Very interesting article. Just one minor correction:
“While it’s clearly true that some breakthroughs have happened through the work of a single person (special relativity is the classic case)”
I think you mean general relativity, not special. Around 1905 there were quite a few people working along the same line as Einstein (and to some extent drawing insights from each other). If Einstein hadn’t published his ideas, someone else (Poincaré, perhaps) would have come up with something very similar to special relativity within a short timeframe (1906/1907?).
General relativity was a different matter though. That really came out of the blue and required an extraordinary out-of-the-box thinking on Einstein’s part.
Although, I wonder — in response to “scientist-as-hero-against-establishment” (i.e. part of the Galileo Gambit), why is the counterexample of Einstein never brought up? He fits the bill of a lone scientists (well, accounts vary on the role of his first wife, but…) whose ideas were so contrary to the establishment that the establishment… turned them into the new consensus after they passed peer review and stood up to observational evidence. He even had a Nobel Prize, became the first modern scientific celebrity, and was so recent that many folk are only one or two generations removed from him. Seems the perfect counter to those who claim the heroic lone scientist is always suppressed.
There is something that needs to be made very explicit, very plain and very simple and must be repeated loudly and often. It is:
What scientists Believe is the following:
Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or another instrument.] There are no conspiracies in Science. All scientists are the opposition to any idea, not just all other scientists.
Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments and a simple absolute lack of faith in everything else. Why? Science works. You are reading this on a desktop computer, a product of engineering made possible by Quantum Mechanics. Religion doesn’t work.
Science is the ultimate Protestant Reformation in which Religion is reformed out of existence. As I remember the Protestant Reformation, it happened because the invention of printing press enabled everybody to own and read and interpret the bible. Priests were no longer necessary when everybody could read the source of knowledge. Science takes the next step: Ancient text is not the source of knowledge when every person can find out the truth by carefully following a procedure called “Science” for him/herself. There is another implicit step here. The implicit step is realizing that ancient people did not have some source of knowledge that we do not. In fact, we have enormous knowledge and “The Ancients” did not. Even people in the middle ages had technology that the ancients did not, such as crossbows or even longbows. Yet there are still people who believe that “The Ancients” knew things that we don’t. I find that describing people as old stone age, new stone age, copper age, iron age, mideval, etc does not work. What works is describing “The Ancients” as “just a bunch of wild indians”. The description that works is inaccurate in the details, but it gets the correct message across. It is understood. This is said with apologies to stone age native Americans who were no more stone-age than stone age Europeans or stone age middle easterners or stone age anybody else.
If anything truthful HAD been told 2000 years ago, languages change so fast that the “second coming” would have been required in 25 years. If the language didn’t change, you know from the game of “telephone” that 6 re-tellings is enough to completely scramble the story. Nobody wrote any “gospel” down until 50 years had passed, and then it was in a different language, introducing translation errors.
In the book: “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin & Heidi Toffler 2006 Chapter 19, FILTERING TRUTH, page 123 lists six commonly used filters people use to find the “truth”. They are:
4. Mystical revelation or religion [another name for several forms of mental illness]
7. I would add a seventh that our legal system uses: Combat. A trial is nothing more than a ceremonial name-calling contest. That the legal system is nonsense is proven by the fact that the Governor of Illinois had to commute all of the death sentences in his state because so many of the convicted were proven by evidence based on Science to be innocent. No court of law ever proved anything.
8. I would add an eighth that we call Democracy: Voting. This is not the same as consensus because consensus requires unanimity. Voting is applicable when Science is not yet ready to make a determination, as in politics.
9. I would add a ninth. Human/Ape Instinct. We all behave as dictated by instincts and drives that were created over the 400 Million years of chordate evolution that preceeded the invention of Science. These instincts and drives are no longer appropriate most of the time now, but they are hard-wired programs in our brains and stomachs that we cannot over-ride without severe training, if at all.
As the Tofflers say: “Science is different from all the other truth-test criteria. It is the only one that itself depends on rigorous testing.” They go on to say: “In the time of Galileo . . . the most effective method of discovery was itself discovered.” [Namely Science.] The Tofflers also say that: “The invention of scientific method was the gift to humanity of a new truth filter or test, a powerful meta-tool for probing the unknown and—it turned out—for spurring technological change and economic progress.” All of the difference in the way we live now compared to the way people lived and died 500 years ago is due to Science. The other truth filters have contributed misery, confusion, war, fanaticism, persecution, terrorism, inquisitions, suicide bombings, false imprisonments, obesity, diabetes and other atrocities.
Reference: “Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul 1980 University of California Press. In this book on the Eloges of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.]
Page 106 says: “Nature isn’t just the final authority, Nature is the Only authority.”
Good insights. Even Watson and Crick had Barbara McClintock and a brilliant Linus Pauling saying that it was impossible for DNA to have such a conformation. I, myself know several people who are well educated (non scientists) who cling to the idea of Lamarckian acquired characteristics.
Gavin on the one hand kudos for cleverly connecting this mini-milestone in biology thinking with climate skeptics. However like so much of the dialog here this is too much of a straw man argument.
Unlike Lamarckians, most critics of the prevailing concensus on climate change agree with the overwhelming data that supports global warming and many agree most of that warming is caused by human activity. What worries responsible critics is how most media and most of the political interpretations have distorted the message to suggest we are at the brink of environmental collapse/catastrophe.
This is of concern because we face many extraordinary challenges and wise allocation of resources suggests that massive CO2 reduction is massively expensive and will have minimal impact for decades and perhaps centuries.
Our society is simply too dependant on carbon combustion in all its various forms. There is no way around it. As such it is unlikely that there will be a meaningful near term reduction in CO2 emissions and projected atmospheric concentrations. Forget about stabilization, CO2 concentrations are accelerating.
Currently, politicians can either accept or deny that CO2 causes global warming. There are pros and cons to each position with very little that anybody can do about it no matter which tact they take. However, since climate change is so slow, either position is totally viable politically because neither position can really do anything to control CO2 levels.
Unfortunately some people have resorted to exaggeration in an attempt to advance their position. This is true for both sides of the debate. So although the science is technically settled for the most part, the political turmoil will continue for a very long time.
The parallel goes even further. When Kammerer says:
“Take a very pertinent case. The next generation of Americans will be born without any desire for liquor if the prohibition law is continued and strictly enforced”
he uses the same impossible to falsify language of the climate contrarians. That prediction doesn’t count, Lamarckians would say, because, prohibition wasn’t strictly enough enforced. We hear similar language today
A good book on methods for changing minds and behavior:
Reference: “Influencer” by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler.:
Step 1: Set an example that is observable. The “Mad” scientist idea is untenable once they see that you are a nice person.
Step 2: Tell stories. People react negatively to being told that they are wrong. Tell a long [but not tall] story instead. Soap operas on radio have helped slow the spread of AIDS.
Step 3: Demonstrations work better than instructions. Vicarious experiences cause brain neurons to light up as if the viewer were performing the same action. Instructions are not understood. Simple experiments are good. They may not know what the words you use mean.
Step 4: Make sure they have a way out of whatever their problem is. If you don’t solve their problem, they just give up and continue their old ways. They DO have some sort of problem. What is it? Observe the opposition carefully to determine what their problem is.
That book says: Change 1 or 2 vital behaviors. They may seem like very minor things, but the result can be major.
I am on page 84, so I have just started reading this book.
Not from the book: The best deal would be to get science into the public schools. Make science a laboratory course in elementary school. Require 4 years of physics, 4 years of chemistry, 4 years of biology and 8 years of math of all students in high school.
“The point is that without Lamarckianism, none of the striving and achievement of a parent impacts their progeny’s genetic material. That was a depressing thought for many people (what is the point of striving at all?)”
So strange; did they never expect to inherit money, infrastructure, scientific and technological advancements? (link to climate – do they never expect ‘green-tech’?, etc.)
Your recount of the infamous Kammerer story and its possible relevance to the motivation of many deniers may be on the mark. But you must also allow, that some skeptics that you lump with deniers, may occasionally have valid points to make. And maybe they deserve more attention here – than analysis of the ‘philosophical’ beliefs of deniers.
I’m definitely not a ‘denier’. However, from my naive frame of reference – a biologist who is more expert on Kammerer and Watson/Crick than on realclimate – I would much prefer seeing what you have to say about Pat Keating’s latest article “Simple radiative models for surface warming and upper-troposphere cooling” in the Int. J. Climatol. (2008), just published online. I find it quite compelling, as an ‘explanation’ for the probable significance of the differences between the radiosonde data and GCM’s predictions of tropical environmental lapse rates – as effectively ‘poo pooed’ in your recent Santer et al. article. (My acute interest is mostly on the possibility that GISS Model E may regularly underestimate tropical precipitation – just because it neglects the radiative ‘subtleties’ that Keating addresses?)
[Response: Actually most models overestimate tropical precipitation (by around 10%) compared to the satellite climatologies (which may be underestimates in any case). I don’t know where the ‘overestimate’ idea comes from. I haven’t read Keating (2008), but I will at some point and possibly address it then. -gavin]
Instead, ideas get accepted because of the increasing weight of evidence that supports them – and that usually comes in dribs and drabs. A replication here, a theoretical insight there, a validated prediction etc. Only in hindsight does there appear to be a clean sequence of breakthroughs that can be seen to have led inexorably to the new conclusions
A common meme amongst the contrarians is that the IPCC et al came to the conclusion of GHG-forced warming faute de mieux or by elimination – it cannot be anything else therefore it must be CO2. Leaving aside the question of the literature on detection and attribution, what I would find useful when fighting the good fight would be some examples of succesfully validated predictions from the theory, preferably that are unambiguously due to GHGs and with supporting peer-reviewed evidence. It is an article of faith among the target audience that models are tweaked or trained to reproduce past trends (I know I know, let’s not repoen that one) so any model-free examples would be useful additions to the toolkit.
I can think of Hansen’s Scenario B, the IPCC model projections published in the TAR (which showed a projected midrange surface temperature gain of c0.35c from 1990-2010, a good agreement with the observed trend so far, sorry Lucia), ditto the accelerating sea level rise, Arctic ice loss, stratospheric cooling (does this effectively rule out solar forcing?), SSTs and ocean heat content, the observed increase in atmospheric water vapour as reported recently in GRL.
Any other low-hanging fruit? Hurricane intensity seems controversial, what about the DTR?
“today there are examples of climate contrarians who are creationists or anti-vaccine campaigners. Though possibly this is just coincidence (or is it….?).”
There are examples indeed. But the majority of “contrarians” are in fact scientists, including climate scientists. And “there are examples” of climate alarmists who are lawyers, politicians and other professional spin doctors. It is not a coincidence.
Thankfully, as for Darwinism vs Lamarckism, we are talking about a scientific issue. Given enough time, the sum of good objective data will convince (most) everyone.
Comment by Manny, in Canada — 7 Dec 2008 @ 3:24 PM
Not relavent to the post…
I wonder if the next generation of space observatories: http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/TPF/tpf_earths.cfm
…could be useful in establishing the bounds of Milankovitch orbital cycles?
We should find many rocky planets orbiting Sol-sized suns, at various orbital eccentricacies. Id think some of these brainstormed telescopes should be able to tell if a planet has liquid water, ice, or some combo. Maybe the phase states for other substances too. So if a planet is found that has a certain orbital eccentricacy, yet has more or less water than expected, it may be because there are holes in existing Milankovitch theory that could be plugged by exoplanet observations. There are many other factors including geology that won’t be observable. If the observatories are powerful enough to tell atmospheric compositions, it could rule out many factors. Just an idea that maybe hasn’t been considered, and maybe should be considered in the suite of instruments that will be used by these fantastic spacecraft.
I’m not sure how changing the subject advances any understanding of the climate science “from climate scientists” that realclimate purports to promote. The proprietors of this site have been admirable in their impatience for the non sequitur, and I look forward to their returning to the topic. This straw man’s legs are wobbling before he can even stand.
Hansen et al 1988 had a baseline starting point of 1960 at O. (You could perhaps use 1985 as the starting point as well since the temp was very close to the same 0 that year (0.1C) and that was the last official annual temperature data available at the time of the model predictions.
Scenario B projected a temperature increase of 0.85C by 2008.
GISS temperature increase from 1960 to 2008ytd: 0.412C
[Response: This is off topic – but also a great example of cherry picking. The trends in annual temperature anomaly in scenario B from 1984-2007 (which is when the projections started) are 0.25+/-0.05 deg C/dec (95%, OLS). That is equivalent to 0.57 deg C over 23 years – not 0.85!. The changes in the annual GISTEMP indices over the same period are 0.24 +/- 0.07 and 0.21+/-0.06 deg C/dec. Thus despite the slight over-estimate of the forcings in scenario B (by about 10%), the long term trends are well matched and certainly within the respective uncertainties. Analyses that don’t take into account the differences that short term weather makes are bogus. – gavin]
Considering the nature of the overall problem we’re discussing (Earth’s climate), I’d add a few years of Earth Science to the list of high school courses. In fact, part of the AGW awareness problem may be rooted in the fact that Earth Science is usually not taught as a serious course in high school. Earth Science is no more an applied area of science than is Life Science, and it’s as important in the long run.
Joe (#6), people who “agree with the overwhelming data that supports global warming and … agree most of that warming is caused by human activity” are not climate skeptics/deniers/delayers/contrarians. Quite the reverse, that is the consensus view.
Unlike Lamarckians, most critics of the prevailing concensus on climate change agree with the overwhelming data that supports global warming and many agree most of that warming is caused by human activity. What worries responsible critics is how most media and most of the political interpretations have distorted the message to suggest we are at the brink of environmental collapse/catastrophe.
I do not quite follow you, if these critics ‘agree with the overwhelming data that supports global warming’, then they are part of the consensus, right? In that case Gavin’s article was not meant for them and there is no straw man. What Gavin had in mind is the group of loud and irresponsible scientists, journalists and bloggers that categorically reject any notion of human-caused climate change and get more attention than quality of their arguments warrants. (See ‘Why don’t op-eds get fact checked?’)
But you’ve made me curious, who are your responsible critics?
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 7 Dec 2008 @ 6:22 PM
Joe #6 says
“This is of concern because we face many extraordinary challenges and wise allocation of resources suggests that massive CO2 reduction is massively expensive and will have minimal impact for decades and perhaps centuries.”
Your point being ?
Scientific American (October) presents evidence for an extinction event at 1000ppm (CO2). That’s beyond our lifetimes, what 100+ years, so lets ignore it …
Joseph Hunkins, The fact is that we cannot preclude catastrophic consequences if we allow business as usual to continue. Indeed, we can show that such consequences are quite plausible and that some are an inevitable consequence of warming. What is more, not all ghg reduction strategies are costly–many actually save money. Certainly, the cost of many measures pales in comparison to the trillions of dollars the American taxpayer is on the hook for wrt the Wall Street bailout, and the consequences of climate change could be more dire than a financial meltdown.
The fact of the matter is that we need to do what makes sense to mitigate risk, while at the same time improving the science to better estimate risk and developing strategies to ameliorate adverse consequences of a changing climate. I do risk reduction as part of my day job. It is simply irresponsible to ignore an unbounded risk.
The point is that without Lamarckianism, none of the striving and achievement of a parent impacts their progeny’s genetic material. That was a depressing thought for many people (what is the point of striving at all?), and hence there was a clear non-scientific yearning for Lamarckian inheritance to be correct.
This is absurd – obviously Darwinian evolution rewards success: if a parent is successful in raising their young, their young have a better chance of survival. The only difference is that Lamarkism allows the parent any ideological definition of “success”, where Darwinism restricts that to raising the child well – this is obviously offensive to the sensibilities of numerous old-school oligarchs, who simply believe having shite loads of money should make their children good people, while conveniently ignoring the need to nurture.
Which makes this a perfect analogy for climate science – the fundamental reason that climate science isn’t already widely accepted with large sections of the non-scientific public is that it conflicts with their world view. The economic fallacy of an infinitely expanding economy within a finite ecological system is being harshly tested, and it will take excessive amounts of evidence to overcome the world view that holds it.
As a geochemist with many \denialist\ colleagues, I find the topic of this post fascinating. At least in Kammerer’s case he did not have evidence such as DNA to blatantly ignore. But what I find strange in the current climate are academics/ scientists who want potificate on AGW from a point of ignorance. Just one example – why does a geologist such as Prof Ian Plimmer steadfastly refuse to understand that his model for CO2 from mid-oceanic ridges is just plain wrong when the carbon isotopic data is considered. Surely his geology department has an isotopic expert who could explain it all to him. Personally I just challenge my denialist colleagues to publish their ideas with the promise that if they can prove AGW is all wrong then great fame will follow. Do others have different approaches to this problems, noting that telling people that they are \off-the-planet\ does not help relationships.
Watson and Crick — I remember reading something about them in Newsweek a few years back, about how it was actually a woman scientist who made the discovery, and they stole the idea from her. The unrecognized lone woman science heroine :) But I’m not sure if that’s the same theory you’re referring to here.
Anyway, when I was drawing water from a well in India some years back I made the comment it must have been a woman who invented the pulley, since women traditionally have drawn and carried the water. My sister-in-law said it was a man, So&So Pulley. To which I replied, Mrs. Pulley must have actually invented it, then her husband got the credit.
“First, there were clear philosophical motives for supporting Lamarckism (as there are for denying human effects on climate change)”
That point can work on the other side also.
There are clear philosophical motives for supporting AGW as well. I think it’s clear the majority of contributors to this site have philosophical positions (before considering climate effects) objecting to modern high consumption lifestyles.
Is if fair to apply this argument to denialists and not to alarmists?
[Response: I don’t know who you talking about. I have never expressed any dislike of modern lifestyles, and my opinion of the radiative impact of increasing GHGs is (maybe surprisingly to you) not correlated with any supposed consequence. This is the difference between science and wishful thinking. If CO2 was not a greenhouse gas and did not make the oceans more acidic there would be no need to worry about it, or the energy that is derived from releasing it. – gavin]
RE #16 & “And ‘there are examples’ of climate alarmists who are lawyers, politicians and other professional spin doctors. It is not a coincidence. Thankfully, as for Darwinism vs Lamarckism, we are talking about a scientific issue. Given enough time, the sum of good objective data will convince (most) everyone” (emphasis mine).
The problem, it seems to me IS time, plus the false-positive avoiding, conservative nature of science.
Environmentalists, policy-makers, and persons concerned about life on planet earth would be more interested in avoiding a false negative (assuming AGW is not happening & doing nothing about it, when in fact it is happening).
Now, since the purported harms from AGW are enoromous (esp those from tipping into climate hysteresis), AND mitigating AGW is quite beneficial to one’s finances and the economy, without lowering living standards or productivity — at least down to a 3/4 reduction in GHGs for rich nations — then we don’t really need much scientific confidence that AGW is happening. Any decent person would have started mitigating at least by 1990, well before the first studies reached .05 alpha-level significance in 1995. We should have already reduced our GHG emissions here in the U.S. at least by 50% cost-effectively. We’ve had 20 yrs to do so.
I think contrarians are the alarmists — they’re alarming people that AGW mitigation will harm us economically and bring on totalitarian dictatorship. Where is their evidence for this at .05 significance? And their evidence that AGW is NOT happening (with the null hypothesis that it is happening)?
A person who informs people there is fire in a theater when there really is a fire, and does so in a calm manner that allows them to exit peacably is not an alarmist.
Straw man argument is a perfect description of this article. The genetic arguments of Darwinism vs Lamarckism which is now a hard science is as far as you can get from the ‘soft science’ of global warming alarmists vs skeptics as you can get. It’s not like you could just stick to the data and make your arguments from there. Currently 2008 is turning out to be the coldest year since 2000, ok, normal variations in a trend if the trend was indeed upward, but then again ‘depends on whose data you believe’. Some say temps are up or stable or downward, and that is the problem with all these theories on it warming. There is definitely climate change, but climate change is the norm. What is the perfect temp? Who decides what the perfect temperature is? I personally like the 1400’s but my Inuit friends like the 1810’s.
RE #4 & “Science is the ultimate Protestant Reformation in which Religion is reformed out of existence.”
That’s assuming religion & science are (in our era) iso-mor-phic. They are not. In the ancient past “science,” religion, philosophy, ethics, history, art, and such were all rolled into one. I teach mythology and suggest the ancients in their myths used the best “science” (observations, theories) of their day. They could observe the sun rising in the east and heading westward. Their theory of the “elements” and nature was anthro-po-mor-phic (based on what they knew about themselves and human relationships — opposite today’s mechanistic view of the human body and society). Think of the in-cest-uous gods and goddess of ancient Egypt involved in human intrigues, who were the “elements” (the sun, earth, air, etc), as being sort of like their periodic table of the elements and “chemistry.”
But ancient religion is more than ancient “science,” it is also a guide to living one’s life and healing society, moral lessons; it’s art, poetry, drama, and ritual; it’s their entertainment center.
Today these are separated into different spheres. Science is a belief system that deals with the empirical material world & is quite powerful in its realm; religion is both a belief and value system that deals with the known & unknown/unknowable (by science).
Believing God is truth (among other things), I would say that religious persons of today who do not accept science (changeable tho it be) are committing sin. Those who hold to creationism or intelligent design, refusing to accept (non-Lamarckian) evolution, are perhaps committing sin — maybe a minor one like lying. Those who don’t accept what the climate scientists say about AGW & refuse to mitigate it perhaps committing a serious sin.
It’s really counterproductive to viciously attack religion and religious persons. We should instead all be working together, religious and atheist alike, in mitigating global warming.
Lynn, you have a very evolved point of view on religion and science. It was quite a pleasure to read your post. Pity that so many have to perpetuate the false dichotomy.
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 8 Dec 2008 @ 2:46 AM
The point is that without Lamarckianism, none of the striving and achievement of a parent impacts their progeny’s genetic material. [….].
This is absurd – obviously Darwinian evolution rewards success: if a parent is successful in raising their young, their young have a better chance of survival.
It is not absurd, it is correct. What is important are the words: “genetic material”. Good parents can make their offspring stronger, healthier, smarter, whatever, but it can not alter them genetically.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 8 Dec 2008 @ 6:15 AM
#32 Doc Sief:
I think you can not used the ‘hardness’ of a science as a criterium for it usefulness. The first problem is that there is no formal method to assess the ‘hardness’ of a science. I would argue that medical science is as soft as climate science, yet we all reap the benefits of it.
The issue about climate change is NOT to get some optimal temperature. Nobody ever said that. You are creating a straw man here.
The issue is preventing unforseen and nasty consequences that come from tinkering with something you don’t understand thoroughly. We are a bit like a 7-year old messing around with daddy’s car to make it go faster.
The message from the AGW camp is stopping the tinkering, not trying to get a desired result.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 8 Dec 2008 @ 6:52 AM
Edward Greisch, in his never-ending quest to make friends and influence people, writes:
Nobody wrote any “gospel” down until 50 years had passed, and then it was in a different language, introducing translation errors.
Al the gospels were very likely written down before 70 AD, which would put them within 37 years or less of Jesus’s death, and Thiede and Ancona think they have a fragment of Matthew which they can date to 66 AD. And it wasn’t in a different language. Greek was the lingua franca, the trade language, of the whole Mediterranean basin area, and Jesus very likely spoke Greek in the street and Aramaic at home, the way a modern-day Moroccan might speak French in the street and Arabic at home.
We all behave as dictated by instincts and drives that were created over the 400 Million years of chordate evolution that preceeded the invention of Science. These instincts and drives are no longer appropriate most of the time now, but they are hard-wired programs in our brains and stomachs that we cannot over-ride without severe training, if at all.
The human evolutionary specialization is flexibility of behavior. The whole point of human beings are that we are programmable. Very little human behavior is hardwired. Blaming human social problems on our “animal instincts” is pseudoscience, not science.
Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Dec 2008 @ 8:03 AM
My understanding (and clearly limited since I am not a biologist) of Lamarckism is that biological evolution is driven by inheritance of acquired characteristics (giraffe getting a longer and longer neck). So I guess I am confused about how that supports “intelligent design.” If a mother with a torn limb will have children with torn limbs, does this really create the “perfect species” as “intelligent design” intended?
Also, while Darwinism is the stronger basis for the theory of evolution, we now know that some acquired characterisitics can be passed onto offspring if the acquired changes affect the parent’s genetic material. So Lamarck’s idea wasn’t 100% wrong. He just didn’t have good data to back it up and it only explains some special cases, not the general mechanism of evolution.
The whole point of human beings are that we are programmable. Very little human behavior is hardwired. Blaming human social problems on our “animal instincts” is pseudoscience, not science.
I know this is OT, but couldn’t resist to react.
You should study human behaviour in war. How quickly all civilization (programmable behaviour) is abandoned and humans revert to their hardwired behaviour. Take for instance Germany in the 2nd World War. This was a nation that produced people like Goethe, Bach, Nietzsche, Einstein and Schweitzer!
Much of our day-to-day behaviour may be programmed, but it is not more than skin deep.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 8 Dec 2008 @ 8:57 AM
Regarding Hansen’s Scenario A,B,C – one can do their own math with these two links from GISTemp
I actually think the dinosaurs = bird controversy is a little more typical of the way scientific consensus develops and the way scientists treat their dissenters. For one thing it relies less on dramatic events like the exposure of scientific fraud. Also, Feduccia and his followers are still bonafide scientists with real accomplishments (like, perhaps, Lindzen). Their views on this particular issue, however, have become incresasingly marginalized.
In Response 22 Ann van der Bom asks of Joe Hunkins (response 6): “…who are your responsible critics?”
Joe doesn’t seem to have replied yet, but he may have been thinking of people such as meteorologist Roger Pielke Snr. and his colleagues at Univ of Colorado and elsewhere.
Pielke Snr’s view of the climate change consensus is summarised by the following extract from a 2008 article in Physics Today:
“The 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group I presents a narrow view of the state of climate science. Attempts to significantly influence regional and local-scale climate based on controlling carbon dioxide emissions alone cannot succeed since humans are significantly altering the global climate in a variety of diverse ways beyond the radiative effect of CO2.”
That certainly reads to me like a criticism, although whether it counts as responsible or not is perhaps a subjective judgment.
For more from the Pielke Snr. stable see his blog at climatesci.org
Ahh, a rhetorical question AGW deniers/obstructionists are currently so fond of asking.
Why, the temperature range to which your species and all of the species it depends on for survival are adapted to.
The temperature range that its technology and infrastructure are designed to withstand and function in.
The temperature range that human civilization developed to cope with.
gavin wrote: “… once someone starts accepting one class of illogical arguments, that leads them to accept others that aren’t really connected, but share some of the same characteristics … Koestler himself became a big proponent of parapsychology.”
Parapsychology has nothing to do with “logic” and everything to do with empirical evidence.
In his very interesting essay, Gavin mentions non-scientific or “philosophical” tendencies to embrace or reject certain scientific notions.
I have noted in previous comments on this site what I see as a parallel between the pseudo-skeptical rejection of climate science and the equally pseudo-skeptical rejection of parapsychology.
In both cases, what is purported to be “skepticism” is actually dogmatic, obstinate denialism that is (1) driven by a priori, non-scientific beliefs that certain phenomena cannot possibly be real, hence no amount of evidence can ever be sufficient to establish their reality; and (2) more often than not comes from people who are unfamiliar with the science at issue.
How many people who reject parapsychology as “illogical” are familiar, in detail, with the parapsychological research documented by Dean Radin in his books The Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds? How many of them reject parapsychology because they have studied this information in detail, understand it, and have specific and substantive objections to it?
How many of them reject parapsychology because they know hardly anything about it but already know that it is “illogical”, “superstition”, etc. and will therefore never, ever read any such book as Radin’s? How many of them believe that the only opinions about parapsychology that can be trusted and have validity are those of non-parapsychologists who know little about the details and substance of psi research?
The temperature range human civilzation can cope with is very wide.
According to the IPCC, agriculture productivity is expected to increase with rising temperatures.
[Response:Not true. You should read the IPCC AR4 WGII report more closely In the tropics, there is a projected decline in cereal crop productivity for even very moderate warming. Only in the extratropics, does productivity of certain crops increase (due to longer growing seasons), and this is for only moderate warming, for higher-end warming scenarios, even here productivity decreases. And a caveat to all of the above it neglects potential decreases in water availability and soil moisture in many of these regions, i.e. even the above may be a best case scenario. -mike]
A good thing since CO2 levels are not just rising, but accelerating!
Hugh R., I think everyone here is aware of Rp Sr./Jr.. I am not sure that they are elements in the set that Gavin is targeting. They do accept that adding CO2 has to warm things. They just seem focused on casting doubt on how much. It would be one thing if they took a consistent position, but one month they’re tackling land use. The next, they’re trying to cast doubt on models (while not quite understanding them, it seems). I’ve never seen them address the physics and present an alternative explanation that sheds light on how climate works–paleoclimate, perturbations like volcanic eruptions, etc.–without significant CO2 forcing. I have to say, I don’t find his arguments particularly cogent or deep. It’s as if he’s saying: “Well, we probably shouldn’t treat this cancer, since you have a family history of heart disease that will probably kill you anyway.”
Andrew 53: However, the expanding desserts and the removal of much of the summer growing season from the Mid West breadbasket and the uncounted leagues of the Russian grasslands mean that although productivity has gone up, that won’t last long and will have less land to work with anyway.
“The temperature range human civilzation can cope with is very wide.”
We can’t possibly know that for sure. We like to be optimistic, sure, but I for one don’t think that food and water shortages (which ARE predicted by the IPCC reports) are going to be all that beneficial for civilized society.
And what exactly is “very wide”? Two degrees C? Four? Six? More?
What is “cope”? Flourishing, or status quo, or just having homo sapiens survive?
But perhaps I’m wrong, and a temperature rise that leads to great difficulties will bring out the best in humans, and we’ll be learn to be cooperative, generous, and think of long-term consequences of our actions. Given our history, however …. mmmm, probably not.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite sayings: In nature there are no rewards or punishments, only consequences.
The confidence level of the impact to tropical regions and for further warming is between medium to low.
So, while there may be a negative impact, we can also build good irrigation systems.
Besides that, the biggest threat to food supplies is not global warming.
In mid- to high-latitude regions, moderate warming benefits
cereal crop and pasture yields, but even slight warming
decreases yields in seasonally dry and tropical regions(medium confidence).
Modelling results for a range of sites find that, in temperate regions,
moderate to medium increases in local mean temperature (1 to
3°C), alongwith associated CO2 increase and rainfall changes, can
have small beneficial impacts on crop yields. At lower latitudes,
especially the seasonally dry tropics, even moderate temperature
increases (1 to 2°C) are likely to have negative yield impacts for
major cereals, which would increase the risk of hunger. Further
warming has increasingly negative impacts in all regions (medium
to low confidence)
Andrew: #57: Um. The medium confidence seems to apply both to the “even slight warming decreases yields in seasonally dry and tropical regions” and “In mid- to high-latitude regions, moderate warming benefits cereal crop and pasture yields”. You can’t selectively state “According to the IPCC, agriculture productivity is expected to increase with rising temperatures.” and then turn around and ignore statements with the same level of confidence that don’t agree with your hypothesis.
Also, irrigation depends on access to water. Water is already an issue in many places worldwide, and climate change will make water availability worse in many regions during key seasons. Increased use of dams may ameliorate the problem that snowmelt and mountain runoff keeps coming earlier, but those dams lead to increased evaporation and other environmental problems. Underground aquifers are being depleted unsustainably already, and use of desalinization is expensive and increases energy use dramatically which makes it even more likely that we will exceed “moderate” levels of warming.
Also, human civilization can survive a wide range of temperatures. However, all of our infrastructure is built with the current climate in mind, and significant changes to that climate will result in the need for expensive adaptation – and in many cases, that adaptation is likely to be reactive and not anticipatory (eg, we’ll see many heat wave deaths before more air conditioners are installed, or we’ll see intense storm and flood deaths before appropriate dikes are built or habitation moved away from flood zones, etc. etc.)
I wouldn’t place too much confidence in better irrigation systems. Part of the problem is evaporation loss– this is simply huge in California (if you fill a shallow basin with water and leave it in the sun you will see why). On top of that, there is demand. There is a reason that the LA river is now used for car-chase scenes — there is hardly any water in it anymore.
Transporting water, dealing with altered rainfall patterns — some of it may benefit some areas, but some may not. The best you can hope for is a wash, and that is not good enough for anything like sustainability.
If you want to see how a modern society can fall apart when there is any stress on the system, just look at the former USSR. In the center (Moscow and the old RSFSR) things sort of held together. In the wastern portions — the baltics, the old Warsaw Pact — most countries were connected to the infrastructure in neighboring countries. So people were able to go about their lives.
Go to Tajikstan and other parts of Central Asia and the situation was very different. THe infrastructure — regular shipments of goods and energy from the center — dried up. No money. No goods. Nothing anymore. All of those countries descended into civil unrest for years, and in the case of Tajikstan a brutal civil war.
Now, imagine the rain stops in Kansas. And in Nebraska. Imagine the farmers can’t grow anything but drought-resistant crops anymore — say, olives and dates. Fresno becomes a true desert. On top of that, the summer in the Dakotas — already pretty dry — gets even hotter.
Toss in a northward movement of rainfall patterns, just for fun. So you move all the productive land out of the midwest into Canada, and get a dust bowl again in Iowa and southern Illinois. How long you think we could keep much of the Midwest and Mountain West operating?
I have been having an email debate with a climate change skeptic, and he has offered to give me space in his newsletter to answer the following questions (see below). I am not a scientist, I work in environmental policy, and so I don’t have specific answers to these as I don’t directly use models in my work.
Can anyone help?
This is what he has written:
“From our research, we did not find a convincing case that the warming observed was due primarily to human activity, namely the burning of fossil fuels and other activities which contribute ‘excess’ carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. When we informed our readers of those results, we cautioned them that our findings should not be taken as conclusive. And, we urged them to conduct their own research. We invited them to share with us any of their findings which came to a different conclusion. And, we offered to publish their contrary findings so that our readers could see both sides of the question.
It’s that opportunity that I’m extending to you. I know our readers would be very interested to hear your case. If you would like to pursue this, please answer the following questions. For each answer, please provide the on-line source. If the source is a multi-page document, please provide the page reference so that our readers can easily look it up.
01. Which is your preferred data set for global mean temperature over time?
02. What are the 1st and last years in that data set?
03. What did that data set give as the global mean temperature for each of those 2 years?
04. What did that data set give as the global mean temperature for each of the last 10 years?
05. What is the formula used to calculate the global mean temperatures in that data set?
06. What is the confidence level for each of those calculations?
07. How are changes in the location of reporting stations handled in this data set?
08. How are changes in land use in the area of reporting stations handled in this data set?
09. Which is your preferred model for projecting global mean temperature in future years?
10. What are the 1st and last years in that model?
11. What did that model project as the global mean temperature for each of those 2 years?
12. What did that model project as the global mean temperature for each 5-year interval?
13. What is the formula used in that model to project the global mean temperatures?
14. What is the confidence level for each of those calculations?
15. How does that model account for changes in solar activity in projecting climate change?
16. How does that model account for changes in cloud cover in projecting climate change?
17. What percentage of greenhouse gases does that model assign to carbon dioxide?
18. What percentage of carbon dioxide does that model assign to human activity?
19. What is the confidence level for each of those calculations?
20. What is the mathematical relationship in that model between man-made carbon dioxide and temperature increase?”
Anyone who wants to talk about CO2 fertilization’s great effects on widespread agriculture *really* needs to know Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. Farm kids learn this (if not the formal name) by the time they’re 10, at least, I did, so it’s hardly rocket science.
CO2 is quite useful in pressurized greenhouses adequately supplied with sunlight, water, nutrients, but that doesn’t much resemble most food production.
> a convincing case that the warming observed was
> due primarily to human activity
They can throw out anything you suggest with “convincing … observed … primarily” as their criteria, because warming to date is a small signal emerging from natural variation; most of the warming predicted is in the future. As to specifics they can look them up as easily as you can, but don’t let them claim no single model has all the answers so none of them can help figure out the answer.
Paul (#62): For questions 9 to 14 I’d recommend going to Webster (2003) “Uncertainty Analysis of Climate Change and Policy Response” in Climatic Change (Google Scholar will find it for you, though it is becoming outdated, unfortunately). I recommend this over the other models because it treats economic and physical uncertainty in a single consistent fashion. Because it is an uncertainty analysis, it gives a nice answer to #14. Unfortunately, your skeptic friend leaves some important factors unspecified in his questions: eg, if you are trying to predict global temperature, you need to know something about the future scenario: do we assume that humans ignore climate change and just let the earth get warmer?
Question 15: To the best of my knowledge, no climate model tries to predict solar fluctuations (aside from perhaps a standard sunspot cycle). However, the magnitude of the human forcing increase in the BAU case in the next 100 years is probably at least an order of magnitude larger than any reliable estimates of solar fluctuation in the past 1000 years that we have estimates, so assuming that the sun is close to constant is not a bad assumption. You can probably point to the Lean solar reconstruction for this.
Question 16: Most models have parameterizations for clouds (the resolution to resolve them would lead to climate runs that would take years to solve). Webster (2003) actually uses this parameterization to handle the climate sensitivity uncertainty.
Question 17: Again, ill-posed. The percentage of current forcing attributed to CO2? The percentage of forcing change since preindustrial? The percentage of forcing change between present and the end of the future model run? If the question is percentage of current forcing, there isn’t even a single # answer to that: I’d point him at the “Water Vapour: feedback or forcing?” link under Highlights. If it is the 2nd question, then I’d point him at IPCC AR4 WGI Ch. 2. That has percentages for all the greenhouse gases (of course, given that there are negative forcings in there, the percentage might be “more than 1″). If it is the 3rd question, go look at Webster (2003).
Question 18: Um. Ill-posed. The percentage of CO2 emissions? Small. The percentage of CO2 increase attributable to human activity? 100%. Skeptics never seem to understand this, and keep recycling this “5 year lifetime” argument.
And finally, question 20: There’s the standard forcing approximation 5.3 ln (C/C0), though many models have more complex radiative forcing codes. Note that this is an _approximation_ that only holds around current concentrations: skeptics often try to do calculations assuming that C0 can be “1” or something else. There is no direct CO2 to temperature equation – that’s the whole point of having a complex climate model. But, assuming that there are no exogenous forcings except for CO2 (eg, all other gases except water vapor held constant, and greenland and antarctica fixed) then the temperature change arising from a doubling of CO2 is equal to the climate sensitivity of the model, which usually ranges from 2 to 4.5 degrees (IPCC AR4 WGI).
Of course, the entire set-up of the questions is designed to be misleading, but hopefully at least you can set straight a few common misconceptions.
ReCaptcha: Pay Nature. *Yeah, I’m worried that our bill with Nature will come due one day…*
#36 Lynne Vincent Nathan: thank you for defending the true role of emotion and religion in the human species. While scientific method is a great tool, and the most humbling of truth-tests, its amoral application got us to where we are today (in part). Which is to say, application without regard to consequences creates monumental disaster. No matter what, we are stuck with our evolutionarily-logical human structure, and pure logic won’t save us from ourselves. Attacking religion and emotion is a bogus solution to the conundrum of human existence. email@example.com
“He states that since “contemporary genetics has no answers to offer to the problem of the genesis of behaviour”, the replication [?] the key experiments (which he clearly expected to vindicate Kammerer), would very likely make biologists ‘sit up’ and have a long-lasting impact on the field.”
Is this a typo?
“And today there are examples of climate contrarians who are creationists or anti-vaccine campaigners. Though possibly this is just coincidence (or is it….?).”
Well creationists also believe in the second coming, when God will sort out all the problems on the earth. The belief among such Christians seems to be that the earth was given by God to be exploited until such time. I think it’s unlikely that people who expect their children to be meeting Jesus in 2050 will be worried too much about a bit of global warming.
You say that mitigation is ‘beneficial to one’s finances’, but I’d like to know how it can be, as Obama said that electricity prices would have to rise enormously with the phasing out of coal-fired power.
How could it be that products and services would not also become enormously more expensive, since everything has electricity costs as an input—leading to higher inflation, higher interest rates, loss of jobs etc?
Which renewables would you expect to provide base load power before the phase-out time for coal-fired power, and how could they possibly be cheaper for domestic users anyway—-especially in countries where neither sun nor wind are reliable?
We’ve already had the debacle of world-wide food shortages due to one of the mitigation measures—the ill-thought-out biofuel option—the damage done by that continues, and is irreversible in some areas , but little is heard from AGW proponents on that—even though some of the world’s most efficient carbon sinks are disappearing at an alarming rate. Don’t they care about that?
Even worse could ensue, if a great many countries take the nuclear option.
How can we be sure proliferation of nuclear power facilities around the world in seismically and politically unstable countries, won’t produce infinitely worse consequences than fossil fuel?
I’m not religious at all, and accept the theory of evolution, but I think you’re absolutely over the top in your claim that people who believe in creationism and intelligent design are committing a sin—and that people who don’t buy the AGW ‘consensus’ , or who question it, or refuse to mitigate, are committing a serious sin.[ Our family has been mitigating for years, by the way, so I’m all for sensible , but not panicked mitigation.]
I’m really surprised that you are allowed to say that, yet I’m canned for just asking a few questions that AGW proponents should be willing to answer, if they’re at all serious about doing what’s right for the future.
You attacked religious and other people who don’t toe your line, and then in the next sentence say they shouldn’t be viciously attacked—there’s something wrong there.
Lest anyone has the slightest doubt that Lamarkian inheritance is no more than non-scientific fancy, consider the hundreds of generations of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim boys and men who have been separated from their foreskins.
If Lamarkian inheritance had even the slightest influence on the phenotype of the decendants of a ‘modified’ organism, foreskins for one would not be so persistently stubborn in their appearance on every baby boy…
The ironically named “truth” asks how we won’t break the bank if energy costs increase. Well, don’t know about you, but I like to look at analogous historical events. In the 1970s, the price of petroleum and other fossil fuels increased dramatically. After the initial shock to the economy, what happened? Prices of goods and services did not increase commensurately because people found ways of manufacturing them in a more energy efficient manner. This increased efficiency was one of the reasons we didn’t see dramatic inflation during the latest energy price spike. In any case, you are missing the point: energy prices are going to rise significantly in any case due to the advent of peak oil. Now perhaps if we exploit coal, we can limit the shock somewhat, only to be confronted with the same problem–and no good options–100 years later. Or we can solve the problem once and for all now and develop a sustainable economy based on renewables. And in the bargain, we also confront the threat due to climate change–now which of these sounds responsible to you?
ReCAPTCHA goes all full-metal jacket on me: enjoyment war
#75 & “You say that mitigation is ‘beneficial to one’s finances’, but I’d like to know how it can be, as Obama said that electricity prices would have to rise enormously with the phasing out of coal-fired power.”
REDUCE, REUSE — that will get us down 1/3 to 1/2 our CO2 emissions without doing anything with our energy source. My husband & I did it, before going on to Green Mountain 100% wind (& we could have done much more to reduce — there are a myriad of ways).
Since the 70s oil crunch & my awareness of entropy, I’ve been making sure we live within a mile or so of work…so I’m not even counting that in my GHG reductions. But that would be a good move for others that on their next move find a home (acc to their specs) as close as possible to work/schools/shops.
STEP 2 – take away the massive subsidies & tax breaks from oil & coal, and put them into wind, solar, geothermal, & other alt energy. Let people then decide whether or not to stick with expensive, polluting energy or cheap, clean energy. And hopefully electric and plug-in hybrids will be available on mass scale within a few years, so I can plug into the wind (which is cheaper now than polluting electricity).
It’s really a no-brainer.
RE sticking to creationism, I’m only saying that may be a sin, akin to lying. I’m no theologian. And, of course, it would not be a sin for my grandmother (1887-1973) or earlier peoples, or others who never got the chance to learn about evolution.
It may also be an insult to God, conceiving of God on our own terms/images as some David Cooperfield magician. What evolutionary thinking has done for me since 1950s, when I was a child, is greatly increase my awe of God, and my appreciation that God is truly beyond our finite knowing & imagery. Many saints would agree with this latter idea. Also there are beautiful parallels re God coming to us as a tiny, seemingly insignificant being (think big bang, evolutionary slime soup to…us, baby Jesus in a stable, the Eucharist).
RE AGW as a sin – as long as killing people & harming their subsistence remain sins in the good books, AGW would be a sin. That’s a no-brainer.
Suppose global warming has already reduced agricultural output, despite the IPCC’s confusing statements. Does anybody really think farmers will enhance output without increasing carbon emission? Farm equipment and irrigation systems run most economically on carbon based fuels. Same for transportation, and don’t forget about slash and burn agriculture. That’s very popular in the tropics where agriculture is most at risk.
Face it; the opposition to Global Warming is not based in science. Rather it’s an economic problem and I don’t believe a lot of people realize this. The best science can do it to properly characterize the problem. Solutions need to factor in economics and human behaviors. The economics of carbon are so compelling and vital, that seriously limiting CO2 emissions is not a practical solution.
Humans can exist self sufficiently in every climate on earth if they burn carbon. Restrict carbon emissions and viable areas are greatly reduced. A self sufficient community could even exist on an ice cap if there was oil underneath.
If there is going to be a global catastrophe, then it will be when carbon based fuels run out because then the cost of energy is going to rise dramatically. That is economics. We can push for improved efficiency when using carbon based fuels, but if people can afford to, then will even circumvent that.
In most cases on the internet, AGW “skepticism” and “asking questions” actually means creating lots of noise and posting clearly erroneous or misleading claims (of course, under the disguise of an objective quest for the truth). To my knowledge, no one who asks serious questions is attacked at RC or other serious academic venues.
Creationism and ID is not the same thing as “religion” or “the existence of God(s)”, etc. I hardly think any religion’s deity would condone using similar tactics of quote-mining and misrepresenting scientific evidence to get a certain viewpoint out the public. Really, the goal of leading creationist establishments is to undermine the mainstream scientific community and create their own science (such as saying how radiometric dating is invalid, the ice ages were caused by big floods, etc). I have yet to see an example of someone who got up to undermine AGW for solely scientific reasons.
Paul, many of these questions are loaded and will be set up (and there answers set up) to do something shady. For instance, the groups who put out temperature products report temperature anomalies, not the global mean temperature at a particular instance. Anomalies tend to be well-correlated over large areas(and the final product involves averaging and spatially weighting) and the techniques to account for urban heat islands, etc are described in various publications in GISS, Hadley, etc…the Realclimate post “Man is not an urban heat island” I believe gave some links which you may find useful. I am not sure what value the “first and last year” in a data set or a model is supposed to have…you’re evaluating a climate trend/change, not particular information of a handful of data points.
Re so-called “truth” @75: “We’ve already had the debacle of world-wide food shortages due to one of the mitigation measures—the ill-thought-out biofuel option….but little is heard from AGW proponents on that…Don’t they care about that?”
More stock and trade AGW denialist bull plop talking points.
