic pressure to the electrical generators. A completely self-contained fuel cycle! You could even put up a few extra “power silos” to reserve for a rainy day. Scalable for village use. Is this any nuttier than building a nuclear power plant, dreaming that you’ll fix the waste problem, and pretending that it doesn’t have an ongoing massive federal subsidy?

    When people talk about the “cost” of different energy sources, will they please use total economic cost?

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:18 AM

  35. The Wired article is a good example of either deliberate disinformation or jaw-dropping ignorance on the part of the writer – and it might even be a little of both. The article claims that “cutting carbon” is what matters, and uses the classic “inconvenient truth” line, which should be easily recognized as a PR smear by now.

    It also uses the tobacco industry’s favorite PR line – “personal responsibility” is what matters. That’s just shorthand for “let’s not have any government regulation of the industry.”

    What they don’t discuss is the need to phase out the use of coal, petroleum and natural gas entirely – nor do they discuss how those energy sources can be replaced. You’d think a tech-fetish journal would be fascinated by things like nanotechnology advances in silicon photovoltaics systems, or “smart electrical grids” that are capable of storing and distributing energy harvested from intermittent sources, i.e. sunlight and wind, or the potential of purely electric cars to replace a good deal of transportation globally, and so on.

    What they also don’t understand is the difference between fossil carbon and photosynthetically cycled carbon. What we’ve done over the past 100 years is to pump fossil carbon out of multimillion-year old reservoirs and into the active carbon pool – the atmosphere, the oceans, the soil, and the biological components. This has already been done, and taking that carbon back out of the system would take at least a hundred years – and would cost a lot of energy – at least as much energy as was released by burning the fossil fuels in the first place. Thus, if you want to stabilize the system at the present level, there is no choice but to halt the use of fossil fuels entirely.

    It is also possible that a complete halt in the use of fossil fuels would not halt the rise of atmospheric CO2, as melting permafrost and warming oceans may become sources of atmospheric CO2. However, it is still a necessary step.

    If one wanted to know why Wired would publish articles like this, one might want to take a look at who owns and publishes Wired, as well as their basic need to sell advertising (wired does have a lot of SUV ads, as I recall): http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Advance_Publications

    The problem, of course, is that fossil fuels are the most widely traded commodities on the planet, and for the owners of fossil fuel deposits, they are immensely lucrative. The thought of having no fossil fuels seems to scare investors blind, but the fact of the matter is that the new renewable energy economy will be experiencing rapid growth for the next fifty years, at least – but only if the governments step in to create across-the-board support for renewable energy, just as governments have given across-the-board support for fossil fuel exploration and production over the past century.

    Governments will also have to step in and ban the use of fossil fuels. Most of the remaining fossil fuels left will have to be left in the ground.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:33 AM

  36. This (the Wired article response) is at least the second time I found myself agreeing with raypierre – not yet a trend. I want to point out only that the geothermal heat-pump is a very attractive and potentially very useful concept, but must be used with attention paid to the underground part of the design. While it seems obvious that pumping heat into the buried part of the system will act to decrease its usefulness, there have been embarrassing and expensive failures due to inadequate sizing of the underground heat exchangers. Too often the assumption is that the temperature of the underground reservoir is unchanging, whereas that is only true over very long time timeframes. The immediate vicinity of the underground heat exchanger changes temperature in the direction to thwart efficiency. “You can look it up.”

    [Response: Well as we like to say here, a short term fluctuation doesn't make a trend. But in this case, I'd be happy if this turned into a trend :) . Your point on subsurface heat resupply is a good one. That's why effective geothermal heat storage systems need to tap into a large subsurface volume in order to be effective. I don't know much about the subject, but from looking at a few systems in the process of installations, it seems that one of the things making the systems more economically feasible is the robotic micro-tunnelling technology developed for cheap cable-laying. Just another example of how much room there is for technical innovation in energy systems, and how broad the capabilities of human ingenuity. --raypierre]

    Comment by David C. Greene — 16 Jun 2008 @ 10:15 AM

  37. Lee A. Arnold @34 wrote:

    >”What about storing the daytime solar electricity (whether from photovoltaic or solar thermal) as potential gravitational energy, for nighttime release?…”

    This is a good idea, and has been used for several decades world wide (albeit in reverse) by power companies that combine conventional fossil fuel generators with hydroelectric plants. At off-peak times they pump water back into reservoirs to use to increase generating capacity at peak times.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity

    Comment by Arch Stanton — 16 Jun 2008 @ 10:50 AM

  38. Hey raypierre,

    Regarding the Air Conditioning vs Heating article review, I think the WIRED writer just stepped into the quagmire of, “What we got here is a failure to commumicate”…. In essence, the point that they should have been attempting in their article, is for a given location the amount of energy expended to heat versus cool an average temperate zone home is higher.

    The primary reason being that in the temperate zone in the past (pre-1985) it was “normal” that the low temperature would drop down around 2 Deg. C during the winter, much more often then reach 42 Deg. C in the summer (With 22 Deg. C being the average human air temperature preference and the range being +/- 20 Deg. C). Hence, to heat an average home 20 Deg C to be in the human temperate comfort zone versus the former average of cooling the air around 9 Deg. C might be more expensive for a given amount of energy with a Heat Pump Engine.

    (Disregarding the additional fact that the main reason is that with the Heat Pump Engines using the former R12/R22 refrigerants, they would stop being effective around 2-5 Deg. C. Where in the HVAC systems would then rely on electric heat strips in the air handler. (With most systems demonstrating a total systemic efficiency of formerly around 5% and newer Heat Engines running at a maximum of 80% of that value…))

    Anyway so much for a layman’s point of view. Just a different tack; but, similar results. If you add in the temperature range effectiveness for heat pumps the truth, as most home owners are aware in the US, due to our humidity levels, the most carbon effective systems are heat pump cooling and natural gas heating. Where as in some areas such as the low humidity of the US western states you might be better served with a combination of Evaporative Water Chiller and a Solar Heat Mass/Water Heater.

    The primary issue is at the temperate extremes the primary requirements are an either or a Heat Pump Cooler or a Natural Gas heater with either one being powered by the same source (Bio-Gas) with the Heat being greater then 3 times more efficient due to lack of energy conversion necessary. (Even if you considered Solar Powered Absorption/Evaporative Condensers, you would still have to heat the Ammonia after dark….)

    Sorry about the length of the post, feel free to paraphrase or edit as appropriate for your forum.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 16 Jun 2008 @ 10:59 AM

  39. To raypierre: I did try re-posting, and again was kicked off. If successful, it would have become No. 36. I am mystified as to what I may have written to justify this, and am now more inclined to think that, a priori, I am in your computer as an automatic reject.

    I did have the presence of mind to save my “Previewed comment”, which I would like to submit separately to RealClimate, just to establish whether or not I should simply cease and desist from submitting posts.

    Thanks, Charles Raguse

    [Response: Email us the text (contrib -at- realclimate.org) and I'll let you know the problem. - gavin]

    Comment by Charles Raguse — 16 Jun 2008 @ 11:20 AM

  40. Edward Greisch wrote: “Wind and solar are hundreds of times more expensive than coal or nuclear.”

    That is hysterically false.

    Edward Greisch wrote: “We don’t have either the energy storage technology or room temperature superconductors that would make wind and solar work at an even higher price.”

    Yes, we do have the necessary energy storage technologies to backup wind and solar electricity generation with stored electricity, stored heat, pumped water or compressed air. And all of these technologies are going to be far easier, less expensive and far less dangerous to bring online at utility scale, quickly, than any expansion of nuclear power would be.

    Your reference to “room temperature superconductors” is irrelevant as such technology is completely unnecessary for a large expansion of wind and solar electricity generation.

    Edward Greisch wrote: “This planet isn’t windy enough to get all of our energy from wind.”

    No one is suggesting that we need to “get all of our energy from wind”, but you are nonetheless once again wildly wrong. According to a 2005 report A Framework for Offshore Wind Energy Development in the United States, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and General Electric, there is as much wind power potential (900,000 megawatts) off the US coasts as the current capacity of all power plants in the United States combined. And that is only the offshore wind potential. Other studies have found that the commercially exploitable wind energy of a few central US states is also sufficient to meet the entire country’s electricity needs.

    And when you add the electrical generation potential from centralized, utility-scale solar thermal concentrating plants, and distributed photovoltaics, and other sources of clean renewable energy, and the improvements that can be easily and quickly made in end-use efficiency, it is clear that we can more than meet the electricity needs of the USA without any expansion of nuclear power, and indeed we can phase out nuclear along with coal and have no further need to be troubled with the toxic pollution of the nuclear fuel cycle, or the grave dangers of accidents, terrorist attacks and weapons proliferation from nuclear power.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 16 Jun 2008 @ 11:20 AM

  41. In comment 34 Lee A. Arnold said in part,

    Use some of the generating capacity to lift enormous concrete weights … let them go again at night … Is this any nuttier than building a nuclear power plant, dreaming that you’ll fix the waste problem…?

    Much nuttier. An illustration.

    Energy stored in high-up mass tends to uncontrollably unstore itself.

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert — 16 Jun 2008 @ 11:28 AM

  42. Didn’t read all the responses to see if someone else said “Wow, you really missed the point of the article!”, but “Wow, you really missed the point of the article.

    Now go stand in a corner for a month.

    More detailed post when I have the time to write a proper rebuttal or see who else has.

    Comment by FurryCatherder — 16 Jun 2008 @ 11:32 AM

  43. SecularAnimist is right about the energy costs. To put all this discussion of heating and cooling buildings in perspective, here are a couple of articles:

    http://www.enn.com/sci-tech/article/33088

    Stunning Solar Building Will Generate More Power Than It Needs
    (Abu Dhabi unveil plans for sustainable city).

    The Masdar Headquarters building will produce more power than it needs (an energy positive building). In fact, the solar roof (one of the largest in the world) will be constructed first, and it will power the construction of the rest of the building. The video link on this page has a great view of the sun-infused interior.

    The 1.4 million square foot building was designed by the Chicago architecture firm of Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill. It will serve as the centerpiece of Masdar City, which will end up being about a $22 billion development in Abu Dhabi (the capital of United Arab Emirates).

    Masdar Headquarters will have the lowest energy consumption per square foot, it will feature the largest photovoltaic system and the largest solar thermal driven cooling and dehumidification system. The building will also have integrated wind turbines. It will consume about 70% less water than a typical mixed-use building of its size.

    For a similar approach to solar-powered housing, but at the family-size scale, see
    http://www.ccnmag.com/article/best_solar_homes_german_team_wins_solar_decathlon

    Comment by Ike Solem — 16 Jun 2008 @ 11:34 AM

  44. “However, to figure out how much net carbon sequestration you get out of that young tree once it’s chopped down, you need to figure what happens to it.” Do you mean “old tree” in this sentence?

    Looking at the annual carbon flux locally in the forest seems to me to be a daft starting point in analysing the problem. Surely it’s much simpler to start by looking at the total carbon stored (on average) in the forest and in any wood removed from the forest, under different management regimes. It’s difficult to imagine that a natural mature forest with growing trees, mature trees and decaying trees stores much less than the maximum amount of carbon in a given land area. Such ecosystems also provide many other services than just carbon storage, of course.

    At present most carbon removed from forests in the form of wood finds its way to the atmosphere within a few years, as you point out. Policies aimed at maximising the average lifetime of wood removed from forests are therefore likely to be much more effective at reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere than misguided attempts to increase annual carbon uptake rates by, at best, degrading natural forest but, in practice, most likely converting it into monoculture plantations.

    The priority should therefore be to focus on reducing profligate uses of wood, e.g. with taxes and incentives (e.g. to recycle paper). I find it particularly bizarre that many European “environmentalists” suppose that woodchips (or other forms of biomass) represent a sensible, “sustainable”, large-scale fuel source, at the same time as East Asian governments are trying to discourage the use of wood for disposable chopsticks!

    [Response: I did mean "young tree" in that sentence because I was focusing on the rapid carbon uptake of the rapidly growing plantation trees that would replace the old growth. To your excellent point about increasing the lifetime of wood products I would add that there's no need to cut down old growth because we already have plenty of managed forests in the world, and we could do much more for carbon sequestration by doing a better job of increasing the carbon storage from the stream of forest products already coming out of the existing managed forests. Still, given how hard it is to keep wood from rotting, there's a case to be made that some of the managed forests should be allowed to revert to old growth. There's still a lot to be learned about the terrestrial carbon cycle in both managed and natural ecosystems, especially with regard to how climate change will affect the fluxes. But what we know so far tends to point more in the direction of preserving old growth, even if you're just looking at sequestration benefits and ignoring the other values of old growth. --raypierre]

    Comment by Tim Joslin — 16 Jun 2008 @ 11:51 AM

  45. WIRED is in the business of selling advertising. To do this, they need to get eyeballs onto their webpage, and a time-honored technique for doing so is the “Everything You Know Is WRONG” article. You see it all the time with political news, and usually it is no better informed than the WIRED effort. The problem is that we often treat journalists as if they actually knew something about their subject, when in reality, they have at most consulted a couple of experts, visited a couple of websites and collected facts that support their main goal of contradicting popular wisdom. But there is a conflicting goal–they don’t want to alienate the readership by taking on any controversial topics. That loses eyeballs. As a result, this often becomes an exercise in saying “Everything the experts say is wrong,” thus confirming the complacency of the readers. This is the type of journalism that relies on the readership being dumber than the journalist. Usually it’s a pretty tight race to see who is stupidest.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:18 PM

  46. Pete Best (#22), you said “The toyota prius only really makes a difference on the urban cycle because as soon as you go out on the open road (freeway/motorway) etc it switches to its petrol engine and you end up dragging a battery around for no good reason it would seem hence urban driving in a prius can make a difference.”

    Any Prius driver knows this is just incorrect, because the Prius battery is working constantly on the highway to improve mileage.

    I regularly drive from Hartford to Boston and back and keep an eye on the energy info readout. On the Mass Pike, one rolls through hills with long downgrades and long upgrades. On the downgrades, the gas engine does often shut completely, often for miles, but the generator captures the inertia to charge up the battery, and the battery feeds back in the less steep stretches to keep the car at speed (and run the A.C., fan, radio and lights when necessary). I’ve seen entire 5 minute blocks on the readout at “99 mpg” because the engine was off, and lots of “75 mpg” readouts on those downgrades. As the car then climbs the upslope, the battery feeds back that stored energy to the electric motor, supplementing the gasoline engine and improving the mileage. The battery has a vital purpose and reason on the highway.

    On average, I get better mileage (~55mpg) at steady 55-60 mph on the highway than at ~40 mph around town.

    Pete is correct about the potential of CSP (concentrated solar power) in which a sunlight concentrator array generates heat (not electricity) that is stored in a liquid medium. Pete mentioned oil as a storage medium. Another in use and continued development (by Hartford’s own Hamilton Sundstrand http://www.nrel.gov/csp/troughnet/pdfs/2007/rogers_molten_salt_power_towers.pdf ) is molten salt. Sound hot? It is hot, and already in use in nuclear power. The value of molten salt is that its high capactiy to store and hold heat smoothes out the inevitable power dip when sunlight is obscured by clouds or nightfall. The link above shows how a molten-salt CSP power plant would be configured, with data.

    Doug

    Comment by Doug Simpson — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:23 PM

  47. Oh — and my new Lennox A/C? 20.5 SEER. Already see it in the 30% reduction in A/C related electric consumption. This temperature last fall (daily average temps are around 88F), the house load averaged about 1400 watts. Presently it’s around 900 watts. That’s net solar production which is actually LOWER right now due to poor sun angle (about 20 degrees off-axis), so the increased efficiency from a modern A/C, compared to one made just 8 years ago, is significant. And 23 SEER A/C units are available, just a bit more expensive.

    [Response: Bully for you! I'm glad you didn't fall for the "crank up the A/C" nonsense. Anybody who took that at face value would have concluded there's no point in making an effort to find efficient air conditioners. If WIRED had even tried to explain SEER ratings, that would have been of service to their readers. Since they didn't, here we are doing it here. News you can use. --raypierre]

    Comment by FurryCatherder — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:23 PM

  48. Regarding the idea that buying a used, high-efficiency, conventional gasoline-fueled car is “greener” than buying a Prius: fifteen years ago I bought a 2-year old 1991 Ford Festiva, a compact two-door, four-seat hatchback that was actually designed by Mazda and manufactured by Kia (the same car was sold outside the USA as both the Mazda 121 and the Kia Pride). It cost me $5200. I am still driving this car 15 years later, and at 17 years old it still consistently gets 35 MPG in city driving and nearly 50 MPG on the highway. The need for and cost of maintenance has been minimal.

    Certainly for my needs (daily 4-mile round trip to the subway station, weekly shopping trip, etc; and a couple of day-long highway trips each year) it has been a better transportation value than a $25,000 Prius, and given its fuel economy combined with its durability and longevity, I would not be surprised if its overall environmental impact is comparable to that of a Prius. (It gets an exhaust inspection every two years per state law and passes with flying colors, so it is a fairly “clean” burning car with regard to pollutants other than GHGs.) In any case, I plan to keep it running as long as possible (although it is getting more challenging to find parts when needed), and hope to drive it until I’m able to buy a pure electric car one of these days.

    A recent USA Today article mentioned that 20-year old Geo Metros and Ford Festivas are selling for top dollar nowadays, if you can find one. The auto industry had the ability to build 50 MPG coventional gasoline-fueled cars 20 years ago and could easily do so again; certainly no new technology is needed if it could be done with the technology of 1991.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 16 Jun 2008 @ 12:23 PM

  49. #41 Now, G.R.L. Cowan, I went to the nuclear public-relations link — Do I have the following math right?

    91.8 million kg X 44 aircraft carriers = 4,039.2 million kg of aircraft carriers

    Portland concrete = approx. 2300 kg/m^3

    44 aircraft carriers = 1.756 million m^3 of concrete = 1 cube Portland concrete, 120.85 meters on a side
    divide by 4, to make it manageable = 4 cubes of concrete, 76 meters on a side

    Burj Dubai projected to be 2684 ft. tall = approx. 18 ten-storey silo buildings (at 15 ft. per storey)
    using 4 smaller concrete blocks = 76 silos

    Therefore

    1 nuclear power plant = 44 aircraft carriers at the top of the Burj Dubai = approx. 76 ten-storey silos, with 76 meter-square concrete cubes in them.

    Of course this disregards the acceleration of gravity — but right now, I have to go to work and crawl under a house.

    These systems don’t have to be all in one place.

    If they pass building codes, they won’t tend to “uncontrollably unstore.” Indeed, there is NO energy lost in gravitational storage, no matter how long.

    What does a nuclear pile tend uncontrollably to do?

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 16 Jun 2008 @ 1:02 PM

  50. > preserving old growth

    Yep. Much work has been published recently, e.g.

    Production, Respiration, and Overall Carbon Balance in an Old-growth Pseudotsuga- Tsuga Forest Ecosystem
    in Ecosystems
    ISSN 1432-9840 (Print) 1435-0629 (Online)
    Issue Volume 7, Number 5 / August, 2004
    DOI 10.1007/s10021-004-0140-9
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/x6wphfyka8rjgqmw/
    .
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18244938 and cites therein.

    Field work, amazing: http://www.washington.edu/newsroom/ss/crane.html

    “… Annual weather events may have a larger influence on carbon flux than previously thought.

    The most dramatic such event since the crane began operating was 1997-98′s El Nino, Shaw says. With more than three months of warm, dry weather, the forest floor became so dry that wood and other debris decayed much quicker than usual. The rate outpaced the carbon being absorbed during photosynthesis in the stand. The site became a source of carbon in late summer, giving off more than it absorbed.

    One can’t help but think what this might portend for the future if global climate change leads to longer, drier summers in the region. …”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Jun 2008 @ 1:06 PM

  51. Re #44 Tim Joslin, Raypierre, it’s important to add that it is ecologically healthy for forests to have 1% or 2% blowdown every year, creating sunny clearings where rarer organisms conduct their intermittent life cycles — including some beautiful woodland flowers which it takes you luck to find. Further, the rotting wood is an absolutely necessary part of the life cycle and the food chain of a huge number of soil microbes, insects and insectivores. Moreover, occasional fires may be necessary to release minerals on decadal-or-longer cycles, and to coincide with the population-density requirements of various species. The optimal frequency for fire differs with the type of forest.

    Picking on mature forests, not to mention old growth, for the rotting wood as a CO2 problem, is a bit like advocating the bulldozing of the world’s great cathedrals and mosques because this would provide sites for nice power plants.

    Wired’s larger point, as I take it, is that environmentalists must accept compromises.

    Certainly not, if the arguments are this silly.

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 16 Jun 2008 @ 1:23 PM

  52. OT: what happened to http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/oregon-institute-of-science-and-malarkey/ – I’m getting a 404.

    TIA.

    [Response: works for me.... - gavin]

    Comment by DavidONE — 16 Jun 2008 @ 2:03 PM

  53. Thank you for helping to refute Wired’s assertion that logging older forests and replacing them with tree farms can help fight global warming. I would just like to supplement Raypierre’s piece with some additional information.

    1) Wired says “A tree absorbs roughly 1,500 pounds of CO2 in its first 55 years. After that, its growth slows, and it takes in less carbon.” The idea that all trees suddenly slow in growth after age 55 is ridiculous. There are myriad variables that control tree growth including species, climate, soil conditions, land-use history, etc. Many trees, including the dominant tree species in the Pacific Northwest where the northern spotted owl lives–Douglas Fir–do not slow in growth until they are considerable older than 55. (See Curtis 1994 USDA http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/20584)

    2) Wired goes on to say that “Left untouched, [a tree] ultimately rots or burns and all that CO2 gets released.” This statement shows a complete lack of understanding of forest carbon dynamics. When a tree decomposes, some of the organic matter is incorporated into soil. This is why older forests contain significantly more carbon in their soils than younger forests do. (See Zhou et al 2006 Science http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/314/5804/1417)

    3)The only pool of carbon mentioned in by Wired is that of trees. But forest carbon sequestration is much more complicated than the growth of individual trees—live tree biomass is but one carbon pool in a forest. Other carbon pools include dead organic matter and soil, which together usually comprise the majority of a forest’s carbon. The amount of carbon a forest stores in live biomass, soils and dead organic matter all increase with forest age in temperate forests, like those in the United States, and tropical forests. In boreal forests, like those in Canada and other cold climates, older forests continue to sequester massive amounts of carbon in their soils as they age (See Pregitzer and Euskirchen 2004 Glob.Ch Bio. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bsc/gcb/2004/00000010/00000012/art00010).

    4) As Raypierre pointed out, the Canadian study mentioned in the Wired article is for managed Canadian forests only. The forests of Canada are boreal, which have different carbon sequestration cycles than forests in the United States, which are temperate forests. Therefore, its findings are not particularly relevant to forest management in the United States. Second, it is ironic that Wired would cite this study because the main reason why Canada’s managed forests may be a negligible carbon sink in the near future is because of increased risk of fire and pest outbreaks. These risks could very well increase if older forests in the United States were converted to tree farms. Tree farms tend to be densely planted and have little genetic diversity, which increases the chance of fire and pest outbreaks for a variety of reasons including a) increased risk of drought stress. Drought stress increases the chance that a forest will burn, the intensity of the burn and increases the likelihood that pests will overrun the forest. b) Older forests contain more diversity in plant an animal, and often contain many insectivorous species such as spiders that control pest outbreaks. c) Older forests have trees of different ages, heights, genetic diversity and spacing, which helps prevent crown fires from spreading. (See for ex. Odion et al. 2004 Cons. Bio. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2004.00493.x?journalCode=cbi and Coyle et al 2005 Ann. Rev. Ent. http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/8380)

    Perhaps the worst aspect of the Wired article is that it insinuates that there is a scientific basis for its conclusions by linking to scientific studies. None of the studies Wired links to or mentions support the idea that logging old-growth forests could fight climate change. For example, the study linked by the words “Clear the oldest trees” does not mention older forests, let alone advocate logging them. The studies that have addressed the issue (none of which are linked to by Wired) all conclude that logging older forests would be a poor strategy to fight global warming, even when wood products and replanting are taken into account. Furthermore, Wired does not mention that many recent scientific studies that utilize new technology allowing the measurement of forest carbon fluxes. These studies show that older forests tend to be carbon sinks and that the only forests in the United States that are consistently net sources of carbon to the atmosphere are young forests regenerating after a major disturbance like a clearcut or stand-replacing fire. Here is just a sample of the studies showing that older forests in the United States are usually carbon sinks and that young forests can be sources of carbon to the atmosphere for decades.

    Valentini, R., et al. 2000. Respiration as the main determinant of carbon balance in European forests. Nature 404, 861–865.

    Law, B.E. et al. 2002 Environmental controls over carbon dioxide and water vapor exchange of terrestrial vegetation. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 113:97-120.

    Law, B.E., O.J. Sun, J. Campbell, S. Van Tuyl, and P.E. Thornton. 2003. Changes in carbon storage and fluxes in a chronosequence of ponderosa pine. Global Change Biology 9:510-524.

    Comment by Charles Jackson — 16 Jun 2008 @ 2:40 PM

  54. So let me see. We own a Toyota Corolla, which is almost 8 years old. It gets 30-35 mpg on the road and perhaps 25 mgp in the kind of city driving we do. Because of age, arthritis, and other issues, we use the car in circumstances where previously we might have used public transportation, but we still don’t drive all that much. I do use I-Go, but it is often difficult to find a car within easy walking distance—somewhat shorter than it once once was before spinal steonosis set in—and even then I may end up with a Honda Element. We shop using Peapod. I don’t know if that saves energy or not—one delivery van dropping groceries off at many locations as opposed to many individual trips—but it sure saves wear and tear on arthritic bodies. Other food shopping is done by walking to local markets, and other shopping is done wherever possible in the local area. I do bicyle for exercise, but I would need a more practical bike to use for shopping, something I haven’t got yet because of our condo’s rules about storage.

    Given all that, should we replace our Corolla with a Prius? It only has about 50,000 miles on it, so it can go quite a bit longer. So far, I’ve reasoned that the increase in gas mileage would not be large enough to compensate for the cost. If your analysis is correct, we should first drive the Corolla into the ground, until it ends up being only fit for junk, or until neither or us is able to drive.

    Any comments?

    [Response: It's easy to compute the impact of a decision like this on personal carbon footprint, but the more relevant decision factor is impact of the decision on the long-term carbon emissions of the vehicle fleet as a whole. The complexity there is that the result depends a lot on what other people do. For example, if everybody decides to buy a Prius, then there will be so many used cars dumped on the market that a lot would be junked, and there would be wastage in that. On the other hand, if your used Corolla goes to somebody who was driving an inefficient old Buick Electra that then gets junked, your decision will ultimately lead to reduction in fleet emissions, as long as your Prius stays on the road long enough (in your hands or others who get it as a used car) to pay back the carbon cost of manufacturing. It's quite possible that buying a new Prius would reduce the net long term fleet emissions, but then again you'd have to weigh the personal money cost of doing this against other things you could spend your money on that would potentially reduce carbon emissions more -- e.g. donating to some local church to help them pay for a replacement air conditioner. --raypierre]

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 16 Jun 2008 @ 2:49 PM

  55. Nuts to Wired. They could have pointed out something useful, instead, like replacing eroding plowed fields of corn and soy with perennial woody agriculture. An old friend wrote this long ago. I’ve never seen it referenced. It should be:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=TOu4GmExgGAC&printsec=titlepage&vq=woody+ag&dq=%22Philip+A.+Rutter%22&lr=&source=gbs_toc_s&cad=1#PPA208,M1

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Jun 2008 @ 2:59 PM

  56. re: # 49

    “What does a nuclear pile tend uncontrollably to do?”

    It depends significantly on the specific ‘nuclear’ materials (and non-nuclear materials if present) that comprise the ‘pile’ and the configuration in which these are arranged.

    The question cannot be answered without additional specific information.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 16 Jun 2008 @ 3:09 PM

  57. A factor that could come into play by the use of ACs and not in the use of space heating is a possible slight(or maybe not so slight?) feedback effect.

    As the average global temperature increases it’s reasonable to expect greater use of air conditioners, and if fossil fuels are used as an energy source,then this will lead to more global warming and more use of ACs and so on. I guess “Wired” didn’t take this into consideration, either.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 16 Jun 2008 @ 3:28 PM

  58. Wired magazine brings up an interesting point that it requires more energy to build a Prius than a Hummer, this raises further questions:

    1. Over the useful lifetime of the car, how much more energy will a Hummer expend per miles driven versus a Prius? At what point does driving a Hummer use more energy than building a Prius?

    2. Given that the Prius batteries must during the lifetime of the car be replaced:

    http://townhall-talk.edmunds.com/direct/view/.ef2b471/0

    how much energy is used in the recycling process?

    [Response: It doesn't take more energy to build a Prius than a Hummer. It only takes more energy per pound, which is a very different thing. The links that other commenters have given will take you to a full lifecycle analysis of hybrids. Assuming both the Prius and the Hummer are driven to the end of their natural lifetime, the Hummer is a dead loser. The more relevant question is lifecycle carbon emission of a hybrid vs. an equivalent-sized efficient conventional gasoline car, or perhaps a diesel. --raypierre]

    Comment by Joe S. — 16 Jun 2008 @ 3:33 PM

  59. Leonard Evens wrote: “… I do bicycle for exercise, but I would need a more practical bike to use for shopping …”

    How about a four-wheel, two-seat, hybrid electric-pedal powered bike?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 16 Jun 2008 @ 3:33 PM

  60. Maybe this is the European in me but instead of trying to figure out the most carbon footprint-friendly car, why don’t we all car pool more and use public transportation more often? It’s certainly cheaper. And maybe makes the case for a more urban lifestyle.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 16 Jun 2008 @ 3:41 PM

  61. “What do you do when you get to the point where you have to take off the tee-shirt and shorts and it’s still too hot? Wasn’t there a Shel Silverstein poem on that theme? Anybody remember it? –raypierre”

    Wasn’t it Bob Dylan?

    “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind”..?

    ;-)

    Comment by mark — 16 Jun 2008 @ 4:04 PM

  62. Thank you for explaining today’s xkcd to me.

    Unfortunately we still use mainly coal here in Denmark. We do have a slightly better overall efficiency (I believe) by piping the cooling water from the plant around the city for heating. Though … that means heating is so cheap that in many homes it isn’t profitable to improve insulation. (Not that I’ve noticed it – my bill seems be going up and up – I bet it’s my neighbours running around in the nude all year. Damn communal billing.)

    Comment by Sili — 16 Jun 2008 @ 4:39 PM

  63. While the calculations at “Wired” are naïve, the calculations here are, shall we say, semi-naïve. Let me just do some quick numbers for residential use.

    The A/C load is roughly 13% of the spacing heating load for the country. Convert that to energy at the generator and it is still bit less than 50%. Now just looking at the average rates of the A/C load per population-weight-cooling-degree-day versus the space heating load per population-weight-heating-degree-day, the A/C is about 35%. There are more CDDs, population weighted, than HDDs. (This should be done on an energy, HVAC-consumption weighted basis, but I have seen those numbers and I am not going to calculate them for a blog comment.) Then roughly a one degree warming adds 180 to the CDD total for the year and removes 180 from the HDD total. This would give us a serious energy savings… Except that the demand for heating energy is roughly linear in temperature while that for cooling energy has a positive second derivative. Now for the Northeast (NEPOOL: where I have a good regional load and temperature dataset) this is roughly a factor of 2 at 25 CDD (90 degrees F). But over all the cooling days for the 25 year period, the factor is merely 1.02. Thus over the year the quadratic effect isn’t going to contribute much.

    Finally, with regard to coal versus natural gas/fuel oil/LPG, coal burning releases about 60-75% more CO2 per BTu than natural gas, a bit less for LPG, and about 25% for oil. And with the increased natural gas prices and proclivities of utilities planners, coal-fired units are the choice for new plants. However, the incremental cooling load will make the load shape more peaked, and for increases in the pure summer peak, simple-cycle gas-turbines are the new plant of choice. Thus, while it is true that an increase in temperature with the concomitant increase in cooling load will lead to more coal plants, regulations allowing, it is also true that well less than 50% of that incremental cooling load will be supplied by coal fired units. Without a nation-wide production cost simulation of the load increase, it is hard to refine that number much.

    Putting that altogether, a uniform increase in the temperature of one degree F (equal increases in CDDs as decreases in HDDs) is probably going to cause a small decrease in the carbon emissions for US residential consumers.

    Now that is only the residential sector. The industrial sector HVAC is probably similar, but it is not that important because the HVAC (but not the process heat) part of the industrial energy load is much smaller. However, the commercial sector is about the same size, and the publicly available data is a bit ambiguous. Thus, there could be a bigger (in absolute) size effect there in the opposite direction. But whatever the effect is, if you want to calculate it you need for drop the engineering calculations and look at the actual demands for energy for A/C or space heating.

    Comment by Martin Ringo — 16 Jun 2008 @ 5:50 PM

  64. In comment 49 Lee A. Arnold included,

    Do I have the following math right?

    … 1 cube Portland concrete, 120.85 meters on a side
    divide by 4, to make it manageable = 4 cubes of concrete, 76 meters on a side

    Four concrete cubes, each (76 m)^3 … yes, the size seems right. Most who are reading this probably have seen 20-storey apartment buildings about that tall, but not extended that far along two horizontal axes, and not solid.

    Large pieces of concrete don’t hold together all by themselves; they need steel tension cables to keep the concrete, which has essentially no tensile strength of its own, in compression. Since steel is denser than concrete, this would reduce the size a little.

    … Burj Dubai projected to be 2684 ft. tall = approx. 18 ten-storey silo buildings (at 15 ft. per storey)
    using 4 smaller concrete blocks = 76 silos

    OK, 76 of these concrete cubes, rising in the day until their bottom surfaces are, as Arnold says, 18 times 15 feet, 45 m, off the ground. Yes, that could work.

    The largest existing solar power stations have a much smaller capacity than 1 gigawatt-year per year, so they might get away with just one or two of these hyperhoists and ultracubes.

    If they pass building codes, they won’t tend to “uncontrollably unstore.” Indeed, there is NO energy lost in gravitational storage, no matter how long.

    So the hoist that lifts this block of concrete, as tall as a 20-storey apartment tower and as heavy, I guess, as a small cityful of them … so the hoist that lifts it through most of its own height, and is able to let it down on command, will have neither an uncommanded nor a wrongly commanded letdown, “no matter how long”, and this is guaranteed by building codes.

    I think I understand.

    In comment 56 Dan Hughes said,

    “What does a nuclear pile tend uncontrollably to do?”

    …The question cannot be answered without additional specific information.

    But it can: beta decay. Turning a fission reactor on at 1 watt and keeping it there for 1 hour, then stopping it, causes 0.0061 watt-hours of uncontrollable delayed energy release in the following hour, 0.0018 watt-hours in the second post-shutdown hour. These numbers are given by the integral of the Untermyer and Weills equation that is given in http://www.rertr.anl.gov/FRRSNF/TM26REV1.PDF and said to originate in USAEC Report ANL-4790, 1952.