The chorus of AGW realists who warned that corn to ethanol and canola or palm oil to biodiesel schemes would be worse than a financial boondoggle with serious and potentially devastating impacts on food prices and supply, and land and forest degradation was legion. Yet AGW denialists continue to push this dishonest meme, hoping no one who was actually paying attention will call them on it.
Re Andrew @79: “If there is going to be a global catastrophe, then it will be when carbon based fuels run out because then the cost of energy is going to rise dramatically.”
No, that would be a catastrophe for the human species only. So, given the magnitude of your pessimism, we humans might as well all lie down and die now?
Or, we can 1) work to dramatically reduce the amount of energy that we use, 2) strive to increase the efficiency with which we use energy, 3) rapidly develop renewable non-carbon sources of energy, energy storage and transmission.
As has been pointed out here before, since it currently requires fossil fuel energy to manufacture its replacement, it makes no sense what so ever to wait until we run out of fossil fuels to manufacture its replacement. That would indeed lead to the catastrophe that you fear.
Paul, wow, you could write an entire BOOK trying to answer and explain those questions. As others here pointed out, they’re ill-posed; I would says simplistic. Each question gives rise to multiple others.
Andrew, you hit the nail on the head when you said: “Face it; the opposition to Global Warming is not based in science. Rather it’s an economic problem and I don’t believe a lot of people realize this.”
EXCEPT that the scientists all realize that the opposition is economically/politically/philosophically motivated. The problem: they keep attacking the science–and they do so in lay venues where people will not see through the lies. If people would merely let the science play out, the scientists would be more than happy to simply tell the decision makers, “Hey, you might want to look at doing something about this,” and get back to the business of science and actually quantifying the risks we face. Meanwhile the debate of what to do about climate change–the only place where legitimate debate remains–could get started. Instead, we have people utterly ignorant of the most basic science charging in with Congressional subpoenas for climate scientists, cancelling satellites that would answer our questions about climate change definitively and “auditing” the science. And best of all, when you diagnose their ignorance–an invitation to avail themselves of the resources presented by this website–they accuse you of ad hominem attack, genocide and kicking dogs. While they teach us nothing about climate, they do give us a refresher course on abnormal psychology.
I find the discussion on this entire string diametrically opposed to the stated description of this blog site. How about skeptics and proponents discuss some relevant topics like, recent water vapor studies, lack of sunspot activity, shrinking sea levels, La Nina and Enso events, how to improve temperature records and how to pursue alternative energy sources? Please find the stated blog purpose below:
“RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.”
[Response: I write about things that interest me, and this did. You are under no obligation to read it. Nor do I have an obligation to address every random thought that the blogosphere gets excited about. Sorry. – gavin]
Ray, I fear that if the engineers and political process do not catch up in practical applications with the science we will be in trouble over the next two decades. (even with being more conservative than Hansen)
Also, the green movements are even more dangerous than the denialists at times. Do you, Ray think we have some practical means of both cutting through red tape and reducing GHG’s? As always I look forward and respect your replies.
if people would merely let the science play out, the scientists would be more than happy to simply tell the decision makers, “Hey, you might want to look at doing something about this,” and get back to the business of science and actually quantifying the risks we face
That comment makes no sense in view of the prognostications of Hansen over the last few years.
I found this article similar to but less convincing than an article that Michael Crichton wrote a few years ago. In that article, Crichton compared the modern AGW movement to the Eugenics movement among scientists and other intelligentsia during the early to mid part of the 20th century. The list of names of those who subscribed is astounding.
I also think that you did not quite succeed in your attempt to paint all AGW skeptics with the Lamarckian brush. I think that is because the skeptics are not monolithic, they are many and varied. Further, no one set out to disbelieve that human behavior affects climate, I think that most would agree that human behavior does have some effect on climate, but skeptics find that the AGW hypothesis has failed to pass several objective tests. Insofar as I am aware, none thinks that they have found an alternative model that fully describes the physics of the climate warming that occurred during the past century. Personally, I think that the search for alternative hypotheses has received short shrift.
Svensmark may believe that he has all of the answers, or he may not. His work has attracted attention but I have seen no bandwagon full of skeptics beating the drum. It is merely another possibility, perhaps a good one. The possibility surely deserves investigation. We know that a couple of Israeli scientists (I forget their names, but am sure that you are familiar with the papers) tracked the onset of Ice Ages with cosmic ray flux as modified by the position of the galaxy relative to the universe of supernovae. So, the idea of CRF effects on climate is not new with Svensmark.
I also would like to point out (as did Crichton) that there seems to be a need among many humans to blame humanity for anything that goes wrong in the world. The attractiveness of this belief (hubris?) seems as strong as the need to feel that it is possible to pass better behavior along to future generations. I recognize that the term “better behavior” is emotional and that its definition is cultural.
[Response: You are misreading the piece. I don’t think all sceptics are Lamarckian’s (though Crichton’s equating of the mainstream climate science with Eugenics was much more direct). I read the book and I saw many similarities with how climate science deals with its contrarians, that’s all. I recommend reading the New York Times coverage of Kammerer’s work to find plenty of examples of how not to report science. – gavin]
People forget that much of our carbon infrastructure is heavily subsidized, usually indirectly. In addition, traditional economics takes infinite resources/energy as a given, on the premise that technology will allow for more efficient use.
But the more efficient use doesn’t always increase asymptotically, nor does it do so without incentives. One reason SUVs exist(ed) at all as a viable sale was that gas is actually cheaper than it was in 1980, inflation – adjusted. Oil would have to hit $100 per barrel and stay there to reach the 1980s peak.
Why did it get cheaper? Some of it was reduced demand from the huge recessions that hit the US in 1981-82 or so and the rest of the world a decade or so later. Some of it was opening up the Russian market. And some was the downward price pressure from rich countries essentially outsourcing all the labor-intensive stuff to poor ones.
But whateve rthe price fluctuations in energy prices, the amount of oil in the world is finite. No matter how efficiently you use it, the amount left goes to zero eventually. This is true of every resource. The question then, is how we use the non-renewable ones as little as possible (recycling when we can) and the renewable ones as efficiently as possible. It’s not all that complicated.
There isn’t any need for people to live in McMansions. There is no conceivable need for most people to drive SUVs. Just as we got along without slaves (though they were a great labor-saver for the owners), we can learn to live without SUVs. We aren’t going to get all the goodies we want. Tough. We can’t own people anymore either.
Now, is it possible that all the people talking about AGW are wrong? I suppose it is. But it’s also possible that all the people who said smoking causes cancer were wrong, and have been all this time. It’s possible that DDT really doesn’t have any effect at all. It’s just possible that lead paint isn’t a problem either. After all, you can’t prove any of it the way you can a mathematical theorem.
Anything is possible, but I don’t see anyone recommending smoking on that basis.
snorbert zangox wrote: “… there seems to be a need among many humans to blame humanity for anything that goes wrong in the world.”
Perhaps there is such a need. That’s an appropriate and interesting question for social psychology or anthropology or some such discipline to address.
However, it has absolutely nothing to do with the empirically observed facts:
(1) that human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels, but also agriculture, forestry and other practices, have for over a century been releasing increasingly large amounts of previously sequestered carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO2;
(2) that the resulting rapid and extreme anthropogenic increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other so-called “greenhouse gases” is causing the Earth system to retain more of the Sun’s energy; and
(3) that the resulting rapid and extreme anthropogenic “warming” of the Earth system is already having rapid and extreme effects on the Earth’s climate, hydrosphere and biosphere.
Taken together these effects constitute a grave threat to the well-being, and even the survival, not only of the human species but of the rich, diverse Holocene biosphere in which the human species and human civilization have evolved and upon which we are utterly dependent.
Of all the varieties of pseudo-skeptics who obstinately deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change, those like Crichton who claim that acceptance of that reality is an irrational belief driven by some conjectured psychological “need”, or that it is a “hoax” driven by some malicious desire to “destroy capitalism” or a hatred of technological modernity, are probably the least credible.
I still do not get the basic analogy. Paul Kammerer did an experiment where he “proved” adaptation, either he cheated or he was “helped” by associates. Yes, he clearly was a speculative scientist who had temporary views, but he did an experiment which unfortunately did not falsify his theory. We do not know if he was duped or not, but the analogy with crackpot deniers puzzles me.
Gavin, you quote Martin Gardner:
“Just as Lamarckianism combines easily with an idealism in which the entire creation is fulfilling God’s vast plan by constant upward striving, so also does it combine easily with political doctrines that emphasize the building of a better world.”
My take is that the doctrine of homo politicus is an emphasis on building a better (CO2 free) world.( a nit but Gardner’s book was issued in 1952 as In The Name Of Science, the revised and expanded 1957 edition had the better prefix Fads And Fallacies.)
I am glad you write about things that interest you, but Edward surely has a point about the blog policy.
[Response: But no-one would care about CO2 if it wasn’t a greenhouse gas or didn’t make the oceans more acidic – what possible motive is there for reducing CO2 emissions otherwise? There is no constituency for ‘a CO2 free’ world (even if you just mean the anthropogenic component). And as for Kammerer, you are missing the point as well. The issue is how people see science and how that colours their interpretation of what happened. Koestler’s views on the process are very similar to Crichton’s in some respects in that they miss the context in which ‘contrary’ ideas are placed and this leads them to focus on issues that are not germane (a single talk in Cambridge, or suspicions of establishment malfeasance). The point is not to say that Kammerer was a crackpot nor a fraud. But to see how how contrarians fare battling a consensus in another context. – gavin]
Simon Abingdon, I’m afraid I don’t understand your point about Bohr and Churchill. Yes, Bohr was probably naive, but so was Churchill. For that matter, so was everyone at the beginning of the nuclear age. It was a new world. What is more, Bohr’s approach would have led at worst to failure followed by reassessment, while Churchill’s would have led to war, and probably nuclear war.
Snorbert, Now I understand. The fact that you place any credibility in that second-rate, science-phobic, hack (God rest his soul) speaks volumes. There was not a single book he didn’t get the science seriously wrong.
Jim Galasyn wrote: “Um, who else is to blame … God? Satan? Elves? Aliens?”
I’ll go with aliens. They are exploiting our own technology to transform the Earth into a planet more suitable for them to inhabit, and to kill off much of the indigenous life (particularly humans), before they launch the large scale invasion.
This explanation is actually less ridiculous than the ones offered by some so-called “skeptics”.
RE #98 Jim
You are to blame for all of the evils you site. Everytime you go home to your coal fired electrically supplied home and turn on your big screen and log onto your laptop or turn on your natural gas furnace or stove or drive to work or live at a per capita level that exceeds that of a subsistance farmer in China you are causing all of the ill effects you site. The problem is that over a billion Chinese are striving to get what you have and they are going to emit a lot of CO2 getting there.
There has been a lot of discussion on this string but other than going on a crash program of building Nuclear Power plants I don’t see any solutions in the 10-20 year time frame. Anyone have some realistic solutions?
Paul. I would join with others and say dont go there with those questions. Its a loaded questionnaire focusing on the person perceives as the weaknesses in AGW. A better response might be:
All data sets are relevant. A model should account for the data available within the prediction limits of the model and the errors associated with each data set. Every data set has strengths/weaknesses and issues associated with methodology. They all point one way though at a climate level. The critical issue for CLIMATE models is that they must be long enough to make an estimate of trends. Ie around 30 year. Asking for model predictions in 2 year and 5 year intervals is asking about weather not climate.
Asking for formula used to project global mean temps, and the relationship between CO2 and temperature, indicates a profound misunderstanding of how models work. These plus the question about confidence limits seems to imply that they think GCM are statistical forecast models not physical models. Those formula dont exist and the CO2/temperature relationship is an output not an input.
I am similarly suspicious of 17. The models create prediction for different greenhouse projections. They are tools for answering questions like “if we dont reduce CO2, then what will we get” or “if everyone meets Kyoto targets, then what will we get”. For modelling the past, the percentages are exactly what was present.
The question about CO2% relevant to human activity is suspiciously like an attempt to ignore feedback – and I hope the questioner really mean CO2eq.
William observes: “You are to blame for all of the evils you site.”
Your point is well taken, but I do at least try to mitigate my impact on the cited evils, by: buying green electricity exclusively; buying locally grown, organic food; busing to work; avoiding pesticides and herbicides in my yard; and avoiding ocean-caught fish.
My carbon footprint is approximately one ton per year — I pay $12 for my offsets from NativeEnergy.
I don’t know why you’re so quick to imply I’m lying.
Maybe you could explain where exactly.
Maybe some AGW proponents did warn about the problem with biodiesel, but they must have been very timid and muted.
It’s they who have been given all the credibility around the world on the CO2 issue, and it’s they , not the sceptics, who have the ear of governments , the IPCC and vocal environmental groups—it’s their certainty that moves governments and business to adopt such measures—-and it’s they who are promoted and deferred to by the media, which demonises and shuts out , almost completely, the sceptics.
It’s the AGW scientists and proponents who could have stopped it.
It’s the AGW proponents who had all the influence at the Bali Conference, number crunching re ratification of Kyoto targets etc, while the burning, felling of rainforests and destruction of peat lands continued just down the road in other parts of Indonesia, [ as well as the destruction of rain forests in the Amazon].
It’s AGW proponents, not sceptics who promote the ‘food miles’ issue, which could ruin budding food exporters in Africa, who have borrowed, worked and sacrificed their all, to grow crops for export to Europe, only to have their livelihoods threatened by European environmentalists and AGW adherents.
What would the ‘food miles’ issue do to world trade?
I’m sure most countries think they should continue to trade with countries distant from their own.
Our conservative former Prime Minister in Australia, put forward, and funded, a Global Forest Initiative, aimed at ending the deforestation and promoting reforestation, and helping developing nations to do both, but was either ignored or sneered at , by environmentalists and the AGW crowd.
You can ‘call me on’ anything you like, and cast any aspersions you like on my truthfulness—- but possible consequences, intended and otherwise, of the total uncritical adherence to AGW, and total silence on any doubts or questioning, that AGW adherents require of us all, are important matters for discussion.
Some of the ‘mitigation’ measures may be disastrous and irreversible.
This is why alternative scientific input on the science of AGW should be aired without vilification and retribution.
“Truth”, maybe you got here late, so let me explain. It’s called science, and it’s about evidence. We have lots and lots of evidence, including things called the laws of physics that suggest very, very strongly that human beings are warming the planet. That is what the evidence says. So that is what the scientists tell governments and whoever else will listen, because, oh, I don’t know, we thought maybe they’d want to know that the climate on which all human civilization depends is about to change drastically, and with it our ability to feed the 9 billion mouths we’ll have on Earth by 2050. So that’s science. Wanna play? Great. Go get some EVIDENCE!
I’m guessing that those in the vanguard of promoting an appropriate response to global warming would be surprised at your assessment of their influence (though maybe being in the US, the epicenter for climate denial, I underestimate this).
I’d say that economic interests still trump environmental in most jurisdictions. That’s certainly the case here in the US where the many critics of corn-based ethanol were swamped by the economic interests (that have been pushing ethanol for far longer than concerns about global warming were prominent). Sure, those economic interests adopted the language of climate change, but make no mistake that it was economic interests responsible for the surge in ethanol and profligate biofuel development. It appears to be the case in more climate-conscious Europe were industries have managed to reduce the strength of carbon-reducing regulations. I’d wager that most of the world works in much the same way.
Is limiting greenhouse gas emissions going to adversely impact some people more than others? Undoubtedly. Should we make every effort to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable? Absolutely. Should we delay doing something to satisfy the remaining few who are grasping at tenuous threads of doubt? I think not. The impacts of global warming are likely to be FAR worse than the economic impacts of combating it, especially for the most economically vulnerable amongst us.
truth (106) — The tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin is primarily at hazard due to logging, both legal and illegal. Secondarily it is at hazard from ranchers raising beef cattle on the newly cleared land.
Neither has much to do, directly, with the fact of AGW; for the former, avoid prodcuts made with topical hardwoods; for the latter don’t eat (very much) beef.
truth, you are being naive. Biofuel is politically and economically driven in USA (seen the posters? “Who you prefer to buy fuel from?” picture of Saudi man and picture of US farmer). AGW was simply an excuse. Ditto to “food miles”. There is some validity in arguments about flying strawberries around the world, but mostly is driven by agricultural protectionism.
You keep trying to cast this debate into a one political fairness. Its not – if you dont like the AGW hypothesis then you need solid scientific evidence to the contrary – not carbon-lobby misinformation. Show us the published papers not the delusions of media commentators.
Why go on crash course in expensive nuclear when we would get a lot more bang for our buck with a massive ramp up in the implementation of thin film solar voltaics, solar thermal, or deep dry rock geothermal?
Jim Galasyn (#105),
All the plant-a-tree offset programs I’ve seen so are a joke. You get to pay a few bucks for them to plant trees, that over the next hundred years will sequester your emissions from today. We need a system whereby everyone is able to invest in a sequestration portfolio, building it up until the total amount of CO2 sequestered per year by all the offsets in said portfolio equal the annual emissions of an individual, business, company or government department.
As a rule of thumb, if we assume that it takes a tree 100 years to do it’s job, then we should purchase upfront 100x the number of trees these companies claim is necessary, then augment it each year to account for attrition. So rather than $12, you need to fork out $1,200.
Or even better, do as I am doing, and plant your own trees. If you don’t have land, then join a ‘nature-care’ group (here in Australia we call them bushcare or landcare groups) and help them restore the local woods (we call it bush) forest or wetland.
Oh, poor “truth” and all the long-suffering, put upon and persecuted “skeptics” being denied access to the media when every media outlet scrambles and bends over backwards to represent “both sides” of the “story,” no matter how far removed from scientific reality one of the “sides” is.
Cry us a river, I hear Australia can use the water.
Your naivete in attributing overwhelming power over governments and international corporations alike to climate scientists and AGW realists, and blaming them for advocating massively publicly subsidized agribusiness ethanol and palm oil schemes and unscrupulous commodity traders driving up food prices is laughable, if not ludicrous.
I am still waiting on your thoughts. Technically we can feed the world, but economically and with warlords stealing supplies and politicians and corporate greed combined with inaccurate understanding of genetic modification we are held back, but in reference to global warming, dimming, and agricultural changes etc.. what are some of your ideas on how to deal with this issue, let us get out of the lab and the classroom and discuss what might actually work to counteract these ramifications of fossil fuel burning, not just lowering emissions.
Craig, #113. A bushland that was tree covered until humans turned up.
Always nice to keep that in mind when people go on about how the natives live in harmony with nature. They have to since they stuffed it up big time when they arrived and now have the two options of live with nature or die.
A bit like climate change and our production of CO2.
jcbmack, If we had stated a couple of decades ago when climate scientists first started sounding the alarm about climate change–or even 8 years ago, we would have had much better mitigation options and a much better outcome. Transistion to renewable energy could have been much more gradual, solutions to transport needs, etc. could have been developed and most adverse effects of climate change might have been mitigated. Unfortunately, we are quite late in the game now, and good options are quite limited. I don’t think we will have the luxury of picking and choosing among mitigations: renewables, geoengineering, and probably nuclear power will all likely have to be brought into the equation. Geoengineering is particularly problematic, since it can make things worse if done poorly. What is more, while our understanding of climate makes the role of greenhouse gasses quite clear, most geoengineering strategies rely on aspects of the climate that are not as well understood–aerosols, clouds, uptake of CO2 by the biosphere and oceans, etc. Bottom line is we’ve squandered our most precious resource: time. And it will cost us dearly to try and buy back some of that lost time. We will have to somehow slow emissions of CO2 while we find other solutions, because if we get to the point where natural sources of CO2 and CH4 kick in the game’s over.
Can we do it? I don’t know. Technically, I think it’s possible. However, I’m not sure whether human brains, which evolved to confront threats like leopards on African Savannah’s , are sufficiently flexible to comprehend a threat like climate change. Judging by some commenters here, they are not. When I want to be hopeful, though, I think about Albert Camus’ “The Plague”. Initially, when the plague strikes the town, people are in denial. Then they adopt an “every man for himself attitude”. Finally, they realize that their only path to survival is by working together to confront the threat. And they do. At great cost, to be sure, but they succeed. We’ll hope Camus was correct in his optimism.
What you say in your first paragraph is just plain , demonstrably not true—and I stand by everything I said.
Yes, Australia is short of water, and has been for all of its existence, and especially now, due in large part to land use changes , and cotton-growing—-but manages to do quite well anyway.
In your second paragraph, you deliberately misrepresent what I said, as anyone interested in truth can easily check.
You would know that the palm oil plantations that replace the rainforests and peat lands in Indonesia, are in operation only to meet the demands from Europe for biofuels , in order to meet their Kyoto targets.
In Brazil, the sugar cane from which ethanol is made, is being grown on lands from which cattle ranches have been displaced, those cattle producers then moving into cleared areas of what was formerly Amazon rainforest.
It is something of a shame if this site does not address the economics of global warming. There are legitimate peer reviewed studies on the subject, but they have found the social cost of carbon to be some where in the range of $10 to $350 per ton.
About 50% of the electricity generated in the US is powered from Coal.
The price of coal delivered to electric generating plants averages around $27 per ton.
Fuel cost are about 80% of total generation expenses, so coal prices are roughly 40% of the typical electric generation bill. Assume $150 for the social cost of a ton of coal. This would mean that coal should cost $177 per ton and would result in the price of electricity rising to 322% of its current value. Ouch!
A similar calculation could be performed for gasoline, which chemically is approximately C8H18. That works out to 92% carbon. Gasoline density is about 6 lb/gallon. So, a gallon has 5.6 lbs or carbon and the carbon tax should be $0.42 per gallon. Not too bad.
#106 & “Maybe some AGW proponents did warn about the problem with biodiesel, but they must have been very timid and muted.”
I’ve been saying from the very first time I heard about biofuels some 10 years ago this is going to come down to taking food away from starving people….so we can drive our SUVs in profligate fashion.
Just finished my anthro course with the 40% poorest in the world get 5% of world product, while the richest 20% (that’s us) get 75%. To some extent this is interconnected — our wealth is at the expense of their poverty. Plus it’s those 40% poorest who are suffering the most and going to suffer extremely from global warming.
You know the dictum about the rich man, the eye of the needle, and the camel; I’m thinking by today’s standards it would be the average American, the eye of the needle, and the elephant.
RE Craig #113
I’m suggesting nuclear because James Hansen suggests nuclear when he stated: “If power plants are to achieve the goals of the alternative scenario, construction of new coal-fired power plants should be delayed until the technology needed to capture and sequester their CO2 emissions is available. In the interim, new electricity requirements should be met by the use of renewable energies such as wind power as well as by nuclear power and other sources that do not produce CO2.” From a review of Al Gore’s and other books at NY Review of Books July 13 2006.
My suggestion would be to construct Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, a much safer design than the current Nuke plants in use.
Re “truth @120: “What you say in your first paragraph is just plain , demonstrably not true—and I stand by everything I said.”
You can stand by what ever you like. Perhaps “skeptics” do now get short shrift in Australian media–bravo if they do, I don’t know as I only occasionally read Australian sources, but it is demonstrably not true in the US, Canadian and UK sources that I do read regularly.
“You would know that the palm oil plantations that replace the rainforests and peat lands in Indonesia, are in operation only to meet the demands from Europe for biofuels , in order to meet their Kyoto targets.”
Indeed, I do know, which is exactly why any clear-thinking person, AGW realists included, opposed the wholesale rush to biofuels from the outset. But I must point out that plantation-grown palm oil is not just used in biofuel schemes, but also as a cheap hydrogenated vegetable oil in industrial-scale food processing and animal feeds.
The US generates and earns its wealth. A poorer US would not help the the lower 40%, in fact they would suffer more in a poorer world. The poor countries are poor because they lack properly functioning governments, courts and other systems necessary to flourish. Every human being has the ability to produce and thrive if placed in an enabling environment.
William wrote: “… other than going on a crash program of building Nuclear Power plants I don’t see any solutions in the 10-20 year time frame. Anyone have some realistic solutions?”
A “crash program of building Nuclear Power plants” is not a “realistic solution” to the energy / climate problem. Expanding nuclear power is the most expensive, least effective way to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation. In particular, it is simply not possible to build enough nuclear power plants and bring them online fast enough to have a significant impact on GHG emissions within the time frame that reductions are needed.
Investments in efficiency improvements, wind, solar and geothermal generation, and a new-generation “smart grid” can provide greater reductions in GHG emissions, faster and cheaper than nuclear. Every dollar spent on building more nuclear is a dollar wasted — since it would have been much more effective if spent elsewhere.
The USA has vast commercially-exploitable wind and solar energy resources — more than enough to provide all the electricity we currently use, and more. The offshore wind energy resources of the northeast alone are sufficient to provide all the electricity the entire country uses. The wind energy resources of a few midwestern states alone are sufficient to provide all the electricity the entire country uses. The solar energy resources of the southwestern deserts alone are sufficient to provide all the electricity the entire country uses. And distributed solar photovoltaics, deployed on houses, factories, office buildings, parking lots, etc. could generate locally most of the electricity consumed during peak demand periods (i.e. daytime in summer).
Al Gore’s proposal for the USA to generate 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free, mostly clean renewable energy sources (he proposes retaining the existing nuclear and hydro power plants but not building more) within ten years is entirely achievable. It isn’t even that hard. The obstacles are not technological or economic. The obstacles are political: the entrenched power of the fossil fuel industries.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 Dec 2008 @ 12:00 PM
William, if we halve our energy needs now, it has an effect NOW. Not 15 years down the road. With that reduction NOW, we get time NOW to do the other things that need doing long term. But, whatever we do long term, the energy reductions we do NOW will continue to have their effect (and more so, since we won’t need to build potentially redundant structures) into the future.
And do you want to change your dependence on the middle east powers to a dependence on the mid african powers?
Personally, I think that the search for alternative hypotheses has received short shrift.
Personally, I think that the search for alternative hypotheses has received far longer shrift than it deserves.
Nobody that I know of disputes the basic physics anymore. The calculated energy due to the increase in GHGs is sufficient to have caused the observed increase in temps. Exactly what else are these other hypotheses expected to do? It’s always seemed to me that if there were some mysterious other source of energy sufficient to raise temps by the observed amount that there’d have to be an equally mysterious “trap door” which has vamoosed the energy trapped due to the increase in GHGs. That energy exists, after all. At some point, genuine skeptics would bow to Occams’s Razor, fold their tents, and call it a day.
truth (120) — Actually, the palm oil in Indonesia is almost all going to foods, so much so that many of the biodiesel producers there are in receivership. As for Amazon ranchers, I think you are just repeating an ‘urban legend’, (which I may have inadvertently started). AFAIK, the new sugarcane lands in Brazil are in the northeast which I think had almost no cattle ranches. If you find an authoritative report whiich states otherwise, please do let me know.
Lynn Vincentnathan (122) — A recent FAO report states that of the 5 billion hectares of ‘agricultural lands’, about 30% are ‘arable lands’, which I take to mean in production. Another about 20% are unused. The latter means there is plenty of land available for growing biofuel feedstacks; indeed, some of these lands in Africa are already starting to come in production for that purpose.
There is planty of food in the world; the problem, as you note, is one of equitable distribution.
Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Dec 2008 @ 2:43 PM
– 1.9 billion hectares of arable land are degraded.
– 65% (500 million hectares) of African land is degraded.
– Arable land loss is 30-35 times the historical rate.
– Loss is equal to 20 million tons of grain per year.
– 70 percent of the 5.2 billion hectares of drylands used for agriculture are already degraded and threatened by desertification.
Jim, 135, I think that, if PROPER materials are used for biofuel, then there IS plenty of land for growing it.
Plant weeds like hemp. Don’t bother watering them or looking after them. Just cut them up when available. There’s plenty of land spare for THAT. The problems become the large-scale commercialization of such land: they tend not to be easy to get to and hard to use machinery on. But for the same reasons, they aren’t being used for agriculture at the moment.
So both of you are right. There’s a lot of *useful* arable land disappearing but that isn’t necessarily depleting biofuel (weed growing) land and such land isn’t necessarily available for agriculture either. Unless we raise more goats to turn the very marginal land into meat and milk.
And degraded land is often over-farmed land which is farmed in the style of the western world, unsuitable for the land use that is sustainable in the African sub continent. But growing weeds doesn’t do this, if the right weeds are used (hemp again).
Jim Galasyn (135) — Mark in comment #136 has the right of it. While I know of no projects being started growing hemp, I do know of projects in Africa on degraded soils using other low-need plants such as Jatopha and even sweet potatoes and cassava. The latter two are, of course, foods. Still, these are not preferred foods, the ones being grown on better soils. If the preferred foods prosper, the tubers can be sold to biofuel manufacturers; if the food crop doesn’t do so well the tubers can supplement.
The main issues I see are fair returns to the farmers and developing infrastructure; water, yes, about also roads and schools, etc. Of course, try to improve all topsoils; we’ll need it all.
Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Dec 2008 @ 4:44 PM
I think the take-home message of this post is how science moves along in the real world.
The idea that scientific progress is usually the creation of the lone underdog fighting the establishment is inaccurate. It is emotionally appealing and that is why the climate contrarians like to use it. It is straight out of the Luntz playbook.
Anyone living in or planning to visit the NYC area the American Museum of Natural History has a great climate change exhibit. Gavin has a part in the short films in the exhibit. Seeing the AMNH and the exhibit is a good way to spend an afternoon. http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/climatechange/
Recaptcha “tobacco issues”
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 10 Dec 2008 @ 4:44 PM
Gibbs certainly has a lot of answers from the stil quiet no one thought of, but you make a solid point Joseph, even Darwin and Einstein worked on the reseacrh and thoughts of others… watson and crick were not considered special or intelligent in the scientific community and they stole others work, but so did Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Thomas edison, they all rely upon others. Gibbs I have to say was a bit unique though.
In central Africa they were using high powered DC lines which nowadays are very effective, I believe they tore them down, it is a shame, they should spread to western, southern and northern africa as the energy efficiency is enormous… then again they are still fighting agaisnt malaria and HIV-2, a shame really as they become the new unchartered territory for telecommunications to be industrilaized.
RE #127 & “The US generates and earns its wealth. A poorer US would not help the the lower 40%, in fact they would suffer more in a poorer world. The poor countries are poor because they lack properly functioning governments, courts and other systems necessary to flourish. Every human being has the ability to produce and thrive if placed in an enabling environment.”
You have no idea where the resources & products that we consume come from (I’m not even aware of the complete story). But I can say from what I’ve learned that a large portion of these don’t come from here in the U.S.
There are many examples of how multinational corps & our lust for stuff grossly harms the poor of the world, for instance by taking away & harming their subsistence lands. And it is adding insult to injury that our GHG emissions are causing them further harm, and will being doing so into the far future.
RE #135 thru 137. There is a tree, MORINGA, that grows about 20-30′ in a couple of years, straight up, in bad soil (drought or swampy conditions), and produces food (leaves, drumstick pods) and materials (seeds & cellulose) that can be used as food (side dish), herbal supplement, fodder (increases milk production by 30%), and (I think) biofuel.
We have them growing like weeds in our back yard. We had a killing frost some 4 yrs ago, and they died down, then popped back up again. They grow from cuttings, and we’ve filled up our yard. We left a few leaning against the fence months ago, and they’re still alive growing leaves and branches, tho we didn’t even plant them.
Any biomass, wet or dry, can be used one way or another to produce biofuel. Which process is used is a matter of efficiency and whether gaseous, liquid or solid biofuels are desired, or rather in what proportion.
Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Dec 2008 @ 6:38 PM
they’re back with the Senate minority “report” — actually just Inhofe’s blog — will it have any traction in the media, etc.?
Can I suggest a page with links to basic data? It takes some time to find the basic historical trend data for things like mean sea level rise, global temperature, etc.
Comment by Ricki (Australia) — 11 Dec 2008 @ 3:24 AM
My carbon footprint is approximately one ton per year — I pay $12 for my offsets from NativeEnergy.
Unfortunately, you are on the hook for a heck of a lot more than that. For example, a family of 4 uses about 12 KHW of electricity at their home. Yet their per-capita consumption is almost 50 KHW per year. The family could reduce their consumption to zero, and they still are on the hook for 38 KWH per year. That’s because the hotels in Las Vegas are pumping water in the desert 24x7x365 for guest’s viewing pleasure on your behalf. Your employer is heating/cooling your office nearly the entire day anticipating you might show up to do a bit of work. Your local super market is lighting its store 24×7 so if you need some cough syrup at 2 AM it’s there.
Are you 100% at peace with how many miles of airtravel your employer is responsible for each year as their salespeople scour the globe looking for another sale of an operating system that is already everywhere? Do you ever consider how many TWH of electricity are needed because your employer embraced x86 instead of ARM? You are a partial owner of all those decisions when you pick your employer.
And keep in mind that offsetting a year of Hummer driving is only $85. Please let’s not pretend that offsetting makes us good. It’s simply a way for those with $ to make themselves feel better.
Comment by Ricki (Australia) — 11 Dec 2008 @ 5:19 AM
So far it seems only Mr Watts’ blog has picked it up, so the answer is ‘No’ ;-)
You probably have to be UK-based to fully understand the depth of the desperation that is illustrated by the fact that to get his numbers up Mr Morano had to loosen the definition of a ‘prominent and sceptical scientist’ to the point that it includes Alan Titchmarsh. :-0
I just want to add to Hank’s comment. I encourage anyone involved with selecting plants for biofuel production, reforestation, or even home landscaping to consider the ‘Dark side’ many plants exhibit when they are introduced to ecosystems they are not native to. The list of well-intentioned, but ecologically disasterous, plant introductions is a long one.
My wife and I contributed more than a $100K towards preserving a tract of old growth native forest near Austin, Texas, and many of my weekends are spent clearing invasive non-native plants from the tract. The major culprits are Chinaberry, Wax-leaf Ligustrum, Chinese Tallow tree, Nandina and Johnston Grass. Thank goodness we don’t have bamboo or kudzu to deal with. Presently I’m shredding the waste and scattering the mulch to compost, but I’d like to try converting it to agrichar to improve the thin, alkaline soil. If anyone knows of plans for a bioreactor, preferably cheap and solar powered, I’d appreciate any information you can point me towards.
Ricki, I look at the Anderson and Bows paper, and it is indeed worrisome. There will be some denialists who use this to say that all our efforts are for naught. However, I think we need to look at the difference in consequences between 450, 550 and 650 ppmv, and indeed higher. I think the crucial unanswered question at this point is when do natural feedbacks (e.g. CO2/CH4 from oceans, thawing permafrost, etc.) render all our efforts moot. That’s the level we must avoid at all costs. Other than that, it is a matter of how low we can hold emissions, how much mitigation we will need and how much geoengineering will be needed to meet that need.
Off topic, but newsworthy: Obama plans to name Steve Chu–1997 Nobel Laureate in physics–as energy secretary. I believe this represents the first time a scientist has achieved cabinet level representation. This is a tremendous victory for the reality-based community.
Of particular interest in the current context is this paragraph:
“Despite these major contributions, and dire warnings of “overshoot and collapse”, the Limits to Growth recommendations on fundamental changes of policy and behaviour for sustainability have not been taken up, as the authors recently acknowledge (Meadows et al, 2004). This is perhaps partly a result of sustained false statements that discredit the LtG. From the time of its publication to contemporary times, the LtG has provoked many criticisms which falsely claim that the LtG predicted resources would be depleted and the world system would collapse by the end of the 20th Century. Such claims occur across a range of publication and media types, including scientific peer reviewed journals, books, educational material, national newspaper and magazine articles, and web sites (Turner, unpublished). This paper briefly addresses these claims, showing them to be false.”
Great essay. However, in the early 20th century no one knew what the structure of the genetic material was, or how it operated.
The structure of DNA was famously determined by Watson and Crick, but it could just as easily have been Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins. Franklin had the X-ray scattering photograph of DNA that she had taken after years of careful work, and Wilkins was friends with Crick and both knew how to use mathematics to interpret the X-ray scattering pattern to recover the structure of DNA. However, they apparently seriously disliked one another, and were unable to collaborate. Watson then got his hands on Franklin’s photograph, took it to Crick, and that’s why it’s Watson-Crick and not Franklin-Wilkins. Academic science is a very social affair.
However, natural systems don’t care at all about academic struggles for prestige and priority. Perhaps Franklin should have got the Nobel as well, but then she did die early from cancer (probably from exposure to the heavy metal salts used in X-ray crystallography).
The structure of DNA changed the Lamarkian debate. Any alterations in the DNA sequence of cells that give rise to further generations will be passed on to those generations. We also know now that DNA and RNA are not static holders of information – they also play active roles in cell regulation.
One example is dioxin, a byproduct of organochlorine synthesis and combustion, and a common contaminant. Agent Orange, a plant hormone-based herbice used in Vietnam, was heavily contaminated with dioxin (cheap and sloppy synthesis).
Dioxin interferes with basic cellular regulation – if one’s DNA is a library full of cellular instructions, then dioxin kidnaps all the librarians – requests go unfulfilled. The effects are cell death – the notorious case of the 2006 poisoning of Ukraine’s president shows what happens.
Each year in the United States, at least 250,000 babies are born with physical birth defects while thousands more develop behavioral and learning defects that appear to have a genetic component. The cause of 60 to 80 percent of birth defects is not known, although many scientists suspect that environmental toxins play a role in a sizable number of them. The male contribution may be substantial, researchers now say.
Another example of Lamarkian inheritance involves microorganisms, not humans. This is the transfer of plasmids between unrelated microbes. These small loops of DNA usually contain a handful of genes that code for protein toolkits for purposes such as heavy metal and antibiotic resistance. A microbe (such as a hospital Staph infection) can acquire a penicillin-resistance plasmid, and then hand it on to all descendants.
The entire Lamarkian-Darwinian debate took place in an era when the mechanisms of evolution and inheritance (DNA and a whole lot more) were not understood. Mendel actually made greater contributions than either, as he conducted experiments that tracked genes, and saw reproducible patterns in the frequency of gene inheritance. The whole debate is built on the difference between genotype and phenotype, but modern molecular knowledge shows that the distinction is blurred. RNA is now known to play important physiological roles, and it is copied directly from DNA, more or less. Physiology is phenotype, but it is also genotype.
This all has some practical consequences which relate back to fossil fuels, namely particulate fossil fuel pollution:
In the real world, people are exposed to complex mixtures of toxins, hormone mimics and carcinogens, which is what particulate aerosols are made of. Many of those components are due to dirty fossil fuel combustion from coal, ship bunker fuel and diesel, while others come from chlorine-based industrial chemistry (herbicide, plastic and pesticide manufacture, for example).
Likewise, the damage that radioactive elements could do to DNA was not understood in the 1940s or early 1950s, when the structure of DNA and the mechanism of inheritance was unknown. People at the time thought that the dangers were mainly thermal burns – they didn’t realize that DNA damage would lead to cancers and birth defects.
Dealing with such problems requires, first of all, that people have all the facts. This is the chemical and fossil fuel industry’s first line of defense: keep the facts secret. Publicly funded science programs with a mandate to investigate environmental pollution are not desirable, from this viewpoint. The amount of pharmaceutical products dumped into rivers and lakes and the ensuing effects also get little study, especially since the pharmaceutical industry is now a major funder of academic science in the U.S.
As far as global warming goes, the real challenge here is not about personal responsibility – that’s just the tobacco industry PR line, i.e. Edelman’s PR campaign. Edelman is running the American Petroleum Institute’s PR campaign – Chevron has a nice new billboard imploring everyone to “pledge to use less energy” – while they moved ahead with adaptations to their Richmond refinery in order to handle more dirty Canadian tar sand crude.
The real challenge is to construct agricultural and industrial systems that don’t require any fossil fuel inputs. That will require heavy use of wind, solar and energy storage systems. Once you have fossil fuel-free agriculture, then you can discuss sustainable biofuel production. Or, you can simpy do algal biodiesel, which doesn’t require arable land or massive fossil fuel inputs.
The issue is not just global warming – there’s also the massive environmental pollution brought on by incomplete combustion and fossil fuel contaminants.
I’ve got a page of links to basic climate data sets here.
[Response: I’m happy to outsource this, maybe a direct link from the side bar would be welcome? You might want to add a few of the visualisation/analysis tools that are available (climexp.knmi.nl, dapper.pmel.noaa.gov, ingrid.ldeo.columbia.edu) as well as the IPCC AR4/CMIP3 archive? – gavin]
That also raises the same issues Ike notes for fossil fuel:
> incomplete combustion
A biomass system, given the hypothetical enzymes that could take apart stuff like lignin, might make it possible to use that material in a fuel cell and capture the toxics as well as the CO2 from the waste stream. It’ll be tricky. Nature’s protected the lignin and such pretty well — that’s why trees live so long, the fungi can’t take them down quickly.
Imagine some biotechnician comes up with an enzyme that can degrade lignin, starts producing it in some tank of fungus or bacteria, and spills that beastie — we’d see forests rotting the way outdated vegetables rot now, once lignin became vulnerable. Scary yet?
Even without a spill, once someone starts sellihg a cheap handy-dandy packet’o’enzymes that can be stirred into any pot full of weeds and woodchips, and turn out alcohol or biodiesel — that would be a true weapon of biomass destruction. People would chop up anything that could easily be degraded that way.
Yeah, with big pressure/temperature treatment tanks, woody biomass can be broken down now. Costs some in fuel and materials though.
This is why we really do need the emerging cross-disciplinary educational programs — we need the polymath, the encyclopedic synthesist, people encouraged to imagine and foresee consequences — not as an inevitable timeline of events focused on a goal, but as a branching tree of possibilities and how they might later interacting with other eventualities coming from other developments.
The public health folks do this. Ag-energy people need to as well.
Thanks for your explanation. I teach Earth History almost every semester, and I always bring up the Darwin-Lamarck controversy. And I am happy to learn that my take on it is correct. With no real genetic information (DNA-based), it was a debate with basically no chance at resolution. So it wasn’t really a science-based argument countered by a faith-based argument, which is what the AGW “controversy” is. Both Lamarck and Darwin presented science based evidence and arguments, but both lacked crucial information. And we now know that if acquired characteristics affect the DNA of the parent, it can be passed onto offspring. So Lamarck wasn’t all that wrong. He was not right about the general mechanism of evolution, of course, but he wasn’t 100% wrong.
Also, I don’t think the scientific consensus on Darwin’s side at the time was as strong as the consensus among climate scientists right now that AGW is real and our fault.
#158 & “The issue is not just global warming – there’s also the massive environmental pollution brought on by incomplete combustion and fossil fuel contaminants.”
Precisely. We need a holistic approach to both the problems and solutions. The measures that cause GW, also cause many other harms. The measures that help mitigate GW also mitigate many other environmental (pollution, finite resource depletion etc), as well as non-environmental harms. So it’s like choosing between a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose situation or a win-win-win-win-win situation.
I consider GW to be a sort of umbrella issue. Solve it, and you solve many many other problems.
Except, perhaps nuclear power, which has many downsides, incl death & disease of uranium miners (many 4th world people) and destruction of subsistence lands (as in Niger, where the pastoralists don’t even use electricity or benefit in any way from the mining near their lands).
You should check your calculations. Power consumption in the USA is around 4 trillion kWh/year, with 300 million inhabitants that is a per capita consumption of 13.000 kWh/year, not 50.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 11 Dec 2008 @ 1:28 PM
RE #145 & 151. Thanks, Hank & Philip, for the heads-up on moringa being invasive. Just looked it up & it seems to be more a problem in South Pacific islands.
Moringa doesn’t have any vectors (such as wind, animals, birds, insects), but sometimes tiny plants do sprout up around the trees. Luckily we can just pull them up by the root from moist soil (unlike some other tree-weeds in our yard, whose roots we have to cut down as deep as possible, then cap with inverted plastic containers and bury).
We’ve gotten esperanza (a native of Latin America) from our neighbor’s yard, which we’ve transplanted, but our neighbors are pretty thorough about destroying all weeds.
We got our moringa cutting from a Filippino in our town (I have no idea who first brought it to our area). Moringa, however, doesn’t grow in San Antonio — a friend there has a potted one he has to pull into the garage during freezing times — and I think it doesn’t even grow beyond 10 miles to the north of us (Edinburg, TX), bec another Filippino friend is unable to grow them up there. Austin should be safe.
It seems to me IF the plant can be heavily used (for food, herbal medicine, fodder, and/or biofuel), AND the outer perimeter of its growing area monitored several times a year (and stray plants pulled up), its benefits might outweight its risks.
I have no idea, though, whether it might be just too labor-intensive & expensive (not cost-effective) a project for a wealthy nation like ours. Commercial moringa production seems to be working out well in some poor African nations.
Speaking of memes and contrarians/deniers, George Monbiot has published a coruscating diatribe against the crap spewed on the InterWebs by lazy bloggers and “the outer limits of idiocy” in the Guardian’s comment forums. It’s definitely worth a read.
Ray (77) re (partial) “truth” (75), but bear in mind it is much relative. One of Obama’s assertions was that he would tax carbon so high that coal-based power producers would go bankrupt. (In that environment it’s ceasing business.) I’m not sure that our ingenuity to “manufacture in more energy efficient ways” like we did in the ‘70s will do the sanguine trick of maintaining our standards. At least in this scenario.
They quote some climatologist as claiming that it is not due to global warming. They continue that while the last three years have been drier than usual in many parts of the US, overall there’s been no shortage of rainfall and the U.S. mainland experienced worse droughts in the 12th and 16th centuries.
First, just because there were droughts in the historical past does not prove that the current drought is not caused in part by global warming. Hopefully, most people realize that man made global warming is a recent phenonium that does not preclude past climate shifts from occurring.
Figure 11.12 on page 890 of the following link, the IPCC projects changes in precipitation out to 2080 to 2090:
Most of the US is projected to be within 10% of current precipitation levels, which is probably not statistically significant. However, significant drying is projected in Mexico and the southern Caribbean, with summer time drying in the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, the Hudson Bay and Northern Greenland areas are projected to get much wetter. Still another 92 years before all the data will be in, but it is interesting to see how the current drought compares to the long term projections.
Lynn (78), again I respect your personal endeavors. But 1) it is unrealistic to extend a small sample to an entire populace with a mere wave of the hand, and 2) one ought to take with an extremely cautious view the estimates, even by learned experts, of how great and unobtrusive mitigation is going to be. For example, try to realistically envision for the moment all 300,000,000 persons in the U.S. living within one mile of their work, school, and shops. You and a few hundred or thousands, probably so; 300,000,000, not a chance in hell. Also, I wish I had a dollar for every business commercial project (just to pick a similar example) that was put together by learned experienced experts and proved a total bust. New Coke, anyone?
Push hard for wind and solar? I fully agree a very good idea, but it is not a panacea .
“What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there.
I was the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.
So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.
That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches.
The only thing I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.
So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can.
It’s just that it will bankrupt them. …” – Obama
It’s obvious he is saying a new plant that elected to not mitigate CO2 would be forced into bankruptcy. A position I think is somewhat like that of the other guy. On the flip side, a new coal plant that fully mitigates CO2 would be free to get just as rich as pie.