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert — 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:17 PM

  65. Denmark is the world leader in offshore wind, right?

    Preface: The Power Source for the Future

    Our future energy supply faces numerous challenges and has become subject to unstable international conditions. To meet these challenges, offshore wind has a key role to play. Offshore windpower can contribute significantly to achieving the EU goals of a 21 percent share of renewable electricity by 2010, halting global warming and reducing our dependence on coal, oil and gas.

    We have come a long way since the 1980s, when most electricity production was based on coal and when the acidification of forests and lakes by acid rain was the predominant theme in the environmental debate. Today wind power provides 20% of Danish electricity consumption.

    Within a few years, the wind power industry has grown to become a significant industrial sector providing huge benefits for exports and employment. We are now talking about windpower generation plants rather than single turbines, and the Danish wind power industry is at the leading edge in an ever more competitive global market.

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/infocus/story?id=46749

    Comment by Ike Solem — 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:23 PM

  66. Whilst a nuclear reactor emits no CO2 in the production of electricity, the mining and milling of the fuel certainly does. Not to mention the construction and eventual decommisioning of the plant. The burning of fossil fuel is a large part of the nuclear cycle that we conveniently ignore.

    If the grade of ore was consistently high then this might not be a problem. But most of the Earth’s high quality ore has already been used up. And when you’re forced to mine and mill the lower grades, the CO2 balance goes into debit. That is, more CO2 is emitted than would be the case if you just burnt the fossil fuel conventionally to generate electricity.

    Storm van Leeuwin and Smith claim that if the world hypothetically went totally nuclear tomorrow, the rich ores would be consumed in less than a decade, after which the CO2 benefit of nuclear energy would be gone.

    Here’s an article from the Australian Government’s CSIRO Sustainability Network Newsletter. “Nuclear Energy: We don’t need it”

    http://www.bml.csiro.au/susnetnl/netwl53E.pdf

    Comment by John Armour — 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:45 PM

  67. John, interesting CSIRO piece. I’ve copied over the footnotes from it, for the basic points you mention:

    http://www.naturaledgeproject.net/NAON1.aspx; citation on page 37
    http://www.oprit.rug.nl/deenen/ “Nuclear Power: the Energy Balance”
    http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=1064 (Burns) http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=1065 (Lovelock)

    No one ever built a breeder reactor that didn’t require reprocessing spent fuel, as far as I know. Canada’s thorium/deuterium design seems to be history.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Jun 2008 @ 7:38 PM

  68. Re Denmark: in 2006, it generated 54% of its electricity from coal, 21% from natural gas, 13% from wind (down from 18% in 2005), and imported a tad.

    It would be easier to accept Storm van Leeuwin and Smith if they had ever submitted their work to peer review. Their results counter all studies I’ve ever seen that have been peer reviewed, which show nuclear power over its life cycle producing as much GHG/kWh as wind, less than solar, and that we essentially have more uranium + thorium than we have coal.

    The CSIRO author cites them. Meanwhile, pretty much everyone making climate change plans is assuming that the peer-review analysis holds and that nuclear power is an important low-GHG source.

    Of much more interest is the recent IEA report, Energy Technology Perspectives. IEA estimates that wind could be almost as important as nuclear between now and 2050, and that we will need 32 GW in new nuclear power every year between now and 2050.

    IEA argues that we need to remake the world economy, unprecedented levels of cooperation, etc, etc, etc to get a 50% reduction by 2050. A 50% reduction brings in a best-guess reduction to 400 ppm. Not enough.

    Comment by Karen Street — 16 Jun 2008 @ 8:22 PM

  69. (Had to skip over some comments, sorry for repeating if this is a repeat:) So the COP of a sample air conditioner is 2.92?

    The ideal COP of a heat pump (no production of entropy) can be found from these equations:

    Qc + W = Qh
    Qc/Tc = Qh/Th

    Where
    Qh is heat flow in (out) at temperature Th (the hot end),
    Qc is the heat flow out (in) at temperature Tc (the cold end),
    W is the work (usefual energy) produced (consumed).

    Let DT be Th-Tc

    Solving for W and Qh:

    W = (1 – Tc/Th) Qh = Qh (Th-Tc)/Th = Qh DT/Th

    Solving for W and Qc:

    W = Qc (Th/Tc – 1) = Qc (Th-Tc)/Tc = Qc DT/Tc

    For an ideal heat engine, relative to the heat source, the efficiency is DT/Th. If you wanted to run a heat engine off of a limited supply of cold in a hot environment, you might care more about the efficiency relative to the heat sink, DT/Tc.

    For an ideal heat pump, the Coefficient of Performance (COP) for the hot end is Th/DT. The COP for the cold end (of interest for air conditioners) is Tc/DT.

    For cooling or heating a home, Tc and Th are relatively close so the COP of ideal heat pumps for heating and cooling are nearly the same.

    —-

    But the ideal COP for, say, 20 deg C (36 deg F) temperature difference with the Tc ~ Th ~ 300 K is going to be ~ 15. I’m not that familiar with the actual practicalities involved in the technology, and wouldn’t expect to get very close to ideal COP values, but 2.92 seems rather pathetic. (Although only a bit more pathetic than the ~ 30 % efficiency of coal power plants, considering that the temperatures involved should allow for much higher efficiencies.)

    Also, it occurs to me that it is at least possible (if not yet practical?) to roughly double the COP of a device if, instead of a single heat pump, one has several with a working fluid running through at progressively different temperatures from intake temperature to goal temperature. (PS two fluids running past each other in opposite directions with progressive warming or cooling makes a heat exchanger).

    In addition to the role of internally generated waste heat (which, for lighting, can be reduced with daylighting (sunlight is ~ half visible light, and if the windows could reflect IR and UV, or convert them to electricity, well, then… :) ) and high-albedo interiors), there is another assymetry between heating and cooling: when the dewpoint is high, the amount of heat that an air conditioner has to pump for a given set of Tc and Th and mass of air can increase because of the latent heat of condensing water. (For winter humidity needs, their is perspiration (not much), cooking of pasta, and showers, etc.)

    Having a home with greater cooling needs than heating needs might tend to be ‘greener’ because more solar power is generally available in summer than winter; of course, this depends on other available energy sources, energy storage, and individual preferences, etc… And with that, comment 6 is on to something.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Jun 2008 @ 8:56 PM

  70. Instead of breeder reactors, we should be building breeder solar PV manufacturing facilities:

    It was pointed out that a photovoltaic panel manufacturing plant can be made energy-independent by using energy derived from its own roof using its own panels. Such a plant becomes not only energy self-sufficient but a major supplier of new energy, hence the name solar breeder. The reported investigation establishes certain mathematical relationships for the solar breeder which clearly indicate that a vast amount of net energy is available from such a plant for the indefinite future. It is pointed out that if solar electric plants would be built according to the solar breeder principle, their operation as a net energy source would be automatically assured.

    Yes, this revolutionary new concept… wait – what’s that date?

    The solar breeder, Lindmayer, J., Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference, Luxembourg, September 27-30, 1977

    Comment by Ike Solem — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:06 PM

  71. Re:#60 “…… why don’t we all car pool more and use public transportation more often?….”

    Because that would ruin Will Rogers’s prediction that the U.S. would be the first country in the world to drive itself to the poorhouse in an automobile.

    Actually the real answer to this commonsense approach of conservation and efficiency lies partly in the insidiousness of the oil industry and its public relations propaganda,with the help of some(not all) of the mainstream media who insist on taking a so called “balanced” stance on AGW,by presenting the “other side”. Which, to me, is like looking at the other side’s view on a Heliocentric solar system.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:14 PM

  72. I would question the “100%” efficiency rating for the gas furnace,the real world condition in combustion testing reveals more like 85-89% combustion efficiency, to have a even near 100% efficiency, the gas would have to burn at stoichiometric air fuel ratios, and no burner is that good, they all need to have excess air due to design limitations. Keep in mind all condensing furnaces have 2 fan electric fan motors, and one with a pre/post purge function that will remove heat, so you have 2 energy inputs not just a singular source such as on the a/c to calculate your “carbon footprint”.

    Comment by Max — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:35 PM

  73. Re 68

    Actually, water can absorb IR and UV; maybe solar water heaters could double as skylights.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:36 PM

  74. Re 68

    … of course, if you value white Christmasses, maple syrup, and don’t want to worry about killer bees, black widow spiders, or dengue fever, moving to sunnier warmer climates might not be the right choice. On the other hand, you’d be closer to the oranges and cacao trees (although the processessing of that chocolate might take awhile to follow you?). Etc… PS written near 45 deg Lat.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:42 PM

  75. When I wrote Re 68, I was refering to my own comment (Re 69)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Jun 2008 @ 10:11 PM

  76. 19. It is very unfortunate that our present government is so totally opposed to your nuclear ambitions (I am assuming you are Iranian, although similar logic applies to the rest of the Arab world). It is clear that with the current administration in Washington no change is likely. There have been proposed compromises, such as letting foreigners (Russia mainly) handle the reprocessing, which aside from national pride, and a potential, but low probably fear that the fuel supply could be cut off, should be sufficient (at least given a change of leadership in Washington). Another avenue that I think would work spectacularly well (if National pride is the main issue), would be to develop a Thorium based Nuclear cycle. This would be an important contribution to the worlds energy future, as well as being a way to have control over your fuel cycle, and alleviate proliferation concerns.

    Now, back o the Prius. It is incorrect to assign the energy cost of the batteery to the lifecycle energy cost, as the batteries will be recycled (the materials are too valuable not to). Also Toyota is currently warranting the batteries for 150,000 miles (and confident of typical lifetimes of at least 200,000). The only real fly in the ointment is hybrid production capability. Currently hybrid battery production capability is in short supply. I expect the hybrid market will be production limited for at least the next five years. That implies that the most effective usage requires selfselection of buyers (i.e. only those who drive a lot should buy a hybrid). A Prius (and probably some other serial hybrids), have additional potential savings. As battery prices decrease, and gasoline prices increase, at some point it will be worthwhile to upgrade existing Priuses to plugins -all that will be required is a charger, better battery capacity, and modified control software.

    Comment by Thomas — 16 Jun 2008 @ 10:45 PM

  77. Re #64, G.R.L Cowan, I misunderstood your objection! From your example I thought you were talking about a human tragedy adjacent to the site, such as from a dam water release without warning, or a nuclear reactor explosion. I had not considered that it will be impossible to design mechanical safety features to prevent a concrete block from sliding down inside a silo! “He must be talking about the collapse of the whole building,” I thought, hence, “Follow the building codes!”

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 16 Jun 2008 @ 11:20 PM

  78. I’ve been trying to think of a simpler way to highlight the basic issue in the decision of whether you help reduce carbon emissions more by keeping your car or selling it off and buying a hybrid (or other new car with better gas mileage). Let’s call the new car a Prius, for the sake of argument.

    Assuming the Prius to have lower lifetime carbon emissions (including manufacturing) than the fleet average, then the best thing for long term carbon emissions is to turn the fleet over into Prius’s. That can’t happen if NOBODY buys a new Prius. I.e. the situation where everybody buys a used car and feels virtuous does not get you where you want to go in terms of carbon emissions. Another way of putting it is that if everybody bought used cars, there would be no new cars entering the fleet, and eventually the stock of used cars would be exhausted, as they age and die. That mean that somebody has to buy new cars, and those new cars ought to be Prius’s.

    That means that somebody who buys the new Prius is performing a service by injecting an efficient car into the fleet. The question then comes down to what is the ideal rate of injecting Prius’s into the fleet? Clearly you can overdo it since if everybody goes out and buys a new Prius, a lot of fairly efficient and usable used cars will get scrapped before their time.

    So, any takers on how to figure the optimum rate at which Prius’s should be entering the fleet? Once you figure the best number, you can figure out WHO should be the ones to actually buy those cars — the WHO meaning WHO in terms of what kind of car they already own. Perhaps you’d then want to add a dose of reality by constraining the WHO question by personal financial resources.

    I think this is an interesting optimization problem, though perhaps academic if the supply of hybrids is going to be limited by manufacturing capability for an extended period of time.

    Comment by raypierre — 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:16 AM

  79. Re #4: Sure, hundreds of thousands of homes in Sweden are heated by heat pumps already, taking heat from the groundwater by drilling a well about 300 ft deep and circulating a heat medium down that well. You get at least 3W of heat for every W of electricity that way, so it is very, very profitable for the houseowner, another example of that “green” does not mean “expensive”. Sweden today uses only 50% of the oil compared to 1975 – and we have not had to go back to the stone age to achieve that.

    Comment by Anders L. — 17 Jun 2008 @ 2:11 AM

  80. Raypierre, thanks for your response to my #44 – I totally agree with your view that we need more not less natural forest.

    The reason I thought you meant “old tree” rather than “young tree” was that it seems to me the best way to look at this sort of problem is to ignore for the moment processes that operate on longer timescales than decades to centuries, and consider that a given area of land has a certain capacity to store carbon removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. If the carbon is stored it is not in the atmosphere to contribute to global warming. Our aim should be to implement policies to maximise the amount of this carbon storage capacity that is used, on average over time. My thoughts on these lines for biofuels (i.e. why they’re a really bad idea) are available at: http://unchartedterritory.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/the-biofuel-papers/

    WIRED’s provocative proposal to sell a few extra copies is to suggest that removing old trees to allow more vigorous growth will keep more carbon out of the atmosphere than just leaving the forest alone. This is not the case. A hectare of forest might hold 150 tonnes of carbon in the form of trees. If we remove this and allow new growth then we have to add two curves: the carbon uptake of the young trees and the loss of carbon to the atmosphere of the trees that have been taken out. An example of the carbon uptake over 100 years appears in: http://www.eccm.uk.com/httpdocs/pdfs/TD11.pdf

    The ECCM paper shows that it takes about 10 years before the new trees take up carbon at anywhere near the most rapid rate (of around 3.5 tonnes/hectare/year in their example) and nearly 50 years before it stores even half the 150 tonnes of carbon that has been removed. The question is whether the rate of loss of carbon from the extracted trees exceeds the rate of uptake of the new trees. It seems to me that decay is almost bound to exceed growth for most of the (say) 100 year lifetime of the new trees. Even if the old trees are used entirely for “furniture and houses” (to quote WIRED) there will be a large proportion wasted immediately and then a slow loss over time. Very likely much less than 50% of the carbon will stay out of the atmosphere for 50 years, for example.

    Towards the end of the 100 year lifetime of the new trees there may be a small gain represented by the small percentage of wood surviving for a century. But then we propose to repeat the process and once more go into carbon deficit. To ensure a steady harvest of wood the forestry industry keeps various plantations at different stages. We therefore need to take an average over the lifetime of the trees – 100 years in my example – of the total carbon kept out of the atmosphere per hectare as a result of the forestry process. This average, I suggest, will be significantly less than the amount of carbon stored in the original natural forest.

    There are other arguments in favour of leaving as much land as natural forest rather than managed forest. In particular, the carbon stored in natural forest is significantly higher than the peak amount stored in a managed forest, for various reasons. In other words we may destroy a natural forest storing 150 tonnes C/hect and replace it with a plantation that at peak stores 100 tC/hect, and most of the time much less than this. To compensate we would have to preserve an awful lot of antique furniture! Valid points are also made in #51 and #53.

    #50 alludes to the release of carbon as the planet warms. If we ignore the slow process of long-term storage of carbon in soils, we can consider forests to be in equilibrium, like any other chemical process. Raising the temperature would be expected to move the reaction towards carbon release, in agreement with what is observed (in high latitudes this may be outweighed by increased growth rates) – a carbon-cycle feedback.

    But increasing atmospheric CO2 tends to move the reaction towards carbon uptake (that is an increasing amount of biomass in a given forest area) – this is the “CO2 fertilisation effect” which is currently keeping the rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 to about 2ppm/year rather than around 2.5ppm/year which the discussion in AR4 implies it would be otherwise. As we continue to destroy the world’s forests and cultivate the land instead, we progressively prevent the CO2 fertilisation effect from operating.

    Comment by Tim Joslin — 17 Jun 2008 @ 4:51 AM

  81. #78, I beleive that company cars would be a good way to progress. Get the critical mass for economic production from offering them as company fleet cars. However lots of motorway miles in a Prius might not be that good an idea as they are not that efficient on long haul journeys as they use the petrol engine and people tend to travel fast on motorways reducing efficiency further.

    It needs to be a way of getting people doing lots of urban short journeys (mums and stuff on the school and shopping run) to obtain them primarily.

    Comment by pete best — 17 Jun 2008 @ 5:05 AM

  82. Re Prius etc. I think the private automobile as a form of mass transportation is the wrong paradigm. It will not work for the majority of the 6.5 billion people currently on the planet. It is not sustainable regardless of the energy source used to power it. I think XKCD has the right take on this topic. http://xkcd.com/437/

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:06 AM

  83. Re 79:

    Re #4: Sure, hundreds of thousands of homes in Sweden are heated by heat pumps already, taking heat from the groundwater by drilling a well about 300 ft deep and circulating a heat medium down that well. You get at least 3W of heat for every W of electricity that way, so it is very, very profitable for the houseowner, another example of that “green” does not mean “expensive”. Sweden today uses only 50% of the oil compared to 1975 – and we have not had to go back to the stone age to achieve that.

    I was looking at the amount of energy (ignoring all efficiency and conversion losses, etc) in 1,000 gallons of water at the daily high (about 100F these days) and the overnight low (about 75F these days) and it came out to be about as much electricity as I buy from the grid in 3 days. Since solar collectors have outlet temperatures in excess of the daily high, I’m thinking I’m aiming my sights a bit low — and 1,000 gallons isn’t that much, perhaps 130 cubic feet, or less than 6′ on a side.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:44 AM

  84. why don’t we all car pool more and use public transportation more often?”

    Because public transportation is often crowded, uncomfortable, unreliable, and slow even when it does work. I’m a long-time bus rider and I’ve ridden buses and trains in many cities; I know. There’s also the fact that with public transportation, you can’t plan the route or make side-trips. Americans like cars because they like having some control over their transportation. Cars aren’t going to go away any time soon.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:51 AM

  85. Let’s assume, as raypierre says, that you need to emit more CO2 to cool a house by 1ºC than to warm it by 1ºC. There is still another important factor. The use of the air conditioner will directly cause only a little warming (the machine warms a bit because it is not 100% efficient). The heating system on the other hand causes warming directly. So the question would be: will the extra CO2 emitted to cool the house be as important for global warming as the actual fact of warming the house in winter? Therefore, if we are going to reduce our welfare, is it better to be 1ºC colder in winter or 1ºC hotter in the summer? How do we “heat” less the planet, with the CO2 emission or with the direct warming?

    Comment by Nylo — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:54 AM

  86. re: # 79

    In 2005 about 92% of Sweden’s electricity was based on hydro and nuclear, 8% fossil. From.

    “Nuclear Power in Sweden
    (May 2008)

    • Sweden has 10 nuclear power reactors providing half of its electricity.
    • A 1980 referendum canvassed three options for phasing out nuclear power, but none for continuing it.
    • Sweden’s 1997 energy policy retains most of the country’s nuclear plants but has resulted in premature closure of one 2-unit plant.
    • Sweden is the only country to have a tax discriminating against nuclear power – now about EUR 0.67/kWh.

    Sweden’s electricity consumption has been rising and it has one of the world’s highest individual levels of consumption: about 18,000 kWh/head. About half of domestic production is nuclear, and up to half hydro, depending on the weather – see contrast below. In 2006 nuclear power produced 65 billion kWh, 48% of total.”

    In response to closure of a 2-unit nuclear plant,

    “A new 800 MWe undersea transmission line is being built by 2010 to enable export of electricity to Sweden from Finland’s new Olkiluoto reactor.”

    And

    “Removal of 8.5 TWh/yr from the county’s nuclear output is being replaced by imports from Germany and Denmark, much of it coal-fired, and by nuclear generation from Finland and Russia, in the latter case from old Chernobyl-type reactors which the EU is anxious to shut down elsewhere.”

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:56 AM

  87. re: #64

    By stating ‘fission reactor’ you have implicitly specified both the composition and geometrical configuration of the materials that comprise the ‘nuclear pile’ and the physical boundary conditions. You have additionally specified some the previous history of he state of the pile and the initial conditions for the ‘uncontrollably to do’ aspects.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 17 Jun 2008 @ 7:04 AM

  88. #81: I agree. Figuring out whether to buy a Prius or your next Corolla is a problem for a privileged few in the world (though many of this privileged few may be living in the US). Lots of people in the world at large don’t own cars and have to rely on public transportation. For many people in Europe and the Middle East, owning a car is not the problem but driving one is because gas costs about 4 times more there than it does here in the US.

    I think the real solution lies in making public transportation more available and comfortable in the US. I think solving problems like how Earth-friendly is it to own a Prius may be considered a little lofty when even the Prius still produces greenhouse gases (though less) and a lot of people really don’t (can’t) own cars because they don’t have the financial resources to make the choice between a Prius and another car.

    Plus Prius or not, it seems some are still considering driving the private vehicle when that, among other things, is what got us in this climate mess to begin with, isn’t it?

    But soon the price of gas is going to become so unaffordable that this discussion is going to be moot and we all will have to learn to ride the bus or our bikes if our spirits are so independent :) Let’s hope we don’t do irreversible damage to our planet by then, if we haven’t already.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 17 Jun 2008 @ 7:15 AM

  89. Furthermore, how much of the energy that I transfer to the outside of the house becomes energy lost to space because of increased radiation of the outside of the house? A black body with one half at 22 degrees and another half at 20 degrees radiates more energy than a black body with uniform 21 degrees temperature, as radiation changes with T^4. Could an actual loss of energy for the Earth system be a result of the use of my air conditioner, I mean, locally, independently of the energy used to “move” the heat?

    Comment by Nylo — 17 Jun 2008 @ 7:17 AM

  90. For anyone interested in geothermal heat systems, the Canadian government has a nice primer:

    An Introduction to Residential Earth Energy Systems
    http://www.canren.gc.ca/prod_serv/index.asp?CaId=193&PgId=1190

    Comment by Gerry Beauregard — 17 Jun 2008 @ 8:53 AM

  91. Some musings on geothermal (aka earth energy) heating/cooling systems. One could conceivably do even better than using the 55F deep ground as a heat source/sink by storing the winter cold and summer heat.

    Suppose you have a shed with a very large tank of full of water. The base of the tank has antifreeze filled pipes leading to a heat pump in the basement of your house.

    In winter, you open the doors to shed, allowing cold air to eventually freeze it into a solid block of ice. Then you wrap the ice block in insulation and seal up the shed to store all that coolth for use later in the year. When you need air conditioning in summer, you run your heat pump using the block of ice (eventually very cool water) or the deep ground as the sink, whichever is cooler.

    In another shed, you have a well-insulated tank with water that you heat up in summer using a rooftop solar water heater. In winter, your heatpump uses that tank as the heat source (or the deep ground, whichever is warmer).

    Comment by Gerry Beauregard — 17 Jun 2008 @ 8:58 AM

  92. #84 [BPL] “Because public transportation is often crowded, uncomfortable, unreliable, and slow even when it does work.”

    Not when it’s properly funded and run, as in much of Europe (sadly, not the UK).

    “Americans like cars because they like having some control over their transportation. Cars aren’t going to go away any time soon.”

    Similarly, Americans (and western Europeans, Japanese, etc.) like using far more than their fair share of the world’s resources, including its ability to absorb pollution. If we can’t be persuaded to moderate our greed considerably, everyone’s stuffed.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 17 Jun 2008 @ 9:36 AM

  93. There really are a wide variety of options for making both large buildings and small residences energy-independent. Not only is this good for climate, it is also a real economic necessity in an era of steadily increasing fuel prices.

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2008-06-15-power-prices-rising_N.htm

    The two large-scale solutions to that are concentrated solar power plants and wind turbine farms. The small-scale solutions are energy-independent homes that also use solar and wind inputs.

    For a nice design for a home-scale wind turbine system, see:
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/06/wind-power-urban-architectural-microturbines.php

    Modular Architectural Wind Microturbines
    Aerovironment is designing these wind microturbines specifically for the urban environment: No need for a tower, the blades rotate more slowly and silently, and they are set at an angle that allows them to benefit from the wind that is bouncing up the walls and escalating them vertically.

    All in all, what is needed is a new architectural mentality that places energy efficiency and conservation at the center, and designs the structure around that. As you can see, many people are doing this already.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 17 Jun 2008 @ 9:58 AM

  94. In comment 87 Dan Hughes included,

    By stating ‘fission reactor’ you have implicitly specified both the composition and geometrical configuration of the materials that comprise the ‘nuclear pile’ …

    “Nuclear pile” once, I guess up to about 1955, meant fission reactor. I don’t think it ever meant anything else.

    Arnold asked what uncontrollable tendencies the things so called had; I gave the complete list for typical ones. They don’t have any bad habits in re control of fission itself, witness the natural Oklo reactors’ remains’ appearance of having burned evenly for millennia, and witness also the good behaviour of the San Francisco‘s engine when that boat stove in its front end on a seamount.

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert — 17 Jun 2008 @ 10:29 AM

  95. The elephant in the room that would need to be removed is the ever increasing human population…unless we limit our propagation, the earth’s resources will become depleted and no longer sustain us in the multiple billions. As Walt Kelly’s Pogo said “We have met the enemy and he is us!”.

    Comment by mike lukes — 17 Jun 2008 @ 10:48 AM

  96. Comment 85

    Logically, I may have a problem with the idea
    expressed, it must be my misunderstanding. My
    thought is to that impart 1 Deg of change to a slug of
    atmosphere whether higher or lower then the ambient
    temperature, should not differ. Only the energy
    conversion system imparting the temperature change is
    important.

    Systemically, direct heating endothermic output of the
    complete combustion of methane (Natural Gas) to H2O
    and CO then CO to CO2 as compared to the indothermic
    biologic processes are not much higher then any other
    process then it misses it by a small margin.
    (Probably only Solar Cell Hydrolysis and combustion of
    the by products are likely higher.)

    On the other hand, it appears either Air-Air or
    Water-Air Heat Pump systems as the most popular /
    appropriate solution in the highly humid regions where
    the tropical temperatures from Global Warming are most
    likely to make uninhabitable, if what the science
    tells us is true. For cooling, either of these
    systems require a conversion of combustion (chemical
    energy) to steam (thermal energy) from steam to a
    turbine (mechanical energy) from a turbine to a
    dynamo (electrical energy), then we have the
    resistance of distribution (thermal energy leakage)
    and finally the conversion from electrical energy to
    mechanical energy to power the exchange of thermal
    energy.

    There is yet a different system with much fewer steps
    though it still would require combustion (chemical
    energy) to achieve thermal energy exchange. By using
    the Absorptive/Evaporative refrigeration process it
    would need to provide a high thermal input to drive
    the thermal energy exchange. In either case cooling
    has more conversion steps then direct heating.

    What I think is being suggested is that the heat per
    unit of air being passed through the heat exchanger is
    lower for cooling then it is for heating and that has
    more to do with the initial temperature of the heat
    exchanger inputs. However, if a furnace was designed
    that recirculated the combustion gases until they
    reached about 30 to 40 degrees above ambient before
    reigniting the burner I think the argument presented
    could be easily countered. A recirculation furnace
    with a pulsed burner would be much greater in
    efficiency systematically.

    Hence, a good reason for many to look toward Gas
    Packs, (Air-Air Heat Pump Gas Furnace combinations)
    for their HVAC needs. If it were not for the economic
    reasons required to improve the furnace portion, the
    idea of a pulsed burner and combustion chamber
    recirculation control system would have been developed
    years ago. (Keeping in mind that the biggest concern
    is the possibility of heat exchanger combustion gases
    leaking into the buildings air return, resulting in
    possible CO poisoning.) Which could be remedied by a
    internal CO detector which would shutdown the Gas
    Furnace and activate the Emergency Electrical heating
    strip while annoying the building manager/homeowner
    with one of those aggravating warning alarms.

    As to comment 89, the higher heat energy at the
    surface is not going to get through the green house
    gases any faster then lower temperatures, if I
    understand the science correctly. Hence, 1 Deg. more
    may not do much more then warm the middle troposphere
    a little more as the surface region of re-emission
    into space has not changed. Now if the added heat
    would raise the region being heated so that the
    surface area increased rather then the temperature
    that would be different. Though we probably would not
    be having this discussion if that were true…

    So, did I explain my concern and address things
    correctly or was the intent something different?

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L David Cooke — 17 Jun 2008 @ 10:50 AM

  97. I understand that many people consider solar power one solution to greenhouse gas emissions.

    However, has anybody ever considered that to purify the silicon for the typical PV panel requires significant electrical energy that comes for the most part from coal fired plants?

    In other words, PV solar power is not without it’s carbon foot print.

    Comment by Andrew — 17 Jun 2008 @ 11:07 AM

  98. Secular Alarmist commented
    ————————————————————–
    Leonard Evens wrote: “… I do bicycle for exercise, but I would need a more practical bike to use for shopping …”

    How about a four-wheel, two-seat, hybrid electric-pedal powered bike?
    ——————————————————-
    I have considered various alternatives, including tricycles. Some of these would be practical all weather vehicles for short trips. I am not yet in such bad shape that I need electric power. The problem is where to put it. I only raise that issue because it is likely to be a problem for any apartment dweller with limited storage space. In our case, we do have some alternatives, but they could be costly, but most would have even fewer alternatives than we do. Of course, if you live in a detatched house, this won’t be a problem, but more and more of us live in apartments, something that will be more common as the disadvantages of dispersed housing become more apparent.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 17 Jun 2008 @ 11:50 AM

  99. In comment 97 Andrew says,

    … has anybody ever considered that to purify the silicon for the typical PV panel requires significant electrical energy that comes for the most part from coal fired plants?

    Depending where it is made, the electricity might or might not have a large fossil fuel component.

    However, although solar PV electricity is very expensive, it is not so expensive as to suggest conventional energy invested exceeds output. Also, direct comparison of electricity in and electricity out yields, IIRC, a payback time of about two years.

    Storage to make intermittent PV input into continuous output, such as a silicon purifier might need, would waste some of the intermittent input and extend this payback time to ~3 years, and some of the PV cells the factory would make would spend their whole lives paying off the electricity debt incurred in the factory’s construction; but this would be small compared to the energy it would use in its working lifetime. So net energy should start coming out within five years.

    CSP is quicker.

    Comment by # G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert — 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:17 PM

  100. Re #96 Dave,

    My doubt in 85 is, OK, we use more energy in cooling than in warming, but do we actually WARM more by cooling than by warming? When we try to warm, all of the energy used causes warming, directly (temperature increase) and indirectly (GHG emissions). When we try to cool, however, only some of the energy will cause warming.

    As for what I said in 89, I’m not sure you understood it. The energy radiated by a body depends on its surface temperature, but it is by an integral calculation of the temperature of the surface, not by just taking the average of it. Again, if I have a black body which is 22 degrees and another one which is 20 degrees, the total emissions from both will be higher than if each of them was 21 degrees. And I don’t need to change their sizes or any other properties than their temperatures. If I manage to transfer energy from one to the other so that one gets a higher temperature while maintaining the average of the 2, the result is a faster energy loss from the overall system due to energy radiation.

    If the outside of my house is warmer, it emits more energy to the outer space. That principle is what will make the planet’s warming stop at some point: as we warm, we radiate more and in the end we will reach a new (hotter) equilibrium. I hope you are not trying to negate this.

    [Response: It's only the greenhouse gas emissions that are a significant warming factor. The warming due to direct thermal output of all human energy use is negligible on the global scale, though in dense environments it can contribute significantly on a local level, making the urban heat island effect worse. --raypierre]

    Comment by Nylo — 17 Jun 2008 @ 12:24 PM

  101. Pardon the digression but — here’s a link for bicycle transport; the “Work Bikes” links in particular are innovative and practical:

    http://www.sfbike.org/?racks
    and trailers: http://www.sfbike.org/?trailer
    This in particular is tempting us: http://www.xtracycle.com/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Jun 2008 @ 1:02 PM

  102. Recommended reading: a good article on concentrated solar power (CSP), also known as solar electric thermal:

    The Technology That Will Save Humanity
    The solar energy you haven’t heard of
    is the one best suited to generate
    clean electricity for generations to come.
    By Joseph Romm
    April 14, 2008
    Salon.com

    With centralized utility-scale CSP and wind power, combined with distributed rooftop photovoltaics and small-scale wind power, and the improvements in efficiency that are fairly low-hanging fruit, we can phase out both coal and nuclear for electricity generation.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Jun 2008 @ 1:14 PM

  103. There’s another assymetry between heating and A/C.

    Heating:
    If it’s cold, heat losses from buildings (slightly) warm other buildings, so on can be grateful for a nearby building with bad insulation. I.e., a group of close buildings are at worst neutral, and may even help each other.

    Cooling:
    Running air conditioners heats the surrounding air, which makes everybody work harder, added on top of any other UHI effects. I.e., neighboring buildings work against each other.

    We don’t have A/C in our house [don't need it], but drive 5 miles down the hill to Palo Alto, and it is noticeably hotter. Although it’s not that dense, one can still feel the effects of the massed air conditioners along the more commercial streets.

    Good passive building design [and roofs, and more reflective streets] are really big wins in sunny areas. We recently put in reflective insulating blinds on all the floor-to-ceiling glass, and they really help.

    Comment by John Mashey — 17 Jun 2008 @ 1:16 PM

  104. RE: 100

    I think I understand the point you are making in 85. To paraphrase what I am getting from the most recent statement is, the combination of heat content and heat potential with cooling you have heat potential and cooling. Meaning, that cooling somehow offsets one of the heating content values. My issue is that I do not think the heat content is offset. What I see is that the heat is not being “removed” rather only “moved”.

    As to 89 to have a radiant energy of 20 Degrees would be dependent on the black body having a certain heat content/unit of volume. For a black body to to have a 22 Degree emission it would have to have a higher heat content per volume. If the heat content were constant and the volume changed I expect the radiant value would change. The point I am trying to address is if you increase the heat content and the volume were constant then the intensity of radiant of rate of emission/decay of heat content would likely increase. However, if the volume or emission surface were to increase with the increase in heat content would that not suggest a constant radiant emission/decay rate?

    I guess I am having a hard time with the concept that you are suggesting that the path between your house and space is immediate. Simple observation suggests that even if there were no GHG that there is water vapor and it could delay the release of radiant heat from your house. In the case of the wet/dry adiabatic transition zone if the altitude increased due to added heat content, would that not be similar to the volume of the black body increasing in volume
    and hence moderating the radiant decay/emission rate?

    (Note: Correction to my earlier post (96?), the correct terms apparently should have been exothermic and endothermic in that order, my error.)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 17 Jun 2008 @ 1:23 PM

  105. Re Andrew @ 97: “However, has anybody ever considered that to purify the silicon for the typical PV panel requires significant electrical energy that comes for the most part from coal fired plants?”

    For now. Not to mention transported and installed using petroleum fuels. And so it will remain until we get serious about replacing fossil fuels for power and transport with renewables and non-fossil sources, and thereby reduce the CO2 impact of the manufacture, transport and installation of PVs, windmills, and everything else that we manufacture.

    In other words, the solution to the situation you point out is to install more, not fewer PVs. More, not fewer windmills. More, not fewer geo-thermal.

    In the meantime, have you ever considered that as both petroleum and coal become ever more expensive, so too will the cost of manufacturing and installing their renewable replacements? And that if we follow the advice of those urging that we wait before acting, we simply may not have the means to manufacture the replacement to fossil fuels?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 17 Jun 2008 @ 1:35 PM

  106. Re 91: “Some musings on geothermal (aka earth energy) heating/cooling systems. One could conceivably do even better than using the 55F deep ground as a heat source/sink by storing the winter cold and summer heat.”

    These systems effectively do that to the extent that is possible. The issue is that that for these systems you normally have a large reservoir of that 55 degree heat that you can’t store much of a change to that for very long. So you won’t be storing heat from summer to help in winter. You might get a little diurnal effect, but this comes down to the particulars of the well or ground loop design.

    Comment by Andrew — 17 Jun 2008 @ 4:11 PM

  107. RE: 98

    The vehicle below could solve your parking problems…

    http://www.allwebscooters.com/0536.asp

    As for parking it is only 29 inches wide so you could actually drive it right in your front door, unless you have steps or the elevator is not a minimum of 72 inches deep…. Of course would have to modify it with a larger battery/motor so you can go faster then the 7 mph it is rated for.

    Something more along the lines of a velocar might be an option. The Corbin Sparrow may still be in production if you were interested. This could be parked in the neighborhood Bike rack possibly…

    http://www.microcarmuseum.com/tour/corbin-sparrow.html
    ( Other examples: http://www.microcarmuseum.com/tourindex.html )

    Point being the Rhoades Car or the International Surrey Cars are both pedal cars and can be fitted out for an electric assist motor if desired; but, as you say they are not as small as the microcars above and the parking for the “bikes” would be expensive.

    http://www.rhoadescar.com/jumplobb.htm
    http://worksmancycles.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/page37.html

    The main point if these cars had been produced so long then why are they not here today? The same goes for the old Citreon CV-2.
    Primarily, the infrastructure of a large manufacturer is not there to support them. In short, the whole of the issue is economics. As long as it is not cost effective for a large durable goods manufacturer to produce many low margin products they will push for low volume, high margin vehicles like the Hummer.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 17 Jun 2008 @ 4:21 PM

  108. Nylo, think about this–if your house is losing energy to space, that means you are using more energy to keep it at the same temperature, right? Since at least some of the energy lost by your house will be absorbed by greenhouse gas molecules, the net energy is still on the + side. With air con. it takes energy to cool a house–you are transferring energy against entropy, so the net energy will be more than the cooling achieved. Now if your energy source is fossil fuels, your little gift to the atmosphere will keep on giving for hundreds of years–and if you integrate over that time, the energies invovled will be dwarfed by the greenhouse effect of the CO2 emitted.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Jun 2008 @ 4:25 PM

  109. Re: Comment moderation. I’ve also been very frustrated by this because it slows the conservation to a crawl and makes it impossible to respond quickly to other comments. You should allow all comments from regulars to post immediately and only moderate first timers. This should effectively delete all spam and trolling *and* lower your moderation time by 95%.

    Comment by Joseph Hunkins — 17 Jun 2008 @ 5:33 PM

  110. In North America it is a serious mistake to claim that natural gas is better than heating with electrical power. Natural gas in NA is in terminal decline, of about 3% a year http://canada.theoildrum.com/node/4073, http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/11/27/61031/618, http://www.theoildrum.com/tag/natural_gas_peak.

    The best way to heat and cool your home is with a ground source heat pump. It will cut your heating costs by as much as 75% and your cooling cost by 50%. They use electricity, but your over all energy consumption is much less. Plus you get off a fuel, natural gas, that will soon be in very short supply and very expensive (up 100% so far this past year).

    Comment by Richard Wakefield — 17 Jun 2008 @ 5:51 PM

  111. Am I right, that the major weakness with these is that it still takes a lot of energy from some source to compress the air ? Or is there some other problem ? They were invented years ago, so I wonder why they aren’t common. Cheaper than a Prius.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmqpGZv0YT4

    Comment by CL — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:38 PM

  112. Re: Talking about heating/cooling and assymetric equations.

    It takes approximately 1000 litres of water to grow the firewood equaivalent of 1 kg heating oil(2 g carbon/kg water), but only the evaporation of 20 litres of water to tie up the heat energy equaivalent of 1 kg oil(latent heat of vap 2.27(MJ/kg)/heat of comb. 44(MJ/kg)).

    It ought in other woords be 50 times less water expensive to cool an house in the desert in a carbon neutral fashion, than heating an house in an cold, wet boreal forest.

    Comment by per — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:42 PM

  113. They missed one. Accelerating faster is more efficient than accelerating slowly.

    According to Swedish fuel efficiency experts in the NY Times:

    ”It’s not commonly understood by people who drive,” Dr. Dougherty said. ”They think that the way to get best fuel economy is to accelerate very gently, but that proves not to be the case. The best thing is to accelerate briskly and shift.

    ”Don’t give it everything the car has, but push down when you’re going to shift, using maybe two-thirds of the available power, and change through the gears relatively quickly.”

    Comment by aaron — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:45 PM

  114. Re Richard Wakefield @110: “The best way to heat and cool your home is with a ground source heat pump.”

    I will agree with Richard on this one, and add to it the use of a solar-thermal water heating system, supplemented by an efficient on-demand water heater if needed. Together, ground-source geothermal and solar-thermal hot water can reduce household carbon footprint by around 70% if gas is currently used for both heating and hot water. Unfortunately, ground-source is fairly expensive to install and can be difficult, though not impossible, and thus even more expensive to install in built-up urban areas.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:51 PM

  115. And gas prices are probably causing more consumption, not less.

    Looking at the Energy Information Admistration data on consumption (http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/xls/pet_cons_psup_dc_nus_mbbl_m.xls), fuel consumption is down less than 1% versus driving being down 4.3%.

    That is a huge decrease in efficiecy which cannot be explained by people eliminating their most efficient driving (the efficient driving cut would need to be several times more efficient than average driving).

    In addition to people acting on bad information, Giffen Behavior may be to blame.

    People are pressured to forgo luxury driving during off-peak hours, but must drive more during peak hours to produce a needed increase in income. And people are only willing to do so much driving in a day or week. People must drive more during congested times and are too tired to take the family out or take that country drive to visit grandma. Maybe mom and dad don’t even want to be in a car any more.

    [Response: Huh? How can consumption be down and yet have increased because of high gas prices? Doesn't quite meet the logic standard. Consumption does appear to be sensitive to price signals - they go up, it goes down. - gavin]

    Comment by aaron — 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:53 PM

  116. RE: 110

    The closer you are to the energy source and the less conversion involved the better. You have to consider where that electricity will come from today, it will not be solar and nuclear will remain a limited option. This leaves a choice of coal or natural gas.

    As to the future limitation of natural gas supplies, you are correct in relation to gas wells, as far as known current US reserves. However, when you consider the opportunity for Bio Gas or possibly non-food cellulose pellet gasification option the possibility of developing renewable methane sources as a production support for the natural gas industry fits like a hand in glove option. Methane is methane regardless the source, the more renewable, the less carbon from earlier Epochs are required to maintain the current world population and the less fossil fuels being introduced to the current Epoch.

    Until such time that NASA and the DOE develop a relatively safe highly efficient Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator out of retired nuclear fuel pellets we really do not have a good current technology alternative. As much as I like your Geothermal option, the electricity required to drive a water to air heat pump is not trivial. Even with an artesian well it still requires a minimum of 30 amps/1000 sq feet or 12 amps/ton of hvac.

    Though an Absorption refrigeration system would use as much as 500 cu feet of methane per day to cool 1000 sq feet 12 Deg. F. It takes about 720 cu feet per day to heat the average 1000 sq foot home 38 Deg F. The equivalent Heat Pump would require the equivalent of around 680 cu feet of methane to both heat and cool the same structure. The problem is that the conversion of the Natural Gas to Electricity means you would have to double the combustion of natural gas at the source to go from chemical to mechanical and then a tripling to make up for the conversion from mechanical to electrical with another doubling to make up for the line losses before it reaches the heat pump. (This equates to roughly 8200 cu feet of natural gas to power your heat pump for one day…)

    As this is a back of the post card estimate it might be more appropriate for a professional to work out the figures. However, I figure I am within the ballpark, (though there might be a question of which city….)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 17 Jun 2008 @ 7:08 PM

  117. Consupmtion is down far less than driving is. Consumption doesn’t look to be down significantly. We’re getting far less out of our fuel. See more here.

    Positive feedbacks, unintended consequences and all.

    Comment by aaron — 17 Jun 2008 @ 7:45 PM

  118. RE: 116

    Ooopps, grabbed the wrong value for the Natural Gas direct heating. I should have used roughly 70% (or 74 Deg. F) of the average 2400 cu required to maintain a well insulated 8500 cu foot home, with @30% RH, at 90 Deg. F when it is 35 Deg F outside or @ 1680 cu feet and not the 30% (720 cu feet) I used.

    (0.7(max temp – min temp)+ min temp)= @ 73.5 Deg.
    0.7(est. of 2400 cu feet to keep a 1000 home at 90 Deg. F on 35 Deg. F day)= 1680
    Best guess is the 720 cu feet would keep a 1000 sq foot home at @ 51 Deg. F on a 35 Deg. day) Sorry, I try to get it right, most times I catch it before it goes out…

    Dave

    Comment by l david cooke — 17 Jun 2008 @ 7:49 PM

  119. re the compressed air car (comment 111): Of course the energy needs to come from somewhere, but the real problem with powering a car on compressed air is that the energy density of compressed air is very low. At 30MPa, the energy density is 0.17MJ/liter, assuming isothermal compression. Liquid hydrocarbon fuels have an energy density of about 30MJ/liter. So even if your air car is very efficient, it will have no where near the range of a standard car. The only way they get them to look good in the glossy promotional material is by making the car very light, and driving the car slowly on flat roads. You can apply the same strategy to petrol driven cars to get extremely good mileage. For an extreme case, Google “shell eco-marathon” – gasoline powered vehicles can do better than 10000mpg.
    For comparison, lead acid batteries have about the same energy density as compressed air, which is the major reason battery powered cars have never taken off.

    Comment by David — 17 Jun 2008 @ 8:04 PM

  120. If there is room for any more nails in WIRED’s coffin, it sounds like their argument also skips completely over the real world issue of latent heat (to be honest, I didn’t read it, I’m assuming this from the above comments and summary). Although the cooling load in Arizona would be dominated by the sensible heat load, a quick jaunt over to the southeastern US (or any other humid region of the world) would result in a cooling load that is dominated by the latent heat.

    A simple analysis of the summer heat loads in the southeast US will show that in this region about 2-3 times more electricity is required to remove moisture than is required for the sensible cooling on a typical summer day. There is no counterpart to this latent heat in the winter heating load (although very cold, dry regions of the world do have to humidify in winter. Someone else will have to post with regards to the efficiencies on this and the percentage of heating load that is consumed this way).

    In humid climates (assuming conventional HVAC equipment), the first step in controlling the humidity is to subcool the air so that the excess water vapor condenses out (without this step, your final air will be saturated–not fun to work in and devastating to sensitive electronics.) After the excess water is condensed, guess what the next step is? Reheat to final setpoint. Thus, to cool our saturated summer air by 5C we first have to cool it about 10C and then reheat it 5C (actual numbers vary with air properties, but you get the idea). To heat it 5C (in this region) we simply heat it 5C.

    Thus, trying to compare a theoretical 5C sensible heating vs 5C sensible cooling load may be an okay place to start if we are talking Arizona, you would find that such a simplified analysis would miss your actual energy consumption (and CO2 footprint) badly in a more humid region of the world.

    Comment by Brian — 17 Jun 2008 @ 8:32 PM

  121. 113 has a valid, and largely misunderstood point. Moderately fast acceleration is best. The tradeoff (aside from time), is getting into your highest gear quickly (much of the internal losses are in the engine), but slow down gradually. In a conventional vehicle, slow deceleration, means you are dumping less energy into your brakes, on a hybrid, the slower charging wastes less energy due to resistive losses which scales as current squared.

    But their is a very strong case to be made, that the total world oil consumption is supply limited. This implies it will all be used, whatever an individual or even a country does to conserve. The real purpose for oil conservation is to maximize economic utility of a scare, and vanishing resource. A similar argument can probably be made for natural gas. Coal, at least the lower grades, will probably not be totally consumed, that is the emissions battleground that we have a chance to effect.

    [Response: The sooner the conventional oil is used up the sooner people will turn to tar sands and coal-to-oil in a big way. But I have indeed heard economists make the argument that conservation of oil makes little difference since the worldwide demand is so huge that reductions in usage here just lower the price and lead to increases in usage elsewhere. I'd like to see some numbers put on that argument, though. --raypierre]

    Comment by Thomas — 17 Jun 2008 @ 9:30 PM

  122. Pete Best has commented twice in this thread to the effect that there isn’t much use using a Prius on the highway. First off, his comment as written is a bit vague, but let’s assume he means that it loses most or all of its advantage over a median-mileage car when driven for hours at, say 65 mph. This statement, or anything close to it, is so wrong as to be cuckoo. You can go all day on the interstate, using heat or AC if needed, at about 50 mpg in your Prius, or anyway in my Prius. Most other vehicles on the road don’t come close to that. Of course, increasing to 75 mph loses mpg, but the other vehicles have a corresponding loss from a lower base.

    Yes, it’s possible to do even better than that around town, but the average figure covers a huge variation from various causes, by far the most important of which is getting the engine to full operating temperature. That is, the first 5 minutes are bad, winter is bad, and the first 5 minutes in winter are terrible. (Terrible for the Prius being probably around the long-term average for the median car in USA.) This means the long-term average for a given Prius has a huge dependence on usage, notably length of commute. (Short commute of course is still lower fuel *usage*, and bike/walk is still none.) Operation as a taxi is ideal (warm all day).

    Long trips on the highway fall short of the ideal mpg, but benefit from the warm engine in a way impossible for short commutes and other errands not bunched together.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 17 Jun 2008 @ 10:13 PM

  123. #78:
    The optimal rate should be close to the rate that old (too old to drive) cars get scrapped. In fact, if all cars are worth driving for as long as possible, the two rates should be almost the same (more new cars will be made, because the total number of cars is increasing). Other factors could affect the optimal rate–if most people cannot afford the more efficient car, then the optimal rate would decrease, because otherwise the people would not be able to pay for the things they need. Also, if the price of fuel increases enough, the optimal rate would be huge.

    Comment by peco — 17 Jun 2008 @ 10:23 PM

  124. Andrew (#97) You must not have read the earlier posts. A large solar PV manufacturing facility can easily be powered using solar and wind power systems – meaning no carbon footprint at all.

    In terms of reducing fossil carbon footprint, you always have to look at how to eliminate fossil fuels in each sector of the energy industry. Obviously, coal has the lowest energy delivery per ton of CO2 emitted (many carbon-carbon bonds, which store less energy than carbon-hydrogen bonds), and methane has the highest (four C-H bonds per carbon atom) – thus, coal should be the first fossil fuel to be phased out and replaced with solar and wind sources.

    The main problem with nuclear is really the economics. Everyone knows that fossil fuel prices are skyrocketing, but so are uranium prices (ten fold increase over the past few years.) In addition, investments in nuclear power will not generate a steady increase in energy supply – but investments in solar PV manufacturing and wind turbine manufacturing will.

    As far as energy demand in a house or other building, the design elements are critical. Passive solar, solar water heating, and solar PV all work best when incorporated into the design at the very beginning, rather than being added as an afterthought.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 18 Jun 2008 @ 12:43 AM

  125. Re #122. I believe that crusing around all day in a diesel car gives around 60 MPG at 50 to 60 MPH because I do it all the time. The prius us a pollution saver and not a miracle cure for climate change. You can compare many European cars driven sanely against cars or vehicles in the USA where 40 MPG is an amazing feet whilst 50 MPG over here is more common as we are more likely to be driving efficient cars. Maybe Americans will now to.

    I believe that the prius does around 500 miles on a tank whilst my car does around 600 I believe. Sure Diesels have a nasty little secret in black carbon and pollutants that the prius avoids but open highway driving lugging around a battery as opposed to driving around town (so called urban cycle) aint gonna save us.

    The prius costs £18,000 (UK sterling) which is not cheap either but maybe the price would come down once millions were made. Lets hope so because the Prius and its type of car will be the future I have no doubt but small petrol and diesel cars will have their place to.

    The USA could halve its gasoline consumption on a few short years but taking to smaller cars with 50 to 60 MPG no matter what they run on.

    Comment by pete best — 18 Jun 2008 @ 3:47 AM

  126. (posted again because of problems with “<” symbols)

    Re 104 David Cooke:

    Sorry, but I cannot agree with something I believe you are saying. Although maybe I am understanding you wrong.

    Redistributing the heat content in a black body without modifying the total heat content DOES affect the ammount of energy radiated to the exterior, and therefore will slowly reduce the total heat content of the black body more quickly. For the same temperature average, the more extreme temperature differences at the surface of the black body at a given moment, the more energy it will radiate. You only have to do the maths. T^4 + T^4 < (T+t)^4 + (T-t)^4, for any positive T you choose and any positive t < T.

    Re 108 Ray Ladbury:

    Yes, I agree. CO2 effect is more important than any direct heating because the CO2 effect, even if it means fractions of miliwatts of heating in a reduced area, will do that for a very long time so that the total energy introduced is big. In the short term the warming created by the heting systems may be bigger, but that’s not a problem, since it’s the desired effect at that moment and place. The warming is only a problem when or where you don’t want it.

    Comment by Nylo — 18 Jun 2008 @ 3:56 AM

  127. “Short commute of course is still lower fuel *usage*, and bike/walk is still none.”

    Not quite. I have to eat more when I cycle to work. ;-)

    Comment by Fair weather cyclist — 18 Jun 2008 @ 4:15 AM

  128. pete best #22:

    “The toyota prius only really makes a difference on the urban cycle because as soon as you go out on the open road (freeway/motorway) etc it switches to its petrol engine and you end up dragging a battery around for no good reason”

    This argument is heard very often and it is wrong.

    Firstly: with a constant speed on the highway, the weight of the battery only adds a negligable amount to the consumption.

    Secondly: the Prius has a small engine (1.5 l, 57 kW). Because it is so small, this engine can be operated closer to peak efficiency than in the case of an ordinary car. The reason why it can get away with such a small engine is the fact that the electric motor provides extra power in case of acceleration.

    So a normal car is dragging along an extra litre of engine displacement, the Prius is dragging along a battery and electric motor. The latter is more fuel efficient.

    You can not simply compare the Prius to a Prius without the electric stuff. You will need to compensate for the loss of power with a bigger engine.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 18 Jun 2008 @ 5:37 AM

  129. Nick Gotts writes:

    Similarly, Americans (and western Europeans, Japanese, etc.) like using far more than their fair share of the world’s resources

    The repeated “Americans are only 5% of the world’s population but uses 25% of the resources!” ignores the fact that America PRODUCES 25% of the world’s resources (as actually used, not as background stores).

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Jun 2008 @ 5:52 AM

  130. pete best (again) #125:

    “European cars driven sanely against cars or vehicles in the USA where 40 MPG is an amazing feet whilst 50 MPG over here is more common as we are more likely to be driving efficient cars.”

    This 50 mpg, is that diesel or petrol? Aren’t you confusing American gallons and imperial gallons?

    I know of no petrol car apart from a few very small ones (eg. Daihatsu Cuore, Suzuki Alto) or hybrids (Prius, Insight, Civic) that manage 50 American mpg’s.

    In your enthusiasm of comparing mileages you seem to be mixing up diesel and petrol. Diesel is not petrol. Diesel is a denser fuel. Per litre it contains more energy and produces more CO2 emissions. In both cases around 12% more. So a 50 MPG diesel is comparable in energy use and CO2 emissions to a ~44 MPG petrol car. To beat a 50 MPG Prius, you would need a ~56 MPG diesel.

    One final remark: I am completely ignoring financial aspects. This is purely about efficiency and the environment.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 18 Jun 2008 @ 5:53 AM

  131. #129 [BPL] Nice of you to truncate my text so as to remove the main point: “including its ability to absorb pollution”. What proportion of the world’s GHG production is down to US consumption is difficult to calculate, but I’d be surprised if it is less than 25%, given the amount of flying, driving, air-conditioning and meat-and-dairy eating involved, and the recent export of much of US manufacturing industry to energy-inefficient, largely coal-powered China. Of course, western European, Australasian and Japanese consumption styles are only somewhat less unsustainable.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 18 Jun 2008 @ 7:10 AM

  132. “ignores the fact that America PRODUCES 25% of the world’s resources (as actually used, not as background stores).”

    Hmmm. Look at your stuff.

    Made in China.

    Which has always naffed me off about the “first world” complaining about China creating so many new coal power stations. We in the west outsourced all the manufacturing to China and got a nearly zero change in power requirement growth. China hasn’t yet managed to get to our level when we were doing the manufacturing. So why are we complaining about their increased use? We’ve placed demand for power on them!

    Comment by Mark — 18 Jun 2008 @ 7:38 AM

  133. A further point about A/C versus heat pumps.

    The COP under ideal conditions for cooling and heating using the same heat pump are related as follows:
    COP(heating) – COP(cooling) = 1
    (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coefficient_of_performance)
    For the same amount of work a heat pump will deliver more heat than it will remove in reverse as the work it does must be added to the heat flow – in or out.

    This means the SEER(heating) will under ideal conditions exceed the SEER(cooling) by 3.43 units, given the same temperature differential. If anything is intrinsically more efficient it is using a heat pump.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:17 AM

  134. Re 114: I’m getting one put in my place, getting off NG. 10 verticle holes 100ft down. The system will cost about $25K, but at current prices pay back can be as low as 7-10 years. Priceless when NG supply drops. The system also suppliments the electric hot water system, and it will also supply hot water to heat my greenhouse allowing me to grow food all year.

    Comment by Richard Wakefield — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:34 AM

  135. Re 116: Your math is not correct. Geothermal systems use far less energy that convensional heating systems, up to 75% less. http://www.waterfurnace.com/.

    Second, where I live in Ontario most of our electrical supply comes from Niagara (renewable) and nuclear, and the province just announced the construction of new nuke reactors. So we are set.

    Comment by Richard Wakefield — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:42 AM

  136. I had a post either get eaten, or rejected.

    My comment back in #42 was alluding to the fact that what I see happen when someone proposes something, such as with the WIRED article, is that any “inside the box” thinking — old school behaviors and the like — are strictly limited to “inside the box” solutions. A/C is less energy intensive than heating? Well, it’s true. AND with green power solutions it’s also less difficult to deploy. Driving old fuel efficient cars less energy intensive than scrapping them and buying new? True as well — especially if the scrapped cars are recycled for parts to keep them running, rather than ground up and turned into new metal for new vehicles. The hardest part in keeping an old car going is parts, and the largest supply of parts is the cars themselves.

    But if someone suggests distributed generation, well, OF COURSE we can build a high voltage DC distribution system, completely re-engineer the grid, tens of millions of homes with solar power (forgetting about trees …), hundreds of millions of cars plugged into the grid, sucking down 20 or 30KWH every night for a recharge.

    It’s the “outside the box” solutions that have the lowest probability of being implemented. There’s wide-spread deploying of CFL lightbulbs and more businesses are doing demand-response to reduce peak loads. None of these “mostly inside the box” solutions require new technology. Higher efficiency air conditioners, such as the Lennox I recently installed, can be legislated into use, if consumers don’t get religion on their own. Higher fuel economy cars are available — SUVs only sneak in because they are “trucks”.

    We have “inside the box” today, and we aren’t make much use of it. Businesses still pollute the night sky like crazy for no particularly useful purpose, rich people drive gas guzzling cars just because, fossil fuels are used to produce packaging that will be thrown away and never recycled, reusable grocery sacks are $0.99 but the grocery doesn’t charge for the throwaway. There is a lot that can be accomplished “inside the box” that doesn’t require technology that doesn’t even exist yet.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:48 AM

  137. I’ve been scolded in the past for mentioning that gas powered heat pumps exist: http://www.columbiagaspamd.com/products_services/natural_gas_heat_pump.htm

    They don’t do all that well since a local gas engine does not get the same efficiency as a combined cycle turbine. Heat pumps will probably soon be the cheapest form of heating unless you have your own woodlot. One way to start converting (or diversifying) is to consider zone pumps. This company gets some good recomendations from tiime to time: http://www.fujitsugeneral.com/wallmountediaq.htm

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:48 AM

  138. Working in the car industry myself, I really don’t get the American excitement about the Prius. Not only are there a whole bunch of cars emitting less CO2 (yes,most of them are Diesels) in real world driving, but everything else you may expect from a car (value for money, active savety, comfort, transport capacity, use of recycled material) rates the Prius nowhere near the top. Even on this website, the term “Prius” is almost used like an overly simplistic symbol rather than what it is: a car burning fossil fuel to get you from a to b – probably a little less than some others and probably a little more than the best. Toyota really must have done a great job in terms of marketing.

    Comment by Henning — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:56 AM

  139. With regards to using solar and wind to be “carbon neutral”: First it takes energy to make these products, but more important is that they are extremely limited and intermittent. With solar you not only have to have enough panels to operate your home, but double that many to charge the batteries. I’ve looked into this for myself, and just for my 1000 sqr ft home it would require 20 panels and some 60 batteries. And that would give me just 20% of my juice demand. Cost: $25K-30K. The other limitation is during the winter we have periods of WEEKS without any sun, just cloud, not including days that are only 8 hours long (so you need even more batteries and more panels to charge them.) The other limiting factor is batteries last only 7 years and have to be completely replaced.

    As for wind, there is a huge misconception with their output. The output you hear about is name place capacity. That is a 1.5Mw turbine is only that output at maximum wind speed (50-55km/h). Output drops as the cube of windspeed, hence at 25km/h output is one eighth. Below 15km/h they produice nothing. In a two year period all of Ontario’s wind turbines spent 50% of their time below 13% output, 5% of the time producing nothing and never produced name plate output. This report to the Ontario Government http://www.ieso.ca/imoweb/pubs/marketreports/OPA-Report-200610-1.pdf claims that when wind power is needed the most, when demand is within 10% of peak, wind turbines only produced 13-17% of name plate. Thus for Ontario to get 15% of its electrical supply from wind turbines would require the construction of some 77,000 of them and take more than 100 years to build.

    Comment by Richard Wakefield — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:59 AM

  140. This looks like a good starting point for further discussion around economic models. A challenge appears to be that the economics of combating global warming are always portrayed as a negative (i.e. cost). Maybe a RealClimateEconomics that focuses on economic impacts of global warming and counter a lot of the media hype around $45 trillion costs with no mention of benefit. Maybe some suggestions for states and governments to adopt to improve their economic status.

    For example, make it mandatory to perform all road construction at night. So instead of sitting in miles of traffic while some road crew fiddles with a median, make them do it at night and let the traffic flow. It would likely increase productivity by a significant amount, save on fuel and lower emissions.

    Focus on the easy win-win scenarios first. Transportation might be a good one. A national power grid might be another with many suppliers of many different fuels sources. The grid is probably more important first than developing some radical new energy source. Further, tie the grid into transportation and start moving towards electric cars, trains and trucks.

    I’m all for capitalism, but it’s a balance between long term planning vs short term gains. I bought a Prius because I’m voting with my dollars to invest in a longer term strategy and I’d like my grandchildren to have the freedom to drive (50 mpg is nice too and by the way I get 50 mpg going on long highway trips for several hours at a time with no compromise in pace and comfort). Toyota is number one in the world because they look 25 years down the road not 5. If I’m an oil company now is the time to invest in the future technology, while my profits are peaking not later on when I’m desperately scrambling for oil and I don’t have the money to take any risks.

    Comment by Tim — 18 Jun 2008 @ 9:17 AM

  141. Ric Merritt wrote: “You can go all day on the interstate, using heat or AC if needed, at about 50 mpg in your Prius, or anyway in my Prius. Most other vehicles on the road don’t come close to that.”

    I can go all day on the interstate in my 17-year-old 1991 Ford Festiva at 50 MPG, using heat if needed … it doesn’t have air conditioning, but I’ve never felt the need for AC at highway speeds with the windows opened a little.

    The fact is, for 20 years the automakers have had the technology to build 50 MPG or better conventional gasoline-fueled cars that are inexpensive, durable, reliable, safe and comfortable. They chose not to do so because building and selling such cars is not very profitable. There is a lot more profit in a $50,000 eight-mile-per-gallon Ford Extinction than in a $5,000 fifty-mile-per-gallon Ford Festiva. Hence the massive advertising campaign, using the most powerful bainwashing techniques ever invented by Madison Avenue, to convince Americans that they “want” huge, expensive, gas-guzzling SUVs.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Jun 2008 @ 9:23 AM

  142. Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “… America PRODUCES 25% of the world’s resources …”

    Exactly what are these “resources” that America “produces” ?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Jun 2008 @ 9:24 AM

  143. FWIW, I had to replace my 20-year old gas furnace and central AC last year. I could not find anyone in the Washington, DC area who could even give me a price quote on a ground source heat pump. So, I got a conventional, high-efficiency above-ground heat pump and now have an all-electric HVAC system. I replaced the gas water heater with an electric water heater at the same time. I still have a gas clothes dryer and stove which I plan to replace with electric eventually. Combined cost of gas and electricity has been about the same since this conversion — somewhat lower during summer simply because the new system is a much more efficient AC than the old one. But the winter heating bills are no more than they were with gas. I expect that gas prices will rise faster than electricity prices in the coming years, perhaps dramatically so. The local (PEPCO) electric utility’s “standard mix” is about 55 percent coal-fired and 35 percent nuclear, with natural gas-fired electricity making up most of the rest. However, they let you choose your own electricity supplier, and I have chosen 100 percent wind power (not “offsets” as I understand it, but electricity purchased from actual wind farms in the mid-Atlantic region) which is somewhat more expensive than the conventional mix.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Jun 2008 @ 9:32 AM

  144. Conservation of oil in the US means less sucking up to foreign oil potentates. If only marginally so. Less likelihood of hideously wasteful wars.

    Worldwide demand will always be out of our control.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 18 Jun 2008 @ 9:35 AM

  145. With solar panels, it all depends on efficiency of conversion and energy storage. Top-performing and expensive satellite cells are currently at something like 40% conversion (meaning at the equator, with 1000 watts/square meter at noon, they would deliver 400 watts per square meter).

    Cheaper multicrystalline silicon panels operate at 12% or so, though Kyocera’s new prototyoes perform at 18.5% efficiency. In any case, silicon panels are the way to go. The other thin film cells (i.e. the cadmium selenide variety, etc.) use highly toxic materials, have shorter lifetimes, and lower efficiency as well.

    http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Kyocera_Reduces_Solar_Cell_Thickness_999.html

    The key approach in using renewables is to have multiple energy sources. In the absence of fuels like uranium and fossil fuels, the only energy sources are sunlight, wind, geothermal and biofuels. All those energy sources have to work together to manage energy supply and demand, and that takes an integrated grid that can deliver solar energy during the day, biomass or wind energy at night, as well as store any excess generation for later use.

    Remote, stand-alone solar installations also work fine – but that’s a smaller market. However, this is how remote microwave repeater stations work, that’s how Coast Guard and other marine buoys communicate, that’s how all the satellites are powered, and it is also a perfect approach for providing local power for water pumps and lighting for isolated Third World villagers .

    For a good discussion of how to do this, look at what Germany is doing: phasing out coal and nuclear and bringing online a threefold approach using solar, wind and biogas:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tR8gEMpzos4

    P.S. Realclimate’s comment approach shouldn’t be changed. “Rapid response” or “preferred commentators” are very bad ideas. If anything, you might want to consider raising the standards a bit higher – for example, require references for unsubstantiated claims.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 18 Jun 2008 @ 10:27 AM

  146. The following website has a lot of interesting and useful data on energy consumption in the U.S. and worlwide:

    Energy Information Administration (EIA) Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government
    http://www.eia.doe.gov

    I would be curious to know if any of the information published on this site is known to be incorrect or misleading. I raise this concern because I just read in the June 6 issue of Science that the NASA Inspector General has confirmed that ‘a few key senior employees’ at the agency’s press office suppressed discussions of climate change research by James Hansen and others (and confirmed that Hansen was barred from speaking to National Public Radio). The IG found no evidence that research activities at NASA research centers were suppressed, though.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 18 Jun 2008 @ 10:56 AM

  147. RE: 135

    It appears you are correct. I attempted to correct a portion of my calculations and did not go far enough. However, I fear you may have missed the point I was attempting.

    Though the individual hvac unit has a higher efficiency then the equivalent air-air heat pump, a water-air heat pump, (Such as I used for 18 years in Florida.) unit still requires electrical energy to run the circulator and heat exchanger. As to the direct use of thermal energy from chemical energy, such as in Absorption and Pulsed Combustion is a far more efficient conversion of fossil fuel to the desired function.

    Keep in mind that other then the air handler (common to all modes of hvac) the electrical demand is next to nothing for these technologies. (Only a few 10s of watts for the controls.) Water to Air systems and even a geothermal system requires several hundred watts for pumps and the heat exchanger.

    The point I was attempting to make was the total amount of CNG that would need to be consumed to deliver the same equivalent energy for a small home is less with direct heating/absorption cooling versus the electrical energy spent to run the water-air heat exchanger.

    As to your power plant energy sources, bully for you, most of the rest of us do not have this opportunity and rely on primarily coal fired and CNG augmented power plants. The Nuclear option is only about 12% of the electrical resources here in the US. If we moved into the breeder design and modified the extraction technique it is likely Nuclear could make up to 50% without much issue, other then the economic requirements to build enough systems meet the demand and deal with the wastes.

    One of the prime issues with implementing Nuclear is the inability to throttle up and down significantly. The lower the operating rate the lower the efficiency. If you used Nuclear to provide a base and augmented it with CNG to meet peak demand would actually be the most effective systemic design. The use of Nuclear augmented by CNG/Bio-Gas or cellulose gasification could offset the economics and reduce the Fossil Carbon combustion by greater then 60%.

    As to the use of the Niagara, since the Falls are there are so damming the river it is not an issue; however, damming most rivers is considered bad environmentally. Anytime you place a barrage across a body of water you are isolating the species on either side. Our recommendation would be vertical axis devices lining the banks, with a clear channel along the tributary for wildlife and transportation. (it may not be as efficient; however, you are not limited to bottlenecks and can distribute the power generation to match the load.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 18 Jun 2008 @ 10:56 AM

  148. Re: 145

    Hey Ike,

    Just a quick question, I had been doing a bit of research as to cooling photo voltaic cells by mounting them on a heat conductive plate tied into a heat exchanger coil. The issue is I can not get a specific answer from the manufactures as to the optimum temperature for operation of the solar cells. Do you have access to this data?