Rod B wrote: “One of Obama’s assertions was that he would tax carbon so high that coal-based power producers would go bankrupt.”
That’s not what Obama “asserted”. What Obama actually said, speaking to the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle in January 2008, was: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” [Emphasis added.]
Obama was saying that charging power producers for GHG emissions — presumably through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system — would make it unprofitable to build new coal-fired power plants. Obama has never, ever expressed any intention or plan to “bankrupt” existing “coal-based power producers.”
These sorts of distortions and disinformation are common in the partisan right-wing media.
Personally I would prefer a more straightforward approach:
First, institute an outright ban on the construction of any new coal-fired power plants.
Second, set a date on which burning coal to generate electricity would become illegal, by which date all existing coal-fired power plants must be shut down.
These proposals are founded on the libertarian aphorism that “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.” Burning coal is an act of aggressive violence against me and all other human beings. It is a moral crime and should be treated as a crime under law.
“A bushland that was tree covered until humans turned up.
Always nice to keep that in mind when people go on about how the natives live in harmony with nature. They have to since they stuffed it up big time when they arrived and now have the two options of live with nature or die.”
You are being a bit disingenuous there.
While it is true that it is likely that the Australian aborigines and their dingos pushed many of our mega-fauna to extinction, and through the use of fire changed the ecology, they were infinitely more kind to this continent than European settlers have been. At settlement Australia’s temperate regions were covered by bush and forest. No most of that is gone and we are rapidly striping the remainder.
A society that develops giant machinery that allows a single man to strip hundreds of hundreds of acres of native vegetation per day can hardly justify it’s behaviour by pointing out the unsustainable lifestyles of hunter gatherers ecologists who successfully lived in the same landscape for thousands of years without modifying it’s essential character.
Aborigines modified the ecology and then settled into a relationship with it that left most of it intact. Given our current land management practises, much of Australia’s once hyper-diverse ecosystems will look like the Iraqi desert within a generation (as much of it does already).
Ray (87), I agree with you and Andrew that the real concern is, at the core, economic. You imply this is a “baddie”, but economic, political, or philosophical motivations, per se, are NOT bad. Neither are scientific motivations. But the crux is, IMO, that because mitigation is potentially globally and so strongly disruptive (the seers saying, “Hey! No problem. I’ll fix it by morning!” aside) that the science requires a much higher level of certainty – which is more than a bunch of scientists getting together and trumpeting, “We agree” (though there is nothing wrong per se with that either). I think, that as long as the skepticism or questioning is reasonable (which I’ll define since you all freely define unreasonable ;-) – and I admit some are not reasonable ) it is perfectly proper and appropriate. There ought to be something between “they ran another model” and “another $400 trillion please.”
Rod B., So, let me get this straight: we’re going to have a different standard of scientific truth for those facts we don’t like? Well, then, by all means, let’s throw open the whole first and second laws of thermo. Those cost us trillions! How about the cosmic speed limit of c? Don’t you just hate that! Makes it so difficult to live out our Star Trek fantasies. And what standard shall we insist on, if 95% confidence isn’t good enough for you? 99%? 99.9999%? How about if we require the inerrant word of God? That will please the fundies in their attempts to get creationism taught in the schools.
Sorry, Rod, physical reality doesn’t change depending on how much we like it or how much it costs us. Science has revealed cogent evidence of a real and credible threat. Where we need to demand high standards of evidence is in the cost-benefit analysis for various mitigation schemes being considered. But then it’s no longer a science problem, but a political/economic/engineering problem. We won’t solve those by denying good science.
Rod (173), to be sure, there were many who accepted the science on AGW and climate change and also supported the development of biofuels, but that sort of means that they were not really AGW realists, dosen’t it? And in any case, they hardly had the influence and power to sway corporate interests to invest in the schemes and pressure lawmakers to craft policies and legislation that enabled the boondoggle, did they?
The rush to biofuels was overwhelmingly spurred by the desire to make a lot of money quickly, period. Without the massive public subsidies it simply would not have happened.
I am a farmer in the South West land division of Western Australia and have been reading Real Climate for about six months. This has improved my understanding of topics from polar ice melts to how temperature is measured around the globe.
What has struck me about most of the comments which are posted on your web site are that Global Warming is very much a theoretical subject. Not many seem to living with the consequences yet.
As a farmer farming in an area that is predicted to be one of the worst affected by climate change in the world, we are already seeing changes in runoff, changes rainfall patterns and a less predictable Mediterranean climate.
In this thread there has been some discussion about agriculture producing less carbon and there seems to an assumption that most agriculture uses irrigation where, the truth is that most farming in the world uses natural irrigation – rain.
I am working with Ag scientists at the moment on using bio-char, to reduce the fertilizer use, nitrous oxide emissions, increase soil health and aiming to make farming carbon negative.
“I came of age in Mrs. Thatcher’s Britain. And under Mrs. Thatcher you applied the principle that you paid for what you wanted to do. And that’s essentially all we are saying here if we want to use fossil fuels we need to pay to make sure that we can use them in such a way that doesn’t impose risks on other people who haven’t chosen to take those risks.”
Am I missing something here? Wasn’t finding a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking supposed to be a bad thing back in the day!
I have absolutly no idea how organizations like the Onion, who supposedly make their living by satirizing the status quo can have even the slightest hope of continuing to survive. This is just way funnier than anything they have ever come up with.
Comment by Fernando Magyar — 11 Dec 2008 @ 9:05 PM
For all the Australians on board; pages 896-901 of the following link describes projected climate changes for Australia.
Southwestern Australia is expected to be hit the hardest during the winter. But not all regions are expected to receive less precipitation with eastern Australia expected to receive more precipitation in summer. However, with generally higher temperatures, evaporation is expected to rise and in almost all cases the moisture deficit becomes larger.
Quote from IPCC summary page 850:
Warming is likely to be larger than that of the surrounding
oceans, but comparable to the global mean. The warming is
less in the south, especially in winter, with the warming in
the South Island of New Zealand likely to remain less than
the global mean. Precipitation is likely to decrease in southern
Australia in winter and spring. Precipitation is very likely to
decrease in south-western Australia in winter. Precipitation
is likely to increase in the west of the South Island of New
Zealand. Changes in rainfall in northern and central Australia
are uncertain. Increased mean wind speed is likely across the
South Island of New Zealand, particularly in winter. Increased
frequency of extreme high daily temperatures in Australia and
New Zealand, and a decrease in the frequency of cold extremes
is very likely. Extremes of daily precipitation are very likely to
increase, except possibly in areas of significant decrease in mean
rainfall (southern Australia in winter and spring). Increased risk
of drought in southern areas of Australia is likely.
RE #170 & “For example, try to realistically envision for the moment all 300,000,000 persons in the U.S. living within one mile of their work, school, and shops. You and a few hundred or thousands, probably so; 300,000,000, not a chance in hell.”
Most people I know could live a lot closer to work; there are homes with their specs closer to work, but the realtors keep showing them houses far away. The farther houses may seem like better deals (more house for the buck), but people may not have factored in all the other costs, incl fuel, car repair, stress, harm to health from car fumes, lost family/recreation time.
Also, there are many other solutions if one cannot live within 2 or 3 miles of work. For instance, both my husband & I were working in the same place (part-time for me), but when I got a full-time job in another town, some 35 miles away (it was suburb to another suburb over back country roads, so no public transportation), I inquired into who also commuted from my home town to my work town. I found a person, and we carpooled together over 90% of the trips, saving us gas, car repairs, and perhaps saving us from accidents, since driving alone after a hard day’s work makes me sleepy, and the conversation kept me awake. Then when comparable jobs for both myself and my husband opened up at the same university in Texas (where I knew we could also get on Green Mountain 100% wind energy) we made the move.
It’s about putting forth a bit of effort to do the right thing, and if one thing doesn’t work, then there are other ways to accomplish the goal of reducing one’s GHGs. We just have to do what we can, what’s feasible.
SecularAnimist: Oh. Barrack is going to kill only the 100+ GWatts (40% of) from coal planned for the next 20-25 years and leave (much to your chagrin it seems) the current 300 GWatts alone? Ought to be a breeze. I haven’t heard — when, if ever, does he plan to kill the ~95GWatts (36%) of natural gas new generators? I would assume real quickly. A couple of finger snaps and all will be copacetic. You must be ecstatic.
Ray (180), I understand your (and others) conviction, but to the contrary AGW does not have the certainty of either Law of Thermodynamics, or the speed of light, etc. Also, a 95% confidence level expressed by the folks doing the predictions is interesting, but not a certainty. Finally, yes the standard is different and higher because of the potentially tremendous cost and disruption of mitigation. If a group of scientists say they’ve found a feed that can maintain a chicken’s growth but with 2% less feed than today, I don’t much care if that proves to be 100% correct or 10% correct.
The rub is that, IMO, the standard has not met but I don’t know where it is. Because if we continue to push for greater confidence, say 6 nines to pick something, to save all of that cost and disruption until, say, it gets proven by actually happening, that too, as you know, has some pretty noticeable costs and disruptions.
Jim (181), unquestionably the economic interests (farmers and processors mostly) were the prime movers for the growth of biofuels (mostly ethanol). But the fact is there was a very noticeable chorus of AGW proponents hot to trot for it. If that embarrasses you now (probably does most of them now, too — looked like a good deal until some of the second level details started to emerge), I can understand it; you can wish it away, but you can’t will it away.
Clean coal is possible, but again we must apply the science just right, if Barack is aware of this we could bring about great change with other well placed proposals currently possible, Eli has a commentary on clean coal as well. I know I posted an email to me: “clean coal a lie,” but if it were properly applied and not overly polticized we could get good cleaner energy yields and we could place wind power well; use DC!
#188 Lynn Vincentnathan: It’s about putting forth a bit of effort to do the right thing, and if one thing doesn’t work, then there are other ways to accomplish the goal of reducing one’s GHGs. We just have to do what we can, what’s feasible
But this doesn’t solve the problem. The US and EU need to reduce by 90+%. Doing what feels right doesn’t work, because everyone figures, “hey, this is important, and it’s hardly any CO2 in the grand scheme of things”.
That rationale makes it easy to drive kids across town to piano lessons, and let’s you zip from state to state on a huge chartered jet to try and convince the country to elect you.
Nobody is willing to SACRIFICE. Screwing in a CFL and driving a Prius might make you feel good, but it doesn’t solve the problem. But most think they are “doing their part” when they do it.
It’s taking a bucket down to Katrina and bailing by hand. Yes it helps and it might make you feel good, no it doesn’t change the outcome. Kyoto is another example. Yes it helped, but it only delayed the inevitable (whatever that might be) by a few years.
We’ll see if Obama has the gumption to go big. I’m all on board if the plan is realistic, because I believe any realistic plan includes nuclear in the near term. Excelon was a big Obama supporter, and Axelrod worked as a consultant for them too. From Obama’s Energy Fact Sheet:
Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy: Nuclear power represents more than 70 percent of our non-carbon generated electricity. It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power from the table. However, there is no future for expanded nuclear without first addressing four key issues: public right-to-know, security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation. Barack Obama introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to establish guidelines for tracking, controlling and accounting for spent fuel at nuclear power plants.
To prevent international nuclear material from falling into terrorist hands abroad, Obama worked closely with Sen. Dick Lugar (R — IN) to strengthen international efforts to identify and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction. As president, Obama will make safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti-terrorism priority.
Obama will also lead federal efforts to look for a safe, long-term disposal solution based on objective, scientific analysis. In the meantime, Obama will develop requirements to ensure that the waste stored at current reactor sites is contained using the most advanced dry-cask storage technology available. Barack Obama believes that Yucca Mountain is not an option. Our government has spent billions of dollars on Yucca Mountain, and yet there are still significant questions about whether nuclear waste can be safely stored there.
Craig, 176, that is irrelevant. Did I say the Aboriginies of Australia were worse than the white man?
And how much of that “worse” is due to the technological advances that increase the ability of each person to increase their effects? After all, when you’re highest level tool for agribusiness is a goat and a box of matches, you’re going to have to work at it to do more damage than someone with a fleet of tractors and a long-range rifle.
“Working with the environment” is the only option these people HAD. If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have survived.
And now the high-energy agribusiness is getting to a place where living with the environment is the only option. It just took longer to get there because the energy can be used to bull past the problems rather than solve them or include them.
The UK is experiencing a very cold late Autumn so it must mean that GW is a fib and a lie dreamed up by highly paid scientists who sit in their ivory towers of intellectual isolation and dream up left wing conspiricies to stop the worlds economy from prospering due to their petty minded jealously.
Thats how a lot of the skeptics have it anyway. The Internet is full of deflamatory comment these days and vast swathes of opinion on this subject. Its funny that members of the public in general are not that clued up on science in general but seems to know an awful lot about the science of global warming in relation to the politics and economic consequences of cutting carbon emissions.
Might I suggest that Jim Eager (#181) and Lynn Vincentnathan (# 189) are possibly allowing their moral decency and natural optimism to cloud their judgements.
Jim suggests that any proponent of AGW who advocated the use of biofuels was being unrealistic. (I am supposing that he was referring to ethanol production from soya or corn). Why? In a nation such as the USA, which can easily feed itself but lacks fuel security for transport, it is not necessarily ridiculous to manufacture a transport fuel with low ERoEI pending the development of superior alternatives. There is little compelling evidence that food costs were adversely affected but, even if they were, the major sufferers would not have been US citizens. This may sound callous and probably is. It is also true that the current state of financial collapse, leading to a precipitate but probably temporary drop in oil price, was mysteriously not envisioned and has led to ethanol production being uneconomic at the present time. That said, peak oil and excess global population suggest that we are in a mess that not all will escape from. US citizens are better placed than most to do so. I wish, as a UK national, that Britain was as well placed.
Lynn seems to want everybody to upsticks and move closer to his/her place of work, a massively disruptive suggestion, particularly when many of the sources of such employment will disappear almost as soon as people have moved closer to them. I think it sensible first to consider what forms of employment are really essential to our basic needs. Personally, I can think of relatively few and they won’t necessarily be based in conurbations.
For those here who have tended to concentrate solely on threats from climate change, I would strongly advocate that they read an essay by the late Dr Price (www.dieoff.org/page137.htm) and Google chris martenson and crash course even though it might douse their optimism. We are threatened by more than global warming and all our problems need addressing simultaneously if some of us (or our progeny) are to escape with a civilised, albeit different, life style
Obama’s statement is ambiguous, and he contradicts himself.
He signals that someone could build a coal-fired power station, but if they did so, the regulation and emissions imposts of an Obama administration would bankrupt them —they would be priced out of the energy market .
The message seems to be that if they’re silly enough[ in his view], to build a new coal-fired power station at all , his policies will bankrupt them—not that if they build and don’t mitigate, he’ll bankrupt them, because the kind of mitigation that’s required isn’t available at the moment.
That seems to be a clear signal that Obama wants an end to the coal-fired power industry forthwith, because he makes no mention of subsidising existing companies for the transition period until CCS technology is up and running—and yet it’s accepted that coal-fired power stations will have to be the providers of base load power for many years down the track—and no country is ready now for carbon capture and sequestration.
Australia was the most advanced in the CCS technology field as of late 2007 [ I think it’s still so, but I’m not sure ], but sites for sequestration here [ in Australia] , are only generally identified, with much more information [ expensive in time and money ], required on all of them, and many countries wouldn’t have the necessary geological structures anyway.
The technology isn’t ready to go, by any stretch, and the transport of the CO2 to the sequestration sites is worrying and mind-boggling when you think about the turmoil that will generate—legal challenges etc.
It seems inconceivable that Obama’s administration would not be providing enormous subsidies to existing coal companies , if compliance with his scheme will be enough to bankrupt them—-and he certainly doesn’t sound inclined to subsidise.
There are apparently more than 100 applications for new coal –fired power stations in the US at the moment, so the requirement must be there .
How would existing companies continue to provide the power required, if they’re to be hugely penalised for emitting, to the point of bankruptcy, and yet the technology to capture emissions and store the CO2 isn’t yet available to them?
It would surely become unprofitable to maintain existing c/f power stations, with their future so uncertain or compromised, and coal jobs would go—along with jobs ancillary to coal power generation and coal usage .
Likewise coal mining operations— how could an industry with so many extra costs , upgrade machinery and maintain any sort of viability , safety requirements etc?
What sort of morale levels would there be?
Either that scenario, or they would price their electricity to the levels needed to make them profitable—and not just domestic electricity, but everything Americans buy and every service would become much more expensive.
Obama did say that electricity prices would soar.
What would that do to America’s export trade?
Obama almost seems to be relying on the coal companies to build the new power stations and pay the imposts that he says will bankrupt them—and he says that will give him the funds to dole out to the renewables research projects.
His message is very unclear, and amazingly, he was never asked to clarify it.
Rod, since natural gas is a) the most efficient fossil energy source for electricity approaching 80% with cogeneration and 60% without and b) emits the least carbon don’t hold your breath. The issue with gas is c) supply and d) could it be used more efficiently for other things.
Please be sure you are in gear before drive by concern trolling.
In my own sphere I’ve found that the primary reason for skepticism or usually outright rejection with regards to AGW is that people would HAVE to change. Not just get new light bulbs and make fewer trips to the store change but completely switch the paradigm they use for going about their day.
They know that they will have to be made to change and already have way to much government in their lives. Locally accepting it will be the end of the world as they know it in the Upper Ohio Valley.
They are put in a terrible catch-22. To reject AGW means, from their POV, maybe sometime down the road when things they can’t conceptualize happen be unable to feed their families. Acceptance means they won’t be able to feed their families NOW.
And no one is offering them a shred of hope that all of the money (that they already have to little of) acceptance will cost them will be worth it.
To a learned scientist acceptance is self-evident. To them rejection is self-defense.
Rod, sorry, but the standard for scientific truth is not flexible. 95% confidence means you can take it to the bank. What is more, most of the measures people are talking about in the short term actually SAVE money. There’s zero excuse not to carry through with them when confronted with a credible threat. Now I know they are not enough, but saving energy NOW buys time in the future, and time is what we need–to better understand the science of climate and mitigation AND to come up with technologies that will save our tuckuses.
I’m afraid I disagree with Matt. Folks like Lynne Vincent-Nathan and Furry Catherder and Jim Galasyn are heros, because they are doing something NOW…buying time. I have a feeling that in about 50 years, our progeny are going to wish a whole lot more of us had acted similarly.
“Ray (87), I agree with you and Andrew that the real concern is, at the core, economic. You imply this is a “baddie”, but economic, political, or philosophical motivations, per se, are NOT bad.”
Rod B’s core concern is economic, political and philosophical because that is what his comments usually are about. I stopped responding to him because it would just encourage off topic trolling. Remember DFTT!
Comment by Joseph O\'Sullivan — 12 Dec 2008 @ 9:38 AM
RE 197 & “Lynn seems to want everybody to upsticks and move closer to his/her place of work, a massively disruptive suggestion”
I’ve always said “on your next move.” I don’t think I’m suggesting people move soley for GW reasons. But it would have been good, if over the decades people had taken into consideration peak oil and now GW in their deliberations about which house to buy when they ARE in the process of moving.
Perhaps there could even be some “house exchange” thing, where people who live in suburb A and commute to suburb B, exchange houses with people (paying the difference in values) with people who live in suburb B and work in suburb A.
Of course, those renting can move more easily, and a renter I know moved some 4 months ago to be closer to work due to the then high cost of gasoline. She had originally moved to be close to her mother, but then realized she only saw her mother maybe once a week, but had to work 5 or 6 days a week.
Rod (191), since I readily concede that there were some environmentalists and others concerned about global warming cheerleading ethanol schemes your charge that I am wishing or willing them away is rather hollow.
The fact is “truth”s original charge was that “little is heard from AGW proponents on that” [the ill-thought-out biofuel option], and later, that those pointing out the downside “must have been very timid and muted,” charges thoroughly trashed by Hank at 126.
And the meme that environmentalists and those concerned about global warming are the influence and the power behind the etahanol gold rush is simply preposterous, no matter how much some would wish or will that that they were.
Re Douglas Wise @197: “Jim suggests that any proponent of AGW who advocated the use of biofuels was being unrealistic. (I am supposing that he was referring to ethanol production from soya or corn). Why?”
Because manufacturing ethanol from high-starch food crops is grossly inefficient, yielding barely more energy than all of the combined fuel inputs expended in planting, fertilizing, watering, weeding, harvesting, transporting and processing the crop into ethanol fuel. That alone makes it a senseless boondoggle. We might as well just burn the inputs directly since the same amount of fossil carbon will go up in CO2 and it will have no net effect on reducing imported fossil fuels.
Because growing high-starch food crops for fuel either diverts food from human consumption, or it removes agricultural land from food production.
“There is little compelling evidence that food costs were adversely affected…”
You must be joking. Although in your defense, the corn price shocks widely featured in media reports were mainly due to speculators taking advantage of the situation to boost profits, since the corn used to produce ethanol is not the type of corn used to make corn meal for tortillas.
Douglas: “but, even if they were, the major sufferers would not have been US citizens.”
Yes, that is indeed callous. Are you quite sure you want to go down that road?
And finally, I don’t think that there are any proponents of AGW, which is why I have started to use the term AGW realists.
If the climate science predictions continue to unfold as expected over the next couple of decades, I believe that the dire seriousness of the situation is likely to become undeniably obvious and frightening to every sane person.
Barack and the leaders who follow him, in the US and elsewhere, will be then far more likely to take on the Herculean task of switching the World’s economy to low or zero emissions through the decommissioning of fossil fuelled electricity generation, a concomitant ramp up of solar, wind and geothermal generation, and possibly (if ever possible) the commissioning of technologies to start stripping CO2 out of the atmosphere. They will be unable to resist the strident demands of their populaces that we all get on with the job.
Lamark and other scientists who passionately and honestly pursued scientific dead-ends should be remembered with respect. The contrarians who attempt to twist public perceptions of climate science to suit their political and economic orthodoxies will be remembered with derision.
Lewis, While I agree that the potential sacrifices demanded for mitigation of climate change could be daunting, how is it such a bad thing to go out and buy a smaller, more efficient car? Or even to keep your tires properly inflated to improve gas mileage. To switch to compact fluorescents? To wear a sweater in the house? How is it a bad thing to plant a garden and grow some of your family’s food? Or even to go hunting? Or to plant some trees? All of these things save money and energy NOW, and buy time in the future. Accepting the truth is essential to responsibility. Accepting responsibility is essential to self defense.
Lynn (188), I applaud your effort and agree every little individual bit helps. I’m just saying you can not credibly project these things to a satisfactory system wide solution, and set it aside as a hunky-dory done deal. Gonna take more than car pooling and keeping our tires inflated, though individuals should.
Rod B wrote: “Barack is going to kill only the 100+ GWatts (40% of) from coal planned for the next 20-25 years and leave (much to your chagrin it seems) the current 300 GWatts alone?”
As I wrote above, my hope is that the Obama administration, and the Democratic majority in Congress, will move quickly to ban construction of any new coal-fired power plants, period, and will then move to phase out and shut down the existing coal-fired power plants as quickly as possible.
I am opposed to the construction of any new nuclear power plants. There is no need for them. The USA has vast commercially-exploitable wind and solar energy resources, that are more than sufficient to provide all the electricity we need to maintain a prosperous, comfortable, technologically-advanced society. I am OK with existing nuclear power plants continuing to operate for some time yet, until they can be phased out. Of course at the end of their service lives they will all have to be decommissioned — which will be a huge, huge cost but cannot be avoided now.
The downside is that as long as those plants operate, they are producing more nuclear waste, which we presently have no way of dealing with safely. That’s bad, but not as bad as continuing to spew massive amounts of CO2 from coal, so IMO phasing out nuclear is not as urgent as phasing out coal. However, if we are going to continue running those nuclear power plants, the inadequate regulation and safety regime for the nuclear power industry — from mining and refining fuel, through operation, to waste sequestration and decommissioning of old power plants — must be considerably strengthened.
ReCaptcha says it’s “anybody’s verdict”.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Dec 2008 @ 11:23 AM
#201 Ray: 95% confidence means you can take it to the bank.
I wonder what % of the time scientists that claim 95% confidence are wrong? As previously stated, experts tend to overstate what they think they know, and don’t know what they don’t know.
If confidence was really 95% on a single event, then that implies one would be willing to take some severely lopsided odds that indeed what they say will happen will in fact happen. But nobody ever will. On either side.
Which implies people aren’t 95%.
Would Hansen have won a 20 year bet that we’d be close to B? Nope. Inside A through C? Probably not. What was his confidence in his prediction?
Everyone talks about the guys that predicted the market will melt down. If in fact they believed it, then they should have made $100 for every $ they had invested.
But they didn’t.
Find me the climate scientist that will bet his kids education and his retirement on a 20 year assertion that is half as scary as the IPCC and that will deliver odds that are proportional to his confidence. Is there one? Ditto on the naysayers. Absent both, let’s not pretend we know more than we do.
Douglas (197), a minor clarification, not a disagreement. The problem with corn ethanol as a mitigator of AGW is that it depends totally on the stalks, leaves and roots sequesturing carbon forever; it’s not clear how much of that is true. As a mitigator of oil imports it works and becomes the oil import vs. food question.
#207 Ray: Lewis, While I agree that the potential sacrifices demanded for mitigation of climate change could be daunting, how is it such a bad thing to go out and buy a smaller, more efficient car? Or even to keep your tires properly inflated to improve gas mileage. To switch to compact fluorescents? To wear a sweater in the house? How is it a bad thing to plant a garden and grow some of your family’s food? Or even to go hunting? Or to plant some trees? All of these things save money and energy NOW, and buy time in the future. Accepting the truth is essential to responsibility. Accepting responsibility is essential to self defense.
These aren’t bad things IF people want to do them on their own. They don’t help any measurable amount, especially if they are adding electronic gadgets to their house at a rate that exceeds their reductions (and overwhelmingly they are). But I get the feeling that volunteering to do these things won’t be enough for you in the future.
#203 LynnV: I’ve always said “on your next move.” I don’t think I’m suggesting people move soley for GW reasons. But it would have been good, if over the decades people had taken into consideration peak oil and now GW in their deliberations about which house to buy when they ARE in the process of moving.
If we substantially reduce CO2 emissions in the next few decades, either through nuclear or enormous alt energy or both, and if electric cars become the primary means of transportation, then why worry at all where people live?
In fact, cars in 20-30 years will move on highways densely packed and at very high speeds, talking to other cars around them and coordinating their moves.
Only if we stay on oil does sprawl matter. If we solve the oil problem and travel in cars moving at 120 MPH, sprawl will become the preferred path for most.
#209 SecularAnimist : I am opposed to the construction of any new nuclear power plants. There is no need for them. The USA has vast commercially-exploitable wind and solar energy resources, that are more than sufficient to provide all the electricity we need to maintain a prosperous, comfortable, technologically-advanced society. I am OK with existing nuclear power plants continuing to operate for some time yet, until they can be phased out. Of course at the end of their service lives they will all have to be decommissioned — which will be a huge, huge cost but cannot be avoided now.
You can bet new nuclear plants are coming. Excelon are busy “uprating” existing plants, and planning on building more once they can be sure the red tape is out of the picture..
“Exelon will not commit to building new nuclear plants, however,
until we are satisfied that our conditions for safety, regulatory stability, bipartisan
federal, state and local support, spent fuel management and cost have been met.”
If safety and fuel storage really worried them, then they wouldn’t be uprating current plants. Instead, it’s the regulatory red tape they worry about. And that’s why they’ve donated so much to Obama.
Let’s start rolling the concrete trucks, because more nuclear is coming. Finally.
Eli (199), just so I understand, are you asserting the using natural gas instead of coal in power generation results in a massive reduction (for the same kWh) in CO2. My chemistry says about 40% less joule for joule (though one can find tons of different estimates for joules/mole or /kg for coal). Noticeable; but enough to say “NO PROBLEM” here?? Then gasoline which is only about 15% or so worse than natural gas ought to be no problem too, yes?
matt wrote: “… cars in 20-30 years will move on highways densely packed and at very high speeds …”
We have that technology now. It’s called a railroad.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Dec 2008 @ 12:14 PM
Ray (201) But the 95% was not delivered on the tablets; it was prepared by the folks assessing their own work (hidden somewhat behind obscure math). And I can not buy the sanguine effect of mitigation that you rose-colored glasses wearers see. I suspect we will continue to disagree here.
I do support the insurance idea. It makes sense to do some not largely expensive and disruptive “mitigation”, like the individual efforts (many of which do save money — though will not fix the problem as I asserted to Lynn), or larger things that will be likely required anyway like getting off the eventually depleted oil stocks.
““Belief” in AGW is a test of intelligence and knowledge, not libertarianism. The idiots and dupes and whores (Scientists who get their funding based on saying the “correct” things) believe in it, the rest of us don’t.
At a minimum, the rest of us understand that the cost of Kyoto etc. FAR outweighs any potential benefits.” – Greg Q
Matt complains: “If confidence was really 95% on a single event, then that implies one would be willing to take some severely lopsided odds that indeed what they say will happen will in fact happen. But nobody ever will. On either side.”
Ah, but you see, we aren’t betting on a single event, but rather a trend. It’s more like your retirement (at least if you are being responsible) than a roll of the dice. You claim that experts overstate their confidence. Care to provide an example of a time where the overwhelming majority of experts (>100) claimied 95% confidence and were wrong in the physical sciences? Actually, most experts I know are very conservative. If you aren’t, you don’t stay an expert very long.
#207 Ray, your long suit is science. Be true to your calling. Steer clear of politics (cf my comment about Bohr #92). Your advice “wear a sweater in the house” isn’t one of the world’s most persuasive vote-winners. I was working in Berlin when the wall fell in 1989. When the East Germans saw what they’d been denied (from bananas to Mercs) their fury knew no bounds….
OK, Simon, here’s a question: What do you have against sweaters? Why do folks like you take so much pleasure in being wasteful? You guys had a field day with Jimmy Carter in his sweater turning down the thermostat in the Whitehouse. You ridiculed Barack Obama for having the temerity to suggest that properly inflated tires could make a difference. Now these things are all demonstrably true and in fact proven. So, why do you hate the idea of giving the planet a break and backing off on wasteful consumption?
matt:”I wonder what % of the time scientists that claim 95% confidence are wrong? As previously stated, experts tend to overstate what they think they know, and don’t know what they don’t know.”
Spoken by someone who doesn’t know about level of expertise and self-assessment. As a matter of fact, it is the nonexpert who WAY overestimates their level of knowledge, precisely because they don’t know what they don’t know (because they don’t know anything). This is called the Dunning-Krueger effect. Look it up in Wikipedia.
If environmental costs are appropriately represented in the economy, more of us will be wearing sweaters inside–as I am now, actually.
Our present economy, though, sends hopelessly mixed signals. That’s why cap and trade or some other mechanism for attaching a cost to pollution is so critical. The denialist furore surely provides us ample proof that purely individualistic, voluntary measures are not going to save our butts–some of these folk wouldn’t be convinced even if Miami *were* to be submerged in glacial meltwater, and the “tragedy of the commons” logic will still apply for quite a while as the number of the unconvinced slowly shrinks. So we will do better if structural reforms make possible to “do well by doing good.”
I changed the light bulbs. If I turn down the furnace any lower the girlfriend will break up with me. She’s miserable many nights even with a sweater over long sleeved t-shirts and despite all the cuddling and despite her own desire to do the right thing.
Maybe I should just turn it down more anyway? It would be the right thing for future generations wouldn’t it?
It is a bit of quandry. Protect the earth for future generations or not father them.
Replacing all the inefficient incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs in the United States alone could prevent 158 million tons of CO2 emissions according to one lighting company, the equivalent of taking more than 30 million cars off the road. Substituting CFLs under a global scenario that minimizes costs would reduce lighting energy demand by nearly 40 percent and save 900 million tons of CO2 a year by 2030, with a cumulative savings by then totaling 16.6 billion tons — more than twice the carbon dioxide released in the United States in 2006.
#214 Nick, as a scientist with a background in physics, engineering and degrees in biology and chemistry and an individual belonging to green movements email news, I know a lot of what they propose is not feaible from an engineering standpoint, far too expensive in a too short period of time and most of the people running or belonging to the green movements have little to no scientific backgrounds. Any climatologist, physicist and especially engineers know this.
#225 Ray. I have been wearing my lined wool-mix Norwegian-style sweater which I bought in Lidl two years ago for £15, every day indoors since Dec 1. The daytime temperature here (UK lat 54degN) has been freezing or thereabouts ever since then; my wife wears two sweaters of a more fashionable provenance (pure wool I believe). I do not attribute the temperature to any unseasonable effect, it’s just that I can no longer afford to heat the room of the house we normally inhabit during the hours of daylight at this time of year. I’m sorry that energy isn’t as cheap as it used to be and I’m very concerned that it will not even be available on a continuous basis in the foreseeable future. Anyway, I’ve nothing against sweaters (your first question).
Second question: “Why do folks like you take so much pleasure in being wasteful?” Maybe it’s a surprise for you to learn that I too abhor waste (although the issue “what is waste” becomes somewhat philosophical given the conservation laws of physics). Did you know BTW that if you overinflate your tyres (tires) you get much better fuel consumption? (Wears them out quicker of course).
It’s your last question that is for me the most telling however. I quote ”So, why do you hate the idea of giving the planet a break and backing off on wasteful consumption?” Wasteful consumption of what exactly?: sunlight? water? iron? aluminium? timber? coal? oil? uranium? How will “backing off” use of these resources give the planet “a break”?
Simon, give it a break. You can’t be as naive as you’re pretending to be. Overinflate your tires and you decrease the contact area, creating a severe hazard to yourself and other traffic. Don’t give advice that can get some naive reader killed, eh?
And finally, I don’t think that there are any proponents of AGW, which is why I have started to use the term AGW realists.
Are you sure about that? There are plenty of people who insist global warming will be a good thing, and plenty more who insist that burning fossil fuels is both wonderful and necessary. Aren’t they effectively promoting global warming?
#232 Hank – Higher tyre pressures give better consumption and better roadholding. We all knew this in the sixties!
The only negative issue is tyre life. Hank says “Don’t give advice that can get some naive reader killed, eh?” We’re way OT here Hank, but do please stick to the facts.
llewelly (233), sure there are plenty of people who insist global warming will be a good thing, but they also tend to argue that it isn’t happening, that humans aren’t causing it, that it’s the sun, that the weather stations are poorly sited, etc, etc, etc.
In other words, it’s just one more bogus argument in their arsenal.
Mention has been made several times about 95% certainty of AGW. How about a certainty exceeding 99% by one of the leading climatologists of our time, if not the leading one:
“Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent.
The difference is that now we have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb. The next president and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation.”
The above quote is from James Hansen’s testimony to Congress last June. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-james-hansen/twenty-years-later-tippin_b_108766.html
I can’t match your scientific qualifications but I have 25 years experience of activism with UK NGOs, especially the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which has brought me into contact with many green organisations and I can confirm that much of what you say is correct.
Craig (206), “if”, of course, is the operative word in all of this. Your second paragraph is probably accurate in its context. It will be a long way from the walk in the park that many predict, though. [Executive Order: Beginning next month no electricity by coal or methane and all cars, trucks and busses must be shut off and parked. Ought to work.]
And if AGW proves correct but almost too late as you say in your third paragraph, your prediction of the altitudes toward us skeptics is also probably correct — and probably not totally unreasonable. You guys will be equally derided if we upset the fruit basket at the tune of maybe hundreds of $trillions for mitigation and find it was not needed. (Admittedly, however, we might not logically be able to tell then; good position for you to be in. ;-) )
Kevin, good point. Environmental costs are not properly accounted for in the market economy of things and that is a primary problem. But, it isn’t easy. And cap and trade is a smoke and mirror ineffective panacea.
Simon Abingdon asks: “How will “backing off” use of these resources give the planet “a break”?”
Are you aware of the energy needed to produce aluminum? Have you ever seen an open-pit coal mine? Are you in denail about the effects of fertilizer run-off into streams and estuaries as well as the effect of CO2 on climate?
Look, there are a lot of things I wish were true. One of them is that we weren’t jeopardizing civilization by putting CO2 into the atmosphere. That, unfortunately, means that the advancement of science is going to be a lot slower than it would have been as we have to divert resources to address climate issues. That affects me directly. But that’s reality. It does no good to deny it. It does no good to pretend you didn’t hear the experts. We have to deal with it. It isn’t optional.
“Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Check your manufacturers specifications, or if you have specialty tires often times their websites will tell you, if its not listed directly on the tire itself. Typcailly for most sedans its 30-35 PSI. Having properly inflated tires can get you up to 10% better gas milage on average.” http://www.ehow.com/how_4397589_better-gas-milage.html
Good Lord, Man. As Hank says, you can look this friggin stuff up!
Now onto science: The sceintific method dates form the era of Francis Bacon and Galileo, not Ptolemy. Prior to this point, you have “natural philosophy” or philosophy, not science.
Ray, can you reference the peer-reviewed papers that show that the average driver is driving with sufficiently low tire pressure that he can improve MPG 10% by raising it to 35psi? Actually raising to 30psi would be easier and evidently result in exactly the same improvement.
Edmunds surveyed their own employees using digital tire gauges (first link), and also quotes the federal estimates (second link).
And you’ll also find — by now you know how to find this stuff for yourself:
“Underinflated tires waste gas. How much gas? The Department of Transportation estimates that 5 million gallons of fuel per day are wasted due to low tire pressure. That’s more than 2 billion gallons per year…..”
@SecularAnimist 229: A couple of months ago I saw these commercials claiming that switching to the more efficient bulbs was equivalent to taking millions of cars off the road. I then went to the website they advertised and found some more of their claims about these bulbs, namely the great savings over the lifetime of the bulb. With this information I emailed the site asking, if these bulbs save us so much money, where is the money going that doesn’t increase the demand for energy? Any good we buy with that savings has energy, and most likely not clean energy, as an input. Similarly with most services we buy. Then we consider the velocity of money, the fact that it will be spent again by the people we give it to; how can we know the final effects on energy usage from switching to high efficiency bulbs? It might actually increase the demand for energy by increasing our effective wealth. I never heard back from the website in response to my email. I personally do use high efficiency bulbs, in large part because of the long term savings, but I cringe when I see commercials making completely unjustified statements.
Local old time residents to this area tell me that a solid week of snow could be expected on the ground where I live and the local mountain would be snow capped for a month. In addition, strong cold fronts could bring snow right up until the end of December. They recall three Christmas day snow falls (over 50 years). There is no way that would happen now.
It is as though the Southern Ocean has warmed enough to take the bite out of the cold prior to the wind reaching Australia.
The climate where I live is behaving more like a 5 degrees C warmer increase over the last 30 to 40 years.
Comment by Lawrence McLean — 12 Dec 2008 @ 11:52 PM
You can buy organic. It’s more expensive than mass produced and uses less energy still.
You can save up some money for a buffer and then quit the job you don’t really like for a job you DO like but didn’t pay enough.
You can buy local which doesn’t use cheap labour but does use more cheap oil.
Why MUST you spend all your money? if you have money left over then you don’t need your job and the freedom you get from not having to have the job means they can’t bully you.
e 242–Rod, one piece I found has this to say about the cap-and-trade approach:
“History has shown that the marketplace does a better job of developing new technologies, and a tax takes money out of the marketplace. The solution is cap-and-trade. A cap-and-trade strategy provides the incentive for all segments of the economy to compete to discover the best ways to cut emissions.
In a cap-and-trade system, the government plays a small role, and leaves the main decisions to the private sector. The government establishes an overall emissions cap and assigns specific emissions allocations to the different sources of CO2. It does not tell industries and companies what to do or how to meet their allocations. Each company is free to make those choices. It can reduce its own emissions or pay someone else to lower them. Businesses can profit by coming in below their cap and selling their extra carbon credits to others. Even farmers can profit by enhancing carbon storage in soils and trees and selling the extra carbon credits.
The advantages of cap-and-trade are significant. Unlike a tax, it encourages innovation by creating incentives and rewarding those who lower emissions at the least cost. And most importantly, a cap — unlike a tax — guarantees the necessary cuts to stabilize the climate. All a tax does is discourage emissions; it doesn’t specify an emissions target that must be met.”
Sounds like it ought to be somewhat up your alley. Could you elaborate on why you disagree? And are there some particular sources I should look at?
I think you would find that many AGW sceptics do many of those things you listed, except hunting—our family certainly does [ but never hunting ].
And many have given up the second car—-while the opposite is the case with many of the trendier of AGW proponents.
Re your 223 post—this scientific controversy is different from any that have existed in the past, because those supporting the consensus AGW view are demanding world-changing interventions that may produce any number of unintended consequences for the whole world, and for individual countries—and in the process, may not even achieve the intended effect.
In this situation, where it has been ordained by the AGW ‘consensus’, and almost all of the world’s media—all of the world’s Left [ to various degree] governments—most EU governments—-that the only morally acceptable stance [ as many of you here have admonished me]is to champion the AGW orthodoxy without reservation [ no questioning allowed], even if you see arguments made by sceptical scientists that make sense, and coincide with real world observations—-in this case, the 95% agreement is meaningless because hubris, fear of job loss or funding loss, fear of professional embarrassment, enjoyment of media attention and adulation, enjoyment of the deference of colleagues etc all come into play.
It has become too much of a global cause celebre—-too political and trendy, to be compared with past situations.
Where only one outcome is acceptable, and to espouse another is akin to heresy , and an act of professional or political suicide, of course the side demanding compliance is going to have big numbers.
Re your 243 post—-it’s very emotive to raise the problems with aluminium production, coal mines, fertilizer etc, but it’s only a small part of the story.
The renewables have their very large problems with toxicity and the environment too, and use a great deal of energy in their manufacture, installation, transportation, recycling and disposal.
Eg—the polysilicon used to make photovoltaic cells requires a great deal of energy in its manufacture, and generates toxic liquid waste in the form of silicon tetrachloride—a chemical that, when exposed to humid air, transforms into hydrochloric acid and chlorine gas, which is very toxic to humans and renders soils infertile.
The waste can be recycled, but requires lots of energy input to do so, so in China it’s being dumped in fields, where it’s destroying crops and poisoning people who have no means of escaping it.
And many of the metals used in photovoltaics are dwindling in supply, eg indium and gallium.
Some of the most efficient solar panels use toxic heavy metals[ eg cadmium], in their manufacture, and disposal is therefore expected to be a massive problem—with the UE reluctant to allow their use.
There are many people who find the proximity of windmills deleterious to their lives and their health.
So it’s a slippery slope when you start to eliminate energy sources citing their problems—because most have problems.
[Response: But why do you think that discussions about what the energy mix should be and what the pros and cons of each source are, have anything to do with ‘the AGW consensus’? Since every one has costs and benefits, it is very much a political (not scientific) decision that needs to be made. However science informs those decisions by providing a way to assess consequences (whether through CO2 emissions, sulphate emissions, land use impacts, etc.) of any particular choice. – gavin]
Ben #251: The argument that we should not save energy and money because we might spend it on something that would hurt the environment has to rank among the 10 dumbest things I’ve heard this year–and this is a year that featured a US Presidential election.
It’s somewhere along the lines of: “Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I stick my finger into the light socket…”
Ray Ladbury, the Nino anomalies have been close to zero since about July.
There seems to be about a 3 month lag with the ENSO in its influence on temperatures (sometimes 2 months, sometimes 4 months, but more commonly around 3 months.)
While the Nino indices have moved slightly negative since July, the numbers are very small since the Nino anomalies can be as much as +/- 3.0C.
The most consistent analysis of the trends say you can take the Nina 3.4 anomaly of three months ago * 0.076 and you can get a pretty good estimate of the influence of the ENSO on global temperatures this month – or just +0.01C in November 2008.
Rod, re #245- What data did you use in your study? How did you analyze it to come to your conclusion?
Comment by Lawrence Brown — 13 Dec 2008 @ 10:43 AM
Well, “Truth,” I’m all ears. Tell me where there’s a denialist argument that makes sense? Where is there a model anywhere that works with a CO2 sensitivity less than 2 degrees per doubling? All I hear is complete drivel from retired professors of basket weaving and accusations that it’s all a leftie plot.
Look, the “consensus” is nothing more than the ideas that scientists have found indispensable to understand the climate. Unfortunately, the unavoidable consequence of those ideas is that all the CO2 we’re adding to the atmosphere has to be warming the planet. This does not have anything to do with any political ideology. Is it the fault of the scientists that many nutjobs on the right have rejected good science. I have an answer for them: accept the good science and move on to discussions about how to handle the problem.
So, I’ll agree that this scientific controversy is different from all others–but that’s because there’s no scientific controversy. Or do you claim that every National Academy of Science and Professional organization of scientists in the world are a bunch of liberal-commie-pinko-fag junkies.
I still maintain it is either a fairytale or that the chemical engineers involved haven’t got a bloody clue what they are doing. Silicon tetrachloride is a valuable resource, it is volatile and easily distilled. Heated fairly mildly, 350°C ish, (silicon reduction in blast furnaces via carbothermal processes requires 1700°C), it will dissociate into Si(s) and Cl(g), perfect for the production of pure silicon. Instead mix it with water and you get clean SiO2 (your feedstock material) and HCl, which is employed in extracting silicon from metallurgical grade silicon in the carbothermal process. Why would you throw it away?
From the Washington Post (Friday: here): “The modest result leaves the three-year process far short of the goal of concluding a binding agreement by the end of 2009 to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow the planet’s warming, which under current conditions scientists predict will reach dangerous and irreversible levels by the end of the century, if not sooner.”
In the last part, “dangerous” seems obviously true (as here), but “irreversible?” where does that come from? if someone can point me to RC discussion of how/why some climate change may not be undone (through reforestation, carbon sequestration, etc.), i’d appreciate it a lot.
Kevin (254), I’ll offer one example (admittedly oversimplified but maybe instructive). Entity A is producing X tons of CO2 over its allocation. Entity B is producing X tons under its. So Entity A buys credits from Entity B. Result: B’s profit goes up. A’s profit goes down, inhibiting its capability for investing into actually reducing its emissions. Emissions of CO2 has not changed a twit. Except for the possibility of B deciding to invest in additional CO2 emitting projects to use up its credits rather than sell them.
A little like the European countries aiding their Kyoto targets, not by reducing their emissions, but by buying credits from the tanked (at the time…) Russian economy.
Lawrence (260), I surveyed a bunch of guys down at the local diner, estimated my sample, projected it to the populace deemed to be within 20mi. using very rigorous statistical mathematics to give me a 99% confidence level, and EUREKA!
Oh, and contrary to what Rush claims, more air in a tire will NOT lead to hydroplaning on puddle covered streets, actually is a basic concept, the more air pressure in the tire, the less the vehicle is likely to hyrdoplane, we know this based upon basic physics and its applications not only in land vehicles, but in plane tires with proper or higher tire pressure; obviously too high and a tire is more likely to pop, but that is not what the experts or the Obama mention of it was referring to. Every tire type has proper air pressure specifications.