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 18 Jun 2008 @ 11:14 AM

  149. I guess my post is a bit off topic at this point of the discussion, but skipping through the comments left so far, I couldn’t find any objections to the claim by Edward Greisch (#8) that:

    “Nuclear power is the safest source of electricity, counting Chernobyl, which killed a total of 52 people.”
    I hope this was a bad joke?!!! 52 might be the official number referring to the accident itself but that does not count the (tens of) thousands of people eventually dieing from cancer because they were exposed to radiation!

    “…Nuclear power plants cannot have nuclear explosions. Western built reactors cannot do what Chernobyl did.”
    I’m not a nuclear physicist but as far as I know there can be other (severe) hazardous incidents. (Also – if reactors were so save – why should we figure out systems to prevent terrorist strikes at nuclear power plants? I guess it’s not for the sake of the people working there?!)

    Furthermore, my point of view (as a layman) is that nuclear waste IS a problem which should not be ignored when discussing nuclear energy.

    I won’t say anything to the claim that nuclear energy did not cause CO2 emissions because John Armour (#66) and others already dealt with it…

    ps:
    I think that the potential from saving energy (including small changes in our everyday behaviour / at home) is forgotten quite to often in the discussion about how to reduce GHG emissions…

    Comment by F. Trumm — 18 Jun 2008 @ 11:46 AM

  150. One of the prime issues with implementing Nuclear is the inability to throttle up and down significantly. The lower the operating rate the lower the efficiency. If you used Nuclear to provide a base and augmented it with CNG to meet peak demand would actually be the most effective systemic design.

    Nuclear power plants — especially those with boiling-water reactors, i.e., where boiling occurs next to the fuel rather than in a separate steam generator — have no large difficulty throttling up and down, according to this discussion by people in the business.

    This climate blogger says the heat trapped by the atmospheric CO2 from gasoline combustion exceeds the heat directly yielded by that combustion 40-million-fold. For methane, with less carbon per unit oxidation energy yield, maybe only 25 million.

    So if nuclear power plants really weren’t throttleable, it would be atmospherically better to run them always at 100 percent, and shunt their unwanted electricity through large on-site resistors, than to turn them off and burn mined methane. It would also reduce the fuel-mining cost and environmental impact, as long as the time-averaged fraction of the electricity that found buyers exceeded ~2.5 percent.

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert — 18 Jun 2008 @ 11:49 AM

  151. Re Richard Wakefield @134: ” I’m getting one [ground-source geothermal system] put in my place, getting off NG. 10 verticle holes 100ft down. The system will cost about $25K, but at current prices pay back can be as low as 7-10 years. Priceless when NG supply drops.”

    Indeed, and very good for you, Richard. We’re in an older urban neighborhood with ultra narrow lots and drives. Impossible to get a drill rig to the back, which leaves only the ultra small front yard. I’ve been discussing with our councilor the city starting a program to drill the wells along the city-owned boulevard as a form of public (or 3P) infrastructure, just like water and sewers, and charging homeowners to hook up. Not as far fetched as you might think as Toronto is already using a pioneering deep-water heating/cooling system for the downtown core. See: http://www.toronto.ca/environment/initiatives/cooling.htm

    On the solar side, WISE, a citizen organized cooperative group here (see: http://wise.ourpower.ca/portals/wise/ourpower.aspx ), recently formed to promote and facilitate residential solar PV and thermal water heating installations by arranging group financing rates and bulk equipment purchase and installation contracts. In it’s first year WISE literally doubled the installed solar base in the city, although that may not be saying all that much given how little there was.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 18 Jun 2008 @ 11:56 AM

  152. Henning #138:

    If you are working in the car industry, you should have known better. Of course it’s all about marketing. People buy a certain car to advertise their personality and social status. The choice of car is for 95% an emotional one. So whether the Prius offers ‘bang for the buck’ in terms of features, safety, performance is not really important. It’s a billboard shouting: “Look at me how progressive and green I am!!”. Why do you ever think the SUV became such a resounding success?

    Ok, now for some hard data. You claim there are a whole bunch of cars that emit the same or less CO2 than the Prius. I am curious which ones. Can you give a few examples (with figures)?

    Comment by Anne — 18 Jun 2008 @ 12:14 PM

  153. “…Nuclear power plants cannot have nuclear explosions. Western built reactors cannot do what Chernobyl did.”
    I’m not a nuclear physicist but as far as I know there can be other (severe) hazardous incidents. (Also – if reactors were so save – why should we figure out systems to prevent terrorist strikes at nuclear power plants? I guess it’s not for the sake of the people working there?!)

    Why would prevention of terrorist attacks on nuclear power plants not be for the sake of the people working there? They would be most at risk.

    There might be public discussion of the plants’ supposed attractiveness to terrorists by government officials because those officials would prefer natural gas. It costs 40 times more than uranium, so its royalties, by themselves, exceed the whole cost of uranium. People on public payrolls are partly funded by those royalties, so they have an incentive to try to raise fear of nuclear energy.

    Those “other (severe) hazardous incidents” are driven by the uncontrollable beta-decay above discussed. So far they have harmed only equipment. In light of the fact that the alternative to nuclear risks is not no risk but alternative risks, this is, I think, very significant. I think you’ll find, if you look for them, cases where people who find it rewarding to promote fear of nuclear power act as if they did not fear it personally.

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert — 18 Jun 2008 @ 12:17 PM

  154. RE:150

    Most nuclear power plants I am aware of in the US use a molten sodium heat exchanger, as direct heating of water within a nuclear pile may have a higher potential failure rate and could result in a higher chance of radioactive gas release. (There is an issue that the running a reactor at higher temperatures could result in the heat of the reaction causing the disassociation of hydrogen from oxygen (the coolant) and could lead to more or a higher incidence of releases of radioactive gases or potential disasters such as 3 Mile Is.) Must not be a problem for the Navy… (Though I often wonder if the heat signature trail can actually be minimized simply by running cool and cooling often…)

    The biggest reason that throttling is not considered worthwhile in a nuclear system is the amount of time required to throttle down or up the pile. Though the reaction may terminate when you install the control rods the residual energy would take greater then 8 hours to cool hence the rate of change between input and output involve several hours due to the mass of the pile.

    It always seemed that if you were to define the statistically lowest demand and run the nuclear reactor at maximum to reach this systemic demand level, such as 700M watts and use an adjacent 500 M watt CNG plant running at 1/2 throttle, you would get the greatest efficiency from the nuclear system. At the same time reduce more then 3/4 of the CNG demand and have significant headroom to meet potential increases in demand. The difference is, with the CNG I can shutdown the throttle and begin the cool down within 1 hour and I can start it up again in a similar time frame.

    The “people in the business” I have talked with suggested this as a different operation model. Using a Round Robin system, a couple of the regional Operating Companies would always have a CNG system on line, ready to go, so if anything happened to one of the groups nuclear systems there would not have to be a black out should an unplanned shutdown occur. The point is, I believe the earlier statement I made is correct, based on experts I have talked with and what I have read over the years. (Did you read the other post in your “in the business” link…?) Now if they could only get consensus and government assistance to fix the National Grid…

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 18 Jun 2008 @ 12:51 PM

  155. SecularAnimist, but you should not ignore the fact that Americans, at least until recently, did actually “want” huge, expensive, gas-guzzling SUVs, Madison Ave. or not.

    Comment by Rod B — 18 Jun 2008 @ 1:04 PM

  156. G.R.L. wrote: “… the alternative to nuclear risks is not no risk but alternative risks …”

    Your first link is to a story about one worker being killed and another injured when a wind turbine tower collapsed. The second points to a list of articles about carbon monoxide poisonings, including the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals at a shelter and several articles about the apparently deliberate carbon monoxide poisoning of some children by their father.

    Are you seriously suggesting that these “risks” are comparable to the risks of catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents, or terrorist attacks on nuclear plants? Or the risks of accidents or attacks on nuclear fuel storage and transport? Or the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation? Or the risks from the toxic pollution associated with mining and refining uranium?

    Given the choice between the risks of nuclear power and the “risks” of wind turbines, concentrated solar thermal power plants and photovoltaics, I will gladly accept the “risks” of wind and solar, any time. (You will note, by the way, that there has never been demand for any such thing as a “Price-Anderson Act” by which the federal government — which is to say the taxpayers — provides insurance against catastrophic destruction from wind or solar facilities; while without the actual Price-Anderson Act which provides this insurance for nuclear power plants, not one single nuclear power plant would exist in the USA.)

    It makes no sense whatsoever to accept the toxic pollution and grave dangers of nuclear power if we don’t have to. And we don’t have to. The USA has ample wind and solar resources to generate more electricity than the entire country currently uses. Even something as simple as recovering waste heat from industrial processes could generate more electricity than all the nuclear power plants in the USA. There is no need for nuclear, and thus no need to deal with its serious harms and grave dangers.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Jun 2008 @ 1:08 PM

  157. Re: G.R.L. Cowan @150: “So if nuclear power plants really weren’t throttleable, it would be atmospherically better to run them always at 100 percent, and shunt their unwanted electricity through large on-site resistors”

    And here thought the plan was to use the off-peak excess generation to produce hydrogen for transport fuel.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 18 Jun 2008 @ 1:13 PM

  158. Just a quick question, I had been doing a bit of research as to cooling photo voltaic cells by mounting them on a heat conductive plate tied into a heat exchanger coil. The issue is I can not get a specific answer from the manufactures as to the optimum temperature for operation of the solar cells. Do you have access to this data?

    As cold as possible.

    During the winter, when the full-sun daytime temp is in the 70′s (measured IN THE SUNSHINE), Vmpp (Voltage — maximum power point) is in the 85VDC range for my system. Right now, with the full-sun temperature closer to 100, Vmpp is is 80VDC. The sun is way off-axis due to being almost at the extreme north of the equator, so I’m close to “winter” angles between sun and panel, but they are also hot, so I’m really losing out (except that I get about 12 hours of sunshine on my panels) and daily production from my 2100 watt array is 8 or 9 KWH.

    Your idea is great, but other than supercooling and solar concentration, you’re not going to see results. It costs energy to move the cooling fluid, and my own experiments with a garden hose showed that the volume of cooling water per minute was pretty hefty. One time, very close to solar noon, I hosed down my entire array until it stopped steaming, then watched the output climb to 10% above the previous value (about 200 watts DC). Within 15 minutes the output had fallen back to its previous value.

    Re 143:

    The local (PEPCO) electric utility’s “standard mix” is about 55 percent coal-fired and 35 percent nuclear, with natural gas-fired electricity making up most of the rest. However, they let you choose your own electricity supplier, and I have chosen 100 percent wind power (not “offsets” as I understand it, but electricity purchased from actual wind farms in the mid-Atlantic region) which is somewhat more expensive than the conventional mix.

    Most likely you are buying all sorts of carbon-emitting power with offsets used to make up whatever they can’t provide when you need it exactly.

    The wind I buy for my house (because I don’t make all of my power via solar. Yet :) ) probably comes from West Texas. But if the wind stops, the power has to come from somewhere, and that’s probably a coal plant somewhere nearby.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 18 Jun 2008 @ 1:19 PM

  159. Re Anne @152: It’s a billboard shouting: “Look at me how progressive and green I am!!”

    For some no doubt it is. For others it’s a billboard shouting: “Yes, the Prius is a real car using real off-the-shelf higher efficiency, lower CO2 emission technology that real people can buy here and now.”

    Comment by Jim Eager — 18 Jun 2008 @ 1:19 PM

  160. In comment 157 Jim Eager said,

    Re: G.R.L. Cowan @150: “So if nuclear power plants really weren’t throttleable, it would be atmospherically better to run them always at 100 percent, and shunt their unwanted electricity through large on-site resistors”

    And here thought the plan was to use the off-peak excess generation to produce hydrogen for transport fuel.

    Perhaps that would be better still. Cars powered by pure hydrogen have existed since the mid-1970s. Do you get around in one? Do you want to?

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert — 18 Jun 2008 @ 2:02 PM

  161. Working in the car industry myself, I really don’t get the American excitement about the Prius. Not only are there a whole bunch of cars emitting less CO2 (yes,most of them are Diesels)

    Please keep in mind that diesel fuel in the US is of lower quality than in Europe, and that those nice TDI diesels sold in the US are modified to work with the fuel available here. There’s an efficiency drop, and they are more polluting, than their European counterparts.

    We’re mandating higher quality (lower sulpher, I believe?) diesel here in the US and the switchover is soon, and that disadvantage will disappear.

    And don’t dismiss hybrid technology so quickly. VW’s made a TDI diesel hybrid prototype that does extremely well.

    For those who keep saying stuff like “my ford fiesta gets 50mpg and it’s not a hybrid” please keep in mind that comparing it to a prius is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparision? That a hybrid version of your fiesta would see the same increase in mileage that toyota squeezes out of a Prius compared to an equivalent-sized conventional car?

    A TDI diesel hybrid Smart Car would rock for my urban driving needs. Which don’t amount to much, since I telecommute … :)

    Comment by dhogaza — 18 Jun 2008 @ 2:20 PM

  162. Jim #159:

    I know, I own one. But read this:

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/discoveries/2006-08-06-brain-study_x.htm

    When asked about their motives for a decision, most people will try to bring up logical justifications. I guess that is because it is the cognitive part of the brain being activated when you must answer a question.

    The discussions above about nuclear are a good example. In my opinion you like nuclear or you hate it (emotion) and then you go looking for as much arguments (logic) to support your preference. The pro-nuclear people will attach much value to the low emissions and downplay the risks, while the contra-nuclear people will attach more value to the risks and downplay the low emissions by pointing out that there are alternatives.

    But of course, facts and logic can change your emotions. I bet a lot of people turned anti-nuclear after 26 April 1986.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 18 Jun 2008 @ 2:29 PM

  163. re: #154

    Most nuclear power plants I am aware of in the US use a molten sodium heat exchanger, as direct heating of water within a nuclear pile may have a higher potential failure rate and could result in a higher chance of radioactive gas release.

    There are no nuclear reactors used by public utilities to produce electricity in the US that have a ‘molten sodium heat exchanger’. None.

    All nuclear reactors used by public utilities to produce electricity in the US heat coolant water by ‘direct heating of water within a nuclear pile’. Everyone of them.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 18 Jun 2008 @ 2:31 PM

  164. Well in Arizona you can use swamp coolers due to the dry air. Swamp coolers are significantly more efficient air conditioners than what you can use in other places.

    How much more efficient? About 10x.

    Comment by Aloisius — 18 Jun 2008 @ 2:34 PM

  165. RE: 158

    Thanks for your observations “Herder”. I had suspected this to be true; however, I am not able to get a value from the manufactures. The solar water heater design I was going to employ was similar to a 1973 Popular Mechanics design. They had suggested getting a piece of copper plate about 1/16th thick and solder copper tubing to it. Then you were to coat it with a dark maple green paint, housing the whole think in a expanded styrene box with a sheet of glass over the top. I looked it over and decided to try a copper sulfate/charcoal mixture in a flat varnish back then, it was a mess. (You were supposed to used a solvent to cloud the tacky surface…) The the styrene would not take the exposure. So I have modified the design a bit.

    I can get a refrigerator ice maker kit with about 30 feet of 1/4th inch dia. copper tubing and fill it with sand bending it with a radius of about 2-2.5 inches. I expect to use two kits per panel. Next is to silver solder them to the copper plate. As I can not get copper plate I fear I am out of luck. (A friend turned me on to a source for brass/copper plated stainless steel for about 1/3 the price of brass plate.) I am to solder the coils to the plate using a propane torch. The design calls for (2) ball check valves, one in the bottom where the water enters. The operation is supposed to be water enters and heats up, pressure builds, the water expands out the top check valve and falls to an accumulator. The pressure builds again and steam is released, pressurizing the accumulator until the coil is empty then the bottom check valve opens and more water enters.

    The idea for controlling how much heat builds up in the collector is the height of the reservoir tank in relation to the bottom check valve. High and most of the coil is liquid, lower and more of the coil is vapor. The idea is to reduce the vapor if you want the panel the coolest; however, it also means the output is cooler. So somewhere in between would be about optimum. And that was what I wanted the recommended or optimum heat value of the solar cell for.

    I am able to get several different steel plate mounted solar cell panels (ranging from 60 to 170 watts peak at 24VDC) and I am thinking of trying lithium grease to thermally bond them to the back of the solar water panel. Since the tubing is now pointed at the ground and the heat comes from the solar cell side I do not need to coat the tubing. Though it is recommended that you use a fiberglass or high temperature foam insulation over the tubing. Also if you have no intent on producing steam with the system you would want to use a anti-freeze mixture as the working fluid.

    When all is said and done you simply take a exterior 2×4 and using a rip/cutoff saw and a Dado blade cut a slot up the wide side from end to end. Then you cut the ends to form a 45 degree frame, apply a little exterior/marine adhesive, slide the plates in the slots, tap in a few nails and Wa-La make your connections and go.

    It is just that before I invest the roughly 1400.00 (USD)(to use a 170 watt PV panel) in this project I wanted to get an idea of the temperature I needed to target and then find out if it would be achievable. (With my math skills being poor I have to do most things empirically….) If I have to go to a R410a refrigerant, a water bath or geothermal heat exchanger may not work and as you said it would take more power to drive it then what would come out. I have been playing around with using a Stirling engine; but, that is taking the idea way over the top.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 18 Jun 2008 @ 3:21 PM

  166. Regarding post 37 on pumped storage.

    I’ve been fighting a local pumped storage project largely because it is unprofitable (confirmed by FERC and a few other reports), at best returns only 80% of the energy put in (that number is uncomfirmed), appears to be used to allow a small group of entreprenuers to bypass California’s transmission line authorization procedures, and (my biggest reason) it as well as it’s transmission line (a major incterconnection called the Talega/Escondido-Valley/Serrano interconnect) will be built in the Cleveland National Forest.

    Though the proponents claim they will buy wind-generated electricity to fill the reservoir, a plant that will lose $124 million per year (FERC’s numbers) must be ready at times of peak demand and therefore will probably need to set up long-term contracts with more reliable sources, such and coal or oil burning plants, rather than hope the wind is right.

    In researching this, we’ve collected a lot of documents on the financial drawbacks of pumped storage. Our website (the oppostion) is http://www.stopleaps.info; the proponents websites are http://www.evmwd.com/depts/admin/public_affairs/leaps/default.asp and http://www.leapsforward.org/

    John Garrett

    Comment by John Garrett — 18 Jun 2008 @ 3:37 PM

  167. Cold climate air source heat pump:
    http://www.gotohallowell.com/technical.html

    Comment by Floccina — 18 Jun 2008 @ 3:40 PM

  168. dhogaza wrote: “For those who keep saying stuff like ‘my ford fiesta gets 50mpg and it’s not a hybrid’ please keep in mind that comparing it to a prius is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparision? That a hybrid version of your fiesta would see the same increase in mileage that toyota squeezes out of a Prius compared to an equivalent-sized conventional car?”

    Well, that would be me boasting about my 1991 Ford Festiva. I am not trying to say that it is a better car than the Prius with regard to efficiency or emissions or anything else (although it is a darned fine little car, still running like a champ at age 17). My point is that the mainstream, major automobile manufacturers have had the technology to build 50 MPG conventional gasoline-fueled cars for 20 years, but have chosen not to build and sell such cars — not in the USA, anyway. It is my understanding that Europeans have long had the choice of buying small, ultra-efficient gasoline or diesel fueled cars that get 60 MPG or better, but these cars are not sold in the USA.

    For my own needs and preferences, the Prius is too big, too expensive, and too complex. If I had to buy a new car, what I would want would be a pluggable-hybrid version of the Honda Fit, or the Toyota Yaris, or perhaps as you suggest the Smart Car — preferably designed like the Chevy Volt with an all-electric drive train and the combustion engine serving only as a generator. I have heard that an electric version of the Smart Car is planned for the US market in a few years.

    Actually I had hoped that Toyota would make a battery-electric version of their low-cost compact car the Echo (which was replaced by the Yaris). The only reason being that I like the sound of “Electric Echo”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Jun 2008 @ 4:30 PM

  169. Off-topic, where-ever I place this, but certainly relevant to RealClimate.

    Locally my view to the west is unimpeded except by the curve of the earth. So with these long afternoons and evenings at about 47 degrees north latitude, the sunlight passes through hundreds of kilometers of the atmosphere. While I have noticed what I take to be more water vapor in the air in the past couple of years, yesterday afternoon and evening was quite a shocker.

    The water vapor produced a substantial umbra of yellow glow around the sun, extending at least six sun appearent diameters in every direction.

    While used to seeing “red sky at night, sailor’s delight” fairly frequently, this is something completely new to me, occurring with nary a cloud in the sky.

    Others?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Jun 2008 @ 4:32 PM

  170. For anyone who wants to find out all about solar PV performance, and setting up your own system, one of the best sites is:

    http://www.powerfromthesun.net/book.htm

    For example, to compare solar cell performance at 25C, 50C, and 75C:

    http://www.powerfromthesun.net/chapter5/Image170.gif

    The main area where this raises problems is in concentrated solar system that focus large amounts of sunlight onto small, high-efficiency cells.

    To see how photovoltaic output varies with incident sunlight (and to see why solar is the perfect solution for any equatorial country):

    http://www.powerfromthesun.net/chapter5/Image168.gif

    Those are I-V curves, which describe the current through the cell (amps) as well as the voltage potential across the cell at different latitudes.

    Power output (watts) is current times voltage. For the net energy delivered, multiply by time (kilowatt-hours). Your electricity bill lists your power consumption in kilowatt-hours – but how many people know how many watts their houses are drawing at any given time? There’s a simple solution that should be included in the building codes: an electric meter that hangs on your wall and tells you your current energy consumption, in both watts and dollars. “At your current rate of energy consumption, your monthly energy bill will be: ____ ”

    That would motivate people to conserve energy, I do believe.

    Controlling heat loss is important, but every PV manufacturer knows this and takes it into account. The basics are the same as in climate science:

    5.2.2 Heat Loss – Heat loss from the panel follows the same three paths, convection, radiation and conduction. Optimizing those factors that increase heat loss without increasing cell temperature are important for well designed photovoltaic panels. Maximizing heat loss for concentrating PV collectors is more difficult due to the reduced cell surface area resulting from concentration.

    Electricity is an unusual beast in that power output is closely connected to electrical load resistance – the optimal solar panel performance occurs when the load is perfectly balanced with the solar output (think of this as the optimal gear setting on your bicycle, say).

    That’s why “smart electrical grids” on the large scale, or peak power point tracking systems on the small scale, are critical components of any solar system.

    The same is true for wind power systems – in both cases, the electrical system has to be able to store up excess energy delivered by the turbines or by the solar panels. This is where the various energy storage systems come into play – pumping water up hills, large spinning flywheels, high-capacity deep-cycle batteries (they need careful maintenance!), and so on.

    To get back to the cooling and warming the house issue, it is possible to build very low-power AC units that run off as little as 5 amperes – they’re very popular in the middle east:

    Iraqis beat the heat with low-power air conditioners
    Oakland Tribune, Apr 12, 2008 by Hannah Allam

    Comment by Ike Solem — 18 Jun 2008 @ 5:15 PM

  171. Just some quick notes:
    #91, those tanks would be huge.. A ton of cooling is the amount of heat required to melt a ton of ice in 24 hours(288,000 btu). The average house has a 2 ton load.
    Re the geothermal.. Don’t use the waterfurnace site as an example, if I used Exxon as a an accurate source for examples of responsible fossil fuel environmental stewardship, everyone would go ballistic..The problem with geothermal, is that you need a huge heat “field” or sink. If the weather turns cold very quickly and you draw down the field quickly, you build ice around the field tubing, and your rate of transfer from the field slows dramatically and efficiency drops down quickly. The other problem is you have to add in the cost and both fiscal and environmental of the field loop liquid, usually glycol or methanol, and the tubing which is plastic, drat more petroleum based products.. There is no free lunch…
    The interesting thing about the air conditioners though as compared to other devices, as the house temperature gets higher, the efficiency and capacity goes up with a rise in suction pressure, the mass flow rate increases with a denser suction gas.
    Also there are hydronic and steam heating, both gas electric and solar, without pumps typically one pipe gravity return systems, they have fallen out of fashion because of the real estate they take up.

    Comment by Maxt — 18 Jun 2008 @ 7:30 PM

  172. David Benson, Are you sure it is water vapor? Could you be seeing increased aerosols from Asia? Satellite maps are quite impressive. What you are describing sounds like a halo, but that would typically be at 22 degrees around the sun. Do you have a photo?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Jun 2008 @ 7:41 PM

  173. Re Anne van der Bom @162: “Jim #159: I know, I own one.”

    So do I, Anne, and I can honestly say ‘image’ was a very, very minor part of our decision to buy a Prius. We bought it because it was time to replace our 10-year old Subaru wagon with 200K km on it. With Fed and Prov rebates, the Prius actually cost a bit less than replacing the Sub in kind. It doesn’t have quite as much cargo capacity (I often use the car for work and need the room for gear and tools), but it does have just enough, so its size met a requirement for us rather than being a minus. Plus it can carry a canoe–but only just, because of the curved roof line. The only drawback was it’s not 4WD, which can matter in Great Lake winters, but we didn’t want a hybrid suv. It did ok this past winter, though.

    And it was certainly hard to beat the mpg–about double the old Sub. The clincher was knowing that it would definitely produce a smaller carbon footprint than another Sub would, which IMO is worth far more than worrying about how long it will take to pay for itself. At the very bottom of the list was image, and the image we wanted to project was the one I stated previously: this is a real car using real off-the-shelf higher efficiency, lower CO2 emission technology that real people can buy here and now.

    Hybrids are definitely not perfect, they’re only a step in the right direction, and I know even smaller, more efficient ones are just around the corner and even better choices will be available in the very near future, but it was the best choice available at the time we needed to replace an existing aging car.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 18 Jun 2008 @ 7:41 PM

  174. Re:#136 “A/C is less energy intensive than heating? Well, it’s true.”

    This flys in the face of Raypierre’s mathematical analysis and conclusion that air conditioning is 2.19 times less efficient than heating, for a given temperature difference between the inside and the environment.

    It’s well to think outside of conventional solutions but we have to live within the given constraints of the real world, not only for thermodynamics but for socio-economic and political pressures as well. The pressures right now ,as has been pointed out above, are to develop shale oil, tar sands and coal liquefaction resources in light of the current price of oil. Even though these alternatives are an environmental nightmare.

    [Response: The arithmetic leading to 2.19 was just a way of showing that looking at the SEER rating (which WIRED probably had in mind, but didn't actually bother to explain) is misleading. You have to think about everything that happens along the way to delivering the electricity to your air conditioner, and all those numbers matter. Showing the arithmetic for one set of numbers was a way of focusing discussion on what the real issues are, and from the subsequent discussion here I'm very happy with the way that exercise turned out. If you ask just about anybody what the biggest issue in CO2 emissions is, they'll tell you it's coal, and it's equally clear that increase in electricity demand -- driven in part by air conditioning -- provides the main impetus to build more coal-fired power plants. --raypierre]

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:13 PM

  175. in 121: [Response: The sooner the conventional oil is used up the sooner people will turn to tar sands and coal-to-oil in a big way. But I have indeed heard economists make the argument that conservation of oil makes little difference since the worldwide demand is so huge that reductions in usage here just lower the price and lead to increases in usage elsewhere. I’d like to see some numbers put on that argument, though. –raypierre]

    Well, even at a steady inflation adjusted price of $20/barrel (about the median price over the last 50 years) we don’t see demand growth much higher than 3%. The US uses about a quarter of the world output so cutting the US use by a quarter cuts world demand by 6%, and that would certainly be a strong reduction in world demand. After that first step, which would send the price of oil way down, we’d only need to cut by about an eighth or so further each year to balance typical world demand growth while keeping oil prices low during our transition off of oil. With a bit of cooperation with some other nations that want to get off oil, we might be able to stretch the low cost transition out to fifteen years at low oil prices, about the amount of time needed to convert a transportation fleet.

    The thing is, even if oil is free, you still need a car to use it and you only get 24 hours in a day to drive it. So, there is a limit on how quickly demand can grow based on how quickly people can afford cars, which are still not cheap. So, to say that a strong reduction in US oil use would have no effect is not correct. We have the leverage to force oil prices to the bottom owing to our large consumption.

    But, if we don’t do this soon, then the oil supply will be so poluted by expensive to produce oil, which we are encouraging now with high prices, that we will not be able to force prices down. So, we’ll need to make the same transition, but we’ll have to do it on expensive oil rather than cheap oil.

    I’ve said a little bit more about this here: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2008/06/oil-is-too-expensive.html

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:35 PM

  176. RE: 170

    Hey Ike,

    Thanks for the values in the 25/50/75C chart. It looks like the best solution will be a water/glycol liquid only system and mounting the reservoir high would keep the panel the coolest, though it would be closer to 50 Deg C rather then 25 Deg. C. It appears that the idea of some type of refrigerant system would best serve reducing the heat of the PV panel though…. (I just do not have a good source of ammonia and hydrogen, nor do I feel competent enough to carry this one off.)

    I looked at your Solar PV reference and noticed a few broken links (IE: Chapter 7). Hopefully they can be resolved easily.

    I also looked over the mini split system article you linked in and I am curious. I have looked over most of the mini’s in the last two weeks for my step son and have not found anything smaller then 15 amps at 115VAC in the 10,000 BTU range. (Generally, the 15 amp units are of the 9,000 – 12,000 BTU units class and can be reverse cycle as well.) From what I see, even the 5,000 to 6,500 BTU units still draw better then 5 amps at 115VAC.

    Now if the idea is to use a European 230VAC unit there might be one or two manufactures with 5-9K BTU models in the 5 amp range. I guess the main point is a several small window systems at 4-5 amp/115VAC versus a single mini split compressor at 5 amps and 230VAC with a choice of multiple mini air handlers of 2 amps ea. is the big news. Though other then being ductless this would not be much different then a standard European 1 ton split Air-Air Heat Pump system….

    Again thanks for the PV info. I think this is going to be a good Fall project for a 60 watt PV panel….

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 18 Jun 2008 @ 8:41 PM

  177. I weighed in at #122 about Prius mileage because of some previous comments I found doubtful. Others have kicked around the same topic, with model comparisons. To promote brevity and a pleasant atmosphere, I’ll just note gently that some claims above fail to note which vehicle is discussed, and others that mention a model are rather strikingly optimistic compared to official figures, and even compared to claims made by those selling a used car of that model. Let the reader beware.

    By and large, most or all of the commenters agree on goals.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 18 Jun 2008 @ 9:04 PM

  178. The problem with the Prius approach can be summed up with a little arithmetic. If you get 60 mpg, and you replaced a 20 mpg vehicle, and your mileage remained unchanged, what reduction in fossil fuel use would you achieve? 10 gallons gets you 600 miles, while it used to take 30 gallons with your old vehicle. That’s a 66% reduction in fuel use – sounds pretty good.

    However, if we look at that in terms of national gas consumption, and we reduce national petroleum consumption by 66%… well, that would mean that the 20 million barrels of petroleum we consume per day would be reduced to some 6.6 million barrels… and it would also have zero effect on coal and natural gas consumption.

    Realistically, to slow climate change appreciably, you have to eliminate fossil fuels more or less entirely. For transportation, the only way to do that is have electric cars powered by sunlight or wind-based systems (which does include biological photosynthesis). Biofuels, however, don’t have much potential for large-scale energy production – one of the main reasons being that crop yields seem to be taking hit after hit on a global basis right now – floods and heat waves being the culprit. That really leaves solar and wind as the two plausible replacements. (And no, PV panels don’t need pumped cooling systems, as anyone could have told you – although the notion of mixed solar water heating / solar photovoltaic system is intriguing, since most natural gas consumption outside of industry is used for heating).

    The basic fact is that solutions which don’t have as their goal the almost complete elimination of global fossil fuel combustion are really nothing more than a game of musical chairs on the Titanic. However, the U.S. Congress has so far failed to renew the renewable energy tax credit programs:

    Congressional stalemate over renewable energy – Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    The Senate failed for the second time in a week Tuesday to pass a bill to help businesses and homeowners switch to renewable energy. The tax incentives have strong bipartisan support, but they have been caught up in a fight between Democrats and Republicans over how to pay for them.
    The stalemate is causing jitters among utilities and investors, including Bay Area venture capitalists and companies that are making billion-dollar bets on new technology, solar power plants and manufacturing sites to build solar panels and wind turbines. Many projects are being put on hold until Congress acts.
    Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy in San Francisco, which helps finance and operate large-scale solar power projects, said his company is rushing to finish projects before Dec. 31, when the credits expire. Because large solar projects can take six months to build, the company is delaying new U.S. projects until the credits are renewed.

    The oil depletion allowance, however, remains unchanged. Tax credits for petroleum production are set in stone, but those for renewable energy are persistently blocked… you might want to give your representative a call on this one.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 19 Jun 2008 @ 12:18 AM

  179. Ric Merritt #177:

    I agree with you. Their is usually a lot of boasting about mpg’s. Most often an dream scenario mileage is portrayed as the year-round average. Or they report the mpg indicator on the dashboard. The only correct method is the Excel-method: registering distance and fuel at the pump and put that in a spreadsheet and then calculate the average over an entire year.

    A comment on the difference between claimed mpg and rated mpg: My experience is 1. that it is possible and 2. that there are large differences between cars. For instance I have owned a Volkswagen Polo 1.9 SDI for four years and got a consumption of 4.3 l/100km (using of course the Excel method). The rated consumption was 4.7 l/100km. For a Honda Jazz (Fit in USA) 1.3 CVT these figures were 5.5 and 5.9 respectively. For my Prius it is 4.7 and 4.3.

    Why can’t I achieve the rated consumption in my Prius? I have two explanations. The negative one is that Toyota optimized the Prius for achieving a low official consumption rating. The positive one is that an economic driving style has less effect in a Prius because it is what the hybrid stuff already does for you automatically.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 19 Jun 2008 @ 1:59 AM

  180. Edward Greich’s sociopathic statement that Chernobyl killed only 52 people speaks for itself. Nuclear power is NOT cheaper, the French plants ARE old and in trouble, and one of the biggest red flags is that all the people pushing nuclear power now have Margaret Thatcher as a role model – There Is No Alternative, and you pagans that don’t worship Ayn Randite market gods have no say, because we say you don’t.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 19 Jun 2008 @ 3:09 AM

  181. #178 Ike, I agree with you about using food crops to provide biofuels. You need far too much agricultural land. Most of the current ethanol projects are excuses for more subsidies to agriculture.

    However the use of algae to provide biofuels is far more promising. At current fuel prices it is not far from being economically viable. They also require far less land. They could supply our liquid fuel needs, at least enough for long distance transport.

    I’ve seen the results of some of the experiments on algal biofuels. I expect they will be available in quantity, enough to make a difference, within the next 20 years. That is being pessimistic

    Comment by Lloyd Flack — 19 Jun 2008 @ 4:35 AM

  182. Ike Solem #178:

    Your reasoning sounds like ther is no use in taking small steps. Each journey begins with the first step. More fuel efficient cars are simply the first step, nothing more nothing less.

    Funny b.t.w. that you mention the Prius in your first sentence. I think the significance lies not in its fuel economy but because it is the prelude to electrification of personal transport. You can already see it happening by the plug-in conversion kits that are being offered by more than one company. I therefore dare to say that the Prius fits your vision like a glove.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 19 Jun 2008 @ 4:35 AM

  183. Marion

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/index.html

    This from the WHO. It IS 52 as of 2006. That figure might go up to 4000 (this is their worst case senario by the way)once everybody directly connected with the disaster dies. The WHO number does not include children with thyroid cancer (radioactive iodine accumulation) since this can actually be avoided once people become aware of it (it IS included in the 4000 figure though). So actually Edward is right to quote 52 but maybe should have given the second figure with an explanation.

    The story behind the report is pretty interesting too since when they first came up with 52 deaths they couldn’t believe it and went back to do more checks. All the preconceptions about kids with horrible genetic mutations turned out to be false. This was further confirmed by looking at the wildlife population living close to chernobyl; no mutant rabbits. Nothing. And they’d been there for years! Yet again it provided a valuable lesson that biology doesn’t always react linearly. Given our knowledge of the effects of radiation at high doses we had expected to see a dose proportional effect so that there would be a correlation between exposure and genetic mutation/death at ALL doses. So even low level radiation would be bad news. It’s doesn’t look like this is happening at all. The suggestion is that low level radiation switches on all the repair genes and these get upregulated until at higher doses they get overwhelmed. It’s an area of considerably research because the implications of being able to switch on these genes by another method has opened up alternative ways of looking at cancer or degenerative disease.

    So I’m afraid Edward is no sociopath. It’s just that we don’t understand as much as we thought we did about radiation. The fear of radiation turns out to be a little irrational. What it means is that nuclear energy (in these terms) isn’t quite as bad as is often suggested. It’s just sad that it took 52 deaths to find that out.

    Oh and the “Chernobyl couldn’t happen in the West” is accurate. Our reactors are designed to self-quench if a runaway starts to occur in the way that the Russian reactor did. We can’t have the same accident; just a different one that’s much much harder to do. It’s pretty clear with the right design and oversight nuclear is relatively safe froma generating point of view. Radioactive waste is fine too if people are willing to make a decision about what to do with it. Some countries ahve bitten that bullet, some haven’t. In the UK we still sit on the fence.

    Hope this clears up some of the confusion.

    Comment by Keith — 19 Jun 2008 @ 5:32 AM

  184. raypierre (response @18) wrote:
    “Building a whole new kind of world, seeing how you can live well and put out less carbon, well what’s cooler than that? Lots of opportunities to think outside the box, and many of them a lot of people are going to make a lot of money out of as well. Like maybe heat pumps for home heating. They exist, but the creative engineering on them has just barely begun.”

    On that note, I recently read Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things (McDonaugh and Braungart) who have some interesting (dare I say radical?) ideas on how we ought to be making things (everything from drinks bottles to buildings) with the specific intention that *every* part of them is able to be re-used.
    http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm

    Thanks also to those here (Lee A Arnold, Doug Heiken and scott_g) who point out the widespread fallacies inherent in the new growth plantation vs. old growth forest argument. Carbon sequestration is far too important an issue to be left to the devices of government state forestry departments or various elements of the logging and timber industry, and the need to keep the biological truth at the forefront of the public and government minds has never been more pressing. It seems a pity (to me) that in the headlong rush to promote all sorts of carbon sequestration ‘fixes’ the one thing governments and individuals alike forget is the role of biodiversity in the regulation of the planet’s climate.

    Comment by Steve Chamberlain — 19 Jun 2008 @ 6:09 AM

  185. Mark posts:

    “ignores the fact that America PRODUCES 25% of the world’s resources (as actually used, not as background stores).”

    Hmmm. Look at your stuff.

    Made in China.

    Hmmm. Look at your stuff.

    US trade deficit divided by GDP.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 19 Jun 2008 @ 6:20 AM

  186. Secular posts:

    Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “… America PRODUCES 25% of the world’s resources …”

    Exactly what are these “resources” that America “produces” ?

    Okay, make it “production.”

    America produces 25% of world GDP. That’s why it uses 25% of world resources. The “America is only 5% but uses 25%!” trope would only be a problem if America were somehow sucking up resources (net) from other countries for its own benefit, as if America were the only old country in the world and the rest of the world were its mercantilist colonies. That’s true in the zero-sum-game worldview of Marxists like Nick Gott, but not true in the real world.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 19 Jun 2008 @ 6:25 AM

  187. Keith #183:

    This was further confirmed by looking at the wildlife population living close to chernobyl; no mutant rabbits. Nothing. And they’d been there for years!

    Now to be honest, what is the life expectancy of a mutant rabbit? Thanks to the law of survival of the fittest, it would probably not make it through its first week. I think the visible lack of mutant animals around Tsjernobyl does not prove they do/did not exist. I can agree with the other arguments though.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 19 Jun 2008 @ 7:10 AM

  188. @Anne
    You are right and I wasn’t thinking. Of the 18 models we rate higher than the Prius, only one is available in the US. However with changing consumer preferences, American fuel prices closing in on Eauopean levels and hopefully the Japanese and European producers seeing it, this will change soon. Modern diesel engines are very efficient. The Smart 42 (also not available as a diesel in the US) officially ranks highest with a mere 88g/km which means more than 70mpg. However our own cycle takes the typical driving pattern for a specific model into account, which leads to the Smart falling down to 5th place because the city and short-trip rate is higher than the standard cycle reflects. With VWs BlueMotion models and BMWs x18d/x20d, we rate long-range-driving higher because these cars are typically driven by sales/service people and long-range commuters and therefore share the top spots. For the Prius there seems to be a typical customer personality rather than a typical driving pattern (in their forums over here, they discuss things like whether a 5 or 7 meter distance behind a truck provides the best slipstream and whether buying toothpaste at your trip’s destination is more efficient than taking it with you). It would certainly take a shot at the pole position if it was primarily driven in cities but it isn’t. For European cities, its simply too big and too expensive (roughly the equivalent of 40.000$ if decently equipped) and would never return the investment on the relatively short distances typically driven around towns – and serious environmentalists living in cities wouldn’t use a car anyway if they can take a bus or subway. Personally, I see the biggest problem with non-plugin hybrids in the enormous technical effort which yields little and only in special circumstances but leads to a high pricetag effectively keeping it from making a noticable difference on a global scale. I wonder why Toyota sells Lancruisers, Camrys and Hiluxes but doesn’t develop an affordable Prius with all its light-weight, low rolling resistance and aerodynamical advantages, but with a simple, small, light, cheap, clean and efficient diesel engine (they do know how to build those). Probably because it would easily outperform the hybrid in almost every respect apart from pure city driving – but would be too much of a dull, every day product to make it into the garages of filmstars and politicians and would therefore blur the Prius hype. I’m not a Greenpeace believer by any means but when it comes to judging the global importance of hybrids, I think they’ve got it about right.
    What I don’t see at all is the Prius triggering EV development. All the major players invest huge sums into that essential technology and have done so since long before the Prius. Neither the electric car nor the hybrid is a Toyota invention and I’d not bet my money on them being the first to come up with the real thing just because they took a step in between that others didn’t think of as profitable enough. The race for efficient and safe energy storage dominated the past years and it looks like rather conventional but “intelligently” managed Lithium Ion finally won, at least for the first generation, over hyped but delayed promises in nano and capacitor technology. We’ll see how it all turns out. 2011 will be an exciting year for the industry.

    Comment by Henning — 19 Jun 2008 @ 7:26 AM

  189. Thank you for the great post discussing the relative energy usage associated with heating versus air conditioning. It is a very interesting question sitting here in New England to ask whether (other things being equal) energy usage (and associated GHG emissions) will go up or down as the climate warms given the trade off between less heating and more air conditioning?

    I found the information in the two reports cited below to suggest that energy usage is likely to go up. One aggravating factor in this is that retailers are now offering very low cost (initial purchase price) window A/C units to those of us without potentially more efficient existing whole house systems with heat pumps. A few really hot days and people in New England that have never had A/C buy the low cost window units and start using them, first on very hot and humid days and then maybe on days that prior to that they would not have.

    Regarding the question of whether future climate warming will result in more or less heat-trapping gas emissions when decreased heating needs are balanced against increased air conditioning needs: “As a whole [USA] increases in carbon emissions from higher air conditioning needs more than offset decreases in carbon emission from reduced heating needs” — summary from EOS v. 87 No. 37, 12 Sept. 2006 Mohi Kumar, Staff Writer. See Also: Hadley, S.W., Erickson III, D.J., Hernandez, J.L., Broniak, C.T., and Blasing, T.J., 2006, Responses of energy use to climate change: A climate modeling study: Geophys. Res. Lett., v. 33, p. L17703, doi:10.1029/2006GL026652.

    Comment by Tom Huntington — 19 Jun 2008 @ 7:37 AM

  190. This isn’t about GDP and economic or industrial production. Just because Americans are rich (“produce so much”), this does not give them the right to overuse earth’s natural resources or to pollute the atmosphere. The atmosphere belongs to the whole world. The US has the lead in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and only 5 % of the world’s population lives in the US. That’s what people are talking about. Nothing Marxist about that.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 19 Jun 2008 @ 7:47 AM

  191. RE: 163

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks you are correct, of the 35 remaining units all appear to be PWR or BWR units. I responded too quickly and referenced the memory of an old 1965 text image regarding proposed designs, forgetting the change over that occurred in the late 1960′s design theory. (Must be a combination of CRS and old age…)

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/analysis/nucenviss2.html

    The primary point remains though that the time required to cool the pile exceeds the cycle time required to respond to peak and minimum demand. This still suggests that an adjunct system must be part and parcel to respond to demand changes…

    RE: 178

    Hey Ike,

    Granted the use of a refrigerant such as R-123 (last production date 2020…) in a PV system cooling system may be a little over the top. However, when coupled (in a two stage system) with a glycol/water radiant or a swamp cooler system, it would increase the peak voltage and offer a hvac/water heating alternative as well as to help peak the PV. (For the swamp cooler stage you could even couple a small, low rpm, wind turbine such as a VAWT to provide the mechanical drive for the roller…)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 19 Jun 2008 @ 8:02 AM

  192. Megan Boris-

    How much does composting impact your carbon footprint?

    Comment by Megan Boris — 19 Jun 2008 @ 8:17 AM

  193. Excellent article, and nice to see that at least some posters understand how a Prius works. And that you understand that the argument about buying a used car is at best incomplete and misleading as it is typically stated.

    A few comments:

    Argonne national labs (and others) have pretty consistently estimated that production and scrapping of traditional passenger vehicles accounts for roughly 10 percent of vehicle lifetime energy use. Focusing on the energy used in vehicle manufacture is just totally backwards. To a pretty close approximation, higher mpg = less energy used, lifetime. See figure 5 of this publication:

    http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/TA/106.pdf

    Discussions of the Prius and the Prius battery always omit a life-cycle perspective. Traditional cars use *more* metal in their batteries than the Prius uses in its batteries — over the life of the car. That’s because a typical sedan can expect to use three starting batteries over its lifetime (at 25 lbs of lead each), while a Prius can expect to use one traction battery (30 lbs nickel) and possibly two (small) lead-acid batteries used to boot the computer at startup and modulate the 12-volt (“hotel”) loads, at 12 lbs of lead each. (The Prius lead-acid battery is not subject to the peak load of starting the engine, so it lasts longer.)

    Finally, no discussion of carbon footprint is complete without mentioning food. My estimate is that my family reduced our carbon footprint as much by changing our diet as we did by switching to a Prius.

    In the US, transportation accounts for about 25 percent of total energy use. Depending on whose statistics you believe, food — farming, processing, distribution, and preparation — accounts for roughly 17 percent, although that figure will vary quite a bit depending on what is included and how it is calculated. (And that 17% obviously overlaps with transportation).

    Foods vary enormously in terms of the fossil fuel (k)calories required to deliver an edible (k)calorie. Grain-fed beef is typically cited as the worst offender due to the inherent inefficiency of converting grain to beef combined with the large amounts eaten in the US, although it is not the worst in terms of input to output ratio (think diet soda in an aluminum can, or coffee and tea, for that matter.)

    My contention is that, for most US residents, there is more low-hanging fruit for energy savings in the area of diet than anywhere else. Mainly because few think of the energy requirements for food production and distribution. And as far as I can tell, there’s a pretty broad consensus that number one on the list of easy energy savings is minimizing consumption of grain-fed animal products. No investment needed, no hassle, just a conscious choice. FWIW, the figure most commonly cited for production of grain-fed beef is 35 to 40 fossil fuel (k)calories for every edible (k)calorie. Assuming for the moment that’s roughly correct, a nice six-ounce (cooked weight) sirloin (~1000 edible (k)calories) embodies more fossil fuel than a gallon of gasoline (~32,000 (k)calories). Most of it isn’t liquid transport fuels, it’s other fossil fuels. But I hope you get the point — if the estimates on fossil fuels required for production of (e.g.) grain-fed beef are even close to correct, the impact of dietary choices is large and should be brought up in any reasoned discussion of green living.

    Comment by Christopher Hogan — 19 Jun 2008 @ 8:37 AM

  194. Regarding the use of paper and other wood products I think that the best strategy to combat climate warming may be to use as much as you can, don’t recycle, rather, bury in landfills where the carbon will be stored for a long time (if methane is produced it should be collected and burned for energy production). The more paper and wood products that are used the more land that will be valued for and maintained as, or converted to forests. This will result in the sequestration of more carbon over the long term in soils, buried wood products, and aboveground biomass than would otherwise be the case if these lands were converted to other uses. Forested lands are also preferable to the alternatives for a host of other reasons that have been mentioned.

    Comment by Outside The Box — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:01 AM

  195. The article also falsely implies that organically grown produce requires higher shipping costs than conventionally farmed produce. Isn’t this a false dichotomy? Many consumers can purchase locally grown organic food at their local farmers market, it isn’t necessarily shipped from California. Also, they didn’t make any actual effort to compare the fossil fuel inputs for organic versus conventional produce. I’m not sure how they’d compare in total, but the claim that shipping costs overrides the benefits of pesticide-free production is specious.

    Comment by Aaron — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:02 AM

  196. 152. So whether the Prius offers ‘bang for the buck’ in terms of features, safety, performance is not really important. It’s a billboard shouting: “Look at me how progressive and green I am!!”. Why do you ever think the SUV became such a resounding success?

    The difference, of course, is that energy efficiency is immediately functional to the owner of a hybrid, whereas the off-roading capabilities of SUVs are only very rarely used by their owners. In practice, the former is functionality-driven while the latter is primarily image-driven.

    Comment by Aaron — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:11 AM

  197. RE the Prius issue, my common sense and cents told me that since we only drive about two to three thousand miles a year, we’d be better off waiting for the plug-in hybrids or complete electric cars to come out, and buy one of those. Then we could plug it into our 100% wind-powered electricity. It still wouldn’t make much economic sense if the car costs a lot more than an equivalent I.C.E. car (although EV maintenance and running costs are a fraction of ICE maintenance and running costs), but it would make environmental sense.

    I had, however, wondered about the AC v. heater issue, and am glad you clarified it. However, even if the increases in AC usage entailed less increase in CO2 than the decrease in CO2 from decrease in heater usage in a globally warming world (i.e., even if it were a negative feedback), there are still so many other harms that GW would be causing, and so many other positive feedbacks that the AC-heater question is moot before you sit down to do the calculations.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:15 AM

  198. Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “America produces 25% of world GDP. That’s why it uses 25% of world resources. The ‘America is only 5% but uses 25%!’ trope would only be a problem if America were somehow sucking up resources (net) from other countries for its own benefit …”

    Forgive me but I totally do not get your point.

    How is this 25 percent of world GDP that the USA “produces” — consuming 25 percent of the world’s resources in the process — NOT “for its own benefit”? Sounds to me like we five percent in the USA are consuming that 25 percent of world resources so we can live mighty high on the hog, enjoying the fruits of that 25 percent of world GDP.

    And how is it NOT a problem that we five percent in the USA are “sucking up” 25 percent of the world’s oil production, meanwhile “producing” 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:34 AM

  199. re: #191

    Hello David, I don’t know where you’re getting your information about the number of operating reactors in the US, but you need to find a more up-to-date accounting. The EIA Web site has the info here. The information is also available at the NRC Web site.

    There are 104 reactors operating in the US; 69 PWR and 35 BWR.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:49 AM

  200. “Barton Paul Levenson Says:
    19 June 2008 at 6:25 AM

    America produces 25% of world GDP. That’s why it uses 25% of world resources.”

    So the US produces 25% of the worlds resources because they spend 25%? That makes no sense.

    IIRC, the US farming used 1 calorie of oil to produce 3600 calories of food. Now it is 1 calorie oil to 1 calorie of food.

    Not looking so good, really.

    A little more back on track, please remember that the SUV/Prius comparison was *per pound*. Well, given that it weighs a ton (which is why it gets 8mpg), this isn’t really helping much.

    Add into that the occupancy rates are no better for the SUV and you see the comparison makes no sense: you drive one car each, not one prius or half an SUV…

    As to “we need it for the kids” well, we were a large family (numerically and in width) and we sat in the standard UK saloon. If you MUST, then just RENT a really big people carrier for those long holidays.

    Comment by Mark — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:53 AM

  201. “# Ike Solem Says:
    19 June 2008 at 12:18 AM

    The problem with the Prius approach can be summed up with a little arithmetic. If you get 60 mpg, and you replaced a 20 mpg vehicle, and your mileage remained unchanged, what reduction in fossil fuel use would you achieve? 10 gallons gets you 600 miles, while it used to take 30 gallons with your old vehicle. That’s a 66% reduction in fuel use – sounds pretty good.”

    However, we aren’t producing any more fossil fuels. So you get to drive your car three times longer before it all runs out.

    Sounding better?

    Comment by Mark — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:56 AM

  202. RE: 199

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks yet again, I had jumped down to the BWR statement “The remaining 35 operable reactors in the United States are BWRs.” in the next paragraph of the earlier link and missed this one “Of the 104 fully licensed reactors in the United States, 69 are PWRs.”

    Dave

    Comment by l david cooke — 19 Jun 2008 @ 10:22 AM

  203. Ray Ladbury (172) — The yellowish color suggests increased aerosols from the Puget Sound area, including jet exhaust, or more likely, an unwanted Asian import. It is certainly not a halo, but rather the whole sky, for many degrees out from the sun, glows. The glow is more yellowish in towards the sun and whiter towards the periphery. This umbra is not completely symmetric, especially when it is shining through a blown-out jet vapor trail, as it did last night.

    I checked this morning, and the effect also occured then, although not so large nor as yellowish. I presume that is because the sun was closer to be directly overhead.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Jun 2008 @ 12:52 PM

  204. Re Ike @178: “The basic fact is that solutions which don’t have as their goal the almost complete elimination of global fossil fuel combustion are really nothing more than a game of musical chairs on the Titanic.”

    Not quite that useless, Ike. Partial solutions can buy us time to put those ‘elimination’ solutions in place. Last year, when we bought a gas-electric hybrid, there was no comparable all-electric automobile that we could buy at any price, and there still isn’t today. And even if there was, unless that vehicle’s batteries could be charged with 100% renewable produced electricity it still wouldn’t meet your criteria. In the mean time, that here and now 66% reduction will buy us time. The question is, will me make use of it?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 19 Jun 2008 @ 2:05 PM

  205. In comment 156 ‘SecularAnimist’ includes, with reference to my comment 153,

    Your first link is to a story about one worker being killed and another injured when a wind turbine tower collapsed. The second points to a list of articles about carbon monoxide poisonings, including the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals at a shelter and several articles about the apparently deliberate carbon monoxide poisoning of some children by their father.

    Are you seriously suggesting that these “risks” are comparable to the risks of catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents, or terrorist attacks on nuclear plants?

    Not exactly.

    The chance that sabotage or malfunction at Teller-approved nuclear power plants will harm us can properly be compared to the chance that sabotage or malfunction of hydrocarbon burners or wind turbines will harm us.

    But if, for the latter devices, we assess this risk from undisputed events of the recent past, it would be wrong to compare it to nuclear risks whose existence is a matter of belief.

    Rather, the worst nuclear mishaps that, no less recently than the alternative-to-nuclear ones, actually happened, are the ones that can fairly be compared. No matter how minor these mishaps were, no matter how far short they fell of being fatal or even injurious, this is the fair comparison.

    By speaking of “catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents” and sabotages, emphasis mine, ‘SecularAnimist’ seems to be hoping to shepherd us into accepting a comparison that would be hard-headedly empirical with regard to alternative-to-nuclear hazards, faith-based with regard to nuclear ones — and asking if I was promoting such a comparison. Tricky.

    Not exactly.

    Nuclear-generated motor fuel for the CO-intolerant

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-to-boron convert — 19 Jun 2008 @ 2:23 PM

  206. Re 178:

    (And no, PV panels don’t need pumped cooling systems, as anyone could have told you – although the notion of mixed solar water heating / solar photovoltaic system is intriguing, since most natural gas consumption outside of industry is used for heating)

    I was working on a patent filing in this area — combined heating and power generation — and there were a lot of problems with low-tech cooling solutions. The real benefits come from higher tech, but the higher the tech, the greater the power requirements for implementation. The conclusion was that this is a dead-end area. High-tech pumped cooling systems are a very fertile area right now, but the low-tech stuff seems to be impractical.

    Where there might be benefit is pre-heating of SOME water, but with comparable solar thermal collectors being so small, and having such a high ratio between inlet and outlet temps, I’m not convinced there is any benefit of doing a photovoltaic / solar thermal combination cycle.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 19 Jun 2008 @ 4:17 PM

  207. Outside the box, You are ignoring the cost of production, transport, disposal, etc. True, not all recycling makes sense, but to view everything in terms of carbon sequestration is extremely myopic.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Jun 2008 @ 5:27 PM

  208. Re: Raypierre’s comment on my comment #174
    “The arithmetic leading to 2.19 was just a way of showing that looking at the SEER rating (which WIRED probably had in mind, but didn’t actually bother to explain) is misleading. You have to think about everything that happens along the way to delivering the electricity to your air conditioner, and all those numbers matter.”

    I think I’m starting to see the light. One can’t make a blanket statement that cooling is intrinsically more efficient than heating or vice versa. It varys with the numbers, including average seasonal temperature differentials, the amount or lack of insulation, older vs newer appliances as well as SEERs.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 19 Jun 2008 @ 6:56 PM

  209. Response in 174:

    [Response: The arithmetic leading to 2.19 was just a way of showing that looking at the SEER rating (which WIRED probably had in mind, but didn’t actually bother to explain) is misleading. You have to think about everything that happens along the way to delivering the electricity to your air conditioner, and all those numbers matter. Showing the arithmetic for one set of numbers was a way of focusing discussion on what the real issues are, and from the subsequent discussion here I’m very happy with the way that exercise turned out. If you ask just about anybody what the biggest issue in CO2 emissions is, they’ll tell you it’s coal, and it’s equally clear that increase in electricity demand — driven in part by air conditioning — provides the main impetus to build more coal-fired power plants. –raypierre]

    I think you’re doing a good job of demonstrating what I mean by forcing certain things to have “inside the box” solutions.

    As long as you tie “increased power consumption due to increase A/C usage” to “increased coal power plant building” you engage in this kind of intellectual dishonesty that is endemic in the entire environmentalist movement.

    It doesn’t follow that changes in social policy, vis a vis, increased A/C usage, REQUIRES that the power for that increased A/C usage come from carbon-based sources. There’s no reason that changes in social policies can’t be such that people live closer to where sources of power are produced, and with the more abundant and more consistent solar power in the south, it’s conceivable that we’d see increased A/C usage AND increased renewable energy.

    [Response: You are being quite unjust. I don't see how you could possibly read that conclusion into what I wrote. I gave an approximation to the picture of how things are, and made no statement that this is inevitable. The take-home message should be that if we are going to have increased air conditioner usage (caused by more people living in hot places, for example) it is especially important to think about where that electricity is going to come from and how it is going to be gotten without burning a lot of coal plants. It is in fact precisely a call to think outside the box -- and that applies to home heating as well. You are reading this article through the blinders of your own prejudices about what you call "the environmental movement." --raypierre]

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 19 Jun 2008 @ 7:23 PM

  210. Re #205 G.R.L Cowan, you objected to my scheme for storage of gravitational potential energy inside silos by citing a controlled release of dam water that ended in tragedy (#41.) I found your disregard for the likelihood of designing mechanical safety features to be so nonsensical as to suppose that you couldn’t have meant that, that you must have meant something else.

    Now you indicate that the same sort of empirical-to-faithbased risk comparisons are to be disallowed. Please decide: Which is it to be? Shall I still accept your faith with regard to the risks of gravitational silos, surely purely a matter of your own belief, since none exist?

    Comment by Lee A. Arnold — 19 Jun 2008 @ 9:49 PM

  211. Figen Mekik writes:

    Just because Americans are rich (”produce so much”), this does not give them the right to overuse earth’s natural resources

    Overuse in what way?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Jun 2008 @ 6:14 AM

  212. Secular posts:

    consuming 25 percent of the world’s resources in the process

    Which resources? Where are they getting those resources from? How are they getting them?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Jun 2008 @ 6:16 AM

  213. Overuse in the way that that they are taking more than what the 5% of the population needs and faster than Earth’s natural processes can replace them. Basically 20 Chinese children have the same amount of resources available to them that only one American child uses growing up. That’s the most basic definition of poverty in one place and overuse in another.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 20 Jun 2008 @ 7:14 AM

  214. Re #169 David Benson

    David, could this be related to the atmospheric brown clouds that Ramanathan at Scripps has written quite a lot about recently? They’re atmospheric aerosol clouds with a mix of black carbon and sulphurous acids and so on, and apparently have a yellowish-brownish appearance. They’re particularly prominent in Asia and over parts of the Pacific, so maybe they’re not really expected to be drifting in your direction…..

    Ramanathan and Carmichael have just published a nice and readable review of this subject in Nature Geoscience (I think it is freely accesible to download):

    V. Ramanathan & G. Carmichael (2008) Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon; Nature Geoscience 1, 221-227.

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v1/n4/abs/ngeo156.html

    Comment by Chris — 20 Jun 2008 @ 7:57 AM

  215. Anne #187

    Perhaps I should have been more clear in my comment. What they found was that there were no increased signs of mutations compared to a number of background sites remote from the reactor site. Normally you’d expect to see an big increase in mutations for a whole host of genes when exposed to high level radation. Not all of these mutations are fatal and in fact biology is very very good at seeing those mistakes and fixing them. It generally takes quite a while before you get that single or mutliple mutations that leads to early death or deformity or genetic defects in offspring (it’s a permutations argument really). But, whatever, you should still see a whole host of genes mutating. They simply didn’t see that. Mutations rates were the same as wild type. And they went away and tagged a whole host of mammals, did the marker work and then compared it to when they were recaputed many months later. No significant change. So. No mutant rabbits. And that was something of a surprise. Hope this helps

    Comment by Keith — 20 Jun 2008 @ 10:04 AM

  216. #186 [BPL] “That’s true in the zero-sum-game worldview of Marxists like Nick Gott, but not true in the real world.”

    Barton Paul Levenson, you manage to get my name and my political philosophy wrong in a single sentence. I suppose it has been taking all your concentration to continue ignoring the point made by several commentators including me – that the USA is responsible for far more than its per capita share of GHGs.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 20 Jun 2008 @ 10:12 AM

  217. An interesting article from the latest issue of Science:

    Science 20 June 2008:
    Vol. 320. no. 5883, pp. 1593 – 1594
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1154983

    POLICY FORUM
    ECONOMICS: The MPG Illusion
    Richard P. Larrick and Jack B. Soll

    Many people consider fuel efficiency when purchasing a car, hoping to reduce gas consumption and carbon emissions. However, an accurate understanding of fuel efficiency is critical to making an informed decision. We will show that there is a systematic misperception in judging fuel efficiency when it is expressed as miles per gallon (MPG), which is the measure used in the U.S.A. People falsely believe that the amount of gas consumed by an automobile decreases as a linear function of a car’s MPG. The actual relationship is curvilinear. Consequently, people underestimate the value of removing the most fuel-inefficient vehicles. We argue that removing the most inefficient vehicles is where policy and popular opinion should be focused and that representing fuel efficiency in terms of amount of gas consumed for a given distance–which is the common representation outside of the United States (e.g., liters per 100 kilometers)–would make the benefits of greater fuel efficiency more transparent (1-3).

    To illustrate these issues, consider the criticism that has been directed at adding hybrid engines to sport utility vehicles (SUVs)…

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/320/5883/1593 (subscription required to access the article)

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 20 Jun 2008 @ 12:09 PM

  218. Re: the question of whether the US overconsumes. As I sit here in the Manhattan Beach, CA surrounded by huge houses on postage-stamp lots, SUVs, more aisle space devoted to wine than groceries and other signs of abundance, America’s overconsumption is glaringly obvious. Yet, I could hop on the Green Line and in 20 minutes I’d be in the third world (and yes, I have lived in the third world). America is not a monolith. The only thing John Edwards got wrong in his “Two Americas” is that he stopped counting too soon.
    It is beyond doubt that America needs to consume less–be it for reasons of health, the environment, the economy, politics or our spiritual health. America also needs to start consuming differently. However, the way to get Americans to realize that is not by bashing America, but rather by educating them to their true interests. People act in concert with their perceived interests. So change perceptions. Even here in Southern CA, hybrids are starting to replace SUVs. Highways are less crowded, and people are even hopping on that Green line (or Red or Blue). America should lead, not lag when it comes to finding solutions to climate change, but the way to get it to do so is not with the whip, but by getting Americans to notice the carrot.
    Winston Churchill once said, “America can always be counted upon to do the right thing…after it has exhausted all other options.” Hopefully, we will soon realize we are out of other options.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Jun 2008 @ 12:28 PM

  219. Chris (214) — I think so. A big forest fire would have a similar effect, but I have found no reports of such upwind of eastern Washington state. The effect was considerably diminished yesterday evening and seems to be a bit less today.

    So it might be a mass of Asian air made its way here. There are a few other possible causes, but two days ago I felt a bit as if I was downwind of Mordor.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Jun 2008 @ 1:54 PM

  220. Well, maybe the yellow-brown haze in eastern Washington state is due to a wildfire. In British Columbia we have

    G90088 Moody Creek Jun 2, 2008 Modified Response 5,300.00 58° 35.000 127° 07.000

    which is about 15,143 acres and “Modified Response” means, at least, that it is not out.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Jun 2008 @ 5:34 PM

  221. Re 218:

    It is beyond doubt that America needs to consume less–be it for reasons of health, the environment, the economy, politics or our spiritual health. America also needs to start consuming differently. However, the way to get Americans to realize that is not by bashing America, but rather by educating them to their true interests. People act in concert with their perceived interests. So change perceptions. Even here in Southern CA, hybrids are starting to replace SUVs. Highways are less crowded, and people are even hopping on that Green line (or Red or Blue). America should lead, not lag when it comes to finding solutions to climate change, but the way to get it to do so is not with the whip, but by getting Americans to notice the carrot.

    One of the surest ways to insure that the 3rd world part of America, as well as the 3rd world part of the 3rd world, stays “The 3rd World” is the sort of decline in economic activity that you advocate here.

    There is no technical or scientific reason anyone has to consume less in order to drive carbon emissions lower. Someone needs to be spending the money to drive the innovations needed to produce the technology to solve the problems we face. The wealthy have the money, might as well let them spend it on whatever goods and services are available that will fund those innovations.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 21 Jun 2008 @ 5:12 AM

  222. Figen Mekik posts:

    Overuse in the way that that they are taking more than what the 5% of the population needs and faster than Earth’s natural processes can replace them.

    So if anyone uses more than the mean, they are overusing? And presumably those using less than the mean are underusing?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Jun 2008 @ 5:57 AM

  223. Nick Gotts — I apologize for spelling your name wrong. Sorry if I got the politics wrong as well. I assumed that someone who favored nationalizing industries, denigrated free market economics, and held Lenin’s views of international trade would almost certainly be a Marxist. I’m aware that there are exceptions. As a Syndicalist myself for many years (CSP), I know that we considered ourselves non-Marxist, though the equally Syndicalist SLP was proud to claim the Marxist label and the IWW (still around, for those who didn’t know) certainly studies Marx. I’m not up on the latest terms and groups.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Jun 2008 @ 6:13 AM

  224. Re #128 anbd #130 regarding the Prius. Thanks for the info guys, its appreciated. Hybridisation of petrol cars it making a significant contribution to increasing fuel efficiency. I wonder if a hybrid diesel would be a even more efficient car?

    I had no idea that the electric engine was used on long haul trips and neither do many journalists it would seem. I did read an article that suggests that if you stick your footdown though the Prius really does consume fuel far more than BMW efficient dynamics would so th world of the constant 50 to 60 MPG driver is good for Prius drivers.

    Comment by pete best — 21 Jun 2008 @ 6:43 AM

  225. #224
    Diesel and hybrid doesn’t make much sense, theoretically. The whole point of a diesel is the way it ignites fuel – basically by injecting fuel into the cylinder where the compressed air is so hot, that the fuel ignites all by itself, whereas petrol engines have to ignite by external means like sparkplugs. That requires a certain mix of air and petrol and making that mixture thinner (using less fuel or more air) is practically impossible because it would no longer ignite or burn “cold”. To overcome that limitation, modern petrol engines use direct injection to form a nicely defined, dense cloud of petrol around the sparkplug (the Prius doesn’t, by the way). That way, they can use less fuel which means they can use more air. Using more air leads to wider opening of the throttle which means the engine no longer has to breathe through a straw and wastes less energy sucking air – especially when combined with compressors and/or turbocharging. In a hybrid, none of this matters much, because theoretically the ICE can run on full throttle all the time and simply feed the energy you don’t need for driving into the generator charging the batteries. This is where it all falls down if you’re driving on the interstate or (much worse) on the autobahn. Charging the battery from the engine alone rather than recuperating while breaking or rolling down a hill, is wastefull and limited by the battery capacity, so the relatively small ICE has to run the car directly most of the time, working in a rather unefficient, half- to almost full-throttle mode. Its no surprise, that Toyota changes to a bigger and halfway up-to-date ICE with the next model – but the basic problem will remain. On the other hand, the all electric car may be closer to mass production than most of us dared to believe. Dieter Zetsche (Daimler’s CEO) announced yesterday, that the all-electric Smart will hit the market in 2010, together with one Mercedes model (he didn’t say which one). If all goes well, we’ll be very close behind.