@256 Its not a might. We do spend it. Unless you burn or bury your money its going to be spent. I’m not saying don’t switch to high efficiency bulbs, I’m just saying don’t lie about things that you can’t properly predict, and the full impact of switching to high efficiency bulbs is not something you can properly predict. You say its one of the top 10 dumbest things you’ve heard, but a similar argument was proposed by Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winner in economics.
@253 You only get that freedom by virtue of spending the money. Having the money doesn’t get you food and shelter on its own. You have to spend the money to get those things. And if you don’t spend all your money in your lifetime, your family or the government usually ensure that it is spent eventually.
Being green requires concrete and steel production and the supplying of materials to conduct energy and to supply technological infrastructure which would most definitely raise our carbon footprint at first.
Rod B., Say it ain’t so. You’ve abandoned the free market. I can apply the same logic. Company A produces better widgets than company B, so company A takes market share away. This diminishes company B’s ability to retool and produce better widgets.
It scares the bejesus out of company B, so they go get the investment they need to compete with company A. Likewise, they can get capital to clean up their process so they don’t need to buy credits. Sorry, Rod. Markets either work or they don’t. I think they do.
“Lawrence (260), I surveyed a bunch of guys down at the local diner, estimated my sample, projected it to the populace deemed to be within 20mi. using very rigorous statistical mathematics to give me a 99% confidence level, and EUREKA!”
Not bad, Rod. Good for a chuckle.It’s good not to take ourselves too seriously, but we oughtta take global warming seriously. You’re making light of this whole thing,either because you don’t take much stock in the climatic data, or the physics involved in the analyses.
You’d do better by taking an example from Kepler.He took the observations taken by Tycho Brahe(before the telescope),mathematically plugged it in and concluded that the planets orbits around the Sun were elliptical.
This is a little more conventional way that science is done.
A.C. Let me answer your question with another question: Once the carbon is mixed into the atmosphere at altitudes all the way up to the stratosphere, how do you get it out so that you can sequester it? Another question: Once the permafrost and oceans become net sources of CO2 and CH4, how do you reverse that? Of course, in the long run, over geologic timescales, CO2 will weather olivine and other rocks and again become sequester. However, as Keynes said, “In the long run, we are all dead.”
jcbmack (266), agreed. I simply refuted the implied hyperbolic marketing fluff that if every driver checked his tire pressure the country’s gasoline consumption would decrease 10%. It pretty much relied on the assumption that the average driver is driving probably about 10psi, at least 5 or more, under recommendations. Seems an obvious stretch. I don’t fault the marketing excesses. But I find it humorous that my learned scientist friends swallowed it right up. No big deal, really ;-)
We will only have 50 years or so left of Uranium enrichment left for nuclear applications, and I do believe the French are the ones who handle nuclear power well, I think the US is a little lazy to be applying a major % of electrical sources from nuclear. Any thoughts Ray and others?
What are we going to do, build 100 watt turbines…lol, what do we do what can we engineer, what materials should be used?
Ray, I said nothing related to free (or unfree) markets. For all I know A and B are in totally different enterprise markets. But I’d like your opinion: was my simple example of cap and trade likely, possible, not likely, or impossible?
Lawrence, I was being simple and humorous to make a serious point: the 95% (or Hansen’s 99%) confidence level is a construct of people, not something indelible, unassailable, and absolute delivered by God on tablets of stone.
It is only politics and $ that stops us from lowering emissions faster, but these are real obstacles.
Early bacteria photsynthetic bacteria and those still around today could be utilized, not just in conjunction with planting trees and other sequestering methods, but in huge tanks where the very simple chemistry plays out to create more 02 and take in more CO2 and break down CH4 and NH4, this is the subject mater of bioengineering… the SO2 stratospheric plan is very wrong, and should not be implemented at all, but if it is, on a short time frame and only just enough to do a mild partial offset of warming, nothing more, that acid rain and potential killing of plant and other wild life is just as serious as CO2 and CH4 in that sense and the cooling reverses quickly in conjunction with variables not worth finding out the hard way.
#218 Rod, natural gas (methane, CH4) is a limited resource, much more limited than coal, otherwise, replacing coal with methane would be a useful strategy to limit greenhouse warming. Comparing the heating value of coal with methane is a bit tricky, as coal is not a homogeneous material. It’s heat of combustion varies between 15 and 30 MJ/kg. Natural gas has a heating value of about 50 MJ/kg. Of course the CO2 emission from methane per MJ are a lot lower than from coal.
I was answering Ray Ladbury’s post that suggested that the AGW consensus is so unassailable, that it justifies an end to aluminium smelting, etc, and coal-fired power electricity generation right now.
The claimed unassailability of the AGW consensus, results in a fever to throw out everything we now rely on, before replacement energy sources and materials are available.
I think the almost sanctification of most of the alternative options to fossil fuels, creates a false sense of security—a sense that it doesn’t matter if the uncertainties in the AGW science are glossed over—if scientists who question the consensus on the basis of the gaps in knowledge of vital areas of climate science, are ignored and reviled—-because there are all these ‘ready to go’ clean, sustainable , non-polluting , non-toxic, damage-free alternatives waiting for us to just take on board.
But that isn’t so, is it? There are many problems with the alternatives.
The decisions on carbon trading etc are political, and, because most journalists are not interested in really informing themselves on all the details of that , and of problems with the renewables, and because ‘saving the planet’ has become a very sexy and emotive issue—-so journalists defer to the AGW ‘consensus’, and favour and promote the politicians who take it on board without questioning, conferring all the power onto them.
The more thoughtful, less venal, less self-servingly- political , more questioning politicians—the ones who want only to get it right for the world—- are given short shrift—-even lose office—and are smeared as some sort of throwbacks or fiends akin to holocaust deniers—-because they won’t toe the line .
Those politicians want to be in power, but not at any cost.
Scientists have never , I think, had such a responsibility on their shoulders to do the right thing, to be really true to their profession and themselves —to forego the seductive attentions of a fickle media and self-serving politicians, and the fashion for post-normal science —-in favour of getting the science right.
It’s really ironic that scientists have had to go from being undervalued and under-respected by the community, [ in Australia anyway], due to media ignorance and inattention—to now, I think, becoming victims of media hype.
Surely, we need to have strong economies that will fund research into the most sustainable options—– and getting it wrong by shutting down coal-fired power stations forthwith, as someone has suggested here, before we know what alternatives really will sustainably provide base load power to keep our economies strong , seems to be a reckless way to go.
Strong economies, and respect for science , will be a minimum requirement, surely, for governments and others to fund the research that will find the most sustainable renewables, and/or a clean way of burning coal, that most of us want found.
Hank 250: “Underinflated tires waste gas. How much gas? The Department of Transportation estimates that 5 million gallons of fuel per day are wasted due to low tire pressure. That’s more than 2 billion gallons per year…..”
Sigh. Another “big number” quote that fails to put it into context. 2B gallons a year savings while we had an annual consumption in 2004 of 140B gallons? So around 1.5%?
Sanity check: below is another study where they dropped tire pressure IN HALF (from 40 to 20 psi) and found fuel economy dropped 3%. That’s 3% when you were driving on tires that appeared almost flat.
Question that you need only answer for yourself in the privacy of your home: If George Bush touted tune ups and proper tire pressure as as his top two ways to conserve, would you be singing its praises? Uh huh.
#229 Secular Animist: Replacing all the inefficient incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs in the United States alone could prevent 158 million tons of CO2 emissions according to one lighting company, the equivalent of taking more than 30 million cars off the road. Sub stituting CFLs under a global scenario that minimizes costs would reduce lighting energy demand by nearly 40 percent and save 900 million tons of CO2 a year by 2030, with a cumu lative savings by then totaling 16.6 billion tons — more than twice the carbon dioxide released in the United States in 2006.
Another view: If CLF is 15W, and Incandescent in 60, and if you burn 2.25 kwh/day in lights, this is about a 5% savings for the home in terms of energy cost ($5/month savings). This electricity usage translates to about 370 kg/year savings in co2 based on 0.61 kg CO2/kwh (using our current mix of coal, gas, nuke, etc).
This is a 1.3% reduction to per capita CO2 output in the US.
Note that the optimists usually assume every kwh devoted to lighting will be converted to cfl. Unfortunately, much of non-residential lighting is already fluorescent, and those that aren’t are not because of a special need (street light, spot light, etc).
So, putting the squeeze on consumers to go CFL and to properly inflate their tires just doesn’t change the outcome of the game. Yes, every little bit helps, just the same as bailing out NOLA with a coffee cup helps. We need to find big wins to solve this problem.
Ray Ladbury: Ah, but you see, we aren’t betting on a single event, but rather a trend. It’s more like your retirement (at least if you are being responsible) than a roll of the dice. You claim that experts overstate their confidence. Care to provide an example of a time where the overwhelming majority of experts (>100) claimied 95% confidence and were wrong in the physical sciences? Actually, most experts I know are very conservative. If you aren’t, you don’t stay an expert very long.
In the physical sciences? I honestly cannot think of recent major contributions of import that were as controversial (relatively speaking) as this. By “major contributions” I mean major enough such that 200 scientists would actually take sides on an issue. Or even 150. So I think AGW is very unique. But please educate me if this is fairly common. I’ll give you the ozone hole. But even the big companies were pulling for that to be true, because they got to sell all new equipment. Nobody “lost” in that one. But it is odd that for years all we heard about was skin cancer and cataracts, and now the hole is bigger than ever but nobody is worried about skin cancer. Mission accomplished. We’ll know in another few decades if the scientists were right.
In medicine this happens all the time. I’ve repeatedly brought up H Pylori as an example in which it take a long time for the ship to turn.
The soft sciences are well aware of how frequently “statistically significant” studies touting 95% certainty are wrong, and in fact they are wrong about 50% of the time. It’s not because anyone is at fault. It’s, again, because people don’t know what they don’t know.
When Hadley claimed 2XCO2 of about 6’C in the 90’s, it’s because they didn’t understand the impact of aerosols. Now they do. Now their number is lower. Can something else be found that will revise it downward again? Sure, of course.
[Response: This can’t be correct. The response to 2xCO2 is independent of any aerosol effect, and similarly, I cannot find any reference to the Hadley model having a sensitivity of 6 deg C. Be careful of inventing anecdotes to demonstrate rhetorical points. – gavin]
You work on satellites, right? I build very high-volume consumer electronics for a living. A $3 battery that can overheat can cost $10’s of millions to replace. The stakes are very high. Same with what you do. So, I respect that your line of work has a great deal of rigor as part of the job description. I’ve looked a GCM. They are a mess. They are truly some of the worst software I’ve ever seen in 25 years of writing software. Do you feel the level of oversight and rigor is where it needs to be in building these models? Remember, the history is what it is. We can measure it. But much of what is being predicted rests on what these models are telling us. Do you think the code quality and rigor and analysis behind these models is commensurate with the expectations we’re placing on the correctness of these models?
[Response: There are over 20 independent efforts to develop GCMs – they all show the same thing, which is supported by any number of more specialised model and basic theory. More computational science support would of course be welcome. – gavin]
Ray Ladbury 243
Its worth remembering that there is a direct and proportional relationship between energy consumption and standard of living,
the ultimate value of a dollar is reflected in the cost of energy, going green sounds good , but the cost will reduce the standard of living for us back to the 1930’s. 
[Response: Nonsense. This would imply that opening a window in winter would make you richer. Try it and see. – gavin]
RodB, 95% means that if you were to use the same level of confidence on a thousand replications, 950+/-30 will show the level assumed.
Exactly like throwing a dice. One in six of the numbers will be 1, according to binomial counting statistics. And at the X% confidence limit, throwing a thousand such dice in parallel and treating them separately will show the given distribution. Throwing more and more dice in parallel will show a closer and closer match to the statistics.
And that’s not a human creation divorced from real life.
@270. You spend money on things you don’t need. Then you need the job to have the money to spend, so you’re in a poor bargaining position.
How about leaving a legacy for your children? If they have enough money when you die from your estate to buy their own houses or put their own kids through a better college, then you have saved your money to be spent in future on things that don’t produce CO2.
You really just don’t want people spending money on CO2.
You work for an oil company or geological survey company, don’t you?
The point, Rod, is that there is a whole helluva lot of low hanging fruit that would allow us to decrease consumption AND save money. So why the resistance? Why the rejection for good, simple ideas? The common thread seems to be resistance to change–any change. Yes, big changes will be needed, but if we start to save energy now, we can slow the pace of those changes, maybe preserve some options we wouldn’t have otherwise. How, pray, is that a bad thing?
As to your example… well, what would you do after having to pay through the nose for a couple of years for CCs? Pack up shop and say woe is me? How about taking out a financing to buy some equipment to clean up your operation with the knowledge that it represents a guaranteed savings? I am a firm believer in markets. I also believe that sometimes markets need help to ensure the price reflects all the costs.
could I ask if all of the curremt 20 independent climate models are based around the charney sensitivity and not the recently introduced/discovered earth sensitivity potential of less ice albedo and other additional feednacks acting over multi decades/centuries of time?
If I assume that commercial & industrial lighting is nearly all fluorescent, then the target is clearly residential lighting. If further I assume that 2/3 of the energy is consumed by incandescent lights that can be replaced by CFL’s, then my estimate for the CO2 savings is roughly 30 million tons. A fifth of what ‘one lighting company’ claimed.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 14 Dec 2008 @ 10:07 AM
Matt, look further in the article you cited, down to the phrase “low profile tire” — their explanation for the small difference they noted: a lap around their track driving an Astra. They note the special circumstances in the same article. One test, one tire type.
Look that up — those are unusual tires, won’t give average results, don’t last very long, and can’t prove anything about average results.
RE #220 & “individual efforts (many of which do save money — though will not fix the problem”
Never said they would, but they are a NECESSARY measure. Efforts need to be made at all levels — individual, family, work, church, school, all levls of government (town/city, county, state, federal, U.N.).
Industries need to reduce their own GHGs & make products that help us do so, which would include reusable items (& we need to consider the whole life cycle of products, e.g., from ripping up the rainforest floor for bauxite for aluminum, the shipping & extremely high energy processing, to us tossing out the can, which end in a landfill–when recycling could solve all these problems).
Governments at all levels need to reduce their own GHGs and pass rules, regs, & laws that help others reduce, including tax incentives, etc.
Just sitting on our duffs waiting for the UN to come up with something is not nearly enough, but it is NECESSARY. Or, maybe its good to sit on our duffs instead of driving around in our SUVs.
SUFFICIENT is when all systems are reducing, and the whole world can reduce by 80%.
Yes, every little bit helps, just the same as bailing out NOLA with a coffee cup helps. We need to find big wins to solve this problem.
Divide and conquer. You can always divide a big win in smaller ones and then reason them away. There are different (more optimistic) angles to look at it:
– The big wins are a sum of smaller ones
– The advantage of the small wins is that there are a lot of them
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 14 Dec 2008 @ 10:39 AM
Oh, and, Matt, I can’t imagine you know anyone who practices
> tune ups and proper tire pressure
> as as his top two ways to conserve
Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good.
Those are good practices.
New vehicles include sensors for both engine tuning and tire pressure, because people do maintain both better with feedback — but as Edmunds notes, manufacturers choose the level at which the tire pressure idiot light goes on. Most only light when pressure falls so low there’s immediate risk the tire will disintegrate, Edmunds says — so you still need to check it.
One more thing to consider if buying a new vehicle– is the tire pressure sensor setting feedback level useful for efficient driving?
RE #215 & “If we substantially reduce CO2 emissions in the next few decades, either through nuclear or enormous alt energy or both, and if electric cars become the primary means of transportation, then why worry at all where people live?”
Bec those cars still have to be produced & production (incl mining for metals, shipping them to the U.S., etc) is still CO2 intensive; and road will have to be maintained more with more driving, and etc. So it will still be better to reduce, along with using alt energy.
RE nuclear – aside from it enormous cost, which if allowed to compete fairly would never have made it to market – has plenty of problems, starting with destruction of land and lives due to uranium mining. If you think coal mining is dirty & dangerous….
Many of the harmed people are tribals. Nuclear is very bad right from the start.
I’m not even completely sure, when all GHGs emissions are factored in from mine to nuke waste storage (& all the university/gov work going into studying it and making it efficient and safe, & all the medical issues re health harms, and destruction of subsistence lands) if it really does reduce GHGs much over coal/oil.
But it might possibly — with these tons of caveats & assuming all the problems can be overcome (incl terrorist use of it) — help reduce harm to planet earth by reducing GHG emisions. Not sure. Amory Lovins http://www.rmi.org thinks energy/resource efficiency/conservation & alt energy will make nuclear a financially unfeasible boondoggle.
Because it is pretty obvious that it has not warmed as much as Scenarios A or B predicted.
I know this is all a matter of probabilities and thus that does not prove anything– merely makes things more or less probable.
Nonetheless I agree with the main text statement:
“Of course, the true worth of any scientific idea is whether it leads to more successful predictions than other theories.”
On that basis the graph suggests that the underlying theory is not doing well as a predictor.
GHG’s have gone up, so far the world has not behaved as it was predicted to behave.
I understand that recent periods may be an aberration, etc. etc. But so far, the probability that the theory is right seems to be diminishing to me. It still may be right, but that seems less likely now than earlier.
Truth, do us all a favor and save your straw men for other rightwing nutjobs who don’t care about the truth. Nowhere did I suggest all coal fired power plants be shut down immediately. Nor has Jim Hansen suggested it.
You keep alluding that there are all these scientists out there who dissent from the consensus. So where are they? Why don’t they publish their ideas in peer reviewed journals? Where are their models and evidence? All I hear from the denialist side is a rather confused mumbling about how we don’t understand climate–and all of it from people who don’t publish in climate science.
If you want to debate the science, the proper venues are between the covers of peer-reviewed journals (not op-ed pages) and in the hallways of conferences. If you want to debate what to do about the threats, there is still room at the table. Price of admission: Learn and understand the science so you can make an informed contribution.
John Hall, John Lang, have either of you read the previous discussions? Do you know the climate sensitivity number assumed to create that particular set of scenarios, for example? Looked at anything besides the picture? If so, what have you read?
Matt, First, you contend that climate change is controversial. Among what group does the controversy rage? Certainly not among the climate scientists who are actively publishing and advancing the work. Not among the related scientists–physicists, chemists, meteorologists…hell, even the Petroleum Geologists, where not one professional society dissents from the consensus view. Not among National Academies, where there is also pretty much universal agreement on the consensus. It would seem that it is only controversial among those who don’t understand the science.
You attack the quality of the coding in the GCMs. OK, find anything specific that changes the physics? I’d be very surprised if you did. The only way to invalidate the consensus view would be if you could get a greenhouse gas to stop acting like a greenhouse gas or if you found a very large negative feedback. Both are contra-indicated by available evidence.
Now, as to your contention that individual actions are irrelevant, I disagree. Individual actions are critical, because 1)society is a collection of individual; and 2)individual actions indicate that people are taking responsibility. Moreover, if we can find 8 actions that reduce consumption by 1.3%, we’ve cut output by more significantly more than 11%, once you take into account costs of production, transport, distribution, etc. Individuals are not powerless if they become committed, and in any case, as you oppose coercion, I would think you would encourage individual initiative rather than try to discourage it.
John Hall, First, there are certainly uncertainties in the models for how energy gets distributed. The warming we see in the temperature may not be all there is, because not all the systems in the climate come to equilibrium at the same rate. Thus, there could be more warming “in the pipeline”. Second, climate is very noisy, and long time series are needed for trends–even strong ones–to become clear. Third, even if there temperature trends were lower than expected, other warming trends (e.g. ice loss) are happening faster. I wouldn’t draw any comfort from small discrepancies.
John Hall wrote “Because it is pretty obvious that it has not warmed as much as Scenarios A or B predicted.”
John: A, B, and C are “scenarios,” not predictions. They are hypothetical states of the future world. Each scenario assumes different greenhouse gas emission rates. The graphed lines are the different predictions made by the same model, given those different rates of greenhouse gas emissions. The only relevant line is the one for the scenario that is closest to the actual greenhouse gas emissions over the 20 years since the predictions were made. That’s Scenario B.
The 20-year old prediction actually has done quite well. Predictions made now probably will do even better, because our knowledge has improved. For example the climate sensitivity to CO2 is now known to be smaller than was believed 20 years ago. Again, read the 2006 paper in which that figure appeared.
The issue about the correlation of standard of living and energy use, is not what we are talking about. We are talking about standard of living and CO2 emissions, which is clearly non-linear, and saturates quickly
information for you..
European leaders clash over pledges on global warming !!!
European leaders gather in Brussels today for a crunch summit, acutely divided over how to deliver on pledges to combat global warming almost two years after declaring they would show the rest of the world how to tackle climate change.
The EU is split between the poorer east and the wealthy west. Germany says that most of their industries need not pay to pollute, Italy says it cannot afford the ambitious scheme, and Britain says that the package on the table could result in huge windfall profits for companies.
“There is a very big chasm between the various parties,” said a senior European diplomat.
Prime ministers and presidents appear to be getting cold feet over key decisions that need to be taken by the weekend to enact laws that will make the climate change package binding for 27 countries.
Failure is not an option, they say. But Polish veto threats, Italian resistance, and German insistence that it will not jeopardise jobs to help save the planet, suggest that the action plan will be diluted. The risk is the EU will draw withering criticism from climate campaigners and signal weakness and indecision to the US, China, India and other key players in the global warming fight.
“It’s a question of credibility,” said Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission who described the summit as the most important of his five-year term. “It would be a real mistake for Europe to give the signal that we are watering down our position.”
A negative outcome to the talks would moreover cast a pall over the latest round of UN negotiations to secure a post-Kyoto treaty to limit global greenhouse gases.
But at talks in Poznan, Poland, on Wednesday, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, said: “There are a few issues left but I cannot imagine that we’re not going to get an agreement on Friday. We are going to deliver the targets.”
The EU package represents the most ambitious legislative effort on climate change anywhere which includes four laws that mandate cuts in greenhouse gases by one-fifth by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, reduce energy consumption in Europe by one-fifth by the same deadline and stipulate that 20% of Europe’s energy mix comes from renewable sources.
Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel engineered the deal as EU president in March last year. Since then the EU has been bragging about leading the world in the race to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2C.
It falls to Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, to end his dynamic six months in the EU hot seat with a deal that could see the entire package turned into law before Christmas.
Sarkozy is staring failure in the face. But he is widely viewed as a consummate fixer who may pull it off. The disputes are fundamentally about costs, a disagreement that has become magnified in the current economic climate. While everyone agrees the headline target of 20% cuts in greenhouse gases by 2020 is sacrosanct, the disputes are about how to get there.
The heart of the scheme is the “cap-and-trade” or emissions trading system which is to supply around half of the cuts in greenhouse gases. The ceiling for industrial pollution levels is progressively lowered and industries and companies pay to pollute by buying permits in an auction system.see http://hernadi-key.blogspot.com
Gavin Inline #289: Response: This can’t be correct. The response to 2xCO2 is independent of any aerosol effect, and similarly, I cannot find any reference to the Hadley model having a sensitivity of 6 deg C. Be careful of inventing anecdotes to demonstrate rhetorical points. – gavin]
Sorry, details were off but conclusion the same.
“A few years ago, a leading climate model–developed at the British Meteorological Office’s Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research, in Bracknell–predicted that an Earth with twice the preindustrial level of carbon dioxide would warm by a devastating 5.2 degrees Celsius. Then Hadley Center modelers, led by John Mitchell, made two improvements to the model’s clouds–how fast precipitation fell out of different cloud types and how sunlight and radiant heat interacted with clouds. The model’s response to a carbon dioxide doubling dropped from 5.2oC to a more modest 1.9oC.”
How do we know current models haven’t made a similar mistake? We don’t. Only after decades of accurately predicting AND researchers trying to improve and saying “man, this looks pretty good. Our changes improve the accuracy a bit, but those SOBs back in 2010 really new what they were doing” will we know that the models are “hardened” and can reliable tell us what we need to know.
It’s the same with other disciplines.
It doesn’t matter if all 20 models have nearly the same answer. If they all dismissed something because group think deemed it not important and because it wasn’t understood, then all 20 modelers will be very surprised at the change in outcomes.
#295 Anne van der Bom: If I assume that commercial & industrial lighting is nearly all fluorescent, then the target is clearly residential lighting. If further I assume that 2/3 of the energy is consumed by incandescent lights that can be replaced by CFL’s, then my estimate for the CO2 savings is roughly 30 million tons. A fifth of what ‘one lighting company’ claimed.
Yes, agree. My number was 37.1M tons. Which in terms of US CO2 production is about 1% (actually about 0.6% if the total US output is 6B tons).
#296 Hank: Matt, look further in the article you cited, down to the phrase “low profile tire” — their explanation for the small difference they noted: a lap around their track driving an Astra. They note the special circumstances in the same article. One test, one tire type.
As I noted, the DoT claimed a savings of 2B gallons. We drink 140B gallons a year, so that’s 1.5%.
Thus, two cited sources giving about the same amount.
The savings from proper tire inflation is very, very small.
Ray (293), I agree. All I’m asserting is checking air pressure will help like (as the man said) using a coffee cup to bail New Orleans out. How many of your soccer moms, et al are driving around for 6-12 months with about 24psi in their tires. To get the average (and the touted savings) in a normal distribution, it has to be at least 60%. Do you think that’s happening? I think the preponderance of drivers are within 5% of recommended pressure. Those folks checking will provide none of the touted benefits. But, I agree, checking periodically is something all drivers should do — for MPG and safety.
#2: Yes, eventually company B will make the investment to reduce his emissions, so eventually CO2 might diminish. Or maybe not. [How much investment does a cement producer have to make?]
#293 Ray Ladbury: The point, Rod, is that there is a whole helluva lot of low hanging fruit that would allow us to decrease consumption AND save money.
No, there’s not. Be and engineer here for a moment and ack that we need to reduce CO2 90-95% to win this.
The lowest of the low-hanging fruit, CFL and tire pressure, is generously 3%. The EPA “vampires” are another % or two. Reduced hiway speeds another %. And a few other things can probably get us to 8% for the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. And these have 2 year timetables.
The real low-hanging fruit, which is CAFE, has a 10 year timetable. It’s probably another 10%
Backfilling with alt energy is also low-hanging and a 10 year time table. It’s probably another 20%.
But then it gets hard. Really, really hard. We can do all of the above, and we don’t get anywhere near close enough to what we need.
I know the rah-rah attitude feels good. But if a manager type shows up to one of your satellite project meetings and proclaims “we need to reduce satellite weight by 95%”, do your guys start talking about removing a bolt here and there, or do they realize that with that statement business as usual has just ceased to exist and either the manager is insane or he wants everything currently used to be completely thrown away and a new way of getting things into orbit developed?
I think most AGW types fall into the “completely insane” bit, becuase they have failed to rationalize what the US and EU must actually achieve to succeed. And instead, they think a Prius + CFL will get us there. It won’t.
If they truly understood the challenges, they’d opt for nuclear tomorrow. But they don’t, and thus they’ll stick to their plan of using AGW to drive their anti-growth agenda. Sad, really.
301, John, JL’s graph doesn’t split out natural VS anthro forcings. Since natural forcings have been negative, they’re masking the signal. Arctic sea ice thickness is plummeting and volume hit another record low in 2008. Once summer arctic sea ice goes away, temps will start to rise again. It’s a tipping point no natural forcing can counteract.
Saving a few dollars per transformer when replacing utility transformers, by choosing less efficient ones — that will stay in the poles for 40 or 50 years or more, like the antiques they’re replacing. Make sense to you?
“According to DOE estimates, requiring all new transformers to achieve the same efficiency levels as the best units currently on the market would eliminate the need for nearly 20 large new power plants by 2038.”
“Making these simple improvements can make new, expensive coal plants unnecessary.”
Adopting the more stringent standards would also avoid the emission of 700 million tons of carbon dioxide — more than what is emitted annually by all U.S. passenger cars.
PETITION FOR REVIEW
… the Attorney General, on behalf of the People of the State ofCalifornia, petitions this Court for review of the final action, including the promulgation of regulations, taken by Respondents at 72 Federal Register 58,190-58,241 (October 12, 2007), entitled “Energy Conservation Program for Commercial Equipment ….”
Going back to the origin of this thread; whether evolution worked through Darwinian variation and natural selection or through Lamarckian variation and the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Lamarckians cut the tails of mice and amputated the legs from toads and bread from them, hoping to find mice being born without tails and toad developing without legs. Well, for hundreds of generations, hundreds of thousands or would it be millions of male Jews have been circumcised and they have to continue to do today, because boys are born with foreskins, showing empirically, that acquired characteristics are not inherited. There was no need for the experiments on mice or toads. The experiments had been done.
Many people believe the world is as they want it to be, rather than how it is. That is emotion not science. However, it is hard enough to see how the world is. It is much harder to tell how it will be.
Matt, This idea that we all assume the change will be easy exists only in your head, and the sooner you get rid of that straw man, the sooner we can move ahead. I agree that the low-hanging fruit alone won’t do it. I disagree with some of your details–e.g. that it will take 10 years to increase CAFE standards. Indeed, I’m not opposed to Nuclear, although 1)it’s not a near-term solution; and 2)it does require considerable work to resolve proliferation and waste storage concerns.
The most important point, though is that every watt we save buys time, and time is the most precious commodity we have in addressing this threat. Time allows us to improve the science and better target mitigation. It allows improvement of technology. It allows political evolution rather than revolution. It allows education. All I hear from you and the pro-business types is that we can’t do it. With that sort of attitude do you wonder why many who are concerned about climate change look to the left for solutions.
OK. We get it. It’s hard. Now what do we do about it. I’m waiting for YOUR solutions.
> cut the tails of mice and amputated the legs … foreskins …
Or foot binding, or neck stretching, or shaving beards or other body hair, or eyebrow-plucking, or ear-piercing.
You have to back up to the era and think this through with the information they had. There was a reasonable argument made that perhaps over many lifetimes, some actual useful activity — for example, many generations of stretching for higher branches as climate changed for the ancestors of the giraffe — could have some kind of feedback to heredity. Useful activity, over many generations, with feedback. Like exercise improved muscles, they thought perhaps exercise could alter heredity. Reasonable in the absence of evidence. But the notion was small changes over long spans requiring some sort of active effort toward some benefit.
That was a different suggestion than the notion that some externally imposed alteration could become impressed somehow on inheritance.
Look at the humble clam. Its shell is some protection, but predators have evolved ways to drill through the shell. No one argued that clams would evolve toward being pre-drilled! A deleterious alteration wasn’t expected to become inheritable. Nor was there any particular reason to think a neutral alteration might become inherited — even a strain, let alone an amputation. Some people tried it anyhow, and with no knowledge of statistics so no idea what sort of sample they’d need.
It’s hard for people to remember how _recent_ scientific thinking is. The people looking at surgical alterations had no notion of statistics either.
Regarding Scenario A, B, C etc. I have read both papers several times.
The fact is that temperatures are not keeping up with the predicted timeline in the models – not the 1988 predictions or any of the subsequent IPCC predictions. This is not really in dispute.
Maybe it takes a long time to reach the equilibrium temperatures, maybe the oceans are absorbing more of the greenhouse energy than originally predicted. But the numbers to date are turning out to be only half of the trendlines predicted.
Previously, I said this month November, 2008, provides a good opportunity to examine the warming to date figure because the big ocean cycle drivers of temperature are giving us a more-or-less neutral impact this month.
GISStemp will be about 0.48C in November, 2008 (no sense making observations if you are not going to put some predictions on the line).
[Response: One month or one year is not the determinant of anything much, and the match to the long term trends in the data and in the Hansen et al projections will remain much as it was when I wrote this post. (I’ve already done the calcs). – gavin]
317 matt says, “If they truly understood the challenges, they’d opt for nuclear tomorrow. But they don’t, and thus they’ll stick to their plan of using AGW to drive their anti-growth agenda”
Nuclear power *can’t* be used as the world’s power source because the US and EU *won’t* allow *everyone* on the planet to use nukes. There is plenty of wind and solar to power the world – it’s just a safer vision of pro-growth than you have. Me? I like hybrid nuclear/methane plants. No muss, no fuss, no radioactive waste, no proliferation issues, ultra cheap electricity, and a 90+% reduction in GHG emissions as compared to coal.
John Lang wrote: “The fact is that temperatures are not keeping up with the predicted timeline in the models.”
I don’t see how you can conclude that “the numbers to date are turning out to be only half of the trendlines predicted” (in that Fig. 2 graph). Remember that you need to ignore the green and purple prediction lines, because the real CO2 emissions and other aspects of the state of the world have not matched those assumptions. Those green and purple lines correspond with planets we do not live on. (Think of them as descriptions of Earth in two universes parallel to our own–universes that diverged from ours back in 1958.) So compare only the blue prediction line to the red and black observation lines. But nor does that blue line entirely accurately correspond with the actual, historical, Earth. That blue line is not a hindcast using the actual historical state of CO2 and so on. It makes 1988 assumptions about those conditions. It has not been corrected to match the actual history.
Also, be sure you’re comparing the trends to no trend–to a flat line down at the “.0″ mark on the y axis. The angle of the observed (red and black) lines’ trend line up from that flat line is not “half” the angle of the blue prediction line’s trend line.
Then you need to see past the noise. Sure, since 1999 the actuals have been slightly below the blue prediction line. But between 1995 and 1998 the predictions were above the actuals. Keep going back and you’ll see swings in the differences between predicted and actual. That’s why inferential statistical tests need to be done to test hypotheses about differences in trends.
Finally, yes, there does seem to be a slight underprediction of the blue line. Part of the reason is the inaccuracy of the 1988 predictions about how much CO2 would be released, ocean phenomena such as El Nino, volcanic eruptions, and so on. (Remember, the blue line is not a hindcast using actual historical conditions.) Another part of the reason is, as Hansen et al. explicitly noted in that article, the 1988 model used a too-high estimate of temperature sensitivity to CO2 (last paragraph of page 14289 of that article). That estimate was 4.2 deg. C for doubling of CO2, whereas the current estimate is only 3 +- 1 deg. C. That’s not a mystery.
Most importantly, current models are not identical to that 1988 model. So if you’re wondering how well “the” models will predict the future from now, you can get a hint from looking at current models’ hindcasts versus observations. That is not what is in the Figure 2 we’ve been discussing.
#321 Ray Ladbury: OK. We get it. It’s hard. Now what do we do about it. I’m waiting for YOUR solutions.
Same answer I’ve been typing here for the last 2 years.
We start the concrete trucks and start pouring cookie cutter reactors similar to Westinghouse AP1000. ASAP. We fund $0.10 gas tax for an XPrize (which would be $14B/year) for achieving a battery with double the gravimetric and volumetric efficiency of Lithium Ion, and at half the cost. That would give us cars with a $12K battery that could deliver 400 miles range. The drive electronics and motors are easy and well understood.
And then we have breathing room. Lots of it. Because in 20 years, we can be to an 60-80% reduction. That is bankable. And concurrently we ramp alt energy as fast as possible, and hope that can hit 30-40% in 25 years. And then we can start dialing down the reactors and eating the cost on those IF alt energy works out. If it doesn’t, we aren’t painted into a corner.
GWB’s greatest screw-up was pissing around with switchgrass and all the other nutty ideas he had planted in his head. On 9/12 2001, if he would have stuck a $0.10 gas tax on battery technology, you can bet car makers plans for 2014 fleet would look radically different than today.
#321 Ray Ladbury: I disagree with some of your details–e.g. that it will take 10 years to increase CAFE standards.
Have you ever wondered why the car radio in your car lags so far behind what the market is currently actually using? Why, for example, do production cars JUST NOW have an mp3 port? It’s because car development lead times for even modest platform changes are 5 years. Major changes are 10-12 years. Big changes to CAFE touch almost every subsystem on a car. They are major changes requiring 10-12 years to implement.
That’s right Robert, “Or foot binding, or neck stretching, or shaving beards or other body hair, or eyebrow-plucking, or ear-piercing.” It is funny to think of all these clever men, looking themselves in the mirror shaving, cutting their hair every morning. Then going to work and cutting the tails off mice. Millions of experiments for all to see, but not to understand Even when Darwin pointed them out, people still did not get it. Millions still don’t. As I say, it is hard enough to see how the world is, even when it is pointed out. It is much harder to tell how it will be when 3, 5, 8, 11 factors, all variable and some unknown interact over time.
“All I hear from you and the pro-business types is that we can’t do it.”
Be really careful with that! Silicon Valley is filled with “pro-business types” who funding and working on all sorts of energy-saving/CO2-reduction technologies, as fast as we can.
1) There are plenty of entities that claim to represent business, like the WSJ for example, or a bunch of conservative thinktanks.
2) But, having worked in high-tech corporations for 27 years, often at executive level, I don’t think those entities represented *us* very well, and in fact, I think they often didn’t represent most businesses very well.
I’ve known plenty of responsible businesspeople who actually welcomed reasonable regulation to do let them “do the right thing” without being at a disadvantage. Some businesses are like farmers: they know where they’re going to be, and they don’t just pollute the place and leave. [For example, the old Bell System was pervasive, and couldn’t easily just leave and go somewhere else, although AT&T did have to threaten the CA PUC with that once.] Some extractive industries don’t exactly think that way.
Google: pittsburgh coal mine subsidence
[I grew up near Pittsburgh and worked summer jobs at the US Bureau of Mines.]
There is of course, absolutely zero-value to a coal producer that anyone works on energy efficiency… one wonders how much R&D coal companies do for themselves, rather than expecting the government to do.
3) While it is perfectly rational for businesses to wish to avoid cumbersome regulations, I’d observe that there is is a set of businesses that operate by “privatizing the benefits, socializing the costs”, particularly with regard to environmental and health issues.
Some of these entities represent *those* businesses, as is clear from the funding patterns. But of course, it’s an effective ploy on their part to take on the mantle of “representing business”, because it’s good cover, and may gain more support from other businesses. The cigarette companies especially pioneered this.
BUT, it is a really bad idea to lump all businesses together, it’s just playing into disinformational hands….
Matt # 330 is basically correct here. Blue lasers for example are an old technology, and HD was used by the military in the 1950’s, but only in the last few years have they been available to the public.
I must say though, that from any perspective, nuclear power is not a good option to increase dependence on in the United States. MP3 technology is not all that new either, but look how expensive they were and how rare at first in general public usage.
Electric car technology was in use in the 1800’s and more efficient designs are available in Britannica from the early 1900’s and in the 1990’s there were EV’s that could travel 300 miles on one charge and drive 100 plus miles per hour and were well built and did not over heat or cause problems of greater magnitude or incidence than internal combustion engines which run on gasoline.
If people want to talk about nuclear, I suggest relocating to the thread over at Breavew Climate on IFR, i.e., a technology James Hansen has written of recently, and at least avoid plowing all the same ground again.
I’ll be interested to hear what he has to say about it here Tuesday.
I am sorry to say that the Australian Govt. has just announced its targets for 2020. 5% of 2000 levels by 2020 with option to increase to 15% if international agreement is achieved next year. It represents about a 20% reduction on the current levels of emissions.
I believe this is not good enough and will be working hard to get it tightened.
Comment by Ricki (Australia) — 14 Dec 2008 @ 11:45 PM
I agree that Si Valley has been a bright spot that shines more brightly against the dark background of American Business defeatism. However, even here, I wish leaders would be more vocal. I think there has been a tendency to merely roll their eyes when the WSJ pretends to be the voice of business, rather than give them the dressing down they so desperately need. I’ve reached the point where I wouldn’t train a puppy on the WSJ!
We’ve reached a point where the only way to put paid to the charge by denialists that addressing climate change means regressing to the stone age is to demonstrate that to the contrary it is the only path forward into the 21st century and beyond.
Rod, a thought experiment is all very well, but how about a real-world experiment? “Cap and trade” is often credited with reducing the acid rain problem very significantly. Here is a report on that (admittedly from an environmental advocacy organization, but the data they present should be verifiable, if we decide to do that.)
Well, this paper seems scholarly enough. They do say that the cost savings over a pure regulatory approach were less than some claim, though still real. From their conclusion:
“The experience with Title IV and, to a lesser extent, other cap-and-trade programs
marks a turning point in the regulation of air emissions in the U.S. This experience has
shown that market-based incentive systems can reduce emissions as effectively, and even
more so, and at considerably less cost than through conventional command-and-control
mandates. As it result, it has become virtually obligatory that any legislative proposal to
limit air emissions in the U.S. include emissions trading. While the agreement of left and
right in the political spectrum is not as complete as it may appear on the surface, there
seems little doubt that emissions trading will play an increasing role in the regulation of
air emissions in the U.S. and probably elsewhere.”
Seems to me there is some reason to think that cap and trade is a bit more than
“smoke and mirrors.”
(Captcha: tandem Realty–better, I suppose, than “tandem reality”)
The NRC says the “standardized” designs on which the entire premise of returning nuclear power to center stage is based have massive holes in them, and may not be ready for approval for years to come …
The NRC gave conditional “certification” to this “standardized” design [the APC1000] in 2004, allowing design work to continue. But as recently as June 27, the NRC has issued written warnings that hundreds of key design components remain without official approval. Indeed, Westinghouse has been forced to actually withdraw numerous key designs, throwing the entire permitting process into chaos.
… Duke Energy and its cohorts have “filed some 6,500 pages of Westinghouse’s technical design documents as the major component of applications” to build new reactors. “Of the 172 interconnected Westinghouse documents,” say NCWARN and FOE, “only 21 have been certified.” And most of what has been certified, they add, rely on systems that are unapproved, and that are key to the guts of the reactor, including such major components as the “reactor building, control room, cooling system, engineering designs, plant-wide alarm systems, piping and conduit.”
In other words, despite millions of dollars of high-priced hype, the “new generation” of “standardized design” power plants actually does not exist. The plans for these reactors have not been finalized by the builders themselves, nor have they been approved by the regulators. There is no operating prototype of a Westinghouse AP-1000 from which to draw actual data about how safely these plants might actually operate, what their environmental impact might be, or what they might cost to build or run.
In fact, as the NRC’s June 27 letter notes, Westinghouse has been forced to withdraw key technical documents from the regulatory process. The NRC says this means design approval for the AP-1000 might not come until 2012.
More details and plenty of links to documentation in the article linked above.
I am not sophisticated in my reasoning, but let me say how the argument of ” we can’t base decisions on x years of recent data seems to me.”
The AGW predictions are not definite predictions. They are expressions of odds, e.g. it is 90% probable that it will warm y degrees.
As such they aren’t subject to proof.
But to any reasonable person the probability of a statistical assertion changes as experience accumulates. If I tell you that I can shoot a 85 on the golf course 90% of the time, around the fourth or fifth game with you that I shoot over 90 , you are going to start to regard me as a braggart. That I shoot under 85, 90% of the time isn’t disproved, it just seems less probable of being correct.
That is what is going on now with AGW. Temperatures are not rising in recent years. They may even be cooling a bit.
A reasonable response would be to lessen the odds that AGW is the dominant force in global climate. Maybe the odds don’t lessen by much — it used to be 90% likely, now it is 85% likely, —or maybe they lessen a lot. It seems to me that discussions ought to address the issue, particularly when we are talking major policy decisions.
Instead what I hear is greater vehemence on both sides. The debate seems to be degenerating into a “is”, “isn’t” dichotomy, and I don’t think that is a good descriptor of what we have. This is a “how likely” issue.
You really need to start providing sources for your claims.
“Blue lasers for example are an old technology” – Not true. The fist patents for blue laser diodes were issued in the mid 1990s. Commercialization took several more years.
“HD was used by the military in the 1950’s” – Not true. Neither HD video cameras or HD video displays were used by the military in the 1950s. I was an engineer at the Pentagon in the early 80s and I can testify that even the briefing room for the Joint Chiefs of Staff used NTSC video projectors. Even the spy satellites used film in the 50s because there was no such thing as HD available then.
“in the 1990’s there were EV’s that could travel 300 miles on one charge and drive 100 plus miles per hour” – I don’t think this claim is true either. There were several EVs manufactured in small numbers, such as the EV-1, the Ranger EV and the RAV-4 EV, but none of them had a range anywhere near 300 miles or a top speed of 100 mph. If I’m wrong and you know of production EVs with that performance, please provide the details.
As Gavin said “Be careful of inventing anecdotes to demonstrate rhetorical points”. Words to live by.
Blue lasers may have been marketable later on but they existed for far longer, just pick up a Pchem book.
I will repeat this reference:”Who killed the Electric Car,” showed the technology did exist in the nineties and electric cars were once the dominate automobiles on the road. Phillip you did not work for the pentagon nor are you accurate on even one claim. The only argument you can stand on is that the HD technology did improve and that blue lasers were developed for commercial use in a mass produced format later on which I never denied.You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me.
Rod (350)–It’s just that this question is probably going to arise in practical form quite soon, as cap and trade was important to the Obama environmental agenda. FWIW, I was somewhat skeptical about cap and trade back in the 80s because it seemed quite counterintuitive that *allowing* pollution would help eliminate it. (My then-brother-in-law, a “liberal” economist, took some pains to try and convince me on the issue, if I recall.)
It’s pretty clear–if today’s exercise in online research is correct–that cap and trade *can* work, but also pretty clear–from the same sources, especially the last–that the scheme needs to be correctly designed. So we want to be informed about whether the forthcoming proposals are a good idea or not. Which in turn was part of my motivation for the original question to you. And the essence of that question still stands–that is, if there are downsides, concerns, alternatives, caveats, or whatever to cap and trade, I’d like to know more ‘em.
John Hall @ 345
I think the most common problem people have is focussing on the *noise* in surface temperature records, rather than the trends, which take decades to extract from the noise with much significance.
I think some of this is human visual systems, and some of it is that we don’t do regression calculations in our heads.
If you look at GISS charts, for example, it is clear that “warming can stop” for 5+ years at a time, and has done so fairly often. This is exactly what one expect when:
a) There are big, irregular ocean/atmosphere oscillations that move energy back and forth, and easily jiggle surface temperatures.
b) *Most* of the variable energy is stored in the oceans, i.e., Ocean Heat Content. See this RC article.
As long as there’s an energy imbalance (more energy arriving than departing), Conservation of Energy says that the energy goes *somewhere*, which is mostly the ocean. In some sense, although we care about surface temperatures because that’s where we live, if we had a longer, accurate set of OHC measurements, that one time series would tell the story, with less noise.
This is like the advice given to US high school defensive football players:
“Ignore the runner’s head-fakes. Keep your eyes on their belt-buckle.”