    Comment by Henning — 21 Jun 2008 @ 9:49 AM

  226. #222 [Barton paul Levenson] “So if anyone uses more than the mean, they are overusing? And presumably those using less than the mean are underusing?”

    No, overuse, in the sense of use of nonrenewable or slowly renewable resources that is not sustainable past the short-term, would probably go well below the mean.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 21 Jun 2008 @ 10:25 AM

  227. FurryCatherder@221. I see – so the more we can persuade the rich to fly, drive, buy power-hungry gadgets, stuff themselves with meat, etc. – the quicker we’ll solve the problem of AGW?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 21 Jun 2008 @ 10:28 AM

  228. Diesel and hybrid doesn’t make much sense, theoretically

    So what’s your explanation for VW’s upcoming TDI diesel hybrid Golf? They’re putting out a car that doesn’t make sense? They don’t know what they’re doing?

    Comment by dhogaza — 21 Jun 2008 @ 1:35 PM

  229. This is interesting, too …

    Dr. Johannes-Joerg Rueger, vice president of engineering for diesel systems for Robert Bosch LLC, a leading manufacturer of diesel vehicle technologies, said, “From a cost perspective, that’s definitely a nightmare. The diesel engine itself is more expensive than a gasoline engine. And a hybrid device on top, definitely that’s the most expensive combination you can have.”

    So, according to one expert – and I’ve heard of Bosch, they seem to know what they’re doing – the major problem is cost, Nothing about “not making sense theoretically”.

    Comment by dhogaza — 21 Jun 2008 @ 1:38 PM

  230. Furrycatherder says: “There is no technical or scientific reason anyone has to consume less in order to drive carbon emissions lower. Someone needs to be spending the money to drive the innovations needed to produce the technology to solve the problems we face. The wealthy have the money, might as well let them spend it on whatever goods and services are available that will fund those innovations.”

    Actually, there is plenty of reason to try to decrease consumption as much as possible. First, production as it is currently done is wasteful and ghg intensive. Every unit of energy not used actually saves 3 units of energy. Since economies do not turn on a dime and replace inefficient, polluting equipment with green, efficient equipment, the less we consume now, the more time we buy to come up with solutions. Second, rather than consumption we should now be emphasizing investment–in new technologies, in clean development, etc. That will create as many jobs (albeit, probably for a more educated workforce, so investment is needed there, too) as a consumer society.
    I am hoping that as people become more educated, moral suasion will be sufficient to engender such attitudes. I will know we are there when the kid who shows up on campus in a sports car can’t get laid, while the geek with the latest green technology is surrounded by admiring members of the opposite (or the same, depending on preference) sex.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Jun 2008 @ 1:58 PM

  231. We’re not going to spend our way out of our energy problems, especially by using more energy. The good news is that we don’t have to. We in the U.S. use about 10KW per person and our per capita GDP is lower than some other industrialized nations, such as Japan, which uses about 5KW per capita. These nations are using energy more efficiently.

    In other words our standard of living,as measured by GDP, hasn’t been improved by the use of more and more energy past a certain point. That point appears to be about half or even less of our current per capita use.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 21 Jun 2008 @ 4:00 PM

  232. RE: 231

    Hey Lawrence,

    I suspect that your point would be valid if ground transportation were not included. In general, the US has a greater distance to travel to deliver goods to market or distance to travel in relation between home and work. (Keeping in mind that a major driver of Urban Sprawl has more to do with economics, cheaper to drive then pay 4 times the amount for equivalent housing.) There are certain minimums or non-variable costs that are related to Margin decisions that are not factored into the GDP….

    As to waste, well I do not know that it is waste as much as the perceived imbalance of wealth. There is likely some very good justification for many of what many would term as wasteful use of resources. If you are not living in their shoes it is likely difficult to understand.

    This does not mean that all of their fossil fuel usage is right, only that it appears we have yet to understand or discuss the reasons for expenditures that you or I might see as decadent. My take is that as a portion of the budget, energy in the US has not invaded the economics of survival, so far for most families it is only a matter of convenience…

    The main point is to look at the specific tie between the expenditure on fossil fuels and the application of those expenditures. It is far to ease to sit out side of the barrel and take pot shots….

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by l david cooke — 21 Jun 2008 @ 8:50 PM

  233. @dhogaza #229
    No, that is exactly what he is saying. If hybrid technology could boost diesel fuel economy by anything close to what it can do for petrol engines, we’d already have diesel hybrids despite the additional cost. But due to the factors I outlined above, this isn’t the case. Diesels benefit less from hybrid technology because one of the major areas where hybrid helps, simply doesn’t apply to diesel. With trucks, this is different for a whole bunch of reasons – but we’re talking about cars.

    #228
    Regarding the “upcoming” diesel hybrid Golf
    Since betting has become fashionable around here, I’m prepared to bet that we won’t see a diesel hybrid Golf in production unless oil hits 300$/b within the next two years. I won’t rule out diesel hybrids in general – if only to get on the hype bandwaggon and score a top spot on the list of the rich pseudo-environmentalist’s must-have gadgets, but not a Golf – no matter on how many car-shows they flash the prototype. (And yes, you can count on VW knowing what they’re doing – most of the time, at least ;) )

    Comment by Henning — 22 Jun 2008 @ 5:07 AM

  234. Diesel and hybrid doesn’t make much sense, theoretically.

    Nothing about price points here … just an absolute statement. The problem is just the opposite – it makes sense theoretically (since we must lower CO2 emissions), but not economically. Fuel has to be priced at a higher level for the savings in fuel consumption to outweigh the extra cost of the car, compared to a gasoline hybrid.

    VW has pulled their diesel hybrid Golf, as of late April, apparently. They mention the cost, nothing else.

    I never claimed the gain in mileage will be as great in a diesel hybrid as it is with a gas hybrid, I think we all know modern diesels are inherently more efficient than gasoline ICEs. However, in a warming world, even a small improvement in efficiency lowers CO2 emissions.

    I really find many of your statements downright misleading …

    To overcome that limitation, modern petrol engines use direct injection to form a nicely defined, dense cloud of petrol around the sparkplug (the Prius doesn’t, by the way).

    Followed by other statements indicating Prius’s ICE is a dog (“switched to a halfway up-to-date ICE in the Prius II).

    You fail to mention that the Prius’s ICE uses “the more efficient Atkinson cycle instead of the more common Otto cycle”. Hmmm inherently more efficient, but at the cost of power.

    Why the skewing?

    As far as highway driving goes, as I’m sure you know ICEs are most efficient within a narrow band of RPMs. The combination of the CV transmission and the electric motor allows the power management system to keep the Prius’s engine running within an efficient range more often while zipping along uphill and downhill.

    As far as the prius being less efficient on the autobahn vs. US freeways, if Germans cared as much about CO2 emissions as they claim to, they’d stop driving so damned fast in the first place.

    It’s no secret that hybrids gain most in urban driving. It’s also true that even here in the vast American West, much less densely populated than western Europe, most people’s driving is mostly done in cities. It’s even more true in Europe.

    Comment by dhogaza — 22 Jun 2008 @ 8:04 AM

  235. I won’t rule out diesel hybrids in general – if only to get on the hype bandwaggon and score a top spot on the list of the rich pseudo-environmentalist’s must-have gadgets

    And on this score, you’re just being an ass. Hybrids save fuel consumption. How much is up for argument, but there’s nothing “pseudo-environmentalist” about cutting fuel consumption and emissions.

    And your precious TDI diesel doesn’t meet US emissions standards (and is less efficient) running on our high-sulfur diesel fuel, as I pointed out many posts ago. As an expert in the industry I’d expect you to know this, along with the fact that the market for modern diesel cars is expected to expand once we’ve made the switch to lower sulfur diesel, a switch that’s already been mandated.

    This whole discussion is silly. My next car will probably be a TDI diesel, as I’m a telecommuter in my day job (therefore have no commute), often walk or bike or take the bus to the store, coffee shop, pub, etc. I drive relatively infrequently in the city. On the other hand, I derive a small portion of my income from nature photography and some years have spent as much as three months doing biology field work in remote locations, so I find myself on the road to destinations 1000-1500 miles away about once a year on average. So for my driving pattern, a TDI diesel makes sense.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who has about a 15 mile daily commute, 2/3 on surface streets with traffic lights, and it’s impractical to use public transportation, even in public transport-friendly Portland, Oregon. She rarely leaves the city other on short trips. Her Prius has dropped her fuel consumption significantly. No amount of labeling Prius owners as being “pseudo-environmentalists” will change that fact.

    Comment by dhogaza — 22 Jun 2008 @ 8:18 AM

  236. Re:Comment 132:
    “I suspect that your point would be valid if ground transportation were not included. In general, the US has a greater distance to travel to deliver goods to market or distance to travel in relation between home and work……”

    Your point is well taken,Dave. This is surely part of the reason why a bigger part of our energy use(and Canada’s for that matter) goes to transportation than say a smaller European country. All the more reason for Congress to increase our CAFE standards. Individuals can cut their gas costs in half by driving a car that has double the mileage of their current car.

    By the way, none of the currently available renewables sources,other than biofuels, can be used for transportation.Wind and solar are not yet practical for this. Hydrogen powered vehicles are too far in the future to help with AGW and cars run entirely on electricity aren’t popular because of limitations in distance between charges and power limitations.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 22 Jun 2008 @ 11:45 AM

  237. I think you miss the point entirely, dhogaza. If reducing emissions would be the only factor relevant to whether or not a product “makes sense”, you’d have an argument. We could build the 250mpg car today – in fact we have done so. Its a two-seater diesel that reaches 70mph and does more than 250 miles to the US-gallon. Did we bring it to market? No, we didn’t. We didn’t because the economical bottom line is always what will decide in the end whether a product makes sense or not – for the consumer and, through that, for us. I assumed that was common knowledge – more or less the whole world of economy works like that, whether you like it or not. You may take some comfort from the fact, that breakeven is a moving target and the higher fuel prices get, the more expensive technology to reduce consumption will hit the market – simply because it “makes sense” then but doesn’t do so with lower fuel prices. So yes, a diesel hybrid would consume slightly less fuel and no, it wouldn’t make any sense today.
    And a Prius for a 15 mile commute in Oregon is in deed what I call pseudo-environmentalist. How many years will she have to commute to break-even with a cheaper car even if it had a slightly lower mileage and how many years to break-even in terms of CO2 additionally used during the production and transportation of the Prius to Oregon?

    Comment by Henning — 22 Jun 2008 @ 12:04 PM

  238. Poll: most Britons doubt cause of climate change.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/22/climatechange.carbonemissions
    Observer MORI Poll of UK opinion on climate change:

    …6/10 agreed that ‘many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change’…

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 22 Jun 2008 @ 1:30 PM

  239. Henning wrote: “If hybrid technology could boost diesel fuel economy by anything close to what it can do for petrol engines, we’d already have diesel hybrids despite the additional cost.”

    In fact we already have thousands of diesel hybrid buses on the road in cities all over the USA, where they have been used for over ten years:

    More cities get on board with hybrid buses
    By Jordan Schrader
    USA TODAY
    01/22/2008

    Mass-transit systems across the USA are accelerating orders for diesel-electric hybrid buses, despite an extra cost of more than $100,000 per bus.

    Four U.S. cities recently ordered more than 1,700 hybrid buses, General Motors, one of two major manufacturers of hybrid bus systems, plans to announce today. The orders include 950 for Washington, D.C., 480 for Philadelphia and 300 for Minneapolis and St. Paul.

    Last month, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which began experimenting with the buses in 1998 — ordered 850 with systems from GM competitor BAE Systems, MTA spokesman Charles Seaton said.

    Hybrids are becoming the buses of choice for public transit systems trying to improve efficiency and reduce environmental damage, despite the fact that better fuel mileage won’t necessarily recoup the extra costs, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

    GM hybrid systems are in nearly 1,000 buses in more than 70 communities, company spokesman Brian Corbett said. The buses are manufactured by several companies, including New Flyer of Winnipeg.

    BAE’s systems are inside more than 1,100 Daimler buses in six U.S. and Canadian locales, said Bryan Allen of Daimler Buses North America.

    Smaller cities also are trying hybrids. Asheville, N.C., approved buying five buses in November. Hybrids also are being tested in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Evansville, Ind.

    While hybrids accounted for just 2%-3% of buses in APTA’s 2007 survey of its mostly North American members, about 22% of buses on order at that point were hybrids.

    Diesel-electric hybrid buses add electric batteries to an engine, which cuts down on the pollutants emitted from tailpipes. Daimler says its buses produce about 90% less soot. Most hybrid systems work with diesel, but some work with gasoline or other fuels.

    Hybrids in two cities studied by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory got better fuel economy than diesel buses — 3.19 miles per gallon, or 34% more, in New York, and 3.17 miles per gallon, or 27% more, in Seattle.

    While better mileage saves money over the 12 years that a bus is intended to last, it doesn’t make up the cost of buying the more-expensive hybrids, said Patrick Scully, Daimler Buses chief commercial officer.

    Chapel Hill, N.C., spent $530,000 for each of three hybrids last year, $190,000 more per bus than diesel buses.

    “I don’t know if you can say we’re going to recoup the 200 grand in terms of dollars and cents,” said Steve Spade, Chapel Hill Transit director. “But at some level, that doesn’t really matter — or at least it’s not as important — because of what you’re contributing to the community.”

    And these buses offer significant improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions reductions:

    Metro To Receive 50 General Motors Hybrid Powered New Flyer Buses
    Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Press Release
    September 22, 2005

    “The General Motors hybrid diesel electric drive system for buses uses the most efficient parallel hybrid architecture available in the world today,” said Tom Stephens, Group Vice President, for General Motors. “If the U.S. had only 1,000 GM hybrid powered buses operating in major cities, the cumulative savings would be more than 1.5 million gallons of fuel annually.”

    General Motors says the clean hybrid technology found in these buses produce 60 percent fewer oxides of nitrogen emissions and 90 percent fewer particulate, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. Other benefits of the buses include reduced maintenance costs resulting from extended brake, engine oil and transmission oil life; superior torque, giving 50 percent faster acceleration than conventional diesel buses and operational sound levels approaching that of passenger cars.

    Hybrid diesel buses are a readily available and effective technology for expanding public transit, especially in areas which have suitable roads but where it would be difficult or prohibitively expensive to build rail systems. They can help to reduce oil consumption and its associated toxic pollution and GHG emissions, both by improving on the performance of conventional diesel buses and by encouraging more people to use public transit instead of driving their own cars.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Jun 2008 @ 1:34 PM

  240. So yes, a diesel hybrid would consume slightly less fuel and no, it wouldn’t make any sense today.

    That, of course, is

    1. Very different than your first statement that I objected to, in which you stated that theoretically it would NEVER make much sense.

    2. ignores issues beyond the customer’s pocketbook, i.e. the fact that CO2 emissions cause warming.

    No, we didn’t. We didn’t because the economical bottom line is always what will decide in the end whether a product makes sense or not

    Or government regulation. Go, California! Who first got rid of lead in gasoline, which led to the adaption of catylitic converters by industry, something which would’ve never happened if the world were strictly governed by your beloved market-only principles.

    You may take some comfort from the fact, that breakeven is a moving target and the higher fuel prices get, the more expensive technology to reduce consumption will hit the market – simply because it “makes sense” then but doesn’t do so with lower fuel prices.

    You may take comfort in knowing that this is blindingly obvious and is why your absolute initial statement that diesel hybrids “theoretically make little sense” was, to be blunt, stupid.

    And a Prius for a 15 mile commute in Oregon is in deed what I call pseudo-environmentalist. How many years will she have to commute to break-even with a cheaper car…

    This is why your an ass to describe such people as being “pseudo-environmentalist”. She (and many others like her) MIGHT NOT break even. She (and many others like her) are willing to take that chance in order to reduce their CO2 emissions and therefore due their part to help combat global warming.

    and how many years to break-even in terms of CO2 additionally used during the production and transportation of the Prius to Oregon?

    It takes no more CO2 to transport a Prius from Japan to Oregon than it does to transport any other Japanese car, less than to transport a TDI diesel from Germany here, and quite probably less than to transport a car from Detroit. Because the car comes here from Japan by ship (cargo ships are, pound-for-pound, quite efficient), the west coast import facility for Toyota is here in Portland, less than 25 miles from any of the Toyota dealers in the city.

    And the supposed extra CO2 used in the production is mostly the fantasy of a bunch of CO2-denialist anti-environmental twits.

    Comment by dhogaza — 22 Jun 2008 @ 1:54 PM

  241. How many years will she have to commute to break-even with a cheaper car even if it had a slightly lower mileage

    And “slightly” is an underestimate …

    Oh, yes, she could get one of those TDI diesels you love which, as of yet, don’t meet US emissions standards so, wait, oops, she can’t.

    And I’ll stand by an earlier statement I made: if germans were as serious about CO2 reductions if they pretend to be, they’d quit driving so fast on the autobahn – impose speed limits, reasonable ones, as the rest of Europe does (typically 120 km/hr in Spain, for instance), rather than bitch that hybrids don’t help a lot when driven at environmentally stupid speeds.

    Comment by dhogaza — 22 Jun 2008 @ 1:57 PM

  242. @dhogaza
    Once you calmed down, maybe you should read this thread again and try to get a grip on where you are actually arguing about what I said and where you’re just shouting against stuff you interpreted into my words or dreamed up all by yourself.

    Comment by Henning — 22 Jun 2008 @ 2:50 PM

  243. #238 [CobblyWorlds] Depressing – but in contrast to some other polls I’ve seen. As usual, I’d guess a lot depends on what you ask: they asked whether people agreed with the lie you quote – which is an excellent way of planting the suggestion that it’s a reasonable belief. Perhaps even more depressing was the Grauniad asking Lomborg for his views, as if he were some sort of respectable thinker.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 22 Jun 2008 @ 3:24 PM

  244. > “wait, oops, she can’t”

    Maybe she can’t now, but VW will (once again) offer the TDI in the US this fall.

    (I do agree with your point however).

    Comment by Arch Stanton — 22 Jun 2008 @ 4:26 PM

  245. RE: 236

    Hey Lawrence,

    I concur with your observations in regards to
    non-combustion renewable sources. Though I can think
    of possibly one exception. As to practical renewable
    resources in the biofuel field I believe too much
    concentration is being placed on food stock sources.
    The issue is to locate cellulose based resources not
    reliant on patentable enzymes, there are two
    significant alternatives that are not necessarily
    hygroscopic.

    The choices only contain 1/2 the BTU/equivalent gal
    (ambient) of petrol or gasoline. This would suggest
    for the same energy output the displacement of an Otto
    cycle engine would have to be twice that of current
    technology. However, the fuel also has 25% greater
    octane allowing for greater compression and the
    possibility of greater energy content capture.

    Though both techniques would require additional energy
    input. It may be possible to re-use exhaust heat to
    achieve the necessary additional input requirement,
    though it is likely this will require a dual fuel
    system.

    Bio-gas works great as a methane source in the light
    of a lack of a current deep ocean methane hydrate
    recovery system. In addition, the use of
    non-food/feed stock cellulose pellets could be reduced
    in an oxygen-less environment (gasification) with the
    residue combustible resins and methanol combined with
    a portion of the Bio-gas reserves providing the source
    heat for a portable fluidized bed fire box to drive
    the gasification process in a transportation power
    system. The combination of the cellulose gasification
    and Bio-gas could form the primary combustion gases.

    The most interesting solution I have seen to date as a
    transportation energy alternative has been the idea of
    using a methane hydrate fired fuel cell. The methane
    can be broken down by a catalyst to release the
    hydrogen and oxygen with the released water acting
    either as a coolant or to drive a Stirling cycle
    adjunct engine.

    However, devising a method to harvest the renewable
    (cycle time in 100′s rather then 1,000,000′s of
    years), ocean bottom methane hydrate without
    precipitating a catastrophic release remains a major
    technical challenge. The interesting part of this
    alternative is that it allows for a fairly dense
    storage medium of hydrogen while reducing the tendency
    of leakage, high pressure requirements, and metal
    brittleness….

    I believe of all the proposals I have seen to date the
    DOE/Sandia Lab experiments with Algae for carbon
    sequestration and bio-diesel fuel sources seem to make
    the most sense. The issue is the transportation
    necessary to go from the optimum growing sites to the
    consumable site. Though with the thought of
    converting Desert areas and long tubes of ethylene
    plastic to house the algae as it grows and then the
    required press to remove the vegetable oil seems like
    a idea squasher.

    The good thing is the cellulose left over could be
    reduced by gasification to derive additional energy
    similar to the above… Though these techniques are
    not combustion free they at least stop the requirement
    for the introduction of fossilized carbon not in the
    current Epoch…

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L.D.Cooke — 22 Jun 2008 @ 5:33 PM

  246. Re #238, the Media is king to the general public. Channel 4′s TGGWS obviosuly made its mark to the uninitiated and many other people inlcuding late night radio and more mainstrean radio stations also do not help the cause here in the UK. The BBC is particular always try to air both sides of an argument even when the two people talking are not equally qualified to do so. One discussion on BBC Radio 5 live one morning pitched Piers Corbyn against a solar physicist who was attempting to tell us that the Sun is not the cause of recent climate change but Corbyn and the Radio presenter attempted to ruin it.

    Its all down to the argument and the way it is framed these days rather than the actual content of science.

    Comment by pete best — 23 Jun 2008 @ 4:03 AM

  247. Hansen goes for the jugular:

    Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist
    Ed Pilkington in New York
    The Guardian, Monday June 23, 2008

    James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

    Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress – in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming – to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the “perfect storm” of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

    Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

    In an interview with the Guardian he said: “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that’s a crime.”

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 23 Jun 2008 @ 7:20 AM

  248. Gavin, perhaps this post will make clearer the impact that high gas prices are having both on consumption and on people:

    We’re not using less fuel, we are getting less done with the fuel we are using.

    We are currently enduring a natural experiment on the effects of higher gas prices. While it has spurred movement toward more efficient technology, it has brought about some severe consequences that will need to be dealt with.

    Last month it was reported that driving in the US was down 4.3% in March compared to last year. What everyone missed was that gasoline consumption wasn’t. It was down less than 2%.

    For the year, gasoline consumption is down little more than 1/2%.

    We aren’t using less fuel, we’re getting less done with the fuel we are using.

    If the most efficient driving was being eliminated, it still couldn’t explain the large difference in fuel efficiency. The driving being cut would need to be several times more efficient than normal. This is not plausible.

    Among the reasons: Less efficient fuel mixtures may be being used; People are acting on bad advice. We’ve known for awhile now that accelerating faster is more fuel efficient (this is even before considering the beneficial effects on traffic), yet people believe the opposite; People may be driving more at high traffic times to generate needed income and be too tired and poor to drive at other times; And, during the economic slow down, communities may be neglecting good traffic management (e.g. not timing traffic lights properly).

    We also need to consider whether higher prices will strengthen the movement toward more efficient technology or have little additional effect (i.e. Has the move has already happened and will further price pressure be of no value?).

    Additionally, we need to realize that in the mid-term, our current vehicle fleet and the infrastruture to produce more aren’t suddenly going to disappear. New tech won’t wash out these adverse effects.

    [The gasoline consumption data can be found here: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/xls/pet_cons_wpsup_k_w.xls

    It’s in excel format. See U.S. Weekly Finished Motor Gasoline Product Supplied (Thousand Barrels per Day).

    The Energy Information Administration defines Production Supplied as their calculation of consumption:

    Products Supplied Approximately represents consumption of petroleum products because it measures the disappearance of these products from primary sources, i.e., refineries, natural gas processing plants, blending plants, pipelines, and bulk terminals. In general, product supplied of each product in any given period is computed as follows: field production, plus refinery production, plus imports, plus unaccounted for crude oil, (plus net receipts when calculated on a PAD District basis), minus stock change, minus crude oil losses, minus refinery inputs, minus exports.

    More petrol data can be found here: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oil_gas/petroleum/info_glance/petroleum.html

    Comment by aaron — 23 Jun 2008 @ 7:48 AM

  249. Great deconstruction of Wired’s absurd “article.” Did anyone mention the 2 page advertising spread from Shell about liquefied natural gas? Gee, I wonder if there is a connection between that Wired article and the advertising.

    I just subscribed to Wired, so I am pretty ticked off that they initiated me with such a homage to stupidity in the attempt to be “cute” as you call it. Unfortunately, a stack of morons from here to Kalamazoo will be citing this Wired article on talk radio.

    Comment by Evil — 23 Jun 2008 @ 10:49 AM

  250. #2 Brian W.: The Forest Service has “just started a new climate change PR campaign which states that the best thing for the agency to do is to log and replant since new young trees will sequester more carbon.”

    Can you point me toward more information about this PR campaign? Thanks.

    Comment by Rick Brown — 23 Jun 2008 @ 12:46 PM

  251. If more people lived in cities wouldn’t more petroleum have to be used to ship agricultural products from farming regions to scattered urban areas? Could excessive CO2 create a permanent storm system on the Earth like the great red spot on Jupiter?

    As to building a whole new kind of world American caused global warming is already doing that. Thermodynamically oil is a high quality energy resource and any alternative will cut into American hedonism i.e. “living well”. Whatever profits new-age capitalists make will be miniscule compared to what Mobil and BP and company are making now. That’s like saying a lone internet blogger can compete with Time Warner, Viacom, Rupert Murdoch, and Disney in getting his opinions across.

    Hydro power, for example, will still need power plants, although ocean water is limitless the rare mineral resources needed to build fusion plants are not.

    Comment by Hubert — 23 Jun 2008 @ 4:34 PM

  252. #247 Jim Galasyn,

    Re Hansen,

    If Hansen is conveyed accurately in the headline.

    He is is not helpful, especially as the problem now seems to be that the denialist fringe has taken off as an internet conspiracy that will continue under it’s own momentum with it’s own set of lore. It is thus hard to challenge and such sentiments will only serve to cohere it.

    In the UK we seem to have quite a proactive stance on AGW, but with 6/10 in the recent UK poll doubting humans are behind GW, statements like that claimed of Hansen will not fall well on public sentiments. This is exactly what the figurehead denialists need to play their victim-bully act.

    I recognise that people are desperately worried. Having been sanguine until recently, I am now very worried over recent research (e.g Shakova/Dahl-Jensen) combined with what’s looking like Peak Oil. I appreciate the feelings that drive Hansen’s statements, but he’s not just some bloke on the street.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 23 Jun 2008 @ 4:48 PM

  253. #252 CobblyWorlds

    Excellent point. “Not helpful” is an understatement. Hansen’s quoted statements come across as defensive and intolerant. That impression bolsters the sense which many have (probably a large part of the 60% you mention) that CAGW prophets prefer the disparagement of critics over respectful debate on the merits.

    The tone of sardonicism, and even contempt, which pervades blog entries and posts on this site is cut from the same unhelpful cloth. Even your rhetoric (“denialist fringe”) falls prey to the same unfortunate tendency.

    Perhaps ethical norms such as the Golden Rule should be honored more faithfully. If your view were in the minority, but if you nevertheless held to that view sincerely for reasons that you regarded as meritorious, I suspect you would want the majority to engage your viewpoint respectfully.

    Hansen should speak more as a public servant and less as a public scold.

    Comment by Leighton — 23 Jun 2008 @ 6:25 PM

  254. Hubert (251) — CO2 is a well-mixed gas in the atmosphere, with a mixing time of about 2+ years.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Jun 2008 @ 7:11 PM

  255. #253 Leighton,

    Just to be clear what I see as denialist:
    1) Those who deny that humans are involved in the observed climate change / global warming (CC/AGW).
    2) Those who deny that CO2 increase is due to humans, and will lead to warming of at least around 2degC for a doubling of CO2.
    3) Those who admit that we are causing CC/AGW, but deny that there is a realistic chance of CC/AGW being a significant threat to our civilisation.

    These three denied points I view as established “beyond reasonable doubt” (the best level of proof we can attain). I call those who deny them the denialist fringe because having been an AGW sceptic, and having wasted many many hours over the last 3 years on dealing with AGW denialists, they have no valid point that I can see. And I have suspected for some time that engaging with them merely serves to bolster the delusion that they have a point worth debating.

    Yes. When faced with people seeking honest debate politeness is appropriate. But when faced with the tedious repetition of denialist lore (CO2 lag in glaciations, tropical troposphere lapse rate, Antarctic not behaving like the Arctic, “here’s my website, where I (an electrician/economist/schoolkid) will disprove the work of thousands of scientists” etc etc etc), we are only human, and are liable to get riled.

    Hansen is right to be alarmed, overall I consider his message and work sound and persuasive. But if that reporting is correct, his tactics seem wanting to me.

    Comment by Cobblyworlds — 24 Jun 2008 @ 5:58 AM

  256. Quote from a news story:

    James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature

    I think that’s a terrible, idiotic idea, and it makes Hansen look like a fringe nutcase. As usual, when somebody pontificates outside their field of expertise, they come off looking like fools. Hansen is a great authority on climate science; on politics and law he should keep his mouth shut until he does a little studying.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 24 Jun 2008 @ 6:11 AM

  257. Re #256, Lets hope that the newspapers have quoted him right. I think he and many other scientists have a problem with the fossil fuels industry lobbying and disinformation campaigns on GHG and AGW. Al Gore writes about lobbying in his book “end of reason” as does George Monbiot in his book HEAT.

    He is making a point about 30 years of denialist anti science essentially.

    Comment by pete best — 24 Jun 2008 @ 6:19 AM

  258. Leighton, What attitude other than contempt is appropriate for those who deny or distort established scientific fact? Yes, Hansen’s remarks are intemperate and unhelpful. However, are they any more intemperate than those of denialists who accuse the entire scientific community of fraud?
    I will not defend Hansen’s comments, and I hope he will reconsider his militant tone. However, I have to say that I sympathize with the incredible frustration he must feel as he watches human civilization rush toward oblivion with the gas pedal on the floor.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 24 Jun 2008 @ 7:19 AM

  259. Re #257

    It’s nearly two years since the Royal Society told Exxon to stop funding denialist orgaganisations.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/sep/20/oilandpetrol.business

    Comment by Phil. Felton — 24 Jun 2008 @ 9:14 AM

  260. How different is the attitude of big energy and oil companies really from that of tobacco companies who were saying “smoking cigareettes is a personal responsibility” (read “of course it isn’t addictive and if you think it causes cancer, simply don’t smoke”) then intentionally putting addictive doses of nicotine in their cigarettes knowing full well that nicotine is addictive (so actually believing the science when it suits them and denying it when it doesn’t) and then marketing it to children through cartoons and Hollywood icons. The rebel without a cause look of James Dean doesn’t quite go without a cigarette in his hand.

    Now that I am fast approaching forty, when I see those old Hollywood pictures, Dean looks like a baby with a cigarette in his hand. Revolting no? But it is only revolting because of the mass publicity and lawsuits against the cigarette industry that changed people’s collective attitude toward cigarette smoking.

    So I don’t see what is so intemperate and unhelpful about treating oil companies the same way. If these companies didn’t believe the science and really thought all scientists were conspiratorial frauds, they wouldn’t have to put out such a contemptuous, denialist and widespread anti-AGW campaign. They know the science is true but it is hurting their business so they are advocating “a fair and balanced” debate. And, knowingly inflicting harm to persons and environments where people live for personal or corporate gain is the very definition of crimes against humanity and nature, isn’t it?

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 24 Jun 2008 @ 9:43 AM

  261. Re Hansen, here’s a thought experiment: should tobacco CEOs be tried for systematically disinforming society, and thereby causing perhaps millions of excess deaths?

    Oil execs are paying the Heartland Institute for its propaganda services, too. And the scale of excess deaths caused by these actions could run into the hundreds of millions.

    Discuss. :)

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 24 Jun 2008 @ 10:19 AM

  262. ## 255 – Cobblyworlds, 258 – Ray Ladbury

    I appreciate the care with which Cobblyworlds states what he regards as proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But is even more care warranted? Point 1 states only that human beings are “involved” in observed climate change, which I take it is a broader concept than “global warming.” Yet, point 3 makes the much stronger claim that “we are causing global warming” which rules out any other (non-human) factor. Is that truly established beyond reasonable doubt?

    Point 3 also refers to a “realistic” chance of a “significant” threat. It is hard to claim that this is a fact established beyond a reasonable doubt when it relies on terms which are inherently subject to probabalistic assessments on which genuine differences of opinion almost certainly can be found.

    And lets contrast “a realistic chance of CC/AGW being a significant threat to our civilisation” (Cobblyworlds) with “watch[ing] human civilization rush toward oblivion with the gas pedal on the floor” (Ladbury). Which is it guys? Does one have only to agree with the careful, hedged judgment or is it also required that everyone sign on to the most metaphorically overblown interpretation possible?

    Based on the recent article, it appears to me that Hansen is more at the “overstated” than the “carefully-hedged” end of that particular spectrum. It troubles me that he does so while drawing from the taxpayers’ account. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be required of hard-working productive people to subsidize such outlandish responses to genuine criticism.

    Comment by Leighton — 24 Jun 2008 @ 10:26 AM

  263. Cobblyworlds, Ray, et al: This is beating my head against the wall (been here many times before), but to keep things honest, the license to call us skeptics dirty names (other than to deny (rationalize) that the names are dirty, or to lump all skeptics in with the few scoundrels out there), banish them from participation, even indict them criminally, comes from the fact that they disagree, in some part, with your well thought out science. And sometimes they continue to disagree even after you have maybe repeatedly shouted your correctness from the highest peak. Your retort to this is essentially, “Yeah! But we’re right!” implying again that you are allowed. Now you may prove to be right — and currently right. That IMO does not give you the license that Leighton fusses about. Sorry. Now excuse me. I have to duck.

    I had the same distasteful response to Hanson’s suggestion. I too think its bad science and might hurt him in science circles, though I don’t think by much. Oddly though, and being objective, I would not fully agree that it is bad tactics. As I said in an earlier post (that didn’t make the cut), as a political advocate (vs. a scientist) he will probably get much more attention and support from politicos and the public, which is required to get anything done outside the lab, model, or blog, with wild irrational accusations against, coincidentally, the current favorite whipping boy.

    Comment by Rod B — 24 Jun 2008 @ 11:23 AM

  264. I doubt Hansen actually expects a court case to get off the ground – yet. However I think he is exactly right to go on the attack in the way he has – to call lies, lies and a criminal conspiracy, a criminal conspiracy. As for tactics – well, what better time will there ever be to attack an oil company than when “gas” prices and company profits have both soared?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 24 Jun 2008 @ 12:42 PM

  265. I think Hansen’s comments are right on target. For twenty years the fossil fuel corporations have deliberately, knowingly conspired to deceive the public and policy makers about the reality of anthropogenic global warming, which is a direct result of the use of their products. Their campaign of deliberate deceit has been entirely successful in delaying action to phase out fossil fuels and prevent the worst outcomes of anthropogenic warming and consequent climate change. That delay may well result in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, the irreversible extinction of the majority of species on this planet, and the long-term (millennia) degradation and impoverishment of the Earth’s biosphere. In a worst-case scenario it might lead to the extinction of most life on Earth from acidification of the oceans and the release of massive quantities of frozen methane. All of this was done intentionally, deliberately and knowingly, by people who probably think of global warming the way that “cold warriors” in the 1980s proclaimed that global thermonuclear war was “winnable”. Their crimes are FAR worse than the crimes of tobacco corporations whose campaigns of deliberate deceit caused thousands of deaths from cancer, and they should be held to account and punished — instead, they are raking in trillions of dollars in profit from a “product” that is poisoning the entire biosphere unto death.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 24 Jun 2008 @ 12:46 PM

  266. DURABILITY COUNTS!

    I love that part. I have some energy-star appliances in my kitchen that I’ve been dis-pleased with. They’ve been repaired several times. In every case the service man pointed out that in their opinion, the energy-star stuff in the US actually costs us more energy in the long run because of the lesser durability.