346 Lynn, a hybrid nuke/methane system utilizes a very poor quality (likely thorium) fuel with seeding as needed. It’s designed so that at zero output expansion and natural cooling will prevent a meltdown. This eliminates the need for expensive safety systems. (and if a meltdown starts, the seeds dilute and the reaction stops with minimal damage to the reactor) There is no need for control rods or traditional refueling as it’s more like a giant sandbox than a reactor. At baseload, the nuclear fuel will provide all the heat required. When peaking, methane (though oil or coal could be used) is burned to supplement as the reactor core cools — though thermal mass helps moderate that need. The nuclear component is huge and stable so it’s way cheap. After all, nuclear power is durn near free except for refueling, control, waste, and safety systems. This type of system gets around all four of those requirements, and uses unenriched fuel to boot. Only the seeds pose an issue, and the quantity needed is incredibly small. They’d be a good end-use for all those nuclear bombs we’ve got lying around.
The big bonus is that the front end nuke could be retrofitted to existing hydrocarbon systems. Those dirty coal plants could become 90% cleaner. So hybrid nukes do baseload and as little peaking as possible, alternative energy does peaking (especially solar on hot sunny days and wind on cold windy nights), transportation fuel generation is used to balance the system, and suddenly, the whole CO2 issue is solvable.
Re Robert H @290: “Its worth remembering that there is a direct and proportional relationship between energy consumption and standard of living”
Only up to a point. As the chart in the video of Steven Chu at the National Energy Summit that is making the rounds shows, standard of living ultimately hits a ceiling and further rise in energy consumption yields little if any rise in living standard. Most of the industrialized west is at and well along that ceiling, with ample room for reduction in energy consumption before it would negatively affect standard of living in any meaningful way.
It’s pretty hard to feel any sympathy for those used to driving a gas guzzling SUV, or two or three, and living in a 5000 square foot McMansion having to cut back their standard of living to match someone driving a more efficient passenger sedan, or horrors, taking public transit or even walking to work, while living in an 1800 square foot townhouse.
In other words, cry us a river. The party is over.
I will repeat this reference:”Who killed the Electric Car,” showed the technology did exist in the nineties and electric cars were once the dominate automobiles on the road.
And global warming is a hoax, see “the great global warming swindle” :-)
The EV’s of the 90’s were a little more than prototypes. Do you know how much they cost to produce? Even today an electric car can not compete on a cost basis. The technology may be there, but if it’s not affordable, it’s useless. The reason why we do not have electric cars is simply that cheap batteries are too heavy and light batteries are too expensive.
But now you’ve made me curious. Can you name a few EV’s with the specs you stated?
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 15 Dec 2008 @ 5:43 PM
Batteries have come such a long way and since the nineties they have approached that goal Matt, if only this administration will help fund for these changes as companies that can assist do to take in a larger new market share and revenue stream which should result in bottom line profits. Also for Matt and Phillip my references can also be confirmed by encylopedia Britannica.
You are mildly entertaining, but you are so, so wrong.
On the topic of blue lasers, your claim in #334 refers to their availability to the public, i.e. the use of blue diode lasers in consumer products, but your own cite indicates that, as I correctly said, they were first developed in the mid-90s. Which hardly makes them “old technology” as you claimed. Granted there are various types of blue lasers, but only the laser diode technology is used by the public.
On the topic of HD – that term is generally accepted to mean High Definition Television with 720 or more lines of resolution. Today’s commercial HD is digital, but several analog HD formats were demonstrated but never commercialized. Were you perhaps referring to the experimental Russian ‘Transformer’ system which was demonstrated in 1958? Their military used it on a trial basis so I suppose you can claim you were correct, but analog HD wasn’t used by American or allied military in the 1950s. And digital HD wasn’t invented until about 1990. I had to smile when I looked at your cites for your claim. First you cited a Britannia article on motion pictures (not relevant), a experiencefestival article on early television systems (did you actually read the cite? the term High Definition had a different meaning in the 40s. Not relevant), and your third cite talks about a 40s-style marketing campaign for HD radio (so very not relevant). Unless you have a cite about western military HD systems in the 50s, you should just admit you were wrong.
You were also wrong when you wrote that I never worked at the Pentagon. I worked there for several years. I’ve worked on military programs since 1979 (about the time you were born, right?). Phillip Shaw is my real name. Unlike you I don’t hide in the anonymity of a pseudonym so my claims are verifiable.
And, lastly, about your claim that EVs in the 90s had a range of 300 miles and a speed greater than 100 mph – how did you think that nonsense could pass unchallenged? The specs on the EV1, and other EVs of that period, are easy to look up. The 1997 EV1 had a max range of 75 miles, the 1999 Gen 2 EV1 had a max range of 100 miles, the 1998 – 2000 Ranger EV had a range of 60 miles, as did the RAV-4 EV. All of the EVs were designed for highway travel, not racing, and only a modified EV1 that was used for a record breaking attempt could exceed 100 mph. I helped a friend work on his Ranger EV and I know it wouldn’t exceed 100 mph unless you shoved it out the back of a cargo plane. So unless you can name some production EVs from that period with a 300 mile range and 100 mph top speed just admit that you are worng on all counts.
I eagerly await your next batch of waffles. I hope you realize this nonsense is just destroying what little credibility you have here. But it is OT so I’ll try not to impose on the patience of the group too much.
Be careful for what you wish for (pulling the ocean cycles out of the temperature trends) because it may not show what you want it to show.
Here’s a hint: the major ocean cycle drivers of temperature are the ENSO, the AMO and southern Atlantic Ocean SSTs (which is important to explain the unusual southern hemisphere temperature trends and has characteristics similar to the northern Atlantic AMO).
If you pull these out, you get a (still) noisy global warming signal but it does seem to rise fairly consistently over time in direct relation to GHGs. You still end up with 0.7C of warming since the 1880s, but that is certainly less than the 1.3C to 1.4C the models would have predicted.
[Response: which models would they be? Certainly not the ones shown in fig 9.5 of the IPCC AR4 report. – gavin]
Reply to gavin, it is hard to see what Figure 9.5 from AR4 is really showing.
But here is a reconstruction of Hadcrut3 monthly temps going back to 1871 (1353 data points) based on the Nino 3.4 region anomaly, the AMO index and southern Atlantic SSTs (65S to 35S by 15E and 55W) and CO2.
After taking out the detrended ENSO, AMO and the southern Atlantic SST cycle out, we end up with a global warming signal like this (for GISS Temp this time as I have done this for all the major temp data series available) (Note the global warming model trendline in the chart is the original theoritical warming line of 3.25C of warming per doubling of GHGs (with CO2 as a proxy for all of them). This line is probably moved out 30 years now given that temps up to 2000 did not keep up with actual observations and the theory was extended to include the oceans absorbing more of the greenhouse effect impact than originally thought – this chart does not provide that break – but still meets the basic trendlines give or take 30 years – it is almost the same line as TAR provided.)
I think this demonstrates you can take out the ocean cycles even if there are errors in the rest of the analysis. You’re still left with a +/- 0.2C (ocassionaly +/-.4C) error term which is partly white noise and partly other unexplained variation in global temperatures.
[Response: How pretty. But where are all the other terms? solar, volcanoes, aerosols, ozone? – gavin]
I’m not wishing for any particular result, I’m just wishing that more people would understand the difference between trends and noise. Tamino does admirable pedagogy in this turf.
I like OHC because
a) Most of the variable energy is there
b) Unlike surface temperature, energy obeys conservation laws
c) It’s the belt-buckle.
For a similar reason, despite possible confounding effects from precipitation differences, I like glacier records because there’s no argument over choice of periods for time-averaging.
Glaciers have built-in time-constants, and the longer ones end up with smoother curves.
See Swiss glaciers, especially the red line for Great Aletsch in the 3rd figure. Alternatively, this list sorts the Swiss glaciers in descending lengths. The shorter glaciers are more sensitive to short-term jiggles, the longer ones barely notice the noise. Of course, Swiss glaciers are only a tiny local sample, but it’s a meticulous dataset.
Of course, some would prefer that people get distracted by noise…
Philip I use my real name minus an a and a o, you do the letter adding. First and last name are included in my name here. The battery technology existed for the EV in the mid to late nineteen nineties, but industry did not want them to be used, so there is your first error. Second error: blue lasers as you admit were around for sometime, now the diodes you are referring to were developed in the early nineties which makes it over a decade (almost two decades, when did the blu rays start being marketed (aggressively?) since they were applicable and sometime before that green-blue lasers were used, so both were up and running way before blue ray discs were marketed,I never said theses lasers were around since the 1950’s, now did I, there is your second mistake.
Third mistake: HD has made many improvements over the years, but screens in the 1940’s and 1950’s were at the time revolutionary HD applications which modern screens are based upon with minor improvements to increase resolution. Also the band technology was already there in the form of HD radio applications. There is your third mistake.
As far as my credibility here and in general I guarantee you it is in tact.
It is not difficult to use a common name that will be found on google, but even if it turns out that you are being truthful about your identity that is the only thing that has been said by you with accuracy. It has become more difficult to find references to old technologies on the internet, but it is still possible and I told what books to find them as well as the documentary. This conversation is really over, as my time is precious.
Anne I will answer your question if you answer mine: why are these so called green house gases not leading to warming? (CO2, CH4, H2O)Oh one more quick one, how do YOU know? Answer me coherently and scientifically with strong evidence and I will get you those specs.
Phillip and Anne I suggest you guys check out Hank Robert’s link where you will clearly see the history of the EV told in good detail and see how in the 1980’s and 1990’s EV’s were traveling very far on one charge and over 100 m.p.h. Also you should see the documentary as well. I want to thank you Hank for the link, it offered further insights, actually in addition to the other sources I have looked at and have in my library.
I missed that reference, so it was helpful to read. The only apology I owe, even though debate by its nature is at times aggressive is actually to Hank Roberts, and this I can admit as a man. Phillip you may also see my comments on Alzforum to further verify who I am.
#343 SecularAnimist: Recommended reading re: problems with the Westinghouse AP1000:
Sigh. Please admit that there is nothing that will ever convince you that nuclear is safe. And then also admit that you think every reactor running in France is on the verge of melting down. And also admit the US has pumped about 50B tons of CO2 into the atmosphere since the late 70’s, and that if we would have mirrored France’s roll out, that figure would be about 20B. And also admit the biggest boosters of GREEN in the world are backstepping at this very moment because they see what it is/will do to their economy. Did you think you’d ever see Merkel begging to keep the reactors running?
You anti-nuclear people give the powers-that-be no way out. And you keep thinking that somehow if you screw up enough of the viable options that eventually they will come around to your options. And they would, except the numbers aren’t there. No matter how badly you want them to be there, the engineers look and look and look, because they are all dads and moms with kids that they want to live a long, happy life, and they hate sending money to people that hate us. And they come to the same conclusion: It’d be great if it scaled to 100%, but it doesn’t right now. And we need very nearly a 100% solution IF Hansen is right.
So, keep scaring the hell out of everyone about nuclear. In another 20 years, when the US and EU are still screwing around with p*ss poor deployment numbers on wind and alt energy, and the coal and petroleum industry are still roaring along, you can pat yourself on the back.
#351 jcbmack: I will repeat this reference:”Who killed the Electric Car,” showed the technology did exist in the nineties and electric cars were once the dominate automobiles on the road.
While that documentary was enjoyable, it failed to give the viewer a lot of details that were actually needed to make an informed decisions. Most that saw it believed that car companies killed electric cars because they were somehow a threat to all the money the car companies made at the pump. Wait. Never mind. It actually all ties back to the Masons some how, but I don’t remember.
Seriously, the reason electric cars aren’t here is because the batteries. Period. Full stop.
By the way, Tesla has brought an electric car to market for about $100M. They purchased a “shell” of a car from Lotus, and worked their magic on the inside. And there’s nothing that says that deal couldn’t be worked again. Some investors get together, get a shell from Honda, stick the batteries and electronics inside, and voila, a car that is even more reliable than a Honda because it’s simpler.
And the movie failed to really ack that all the hollywood stars and execs that were dying for the EV1 could have easily raised $200M (the price of a movie today), and started their own car company, complete with execs that would have been friendly to their whims.
But of course, we know why that didn’t happen. Because the hollywood types learned what they thought was possible was really almost impossible, and that the odds of them getting their money back would be about 2%. So they went back to making movies.
I guess they really don’t care that much afterall. But they like you to think they do.
There is an aspect of the fit that you have obtained that should perhaps bother you.
Gavin has pointed out that you have not explicitly included the effects of volcanic eruptions, yet your fit during those events appears quite good.
An implication would be that one or more of your data sets includes the effects of eruptions. There is a very real risk that they also contain effects of other forcings, e.g. solar. They may also contain some aspect of the WM-GHG signal. I do not know, but I would check to see how the data sets you have used have been generated to see whether you feel they may contain some element of the WM-GHG signal.
As an initial practical measure, I would try removing any linear trend in the AMO data prior to using it.
Comment by Alexander Harvey — 16 Dec 2008 @ 7:27 AM
Re my 374,
I have taken brief look at the AMO data and it appears that it has in all probability been detrended and I believe that it may be just the detrended North Atlantic SST.
[Response: Yes it is. – gavin]
Strangely, that it is already detrended could also turn out to be a problem.
The WM-GHG signal is not a linear trend, it has a dog-leg around the 1950s, so detrending and de-WM-GHG-ing are not the same thing.
Given that I would shy away from using the AMO data set without a lot more analysis.
Comment by Alexander Harvey — 16 Dec 2008 @ 8:06 AM
I have to confess an anxiety regarding all matching of forcings directly to temperature records.
It begs the question, “Where have the oceans gone?”
Without the oceans “best fitting” is almost certain to come up with low values for the CS.
As you add oceans (model thermal mass) the best fit CS will rise.
So when do you stop?
Well along with the surface temperature records we have estimates of the OHC.
I believe that even the simplest models need to account for both simultaneously before their estimation of the CS needs to be taken all that seriously.
I also believe that, without a realistic model of thermal mass, the forcings can not be reconciled to the temperature record. In particular volcanic eruptions are way out. But also for solar cycles, and critically for the WM-GHGs.
I am not reserving my anxiety to amateur efforts, I feel that the simple models in published papers are commonly lack any attempt at validation against OHC data.
Comment by Alexander Harvey — 16 Dec 2008 @ 8:46 AM
Alexander’s points regarding OHC reinforce (albeit obliquely) a question that I’ve had circulating in my mind for a while.
We know that during the past two Arctic melt seasons we have had really dramatic amounts of melt. At 333 J/g, that’s a lot of sensible heat going latent (if I may phrase it so.) I presume that a very general picture would be that, had the ice (magically) not been there to melt, we would have seen significantly higher temperatures in the Arctic than were actually observed.
So, returning to reality from the counterfactual case–are there portions of the temperature data that actually show some sort of signature from this melting? (I’d expect a sort of ‘mesa’ curve–steep rise, flattish top, perhaps a gradual decay–but my expectations have to count as fairly naive. After all, there would be multiple interactions among radiation, atmosphere, ice and ocean and none of the processes would be instantaneous, or even necessarily on the same time scale. So it’s probably not very simple at all.)
BTW, this post is 100% agenda-free–a product of pure curiosity. But–any thoughts?
Kevin (353), I just have the impression that a lot of cap and trade, at least initially, will not be very effective like my initial simple example. There will (maybe) be a lot of trading with little reduction. I got no more than this. (As an aside, as a skeptic I probably would not be bothered as it would not cause great grief to the entities, but this is totally irrelevant.) But, you’re correct: the experience of the SO2 process seems to counter my intuitive analysis; while some of the European cap and trade under Kyoto seems to support it, at least in part — though I dunno, maybe not enough to kill the idea.
I think you guys need to define HD and if text book projections satisfy available, as in blue LEDs. The current HD as in high definition television is wholly dependent on a digital encoding scheme that was not buildable until around the 90s, though it was theoretically known. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been orgasmic over the advent of 9.6kbps modems.
OHC is good. I also like sea level because it includes both OHC and ice melt. Plus, it’s one of the two variables (the other is ocean pH) which affect civilization the most.
372 Matt said, ” It’d be great if it scaled to 100%, but it doesn’t right now. And we need very nearly a 100% solution IF Hansen is right.”
This and 371 are too “eggs in one basket.” We could drop consumption 10% a year without much trouble, with perhaps a two year lag to get started. (Raise 2011 CAFE to 30MPG, 2013 to 50MPG, and 2015 to 70MPG, start insulating, ban incandescent lights, etc) That will give us a surplus of generating capacity almost immediately. You want to build nukes when there is a surplus of capacity already? That makes as much sense as building refineries. We need to be decommissioning refineries! It would also drop the price of oil in the toilet. Suddenly we can stop playing in that Middle East hornets’ nest. How much of a boon would that be to the economy? Gotta include that in a cost/benefit. Conservation alone, without any reduction in living standard, gets us down 50% within ten years, balances the budget, and drops the cost of energy in half, for a 75% cost savings! That offsets a lot of the costs – conservation saves money even without the reduced cost of energy factored in. We have 20% renewable and nuclear, so carbon requirements drop by 60% even before we add any generating power.
Switch our tax structure to carbon and away from income. Who says a tax takes money from the economy?? It doesn’t if other taxes are 1 for 1 swapped – cap and trade is simple theft and a way inefficient way to do business.
Start adding nuclear pre-heaters to existing fossil generators (and new solar thermal ones – nuke/solar thermal is a way efficient combo as it keeps the generators from sitting idle) and we’re down a total of 90+% in a decade. This isn’t a difficult problem to solve. The problem is that some folks think that energy consumption *must* rise. Sorry, but humans have a limited body mass and our ability to move mass and information continues to get more efficient. The more advanced the society beyond a 1950s tech base, the less energy that society needs. Our embedded excessive power generating capacity along with the embedded military capacity needed to protect fuel sources gives us incredible flexibility and funds to solve the problem. 90% in a decade. I challenge any contrarian to give a reason why it isn’t doable. Guys, lets talk real solutions to real problems.
So readers thought the statement was that in the 1990s there were EV’s that could go 100mph and 300 miles between charges.
Checking, it turns out that there was one electric vehicle that did exceed 100mph on one measured lap; there was another EV that did, once, go 300 miles. Each unique.
Memory isn’t reliable, and doesn’t work both ways. And there’s nothing worse than having a reputation for being a reliable source to make one become careless. At some point I’ll reach the age and condition where I forget to check my assertions more and more, and they diverge more and more from the facts. I think that’s called ‘Emeritus’ level. Maybe next week.
While a lot of the (I’d say, “agenda-driven”) blogosphere labels the European model “a failure”, GAO doesn’t say that.
But it does seem that it’s critical 1) to have good baseline data on emissions (one of the GAO recommendations); 2) to allocate allowances appropriately (ETS gave them away–politically attractive, but not necessarily the right thing economically; and the supply of allowances exceeded demand in 2006, resulting in price collapse–this is obviously related to point 1); 3) to deal appropriately with offsets, as this area is highly problematic in terms of efficacy and throughput. (Note that the Title IV cap and trade scheme, which addressed SO2 and NOX so successfully, had no provisions for offsets.)
RichardC, you write that “cap and trade is simple theft and a way inefficient way to do business.” I don’t understand what you mean–who is stealing what from whom? (I’m wondering if you are thinking of the windfall which can result when allowances are simply awarded? But that needn’t be the case under cap and trade generally–this is one of the specifics that needs to be done right.) And the experience with the Title IV SO2 emissions trading scheme found it highly efficient in reducing emissions. Can you provide a little more substance to your thoughts, either by fleshing out your ideas or by giving some references?
#377 Rod B, #353 Kevin McKinney:
A cap and trade in the US on greenhouse gases might be more successful than in Europe. In US regulations the stakeholders have a more direct participatory role in the process. This tends to lead regulations that are more effective and efficient.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 16 Dec 2008 @ 1:13 PM
Gavin and Alexander Harvey asked about the volcanic impact in the reconstruction.
Certainly, the large volcanoes have an impact on temperatures and there is no volcanic forcing included in this reconstruction at all.
The effect, however, does seem to be picked up by the ocean indices I am using. Volcano happens, planet cools off, land cools off and Oceans cool off (I imagine.)
I looked very closely at all the major volcanic eruptions over this period – Krakatoa, Santa Maria, Novarupta, Agung, Mount Pinatubo etc. – (as I originally thought I would need to include a volcanic influence as well). It was not required.
For the most part, the impact is picked up. The reconstruction does not do as well with Pinatubo as it was a little low going into the eruption and then it is a little high when the impact was at its deepest, but it does go somewhere through the middle of the impact. The other major eruptions are matched pretty closely.
I could have put in some plugged figures here and there but decided not to just to preserve the simple calculations that the reconstruction is based on.
[Response: But then you are essentially using the temperature variations to predict temperature variations. This has very little predictability (actually none). – gavin]
RichardC (380), Wow! I trust that low-fat pie in the sky you’re eating tastes good. You say, “Guys, lets talk real solutions to real problems.” following a litany of ethereal “solutions”. Boggles the mind. (To be fair there were a couple of ideas buried in there that weren’t too far off the chart and maybe deserving of some thought.) 70MPG CAFE in six years?? Hello!!
382 Kevin, cap and trade distributes allowances to be traded. Those who pollute retain the right to pollute. This can be altered to make it fair by selling the allowances up font, but then the system converts into a simple carbon tax. Adjusting the tax year-to-year to follow the market is easy and cheap. It also gives industry a stable benchmark. Why add another layer of complexity, when what we really want is a price per ton of CO2 which ratchets emissions down in a predictable fashion?
Then there is the issue of international borders. The atmosphere is common property, one which most folks consider equally owned by all people. Should the receipts, either from a carbon tax, or a modified tax-cap and trade system be distributed to everyone on the planet? It would provide a way to eliminate foreign aid.
Kevin (382), regardless of the ballyhoo, most of Europe missed Kyoto targets badly (or some just a little and some were not very bad at all); and a bunch of what they did accomplish was through the faulty (semi-faulty?) cap and trade plan put in place. Even so, being objective, I for one would not call their effort a failure. They got something out of it, and probably learned a bunch about the process. The GAO observations you cite seem quite good.
Maybe the situation is more like one of those pithy business sayings I heard long long ago. There is nothing wrong with any idea or project as long as one understands there are two and only two ways to do it: 1) smart; 2) stupid.
Rod,#379, you are essentially correct. The modern technology for what we now refer to as HD did start around the 1990’s, actually the mid to late 1980’s, but the kinks were worked out in the 1990’s and the marketability went up so mass production had begun to be facilitated, the upper middle class began to buy them, the price went down, the technology improved, the internal electronics became smaller and more shades of color became better resolved and resolution continued to improve (pixel count, clarity etc…)Actually there is a new 7,000 dollar HD tv with far more color shades than anything else on the market and it utilizes new advances on previously existing technology, eventually the price will drop and what is HD now (though I do not argue against a digitial basis) will be old news and obsolete. Those tv’s in France in the 1940’s-1950’s got close to the basic HD tv now in terms of resolution, but in color and aspect ratio clarity.
Phillip, The blue laser itself existed before the 1990’s, but the diode technology did become better in the early to mid 1990’s, (depending on your source or what interview transcript it could be as late as 2001 where drastic improvements were made)but even so if it is 1996 we want to consider the year of engineering development application of the diode and focusing the lower frequency blue laser, the potential for it and the basic principles and devlopment are far older, but here is the point: it took several years after it was working well before it became applied to blue ray discs and the like though it was already tested and effective.
Finally the EV’s. well, it turns out batteries did exist in the late 1990’s that could go approximately 300 miles on one charge and the very early 2000’s they were well documented, but not fitted into almost all vehicles as Hank pointed out from his reference, there was one maybe two if I look in the archives well enough which at a future date I will and will let you know my findings and cite the references. Just becasue the cars were not fitted as a whole does not mean that the technology did not exist, it was developed by Mashinksi, (I think I spelled that right, if you google the engineering of batteries by this couple you will find the information) but rejected by car companies. Batteries, Matt are very expensive and difficult when we get to certain power efficiency levels and yes if you are only building 4 vehicles or so a day they are VERY expensive, however, with proper marketing and mass production the prices would have dropped.
The point I was making is that all this technology is not so new and what we can do now was long ago predicted by chemists and engineers.
You were referencing a documentary as support for your arguments. I merely tried to convey the message that I do not have much faith in documentaries. ‘Who killed the electric car’ is just as biased by personal beliefs as the documentary I mentioned.
Just to be absolutely clear about this: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it is already altering the climate and will probably cause us some nasty surprises in the future. We should stop the tinkering with that which we don’t understand as soon as possible.
And to be clear about another thing: I love EV’s, I’ll be the first person to buy one (if it’s within my budget).
So back to my question: where are the 300+ miles EV’s?
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 16 Dec 2008 @ 3:50 PM
Anne first tell me why global warming is not true.
I am afraid the numbers in your article fail to convince me. The solar & wind numbers are based on real-world, actual projects. The Westinghouse estimate is probably from the marketing department. If Westinghouse signs a deal fixed price/fixed date to deliver a 1GW nuclear plant for $1.4 billion, I will believe their number.
Tell me, T Boone Pickens seems a smart business man to me. Why doesn’t he invest in nuclear if that is so vastly superior to wind?
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 16 Dec 2008 @ 4:02 PM
386 Rod, the 2010 Prius is a very large car and is slated to get close to 70MPG. A smaller version would exceed 70MPG. I bet a lot of companies would license the technology.
Remember, CAFE isn’t required to be met – it’s a cap-and-tax system ($11/MPG). Right now CAFE is like giving out first-place ribbons to all the kids so as to ensure their economic egos aren’t bruised. If a 70MPG target would get automakers to double their efficiency (50MPG), then my stated goal would be achieved. I bet Toyota would make 70MPG and so their cars would be taxed $220 less than a corporation that gets 50MPG. CAFE should be set at or higher than the best corporation’s ability to deliver.
What Hank’s link shows is a list of failed attempts, toys for the rich and cars with limited use. The claims about performance and/or range are based on single trips in specially prepared one-off cars, out of reach for ordinary people and of no use in normal life. Even the EV-1 was a two-seater.
I am afraid we’ll have to wait another 10 years for the battery technology to mature. While waiting for that, I hope I can buy a plug-in hybrid early next decennium.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 16 Dec 2008 @ 4:35 PM
Oops forgot an inconvenient question: The $1.4 billion Westinghouse figure is that in- or exclusive of decomissioning costs?
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 16 Dec 2008 @ 4:44 PM
Are you playing with me?
Where is this statement lacking in clarity?
Just to be absolutely clear about this: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it is already altering the climate and will probably cause us some nasty surprises in the future. We should stop the tinkering with that which we don’t understand as soon as possible.
And I was not serious when I wrote:
And global warming is a hoax, see “the great global warming swindle”
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 16 Dec 2008 @ 5:14 PM
re #323 + 324 turns out that 0.48C of John Lang became 0.58C, so much for being in touch with weather events around the globe.
GISS announced a review policy commencing December, so they now turned in their temps last.
2008-12-16: Please see our preliminary discussion of this year’s data.
Starting this month, the data will be held, investigated, and potential problems reported to and resolved with the data provider before making them public. However, as we noted in the “Data Quality Control” section of our 1999 paper: We would welcome feedback from users on any specific data in this record.
A few station data from Canada were reported as potentially incorrect and subsequently removed by NOAA.
jcbmack (389), sounds good. I was merely saying what is being debated/discussed should be defined. Like TV: HD comes in two aspects. One is the TV production itself in terms of chromo processing, screen/tube technology, etc. The other is transmission and delivery.
Anne, part of T. Boone’s motivation is to have wind provide the electric power and free up the natural gas (his) to burn in cars and trucks. I suppose nuclear could do the same but most smart businessmen, unless they were already immersed, would look at the nuclear morass (which has nothing to do with any of this topic) and run like hell. Wind has its implementation problems, but not as bad as nuclear.
396 Anne asked, “The $1.4 billion Westinghouse figure is that in- or exclusive of decomissioning costs?”
Don’t forget insurance, whether funded by taxpayers (as in liability exclusions) or business. And fuel costs. And waste storage (again, even if taxpayer-funded). And outages/shutdowns. And terrorist protection. Nukes are $expensive$
RichardC, I did a little digging, starting from your comment about carbon taxes vs. cap and trade.
From (Pizer, 1997): “Uncertainty about compliance costs causes otherwise equivalent price and quantity controls to behave differently. Price controls — in the form of taxes — fix the marginal cost of compliance and lead to uncertain levels of compliance. Meanwhile quantity controls — in the form of tradable permits or quotas — fix the level of compliance but result in uncertain marginal costs. This fundamental difference in the face of cost uncertainty leads to different welfare outcomes for the two policy instruments. . . . This paper applies this principal (sic) to the issue of worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) control, using a global integrated climate economy model to simulate the consequences of uncertainty and to compare the efficiency of taxes and permits empirically. The results indicate that an optimal tax policy generates gains which are five times higher than the optimal permit policy — a $337 billion dollar gain versus $69 billion at the global level. This result follows from Weitzman’s original intuition that relatively flat marginal benefits/damages favor taxes, a feature that drops out of standard assumptions about the nature of climate damages. A hybrid policy, suggested by Roberts and Spence (1976). . . uses an initial distribution of tradeable permits to set a target emission level, but then allows additional permits to be purchased at a fixed “trigger” price. The optimal hybrid policy leads to welfare benefits only slightly higher than the optimal tax policy. Relative to the tax policy, however, the hybrid preserves the ability to flexibly distribute the rents associated with the right to emit. Perhaps more importantly for policy discussions, a sub-optimal hybrid policy, based on a stringent target and high trigger price (e.g., 1990 emissions and a $100/tC trigger), generates much better welfare outcomes than a straight permit system with the same target. Both of these features suggest that a hybrid policy is a more attractive alternative to either a straight tax or permit system.”
#393 Anne van der Bom I am afraid the numbers in your article fail to convince me. The solar & wind numbers are based on real-world, actual projects. The Westinghouse estimate is probably from the marketing department. If Westinghouse signs a deal fixed price/fixed date to deliver a 1GW nuclear plant for $1.4 billion, I will believe their number.
China signed an agreement for 4 AP1000 reactors at $8B, or $2B apiece, and they will be turned on in 2013 and are under construction right now. The Reason article claimed Westinghouse can do it for $1.4B. It would take about 900 of these to power the US, so you should have reasonable faith that if they will build two for $2B each, then indeed they’d build 100 for much, much less. Kind of like buying toilet paper at Costco. The more you buy, the cheaper it gets (to a point).
Now, deeper in the Wiki article there’s a fascinating other number. In the US, Georgia Power Company signed a contract to buy two of the AP1000 reactors for $14B, or $7B each.
So, assuming the reactor designs are exactly the same and they are built exactly the same, the difference is regulatory overhead. In China, the reactor cost is $2B quantity two, in the US, it’s $7B quantity two. It would be interesting to better understand the difference.
#396 Anne van der Bom: Oops forgot an inconvenient question: The $1.4 billion Westinghouse figure is that in- or exclusive of decomissioning costs?
Probably it doesn’t. Round nubmers: If a nuclear plant costs $1B, can produce 1000 MW 80% of the time and has a useful life of 30 years, and has a decommissioning cost (today’s numbers) of $250M, then the first year decom cost is 250/30=$8M, while you sold 800 MW * 24 * 365 * 0.10/kwh = $700M/year in electricity. So, the annual decom cost is about 8/700 = 1.1% of revenue. So, perhaps it eats 5% of your sales a year to fund the decommissioning cost.
#389 Rod: Batteries, Matt are very expensive and difficult when we get to certain power efficiency levels and yes if you are only building 4 vehicles or so a day they are VERY expensive, however, with proper marketing and mass production the prices would have dropped.
No kidding. But consider Tesla. They use a about 6000 standard laptop batteries in a single car. They plan to ship 1200 cars a year, which means they are buying 7.2 million of these standard laptop cells per year.
They do not have any problem negotiating with any supplier with that quantity. And they won’t see the price drop much doubling or tripling their volume. They are about as far down the cost curve as you can be at that volume.
But, consider too, that the entire laptop industry is about 120M laptops/year, and each laptop might have 4 of these cells. So, perhaps the industry makes 500M cells/year.
Tesla need only increase their production from 100/month to 7000/month and suddenly they are using more Lithium batteries than the entire laptop industry COMBINED. See how that is potentially a problem?
The US sells about 15M cars per year. If 80% of those ran off of Lithium batteries, it means the car companies would buy 72B lithium batteries per year. The laptop industry buys 500M. That’s a 144X increase. Yes, buy stock in lithium mining operations. And get ready to see them go big. And hope the mining is done responsibly. And yes, the US is the leader in lithium mining (North Carolina, of all places).
So, assuming the reactor designs are exactly the same and they are built exactly the same, the difference is regulatory overhead
It’s amazing to see how tenaciously one will hang onto their cherished political beliefs …
Matt, the difference isn’t clearly “due to regulatory differences”. Wages are far lower in China (the only reason why “Made in China” is one of the most frequently used phrases in the English language). This will impact not only direct labor costs for construction of the plants, but indirectly in the price of concrete, structural steel, etc etc.
We *know* the price of labor is lower, so we can state this with confidence. The regulatory costs *might* be a factor, and I would guess are, but to state that 1) this accounts for the full 7x price difference and 2) to imply that regulations are bad is … a reach, at best.
402 Kevin, thanks for the info. The hybrid system seems to take the step of adjusting the tax via market forces instead of through a yearly audit. Sounds fine to me. It still leaves the question of what to do with the money raised.
CORRECTION: I stated that CAFE’s tax was $11/MPG. It’s really $55/MPG. Oops! Given that I’m speculating on a near tripling of the CAFE standard, an equivalent tax would be $20/MPG.
matt wrote: “I don’t know why Pickens isn’t spending on nuclear.”
Because even with hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, nuclear power is a proven economic failure.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Dec 2008 @ 11:39 AM
Here’s a couple of updates on the flywheel concept RichardC mentioned.
Right now, aerospace and UPS applications are being realized, apparently–one of these links menions that “initial costs of around $1,000/kWh are about double those of a lead-acid device,” and that that is a deterrent to consumer applications. It seems a really interesting technology, and one that could really help achieve a sustainable energy economy.
dhogaza: We *know* the price of labor is lower, so we can state this with confidence. The regulatory costs *might* be a factor, and I would guess are, but to state that 1) this accounts for the full 7x price difference and 2) to imply that regulations are bad is … a reach, at best.
A nuclear plant is about 400,000 yds^3 of concrete. At $100/yd^3, that’s $40M in concrete cost. Insignificant.
If a reactor takes 1000 workers 3 years, and they average $70K/year, that’s $210M in labor. Insignificant.
Sanity check: Link below indicates materials cost is 1% of total reactor cost.
Thus, it does seem the regulatory cost of building a reactor in the US is 3-5X the reactor cost itself. Yes?
Anne I apologize, I misread your statements. It is the end of the school year and I am busy teaching, grading papers, tests, and other projects. I am also spending far too much time here at RC and so I am taking a much needed break. Regarding the batteries, yes it is a tricky technology to improve upon both from an engineering and economic one, but from what I have seen in Britannica and from what my engineering friends tell me and the documentary and the Mashinski technology as well, the capacity to do what I stated from a strictly scientific/applications perspective has been there.I agree that market is not ready for another 10 years or so.
The coaxial cable for digital transfer was invented in the late 1970’s and used in the early 1980’s, so that is where the capacity to apply modern digitally based HD was possible, but analog TV’s did exist long before with high resolution technology and so were the bands for high definition to exist as well, which was applied in military applications.
That’s it, if I made some minor error or misspoke a little, then I will be more clear and cautious in the future, but a lot of technology and the scientific basis for the technology has been around longer than can be found on google; google is great, but not all encompassing.
matt wrote: “I know that the Chinese are betting on nuclear over wind.”
“Betting on nuclear over wind” is a pretty vague statement and it is difficult to know what you mean by it, so it is difficult to know what exactly you claim to “know”.
However, China is certainly “betting on” wind power — and betting large. According to WorldWatch Institute, as of June 2008:
A recent boom in Chinese wind power development has surpassed the government’s original target and forced policymakers to set a new goal that might still be too modest.
In 2007, cumulative wind installations in China exceeded 5 gigawatts (GW), the goal originally set for 2010 by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planner. The Commission had set the target in its 2006 mid- and long-term development plan for renewable energy. The plan’s target for 2020 was 30 GW, a level that is now projected to be reached by 2012, eight years ahead of schedule.
In March, the NDRC revised its mid-term target, doubling it from 5 GW to 10 GW for 2010. Yet this new goal is still too modest, with wind installations likely to reach 20 GW by 2010 and 100 GW by 2020. China is witnessing the start of a golden age of wind power development, and the magnitude of growth has caught even policymakers off guard.
China’s wind power sector has experienced tremendous development since early 2005, when the government enacted its landmark national renewable energy law. Added installed capacity grew by over 60 percent in 2005, and it more than doubled in both 2006 and 2007. By the end of 2007, cumulative capacity had reached roughly 6 GW, ranking China fifth in the world in wind installations. The country added 3.3 GW in 2007 alone, trailing only the United States and Spain […]
What has surprised even policymakers is the exponential growth of China’s domestic wind turbine manufacturing industry. Only a few small turbine manufacturers existed before 2005, and most turbines and key components were imported. Over the past three years, however, domestic manufacturers have increased their investment and expanded quickly, while all major international wind turbine manufacturers have started to set up local factories.
By 2007, China’s turbine manufacturing capacity exceeded 3 GW. It is expected to double in 2008, roughly sufficient to meet domestic needs for the equipment. The country is projected to see 10-15 GW of wind turbine capacity by 2012-not only meeting domestic demands, but also becoming a major exporter of wind turbines […]
Wind power is said to already be more cost effective than oil, natural gas, and nuclear power generation in China. As the stability and predictability of the sector attract greater investment, it is widely believed that wind power will be able to compete with coal generation by as early as 2015. That will be the turning point in China, which by then will be the world’s largest energy consumer.
And according to the Global Wind Energy Council, China is expected to become the world’s top wind turbine manufacturer in 2009, with an annual production capacity of about 10 gigawatts per year, which is more than half of the current world market.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 17 Dec 2008 @ 5:16 PM
Ok. I have already noticed you post a lot here.
Battery technology is improving fast. Of all the chemistries under development, lithium seems the most promising. The current energy density is only a tenth of the theoretical limit. The technology is there, the price is still too high, but heading southward.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 17 Dec 2008 @ 5:52 PM
Regarding the costs of proposed Westinghouse AP-1000 nuclear power plants in the USA, the Free Press article that I linked to above notes the following (emphasis added):
In North and South Carolina, public interest groups are demanding the revocation of some $230 million in pre-construction costs already approved by state regulators for two proposed Duke Energy reactors. In both those states, as well as in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors have been presented to regulatory commissions to be financed by ratepayers as they are being built.
This astounding pro-utility scheme forces electric consumers to pay billions of dollars for nuclear plants that may never operate, and whose costs are indeterminate. Sometimes called Construction Work in Progress, it lets utilities raise rates to pay for site clearing, project planning, and down payments on large equipment and heavy reactor components, such as pressure vessels, pumps and generators, that can involve hundreds of millions of dollars, even before the projects get final federal approval. The process in essence gives utilities an incentive to drive up construction costs as much as they can. It allows them to force ratepayers to cover legal fees incurred by the utilities to defend themselves against lawsuits by those very ratepayers. And the public is stuck with the bill for whatever is spent, even if the reactor never opens — or if it melts down before it recoups its construction costs, as did Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island Unit Two in 1979, which self-destructed after just three months of operation.
As always, the only way that private investors, including the utility industry, will go anywhere near nuclear power is if the public is forced to absorb all the costs and all the risks … including the financial risks of the plants being unprofitable to operate once they are built.
This is completely the opposite of the solar and wind energy industries, which are the fastest and second fastest growing sources of new electricity generation worldwide, where private investors are falling over themselves to pour money into the industries.
Reality check on wind & solar.
I’m a big fan of both of these … but their use really depends on where you are, and different countries and parts thereof have vast variabilities. Hence, there may be X good space for something in a country, and you may gear up for that, but some places may still need nuclear.
James Hansen was here at our local Town Center giving a talk last night, and this got discussed both over dinner and during questions after the talk.
See post at BraveNewClimate, and especially check out the world-wide wind-potential maps of Archer &Jacobson and a solar insolation map.
#414 SecularAnimist: However, China is certainly “betting on” wind power — and betting large.
And yet you fail to cite what their annual needs are. Which is exactly what the reader needs to put it into context.
China will see 60 GW of nuclear generation by 2020. That will be about 3% of their total generating capacity. Today, they have generating capacity (all sources) of 400 GW. In 2020, they will have nearly 1 TW.
Note that today China has 9 GW of installed nuclear capacity, delivering 62B KWH. That’s about 80% utilization.
The 100GW of power in 2020 that you note is nameplate. In practice, it will generate about 26B KWH.
So, it could be said they are favoring nuclear 2.4:1 between now and 2020. And that’s reasonable. I’m not against wind. But it has to be augmented by something bankable. And dont’ forget, China is in a unique position to make wind more reliable than anyone else because they can build massive energy storage facilities by damming up huge regions that could never happen in north america because of the green lobby.
Fair enough. But that’s still better than wind. And it works (almost) 24×7. If you want wind to be there (almost) 24×7, then you must derate it’s nameplate rating even further. For example, if you want a farm of 1500 KW generators to deliver power with 80% reliability, then you can only count on 20% of the nameplate rating.
So, as you rely on wind for more of your baseload, then the $6T figure for wind must go even higher…nearly twice as high.
Hank, the operative word in “coaxial cable for digital transfer” re the discussion is digital, not coax. Coax has been around for sometime; but high-speed digital transmission channels (T4 and T5 in telephone land), requiring new electronics and encoding scheme, only since early 70s.
Well creationists also believe in the second coming, when God will sort out all the problems on the earth. The belief among such Christians seems to be that the earth was given by God to be exploited until such time. I think it’s unlikely that people who expect their children to be meeting Jesus in 2050 will be worried too much about a bit of global warming.
The actual Christian belief is that “The Earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 24:1, see also Psalm 50). God never told anybody to “exploit” the Earth. And please note that 86 leading American evangelicals have just signed onto a statement asking their congregations to do more to fight global warming. Please don’t stereotype.
[Response: No further discussion of religion please. – gavin]
Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Dec 2008 @ 7:42 AM
Ike Solem (158) — to be Lamarckian, it’s not enough that acquired characteristics be inherited, they have to be adaptational. The whole point about Lamarck was that he thought striving drove evolution. The giraffe stretching its neck and passing the trait down to its descendants made the descendants more viable.
Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Dec 2008 @ 8:22 AM
Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Dec 2008 @ 8:24 AM
Mark says: “Matt, when the rollout of the “inexpensive” nuclear option is paid for, what do you do in twenty years time when you have run out of nuclear?”
The same as you do when the solar panels or windmills have to be replaced, albeit, you don’t have to worry so much about half-lives with these technologies. Everything wears out–or as a reliability physicist I know says, “Failure is not an option… It’s a standard feature.”
Neither Lamarckism nor Darwinism had anything to do with speciation or the creation of any of the higher taxonomic categories. All of creative evolution was preplanned, prescheduled and emergent from the relatively few organisms that were capable of leaving decendents markedly different from themeselves. Natural selection, allelic mutation, and Mendelian (sexual) reproduction were all conservative and anti-evoluitionary, serving only to maintain the status quo for as long as possible.
Furthermore there is not a shred of evidence that creative, progressive evolution is any longer in progress. Just as ontogeny ends with the death of the indivdual, so phylogeny ends with extinction. The present biota seems to be the terminus of the evolutionary sequence and I see no reason to assume evolution will ever resume. In short –
“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
For a further discussion and documentation I refer to my weblog –
That’s a reiteration of your claim that “the green movement” is dangerous, not a justification. The major environmental pressure groups employ fully qualified scientists. How about some concrete examples of proposals made by such groups – not random people on the internet – that you claim are unfeasible, with proper justification?
Rod, what coaxial cable do you imagine was invented in the 1970s that he could be talking about? Maybe he’s thinking about HDMI, which was multiple twisted pair cable. In 2007 there’s a mention of success transmitting HDMI over coax — a distance of a few feet.
About 10% of that is scheduled maintenance so it occurs at non-peak seasons, so bumping the total reliability figure up to 65% is reasonable.
On Evolution and Climate Change: things change once a mechanism for the dominant view is established. Evolution’s line was the discovery of DNA. Climate’s line was the discovery of CO2’s greenhouse effect. Interestingly, Climate’s line came long before the Climate issue became relevant while Evolution’s line came long after the issue was settled. “Some unknown factor” isn’t terribly rational once the line is crossed. Yep, there’s always another level to explore, but to advocate policy based on the vain hope that established science is fundamentally incomplete is stupid. A good analogy is Newton. Relativity proves Newton wrong, but policy based on Newton being correct is still good practice. Newton was correct enough.
Hank, I said coax, a level-1 physical layer was not the question. The transmission and networking layer with its electronics and protocols were the stuff first realized in the 70s. (And not so much generic “protocol”, as encoding schemes to generate high-speed bit streams and, more important, detect them reliably at the receiver.)
Nick (434), not to mention dangerous environmentalists denialists…
“things change once a mechanism for the dominant view is established. Evolution’s line was the discovery of DNA.” – RichardC
Not really. Darwin’s evidence for common descent was already overwhelming, and convinced all serious biologists quite quickly.
Once population genetics was formulated by Fisher, Haldane, Wright and others around 1930, it was clear that natural selection was the main mechanism of evolution. That meant biologists knew what properties the genetic material must have – without that, they would not have discovered the structure of DNA.
Finally, yes the standard is different and higher because of the potentially tremendous cost and disruption of mitigation.
You do realize, don’t you, that there will be tremendous cost and disruption from NOT mitigating? It’s not a case of doing nothing being the safe course to follow.
Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Dec 2008 @ 1:03 PM
I think most AGW types fall into the “completely insane” bit, becuase they have failed to rationalize what the US and EU must actually achieve to succeed. And instead, they think a Prius + CFL will get us there. It won’t.
It doesn’t have to. Switching to solar thermal power, photovoltaics, wind, geothermal, HDR, cogeneration, and insulating houses can give us a much bigger cut, and will.
Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Dec 2008 @ 1:30 PM
I’d like to be the first to state on this blog that I will pay MORE in electric bills if I know the power is coming from renewables, rather than from fossil or solar. It’s worth it to me to screw up the environment and public health less.
[Response: You can already (at least in New York). – gavin]
Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 Dec 2008 @ 1:52 PM
Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “I’d like to be the first to state on this blog that I will pay MORE in electric bills if I know the power is coming from renewables, rather than from fossil or solar.”
Gavin replied: “You can already (at least in New York).”
I already do, in Maryland — I buy 100 percent wind-generated electricity through the local utility PEPCO. It is more expensive than PEPCO’s “standard” mix which is about 80 percent coal-fired with the remaining 20 percent coming from gas and nuclear (Calvert Cliffs). But as Barton says, it’s worth it.
Also, in the summer of 2007 I replaced my aging gas furnace with an electric heat pump, so now all my HVAC is 100 percent wind-powered. I was warned that the cost of heating during the coldest months would be much higher than with gas, but it has turned out to be only slightly higher, even with the more expensive wind-generated electricity.
HANK # 419, yes, but I was referring to more modern applications of digital transfer.Just like the HD technology from the 1940’s and 1950’s was analog, the coaxial cable was upgraded and found new applications in the 1970’s to 1980’s. I was actually correcting and clarifying myself in this regard. I looked in Britannica again and called a few engineering friends (electrical and computer) and I was more careful in my post wording, careful not to be too long or too vague.Again limited time, but the capacity for the technologies has been there, but the financial drive to develop and market them has been far slower.
Hank # 433, look it up in a scholar technology journal or go to the library and look at an older technology book that is relevant. I am not speaking of HDMI. This will get you started from scholar, where the technology devlopment began in the 1960’s with wide ranging applications: Digital Transmission Systems By David Russell Smith
A Detailed description of modern tv applications and a details on analog: Modern Cable Television Technology By Walter S. Ciciora, James Farmer, Michael Adams
There are many more available, but this will get you started Hank and others interested.
Nick, you are misquoting, I am supportive of green technologies and reducing fossil fuel emissions, but many green websites are misinformed and lack solid science to back them up. I am referring to the “tree huggers.”
I’ll second Nick Gotts’ requests (#430 and 214) for more information about how inaccurate, misguided or dangerous the green groups, websites, or movements are, the more specific the better.
In the US even the opponents of the environmentalists admit the environmentalists have the facts on their side and use them better. See the Luntz Memo. Many of the same people and organizations who misrepresent science also use the same tactics against environmentalists, for example the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Steven Milloy on Junk Science.
recaptcha “lenox fabrication”
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 18 Dec 2008 @ 4:29 PM
> get you started
Jacob, the point of a citation is to get people _there_. Think of later readers of the thread who may wonder what you’re talking about. Or think of the editor of the journal you’re submitting a paper to. Good citation is good practice, and takes practice.
John Davison, On the contrary. Anyone who really wants to learn about climate science usually finds they are welcome here. What is not welcome is spam for a website pushing an anti-science agenda–and yes, creationism/ID is anti-science.
#441 SecularAnimist: I already do, in Maryland — I buy 100 percent wind-generated electricity through the local utility PEPCO. It is more expensive than PEPCO’s “standard” mix which is about 80 percent coal-fired with the remaining 20 percent coming from gas and nuclear (Calvert Cliffs). But as Barton says, it’s worth it.
So how are you dealing with the interruptions in electricity during the day? Or are you actually relying on the coal to provide your baseload and instead using funnymoney accounting such that when the wind blows the provider buys that wind power but doesn’t actually burn any less coal???
You have checked into this, right? I mean, a power company would never charge you a premium for a product if it didn’t help, right?
Ask your power provider how many fewer coal plants they would have to build if all their residents went to wind power. The answer might surprise you.
Matt, you know your request in #451 is unreasonable. If someone is on the grid, you can’t identify where every frigging electron that traverses their house will be from. What matters is that the green producers are supported, that they are producing power and that they are eliminating the need for more coal-fired power plants. That the wind is sometimes calm probably doesn’t surprise much of anyone except maybe you. What is more, it certainly doesn’t invalidate the contribution that green power generators are making to solving the problem of climate change.
Ray (454), matt’s question might be a teeny smarty pants (though that makes for fun reading…) but hardly unreasonable. He’s merely asking about the degree of reality of wind power replacing coal power, which is less than the panacea like it is often described. When the wind powered kWh’s decrease lower than the subscriptions, the fill-in comes from coal power. Now how much (but not whether) the wind power is displacing coal power is a matter of the power company lowering the production from coal plants and then being able to bring it back on line in a timely fashion as the wind dies down; or buy it from some other producer — who likely didn’t reduce its coal production.
I’m sure you know this and I don’t mean to be pedantic. I’m just pointing out that while it is good in a rah-rah manner to proclaim, “I just bought a CFL so I’m saving the world!” (everything helps presumably), there is room for a rational assessment of the actual degree and the effectiveness.
Re matt @451, I happen to live in a jurisdiction where 75% of electrical generation capacity is from nuclear, hydro, and wind. The remaining 25% is from two domestic coal-fired plants, only one of which is close enough to supply any power to the grid in the region where I live. The specific supplier I purchase electrical power from operates only hydro and wind plants, and actually builds new capacity to meet demand as they gain customers. Aside from actually reducing my use of electricity, which I also do, short of installing my own solar or wind equipment, what more would you suggest I do?
> relying on the coal to provide your baseload and
> instead using funnymoney accounting
Funny accounting: imagining accounting for individual carbon dioxide molecules — or electrons — to claim none that you’re responsible for came from fossil fuels. That’s not what carbon-neutral means. It’s a shared world. Change what you can.
458 Hank, wonderful. I note they didn’t ask what happens when more wind is blowing – why, less coal is burned! That a plant exists is essentially irrelevant to CO2 emissions and the coal plants already exist. Hydro and fossil are the two main ways to level the load, but levelling the load isn’t going to break the CO2 bank.
Levelling can be made far more efficient with the building of an electrical backbone so power can be shipped with less loss. The sun is shining/wind is blowing, somewhere. What’s the fatal flaw in a solar/wind/hydro system with a backbone, and fossil spare capacity kept around for contingencies, with nuclear hybrid tech to add to all types of thermal plants? Add in some wave power and geothermal and whatnot. The more different types of generation and the longer the efficient reach from production to user, the less overcapacity is required.
Matt, please drop the *DORKY* insinuation that “all power MUST come from a single source”. You’re deliberately destroying the multi-faceted system in order to “prove” … what? We ALL agree that wind alone or solar alone or hydro alone or waves alone or ______ alone would be prohibitively expensive because of the required overcapacity.
By the way, nuclear alone would be incredibly expensive since it, like renewables (except hydro), is best run as flat-out as is safe. With fuel being so small a portion of the cost, nobody wants to run a nuke at less than the maximum which is prudent. An offline nuke costs almost as much as one going full blast. Goose and gander, Matt.
Rod, in my experience, human actions don’t make things perfect. They make things better or they make things worse. To contend that because something doesn’t make things perfect it is worthless is not just “smarty-pants,” it’s flat dishonest and counter-productive.
It seems that the denialist tactics run a predictable course
1)It’s not happening.
2)It’s happening, but it’s not our fault.
3)It’s happening and maybe we’re doing it, but it’s not that bad.
4)It’s happening and maybe we’re doing it and maybe it will be bad, but doing something about it will be too hard/impossible.
I’m afraid I have zero sympathy for any of these lines of argument. 1) is not tenable. 2) is ignorant and irresponsible; 3) doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and 4) is damned pathetic.
Re #461: “Uh, when has there NEVER BEEN ***anywhere*** on the planet, no wind?”
Not the operative question. Ask instead about the variation in wind over the distances – on the order of 1000 miles – which existing/practical transmission grids can transport power.
So for a practical example, say you’ve got wind power capable of providing, in average wind conditions, 50% the power needed by the WSCC (the western US, basically) grid. The turbines are well distributed across the area. Given weather variability, on how many days of the year will the wind power be only 25% of what’s needed? 10%?
As has been pointed out in past threads, improving energy storage technologies will do a lot to facilitate adopting renewable energy generation technologies such as wind, solar, tidal and so forth. And fortunately, as has also been pointed out previously, this is more of an engineering problem than a science problem because scientific breakthroughs are not needed, just refinement of already demonstrated technologies. Flywheel, pumped storage, compressed air, and molten salt are just several of the approaches that have been demonstrated for storing energy. And, of course, many off-the-grid systems use battery banks to ensure 24/7 power is available.
If you feel that energy storage is unrealistic/uneconomical then check out the website for Beacon Power. Their off-the-shelf unit is a compact, reliable 25 kwh flywheel which can be used both for energy storage and grid load regulation. Installations are under construction which will have as many as 200 of these flywheel units working together. There is every reason to believe that such systems will become more cost-effective, more reliable and have greater capacity in the near future.
While there is a lot of truth in the old saying “There’s no horse so dead it can’t be beaten” isn’t there anyway we can stop rehashing discussions we’ve had multiple times? Renewable and sustainable energy generation is in our foreseeable future, and the faster we wean ourselves from fossil fuels the better. If you are unhappy about those realities, go and have a good cry and then come back to the forum with ideas about how to make the enormous transition as efficiently as possible. We need all the good ideas we can get.
Make a list of all the different things that can be improved. Anyone old enough to remember when rare-earth magnets first became commercially common? All of a sudden audio speakers could be made really small, yet still sound good.
Improve the efficiency of electric transmission and you don’t just get a better grid. You get better generators and motors, with better electromagnets and better winding wire. Come up with other ways to take electrons out of any system (whether a better way of changing the relation between a current-carrier and a magnetic field, or biomimicry of photosyntesis). Stronger materials lighten and shrink everything that we can build now, improve everything we can barely build safely (big heavy fast flywheels), and make dreams possible (skyhooks? vacuum-“filled” rigid airships?).
If someone were to lay out a database with all the varieties of tech, all the current limiting factors, and all the economics, we might notice particular key items that could be slightly improved that would give us the most bang for the buck by improving a lot of different things slightly.
But to do that we’d probably need much better databases and spreadsheets.
Ray, was your #460 responding to my #456? If so, I missed it completely. What does your four steps have to do with assessing how effectively utilities handle a somewhat unpredictable variable supply with a varying load??
Re #463: “If you feel that energy storage is unrealistic/uneconomical then check out the website for Beacon Power. Their off-the-shelf unit is a compact, reliable 25 kwh flywheel…”
Now how exactly are we supposed to check out the “uneconomical” part, when they seemingly can’t be bothered to post the price of their units?
Even if you do have a price, you still wind up with the same meteorological/statistical problem: how much extra capacity and/or storage do you need to build into the system in order to provide a specified quality of service? How much will it cost? It’s not a dead horse, but a real live engineering problem.
I don’t think you can just handwave epigenetics away from Lamarckian inheritance. There is, for example, mounting evidence that suggests that epigenetic changes with respect to obesity can be passed through multiple generations. This is — in terms of anticipated outcomes — pure Lamarckian. Mechanistically, of course, it’s different to what Lamarck had in mind, but that’s not the point; what’s important is that some of Kammerer’s results could actually have been examples of epigenetic inheritance.
(To put it another way, if someone in the 1930s had suggested that a tendency to obesity was partly affected by the diet of the individual’s grandparents, they would have been ridiculed as Lamarckian. Whereas in reality, the processes of inheritance weren’t quite as simple as people thought.)
There is, sadly, an incredible tendency amongst scientists to resist change. When Koestler wrote about the trouble caused by the “scientific backwoodsmen” in another (and less controversial) work, “The Sleepwalkers”, he hit the nail on the head. Similarly, Schopenhauer pointed out that all truth is first ridiculed, and then violently opposed, before being accepted as self-evident. The only exceptions are when a discovery is made before fixed opinions have been formed (and scientific reputations staked upon their conclusions).
(Not that any of this means that climate sceptics are right when they stand against the weight of scientific opinion — just because all truths are ridiculed, it doesn’t follow that everything that is ridiculed is true!)
James says: “It’s not a dead horse, but a real live engineering problem.”
Yup. But at least it isn’t a “science experiment” as the engineers are fond of saying to me. An engineering product can be… well, engineered. There’s a technology, which we can improve. Moreover it is a technology where materials science can make great contributions, and materials science is advancing rapidly.
Rod, I am just pointing out the irony of denialists spending a decade preventing action on climate change and then wringing their hands because it’s too late. We’re playing catchup. The most critical thing now is to gain back as much time as possible, so any action, however small, that makes things better is welcome
“There is, for example, mounting evidence that suggests that epigenetic changes with respect to obesity can be passed through multiple generations. This is — in terms of anticipated outcomes — pure Lamarckian.” Bemused
Not really. Lamarck believed that striving to achieve an adaptive advantage was key to IAC. I suppose you could say that people “strive” to be obese by eating too much, but it certainly isn’t advantageous. Lamarck would not have expected obesity to be inherited unless these conditions were fulfilled. Lamarck also believed in an innate drive toward complexity in evolution – a kind of vital force. It’s these teleological features that made Lamarckianism attractive to non-scientists (I could justifiably use much ruder epithets) such as Koestler. Incidentally, Darwin thought IAC likely to be true – he just thought natural selection was more important.
“There is, sadly, an incredible tendency amongst scientists to resist change.” – Bemused
Again, not really. There is a (necessary, creative) tension between conservatism and innovation in science. Quite rightly, scientists do not throw away decades’ work because of a single apparent anomaly; but when convincing new evidence (particularly new kinds of evidence) becomes available, change can be very rapid. Review the history of continental drift – once sea-floor spreading was demonstrated from magnetic stripes on the sea-bed, detected by new technology, continental drift was accepted very rapidly, and developed into the subdiscipline of plate tectonics. More recently, consider the rapid (perhaps even too rapid) acceptance of the acceleration of cosmic expansion.
Re #468: “There’s a technology, which we can improve.”
Yes, and a cost associated with that technology, which could be calculated (for current technology), or estimated given realistic future improvements. The same applies to other technologies. But very few people seem interested in making such realistic estimates, or considering them in the rare cases where they’ve been made. They’d rather pick (or dismiss) some particular technology on ideological grounds, then “cook the books” to support their choice.
This paper reviews and ranks major proposed energy-related solutions to global warming, air pollution mortality, and energy security while considering other impacts of the proposed solutions, such as on water supply, land use, wildlife, resource availability, thermal pollution, water chemical pollution, nuclear proliferation, and undernutrition.
Nine electric power sources and two liquid fuel options are considered. The electricity sources include solar-photovoltaics (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP), wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave, tidal, nuclear, and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The liquid fuel options include corn-ethanol (E85) and cellulosic-E85. To place the electric and liquid fuel sources on an equal footing, we examine their comparative abilities to address the problems mentioned by powering new-technology vehicles, including battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs), and flex-fuel vehicles run on E85.
Twelve combinations of energy source-vehicle type are considered. Upon ranking and weighting each combination with respect to each of 11 impact categories, four clear divisions of ranking, or tiers, emerge. Tier 1 (highest-ranked) includes wind-BEVs and wind-HFCVs. Tier 2 includes CSP-BEVs, geothermal-BEVs, PV-BEVs, tidal-BEVs, and wave-BEVs. Tier 3 includes hydro-BEVs, nuclear-BEVs, and CCS-BEVs. Tier 4 includes corn- and cellulosic-E85.
Wind-BEVs ranked first in seven out of 11 categories, including the two most important, mortality and climate damage reduction. Although HFCVs are much less efficient than BEVs, wind-HFCVs are still very clean and were ranked second among all combinations. Tier 2 options provide significant benefits and are recommended. Tier 3 options are less desirable. However, hydroelectricity, which was ranked ahead of coal-CCS and nuclear with respect to climate and health, is an excellent load balancer, thus recommended. The Tier 4 combinations (cellulosic- and corn-E85) were ranked lowest overall and with respect to climate, air pollution, land use, wildlife damage, and chemical waste. Cellulosic-E85 ranked lower than corn-E85 overall, primarily due to its potentially larger land footprint based on new data and its higher upstream air pollution emissions than corn-E85. Whereas cellulosic-E85 may cause the greatest average human mortality, nuclear-BEVs cause the greatest upper-limit mortality risk due to the expansion of plutonium separation and uranium enrichment in nuclear energy facilities worldwide. Wind-BEVs and CSP-BEVs cause the least mortality. The footprint area of wind-BEVs is 2–6 orders of magnitude less than that of any other option. Because of their low footprint and pollution, wind-BEVs cause the least wildlife loss. The largest consumer of water is corn-E85. The smallest are wind-, tidal-, and wave-BEVs. The US could theoretically replace all 2007 onroad vehicles with BEVs powered by 73000–144000 5 MW wind turbines, less than the 300000 airplanes the US produced during World War II, reducing US CO2 by 32.5–32.7% and nearly eliminating 15000/yr vehicle-related air pollution deaths in 2020.
In sum, use of wind, CSP, geothermal, tidal, PV, wave, and hydro to provide electricity for BEVs and HFCVs and, by extension, electricity for the residential, industrial, and commercial sectors, will result in the most benefit among the options considered. The combination of these technologies should be advanced as a solution to global warming, air pollution, and energy security. Coal-CCS and nuclear offer less benefit thus represent an opportunity cost loss, and the biofuel options provide no certain benefit and the greatest negative impacts.
Of particular interest to the discussion on this thread is the article’s detailed discussion of “intermittency and how to address it”, summarized as follows:
The intermittency of wind, solar, and wave power can be reduced in several ways: (1) interconnecting geographically-disperse intermittent sources through the transmission system, (2) combining different intermittent sources (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and wave) to smooth out loads, using hydro to provide peaking and load balancing, (3) using smart meters to provide electric power to electric vehicles at optimal times, (4) storing wind energy in hydrogen, batteries, pumped hydroelectric power, compressed air, or a thermal storage medium, and (5) forecasting weather to improve grid planning.
The article also analyzes the relative opportunity costs of different technologies:
The investment in an energy technology with a long time between planning and operation increases carbon dioxide and air pollutant emissions relative to a technology with a short time between planning and operation. This occurs because the delay permits the longer operation of higher-carbon emitting existing power generation, such as natural gas peaker plants or coal-fired power plants, until their replacement occurs. In other words, the delay results in an opportunity cost in terms of climate- and air-pollution-relevant emissions … The time between planning and operation of a technology includes the time to site, finance, permit, insure, construct, license, and connect the technology to the utility grid […]
[…] the overall time between planning and operation of a nuclear power plant ranges from 10–19 yr […]
The … overall time between planning and operation of a large wind farm is 2–5 yr […]
For CSP [concentrating solar power], the construction time is similar to that of a wind farm … 2–5 yr […]
From the conclusions (emphasis added):
In summary, the use of wind, CSP, geothermal, tidal, solar, wave, and hydroelectric to provide electricity for BEVs and HFCVs result in the most benefit and least impact among the options considered. Coal-CCS and nuclear provide less benefit with greater negative impacts. The biofuel options provide no certain benefit and result in significant negative impacts. Because sufficient clean natural resources (e.g., wind, sunlight, hot water, ocean energy, gravitational energy) exists to power all energy for the world, the results here suggest that the diversion of attention to the less efficient or non-efficient options represents an opportunity cost that delays solutions to climate and air pollution health problems. The relative ranking of each electricity-BEV option also applies to the electricity source when used to provide electricity for general purposes.
Ray, so, are you saying we should not assess how effectively, at the engineering and implementation levels, utilities handle a somewhat unpredictable variable alternative supply such as wind turbines with a varying load??? We don’t have enough time??
Nick (471), I agree with your point, but in the long run — usually a very long run. I don’t think that refutes Bemused’s point at all. Science came around to plate tectonics but only after 40-50 years of vilifying and/or shunning Wegener and his theory. An interesting read of J. Marvin Herndon’s thoughts on supporting contrary scientists (he has a counter theory to plate tectonics!) is here: http://arxiv.org/ftp/physics/papers/0510/0510090.pdf
SecularAnimist (473), the Prof’s load-leveling techniques are logical but seem to brush away major practical difficulties. Sounds like he just kinda magically puts down this humongous totally new grid — and in all the correct spots the first time. And I think “smart meter” means Charlie can not recharge his EV when he might need to because the wind die-down told his station’s smart meter, “no electricity. Come back later”, though a really sophisticated and robust grid might mitigate that.
T. Boone Pickens is looking at 8+ years for his wind farm. Plus there is no physical reason why nuclear plants can not be constructed (form concept to on-line) in 10 years or less. Maybe also for hydro, though hydro is a little more dicey for 10 years for most locales. Why did not he assess natural gas? Or did I just miss it? Or is it close enough to coal to not matter much?
None-the-less it looks like a decent study, worth looking at.
#461 Mark: matt, 451. Uh, when has there NEVER BEEN ***anywhere*** on the planet, no wind? Now in my neck of the woods, there are not coal deposits. Not a lump. Not even a power station burning it. Yet we still have coal-powered electricity coming in the house. It’s called “An Electricity Grid”. It’s quite the modern convenience, as opposed to the old days when you had to go out and pick your own electrons to power your computer…
You have a Popular Science level of understanding about the grid, but you need to learn more. It’s not one grid, and the reason is because the transmission lines would have to be as thick as tree trunks to make it so. If it was one grid, then when you had a massive power loss in the North East, then you’d simple expect the midwest and rest of the east coast to pick up the slack. But for them to do that, suddenly power lines flowing between the areas would need to carry 4-5X the normal power, and they’d melt. So, all the regions are gated off, the what flows between them is very limited and carefully monitored.
You actually should have asked yourself this question the first time you saw a region of the country dark while the rest was lit up. Didn’t your brain say “Huh, that’s odd. I thought all this was a single grid???”
Rod B wrote: “Ray, so, are you saying we should not assess how effectively, at the engineering and implementation levels, utilities handle a somewhat unpredictable variable alternative supply such as wind turbines with a varying load?”
What makes you think this has not already been, and is not being, assessed? What makes you think there are not already a lot of very smart people working on developing a next-generation electrical grid designed from the ground up to integrate diverse, centralized & distributed, small & large scale, baseload and intermittent energy sources, consumers and storage? Because, in fact, there are.
“Science came around to plate tectonics but only after 40-50 years of vilifying and/or shunning Wegener and his theory.” – Rod B
Until the discovery of magnetic stripes on the ocean floor, there was insufficient evidence to make a really convincing case for continental drift. I’m not in the least surprised that you reference an obvious crank, whose (non-peer-reviewed) “paper” lacks the calculations the author claims to have done, and has no references whatever. I really don’t thinkyou have the slightest idea how science works.
#462 James: So for a practical example, say you’ve got wind power capable of providing, in average wind conditions, 50% the power needed by the WSCC (the western US, basically) grid. The turbines are well distributed across the area. Given weather variability, on how many days of the year will the wind power be only 25% of what’s needed? 10%?
Interestinly, a single wind farm generates 0 watts of power about 92% of the hours in the year.
The previously noted study (http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/aj07_jamc.pdf) shows in Figure 3 how many of these geographically diverse wind farms you need to connect to get reliable power. They show that connecting 19 wind farms, spread across 5 states, permits you to get 20% of your rated power with 80% reliability (about that of nuclear, slighty worse than coal).
So, using our previously discussed cost of wiring the entire US with wind costing $6T (assuming 100% of nameplate), in actuality that cost would go to $30T if you wanted that power available 80% of the time. And that cost doesn’t include connecting the wind farms together across these 5 states. No, the current grid cannot be relied upon to do that.
#454 Ray Ladbury: Matt, you know your request in #451 is unreasonable. If someone is on the grid, you can’t identify where every frigging electron that traverses their house will be from. What matters is that the green producers are supported, that they are producing power and that they are eliminating the need for more coal-fired power plants.
No, what matters is if a specific action actually reduces CO2 in an amount that is sufficient to meet the goals IF it were adopted by a massive number of people. Driving a Hybrid Escalade doesn’t count. Offsetting an overseas vacation with carbon credits doesn’t count. Paying extra for green electricity doesn’t count. And yes, driving a Prius and installign CFL’s doesn’t count. None of these actions, if done by the entire world, reduces our carbon output enough to change the outcome. Yes it helps, but kind of like bailing out NOLA with a coffee cup helps.
So, the TEST for whether or not something is “green” should be: “If my action were replicated by everyone in the world, would it change our CO2 emissions such that disaster would be averted?”.
If someone installs solar on their roof moves to an electric car, and they reduce their electric consumption from the power company by 95%, and they eliminate gasoline consumption, then that counts. That is green. Because if the entire world did it, it would radically change our predicament.
But if the entire world paid extra for green electricity, it wouldn’t change our outcome, because there’d not be enough to sell at the current (artificially low) price.
I’m so tired of seeing SUV drivers claiming to be green because they’ve installed CFLs and they use hemp bags.
Actually, many scientists did *not* villify Wegener, and there was a complex American/European split of opinion for decades, i.e., this was a *real* scientific controversy … strangely, settled quickly when the right data was obtained :-)
Matt, Uh, no. The criterion is whether the actions reduces the carbon content of the atmosphere from what it would have been otherwise. Green is a comparative, not an absolute. Does the SUV driver who uses CFLs reduce his carbon emissions. Yup. Great, now let’s work on making him want to buy a Prius.
Victory in this war is going to consist of 9 billion smaller victories–the ones that buy us time, that keep us from tipping over too many tipping points. So, small actions do matter, and the denialist argument that we can’t do anything about the threat we face is just as stupid and irresponsible as their argument that we aren’t causing it.
it will never be withdrawn… in the beginning the “green movement,” in large part supported using ethanol processed from corn for use in the production of fuels and has ended up leading to a potential corn shortage for food supplies,made gasoline a little more expensive, and due to the energy that goes into making the ethanol the carbon footprint actually went up.
Point #2: many green movements who advertise on television and the internet claim that no clean coal exists or can exist, actually it is possible to create clean coal and utilize carbon capture that is safe and actually works.
point #3: many in the green movement have supported SO2 injection into the stratosphere, well, this is a huge mistake and not any safer than continuing to emit large amounts of CO2 and CH4. I will say that many scientists including climatologists have taken this option under serious consideration, but this is unsafe, expensive and detrimental process. Some may on the principle of scientific possibility and recent coverage in Sci Am and Nature as well as here at RC wish to dismiss this point; here I will concede with some hesitancy.
point #4:Julia Roberts and other Hollywood stars only shower one to two times a week thinking they are making a major impact on water usage and emissions, when in fact they are making absolutely no difference whatsoever. Other average citizens think that we all can just move onto plots of land, grow our own vegetables and have near zero carbon footprints, this is not feasible both due to human nature and the technology we use in medicine and military applications, etc… all contribute heavily to the carbon footprints and their summations.
point #5: At first the green movement will add to the total CO2 emission to get the infrastructure off the ground, some green people are in denial of this.
In summary I support a shift to green technology and to save the environment, however, many people have unrealistic expectations and are short sighted on how much weather and climate will continue to change both due to natural variability, external forcings, and natural systems responses to artificial forcings as well.
When I see on the internet so called conversion kits that allow vehicles to run on pure water, I am appalled at how many “green, people,” actually believe and even fall into the traps of these dubious advertisements.
Rod, Is English your second language? How, pray, do you take from anything I’ve posted here and infer that I want to crash the power grid by foregoing studies of load leveling. That extreme level of distortion only serves to damage YOUR credibility.
So we can avoid such straw men in the future, I will concede that doing stupid things is generally a bad idea. Got it?
James says: “But very few people seem interested in making such realistic estimates, or considering them in the rare cases where they’ve been made.”
Wow, another unsupported allegation. James there are plenty of folks who are doing credible studies on options ranging from nukes to hydropower. Don’t like the advocacy pieces. Fine. Do some work and look up the stuff that’s credible. Don’t tar all studies with the same brush.
Now, Nick on a separate, but related issue on the difficulties of getting the necessary green policy put in place read:
A Fierce Green Fire
By Philip Shabecoff
Add to this the energy industry spin from real scientists teaching pseudo science and complete falsehoods and we see how even a green movement that means well, might believe errant statements as a result of well put together and orchestrated “science.” Just like I can pretend to be a denialist or skeptic, many industry scientists in need of sustained employment may fake concerns about the environment and misled green people who are for the most part do NOT have upper level science backgrounds with a sophisticated understanding of what actually is, may be in the future and how to make headway to reduce emissions enough. Hybrid cars get better mileage,but as noted on RC and elsewhere, are not doing much for the environment at all. Most people do not know how efficient the EV’s were, and even the internet all but hides completely the technology that has been around for a long time, regardless of what anyone claims. It takes $, even science, it takes politics and supply demand = mass production, which makes it cheaper and breeds competition which breeds excellence (and some unethical means to get there) and makes the batteries smaller etc…
Regarding EV and battery technology: Battery Technology Handbook
By Heinz Albert Kiehne, starting on p. 137 there is discussion of 100-150 kn range, but great potential for more and the possibility beginning in the late 1800’s. I read the whole book and it offers much commentary to the technology being beyond what is actually done with it in light of supply and demand. Big part is little marketing and the brilliant engineer Henry Ford.
SecularAnimist (479), well, I don’t. I just thought I read Ray to say that this is mostly a waste of time (though we were discussing something much smaller in scope); I thought that odd and asked him to verify.
Now these books do discuss experimental vehicles with the approximate given specs for vehicles like that I mentioned, and km, is smaller than mi. units, however, they both cite how the technology could have been far better had development and marketing been supported properly. The average EV did not perform as well,but this was largely due to the car industry and energy industry afraid of losing profits, a real issue to be sure, but it does not change the science or the engineering capacity we have had and could potentially have given proper funding and marketing.
So yes in the 1990’s we had the technology and it could have been improved upon and used to begin supplementing and then replacing vehicles with internal combustion engines.
Ray, it’s now probably a moot point, but to get you off the bandwagon, what matt said was, “So how are you dealing with the interruptions in electricity during the day? Or are you actually relying on the coal to provide your baseload and instead using funnymoney accounting such that when the wind blows the provider buys that wind power but doesn’t actually burn any less coal???….”
In essence asking the actual effectiveness of wind power displacing coal.
You said, “Matt, you know your request in #451 is unreasonable……..”
I was merely asking you to clarify. My English is just fine. But thanks for asking.
Clearly these groups are dominated by scientists who actively participate (mostly as volunteers) in organizations that work for the protection of the environment and who are concerned about the impact of global warming on their concerns.
In your opinion, what groups are “even more dangerous than the denialists at times” and “who advertise on television and the internet.” Do you actually have any facts, or is this just your personal opinion?
From the environmental group WRI
“Throughout its history, the concept of an RFS, and of increased
ethanol production in general, has encountered vigorous opposition.
Criticism has arisen from skepticism about ethanol
itself and about the environmental impacts of an agricultural
production system geared more heavily toward producing
ethanol feedstock.” http://pdf.wri.org/beyondrfs.pdf
Environmental groups push mitigation almost exclusively. The basis for environmentalism is the ethic of not interfering with natural world when it can be avoided. Roger Pielke Jr for one has been critical of them on his blog for not considering adaptation or geo-engineering.
This point sounds like Rush Limbaugh et al’s false portrayal of environmentalism as some weird thing that the liberal elites do in Hollywood or environmentalists are dirty hippies. Its too inane to address.
Some green people may not know this. In any movement there are individuals who don’t know everything, but to use this to imply the entire group does not know is a non sequitur.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 21 Dec 2008 @ 3:02 AM
#487 Ray Ladbury: Victory in this war is going to consist of 9 billion smaller victories–the ones that buy us time, that keep us from tipping over too many tipping points.
Observation #1: The human race is getting fat because of a small annual weight gain sustained over decades. By midlife, an increasing number of people have gained 5 pounds a year over 10 years. They are 50+ pounds overweight due to the equivalnet of an extra saltine cracker (50 calorie) per day. It’s amazing when you think about it. Why does this happen? The same is true with money savings. With credit. With knowledge and basic decision making. In short, humans do a very poor job of sustaining change when that change requires a massive number of very small and easy things that must be done, especially when the “day or reckoning” is years away. What you suggest goes against human nature. Humans actually do a good job of improving if the improvement comes from one or two large events to fight a boogeyman that is imminent.
Observation #2. If those that have already “gotten ahead” cannot show restraint, how can you possible expect those that have not “gotten ahead” to show restraint? Al Gore, Laurie David (AIT producer), Barack Obama, etc, all use energy at alarming rates. I suspect that even James Hansen is producing CO2 at a rate that would astound people. Why do they continue to do so? It’s because they all figure “This particular task is important, and besides, it’s not very much, so this bit of CO2 doesn’t really count.”. Laurie David uses that rational to take a private jet on vacation. Obama took a chartered 757 to see his ailing grandma. James Hansen flies overseas to deliver a speech or testimony. And you know what, it’s hard to argue with that rational.
But if those beacons cannot demonstrate a shred of restraint, how can you possible ask the soccer mom that hasn’t “gotten ahead” and who drives 90 minutes a week to soccer practice in hopes her daughter might get a soccer scholarship to show any restraint? In fairness, you cannot.
Either the government fixes this by providing the solution in the form of cheap, low-impact energy (nukes, wind, etc), or you plan on nothing changing. The soccer mom won’t change on her own. Your plan of having people just decide to spontaneously do a zillion small things to help has never worked when the boogeyman is 25 years away. They have too much to lose.
“It will never be withdrawn”
Whatever the evidence against it. How scientific of you.
1) “in the beginning the “green movement,” in large part supported using ethanol processed from corn for use in the production of fuels”
As you must know, greens have been prominent in opposing ethanol-from-corn, which is a boondoggle for agribusiness. Some may initially have thought “That sounds like a good idea”, but quickly realised otherwise, and had no influence whatever on the Bush administration’s decisions.
2) “many green movements who advertise on television and the internet claim that no clean coal exists or can exist, actually it is possible to create clean coal and utilize carbon capture that is safe and actually works.”
This is a point of genuine contention. I’m a reluctant supporter of CCS myself, as I can’t see China and India agreeing not to use their coal at all, but there are serious arguments against, most notably that mining itself produces large quantities of greenhouse gases, particularly methane; and the fact that the coal lobby use the prospect of CCS to justify building coal-fired power stations they say they will retrofit for CCS at some time in the future.
3) “many in the green movement have supported SO2 injection into the stratosphere”
 I have never come across anyone who could be regarded as part of “the green movement” who supported this.
4) This is a collection of trivia, none of which vould be described as “dangerous” by a rational person.
5) “At first the green movement will add to the total CO2 emission to get the infrastructure off the ground, some green people are in denial of this.”
Of course building any infrastructure will cause some emissions. Even if “some green people” (what a conveniently vague phrase that is!) deny this, why is it “dangerous”, so long as they support building the infrastructure? Moreover, the most immediately effective measures to reduce emissions (cutting down on long-distance travel, car use, over-heating buildings, meat and dairy consumption) require no infrastructure at all.
In short, bilge: you have a political prejudice which you cannot support with evidence.
Science came around to plate tectonics but only after 40-50 years of vilifying and/or shunning Wegener and his theory.
They shunned Wegener’s theory because it was wrong. His model involved the continents plowing through the ocean floor, which was physically impossible.
And it wasn’t ridiculed. That’s a modern myth. You can find respectful discussion of his hypothesis in textbooks (e.g. Seller’s 1965 classic “Physical Climatology”) from long before plate tectonics was accepted (see especially the list of articles Sellers has, going back decades, all of which examined the Wegener hypothesis soberly).
Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Dec 2008 @ 5:32 AM
“And it [Wegener’s theory] wasn’t ridiculed. That’s a modern myth.” – BPL
Exactly. Rod B. clings to the “lone genius scorned and rejected by the scientific establishment but finally vindicated” picture of scientific progress, which is never better than a gross over-simplification. This is what enables him to believe that AGW theory could be overturned at any time.
#460 To: It seems that the denialist tactics run a predictable course.
1) It’s not happening.
2) It’s happening, but it’s not our fault.
3) It’s happening and maybe we’re doing it, but it’s not that bad.
4) It’s happening and maybe we’re doing it and maybe it will be bad, but doing something about it will be too hard/impossible.
I’m afraid I have zero sympathy for any of these lines of argument. 1) is not tenable. 2) is ignorant and irresponsible; 3) doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and 4) is damned pathetic.
Admirably passionate, perhaps, but it’s the work of a moment to say:
It seems that the insistist tactics run a predicable course.
1) The debate is over.
2) It’s over, but there are a few insignificant uncertainties.
3) OK, some uncertainties may be significant, but those who believe so are ignorant.
4) Well, perhaps they’re not all ignorant, but certainly they are venal, and there’s no downside to acting on the consensus anyway.
I don’t have any sympathy for either cartoonish line of argument, and I would suggest that you stick to your strength, which is to lay out the physics as you understand it, and to avoid broad-brush critiques of a varied skeptic group that is no more “tacticical” than the insistosphere.
matt wrote: “… what matters is if a specific action actually reduces CO2 in an amount that is sufficient to meet the goals …”
Nuclear power fails that test, since it cannot reduce CO2 emissions from electricity generation in an amount that is sufficient to meet the goal, given the reality that we have only a short time within which to reach that goal. As the study I referenced above found:
The time between planning and operation of a nuclear power plant includes the time to obtain a site and construction permit, the time between construction permit approval and issue, and the construction time of the plant. In March, 2007, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the first request for a site permit in 30 yr. This process took 3.5 yr. The time to review and approve a construction permit is another 2 yr and the time between the construction permit approval and issue is about 0.5 yr. Thus, the minimum time for preconstruction approvals (and financing) is 6 yr. We estimate the maximum time as 10 yr. The time to construct a nuclear reactor depends significantly on regulatory requirements and costs. Because of inflation in the 1970s and more stringent safety regulation on nuclear power plants placed shortly before and after the Three-Mile Island accident in 1979, US nuclear plant construction times increased from around 7 yr in 1971 to 12 yr in 1980. The median construction time for reactors in the US built since 1970 is 9 yr. US regulations have been streamlined somewhat, and nuclear power plant developers suggest that construction costs are now lower and construction times shorter than they have been historically. However, projected costs for new nuclear reactors have historically been underestimated and construction costs of all new energy facilities have recently risen. Nevertheless, based on the most optimistic future projections of nuclear power construction times of 4–5 yr and those times based on historic data, we assume future construction times due to nuclear power plants as 4–9 yr. Thus, the overall time between planning and operation of a nuclear power plant ranges from 10–19 yr.
The time between planning and operation of a wind farm includes a development and construction period. The development period, which includes the time required to identify a site, purchase or lease the land, monitor winds, install transmission, negotiate a power-purchase agreement, and obtain permits, can take from 0.5–5 yr, with more typical times from 1–3 yr. The construction period for a small to medium wind farm (15 MW or less) is 1 year and for a large farm is 1–2 yr. Thus, the overall time between planning and operation of a large wind farm is 2–5 yr.
For geothermal power, the development time can, in extreme cases, take over a decade but with an average time of 2 yr. We use a range of 1–3 yr. Construction times for a cluster of geothermal plants of 250 MW or more are at least 2 yr. We use a range of 2–3 yr. Thus, the total planning-to-operation time for a large geothermal power plant is 3–6 yr.
For CSP [concentrating solar power], the construction time is similar to that of a wind farm. For example, Nevada Solar One required about 1.5 yr for construction. Similarly, an ethanol refinery requires about 1.5 yr to construct. We assume a range in both cases of 1–2 yr. We also assume the development time is the same as that for a wind farm, 1–3 yr. Thus, the overall planning-to-operation time for a CSP plant or ethanol refinery is 2–5 yr. We assume the same time range for tidal, wave, and solar-PV power plants …
For solar-PV, CSP, and wind, the opportunity cost was zero since these all had the lowest CO2e emissions due to delays … For nuclear, the opportunity CO2e is much larger than the lifecycle CO2e.
Nuclear power simply cannot make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions within the time period that we know is needed. Thus it fails your test that “what matters is if a specific action actually reduces CO2 in an amount that is sufficient to meet the goals.”
We should not divert resources into costly, risky, dangerous actions, like building nuclear power plants, that cannot reduce CO2 enough, and fast enough, to meet the goals. We should invest those resources in actions that “matter” because they can get the job done: rapid deployment of available efficiency technologies; rapid buildup of wind, solar photovoltaic, concentrating solar thermal, and geothermal electricity generation; development of a next-generation “smart grid”; and electrification of ground transport.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Dec 2008 @ 11:44 AM
Rod B in #477 and matt in #478 raised the electric grid as an impediment to the large-scale baseload use of “intermittent” energy sources, principally wind and solar energy.
Of course we need to upgrade the electric grid. The existing grid is, by all accounts, not in good shape even for present purposes, as major blackouts in recent years have illustrated.
Of course we need a next-generation “smart grid” — what Al Gore has called “the Electranet”, suggesting a government role like that of DARPAnet in developing what we now call the Internet might be appropriate for developing a 21st century electric grid. Much as the Internet does for data, the smart grid must be capable of intelligently & robustly integrating diverse, centralized and distributed, baseline and intermittent, large and small electricity producers, consumers and storage.
And pretty much everybody who advocates a transition to an energy system based on harvesting the vast, abundant, ubiquitous and free solar and wind energy resources of the USA is promoting the development of the smart grid — so it’s not like you are bringing up a show-stopping problem that no one has thought about and a lot of smart people aren’t already working on.
What seems ironic to me is when advocates of a massive rapid buildup of nuclear power airily dismiss all of the formidable problems and challenges presented by that project, and then point to the electric grid as an insurmountable obstacle to large scale use of wind and solar. I would suggest that upgrading the electric grid into a 21st Century Super-Smart Grid is a much more straightforward and far less expensive proposition than a massive buildup of nuclear power (which, of course, would also require upgrades to the grid to accommodate new power plants).
And with that grid, the supposed insurmountable problem of “intermittency” of wind and solar becomes pretty surmountable, as the study I cited above says:
Interconnecting geographically-disperse wind, solar, tidal, or wave farms to a common transmission grid smoothes out electricity supply significantly, as demonstrated for wind in early work. For wind, interconnection over regions as small as a few hundred kilometers apart can eliminate hours of zero power, accumulated over all wind farms and can convert a Rayleigh wind speed frequency distribution into a narrower Gaussian distribution. When 13–19 geographically-disperse wind sites in the Midwest, over a region 850 km × 850 km, were hypothetically interconnected, an average of 33% and a maximum of 47% of yearly-averaged wind power was calculated to be usable as baseload electric power at the same reliability as a coal-fired power plant. That study also found that interconnecting 19 wind farms through the transmission grid allowed the long-distance portion of capacity to be reduced, for example, by 20% with only a 1.6% loss in energy. With one wind farm, on the other hand, a 20% reduction in long-distance transmission caused a 9.8% loss in electric power. The benefit of interconnecting wind farms can be seen further from real-time minute-by-minute combined output from 81% of Spain’s wind farms. Such figures show that interconnecting nearly eliminates intermittency on times scales of hours and less, smoothing out the electricity supply. In sum, to improve the efficiency of intermittent electric power sources, an organized and interconnected transmission system is needed. Ideally, fast wind sites would be identified in advance and the farms would be developed simultaneously with an updated interconnected transmission system. The same concept applies to other intermittent electric power sources, such as solar PV and CSP. Because improving the grid requires time and expense, planning for it should be done carefully.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Dec 2008 @ 12:09 PM
Your ignorance amazes me… I am neither being dishonest and again citations are not needed it is common knowledge this is a blog not a thesis. You are just not paying attention Nick and Dhogaza.
Joesph you have a fair response and mine is simple: you did not read what I wrote you may have just skimmed because I never accused the entire green movement. At any rate you guys have a lot to learn.
Jim Eaton once again the group think takes over. I never stated that there were no scientists involved with the green movement or that there were no credible green groups or aspects of the movement.I do not rely on a feeling or my “opinions,” I just look at the facts, and my statements are statements of fact. I do know that scientists could be doing a lot more than they are and not just doing interviews about hypothetical tipping points, but I am sure they are doing their part behind the scenes.
“avoid broad-brush critiques of a varied skeptic group that is no more “tacticical” than the insistosphere.” – wmammy
Garbage. There is no “insistosphere” – just the vast majority of relevant scientific experts. Anyone who does acknowledge that this is the case (note that this is does not imply acknowledging this vast majority is right) is either dishonest, or culpably ignorant. Meanwhile on the “skeptic” side, the ratio of peer-reviewed publications to op-eds, denialist blogs, letters to newspapers, non-peer-reviewed “reports”, etc., is minute. The symmetry you claim to point to simply does not exist.
wmammy, here Nick is 100% correct. The verdict is in and the science has been updated recently as well. On a side note,my own calculations for my forthcoming paper have been done; the math is sound and the observations are validated. Not only is it in the peer review and the IPCC report, but many scientists not in peer review have woken up as well. The non peer review that attempts to refute global warming due to man’s activities can always be disproven and the errors are so plentiful it is beyond being either funny or sad… it is pathetic.
If it were not for NASA, the NOAA AOS Princeton, Harvard and countless other research efforts the wool might still be pulled over our eyes. The physics based models have come a long way, and actually warming is happening faster than was predicted. Just go to NASA.gov, the NOAA, Princeton AOS, Nature, Science, American Scientist, etc… they are not in cahoots with each other. Global warming is a clear and present threat and the future will be gravely and greatly affected if more action are not taken.
Just had to jump back in the pool, didn’t you. Two examples here display the type of thinking and response that I think does you guys (some but not all, to be sure) no favor or help. That is — dare I use the word — denial of any semblence, indication, or any tiny little piece that somehow is off the tenet, no matter how insignificant. The vociferous denial that the environmental movement has never produced anybody whose efforts were not actually destructive or abominably stupid, as jcbmack says (though he used nicer language) as one example. I can cite numerous of examples (which to echo jcbmack is a waste of time because it is commonly known), but the response (actually on another blog) is generally fingers in the ear and/or head in the rear saying “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”, or it never happened, or that source is lying, or…..whatever. Very unbecoming.
Or more to my own (and others) minor point on this thread — how science often does not fully accept new ideas in some kind of love fest with everyone sitting around singing Kumbaya. Your reply(s) in essence said you would so accept an independent mind so long as he/she didn’t act like a dork. Kinda misses the idea. I cited Wegener as one lowly example that happened to come to mind. Despite that if you google wegener +science +tectonics +ridicule and get the tons of references describing the bad treatment Wegener received, peppered thoroughly with “ridicule” and such (but also describing his credible (if not perfect) serious scientific works), you say “did not happen”, or “he was a dork and therefore does not count.” Pure denial. Some just throw out non sequitur straw men like, “yes, but you’re a dirty rotten skeptic. what about that?”
Incredibly unbecoming, not to mention unscientific..
SecularAnimist (505, et al), anyone who says that land and permits for a significantly sized piece or strip of land can be had in 0.5 years (or 1 or 2) has never secured right of way. I also think you (actually your reference) are citing the worst nuclear case against the best wind/solar case. Bear in mind the standard rule of implementing new major projects: take the final official estimate; then double the cost, double the time, and halve the function, and you’ll be pretty close.
One other worth mentioning: all the smarts in the world added to the grid will not change the I2R problem
But despite some imperfections (allowed in these kinds of studies) your reference seems credible and worthy of consideration. I just don’t think it is close to the final word. Not near enough to throw nuclear down the crapper.
Nick may not agree with you, though that is for him to say, that 100% is a good figure to bandy about, at least not so long as the IPCC is dealing in variations of LOSUs and using terms such as “very likely” and “more likely than not”. I agree with him that the vast majority of relevant scientific experts are in general agreement — I can read. It is inaccurate, though, I believe, to claim there is no “insistosphere” (a silly play on the equally silly “denialosphere”). The former is a much larger group, and it is insisting, ingenuously for the most part, that as large a group that can be politically managed should act on the scientific consensus.