    Comment by Pete Wirfs — 24 Jun 2008 @ 1:49 PM

  267. I wonder whether Hansen threatens the right people. Those who could actually do something about it are the governments of this world – not the companies providing the stuff that juiced our entire civilization for the better part of a century. He could sue the German government for discontinuing nuclear, for example. Certainly that alone is responsible for a lot more additional CO2 than a misinformation campaign set in motion by an oil company. And by the way – can anybody point me towards a case where an oil company directly or indirectly outright lied to the public and give an educated guess about how much additional CO2 was or will be emitted because of that lie? (and maybe some information about what it was that led decision makes to beliving those lies rather than trusting the scientists in their employment)

    Comment by Henning — 24 Jun 2008 @ 2:47 PM

  268. # 265 – SecularAnimist

    All that being said, I’m sure you’ll join me in expressing concern for the tendency toward overheated rhetoric. *smile*

    All kidding aside, a reputation for scientific probity is not enhanced by undocumented conspiracy theorizing, whether the theorist is an anonymous blog poster or a senior scientist on the federal payroll.

    Comment by Leighton — 24 Jun 2008 @ 3:08 PM

  269. #262 Leighton

    Yes I could have taken more care, it was a rushed lunchtime post. Hence I’ve added a bracketed (causing) on point 1.

    You claim:

    Point 1 states only that human beings are “involved” in (causing) observed climate change, which I take it is a broader concept than “global warming.” Yet, point 3 makes the much stronger claim that “we are causing global warming” which rules out any other (non-human) factor.

    Whereas I actually said:

    Just to be clear what I see as denialist:
    1) Those who deny that humans are involved in the observed climate change / global warming (CC/AGW).
    2) Those who deny that CO2 increase is due to humans, and will lead to warming of at least around 2degC for a doubling of CO2.
    3) Those who admit that we are causing CC/AGW, but deny that there is a realistic chance of CC/AGW being a significant threat to our civilisation.

    I quite obviously did not say what you claim. Did I?

    In point 2 I specifically refer to global warming because I am talking about the fact the CO2 blocks Infra-Red radiation so causing global warming. Otherwise AGW/CC is intended to include impacts like land use change, contrails, particulate pollution etc, as well as the enhanced greenhouse effect.

    I feel much the same as Ray expresses in his final sentence. It is my opinion based on my reading that we’ve crossed the Rubicon and Post Peak Oil is likely to weaken us as Climate Change (secondary effects from the Arctic) really hits us. However as point 3, if someone says to me they agree with the IPCC line, but on balance think the challenges to come are surmountable, that would be their opinion (I’d just disagree). Thus my wording in point 3. Those who claim there will only be benefits and dismissing the risks are engaging in a mindless Polly-Anna fantasy.

    And in your final paragraph you reveal the spin that Hansen risks being attributed to all of his work now… hot headed (with a the perjorative implication of irrational that always hangs onto it).

    Perhaps simplification will help:

    1) Humans are involved in (causing) the observed climate change / global warming (CC/AGW).
    2) The CO2 increase is due to humans, and will lead to warming of at least around 2degC for a doubling of CO2.
    3) There is a realistic chance of CC/AGW being a significant threat to our civilisation.

    Is it so unreasonable to suggest that anyone who feels the evidence does not support those statements is out to lunch?

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 24 Jun 2008 @ 3:45 PM

  270. Re 251:

    If more people lived in cities wouldn’t more petroleum have to be used to ship agricultural products from farming regions to scattered urban areas? Could excessive CO2 create a permanent storm system on the Earth like the great red spot on Jupiter?

    No, there is no requirement that fossil fuels be used for long haul transport. Train is significantly cheaper (and safer) than over the road, long haul transport and can be done with electricity. CSX, one of the rail companies here in the States, advertises that they get 431 ton-miles to the gallon of fuel. This compares well to 180 ton-miles for a high efficiency tractor trailer moving 20 tons of cargo at 9MPG — which I think is well above fleet averages.

    As to building a whole new kind of world American caused global warming is already doing that. Thermodynamically oil is a high quality energy resource and any alternative will cut into American hedonism i.e. “living well”. Whatever profits new-age capitalists make will be miniscule compared to what Mobil and BP and company are making now. That’s like saying a lone internet blogger can compete with Time Warner, Viacom, Rupert Murdoch, and Disney in getting his opinions across.

    There are alternatives — electric cars, for example — that could actually reduce petroleum consumption and create a new American hedonism.

    This past Saturday I went to lunch with a group of fellow Corvette owners. We got to talking about electric cars and I mentioned that I was looking to build an electric Fiero that, if done correctly, could beat every vehicle there — including the high performance C6 ‘vettes that cost more than some houses.

    Part of what is maddening is that many of the beneficial changes — like electric cars — are superior for many of the current applications. It’s undeniable that an electric commuter class vehicle is cheaper and simpler to operate than a subcompact econo-box. Some electric car scenarios result in vehicles which pay for themselves, not just the cost difference, within a reasonable life expectancy of the vehicle.

    People who click the link on my name have watched, for example, my June electric bill go from $257 (’06) to $136 (’07), to $110 (’08), and this most recent bill includes 175KWH (1/4 of the total) that was almost pure waste due to a broken A/C unit.

    Driving fossil fuel usage as close to zero can be done, and it can be done while living a BETTER quality life. And when liquid fuels are required, they can be produced from biomass in a completely renewable manner. My electric consumption was 1MWH less this month than two years ago. That’s not an insignificant change, and my standard of living improved while doing it.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 24 Jun 2008 @ 4:14 PM

  271. Leighton wrote: “… a reputation for scientific probity is not enhanced by undocumented conspiracy theorizing …”

    The conspiracy by Exxon-Mobil and other fossil fuel corporations, and their allies in the current US administration and Congress, to deliberately deceive the public about the reality of anthropogenic global warming, has been thoroughly documented. Exxon-Mobil alone spent millions of dollars funding fake, phony “think tanks” to churn out pseudoscientific denialist rubbish. And the heavy-handed censorship of government scientists — including Hansen — by the Cheney/Bush administration, to prevent them from communicating scientific realities to the public, has also been thoroughly documented.

    Nothing that Hansen has said damages his scientific credibility in the least. His vision of the likely consequences of unmitigated anthropogenic global warming is well within the mainstream of climate science and does not even approach the plausible worst case scenarios.

    And I think that Hansen has realized that a “reputation for scientific probity” will be of little value to anyone when human civilization is in ruins, hundreds of millions of people are displaced, starving, and lacking fresh water, more than half of all species are extinct, and the Earth’s entire biosphere has been gravely damaged.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 24 Jun 2008 @ 4:25 PM

  272. Jim Galasyn,

    It is quite reasonable for a democratic society to take action to limit the operations of lobbyists, and to hold people to account for campaigns of disinformation. Actually making such laws work would be the tricky part.

    However to start such actions based around an issue on which public opinion has already been badly distorted by an active campaign of disinformation (and doing so whilst that campaign is ongoing), will not help countering the current disinformation. Rather it will probably entrench and enliven it. And we’re up against the clock now if anything is to be done. Perhaps those who consider this a serious issue would be best to just argue using the tobacco example.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 24 Jun 2008 @ 4:32 PM

  273. Leighton says in 268:

    …a reputation for scientific probity is not enhanced by undocumented conspiracy theorizing, whether the theorist is an anonymous blog poster or a senior scientist on the federal payroll.

    I would say that anybody who was at the receiving end of the Bush mob’s attempts to silence him has a special claim to “conspiracy theorizing.”

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 24 Jun 2008 @ 4:35 PM

  274. Leighton,

    Only someone who has never looked could honestly call Hansen’s accusations “undocumented”. There is copious documentation of the activities of Exxon and other oil companies in funding numerous organisations which spread lies and distortions about the state of scientific opinion on climate change – such as the Global Climate Coalition, American Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, Heritage Foundation and so on ad nauseam.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 24 Jun 2008 @ 4:58 PM

  275. Re 256:”James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature”

    Scientists are citizens too and are entitled to their opinions,(but not their facts) just like the rest of us. Sometimes you have to exaggerate to make a point, and obviously Dr. Hansen feels viscerally about this issue which he knows so much about.
    With much of the uninformed public being misinformed by the fossil fuel industry, I, for one, applaud his speaking out. I wish that others with a reputable scientific background,who have a 99% certainty of what’s coming down the road, would speak out with their opinions as well.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 24 Jun 2008 @ 6:57 PM

  276. Leighton, There are a score or so of climate models out there making predictions. Not one of them does so without a significant contribution from humans. If we were to assume merely that all models are independent, then by binomial sampling, we could conclude with 90% confidence that fewer than 10% of possible, successful models could have be constructed without a significant anthropogenic contribution. In reality, the incentive (e.g. fame and glory) to come up with such is model is much stronger than the incentive to come up with yet another model that verifies anthropogenic causation. So, I’d say this is a conservative estimate of the level of confidence we have–and it is pretty consistent with the Bayesian estimate given in the IPCC summary.

    As to significant threat… Well, sea level rise wiping out many islands and coastal cities is a certainty–it is happening even now. Loss of fertile farm land for growing wheat, potatoes, etc. is also a virtual certainty. Many other threats–increased disease, pests, large-scale extinctions, worse air quality and corresponding increased mortality, damage and loss of life due to increased extreme weather, etc.–are quite likely. We probably can’t even avoid these. However, the $64 quadrillion question is whether increased temperatures and acidification of the oceans will give rise to conditions where bacteria that give off H2S proliferate over those that give off oxygen. This was one of the causes of the mass extinctions of the PETM–and that was greenhouse-gas induced. James Lovelock is sufficiently convinced of this threat that he advocates huge increases in nuclear power. This is what worries Hansen. So, I would not characterize those who do not recognize these threats as out to lunch as much as I would call them dangerously ignorant.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 24 Jun 2008 @ 7:32 PM

  277. # 269 CobblyWorlds

    I erroneously quoted you as saying global warming in point 3 when in fact you said “CC/AGW.” I regret the error.

    I’m interested in the differences between the original version of pts. 1-3 and the new, simplified version. In point 1, you’ve added the word “causing” in parenthesis, but the effect of this change is not clear. Does this mean that by “involved in” you always meant to say “causing”? If so, it is accurate that there are other, non-human causes, or are the human causes the sole causes? (If “involved in” isn’t intended to be synonymous with causing, what is the effect of the parenthetical insertion?)

    Since we understand that climate change is a broader concept than anthropogenic global warming, it seems to me that you are NOT claiming that 2degC warming over x years by itself constitutes a significant threat to our civilization, but please confirm that I’m reading that correctly.

    You are also no longer asserting, I think, that the realistic chance of a significant threat to civilization is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If I’m right about that, it is perhaps a concession to my point that such assessments (which involve qualitative judgments) are not really subject to that type of proof.

    Apparently, one may reasonably hold the opinion (even though you’d disagree) that anticipated challenges are surmountable. It is nice to know that the field of opinions with which reasonable people may disagree is at least wide enough for that. Considering literally thousand of years of human experience with surmounting challenges previously regarded as insurmountable, I would humbly suggest that an even greater toleration on that score would not be untoward.

    But what about someone who expresses the view that the challenges to come might possibly be overstated by, um, enthusiasts, and that the likely costs associated with an excessive single-mindedness in prevention could themselves be intolerable? Is such a person necessarily a numbskull at best and a greedily self-serving manipulator of truth at worst?

    [edit - no DDT nonsense]
    To pick another example, it appears that a foolish enthusiasm in favor of “biofuels” is making it harder for many children around the world to eat. One more: A regrettable bias held by many self-proclaimed environmentalists with regard to the use of nuclear power to generate electricity is surely even now leading to at least some of the CO2 increase about which we are now concerned.

    But anyway, you asked me a question. I think that you have shown care in crafting statements that you regard as highly defensible. I’d rather not use phrases like “out to lunch” in this context. If you would want to say that disagreement should be more solidly based than anything you have seen, you’d be welcome to do that; it would put the burden on anyone who disagrees to offer adequate reasons to do so. I think this can all be done without disparaging either the motives or intelligence of anyone, let alone positing silly conspiracy theories or proposing that those who disagree should potentially be jailed.

    Comment by Leighton — 24 Jun 2008 @ 7:47 PM

  278. Leighton and Henning, you would have us stuff our heads in the sand – don’t worry, be happy. Hansen has courageously put his career and reputation on the line to sound a very appropriate alarm. You confuse scientific conservatism with engineering conservatism. This situation calls for engineering conservatism, which means assessing, not worst-case, but realistic probability scenarios.

    Scientific conservatism avoids overstating anything, but risks limiting conclusions in a way that can quietly and innocently lead to disaster. It does have the advantage, I suppose, of keeping everyone calm, at least until the disaster is upon them. Oh well, who knows, maybe it will all work out fine in the end (though I do not think that is likely). And if it doesn’t, then it won’t matter, because it will be too late to do anything anyway. We will just have to muddle through.

    Whether or not you choose to call it a conspiracy, it is clear that powerful interests have worked in concert to confuse the understanding of climate change. Given Hansen’s understanding of what was happening, his response has been very subdued. If you have devoted your career to discovering the truth of a potentially dangerous situation, and you find people working to undermine what you have discovered, only a coward would remain silent.

    What a way to deal with life. If your posts really reflect what you believe, then I suggest you cancel all insurance policies and stop saving for retirement. Just trust. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you will die anyway.

    Comment by Ron Taylor — 24 Jun 2008 @ 9:22 PM

  279. For those interested in what James Hansen said, the paper (4 pages) is here.

    It looks like JEH has convinced himself that we have already dithered to the point that we are in extremis. He believes that CO2 concentration of 350 ppm is dangerous, likely resulting (long term) in a (nearly) ice-free world. 50% of species lost. Changing sea levels for a very long time.

    Read the paper; it’s short. Then decide if his (off-handed) call for the executives of carbon companies to be put on trial is the cry of a loon.

    And answer what you would do, if you had been warning the world for 20 years about a coming, but avoidable, great extinction and folks went on with business as usual.

    Comment by Tim McDermott — 24 Jun 2008 @ 9:41 PM

  280. Henning and Leighton, stop already with this rational and thoughtful discourse. You’re taking all the fun and entertainment out of it!

    Jim, Figel, et al: you really want to open the tobacco Pandora box? [edit]

    Comment by Rod B — 24 Jun 2008 @ 11:33 PM

  281. Ray Ladbury (#278) wrote:

    This is what worries Hansen.

    Is he actually on record stating something to this effect?

    I know my mind keeps returning to it. Of course, if we are simply speaking of the six major rivers of Asia drying up, turning even the southeast US into a dust bowl, 50% of the world permanently being in drought, the food shortages, the displacement of hundreds of millions, and in all likelihood chronic war — I suspect that would be more than enough reason for us to change our ways.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 24 Jun 2008 @ 11:36 PM

  282. Leighton (#268) wrote:

    All kidding aside, a reputation for scientific probity is not enhanced by undocumented conspiracy theorizing, whether the theorist is an anonymous blog poster or a senior scientist on the federal payroll.

    Regarding the disinformation campaign…

    The science was well established back in the 1970s — but there has been a campaign by many of the same people who defended tobacco — hired by the energy industry. The following is a quick synopsis of both:

    The American Denial of Global Warming (1 hr)
    Naomi Oreskes
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T4UF_Rmlio

    Well-recommended.

    Oh — and we could get Exxon’s tax returns for you if you would like. Pdf-form, if that would be acceptable…

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 25 Jun 2008 @ 1:28 AM

  283. Ray,

    I deliberately chose “out to lunch” rather than ill-informed because IMHO it takes some peculiar filtering of the publicly available evidence to support that case.

    Leighton,

    I erroneously quoted you as saying global warming in point 3 when in fact you said “CC/AGW.” I regret the error.

    So you are still unable to read point 3 in my original post and grasp that in that point I do not make ‘the much stronger claim that “we are causing global warming” which rules out any other (non-human) factor’.

    As far as I’m concerned playing games is boring and childish; games like faux-apology for something other than your error. That noted, no need to bother apologising again, I don’t care.

    In point 1, you’ve added the word “causing” in parenthesis, but the effect of this change is not clear.

    It makes clear the difference between merely being a bystander involved in a process that they have not caused, and one that they are at least a causal element in.

    it seems to me that you are NOT claiming that 2degC warming over x years by itself constitutes a significant threat to our civilization, but please confirm that I’m reading that correctly.

    It depends on the value of x, but the figure is more likely to be around 3degC (for 2xCO2), and could be higher. For me it is not the sensitivity to changes in radiative forcing that’s the issue. It the power of carbon cycle feedbacks and changes in weather systems impacting agriculture in the current food/energy situation.

    You are also no longer asserting, I think, that the realistic chance of a significant threat to civilization is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Game playing again: I never asserted that, did I?

    Are we really to accept that the US government (which have not taken steps to reduce emissions) chose biofuels because of AGW? Have you not noticed the oil situation? Is it not more reasonable to suggest that the US persuance of biofuels is driven by energy security concerns? Like I just said to Ray “peculiar filtering” is at work.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 25 Jun 2008 @ 2:29 AM

  284. http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/06/dr-james-hansen.html

    Hansens Testimony to Congress this week. I like the bit where the senator asks Hansen if he has spoken to the president? Hello!! He just laughed. Can’t blame the man for that.

    Comment by pete best — 25 Jun 2008 @ 5:37 AM

  285. @Ron #278
    What about suggesting to target governments rather than oil companies makes you believe I stick my head in the sand? To me, it seems like an obvious thing to do. Exxon doesn’t decide where we’re going with this – politicians do. Its their lookout to inform themselves correctly and to act in their people’s interst and only they can steer this ship around. Isn’t it ineffective to target somebody who tells an obvious lie rather than somebody who claims basing his acts on it although he should (must) know better?

    Comment by Henning — 25 Jun 2008 @ 6:40 AM

  286. Leighton writes:

    point 3 makes the much stronger claim that “we are causing global warming” which rules out any other (non-human) factor. Is that truly established beyond reasonable doubt?

    It doesn’t rule out any other factor. It just says that the human-induced portion is the majority of the effect. And yes, that’s established beyond reasonable doubt at this point.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 25 Jun 2008 @ 6:59 AM

  287. Leighton writes:

    Apparently more than one researcher has looked at the question of how many deaths from malaria have resulted from Rachel Carson writing an overwrought book

    And the answer is: zero. It’s a big right-wing meme these days that “Rachel Carson killed millions of African babies because of the ban on DDT.” Except that DDT was never banned in Africa. And in areas where it was overused, like Sri Lanka, the mosquitoes are now immune to it (natural selection, anyone?), and they have had to switch to malathion.

    DDT can even be used in the US now if the application is for malaria control. The ban here was on indiscriminate use in agriculture, which Rachel Carson rightly pointed out was a serious threat to local ecosystems.

    [Response: DDT and Carson is off-topic. This is the last word on it. - gavin]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 25 Jun 2008 @ 7:06 AM

  288. Leighton, [edit]

    Climate change offers a case in point. It is a reality. It will lead to more extreme weather events, and there are irresponsible elements who will exploit these weather events to breed a sense of crisis. It is far better to confront the threat now (or actually 15 years ago) and take actions that are reasoned and prudent, so that we can blunt public panic and calls for draconian action in the future.
    Ron Taylor’s distinction between Scientific and Engineering conservatism is important. The scientific case that climate change is real is now beyond reasonable doubt. That it will have serious consequences is virtually certain even given the conservative scientific analyses conducted to date. It is now up to engineering analyses to tell us how bad things COULD get and to devise plans to mitigate those adverse effects.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 Jun 2008 @ 7:36 AM

  289. Leighton said to Cobblyworlds: “You are also no longer asserting, I think, that the realistic chance of a significant threat to civilization is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Your perspective in this statement is precisely the problem. The words “proven beyond a reasonable doubt” should be replaced by “demonstrated to be a reasonable possibility.” to make it meaningful for planning purposes.

    By the way (OT) I highly recommend the special report “The Future of Energy” in the June 21-27 issue of The Economist.

    Henning, thanks for your response, but, no, I do not think it is acceptable for companies to engage in behavior that is dangerous to the public simply because such behavior might increase the bottom line. I do agree that political leaders must also be held accountable.

    Comment by Ron Taylor — 25 Jun 2008 @ 8:37 AM

  290. Ray Ladbury: “Climate change … will lead to more extreme weather events, and there are irresponsible elements who will exploit these weather events to breed a sense of crisis.”

    If climate change is expected to lead to more extreme weather events, and in fact we observe that such events are indeed becoming more frequent and more extreme and more destructive just as we should expect from climate change, then why is it “irresponsible” to have a “sense of crisis” regarding these events? It seems entirely appropriate to me.

    And of course, such events — like the massive flooding of the American midwest during the last few weeks — can be crises in and of themselves, not only for those directly affected but for many others, like those whose food costs will rise due to the destruction of crops by the floods.

    At this point, I think it is irresponsible to not say that we are experiencing a climate crisis that is almost certain to become dramatically worse before it gets better — and it may not start to “get better” for decades, and then only if we begin taking serious, far-reaching action to reduce emissions starting now.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 Jun 2008 @ 10:12 AM

  291. By the way, in an article published at Huffington Post on Tuesday, James Hansen gives a very concise, and I think very good, definition of climate change “tipping points”:

    Climate can reach points such that amplifying feedbacks spur large rapid changes.

    He goes on to illustrate with some examples:

    Arctic sea ice is a current example. Global warming initiated sea ice melt, exposing darker ocean that absorbs more sunlight, melting more ice. As a result, without any additional greenhouse gases, the Arctic soon will be ice-free in the summer.

    More ominous tipping points loom. West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are vulnerable to even small additional warming. These two-mile-thick behemoths respond slowly at first, but if disintegration gets well under way, it will become unstoppable …

    Animal and plant species are already being stressed by climate change. Species can migrate in response to movement of their climatic zone, but some species in polar and alpine regions will be pushed off the planet. As climate zones move farther and faster, climate change will become the primary cause of species extinction. The tipping point for life on the planet will occur when so many interdependent species are lost that ecosystems collapse.

    There comes a time when careful, dispassionate, scientific consideration of the empirical facts leads to the reasonable conclusion that we are accelerating towards catastrophe, and characterizing our situation as a “crisis” that requires urgent and even radical action is the only “responsible” course of action.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 Jun 2008 @ 10:28 AM

  292. Henning, Leighton, et al (some), you’re still being rational! It would help to understand the essence of mass psychology, religion and witch hunts. Saves time.

    [edit - I mean it]

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Jun 2008 @ 11:07 AM

  293. Henning @ 285: ” Exxon doesn’t decide where we’re going with this – politicians do.”

    Funny statement.

    Coroporations and private interest groups organize PR campaigns designed to manipulate public opinion. Public opinion, in turn, determines voting preferences. Politicians are elected, or appointed by elected ones; they pay very close attention to public opinion, especially in election times. Corporations and private interest groups (such as coalitions of corporations in a given industry) can spend very large amounts of money on candidates’ campaigns. They are not likely to spend that money on a candidate displaying positions hostile to their interests, or who has already taken action against them. Corporations maintain specialized entities, with generous means and full time staff, whose exclusive function is to influence the legislative process. Politicians routinely recycle themselves in such outfits, making hem highly effective. Since they’re all about the bottom line, corporations will quickly dispose of these entities if they don’t obtain results, i.e. favorable regulations, or better, killing of regulations in the egg.

    The result of all this is that, if politicians do decide “where we’re going,” their “decisions” aren’t really theirs. Your statement does not reflect the reality of the lawmaking process at all. Exxon does not decide, but Exxon can influence the decision to the point where the decision (or lack thereof in this case) is very much equivalent to what it would be if it decided itself. So, really, what’s the difference?

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 25 Jun 2008 @ 11:33 AM

  294. The BBC’s just started to do a bit of myth-busting of its own on its new website Bloom. Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/bloom to check it out.

    For example, soya farming’s bad for the climate obviously because of deforestation, and we in the West are responsible (people living in the developed world account for five times as much soybean per person as elsewhere)- but overwhelmingly via our consumption of farmed livestock, rather than Tofu stir-fries…

    Comment by bonzobarley — 25 Jun 2008 @ 11:42 AM

  295. Rod B, your entire post #292 should have been dropped. Whatever is left of it is still clearly insulting toward all those arguing against Henning and Leighton’s positions with arguments as rational as the opposing ones. You haven’t shown that you’re better able to accept that you could be wrong than those you’re accusing of religious thinking, witch-hunting and what not.

    In essence, you’re saying that true critical thinking can only lead to the conclusion that you have reached yourself, i.e., the “skeptical” one. What a load of c**p.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 25 Jun 2008 @ 11:45 AM

  296. Secular Animist, I probably was not sufficiently clear in my statement. Your mention of the Midwest flooding provides a case in point. Taken in isolation, this has nothing to do with climate change. It should not be used to assert that we are in a climate crisis, and that immediate, drastic action is necessary. However, the fact that we have had 2 such “500 year floods” in 15 years is suspicious, and if we were to see another one soon, we could then make the argument that we were likely seeing “climate change”. My larger point is that people do stupid things when they perceive a crisis (e.g. like giving up their civil rights out of fear of terrorism). Climate policy is too important to allow such mistakes. It can’t fluctuate with the thermometer. It has to be made dispassionately.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 Jun 2008 @ 11:47 AM

  297. @Philippe #293
    Oh I see. So democracy is just a front. Politicians are only reacting to swings in the public mood which are brought about by evil and incredibly rich companies and just to make sure, these companies also buy the candidates in the first place, recycling them at will. And in the end, oil companies effectively rule the world. But there’s still hope if those select few who have uncovered these solid facts go to court (I wonder where you see the sense in Hansen’s lawsuit threat if the reality of the lawmaking process is supposed to be in the hands of evil anyway) and name those who are really responsible for all of that… and you think MY statement was funny? Following your mode of speech, its a miracle that people like Hansen and Gavin still walk free – and even seem to get payed by a state as utterly corrupt as you describe it.

    [Response: Please try and restrain the rhetorical flourishes (this applies to all commentators). It may make you feel good, but it reads badly and derails the conservation. - gavin]

    Comment by Henning — 25 Jun 2008 @ 12:48 PM

  298. Ray Ladbury wrote: “Your mention of the Midwest flooding provides a case in point. Taken in isolation, this has nothing to do with climate change.”

    I submit that to take the Midwest flooding in isolation is an error. The right way to view it is as part of a pattern.

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “It should not be used to assert that we are in a climate crisis, and that immediate, drastic action is necessary.”

    I disagree. I think it is entirely legitimate to point to the Midwest floods, the Southwestern drought, the California fires, and Hurricane Katrina — just to mention a few cases in the USA — as examples of extreme weather events that correspond to the predictions of global warming theory and support the case that we are indeed, already in a climate crisis and that immediate, drastic action is indeed necessary if we are to have any hope of preventing things from getting much, much worse.

    What do I mean by “immediate, drastic action”? Well, the USA gets 80 percent of its primary energy from fossil fuels, and we need to reduce that to near zero within a couple of decades at most. If we are going to get there from here, immediate drastic action is required now, just to get us started on that path.

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “My larger point is that people do stupid things when they perceive a crisis …”

    That is an inevitable danger when confronting any crisis, as is the possibility of people exploiting the crisis for financial gain. For example, I would regard squandering precious money and resources on “clean coal” technology and expanding nuclear power as examples of both “doing stupid things” and exploiting the crisis for financial gain. The only antidotes to that are to be vigilant against misguided, fraudulent and/or self-serving proposals that will actually do little to address the problem (like giving up civil liberties to “fight terrorism”), and to offer alternatives that are more effective.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 Jun 2008 @ 1:44 PM

  299. Philippe (295) says “…you’re saying that true critical thinking can only lead to the conclusion that you have reached yourself, i.e., the “skeptical” one. What a load of c**p.”

    What a grossly strange inverted statement! Us skeptics are the ones suggesting other non-exclusive ideas ought to be thought about. If you haven’t noticed, it’s you guys, prima facie, that unload with c**p onto skeptics — demonizing and castigating their thinking, trying to arrest them, denigrating their intelligence, integrity, and, occasionally, heritage — when skeptics suggests anything even remotely different from the conclusions (liturgy?) you have reached. Anyone with a clear head can read any small portion of RC and see the obvious.

    (I’m not saying that we don’t have our scoundrels; they just usually post elsewhere.)

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Jun 2008 @ 1:53 PM

  300. Ray (296), very good!

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Jun 2008 @ 1:56 PM

  301. SecularAnimist (298), Here in central Texas we have already had more triple-digit days than we usually get all summer. Plus we’ve set new highs for something like 10+ days the past month. The old records that were broken were in all but one case (as I recall) established between 1910 and 1920. Are we now experiencing the effects of global warming? And (it would follow, I presume) were we 100+ years ago, too?

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Jun 2008 @ 4:23 PM

  302. In 299, Rod laments:

    Us skeptics are the ones suggesting other non-exclusive ideas ought to be thought about. If you haven’t noticed, it’s you guys, prima facie, that unload with c**p onto skeptics…”

    Prima facie nothin’ — if your “non-exclusive ideas” hadn’t been considered many times in the past and refuted by observational evidence in peer-reviewed forums, you could claim to be a “skeptic.”

    Because that’s not the case, it’s more accurate to call you “obdurate.”

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 25 Jun 2008 @ 4:58 PM

  303. SecularAnimist (298), I must admit that I was surprised and almost shocked over the clear bias, miscalculation and childish cherry picking by the WMO in your reference. I can see me doing that sometimes, and other posters here occasionally, but the WMO??!!? They take the two months in 2007 that tied previous records and totally ignore the precipitous drop of almost 0.7 degrees (near half the total rise since 1880) in global temperature over 2007 to prove GW. They imply Jan07 temperatures were higher by 1.89 degrees than the January averages, hoping the quick reader would take that as such. However, it’s clear they were really comparing the average temperature in Jan07 with the average temp in one month 100+ years ago. Then for the reader who figured that out, they evidently hoped we would assume they were comparing to 1880, since that what they said, and not clearly the abnormal low temp around 1892 or 3. Astounding. I couldn’t bring myself to check out the rest of the press release. (Or do I miss it that maybe WMO is just an advocacy group kinda masquerading as scientists?)

    And when did meteorologists suddenly become competent to discuss climate science? I recall posts here beating the dickens out of a few weathermen expressing skepticism

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Jun 2008 @ 4:59 PM

  304. In 301, Rod asks, “Are we now experiencing the effects of global warming [in Texas]?”

    You tell me:

    Potential Climatic Deterioration in Semiarid Subtropical South Texas

    …The linear least square regression analysis (Fig. 3) of 100 years of mean, minimum, and maximum temperatures shows that South Texas has experienced a warming trend.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 25 Jun 2008 @ 5:13 PM

  305. Rod B (301) — Were you 100+ years ago? Not many centennarians commenting here… :-)

    Seriously, as best as I can make out, yes, 100+ years ago there probably were some small global warming effects; well buried in normal climate variablity but there nonetheless,

    Temperatures for the past 1200 years:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/311/5762/841
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/02/a-new-take-on-an-old-millennium/langswitch_lang/po

    Comment by David B. Benson — 25 Jun 2008 @ 5:40 PM

  306. Texas, despite what they tell you there, is not the entire world.
    You were experiencing Texas warming.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Jun 2008 @ 6:05 PM

  307. With all of the discussion regarding the relative practicality the several carbon safe energy technologies (nuclear, solar, wind, biofuels, etc.), I have seen little on dry hot rock geothermal electrical generation. It is purported to–

    Be as clean as hydro without the problems caused by dams.

    Have a very low environmental impact during operation.

    Require no new technological development.

    Be a resource so vast that it is equivalent to renewable.

    Have a construction cost similar to a new coal fired generating plant.

    Have a construction carbon footprint similar to a new coal fired generating plant, but produce no CO2 while in operation.

    I learned of this technology in an article by William Calvin in the Skeptic (2008, “Turning Around by 2020,” 14, #1, 38-47). This is the same issue as the denialist article by Patrick Frank. A little web searching revealed very matter of fact articles about hot rock plants already running, or about to be started up. I also learned that the plant in Geyserville CA, just down the road from me, is one of these plants and has been very successful. I had thought that this plant was just harnessing the geysers.

    Is this just another impractical idea, or a resource that should be given more attention?

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 25 Jun 2008 @ 7:54 PM

  308. Secular Animist, The problem is that we are talking about climate, not weather, and the Midwest floods, Katrina, a single record year’s tornados, a single year’s high temperatures are weather. If we take them and say, “See, the climate is changing…,” what is to stop denialists from saying “See, it’s cooler this year than last….” Neither argument is based on climate. The probability of a 500 year flood event happening in any one year, is quite small, but it can happen in any year, and it must happen in some year. That is simply Poisson statistics. It’s occurrence THIS year tells us nothing. The probability of two 500 year floods in 15 years is roughly 4 in 10000, and that of 3 in 30 years 3 in 100000.
    Even though weather is what we observe, we must argue in terms of climate, since that is what the science tells us.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 Jun 2008 @ 8:18 PM

  309. Rod B., Perhaps “skeptics” arguments for other potential causes might be better received if they didn’t keep arguing over and over again for the same tired, discredited mechanisms. You seem to be forgetting that the scientific community’s conclusions are based on EVIDENCE, and the “skeptics” have no evidence, no models, no theories, no credible mechanisms–only their stubborn grasp of the flimsiest straws of doubt.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 Jun 2008 @ 8:24 PM

  310. Depends on the specifics.
    Google Scholar will find some six hundred hits since 2007.
    The last one in this page is cautionary:
    http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm07/fm07-sessions/fm07_V53F.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Jun 2008 @ 8:28 PM

  311. Jim (302), “…Prima facie nothin’… “??? All one has to do is review the posts as I suggested and see who’s lambasting and castigating whom.

    “Lament”? I didn’t feel mournful in the least. And I prefer tenacious over “obdurate” (though have been called worse) — other than I appreciate its use to validate my contention…

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Jun 2008 @ 8:52 PM

  312. Jim, Aaahh. The ole linear least square regression analysis act. That ought to dood it.

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Jun 2008 @ 8:59 PM

  313. David, sometimes a feel 100+ years ;-) . Not really quite that old but am old enough to be a licensed curmudgeon (but don’t tell Jim).

    My point was that to get their 1.89 degree (as I recall) spread the WMO had to cherry pick an abnormally low temp down-spike in about 1892 which was about 0.6 degrees colder than Jan 1980, the date they clearly implied was used. They weren’t even subtle about it — though knew most folks would not know the difference!

    Hank (306) says “…You were experiencing Texas warming…”

    But isn’t that likely from our hot air blowhards we’re so famous for?

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Jun 2008 @ 9:20 PM

  314. Steve –

    Yes, hot dry rock geothermal is a potentially huge source. It’s available pretty much anywhere on land around the planet. I wouldn’t mind seeing the US and other countries go into it in a big way.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 26 Jun 2008 @ 6:45 AM

  315. However, it’s clear they were really comparing the average temperature in Jan07 with the average temp in one month 100+ years ago. Then for the reader who figured that out, they evidently hoped we would assume they were comparing to 1880, since that what they said, and not clearly the abnormal low temp around 1892 or 3.

    That’s quite an accusation Rod… scientifc fraud if true. But fortunately very easy to check (hey you could have done it!). Which I did using GISTemp.

    The answer is no. Using your method I get 2.62 C and 1.51 C (against 1.89 and 1.37) for Jan07 vs 1893 and Apr07 vs 1892.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 26 Jun 2008 @ 8:36 AM

  316. Ray Ladbury wrote: “The problem is that we are talking about climate, not weather …”

    But one of the predictions from climate change theory is that weather will change:

    NOAA Study Forecasts Greater Extremes in Weather
    Greenhouse Gas Emissions Seen Fueling Swings
    by Juliet Eilperin
    Friday, June 20, 2008
    The Boston Globe

    As greenhouse gas emissions rise, North America is likely to experience more droughts and excessive heat in some regions even as intense downpours and hurricanes pound others more often, according to a report issued yesterday by the US Climate Change Science Program.

    The 162-page study, which was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provides the most comprehensive assessment yet of how global warming has helped to transform the climate of the United States and Canada over the past 50 years – and how it may do so in the future … the new report paints a grim scenario in which severe weather will exact a heavy toll. It warned that extreme weather events “are among the most serious challenges to society in coping with a changing climate.”

    If global warming theory predicts an increase in “extreme weather events”, and we observe an actual increase in “extreme weather events” that matches the predictions, then what is illegitimate about pointing to those extreme weather events as predicted manifestations of global warming?

    Are we also to say, analogous to your comment:

    “The problem is that we are talking about climate, not sea level rise …”
    “The problem is that we are talking about climate, not glacier melt …”

    And so on?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 26 Jun 2008 @ 9:19 AM

  317. SecularAnimist (#316) wrote:

    Are we also to say, analogous to your comment:

    “The problem is that we are talking about climate, not sea level rise …”
    “The problem is that we are talking about climate, not glacier melt …”

    If sea level were to fall on a given year, would skeptics be justified in claiming this as “falsifying” what you are calling “global warming theory”? (What is “global warming theory” anyway? I thought it was all physics.) What if a particular glacier were to grow for several years?

    In the absence of global warming, could we expect some glaciers to melt for several years in a row? Could we expect sea level to rise some years and fall others? Ray pointed out that in the absence of global warming we would expect a flood of the same magnitude in Cedar Rapids every five hundred years. If there was a flood two thousand years ago, it wasn’t the result of anthropogenic global warming. And how many cities are there that are subject to five hundred year floods? Won’t a few of them have such floods each year even in absence of global warming?

    If the temperature is higher one year than the previous, is that the result of global warming? Probably not — it is more likely due to the internal variability — climate modes such as ENSO. Likewise, while higher water content of the atmosphere has no doubt made floods like what we saw in Cedar Rapids more likely, the current La Nina and Pacific Decadal Oscillation, both being in their negative phase, are in all likelihood more significant causal factors on this particular year.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 26 Jun 2008 @ 10:23 AM

  318. Martin (315), I’m reading rough-scaled graphs (20-year units but starting exactly with Jan1880) of GISS, so my numbers have some margin of error, but that has no effect on my contention. Read the link’s 1st para and see if you think they are clearly stating/implying that Jan07 temps were 1.89 degrees higher than the average since 1880, and then recheck your graphs to see if they are anywhere near accurate. My reading is Jan07 is about 1.1-1.2 degrees warmer than the average from 1880 to just shy of 1920, and 1.7-1.8 (or so) degrees warmer than a single month around 1892. (btw, if you use Jan08 instead of ’07 you get about 0.5 and 0.9 degrees warmer, respectively, but that would be my cherry picking that WMO probably detests.) Fraudulent? Probably not, but at the least its giddy hyperbolic, and obviously non-scientific bordering on childlike, editorial license. To repeat, astounding for a UN outfit named WMO.

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Jun 2008 @ 10:54 AM

  319. In 312, Rod doubts the linear least square regression test.

    Rod, you asked the question. I provided a credible answer from the Department of Geosciences at Texas A&M.

    What more do you want?

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 26 Jun 2008 @ 11:11 AM

  320. SecularAnimist (316) says, “If global warming theory predicts an increase in “extreme weather events”, and we observe an actual increase in “extreme weather events” that matches the predictions, then what is illegitimate about pointing to those extreme weather events as predicted manifestations of global warming?”

    Because it’s faulty inductive logic that doesn’t follow.

    Neither do your other questions prove climate warming, but they are legitimate indications and considerations because they are long-term weather anamolies, not transient short-term events. You wouldn’t validate warming by saying ‘Norfolk’s high tide (ala sea level) last Wednesday and Thursday was highest in 15 years’.

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Jun 2008 @ 11:14 AM

  321. Timothy Chase wrote: “What is ‘global warming theory’ anyway? I thought it was all physics.”

    By “theory” I mean a body of conceptual understanding and empirical observation that enables one to make predictions about things that have not yet occurred and/or have not yet been observed. Relativity theory, for example, predicted that we should be able to observe the bending of light by massive objects in space, and actual observations found that that prediction was correct.

    Global warming theory predicts, on the basis of relatively simple physics, that increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause the Earth to retain more of the sun’s energy and get warmer. We observe that this is in fact happening; the prediction is verified; the theory is confirmed.

    Going further, based on more complex physics, global warming theory predicts that certain effects of that warming will be observed — including an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of “extreme weather events”. We observe that the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme weather events is, in fact, increasing, in accordance with the predictions from global warming theory. The prediction is verified. The theory is confirmed.

    Certainly, no single “extreme weather event” can be specifically attributed to global warming. Global warming theory does not predict that a specific hurricane will form in a specific place, at a specific time, develop in a specific way, follow a specific path, make landfall in a specific location, etc. Global warming theory does not predict that massively destructive flooding will strike the midwestern USA this year, rather than last year or next year.

    But global warming theory does predict — as the NOAA study I cited above indicates — that the pattern of such events over time will change in a specific way: extreme weather events will become more frequent, more intense and longer in duration. And a “pattern” consists of actual specific events that do occur. More powerful hurricanes become more common. “Five hundred year floods” become more common. Prolonged, extreme droughts become more common. Killer heat waves become more common. Not only the “climate” changes — weather changes.

    Ray Ladbury wrote earlier that it is wrong to point to the midwest floods in isolation as evidence of global warming. I submit that the error is not to point to the floods as evidence of global warming, but to consider them in isolation. They are not occurring in isolation. The floods are occurring as part of a pattern of increasing frequency, severity and duration of extreme weather events all over the world, which is just what global warming theory predicts, per NOAA, the WMO, and others. And the floods are, most importantly, indicative of what sort of weather we can expect in a future of unmitigated global warming.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 26 Jun 2008 @ 12:02 PM

  322. Hank Roberts, 310 concerning hot rock drilling and the earthquake in Switzerland.

    I had seen this report, but what it said to me is that one shouldn’t create these plants in the city. Fortunately some of the best sites in the U.S are in the least populated areas. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 26 Jun 2008 @ 12:05 PM

  323. Rob B wrote: “… they are legitimate indications and considerations because they are long-term weather anamolies … “

    So is a pattern of changes in the weather. Global warming predicts an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme weather events. That increase will occur as predicted, or not. The only way to observe whether a pattern of increasing frequency, intensity and duration of extreme weather events is in fact occurring as predicted, is to look at the specific individual weather events that do occur, since any pattern will consist of the actual specific events that do occur. The current midwestern floods are among numerous events occurring all over the world that fit the predicted pattern.

    Global warming theory predicts that glaciers will melt. To test that prediction, we observe glaciers and see that they are melting all over the world. Each individual glacier is a data point in the larger observation that confirms the prediction.

    Global warming theory predicts that extreme weather events will become more frequent and intense. To test that prediction, we observe the weather. Each individual extreme weather event is a data point in the larger observation that confirms the prediction. The midwest floods are one such data point, just as each individual measurement of a glacier’s retreat or the sea level’s rise is a data point.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 26 Jun 2008 @ 12:12 PM

  324. Rod #318, the phrase they use is “warmer than average for January”. I read this first as meaning the average over 1880 – 2007, but that is obviously wrong. Your attempt for 1880 – 1920 is wrong too. Truth is, we don’t know what they used for average, and there are no references. Don’t you love press releases :-)

    I suspect the researcher giving these numbers used some sort of reconstructed pre-industrial average-for-the -month. Your suspicion of a single starting year does not hold up in the light of my numbers which were computed from the GISTemp met-station-only monthly average data table and is good to two decimals. (And why do we assume the claim is based on GISTemp data anyway?)

    There is a contact address at the bottom where you could ask for the appropriate references, though the release is from last year August… and don’t mention the ‘F’ word if you want a useful resonse :-)

    About cherry picking, note the title of the release. That would seem to justify, and even require, some form of “picking”. Though I think for the label to stick you need intent to deceive. Again, borderline fraudulent.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 26 Jun 2008 @ 12:48 PM

  325. Jim (319), Actually I was only half serious and half joshin’ re linear regression. The serious part is minor but true IMO, and that is that mathematical algorithms prove consistency of the math but only give clues to the physics. For instance it will show a consistent trend of the numbers even though the individual datum bounces all over the place. I can accept (for this scenario) the general trend of increasing temperatures over many decades as shown by the linear regression, least squares stuff. But it doesn’t explain why the temperatures here just the past 40 days of this year have been steadily and consistently a couple of degrees higher than normal nor why they broke records last set 100+ years ago. If one claims the recent heat wave is caused by global warming, how then does one explain the similar heat wave 100 years back? It is all part of the problem with attributing short-term transient weather phenomena (heat, floods, drought, cold, early blossoms, late blossoms, more hurricanes, less but stronger hurricanes, tornadoes, etc) to climate change.

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Jun 2008 @ 1:32 PM

  326. Martin (324), I have no idea what database WMO used, but to get close to a 1.9 degree increase you have to pick Jan07 and a single month with a highly skewed drop around 1892 (from my GISS graph), “averages” be damned. Whatever the motivation, the result is sloppy, unprofessional, and incompetent. Ask them for a reference that they can not possibly provide that also matches their words?? We’re supposed to pay them any mind?? (I don’t get all the way to “fraudulent”, though. It has a very high bar… and is such an ugly word…)

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Jun 2008 @ 2:03 PM

  327. Henning @ 297. Nice way to distort my words so as to make a strawman. Private interests influence the legislative process. The existence of lobbying groups and the presence of former politicians in these groups are facts. The outcomes of lawmaking highly favorable to certain interests and not oriented toward the general public interest are facts too. Although it is far better than most, the US has plenty of corruption to go around. If everything in it was kosher, why did the energy task force proceedings remain secret? Because the public should not know how its best interest is served? That’s only an example.

    By the way, authorities did try to shut up Hansen. But,as you said, this is not Zimbabwe so there was only so far they could go.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 26 Jun 2008 @ 2:10 PM

  328. Rod asks in 325:

    If one claims the recent heat wave is caused by global warming, how then does one explain the similar heat wave 100 years back?

    If we believe the trend line, the new heat wave is likely to be longer and/or hotter than “similar” heat waves in the past.

    AGW predicts longer and hotter heat waves.

    What’s so hard to understand about this?

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 26 Jun 2008 @ 2:39 PM

  329. Jim Galasyn: “AGW predicts longer and hotter heat waves.”

    And also, as I understand it, more frequent heat waves — as well as heat waves occurring both earlier and later in the season than they used to do. And a particular threat to human well-being is the prediction that the nights during heat waves will be hotter than in the past, since a CO2 “enhanced” atmosphere will retain more heat during the night. The inability to cool off at night can be the difference between life and death for vulnerable individuals, particularly the elderly.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 26 Jun 2008 @ 3:15 PM

  330. Rod B (313) — I find it easier to use the regional example of Swiss glaciers. By 1885 CE (some say by 1850 CE, mostly) all the Swiss glaciers had stopped growing; CO2 @ 288 ppm in 1850 CE. In 1958 CE, with CO2 @ 315 ppm, glaciers retreating at about 4 m/y; at 12 m/y since 1980 CE.

    There is also the decadal averages from the HadCRUTv3 global temperature product:

    http://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/10yave.jpg

    as well as the global temperature reconstruction for the past 1200 years I previously linked. Putting all this together with CO2 concentrations already being at the peak of the Eemian interglacial in 1850 CE, I’d say some anthropogenic global warming was indeed occuring 100+ years ago.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Jun 2008 @ 4:52 PM

  331. Secular Animist (#316) what I’m saying is that we have to argue in terms of climate, and climate does not manifest in any one weather event. If we argue in terms of weather events, the denialists will counter with weather events. Instead, we have to couch our argument in terms of weather trends–that’s where our case is strong, because that’s where the science is.
    Rod’s heat wave is weather. The fact that we are having more heat waves than before is climate. A warm night is weather. A shift in temperature to warmer nights over an extended period is climate. We have to keep to the sceintific high ground, as it is the only vantage point we can defend.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 26 Jun 2008 @ 7:34 PM

  332. Philippe (327), I would not go to the extent that Henning does, but your characterization of the powerful big businesses is diametrically opposed to Congress’ incessant and chronic history of beating up on (and in public on TV if at all possible, with much flair and irrational grandstanding) oil companies, banks, financial institutions, energy companies, pharmaceuticals, energy support companies, telecommunications, computers and software enterprises, auto producers, large consumer goods outfits, etc., etc., ad nauseam. The large corporate influence sure doesn’t look like it’s paying off much.

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Jun 2008 @ 8:38 PM

  333. Jim (328), my curious question is unsophisticatedly simple. Why the hell did GW wait 100 years to show up significantly? And why following a year with a precipitous drop in global temperatures? Makes GW looked confused.

    [Response: This discussion is getting nowhere. Please keep the transparent strawman arguments for other sites. - gavin]

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Jun 2008 @ 8:47 PM

  334. David (330), can’t disagree with what you say, but it seems a stretch. True we started getting noticeable (though teeny) CO2 emissions in the late 1800s after we found commercial oil, which, as you say, propitiously came around the ~290ppm natural cyclical peak. (sidebar: Why is not CO2 being mitigated with the normal cyclical 100ppm drop? Too short a period to tell?) Doesn’t seem enough, but I certainly can not refute it — so I’ll give it to you. But what has this to do with the klutzy (at best) WMO?

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Jun 2008 @ 9:22 PM

  335. Gavin (333), I agree that Jim and I are starting to go around in circles and agree to desist. But a discussion of whether central Texas’ current “heat wave” is a direct result of AGW seems hardly a strawman.

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Jun 2008 @ 10:31 AM

  336. @326: Rod B:

    Ask them for a reference that they can not possibly provide

    Rod, try them. Stop assuming, implying, insinuating and start finding out.

    BTW you are wrong on the numbers. They are in the ball park for a difference with pre-industrial average. For scientists speaking out as scientists, ‘fraudulent’ has a rather lower bar than for, say, lawyers, politicians or business people, and includes all the practices you are alluding to.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 27 Jun 2008 @ 11:03 AM

  337. Rod, you’re not paying attention. What is actually in the language of those laws?
    Why was it that last time Congress had the oil executives in hearing, they did not madate them to be under oath?
    The tax breaks and subsidies (in the billions) that oil companies benefit from are enacted by Congress.
    Has Congress decided to use the buying power of the Government to bargain with pharmaceutical companies? No, Congress has actually made it impossible to do such a thing, ever. Media inflated posturing does not amount to action.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 27 Jun 2008 @ 1:11 PM

  338. Rod B (334) — The ‘normal’ 100 ppm drop comes with entering a stade (massive ice sheets). Baring AGW, next attempt is due in about 20,000 years.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Jun 2008 @ 1:43 PM

  339. Martin (336), you’re getting on my nerves ;-) , but in a nice way! My numbers ARE NOT wrong, given a margin of error from eyeballing graphs with 20-year (x axis) and 0.5 degree divisions. So I went to the source, Hanson’s GISS data base. The delta T from Jan07 to an average from 1880 to about 1910 (and admittedly I’m eyeballing the annual temp averages to get a ~30-year average) is +1.06 to 1.11 degrees; I said 1.1 to 1.2. From Jan1880 to Jan07 the change is 1.09 degrees; I didn’t previously estimate this. The difference from Jan1892 and Jan07 is 1.73 degrees; I said 1.7 to 1.8 guessing “around 1992-3″ Now maybe WMO is using a different data set, though I’m not aware of major differences between other data sets. What’s interesting is the 1.73 degrees above is the maximum difference between any two months from Jan1880 through Jan07 (or May08 for that matter). WMO’s “1.89 average” is either from a data base 9% deviant from Goddard’s worst case or they’re pulling it from where the sun don’t shine.

    If you insist, I could go with fraud — but still think it’s more blatant stupidity, …or maybe exuberant smart-ass.

    David (338), makes sense given the granularity of the graphs; thanks.

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Jun 2008 @ 2:26 PM

  340. Let’s take air conditioning for starters. Basically WIRED took a look at the carbon footprint of New England heating vs. Arizona cooling and jumped to the conclusion that air conditioning was intrinsically more efficient than heating. To see where they were led astray let’s consider a house sitting where you need to cool it by 20 degrees to be comfortable. The heat leaks into the house at a rate that is approximately proportional to this temperature difference, and the heat leaking in needs to be removed. Now, in order to move that heat from inside to outside, energy has to be expended. Given a fixed electric power usage (in watts), a better air conditioner can remove more heat per day than a worse one, but every air conditioner needs to expend some energy to move the heat. That’s just thermodynamics. Thank Youu realclimate

    Comment by web tasarım — 28 Jun 2008 @ 5:07 AM

  341. Kevin Kelly, founding editor of WIRED offers something interesting from his blog:

    “In a cover article in Wired this month Chris Anderson explores the idea that perhaps you could do science without having theories.

    This is a world where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace every other tool that might be brought to bear. Out with every theory of human behavior, from linguistics to sociology. Forget taxonomy, ontology, and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do? The point is they do it, and we can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.

    Petabytes allow us to say: “Correlation is enough.” We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.

    There may be something to this observation. Many sciences such as astronomy, physics, genomics, linguistics, and geology are generating extremely huge datasets and constant streams of data in the petabyte level today. They’ll be in the exabyte level in a decade. Using old fashioned “machine learning,” computers can extract patterns in this ocean of data that no human could ever possibly detect. These patterns are correlations. They may or may not be causative, but we can learn new things. Therefore they accomplish what science does, although not in the traditional manner.

    What Anderson is suggesting is that sometimes enough correlations are sufficient. There is a good parallel in health. A lot of doctoring works on the correlative approach. The doctor may not ever find the actual cause of an ailment, or understand it if he/she did, but he/she can correctly predict the course and treat the symptom. But is this really science? You can get things done, but if you don’t have a model, is it something others can build on?

    We don’t know yet. The technical term for this approach in science is Data Intensive Scalable Computation (DISC). Other terms are “Grid Datafarm Architecture” or “Petascale Data Intensive Computing.” The emphasis in these techniques is the data-intensive nature of computation, rather than on the computing cluster itself. The online industry calls this approach of investigation a type of “analytics.”

    from:
    http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/06/the_google_way.php

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 28 Jun 2008 @ 9:50 PM

  342. Richard P, very interesting and thought provoking. Is there (might there be) some aspect like a point of “diminishing to zero” returns, where recording more data just because its there (you can record temperatures at all the stations not just hourly but every minute, second, microsecond….) doesn’t give you any more information, and in fact might reduce the collective information and knowledge. But none-the-less our Data Intensive Scalable Computation will churn away and produce output that we can’t understand the basis of, and for all we might know is totally wrong — but we’ll never know. Is this feasible? Do we still charge ahead with the output? What if output after hours/days/months/years of peta/exabyte crunching is just…well…42?

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Jun 2008 @ 5:19 PM

  343. Richard Pauli brings up another half-a**ed idea from WIRED–science without theories.
    I say, “Absolute horse pucky.”

    I don’t care if your computer model can tell you what color of shirt God is wearing 10 years from now. If it doesn’t give you a conceptual understanding of the phenomena involved, their relative importance and the way they interact, it’s not worth the petabytes it takes to crunch it. Moreover, it is not science. There is a reason for theories, and it goes beyond simplification. Theories teach us which questions are interesting, and you won’t get that solely from crunching data.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Jun 2008 @ 5:51 PM

  344. Ray Ladbury (343) — The way science is conducted is changing. ‘Theory” might mean various things, but I suggest that increasingly science is being done with less human conceptual understanding and slowly, increased computer program understanding.

    While I haven’t expressed this well, being in a bit of a rush, consider the possibility that the computer programs will determine what questions are interesting.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 Jun 2008 @ 6:14 PM

  345. > sometimes enough correlations are sufficient….
    > A lot of doctoring works on the correlative approach.

    Yeh, and stomach ulcers correlate real well with stress.
    You need to know _what_all_ correlates to have an idea about where to look for a mechanism and suggest causation.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jun 2008 @ 6:34 PM

  346. Dave Benson (#344), Sorry, I just don’t buy it. The whole purpose of science is to increase HUMAN understanding. To the extent that models assist in that, they further the scientific process. However, even with the current use of models, way too many researchers take the output of the model as gospel rather than trying to understand it. I don’t preclude that machines can “think,” but we’re just nowhere near that point yet.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Jun 2008 @ 8:43 PM

  347. David, interesting thought, but scarry. When computers take over the conceptualizing and then even the questioning, we’re doomed. Probably faster than GW :-) .

    Hank, good point

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Jun 2008 @ 10:41 PM

  348. Rod #339, what about asking them where they have their reference average from? You know you want to know.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 30 Jun 2008 @ 1:29 AM

  349. @Rod #342
    … 42?
    Thanks for giving me my daily chuckle… about time to get Douglas Adams into this. Its a good thing to remind oneself from time to time that the answers given by a computer never outsmart the questions asked.

    Comment by Henning — 30 Jun 2008 @ 2:15 AM

  350. Rod B #339:

    …and you should use the “met stations only” (i.e., land only) GISS dataset, not the land-sea data set. Using the latter I reproduce your values (with Jan 1893 instead of 1892), with the former, much larger values: 1.33C and 2.62C, respectively.

    All this tells us it that whatever average they used, it (1) didn’t come from the instrumental record (at least GISTemp), and (2) falsifies your original cherry picking suggestion. (And like you, the cherry I would pick would be Jan 1893 :-) )

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 30 Jun 2008 @ 2:49 AM

  351. David B. Benson [344] I suggest that increasingly science is being done with less human conceptual understanding and slowly, increased computer program understanding.

    On the contrary, when used properly, increased computing capacity is increasing human conceptual understanding in science. Although I left AI ten years ago now, I’d still be pretty confident in saying no computer program is yet anywhere near understanding anything in the way a human being does. Human conceptual understanding of science is built on multiple layers of both innate (i.e. evolved) and culturally and individually learned understanding of the everyday world, and ability to manipulate it. There is interesting work in “e-science”, with which I’m somewhat involved – techniques for making the raw data-storage and computational power of computers more accessible and useful to scientists (in my case, specifically social and environmental scientists).

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 30 Jun 2008 @ 6:53 AM

  352. Martin, O.K. You just have a far more loose definition of “cherry picking” than even my light definition…

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Jun 2008 @ 11:22 AM

  353. Re # 344 David B. Benson “consider the possibility that the computer programs will determine what questions are interesting.”

    Interesting to whom, or what?

    If you mean interesting to humans, that implies an underlying theory to which the questions are relevant. If you mean interesting to computers, I would say, Who cares? What an intelligent computer thinks is important is of no relevance to me. Unless, of course, the computer has been programmed to identify questions that humans find interesting, in which case you again are dealing with an underlying theory.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 30 Jun 2008 @ 2:53 PM

  354. I seemed to have stirred up quite the honet’s nest via comment #344. I don’t find RealClimate to be an appropriate site to continue these observations/speculations. Those still interested might wish to learn a bit about bioinformatics, semi-automated medical diagnosis and other areas in which, increasingly, ‘the computers just do it’.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Jun 2008 @ 4:13 PM

  355. Rod, the reason for “… recording more data … at all the stations …”) is that we’re attempting to get the big picture without having the satellite sitting where the big picture is measured quite simply.

    We know the radiation balance for _other_ planets because we’ve backed far enough away from them to get the whole disk in the viewfinder and take one picture.

    Answer? Triana — languishing in its warehouse.

    Without Triana sitting out far enough away to image the whole visible side of the planet, continuously, the climatologists are putting together a patchwork of data. Satellite imagery at varying altitudes, at varying angles through the atmosphere, at intervals, with satellites wearing out, falling down, and being replaced by different instruments or none at all.

    All because we’re _too_close_ to measure the whole planet at one time, continuously.

    The government knows why Triana is still waiting. Don’t ask. Google search provides these interesting links, among much else, from the first page of hits:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triana_(satellite)
    “… In May 2008, a Freedom of Information Act request relating to DSCOVR was rejected by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy [2]…”

    NASA IT Security Warning Banner
    U.S. GOVERNMENT COMPUTER If not authorized to access this system, disconnect now. ..
    http://triana.gsfc.nasa.gov/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jun 2008 @ 6:43 PM

  356. Re 354 [David Benson]

    David, I worked (admittedly some time ago) on “semi-automatic medical diagnosis”. Computers are useful tools here, but they are not doing science, nor do they understand what they are doing, nor would any responsible clinician rely on them for a final diagnosis. While I was working in this area, I was interviewing a cardiologist. I asked him “When does your diagnostic problem-solving begin?”. He answered something like: “When the patient walks through the door. I see their sex and apparent age. I see how they walk, how they hold themselves, how they sit, their skin tone, their confidence or diffidence, whether they look anxious or depressed.” This type of perceptual expertise could be combined with reasoning about time, space and causation (the bits I was most interested in) which was far more complex and subtle than anything that can yet be automated.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 1 Jul 2008 @ 11:07 AM

  357. Nick Gotts (356) — I agree. Nonetheless, the progress this century so far in automated Bayesian reasoning, evolutionary computation and multi-agent sytems is rather impressive.

    More will surely come.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 1 Jul 2008 @ 1:57 PM

  358. David Benson,
    I agree! It’s a question of timescale.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 1 Jul 2008 @ 3:27 PM

  359. Nick and Dave, I’ve been unable to find the original von Neumann quote, but it is something to the effect that many consider that machines are incapable of performing certain undefinable tasks that humans can. Of course, if they could ever actually define what these tasks are, we could build a machine to perform them. Perhaps the strength of human intelligence is that it can perform indefinable tasks. Witness the difficulty we have even defining the scientific method exhaustively.
    In a larger sense, though, science is inherently a human activity. Quantum mechanics showed us that the world does not break down neatly into human concepts or perceptions, and yet we still have to define our science in terms of them. I think that if you divorce the human element from science, it ceases to be science. It may be something else quite worthwhile, and we may be able to learn from it, but it will be alien to our intelligence. I have to ask what good “science” will be if it does not increase human understanding.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jul 2008 @ 4:53 PM

  360. Ray Ladbury (359) — That is one perspective. I’m willing to debate it, but not here. Meet me at Tamino’s Open Thread?

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/

    Comment by David B. Benson — 1 Jul 2008 @ 6:30 PM

  361. After reading the posts here, I’ve taken the plunge and canceled my subscription to Wired. It was becoming too much like a techie version of Playboy anyway. Thanks for helping me make up my mind.

    Comment by Steven F. Scharff — 1 Jul 2008 @ 7:39 PM

  362. RE #341
    That sounds to me like the approach taken in Multivariate Statistical Process Control in Industrial Processes, which, since the advent of computers and digitally networked controls, is being used to do things like produce plastic film of a more uniform thickness. Basically,(and that is the extent of my knowledge, VERY basic), the computer program looks at a large amount of production line data (temperatures, pressures, PID loop coefficients, flow & feed rates, power consumption, relative humidity, anything that is already being measured and/or controlled, and sees how these correlate with say, product thickness. The software may tell you that as meas. A goes up, thickness goes up after T1 minutes; as control B is increased, thickness goes down after T2(

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 2 Jul 2008 @ 4:02 PM

  363. I think you engage in some questionable math, at least on the heating vs. a/c portion of the debate. In the NE, the example used in the WIRED article, 38% of the homes are heated by fuel oil in boilers that are, at best, 84% efficient (and most of them are far less than that, with older boilers being 76% efficient or less).

    Even in areas where natural gas is available, consumers do not get the advertised 96% – 98% efficient operation from the modern condensing appliances if they have in-floor radiant or radiator systems (the most common methods). The efficiency you achieve is determined by the return water temperature of the system in a condensing boiler, and at a return water temp of 140°F … common for those systems … your very expensive condensing boiler is about 85% efficient, perhaps a bit better than a newer oil boiler, but obviously not the figure cited in your article. The ASHRAE manual has the chart on the efficiency, which declines as the return water temperature rises, and while I cannot buy you a subscription to their service, the chart is reproduced at the bottom of http://www.donelsoncorp.com/techdata/venting.php .

    The other factor you have ignored is that it is very easy, and relatively inexpensive, to upgrade an a/c compressor to a more efficient model as they become available, giving those with a/c an easier upgrade path. In contrast, replacing your 84% efficient oil boiler with a high efficiency natural gas condensing boiler … if you have access to natural gas … can cost up to $10,000. It is unlikely to happen very often at those prices, which is one reason why the dirty, smelly, inefficient fuel oil continues to be used. At a real-world gain of only a few percentage points in efficiency, the upgrade cost has a payback that stretches into decades.

    Finally, you further stack the deck by using coal as the source for energy generation. Here in California, only 3% of our electricity is generated using coal, and more environmentally friendly natural gas and nuclear take a bigger role. And those oil boilers? They are illegal here, due to our superior air quality laws.

    Comment by Frank Hagan — 8 Jul 2008 @ 11:09 AM

  364. Your argument about heating vs cooling is bull. Fortunately, so is Wireds. :)

    You assume straight off that every time you turn on an airconditioner, you use coal to make the electricity. That doesn’t cut it. And you say that houses can be heated with natural gas. Well, they can in theory, but in practice, most people do not have gas pipes outside their house. So in fact, most heating will be done either with an oil heater, or, surprise, electricity. Which again will be just as coal fired as the coolers. :-) So, no, your counter argument is wrong.

    But Wired is also wrong. Yes, moving heat is more efficient than generating heat. So cooling is more efficient than heting by generating heat. But both Wired and you have missed out on a very simple fact: You can heat the house by moving energy as well! Basically, you take an air conditioner, but stick the cool bit outside and the hot bit inside, and hey presto! you got heating that is just as efficient as cooling.

    These heat exchanger systems exist, and work well down to well below freezing, and will heat your house on what may very well be clean electricity, and do it cheaply as well.

    Comment by Lennart Regebro — 10 Jul 2008 @ 11:22 AM

  365. Wired,Vogue, and the Newyorker…as well as many other magazines are owned by the same company. Some years ago I happened upon an article in the Newyorker talking about how dangerous SUV’s where and how they would be so much safer ( for those hit by one ) if they were unibody or unitized in construction( read no frame or composed of overlapping sheet metal like a cardboard box). The funniest part was that the author claimed that the reason the auto manufactures continued to make the trucks with full frames was out of pure greediness. According to the author, the SUV manufactures keep making their trucks with full frames because building them untilizing a unitized construction would be more expensive.

    Problem with this of course is that the claim is total B.S. In the early to mid sixties most american auto manufactures had already changed over to a unibody construction. And the reason that all of our cars are made this way today is because a sheetmetal frame/body utilizes less materials, is easier to make,are lighter, and cost less. Walter P. Chrysler himself claimed this very reason for swithching over to unibody construction. Cars today are made using unitized construction for the same reason boxes for moving are made of cardboard and not 2×4′s and wood.

    Comment by Bo — 21 Oct 2008 @ 4:34 PM

  366. Bo, you should check what you believe with the Google.
    You’re remembering (or rather mis-remembering) this article, from the 2004 New Yorker:
    http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html

    Check what he wrote in 2004 in the Google.
    Current search:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=truck+frame+unibody

    There you’ll find, for example, that this year this change is news, and considered newsworthy:

    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/hot_lists/car_shopping/pickup_corral/surge_of_the_unibody_truck_car_news

    Surge of the Unibody Truck – Car News
    Four years after the Honda Ridgeline made a startling debut, others are wading into car-based-pickup territory.

    BY ALISA PRIDDLE March 2008

    When the Honda Ridgeline burst onto the automotive scene as a unibody compact pickup truck concept at the 2004 Detroit auto show, it turned conventional thinking on its ear. Up to that point, pickups were, by definition, body-on-frame workhorses for lugging gear and towing. The fact that cabs continued to grow in size and amenities and the trucks were increasingly being used as family cars was irrelevant when it came to the frame.

    Then Honda did the unthinkable. It engineered a pickup on a car platform, with a clever in-bed trunk. And the industry watched ….
    ——end excerpt——-
    … watched, and waited. In 2008, some possible change.

    Gladwell was entirely correct. Your memory or your source got it wrong.

    Hey, I don’t trust my own recollection or things I read on opinion blogs either. Lesson is — check.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Oct 2008 @ 6:04 PM

  367. Bo, see also:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=ak87hDNumPjU&refer=home
    —-excerpt—–
    GM May Break Up SUV-Truck Marriage to Cut Fuel Use, Emissions

    By Jeff Green

    May 8 (2008) (Bloomberg) — General Motors Corp. may be forced to break up a seven-decade marriage of pickups and large sport- utility vehicles as Americans restrict the fossil-fuel diet of their transportation.

    Under pressure to produce a more fuel-efficient and cleaner- running line of vehicles, GM is investigating ways to design a lighter replacement for its biggest SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, without relying on a heavier pickup-truck frame, according to people familiar with the effort.

    The Tahoe and its predecessors have shared the design of the Chevy Silverado pickups since the model was introduced in 1965. While no decision has been made, GM engineers are considering a shift in 2012 to a car-like construction for successors to the Tahoe and other large SUVs, including the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade….

    —-end excerpt—–

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Oct 2008 @ 6:47 PM

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