The point I was ineffectively trying to make with the “1) The debate is over. 2) it’s over, but…” nonsense, is that Ray’s “1) It’s not happening. 2) It’s happening, but it’s not our fault…” is equally fruitless, if not parallel. Presumably RC would like to persuade other than the choir that AGW theory is not only sound but vital (that it be understood and accepted) to our future. I don’t see how noxious name-calling (deniers, denialists and the like) or tautologies (there is a crisis because there is a crisis) advances the ball. Rather, it smacks of academic bullying, satisfies its own constituency, and convinces few who arrive at the RC table unconvinced. It gives off the unintended impression that the skeptics must have a point if they need to be sneered at with such ferocity.
I’ve served on the board of a large (multimillion $ budget) regional conservation NGO, I’ve proved IT services to one of the most prominent international “green” NGOs, and to a less well-known national (US) one as well. I’ve been involved in “green”, by which I at least mean environmental and conservation, issues and organizations for most of my adult life (I’m 54).
My personal experience and my knowledge of the actions, motivations, and history of “green” NGOs informs me that your opinion is not based on fact.
citations are not needed it is common knowledge this is a blog not a thesis
Yes, Jacob, this is a blog and you’re free to make shit up.
And I’m free to call you on it, and to point out that it’s not a particularly honest thing to do.
Re #481: “Interestinly, a single wind farm generates 0 watts of power about 92% of the hours in the year.”
I think you must have a typo in there somewhere :-) In any case, it’s not how often it generates 0 watts that matters, but how often the output is less than demand. Simplisticly, if your plant produces 10 MW in average wind, and you need 10 MW to supply your customers, you have problems when the wind’s less than average. You need to also realize that wind (and solar) is affected by weather systems on near-continental scales. A high-pressure system across the midwest, for instance, means less than average winds over the whole area.
“They show that connecting 19 wind farms, spread across 5 states, permits you to get 20% of your rated power with 80% reliability (about that of nuclear, slighty worse than coal).”
“So, using our previously discussed cost of wiring the entire US with wind costing $6T (assuming 100% of nameplate), in actuality that cost would go to $30T if you wanted that power available 80% of the time. And that cost doesn’t include connecting the wind farms together across these 5 states.”
Which is the fundamental problem with wind as an exclusive energy source: the costs increase almost asymptotically: having wind supply 1% of the total grid costs the price of building that many turbines, but increasing the percentage to 10% costs much more than 10 times the cost of 1%, while 100% wind would cost far more than 10 times 10%.
Re #504: “The time between planning and operation of a nuclear power plant includes the time to obtain a site and construction permit…”
But these times are not natural law, nor was the permitting process engraved on tablets of stone carried down from Mount Sinai. They could be changed, about as quickly as one could say “national emergency”, or make a decision to hand out billions of taxpayer dollars to banks & automakers.
“We should not divert resources into costly, risky, dangerous actions, like building nuclear power plants, that cannot reduce CO2 enough, and fast enough, to meet the goals. We should invest those resources in actions that “matter” because they can get the job done: rapid deployment of available efficiency technologies; rapid buildup of wind, solar photovoltaic, concentrating solar thermal, and geothermal electricity generation; development of a next-generation “smart grid”; and electrification of ground transport.”
I think you really need to think about some of that. Do the math on solar photovoltaic, for instance. Current price is upwards of $3/watt (http://www.solarbuzz.com/moduleprices.htm): how much does a 1 GWatt solar plant cost? $6 billion (’cause even the best solar cells don’t generate at night), plus cost of supporting structures, plus cost of storage/backup power for nights & cloudy days… That counts as “costly” in my book.
Then there’s geothermal: how do we build much more, when sites that can be used with current technology are strictly limited? There’s one up the road from me that’s been putting out ~100 MWatts for years, but it’s built out.
Some of those ideas are good – electric railroads are mature technology that just needs to be built – but none of them, alone or all together, constitute a magic bullet.
Rod, wmanny points well taken. Dhogaza I have not made anything up whatsoever. Your wording reveals a twisting of my words. I never stated or implied that the green movement as a whole was not a good and constructive movement or a process that is worth fighting for and with. What I did say is that in some cases the green movement is sometimes counter productive and I implied that it is at other times neither a net positive or net negative process in conclusion of some of its actions. I am not questioning you dhogaza as to whether or not you have real expertise, knowledge or education in anything relating to global climate change, warming, environmental science or the green movement etc… You may have none, some, a lot, you may even be a great credit to the green movement and have seen numerous benefits to the environment as a result of green initiatives. This is not in dispute. I also do not deny my own arrogance at times (perhaps always?) nor do I think that any of us has all the answers.
I am not interested with Nick agreeing or disagreeing, when I day 100% I realize the uncertainties in probability as to the exact effects warming will have in say 25, 50, 75, and 100 years and the range in projected climate sensitivity, however, the actual warming trend is proven at this point irrespective of some variations that may arise in the future and even here the correlation (does not equal causation)for future high temperatures and detriments to the ecosystems is well established if not 100%.
Oh for those interested I have started a blog: climateoverdrive.org, in response to the controversies, uncertainties, and misunderstandings in the climate blog and science community. It is up and running, but under construction… feel free to post suggestions for first topics, references textbooks or just drop an opinion based upon data.
Reality check on wind & solar.
I’m a big fan of both of these … but their use really depends on where you are, and different countries and parts thereof have vast variabilities. Hence, there may be X good space for something in a country, and you may gear up for that, but some places may still need nuclear.
James Hansen was here at our local Town Center giving a talk last night, and this got discussed both over dinner and during questions after the talk.
Dangers and risks of going green: mold? “Dangers Of Going Green
Industrial Hygienists Suggest Watching Out For Mold When Going Green
October 1, 2008 — Industrial hygienists found that mold, rot, and corrosion are dangers that must be accounted for when builders construct energy-efficient homes. Recycled materials used in this type of construction are likely to absorb more water than new materials. Air quality can also become an issue because of a heightened focus on insulation which, in addition to reducing heating and cooling costs, can limit the movement of water vapor and potential pollutants.”
Be skeptical of “green product” labels issued by manufacturers and distributors. Some may be legitimate; many are not. Investigate them. The principal variables are the raw materials of which a product is made and the energy expended to produce it (and to get it to you). Remember, producers of “green products” fail to remind us that we should be consuming less.
These wise words were recently brought to you by a certain esteemed and worthy young blogger whose page you happen to know. In the evolving jargon of the environmental sphere, firms which make such false, dubious or otherwise misleading claims are now guilty of “greenwashing”.
“TerraChoice Environmental Marketing in November 2007 published what they found through market research to be “The Six Sins of Greenwashing”. Be aware.”
And I, for one, am thankful to Dhogaza for his work in the Pacific NW. I used to think that loggers had a point when they were belly aching, then I looked at Google Earth and realized that pretty much everything that’s not National Park or wilderness area is, has been or will be logged. It occurred to me that the spotted owl and other old growth critters need a chance. Keep up the good work Dhog. Good luck with the shoveling, we got 6 inches, 1cm of ice and another couple of inches of snow up in the Couve :-)
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 22 Dec 2008 @ 12:43 AM
# 519 that is just fine with me… I stand behind my words and look forward to seeing the responses. The green movement has done plenty of good and at times plenty of bad to put it in plain english. Nothing is one sided or only beneficial. As far as going far beyond that, you are reading too much into my statement where the content does not support your claims.
jcbmack Says: ” I am neither being dishonest and again citations are not needed it is common knowledge this is a blog not a thesis…my statements are statements of fact”
Well, Jcb, when you pontificate on subjects where many of us know you clearly are wrong (and support our positions with citations), your response is the equivalent of “I don’t need no stinking citations!” Proof by assertion. Needless to say, that does little to convince anyone that you know what you are talking about.
Unfortunately, it also leads us to think that anything else you post on other subjects also is likely to be bull. Your “opinions” are simply that. And when you do post an occasional citation, likely as not, the reference is completely irrelevant or actually does not support your assertions. Pity.
Wmanny, Isn’t it ironic that those with ALL the scientific evidence on their side have to insist that the science be taken seriouslty?
I mean you’ve made an utterly unsubstantiated claim that there are serious “uncertainties” in the consensus climate models. Just what might these be? It’s put up or shut up time, dude. You made the claim. Now back it up.
“The vociferous denial that the environmental movement has never produced anybody whose efforts were not actually destructive or abominably stupid” – Rod B.
Well, I do deny that. I think you got lost in your negatives there, because you are by implication claiming (if we assume that you are disagreeing with the “vociferous” deniers) that the efforts of everyone in the environmental movement are destructive or abominably stupid. Is that what you meant?
“science often does not fully accept new ideas in some kind of love fest with everyone sitting around singing Kumbaya.” – Rod B.
No-one said it did. Yes, scientists do frequently ridicule each others’ theories. So what? John Mashey referenced a book by a highly respected historian of science which according to him shows your “lone persecuted genius” version up for the gross over-simplification it is. For that matter, the first item I got when putting your suggested search term into google (http://www.enotes.com/earth-science/wegener-alfred), mentions ridicule but also says:
“Some scientists supported him, but there was not enough geological evidence to prove beyond a doubt that he was essentially right. Wegener’s first critic was his father-inlaw, Köppen, who apparently wanted Wegener to stay in meteorology and not wander into unknown areas like geophysics. At the first lecture in Frankfurt in 1912, some geologists were apparently indignant at the very notion of continental drift. The initial reaction was mixed at best, and hostile at worst. In 1922, when The Origin of Continents and Oceans first appeared in English, it was blasted in a critical review and at a scientific meeting. Subsequently, continental drift provoked a huge international debate, with scientists ranging themselves on both sides.
Detractors had plenty of ammunition. It was soon shown that Pohlflucht and tidal forces were about one millionth as powerful as they needed to be to move continents. The paleontological evidence was thought to be inconclusive. In 1928, at a meeting of fourteen eminent geologists, seven opposed it, five supported it without reservation, and two supported it with reservations.”
It occurred to me that the spotted owl and other old growth critters need a chance. Keep up the good work Dhog
Don’t want to drag this further and further off-topic but … it’s probably too late for the northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest. It may’ve been too late by the time researchers at UWashington (*forestry* types, I might add, the founders of “New Forestry”) pinned down the fact that NSO require very large tracts of old-growth to thrive in our mixed-conifer temperate PNW rainforests.
Incursions by barred owls – a close relative – from the eastern forests into the PNW have been as rapid and overwhelming as the German Blitzkreig through the Ardennes was to the French Army. The speed of the invasion after the first recorded breeding records (about 10 years) has been amazing and disconcerting.
To drag it on-topic, I wonder – and I’m not alone – whether or not global warming contributed to this, because they must’ve spread through Canada’s boreal forest. They like patchy habitat, so logging up north may be the sole culprit, but climate change might very well be playing a role, too.
There are those who claim that conservationists like myself “believe in” AGW because it suits our “political goals”, etc. The reality is that ongoing and future climate change most likely means that most of the work done by “traditional” conservationists – habitat protection around known ranges for species in peril, etc – is going to go down the toilet in the next few decades. I, for one, really wish I could find a reason to believe that climate scientists are full of it and global cooling is happening and will return us to the climate for which decades of conservation efforts were tuned …
#505 SecularAnimist: And with that grid, the supposed insurmountable problem of “intermittency” of wind and solar becomes pretty surmountable, as the study I cited above says
Surmountable at a price. As is everything.
Since we’re both citing the same study, can we agree that the conclusion of the study is that you can take nameplate rating of a farm of interconnected generators, multiply that by 0.20, and that is the amount of power that can be used as baseload. It’s clearly shown on the graph in Fig 3.
Thus, that is how you arrive at $20-$30T cost to build out the entire US electrical demand as wind. Nuclear is being BUILT TODAY in a highly regulated environment in the US at $5-$7T for same coverage.
I support environmental protection!
Jim and Nick how can you be so blind? I know AGW is real and has had and will have some serious ramifications. I even left citations and gave examples of what I was referring to. I support conservation and the green movement. I also donate money and time every year to help save the environment. My blog climateoverdrive.org also highlights the effects of GLOBAL WARMING, feedbacks, it references NASA, RC and explains why there is no reason to doubt that man’s activities have increased WARMING.
One of the difficult things about the internet blogs is that you cannot see a person speak, hear the tone, and due to lack of space the words do not always represent well what a person is saying or trying to say. The global ice caps are melting, since the beginning of industrialization and the increased greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, more infrared radiation has been trapped and so more heat content has led to increased global mean temperatures. The ph of the oceans has changed as a result of the CO2 reacting in water which forms carbonic acid. Can I be any more clear??? I do know and support the switch to reliance upon more renewable, alternative energy sources with little to no harmful emissions. I own inconvenient truth and support his efforts to protect the environemnt. I also teach courses related to the environment, global warming, chemistry and ecology. The best programs on the most accurate and reliable tv programming PBS (and PBS.org) overwhelmingly document the effects of pollution in general and global warming along with future projected risks based upon calculations input to models, satellite observations and actual footage of geographic locations everywhere.
Watch the name calling, wild allegations and half thought out responses. I support conservation, however, there are numerous mistakes people in the green movement made, make and there are those who are “green,” and not well informed. I did not say: “Nick, dhogaza, or Jim,you are misinformed or know nothing about the environemnt.” What the hell are you getting upset about? Relax, nothing I said is false, misleading, unsupported or a personal attack on you.
Besides global warming we have real issues with species extinction, niche contamination, carrying capacity issues, poaching is a factor, changing migration patterns, (honey bees)and changes in genes are others. I took climate science courses, meteorology, evolutionary biology, oceanography, etc… none of the professors denied global warming, none of the textbooks did either. I am not against goign green, but I am against so called “green companies,” which are anything but, or consumers who make a house green the wrong way and end up getting sick or not being so green, due to lack of information. I support further marketing, sales, engineering, and mass production of electric vehicles, but in the interim, more hybrids, perhaps hydrogen fule cells, though it is far more expensive and less practical than EV’s and even hybrids; here is one point: by now, 2008 (almost 2009) we could have many electric vehicles with amazing range, comfort, speed, acceleration and durability, but the government, the car companies, the energy industry shut all of that down.
I am a democrat (though I sometimes refer to myself as an independent) and though the party is not perfect I voted for Obama becuase he supports protecting the environment, fighting global warming, and he supports better math and science education.
What I do not support is name calling, group think band wagon cliams and half assertions.
Nick (528), what I meant (and think I said, but maybe too convoluted) was that some deny that the green/environmental movement has ever produced destructive and stupid supporters, or similarly some maintain that the movement has never produced anybody like that. I did not say that there aren’t any good smart folk in the movement (or similarly I would say that there are good smart people in it.). More often than not this denial is in fact very vociferous.
Your description of my Wegener example in #528 is pretty much what I was saying (though I can’t figure out where “stereotype” comes from), and not at all like you’re description (471) of the relatively benign process of working with independents or contrarians. Then you did write him off as a “crank” (480) which is more like what I was contending. I think new ideas in science often follow the (paraphrased) three stages: 1) ridicule, 2) violent opposition with shunning and accusations of heresy, 3) claims that they knew it all along — usually coming years to decades later after the stupid idea was finally verified.
Interestingly one of AGW’s idols, Arrhenius, also went through the same buzz saw. (Though this example is orthogonal as the ridicule was not over his climate and warming/cooling work.)
I don’t have any disagreement with the process you describe in 471 — what I would call benign but strong and appropriate challenge. I just don’t think it is the rule. It is certainly not the process in the AGW debate, though admittedly this is more charged because of what might be at stake.
Oh yeah just because I speak to Wmanny does not mean I agree with what he is saying, this is not the junior high playground. I do, however, try and explain to him how and why we know what we do without being condescending. As a race of people it is not the blogs or the charts that are going to save us ormake things better, it is workign together and makiing major changes as the minor ones summate.
Compare also the cost expected and paid to build prior generation to the cost experienced in running and decommissioning them. You need a fudge factor to rule out the optimism and externalized costs at the beginning of any period for any financial projection,
as long as the annual bonuses are based on short term numbers.
matt wrote: “Nuclear is being BUILT TODAY in a highly regulated environment in the US …”
Please specify exactly what “nuclear” is “being BUILT TODAY” in the US ?
For extra credit, compare and contrast the wind generating capacity added to the US grid each year for the last ten years and currently under construction, with the nuclear generating capacity added in the last ten years and currently under construction, as well as the comparative costs of each to ratepayers and taxpayers.
James wrote: “Which is the fundamental problem with wind as an exclusive energy source …”
And matt wrote: “… that is how you arrive at $20-$30T cost to build out the entire US electrical demand as wind …”
I am not aware of anyone who advocates that we rely on wind “as an exclusive energy source” or “build out the entire US electrical demand as wind” — although it is true that the commercially exploitable offshore wind energy resources of the northeast alone, or the wind energy resources of several midwestern states alone, are more than sufficient to provide all the electricity consumed in the USA.
What I argue for, and what I believe most clean energy advocates argue for, is (1) maximum application of existing and emerging energy efficiency technologies to the demand side and (2) an integrated system of wind, solar photovoltaic, concentrating solar thermal, geothermal, biomass and hydropower energy generation, with both centralized and distributed generating facilities connected via a smart grid.
With such an energy system we can harvest much more clean, abundant, ubiquitous, free energy than the entire country needs to power a modern, comfortable, technologically advanced society. And we can harvest that energy on time scales that for human purposes amount to “forever”, with none of the toxic pollution and other dangers of fossil fuels or nuclear power.
(527) No need for the thin skin here, truly. Of course serious science needs to be insisted upon, just as skepticism about that science must always be present. Can you imagine the alternative? “Yep, good enough for me, let’s go for it, full steam ahead.” It would be a cursory read of the history of science, indeed, to think unchallenged science a good idea.
Further, I have made no unsubstantiated claims. My 1-2-3 list was merely a send-up of your own, and the point of the stupid thing was to ask if it was necessary to reduce scientific skeptics to a [beyond] derisive nickname and a cartoon of illogical thought, as though there were no disagreement in their supposed camp.
I think “put up or shut up, dude” is beneath you — I’m the lay reader here, not the expert — and I would hope that you stick to your strengths, offering your good observations about and answers to questions about the physics, and that you resist the temptation to lampoon the opposition. Once again, when you deride the skeptics and pretend there is nothing to be unsure about in your own point of view, you invite unwanted questions. But if you think this site is not guilty of preaching to the choir, so be it. I will respectfully disagree.
“Joesph you have a fair response and mine is simple: you did not read what I wrote you may have just skimmed because I never accused the entire green movement. At any rate you guys have a lot to learn”
I did read what you wrote and I did not skim. I can only go by what you actually write, even if that may not be what you meant. You did write a series of comments criticizing environmentalists without putting them in context. If you wrote your comments with more care misunderstandings would be less likely. You even got my name wrong! Its Joseph not Joesph ;)
Like some other people who comment on RC I am quite familiar with the environmental movement both personally and professionally. I do have some to learn, but maybe not a lot. I do know this whole thread is way too off topic and this is my last comment.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 22 Dec 2008 @ 3:33 PM
Wmanny, nothing thin-skinned about it. You claim the consensus science is inconsistent in its claims–that it’s story is changing. This is a matter of science, and science is about evidence? Well, where’s your evidence? Science is not “fair and balanced”. The Heartland Institute’s recent NIPCC effort provides plenty of examples to back up what I say. Let’s make it easy. There are two sides here–the one with the evidence and the pudknockers. Choose.
“Nick (528), what I meant (and think I said, but maybe too convoluted) was that some deny that the green/environmental movement has ever produced destructive and stupid supporters” – Rod B.
In fact, that’s not what you said – go over it again, unwinding all the negatives, and you’ll find you actually said all its supporters’ efforts are stupid or destructive. I guessed you probably didn’t mean that, but even now we’ve sorted out what you did mean, you need to show that what you meant to say is actually true.
“Then you did write him [Wegener] off as a “crank” (480) which is more like what I was contending.” – Rod B.
It wasn’t Wegener I was referring to as a crank – it was J. Marvin Herndon! I said: “an obvious crank, whose (non-peer-reviewed) “paper” lacks the calculations the author claims to have done, and has no references whatever”. How you managed to interpret that as referring to Wegener, I have no idea.
In #471 I neither said nor implied anything about how polite or otherwise scientific controversy is. This is because I don’t think that this is fundamentally very important. What matters are the institutional systems of science, not the manners of scientists.
“the green movements are even more dangerous than the denialists at times.” – jcbmack@93
jcbmack, that’s what I called you on, you’ve failed to support it, refuse to withdraw it, and falsely accused me of misquoting you. I have not questioned your commitment to alternative energy or anything else. I have no more to say on this matter.
542 Pudnocker? OK, that did make me laugh, but I have no idea what it means, and I will assume you continue to see no problem with name-calling as a substitute for argument. I am clearly wasting my breath on that one, and there is no need for you to honor my debating biases in any case.
As to your admonition, “Choose,” it reminds me of the old hymn, “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide.” If I believed as you do, I, too, would say we are at that moment, and I would insist on others choosing. But I don’t, so I won’t. I will keep reading, though, and try to keep an open mind despite your entreaty to close it.
If you were really interested in argument, you would have put some questions of substance forward by now. All we’ve had from you is the usual tiresome whining about denialists being called denialists.
Just curious, wmanny, how do you keep an open mind when you don’t understand the science? Hell, I’ve yet to see any evidence you are even interested in the science. You have this astounding resource, put together by experts in the field. You have people who will gladly answer any questions you ask…and you don’t ask. I would think that keeping an open mind would at least involve making a good faith effort to understand the science.
Nick, one man’s tiresome whining is another’s objecting to a grossly offensive term, thinly disguised. That you have no problem with that sort of name-calling is your choice, but I am sure you understand why others might shy away from it.
And Ray, I am the first to admit I don’t understand the science. Neither do you, of course, or you would simply state it and go collect your Nobel Prize, this one for Physics, not Peace. I have asked plenty of questions, none of them here that I can recall, and I have done as much reading as could be expected of someone at my low level of expertise, including a chapter-by-chapter reading of the latest IPCC report, whence much of my current skepticism arises. I am open to the idea that the consensus is correct, and I am open to the idea that it may not be. I greatly respect your posts on the science, and I am at odds with your ascribing of straw horse arguments and ill motives to people who disagree with you, that’s all.
I have no idea what ReCAPTCHA or “toast threat” means, though I have a feeling I am about to find out. Sounds dangerous.
Re #538: “…although it is true that the commercially exploitable offshore wind energy resources of the northeast alone, or the wind energy resources of several midwestern states alone, are more than sufficient to provide all the electricity consumed in the USA.”
But again, only if you can store that energy economically enough to turn an inherently intermittent source into a reliable supply. And if you’re willing to live with the non-negligible environmental effects of tens of thousands of wind turbines – but of course, they’re probably not going to be in YOUR back yard :-)
“And we can harvest that energy on time scales that for human purposes amount to “forever”, with none of the toxic pollution and other dangers of fossil fuels or nuclear power.”
You’re doing the “mote in your brother’s eye” thing again: most of those technologies have fairly obvious environmental effects, which will only increase as they’re scaled up. Hydropower, for instance, has the longest track record at large scale, and has demonstrated negative effects ranging from loss of fish species to increased delta erosion due to lower sediment loads. Then there’s the risk of catastrophic failures. Solar thermal (for power generation rather than home heating) requires building over large areas of land, with consequent habitat destruction – but again, I suspect it’s not your neighborhood that’s going to be built over.
I’m not saying that most of these don’t have a place in a low-CO2 future, just that they’re not as cheap & trouble-free as some of their proponents apparently would like us to believe they are.
Joeeeseph #541 minor typos mean absolutely nothing.As you can see I did cite some basic evidence to support my claims, though there do exist many others, some you may find more reputable, but I do not want to waste anymore time on this issue when it is clear I have already made my points. Suffice to say that the green movement overall is a great thing, but capitalists and resulting disinformation leads to some severe detriments that can be worse than just being a skeptic or denialist. The IPCC report is not easily understandable by the lay public, but the basic explanation seems too simple to them. It is just like my students, when they ask is that all there is to wave functions or cell metabolism, well when I show them the complexity they give up and wave their hands in the air: “I don;t understand.” they exclaim… at other times they ask for a simplification of SN2 reactions, and when they get it, they have a topical understanding better than a lay person, but they cannot pass the test. When CO2 comes up and global warming, again the results are similar. The statistics alone does start out as elementary stats, but ends in graduate level stats, advanced physics and physical chemistry to just name a few topics. Green is great, when properly applied and even then we make mistakes, those of us who know and understand a lot, really still know so little.
I am not going for the big prize, but I am an expert in several areas and I still get surprised, perplexed and amazed by nature itself, surely we all are. Green will make things better, but not before there are detriments as well, it is a double edged sword.Some green movements are misinformed and do a lot of harm.
“Nick, one man’s tiresome whining is another’s objecting to a grossly offensive term, thinly disguised. That you have no problem with that sort of name-calling is your choice, but I am sure you understand why others might shy away from it.” – wmanny
I do indeed. When you have no argument, and no interest in learning about the science, whining about a spade being called a spade is your only option.
wmanny says “And Ray, I am the first to admit I don’t understand the science. Neither do you, of course, or you would simply state it and go collect your Nobel Prize, this one for Physics, not Peace.”
See, this is the sort of fetid dingo’s kidneys I’m talking about. The basic science of atmospheric energy balance has been known for over a century. Yes, there are uncertainties. No, they don’t affect the basic argument that CO2 forcing makes the climate warmer. That this is true is an inevitable consequence of our current understanding of climate–e.g. that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, responsible for about 7 or the 33 degrees of greenhouse warming that keeps Earth from turning into a snowball. There are only three ways out of this:
1)Everything we know about climate is wrong. This is contra-indicated by the success of climate models at reproducing many aspects of the climate–from explaining paleoclimate to the response to small perturbations (e.g. volcanic eruptions)
2)There is some negative feedback that kicks in magically at our current temperature range that keeps the globe from warming any more. This is contra-indicated by the paleo-climate, which shows Earth has been much warmer in the past. Remember, climate doesn’t care whether the added forcing is greenhouse or solar or whatever. It just responds to the added energy the same way, regardless of source.
3)Somehow, CO2 magically stops acting like a greenhouse gas at 280 ppmv. Again, we know of no mechanism for this to occur. It is certainly contra-indicated by all the data we have to date.
So, which magical outcome do you choose, wmanny? If 1), you and your denialist buddies had better be ready with a better theory. Science doesn’t discard perfectly good theories just because somebody doesn’t like them. If 2) or 3), I’ll be waiting to hear what your favorite magic spell is.
Or, you could stop wasting your time and ours and just learn how greenhouse forcing works. There are plenty of resources here to help you out. I would be happy to answer your questions if I can. That is, after all, what this site is for.
James wrote: “Solar thermal (for power generation rather than home heating) requires building over large areas of land, with consequent habitat destruction – but again, I suspect it’s not your neighborhood that’s going to be built over.”
Concentrating solar power (CSP) manufacturer Ausra claims that 100 percent of the US electric power, day and night, can be supplied by CSP using a land area smaller than 92 by 92 miles. A 92 by 92 mile square is 8464 square miles or 5.4 million acres.
David Rutledge of CalTech writes, using the Nevada Solar One plant as a reference point: “US annual electricity consumption is … 3,500TWh, production from Nevada Solar One is taken to be 0.130TWh/y … This gives us an area of … 11,600 square miles to replace the US electrical grid. The side length of a square with this area would be 108 miles …”
By comparison (from the same SourceWatch article):
David Rutledge of CalTech writes: “It also appears that this area is comparable to the area we devote to roads. Arnulf Grubler, in the book Technology and Global Change, gives the length of US roads in 1985 as 3.5 million miles. If we multiply by a width of 30ft (the street in front of my house is 33 feet wide), we get 20,000 square miles, which is twice the area we would need to devote to the solar plants that would generate as much electricity as the grid does.”
The USDA estimates that airports used 2.4 million acres (about 3,750 square miles) of land in the U.S. in 2002, and railroads used 3.1 million acres (about 4,800 square miles).
The USDA estimates that rural roads used 21.8 million acres (about 34,000 square miles) of land in the U.S. in 2002.
The USDA estimates that urban areas used 60 million acres (about 93,000 square miles) of land in the U.S. in 2002
The USDA estimates that Department of Defense installations used 13 million acres of land (about 20,000 square miles) in the U.S. in 2002.
Land used for environmental purposes in 2002 was 242.2 million acres (about 378,000 square miles), based on combining … figures for parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife areas.
Note that some of the thousands of square miles of land that has already been “disturbed” and is currently used for road and railroad rights of way, airports, military bases, and urban and industrial areas could also accommodate solar or wind power generators, reducing the need to site them on environmentally important land.
And for the record, I would be more than happy to have solar photovoltaic, concentrating solar thermal or wind turbine generators built in my neighborhood — indeed, I’d love to have my own solar power station in my own back yard. Instead of a “NIMBY” I guess that makes me a PPPIIMBY (Please, Please Put It In My Back Yard!).
Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Dec 2008 @ 11:28 AM
I will keep reading, though, and try to keep an open mind despite your entreaty to close it.
Well, to paraphrase an old saying, don’t leave it so open that your brain falls out …
There are constraints as to what’s possible in the real world. The intelligent person closes their mind to crank claims that fall outside those constraints. Won’t be an angel investor for someone who claims to have invented a perpetual motion machine, won’t jump up and down for joy when someone “proves” that CO2 no longer acts as a GHG once the atmospheric concentration reaches 280ppm, etc.
Your tone feels a bit angry, or at least exasperated, and I do not wish to annoy you. The point I have been repeatedly trying to make on this thread (which was, after all, about contrarians in general and an analogy to Lamarckian inheritance) is that I disagree with the sneering about opposing points of view, but I’m guessing that’s largely a matter of taste here,  I’ll drop it, at least for the time being.
Since you insist that I provide some sort of question for you to answer, I’ll try to meet you halfway. I could ask some question like, “What is the physical mechanism whereby CO2 causes net positive feedback in water vapor and how much?” and I imagine you would lead me here, here, and here. I think it would be far more efficient, though, for me to ask you, since you are in the profession, what uncertainties you worry about, if any.
The last time I was able to get a consensus proponent to answer that question, he came up with, “If I worry about something, it’s the possibility of non-linear effects like ice-albedo feedback around the Arctic or permafrost melt speeds.”
I realize that it’s an anathema to give an inch on this site, so I hardly expect you to violate the code, but I would be interested in knowing if there’s anything at all that gives you, the scientist, any pause whatsoever as you look at the current state of the theory or the models.
And for what it’s worth, I have no “denialist buddies”. My pals are all with you.
> what ReCAPTCHA or “toast threat” means
That sort of posting is a frightening consequence of a wisecrack I made here some time ago, in the context of how people perceive patterns so easily in random material.
It refers to the spamblocker service “ReCAPTCHA” you see at each posting, which presents two words.
I noticed how easily I could feel as though the words presented were somehow related to what I was posting (or thinking) and said hey, has the AI achieved intelligence, thereby polluting the minds of many other readers with this superstition.
If you don’t feel like the words are somehow related to what you wrote or thought, try pasting them into Google, to get even more material on which the brain’s pattern recognition propensity can elaborate.
The words for this one are:
And Google, searching those words, yields
> LaDra asked confused. “I’m so high right now,
> cause this is just weird! Don’t aliens have
> really big heads and green skin?
See a pattern? Chuckle. The mind is a strange thing. Now, if you’d like your fortune told …..
PS — no, I don’t think anyone here believes there’s an AI lurking for real (but, but, wouldn’t it be neat if it were true?). It’s shared amusement here.
Superstitious behavior is behavior that gets reinforced randomly. Much written about, e.g.
Human Reactions to Uncontrollable Outcomes: Further Evidence for Superstitions …
H Matute – Quarterly J. Experimental Psychology 1995
… Inspired by Skinner’s “superstition in the pigeon” paper (1948), many experiments
have provided evidence demonstrating the tendency of human subjects … http://www.informaworld.com/index/771551438.pdf
Nick, sorry you misread my 510 post; I admit is was bad syntax. As I also said in 510 I have zero expectations of any cite of destructive environmentalists being accepted, even though the cites are out there by the hundreds (at least many tens).
wmanny, Here’s something you need to understand. I do not want the current period of warming to be due to human activity. My most fervent hope is that somebody will find some heretofore unknown negative feedback, and humanity can get on with the business of learning about the Universe around us–that’s what gives my life meaning.
Instead, it appears that we have to worry about how our activities will change the climate on which the infrastructure of civilization depends. It will probably take a generation or more of human activity to develop new, sustainable ways of supporting civilization, and much else will have to be put on hold until that is accomplished. When I look at the problem of climate change, I do indeed see lots of uncertainties, but most of them line up on the side of making things worse.
So, when I say that what I worry about is reaching a tipping point for outgassing of the oceans and permafrost, it is not because I am trying to avoid giving an inch. I’d really LIKE TO BE WRONG. There are worse things than being wrong. Rather, that is what I worry about because then we become passive spectators to whatever the climate chooses to do to civilization.
I am not a climate scientist. I’m a radiation physicist who has to make sure radiation threats don’t compromise a satellite’s ability to do its mission. This is a credible threat. I’m trying to approach it as I would any other risk mitigation issue. The first step:
1)Understand the threat–we need time to see how bad things could really get, but already there is enough credible evidence that they could be pretty bad.
2)Develop mitigation–again, this will take time
3)Mitigate the threat–again more time
In addressing this threat, time is our friend; uncertainty is not.
> I do not want the current period of warming
> to be due to human activity.
Me neither, but it hardly matters; there’s no question the change in ocean (and river!) pH is due to the vast sudden excess of fossil carbon pushing CO2 above what natural cycling can remove in the short term.
I have had numerous conversations with friends and associates about man-made global warming and seem to run up against this contrarian response…”Give me the names of any real Climatologists that support the theory that man contributes to global warming. Can you help me out here or direct me to somebody or place that can. My google searches have been way to time consuming.
[Response: Umm… all of us? (see Contributor’s on the side bar for brief bios). Alternatively, look up the list of lead and contributing authors on the IPCC reports, or the people writing the CCSP reports, or the National Academy Reports, or presenting at AGU …. etc. – gavin]
Jim Patrick (565) — When so queried, I encourage you to then whip out a copy of climatologist W.F. Ruddiman’s “Plows, Plagues and Petroleum” in one hand while simultaneously whipping out a copy of climatologist David Archer’s “The Long Thaw” with the other.
Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Dec 2008 @ 7:30 PM
Biologists are somewhat like Global Warmists.
That’s why some interested person could do all this pontificating in good faith, and not even know that the recent advances in genetics are pointing towards Lamarckian mechanisms. (Though they are published using terminology that hides any hint that they are Lamarckian.)
Science should not be approached with firm ideals in mind. Data and logic should come before ideals. 
Bhanwara (568) — Many aspects of climatology are much simplier and easier to understand than molecular biology. I enocurage you to go over to the Books ’08 thread here on RealClimate for some recommendations. Be sure to read those in the comments as well. Lots of both data and logic to be found.
Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Dec 2008 @ 9:07 PM
SecularAnimist, thermal storage?? Boggles the mind!
Re #555: “Note that some of the thousands of square miles of land that has already been “disturbed” and is currently used for road and railroad rights of way, airports, military bases, and urban and industrial areas could also accommodate solar or wind power generators, reducing the need to site them on environmentally important land.”
ALL land is environmentally important. It’s not like the Earth’s surface is expanding or anything.
Beyond that, and to the extent that that can be done, I’m in favor: putting PV panels on your roof is a good thing, putting them on lots of roofs is better. But may I point out that some things only work at industrial scale. so it’s not really practical (AFAIK) to do e.g. mini solar thermal power plants on everyone’s roofs? It’s hard to envision building a solar thermal without taking undisturbed lands for the purpose, and in fact that’s what all the proposals I’ve seen suggest: building them in Nevada or Arizona, or some place similarly distant from the backyards of the proposers.
So if I take this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_Solar_One as a representative solar thermal plant, and take US electricity consumption from here http://www.eei.org/industry_issues/ industry_overview_and_statistics/industry_statistics I get (unless I hit the wrong buttons on the calculator) about 31,000 such plants would be needed to supply last year’s US electricity use. They’d cover over 18,000 square miles, and cost $8.2 trillion. (Of course prices would come down with mass production, but you’d also have to add the cost of storage.)
At the other extreme, say you want to just replace current coal generation with nuclear. (Double the figures to replace all of it.) That’s about 230 GWatts, and assuming 1 GWatt reactors at $5 billion each, costs about $1.15 trillion. More importantly, they require far less land – I’d think 100 acres per reactor would be plenty – and could easily be located in already-disturbed areas, close to the major population centers which consume most of the power.
I agree here with SecularAnimist that you lay too much emphasis on the grid. Labeling the required changes ‘humongous’ is simply not credible. The consumption side will remain the same. Cities will not be changed or moved because we are building solar plants and wind farms.
Only because of supply side changes must existing lines be upgraded and new ones built. Expanding the grid is something that has been going on for more than a century, and will continue in the future albeit for different reasons. The switch to renewables does not need to be completed by tomorrow or next year. It will be a gradual change taking place over half a century or more.
I am not aware of ‘humongous’ problems in countries like Denmark, Germany or Spain. That leads me to believe that your are being alarmists, rather than realists.
I am purely talking about the grid here, not about other issues with renewables like cost or reliability, which in my opinion are much more worthy of attention. Don’t focus on non-problems.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 24 Dec 2008 @ 7:02 AM
#561 Rod B:
SecularAnimist (555), you skipped past that “day and night” thing from solar power pretty fast. Have any explanations? Know any storage mechanism that can handle the entire nighttime US load?
How often do you have tell people that we are NOT going to supply our energy with one source only. Wind blows at night. Waves move at night. Heat escapes through the Earth’s crust at night. Water flows at night. Consumption is lower at night. No storage mechanism necessary that can handle the entire nighttime US load.
Comment by Anne van der Bom — 24 Dec 2008 @ 7:11 AM
Anne, you write “the consumption side will stay the same” — why do you think people won’t do this sort of thing, since they are demonstrably already doing it?
dhogaza (571), not silly at all. I’ve cited such a couple of times before (elsewhere) and the reaction is exactly as I described in #510 — unadulterated denialism (to borrow a term). Pure waste of time.
Anne (574), but SecularAnimist was discussing only solar-voltic. I don’t think he excludes all other alternative sources; he just wasn’t talking about them.
Anne (573), the realities of adding major new transmission lines over hundreds of miles, overbuilding most to all of today’s lines over hundreds of miles, and coming up with a management and control process that noway exists today on a national scale is easy only to those who have never actually implemented or have no knowledge of the millions of little but difficult pieces in projects of such scale. Addressing these realities is not only not alarmist it is essential if you ever get to the stage of being seriously interested. Ignore roadblocks, mines, and difficulties in project implementation at your own peril.
The transmission interconnect for T. Boone Pickens’ wind power farm in northwest Texas will prove almost as daunting as building the farm.
Anne PS: Building a new grid in Denmark, or even Germany or Spain for that matter is hardly like building in the U.S. And I’ll guarantee they had major hitches or otherwise planned hard in advance for their probability.
[Response: So? Do you have an aversion to advance planning? When someone keeps saying that something can’t be done, and is given a good example of it actually being done, the sensible response is to ask how, not to insist that it still can’t be done. – gavin]
Rod, I don’t see any obstacles you have raised that are insurmountable with planning and foresight. In other words, I don’t think anyone is proposing: “Hey, guys, let’s really screw up the Electric Grid!” New infrastructure is going to be essential in any case. It may as well be green infrastructure as “Clean Coal” (snicker, snicker).
What is more, in much of the world there is no grid and little prospect for one. They’re going to consume more energy in any case in the future, and whether it is through aid or offsets, helping them to do it in a green fashion not only helps them in the near term, it also provides a laboratory for solutions that can be applied elsewhere.
If you follow the link to my blog (click on the name), you may find plenty of opportunities to correct my understanding of climatology. Just keep clicking on the “older post” link, and I think there are a dozen or so posts that could use comments from a climatology expert.
Gavin (578), I never said it can’t be done. It certainly is feasible. But not with Anne’s wave of her hand, saying don’t worry about it, and calling those who think about the difficult details alarmists. It is likely as, or more difficult than building the solar and wind farms, which themselves are a long way from easy. “Difficult” does not mean it can’t be done. Actually we probably have more know-how here than with the alternative power sources. But it’s a long slog and takes tons and tons of planning, resources (money, people, stuff), and time.
Try starting with the first link under Science in the right sidebar.
That will help. Much has been discovered since the original work by Arrhenius. Arrhenius did get the saturation thing wrong, and that’s explained there. CO2 does not “hold” heat, it transfers heat to surrounding molecules. Air pressure/density changes interactions, and Arrhenius (and you) didn’t know pressure changes “saturation” effects.
No sense in us retyping the basic information; it is well explained.
If you follow the link to my blog (click on the name), you may find plenty of opportunities to correct my understanding of climatology
Why don’t you study the subject, using available online resources, as Hank’s suggested? How did you learn engineering? By posting stuff that’s “not even wrong” (as is true of the current post on your site) and expecting people to correct your extreme misinformation for you? Or did you learn by systematically studying engineering in a structured way?
Surely some of you nice folks will not mind explaining in some detail (so even not very smart people can understand it) why the post is “not even wrong”?
As for Arrhenius, I was in fact sayingthe online resources that explain why CO2 saturation is not valid — lack even basic physics understanding, for instance they totally misunderstand what “saturation” means. I say that after reading lots of references (including realclimate.org.) But I could be wrong. Nobody has taken the time/effort to point out my errors, unfortunately. 
[Response: Actually, your posts are almost all wrong from start to finish. The effort to point out your errors would take all week, and unfortunately, many of us have better things to do. Please note, this is not a venue for you to advertise nonsense. Genuine inquiries are welcome, but yours are far from that. – gavin]
“How often do you have tell people that we are NOT going to supply our energy with one source only. Wind blows at night. Waves move at night. Heat escapes through the Earth’s crust at night. Water flows at night. Consumption is lower at night. No storage mechanism necessary that can handle the entire nighttime US load.”
I agree. That’s why I have repeatedly referred to the need for a next-generation “smart” electrical grid that can intelligently integrate diverse, large & small, centralized & distributed, baseline & intermittent energy producers, consumers and storage.
Moreover, my view is that as existing and emerging technologies for small-to-medium-scale solar and wind generation — e.g. thin-film photovoltaics, micro-wind turbines — scale up to mass production, that small-scale, distributed electricity generation will become much more important to the overall mix than large-scale, centralized power plants of any kind. Like cell phones and personal computers, ultra-cheap thin-film photovoltaics are likely to be a “disruptive” technology that will profoundly change the way electricity is generated and used. Investors would be wise to think twice before investing in new nuclear or coal-fired, large power plants that may well be obsolete, unneeded and unprofitable by the time they are built.
Having said that, the solar thermal company Ausra which I referenced above does assert that “100 percent of the US electric power, day and night, can be supplied by CSP using a land area smaller than 92 by 92 miles” or 8464 square miles. They propose thermal storage to provide night time power, using a technology that they are developing that they say will be more efficient and less costly than molten salts.
Likewise, various studies have shown that the offshore wind energy resources of the US northeast alone, or the onshore wind energy resources of a few midwestern states alone, or maximum deployment of photovoltaics alone could provide more electricity than the entire country uses. And there are existing technologies for thermal and kinetic (compressed air, flywheels) energy storage, which are less expensive and more efficient than chemical storage of electricity in batteries.
My point in mentioning these proposals is not to advocate that we actually rely on any one of them, alone, to produce all the nation’s electricity. The point is that we have a vast, abundant, endless supply of solar and wind energy, such that exploiting even a small portion of these various, diverse resources can produce all the electricity we need — without fossil fuels, and without nuclear.
I’m not an expert, just a regular reader; I read your site and see you claiming saturation means something different than how climatologists use the word. But I don’t see any argument that what they’re describing is incorrect; you’re using the word to mean something else?
Dr. Weart comments that radiation physics is the hardest section of the book to understand. I’m taking his word for it.
Bhanwara (580) — Thank you, but I am one of the amateurs here. But do take the advice to consult Weart’s book, also the Start Here link at the top of this page.
There are many other good books, some are mentioned over on the Books ’08 thread. I’ll add W.F. Ruddiman’s “Earth’s Climate: Past and Future” as a very fine starting point for learning climatology.
Also, following RealClimate thoroughly helps; you’ll find many of the earlier threads of interest as well.
Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Dec 2008 @ 7:21 PM
I was in fact sayingthe online resources that explain why CO2 saturation is not valid — lack even basic physics understanding, for instance they totally misunderstand what “saturation” means. I say that after reading lots of references (including realclimate.org.) But I could be wrong.
When an engineer tells me that physicists are wrong about physics …
Gavin, Thanks for the response (actually, I hardly expected the comments would be published in this forum… So that was a bit of unexpected honesty), but surely it can’t be that hard to point out some basic error in “nonsense”? If my posts are wrong from start to finish, at least one could point out a mistake at the start! Frankly, that sounds like a wiggling out by suggesting “yes, there is a refutation to this”, and at the same time suggesting “but of course, I can’t be bothered to provide the refutation”…
And I am not advertising for a book or something here. By saying that it’s an “advertisement for nonsense”, you are saying climate science arguments are not relevant to this forum, which is another wiggling out.
Bhanwara, Look, no disrespect intended. But lots of folks have pointed out why you are in error. About half of the links under the “START HERE” button have to do with the same sorts of mistakes you are making. So rather than hijacking the whole website and turning it into your own private tutoring session, why not go to the Start Here button and start reading. If you have specific questions, come back and ask them. That is how this website works best–and it works really, really well at its best.
Basic errors: see the threads titled “What Ångström didn’t know;” among much else, CO2 doesn’t “hold” heat; it exchanges heat and evens out with its surroundings. You write “”CO2 molecules have already absorbed all the heat that they can” — no, because the CO2 is at about the same temperature as the gas around it, exchanging energy by collisions (far more often colliding, in the lower/denser air, than emitting a photon). That’s one basic example.
Seriously, the phrase “not even wrong” had occurred to me too when I looked at your page, though I didn’t write it the first time above. But you’ve built a towering structure of logic on basic assumptions you should have checked first.
Read the basic book, first link under Science; read the footnotes; note how often each of those papers has been cited; read the citing papers; if anyone contradicted or disproved any of those papers you’ll find that in the subsequent references.
Don’t believe what any guy on a blog tells you is true. Look it up.
Bhanwara, We have all been through this many times before. A possibly well meaning but uninformed individual comes on here convinced that conventional climate science is wrong. He hijacks the thread for a day or two, peppering regular posters with questions that demonstrate that he hasn’t bothered to really learn the science. And we wind up answering questions everyone here has seen answered many times before. Not productive.
So here is one thing area where you are simply flat wrong: when it comes to climate science, climate scientists know their stuff; they are not idiots. It is the basis of all your other errors, since it keeps you from investing the time to learn the science. So, the absolute effrontery of your post “Does RealClimate.org understand any science?” is simply astounding and frankly insulting to the people you are now trying to engage. Any wonder why we think you are a troll?
Your argument against saturation is utter twaddle. You seem to be saying that all the 15 micron band is absorbed, but we know from satellite measurements that in fact there is finite energy in that band–and it is at a greenhouse temperature that shows it comes from high in the atmosphere. What is more, as you add more CO2, the absorption band broadens, so you absorb radiation you would not have at lower concentrations. That is clearly stated in the Saturated Gassy Argument piece, which I know you have at least seen, since you purport to refute it.
Finally, you claim to base your refutations on basic physics. Dude, I am a physicist. So are many of the folks who work in climate science. AND the American Physical Society endorses the consensus position on climate science, along with every other major scientific professional organization.
Now, please, please, please, unlearn all the fetid dingo’s kidneys you think you know and go and learn the real science.
Your most recent post provides a glaring example of the sort of ignorance you are peddling: The current increase in CO2 has nothing to do with warming in the Middle Ages. We can show by isotopic signature that it comes from a fossil (i.e. once alive) source.
By saying that it’s an “advertisement for nonsense”, you are saying climate science arguments are not relevant to this forum
You’ve missed the point. Your arguments have nothing to do with climate science. They have to do with denialist climate science *fiction*.
If you think that pretty much everything we know about atmospheric physics (for starters) is wrong, and can prove it, there’s probably a Nobel awaiting you. To collect your prize, you’re going to have to publish in the literature, not on a blog.
Get to it! And, please, don’t come back until you’re done.
“As I also said in 510 I have zero expectations of any cite of destructive environmentalists being accepted” – Rod B.
Rod@560, I’m not denying there have been “destructive environmentalists. That is not what you were claiming. You said @535:
“some deny that the green/environmental movement has ever produced destructive and stupid supporters, or similarly some maintain that the movement has never produced anybody like that”
So you are claiming here, not that there have been destructive environmentalists, but that there are people who deny this. @543, I asked you to justify this claim. You appear to be completely unable to understand yourself, so I don’t know how you expect anyone else to do so.
This is about experimental results, not theoretical, so it’s not a debating issue but actual observation.
[Response: And why do you think this isn’t included in the calculations? It is not trivial at all (see the ‘Saturated Gassy Argument‘ post). (PS. comments linking to insulting diatribes on your blog will be deleted.) – gavin]
> Your most recent post provides a glaring example
> of the sort of ignorance you are peddling: The
> current increase in CO2 has nothing to do with
> warming in the Middle Ages. We can show by
> isotopic signature that it comes from a
> fossil (i.e. once alive) source.
I am not sure how you could do that, it’s the same carbon that goes from the atmosphere into alive sources, and then back into atmosphere.
But in any case, are you saying (a) there was no MWP or (b) there is no 800-year later release of CO2 or (c) MWP and 800-year later release of CO2 are irrelevant, and fossil fuels have totally overwhelmed this natural cycle that occured many times in the past?
Hank Roberts (586), I said “saturation” means “energy depletion”, not “molecules are full”. That’s the basic misunderstanding. The molecules are not “full”. The energy (of the type that they can use) is all gone.
Bhanwara, We’ve pointed out several areas where your arguments are deeply flawed. If that is not sufficient for you to decide that your understanding is incomplete and seek more information, we can’t help you. So, go learn the science or stay ignorant. It’s your choice.
The MWP has not been shown to be a globally wide event.
Current temperatures are much higher and more diverse.
Also, the recent increases in CO2 are primarily due to human activities. While there are natural process that result in CO2 increases from warming, what we are experiencing is primarily due to land use and industrialzation.
dhogaza wrote: “And this guy REALLY THINKS he’s overturned the work of thousands of professional, hard-working scientists?”
That’s the identifying characteristic of a particular sort of AGW denialist: The Crank.
The Crank genuinely believes that he and he alone (or perhaps he and a small group of other Cranks), unencumbered by actual knowledge of actual climate science, has identified the simple and obvious reason that anthropogenic global warming is not occurring, or indeed, cannot possibly occur — a simple and obvious reason that has somehow escaped the attention of thousands of climate scientists who have carefully and diligently studied the matter for decades! Why, once those silly climate scientists learn of The Crank’s discovery of the simple and obvious reason that AGW cannot occur, they’ll all be smacking their foreheads and exclaiming “DOH!” like Homer Simpson.
That is what distinguishes The Crank from other species of denialist, such as The Ideologue (global warming is a hoax because “liberals” like Al Gore say that it is real) and The Shill (global warming cannot be real because ExxonMobil pays me to say so).
Andrew (603) — NO MWP in Patagonia or Antarctica. By inference MWP was a northern hemisphere phenomenon, but with effects as far south as Peru.
Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Dec 2008 @ 3:44 PM
#607 Dave Benson
Peru is far enough south that the warming probably included sufficient ENSO events which in turn raise CO2 levels slightly. Problem is that this natural tendancy is so small that it could easily be lost in the noise of CO2 changes caused by midieval human civilazation.
The history of science has a lot to add to this argument. If the deniers are right, there will be an era of navel gazing in all sciences, (and the media) where the true nature of the scientific method is contemplated (Kuhn etc.) and the lessons applied to future debate.
The history of science is not studied to a deep theoretical level just so we can more accurately describe events, influences, impacts etc. it is surely a toolkit useful for explaining how ideas are formulated and shaped by humans (Chalmers “What is this thing called ‘science’?”).
We have all read management books and accept the impact human behaviour has on decision making in general. Groupthink for example has the potential to be very damaging and can be minimised by:
Create constructive conflict within the group
Break context to avoid context traps for participants
Foster the role of devil’s advocate
Ensure a heterogeneous group
Limit early influence of a senior leader
How many scientists do you think consider these techniques redundant due to their involvement in an ‘unambiguious’ persuit where ‘facts’ are most important.
I am not on either side of the global warming debate, I don’t know, and feel comfortable in that position. I do however think that past examples of where the consensus position was overturned offer lessons. Historical Lamarckian analysis provides lessons for both sides, not against one or the other.
I am not on either side of the global warming debate – Nick C
The “debate” over whether anthropogenic global warming is happening, and urgently requires action, is over. It is; it does. Presumably, you would like the “debate” over whether the Earth is flat or approximately spherical reopened to avoid the dangers of groupthink?
Just an arcane clarification. “Group Think” does not refer to just anything where nearly everybody agrees, but to a process, usually not deliberate or even conscious, where a assorted analytic group has a tendency to come to a common conclusion with or without total collaborating evidence. You can believe group think is not playing a part in AGW (and there is some evidence supporting that), but that nearly everybody believes the earth is round is not relevant.
Rod B (612) — Global warming is about as certain as anything in science. So is the attribution to anthropogenic causes. No ‘group think’ about it.
And I’ll point out, in passing, that not everybody thinks the earth is round. I don’t. Its more pear shaped, a bit.
Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Dec 2008 @ 4:29 PM
“You can believe group think is not playing a part in AGW (and there is some evidence supporting that)” – Rod B.
I certainly do believe that. The emission of greenhouse gases caused by human activities is responsible for AGW, with smaller contributions from changes in aerosol produciton, black carbon production, etc.; thinking, group or otherwise, does not alter the climate.
Nick C., I enjoy reading history of science–and indeed, between doing science and reading how past science was done, I think I have a pretty good idea how it works. What is demonstrably unhelpful are social scientists who have never done any science telling scientists how to do science. There is plenty of constructive conflict in climate science “groups”–from the research group to the community as a whole. As to the rest of your suggestions, I’m not sure they apply all that well to the cat-herding exercise that is science. One thing that is missing from your list is an incentive structure that strongly rewards novel, even revolutionary, results. You don’t go far in science by being docile and “going along with the group”.
David B: Good point, the argument is complex, being certain is not helpful in futhering science.
Ray: Fair call, I agree it is a stretch, I did get you to admit to ‘cat herding’ how long since you used that phrase?
Nick Gott: I suppose I refer to it as a crude example pointing out humans are involved in all persuits and humans (scientists included) act in somewhat predictable ways.
It is interesting, I suppose I am only trying to point out that we all think we act as uninterested, uninfluenced, altruistic actors in this drama. Study of past science shows this is not how science behaves. Its position as a hermetically sealed endeavour free from outside influences has been eroded through analysis of the history of science.
I sit with a background in the history of science and see it being used to support argument this way and that and am influenced in my own way to point out what the deepest lessons are in that field. I am influenced by a strong personal dislike of ‘certain’ positions in anything. I also witness the emotion this debate engenders and it scares and fascinates me.
The following link for example points to an enormous unfair onus placed on all actors in this specific anthropogenic debate to be the frontline warriors in a social policy fight. Is it fair that a scientist must work with the a) threat of a ruined planet for his/her children b) threat of carbon reduction on third world, as two simple polar examples. Any scientist claiming they are free from any influence misses the point, usually you won’t be aware. How many of the 600 odd posts are overtly emotional or slightly insulting in tone … is that scientific debate?
“Thus, one of the curious features of having scientists debate contentious science-policy issues such as climate change is that it is climate-change scientists who are considered to be the most appropriate debaters. It is less common to have a debate between a free-market economist and a social scientist expert on nontechnical barriers to renewable energy technologies and even less common to have citizens without spclist(sp)credentials debating policy options. To narrow the issue to climate change is to make science and scientists into surrogates for wider interest groups and policy issues involving economics, governance, equity and ethics. To have scientists debating science-policy issues is to put an enormous onus on the debaters to deal with policy via science.”
Ray I tend to agree, but social scientists do science also, albeit with different purposes and with a different artistic application. There are sophisticated statistical analysis carried out by both psychologists and sociologists. Where I agree, however, is that a social scientist cannot tell a physicist how to do a calculation or an engineer how to invent a tool etc… They do offer as social scientists unique perspectives on how a given process undergoes change and is influenced by ideas over time, throughout history.I certainly do not want a psychologist telling me how to make a molar solution.
Jacob, my fire was directed at sociologists of the Feyerabend school who seem to feel that doing actual science would destroy their objectivity when it comes to critiquing the discipline. You bring up a point that is worth emphasizing, though. Even among different disciplines of science, there is often misunderstanding of methodology. The critique by a physicist of climate science can be every bit as ignorant as that of a plumber or politician.
Bacon and Galileo would be amazed to see the areas where science has been applied and how. I do think they, unlike some others, would be astute enough to recognize what is being done as science, though.
This is from another RC post “Ozone holes and cosmic rays”
“As we stated above, the un-exceptional ozone loss this year pretty much undermines the correlations that were at the heart of Lu’s idea. Thus I predict that this is unlikely to be discussed very much more in the literature except as an example of how interesting ideas are generated, discussed, tested and (in this case) found wanting. This indeed is how scientific progress is made.
But, as has often been noted, the contrarian-sphere is a world on its own. It was inevitable that the headline link between GCR and ozone holes would entice the old-school ozone depletion skeptics and ‘everything-is-solar” proponents out of their burrows…”
The first paragraph feels like a textbook response to emphasise how uninfluenced the “scientific method” is … then the beginning of the next paragraph reveals an antagonistic, emotional tone. Could a scientist feeling this way really be open to considering and testing new, contrary ideas (not specifically the cosmic ray argument, but even small decisions within their own data) are we not all human and emotionally driven to varying degrees.
This may or may not have entered the AGW debate, but it could have, and that is what needs to be appreciated. Knowing it is possible can improve the science. Science should not be tied to an agenda or have one forced upon it, it should be science. This is one of the first generations of scientists who have the ability to apply learning from a related field to help improve their science, good science will not just happen, I believe it has to be worked at conscious of how us being human influences everything in some way.
It has little to do with an outside field poking its nose into what some may define as ‘our’ business. It has more to do with the way a lot of scientists emotionally tie the scientific issue to the broader picture, this is not a scientists job, if you are unable to emotionally detach to a degree (some emotion is perhaps necessary to provide passion, drive etc.) at least try to be cognisant of how your personal feelings may reach a level where they affect your decisions.
Nick, go to the university’s press release, read it, and ask the people at the press office for a followup now that Dr. Lu’s prediction has failed. I tried. No response. Yet that prediction (minus the fact that it failed) is being blogged around the world as though it had in fact come true. That’s the point of that posting.
There’s nothing “antagonistic” about this, it’s how science is done. Comp up with an experiment (including natural ones where you just wait and watch, like that one) and say that if your notion is correct, one result will occur, and if it’s not, another result will occur, and give an argument why competing explanations for such a result won’t work.
Now, go to the blogs touting that prediction and see if the “new, contrary ideas” are actually scientific ones capable of being tested.
Lu had one that was testable. It didn’t work out. On to the next.
The bloggers you’re talking about never go on to the next. They just repeat the same old stuff as though it’d never been shown to be wrong.
Read Hrynshyn recently, he’s being vocal about being fed up with these people. He calls them “pseudoskeptics” and the name fits.
Real skeptics test fairly, evaluate, and get better ideas.
Nick C., Your post reads as if you have just taken a History and Philosophy of Science class from a sociologist. However, you are operating under several misconceptions.
First, new ideas don’t come from the denialosphere. They don’t publish. They don’t submit their ideas to peer review. They do not increase understanding. They simply bring up the same tired, exhausted, horse-hamburger arguments over and over and over again (viz. Ken and his magical mystery tour of 30 year-old research).
Second, science does not presume objectivity among scientists–merely self-interest, ambition and intense curiosity. Put yourself in the place of someone who has devoted their entire life to studying the atmosphere. Now, some contrarian comes up with a promising idea that could explain a huge mystery you’ve always wondered about. No matter how much you dislike the guy, are you going to be able to resist the temptation to test it out–particularly since you know if it works you’ll be famous and get you face on Time, CNN and maybe even Oprah?
Third, the mysteries of climate science in no way detract from what we do in fact know. We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. We know that if you add more to the atmosphere, things will warm unless you have a strong negative feedback. And we know that such a strong negative feedback is contra-indicated by the available evidence.
The way science actually works is so much more interesting than the rantings of anti-scientists like Feyerabend and Crichton, or in the astounding wisdom of the comic xkcd: http://xkcd.com/54/
Ray, not to detract from your general point, but you remain too sanguine and optimistic in picturing the scientist really wanting to and accepting ideas contrary to what he may have been espousing the past decade or so. Throw away his long belief and vested interest so he can align with the truth and get on Oprah?!? I think not — not in 99% anyway.
Rod, If a new theory came along that explained climate better than the current one and implied CO2 were not a greenhouse gas, I and the vast majority of scientists would accept it in a second. There is no sin in being wrong when the evidence points you in the wrong direction. And there is no advantage to clinging to an inferior theory that gives a wrong or incomplete picture of the world.
The proponents of that theory would, however, have to demonstrate that it did have greater explanatory power, and until they did, it would be appropriate to be skeptical. It is appropriate to view new ideas with skepticism until they’ve proved themselves–science is inherently conservative that way. What we have here, though is a body of knowledge with a 150 year history. The chances that the science is so drastically wrong to invalidate concern over climate change are nil.
Science is in a way like evolution–the state of knowledge advances independently of what the individual scientists do. It does so because the majority of scientists are smart enough to perceive their true self interest and act accordingly. When it comes to groups of people, I don’t trust idealism. I do trust self interest.
I second Ray. This is not the Renaissance where the patron Medici have limited support for their artists or scientists as they fall by the way side to the Pope. Galileo did recant what he knew to be true and had published work that at the time was cutting edge and denied by the “scientific authority,” of the fifteenth century, however, this is a rare occurrence, in modern times. Every so often a genius comes along and adds some insight or nuance that turns the majority of scientists on their heads, but this was more in archaic times in early history. Look at Einstein, he actually was held back because he could not accept and conceptualize quantum mechanics and in the last years of his life he was left out of the mainstream of physics and stopped making new discoveries due to his own stubbornness and holding to older ideas. After Einstein’s great work in general relativity (the important one attributed to the work of Einstein, not so much special relativity) he fell into relative obscurity thinking things out in his room.
The consensus is based upon the work of many mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and other experts, and yes, a few geniuses in their own right as well. Now, there is often some bias along the the way in any process, including science, but this does not mean that we know nothing, have no facts or that the evidence is somehow less valuable. Matter of fact when so many experiments and observations are so well repeated by so many different groups, there can be so little doubt that warming is occurring and that man’s activities are largely responsible. I enjoyed my philosophy and sociology courses (and taught a few as well) and there is truth to the biases of scientists as human beings, but this does nothing to invalidate long term trends and repeated values from reputable sources. When Mendel was rediscovered it strengthened Darwin’s claims, it did not weaken them. When Watson and Crick stole the structure a revolution began and genes only further supported, with some amendments and updating Darwin; natural and sexual selection. The weather patterns have been shifting and climate has affected wild life and the bodies of water very much accordingly with what the models have been showing and what climatologists have been measuring. We cannot use a unproven hypothesis or over generalization of a truth well known in social science to discredit something one can learn (the basics) in the first two years of college. Why such a strong denial of basic statistics? I question those here who claim to be math teachers and claim such ignorance to basic statistics. Yes it gets nasty and complex, but the basic premises are clear as day and well supported.
There is a long train of thought that if the large steam engine had delayed until it could be perfected or a different engine (Stirling I think) had gotten there earlier, the electrical production would not have been had to be done by huge machines that really do require conglomeration of energy production. Instead there would have been smaller production units kept locally and he grid would be only used to pass about the unused energy production.
With renewables, they do not generally require a lot of real estate to be operable (with the exception of water based energy production) and so you’d have the local power distribution as the main use of the power needs. The grid then relegated to pushing unneeded power around to places that are not producing enough.
It would be the same with pebble-bed reactors that could be placed inside the large buildings to produce all the energy needs of the building with no transmission loss to speak of.
The Grid could easily turn out to be an anachronism that only turned up because of the inefficient steam generation of the Victorian/Edwardian era.
James, 550. being a cyclist, when it rains the water that is kicked up onto my socks is FILTHY. I really mean that. Grey-black from all the crud that the road and cars put out. And yet, there is no NIMBY argument about putting roads all over the place (though some, quite appropriately, against motorway widening, since the UK driver hates it if you don’t get into the left lane ASAP, so what’s the widening going to do?).
That poisonous crud affects the groundwater. Affects the ground beside the road.
So compared to that, what the flipping heck is so wrong about the wind turbine?
And before you yibber on about how it kills birds, check how many birds are killed in Austin, Texas by flying into bright glass skyscrapers. Gonna remove them?
“… in 1954 Watson and Crick clearly stated, in a footnote to another paper, that without the crystallographic data obtained at King’s College the formulation of their DNA model “would have been most unlikely, if not impossible”. This statement strongly contradicts the finishing statement in their most famous 1953 Nature paper, in which Watson and Crick, referring to the X-ray data in the two directly following papers from Wilkins’s and Franklin’s groups, wrote, “We were not aware of the details of the results presented there when we devised our structure…”.
Galileo did recant what he knew to be true and had published work that at the time was cutting edge and denied by the “scientific authority,” of the fifteenth century, however, this is a rare occurrence, in modern times.
The Bush administration has been doing something very similar to this, however. The attempt to stifle Hansen was big news. Underreported has been the iceberg underneath, scientists from agencies ranging from the EPA, BLM, USFS and USF&W who’ve been stifled. Most recently (and this has been reported) in the Bush administration’s somewhat brazen executive order ending the requirement for independent biological review of projects by the Corps and others that might impact endangered species …
It’s interesting to watch conservatives play the “galileo card”, insisting that “real scientists” who can prove AGW wrong are “not allowed to publish”, etc (same gambit used by creationists regarding “biologists who prove evolution false have their careers ruined because they can’t publish the truth”).
While in real life, it’s the conservative side that here in the US, at least, really has been engaged in a war on science …
Ray (627), you’re essentially correct, I agree, but the distinction is that it would be an “Oh! S__t” moment, not an “Oh! Goody!” moment to the scientist. And he/she would not have been the one excitedly and furiously searching for the theory that overturns his/her decades of thought and work. It is far more humanly realistic than idealistically altruistic.
jcbmack (628), well said. But my point was considerably smaller and more mundane. I was merely saying that if a new theory of GW (or anything) showed up tomorrow, the current consensus, as scientists, would be thoroughly pissed, not exuberant, and, for a long while, would fight it tooth and nail. (Which, as a non sequitur to my point, is probably none-the-less a helpful scientific process — a new theory that completely upsets the fruit basket requires extreme justification.)
I was merely saying that if a new theory of GW (or anything) showed up tomorrow, the current consensus, as scientists, would be thoroughly pissed, not exuberant, and, for a long while, would fight it tooth and nail.
Oh, I don’t know, physicists seemed to be laughing quite exuberantly when fighting against the cold fusion claims by Fleischmann and Pons. The fact that one had nobel in chemistry just added to the fun …
And if the claims had been borne out? Shock and awe is my guess, not “pissed”. Suddenly, a whole new world of exploration, both experimental and theoretical, would’ve opened up. Such a result represents *opportunity*. Fresh hanging fruit just waiting to be harvested by the industrious. Think of the grants … the opportunity for employment in industry …
Mark (629), an interesting idea. Small local (not even regional) power sources designed to handle 10,000 to 50,000 people (I’m just pulling numbers out of the air for discussion) could prove very efficient. They still would require transmission lines, but not much of a “grid” per se. But, you’d still have the availability, storage, ands possibly reliability problem. Wind power would not be very amenable to local or even mid-regional production; solar power might be doable — except for the storage/night time problem. Small fuel-driven generators would have limited impact on the AGW problem (which is the point of the whole thing), which pretty much leaves oodles of micro nuclear generators.
635 Rod B. “I was merely saying that if a new theory of GW (or anything) showed up tomorrow, the current consensus, as scientists, would be thoroughly pissed, not exuberant, and, for a long while, would fight it tooth and nail.”
I mentioned this elsewhere to someone else, but I will repeat it here – you are confusing a byproduct of orthodoxy (think the reaction to Einstein’s theories, or the initial rejection of the idea that the contnents were not fixed – both cases of long-established and accepted ideas being supplanted by new realities) with scientific consensus regarding increasingly supported understanding of available data coming to light.
If anything, the attempt to subvert and deny the results climatologists are reporting is more in line with what you are arguing.
You are also inferring, consciously or not, that climate scientists and people accepting the scientific consensus actually want AGW to be true. That is a patently silly supposition when you factor in what the effects of AGW mean for the future of this planet.
Put plainly, I – and probably most everyone paying attention – would give anything for what climatology is telling us to be wrong!
But addressing your specific contention, you might consider what physicist Lawrence Krauss remarked during an evolution vs Intelligent Design debate some years back:
‘As the question period drew to a close, the ID folks claimed that we wished to suppress the discussion of controversy. Krauss scored points with the audience by emphatically and humorously stating that, on the contrary, we scientists like nothing so much as “to prove another scientist wrong.”‘
From Ken Miller’s report of the Ohio Evolution Debate, found here:
re 637. remember though that there WAS a lot of work done to replicate and quite a few papers produced that explained what could be causing cold fusion and posited what experiment could show if this is real.
That it didn’t was as much disappointment as laughable. Most of the laughability was the poor procedure done by the originals in explaining what they did and the consequent contortions when people doing EXACTLY the same experiment got nothing to say how we misunderstood what they said.
So in many ways a lot different from the AGW denialism in that the proponents of the “new science” made at least an attempt to explain what they did.
RodB, 638, not really my idea, it was for one of the “hard science” cyberpunk fiction works that may have been caused by some serious papers but could just as easily have been a work based on the Author’s projection of what *could* have been if the davey engine was replaced by a contender. IIRC. It was in an issue of Dragon magazine I don’t have any more.
Rod B., OK, think about this. Imagine some scientist has spent his entire life supporting a theory against all comers. Now the theory is to be proven wrong. Do I want to be the one who discovers that, so I can say, “We have new information that gives a more complete picture of climate. I was wrong previously and here’s why;” or do I want some young punk finding the theory and telling me why I’m wrong in front of a conference audience?
Nature is utterly indifferent as to who figures things out, so I can’t afford to be. I have to be the one constantly trying to disprove my own theory or I run the risk of having my head handed to me on a platter. So, I think if I’m a scientist who discovers my previous theory was wrong, my reaction will be “Whew! Glad I found this before somebody else did;” rathe than “Oh sh*t!”
Rod, you’re making the “founder” error here, the same idea about how the world works that crops up over and over by people attacking evolution, thinking some senior figure has to be either right or wrong.
Here, Rod. Read the whole thing. I don’t expect you to believe it.
But this speech hits the high points of what’s expected:
“… You might think that ethical problems might be rare occurrences in research, but in fact, ethical problems occur every day. Consider the following scenario, due to Robin Penslar of Indiana University: …”
You all are putting my assertions in different contexts, which are probably true in their own right.
dhogaza, you’re not talking about physicists who had a long vested interest in the science under question, but about physicists more as spectators. In that context you probably have the correct description of the reaction — well, it was correct.
J.S., I subtly but clearly said “as scientists“. As POP (Plain Ole People) nobody wants GW to prove itself by destroying humanity, many having honestly stated so here and elsewhere. But as scientists, in a bitter sweet sort of way… if a validated theory (different from dhogaza’s example) that upsets GW shows up tomorrow, come Sunday Hansen, Gavin S., et al, et al are going to be, maybe briefly and privately, PO’d something fierce (though to be honest frustrated, discouraged and depressed are better descriptors). I know I sure would be.
I can’t comment on the ID vs evolution analogy, though it is a fair one. I support intelligent design but creationists have co-opted and morphed the term. I’m not a creationist so this discussion can go nowhere.
Ray, of course if they saw it coming they would jump out in front and act like they were leading the parade. I would. But that’s an entirely different context.
This got bigger than my point, which simply was to dispute Ray’s implication that all of these climate scientists are just salivating over the prospect that someone will come along and disprove their decades long effort.
Rod B what you are referring to is more true to archaic and developing periods of basic scientific method and technology. An introductory philosophy of science course does point these issues out, however,it does not apply to something so well verified by legitimate data. You can contrast this with the argument that the Earth revolved around the sun because a religions says so.
RodB 645 if they are putting your comments in an unwarranted context, this is no different from what you continually manage to do on this site. If so many people get your “context” wrong, maybe the problem is with your postings not the multiple people who are getting it “wrong”. After all, that only requires one person to have a problem, not a myriad.
Where is the context that we got wrong with “it could be something else” that you come up with at times and, when asked what it could be, assert that it just has to be “something”? Where is the context that makes that argument cogent?
And, as jcbmack said, your comparison of dogma from religion which was
a) only partly believed in the world (a very small part)
b) not believed in the higher levels of the church anyway
c) only believed for a very short term and only recently
PS on 645: well, where did the intelligence come from? Surely that entity must be more complex than the entity it created here on earth, else we would be doing it ding-dong for thousands of years.
“An alien did it” is no answer, since they must be likewise irreducibly complex and so need an alien to create them (who are complex too and then it’s turtles all the way down).
“Intelligence doesn’t need a body” is different from “God did it” how?
And, worst of all, demanding that something be irreducibly complex is anti-science. If you find out how atoms combine into complex molecules and then (because you’re an ancient greek) decide that the atom, being indivisible, has no constituents and so should not be investigated as it is irreducible, where would we be now in our science? Heck, without radioactive decay, where would paleontology be? Solar physics? Astrophysics?
Because “this cannot be investigated” is anti-science. It kills it off by walling off what is unknown now from being known in the future.
re 645 – “J.S., I subtly but clearly said “as scientists“.”
And you are ignoring the key point – your characterization is based on a presumption that has no real basis in reality and, instead, best describes Denialists and the folks that promote their agenda. Why is that?
Rod: “I can’t comment on the ID vs evolution analogy, though it is a fair one. I support intelligent design but creationists have co-opted and morphed the term. I’m not a creationist so this discussion can go nowhere.”
The ‘discussion’ was not about evolution v creationism/I.D. – I was only pulling the comment up from Krauss as it was germaine to the conversation. Thus, your suggestion I was doing something else is somewhat disengenuous.
Oh, and it is most definitely fair, sir, Particularly given the moving target nature of the tactics of I.D. Creationism parallels what we see in the Denialist tactics – and also given as some of these AGW “Skeptics” support Intelligent Design, thereby given one pause to consider what other faux science these guys are willing to embrace…and why.
But as you qualified your understanding of I.D., your comment of support for it is curious. Do you support it as science? This is a key distinction. Your statement seems rather clear that you understand that Creationists are involved in the movement. What you don’t seem to understand – or conveniently ignore – is that modern Intelligent Design is simply Creationism retooled in an effort to slip past the Supreme Court’s 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision. Prior to that setback, there was no real discussion of I.D., most definitely not to the degree we see now. But if you are sincere and you support I.D. without apparently knowing much about it, I would recommend you read “Creationism’s Trojan Horse” by Forrest and Gross. Better yet, I recommend you to the Memorandum Opinion of Judge Jones’ in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District et al, in particular, sections E.1-4. “Application of the Endorsement Test to the ID Policy”.
You can find it at the talkorigins.org website, or just google it. I’d link it, but apparently it causes the spam filter to get a little cranky.
“Intelligent Design is simply Creationism retooled”–yes, the judge in the Dover PA school board case referenced some cut-and-paste which clearly demonstrated that fact.
I once had occasion to address this issue with respect to Roy Spencer–a proponent of ID–and was accused of using an ad hom attack– I was supposedly “attacking his religion!” Funny, since a better-informed supporter of RS would’ve known that ID is *science* (nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)
Mark (648), your post is substantiation of my “out of context” assertion — which was in no way meant as a complaint, just a clarification. There is nothing incorrect with the others’ contexts; they’re just different from my point, which was simply that physicists are not sitting around hoping and salivating that someone will come around and reverse their decades of work and study.
That many were out of context proves nothing. In fact that might show a problem that I’ve noticed from time to time, and that is the tendency for you guys to answer the statement you want to answer or argue about, not what was said — as you are doing in 648. “the context that we got wrong with “it could be something else”” has no connection with my assertion what-so-ever; not even in the same ballpark. It’s like I say ‘I think the wagon is red’ and you reply that my answer on the calculus exam is wrong.
Comparison of dogma vs religion has no relevance, either. And while I appreciate jcbmack’s words in 647, the sun-centric solar system is not close. All of the science philosophy studies in the world, while insightful and helpful in their own right do not change my assertion re human emotional responses to stimuli and have no bearing at all on my statement.
Just a quicky re 649, whether something (like the universe) is irreducibly complex remains to be seen. Demanding that it is or asserting it is not are both non sequiturs. I don’t do the former; why do you think/want that I do?
you’re not talking about physicists who had a long vested interest in the science under question, but about physicists more as spectators.
Uh, actually, Rod B … do you have any understanding as to what the impact on physics would’ve been if Fleischman and Pons had been right? Certainly physicists had a “long vested interest” in our understanding of how and when fusion can happen.
J.S. (650), ditto my post replying to Mark. You say,
“[I am] ignoring the key point – your [my] characterization is based on a presumption that has no real basis in reality and, instead, best describes Denialists and the folks that promote their agenda.”
I see no, NONE, connection with my thoughts about a scientist’s personal reaction to seeing his decades of work being thrown over the cliff, and what you call a “Denialist’s” agenda…, or any other agenda for that matter. You’re refuting what you wish to refute with no relationship to my point. If you want to debate the skeptic’s agenda and their demeanor, I suppose we can; though we’ll bore the hell out of everyone else. (Well, most, but not all to be sure; a few will jump into the pool fully clothed. ;-) )
I view “Intelligent Design” more along the lines of Einstein, not Biblical creationists. Though it’s getting pretty clear that I have lost that tug of war with creationists, and should just give it up and go find a better term. Too bad. We could debate this too, but Gavin would start to question the tremendous effort he puts into RC — spending most of his time telling us to shut up. I do agree (and said) the ID vs. creationism debate is analogous to the AGW vs. not AGW debate, but, again, has nothing to do with my current point.
Hank, I’ve never tested my belief that horses can’t climb trees either — and have no need to. On the other hand I could be wrong with my assertion here. Do you think that all of these climate scientists are avidly and anxiously hoping for and awaiting for someone to refute their life’s work — so maybe they can realize their dreams and get on Oprah? Do horses climb trees? ;-)
BTW, my assertion is in no way a pejorative. I think it is a natural reaction. And no doubt most of those despondent physicists will soon get over it and plow ahead.
Rod B., On issue with your viewpoint, though, is that the people doing the theorizing and the people carrying out the experiment are generally not the same people. There is generally a friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) rivalry between theorists and experimentalists. The latter love nothing better than to make a beautiful theory come crashing down. For one thing, they know a more beautiful one will take its place.
However, even among theorists, usually curiosity is stronger than their attachment to any particular theory. The failure of an old theory allows creativity to shine in the construction of a new one. Yes, sometimes physicists fall in love with a particular theory (Einstein an General Relativity, for instance), and yes, some scientists might have greater emotional attachment than others. However, times of theoretical uncertainty are often the most exciting times to be a scientist. Remember what Asimov said, “The most exciting words in science are not “Eureka!” but rather, “Huh, that’s wierd…”
The other thing you are failing to consider is that the vast majority of scientists have more to lose than gain from the reality of climate change. Surviving climate change is likely to require a Manhattan Project scale effort to understand climate, retool energy infrastructure, transport, etc. That means less money for astronomy, particle physics, and on and on. Yet, every scientific professional and honorific organization that has looked at the issue has endorsed the consensus position on climate, despite their interests to the contrary. That does not sound like groupthink to me.
Finally on ID: you can show mathematically that the information content of ID as a scientific theory is zero–meaning it cannot make predictions.
Rod, you’re restating part of a very longterm conversation in the history and philosophy of science; you won’t resolve this in a blog thread, and while it’s new to some readers it’s hardly new to working scientists. This is part of learning how to do science.
Beyond Popper and Kuhn, the study of how scicence works has moved on. Yes, many research programmes are organized around a central idea that is being elaborated on not challenged per se.
Paraphrasing from memory something I read long ago (which is also, no doubt, superseded in the study of how this stuff works):
To the extent any core research program’s central idea isn’t sufficient, anomalies will be discovered while doing research around it. When investigated, when such anomalies can’t be explained under the old facts, they have to be wrung out to discover new facts. New facts that eventually will suggest new core ideas around which new research begins to be organized.
Ray (660), all you say here I agree with, but it is still a different context/scenario than my construct.
I have little doubt that the current group of climate scientists that fervently support AGW, were they to run across something extraordinarily contrary, would pursue that diligently. Nor do I doubt that there is considerable conflict at times between members of like teams.
RodB 663, well, maybe the meme that scientists don’t want to find or even investigate (and will kick out anyone trying) is being attacked here. You do say here in 663 in black and white you don’t think that happens, but this is a VERY common denialist meme: the controversy is being quashed. Is it any wonder that your earlier comments that restated this old horse apple was treated as such?
Now that you have stated that this doesn’t go on, please explain what your posts about “could it be something else” is doing? You don’t have an idea what it could be and you now say that you do not think that the scientists involved in climatology would shun any idea, where would they start? Until you come up with a reason for what else it may be, they aren’t “ignoring the controversy”, there IS no controversy. One side has a testable theory that works with what we can measure and the other sides have varying points that either test and prove failing, don’t test, or are just hand-waving.
So stop with the “it could be something else” until you have an idea what that something else could be and how it modifies what’s seen to make it “look” like CO2 is a major driver of recent change.
re 658. Yes you DO need to know if horses can climb trees. What if a stallion is in heat and wants something to have a little quality time with and YOU are nearby? Can you climb that nearby tree to get away from its amorous advances or are you, literally, boned?
re 659: You can mislead. E.g. “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. If in context it is about transparency of action, then its meaning is fairly benign. If in context it is about government surveillance of the population, the meaning is antisocial (inferring that if you don’t like being watched you deserve being watched). You can also insinuate. You do that a lot. You can also pick out things that don’t mean anything intending its context to lead someone to a false conclusion (see simon’s “clouds are a big uncertainty” screed).
This is why words are so important in science and why maths is used so widely. When you have a mathematical formula you have a single description of the phenomena. If you use english words, you have to pick them VERY carefully so as to get the right message accurately across. E.g. “Volcanoes produce more CO2 in one year than humans have over the last thousand years” is true if you mean ancient supervolcanoes that nearly extinguished all life on earth, but the context is left out so that you will get people to think that Mt St Helens did this. It didn’t. Poor words chosen deliberately to mislead by dropping context).
re 653. However you ARE asserting that the universe is irreducibly complex. THAT’S WHAT ID IS!!!! If you don’t know if it IS irreducibly complex, then you aren’t following ID. You’re following science which says “I assume it isn’t unsolvable”.
Again, you drop words and forget your past prose in order to make out you are being even handed when you definitely are not.
Rod B, OK, so based on your responses:
1)You agree that if there were some revolutionary development that undermined current theory, it would be better to be with the discoverers than with the folks caught flatfooted.
2)You also agree that careers of supporters of the current theory would be better off if they made the transistion to the new, better theory and could explain how the new evidence changed things.
3)You also agree that the experimentalists have an interest in overturning the status quo and are a different group from the theorists.
And yet, you still think all these scientists–people intelligent enough to get a PhD and rise to the top of their field–are so incapable of recognizing their own self interest that they would fail to pursue a promising new theory if it came along. Wow! I don’t suppose it would be fruitful to enquire as to what is the evidence on which you base your surmising that scientists will act differently than any other group
I do not say that a new idea would not face resistance. New ideas always do, and until they have evidence behind them, they should. But the idea that climate scientists are all non compis mentis and incapable of even incapable of deciding on the strategy that best serves their interests is to say the least, novel, not to mention insulting.
Rod, you claim you agree with what I wrote
3 January 2009 at 4:44 PM
If you agree with that and stand by what you’ve been writing over and over, the only way I can figure it is you’re just having a laugh — over and over here — by tossing out casual insults then stirring the pot and saying oh, no, how can you people take this so seriously.
There is, if Gavin will allow this, one analogy I can think of and it’s from religion. The sin of omission — telling the truth just so far and then leaving out something important that is needed to fully understand. That’s a theological divide from somewhere early in Christianity, and it turns up in other moral codes too — either way. Some say it’s okay to mislead, some say no. In this current world, omission of facts isn’t against the law. Caveat emptor. The buyer has to assume the seller may omit vital facts, it’s considered good business tactically to do that (unless someone actually swears to tell the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth).
Scientists are holding themselves up as not leaving out anything important they know of that could affect understanding.
If your world view is that people always leave facts out, spin, and lie if it suits them — well, demonstrate in your own behavior how you feel you should conduct yourself in scientific conversation.
With all this talk of bias, self fulfilling prophecy and shifting paradigms, you would think that no scientists can make a clear judgment in their research or that no engineer designed a bridge that could hold up to the winds of nature. Without science medicine could not exist and progress as an art and meteorology would not have the approximate two week predictive power. These computers run due to physics, chemistry and technological application quite well. Imagine how well those GCM’s have come. Without science we would be living to about 30-50 years of age tops. Everyone has bias,this is why experiments are so rigorously designed and why there must be multiple sources of data and a repeatability factor. It is amazing how people are still debating a proven warming trend. Now what is up for grabs so to speak in terms of probability is how fast and high warming will get at a particular point of CO2 levels and in due time; yet even here the data has gotten very very good. We know we need to reduce CO2 emissions based upon current trends and the future range we are looking at with a high level of confidence.
Ray, Hank, and a little Mark:. The problem is as I’ve repeatedly said. You all are taking my original point, and blowing it way out of proportion (though somehow Hank accuses me of exaggerating my point…???) It has nothing to do with climate science per se, or the philosophy of science investigation, or the validity of ID, or the intelligence of climate or any other scientists. I merely said, in disagreeing with Ray’s implication, that a (pick your own field) scientist, while watching the TV news after dinner, learns his life long work has just been overturned, is (most probably) not going to immediately turn to his lovely bride and with great glee and satisfaction say, “Oh! Goody, goody. That’s great! Now I can get on Oprah!” His immediate reaction is (most probably) ‘Oh! S__t!’ This is the only point I made.
If you all think otherwise, maybe because he is intellectually solid with a firm grasp of the scientific method and knows his field of science very well, or he really always wanted his work to be overturned because of its horrendous implications, or because you think me a “denialist”, or because the Earth revolves around the Sun, or because ID is unprovable, or because horses might actually climb trees, or……., well, that’s your privilege. And I could possibly be wrong and you correct. It would come as a complete shock and surprise to anybody with a rudimentary knowledge of human nature. But possible.
Finally, just for the record and clarification, Einstein had a belief that there was some kind of super intelligence that had a “hand” in the development of the physical universe, and that the physical universe did not just randomly produce just the exact correct physical constants, for example. At the same time he had little to no countenance for the Creation as described in Genesis.
From that list I recommend these two linked below.
They give you the basic tool and method that research scientists have to use, all the time, to keep track of work and credit their intellectual sources. If you don’t keep track of information and cite sources — all of them, not just the ones “on your side” — you’re doing PR not science. It’s a slippery slope, people make mistakes, people end up “beyond emeritus” when they no longer keep clear in their own minds.
This is how it’s done. This is the kind of thing researchers do to keep themselves honest. Nobody’s saying that researchers are more moral, more thoughtful, kinder, more better somehow than you are.
The important thing is that to do science, they have to do it this way, giving recognition, making clear where ideas come from, making the effort to give all the information others will be able to use, no matter what “side” anyone is on.
Seriously, look at the tools and consider why they exist. An artist needs a precise color reference; a scientist needs a precise fact reference.
Rod, The surest way to wind up learning about an advance on the news rather than in your research is to become defensive about “your” theory. Ultimately, however every theory is destined to be replaced by something better–perhaps incrementally better, and perhaps still recognizable, but more complete. That’s science.
As to Einstein, be extremely careful when ascribing theological sentiments to him. He said he believed in “Spinoza’s God,” but Spinoza’s God is not a “personal” god. There’s no “personality” there that can relate to us or even be aware of us. Most historians simply think Einstein was saying that the Universe is lawful. Spinoza was an exceptionally subtle thinker. So was Einstein. Pinning down what either meant will keep historians and philosophers in PhD theses for years.
Mark, you could go back and read my initial post (527), absorbing only the words I wrote (including the disclaimer that I was agreeing with Ray’s wider more global description) and not all the stuff you think or wished that I’d said. Then maybe you could stop your nonsense.
Hank, I meant it as a serious point but a very minor one. Everybody else kept trying to build it up; I kept trying to put it back in its original box. It was serious but worthy of no more than about 5% of the discourse posted here, if taken on its face.
Scientists are still human, yes and no one likes to be proven wrong either. Also one more comment about faith before I drop this non science related subject; nothing in science has does or will disprove the existence of a higher being or if you will, God(s). Science merely explains the workings of the natural world, as Francis Collins knows, one can have faith, even be a Christian, but still know of the facts of evolution that there is no vital force as they thought of it in the fourteenth century and before. Yet one can believe in a vital force and prime mover as long as they do not confuse ignorance for God or replace solid evidence with a “personal belief” that is wrong. This is really an eighteenth century debate rehashed by ID and the like. Personally and I will say this once in a science forum, I am a theist with some beliefs that sound very deist, but no matter, science explains what is or gets closer to the truths in the physical realm; it does nothing to make less evident or disprove, or deny the possibilities of genuine faith.
However you want to paraphrase, or invoke, Einstein in your defense of ID …
Einstein never suggested that any god intervened to create the bacterial flagellum, etc etc. ID is based on the premise that some “designer” has intervened repeatedly in the course of biological events, many times.
That’s not Einstein’s deity, and there’s no way to misrepresent his views that any intelligent person will fall for.
Mark, I could swear it was #627 when I dbl-checked a few days back (“5″ being a typo; or maybe I can’t see well…). In any case my original post on this particular aspect of the discourse is #625 in response to Ray’s 624 — near as I can figure!
Post numbers do change sometimes. I see several of my posts change number as other post questions or responses are made; this seems to be at the leisure of the blog moderators and I can do the same thing on my blog as I believe any blog moderator can.
Rod B: “Gavin would start to question the tremendous effort he puts into RC — spending most of his time telling us to shut up. I do agree (and said) the ID vs. creationism debate is analogous to the AGW vs. not AGW debate, but, again, has nothing to do with my current point.”
Having just reviewed the posts since around 24th, I can’t let this insult to Gavin pass – even if intended as a joke, it was a very poor one. Gavin’s posts and inline comments, like those of the other main contributors, must take many, many hours of concentrated work.
Secondly, what on earth do you mean “the ID vs creationism debate”? ID is just creationism repackaged, and neither has anything whatever to contribute to science.
Others have said more or less the same, but it bears repeating: Rod B. and Nick C. share the same caricature view, that the objectivity of science depends on scientists being emotionless calculating machines, unattached to their theories and always polite both to each other and to any ignorant idiot who barges in. It does not. It depends on the institutional systems of science, and specifically the way they combine cooperation and competition, conservatism and radicalism.
For others who’d like to be able to make post references clickable, figuring out the HTML tags took a little effort, even after Gavin’s original helpful instruction. I needed a few basics, which can be found here.
The key is to view source and reverse-engineer. I have to cop to being a little too lazy to figure this out until the current episode of “post-numeric creep.”
Nick Gotts, If you don’t think Gavin gets tired of the ID-Creation debate and would strongly prefer it not even show up so he doesn’t have to spend his precious time stopping it, you haven’t been around long enough or are not paying attention. How my saying this is an insult to Gavin is way beyond my comprehension. Though I would accept any correction from Gavin.
“We could debate this too, but Gavin would start to question the tremendous effort he puts into RC — spending most of his time telling us to shut up. I do agree (and said) the ID vs. creationism debate is analogous to the AGW vs. not AGW debate, but, again, has nothing to do with my current point.” – Rod B.
Sorry, I misinterpreted you as saying that Gavin does spend most of his time on this blog telling us to shut up. I apologise. But why are you talking about “the ID-Creation debate” (even, in your earlier post, the “ID vs creationism debate”? Where is this debate going on?
Nick, the debate is mainly mine, over the creationists co-opting an otherwise good term — ID. As I said earlier I think I have lost the fight; continuing it causes too much confusion and mis-understanding.
“… if someone shows you a trend over 3 years, about 90% of what they’re showing you is weather (real trends of up to 1.5 C/century, 3 year trends of up to 15 C/century — 90% of that 15 C/century is weather). For a 7 year trend, it’s about 70% weather. Weather is interesting, but if you’re interested in climate, and they’re claiming to be talking about climate, then they’re misleading you by those 70-90% of weather they’ve thrown in by using such short spans….”