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How not to write a press release

Filed under: — gavin @ 21 April 2006

A recent BBC radio documentary on the possible over-selling of climate change, focussed on the link between high profile papers appearing in Nature or Science, the press releases and the subsequent press coverage. One of the examples chosen was the Stainforth et al climateprediction.net paper that reported the ranges of climate sensitivity within their super-ensemble of perturbed physics runs. While there was a lot of interesting science in this paper (the new methodology, the range of results etc.) which fully justified its appearance in Nature, we were quite critical of their basic conclusion – that climate sensitivities significantly higher than the standard range (1.5 – 4.5ºC) were plausible – because there is significant other data, predominantly from paleo-climate, that pretty much rule those high numbers out (as we discussed again recently). The press coverage of the paper mostly picked up on the very high end sensitivities (up to 11ºC) and often confused the notion of an equilibirum sensitivity with an actual prediction for 2100 and this lead to some pretty way-out headlines. I think all involved would agree that this was not a big step forward in the public understanding of science.

Why did this happen? Is it because the scientists were being ‘alarmist’, or was it more related to a certain naivety in how public relations and the media work? And more importantly, what can scientists do to help ensure that media coverage is a fair reflection of their work?

A point that shouldn’t need repeating is that the media like a dramatic statement, and stories that say something is going to be worse than previously thought get more coverage than those which say it’s not going to be as bad. It’s not quite a fair comparison, but witness the difference in coverage for the recent Hegerl et al paper, which presented evidence that really high sensitivies are unlikely (a half dozen stories), and the Stainforth et al paper (hundreds of stories). (As an aside, a comment in the documentary that the recent Annan and Hargreaves paper was deliberately ignored by the media is without foundation – GRL is not Nature, and no press release was issued (a press release was issued - apologies). Expecting mainstream press coverage in such circumstances would be extremely optimistic).

Secondly, the scientists also need to appreciate that most journalists will only read the press release, and possibly only the first couple of paragraphs of the press release. Very, very few will read the whole paper. This implies that the press release itself is the biggest determinant of quality of the press coverage, and of course, the press release is generally not written directly by the scientists.

Thirdly, though we are trying to do something about it here, most journalists are not experienced enough in scientific topics to be able to place new results in context without outside help. Often they have a small number of preconceived frames into which they will place the story – common ones involve forecasts of possible disasters, conflict within the community (the more personal the better), plucky Galileos fighting the establishment, and of course anything that interacts directly with politics, or political interference with science. This can be helpful if the scientific story fits neatly into one the boxes, but can cause big problems if the story is either more complex or orthogonal to the obvious frames. Scientists are aware of this, but often are not pro-active enough in preventing obvious mis-framing. This implies that even if a press release is 100% scientifically accurate refection of the original paper, the press coverage can still be terrible.

So what went wrong with Stainforth et al paper? The press release is available here. The only science result in the press release refered to the 11ºC outlier but the release itself is not incorrect. However, both the title ‘Bleak first results…’ and the first paragraphs do not provide any context that would correctly lead a (relatively ignorant) journalist to appreciate that there was even a distribution function of climate sensitivities. I’m pretty sure that the point that was trying to be made was that relatively small tweaks to climate models can change the sensitivity a lot, and that you can’t rule out high sensitivities based on model results alone, but that was not clear for people who didn’t already know the context.

Myles Allen, for whom I have the utmost respect, I think made a rather poor argument in the BBC program. He stated that “if journalists embroider the press release without reference to the original paper, [the scientists] are not responsible for that”. I disagree. Looking at the press release, one could have predicted with high confidence that much of the coverage would focus solely on the 11ºC number and that they would assume that this was a new prediction. As scientists, I would argue that we have to take responsibility for how our work is portrayed – and if that means we need to provide better context, then we need to insist that that is included in the release. Myles is on much stronger ground when he argued that the mean model response (~3ºC sensitivity) wasn’t terribly interesting because it is just a reflection of the basic model they started with before any perturbations, which is true. However, without some statement about the relative likelihood of any of the high-end numbers, I find it hard to see how the journalists could have got the message right. Having said that, implications aired in the program that the scientists deliberately misled the journalists or said things that knew would be mis-understood are completely without foundation. (Update: Please see the response of the journalists listed in this comment below to really underline that).

What can we learn from this? The first and most fundamental lesson is that scientists should not relinquish control of the press releases. Public relations professionals are talented and useful when it comes to writing releases for media consumption, but the scientists have to be fully involved in the process. If there are obvious frames that the scientists want to avoid, they need to be specific within the press release what their results do not imply as well as what they might. A clear statement in the Stainforth et al release that placed the 11 C result in context of how unlikely it was and specifically stated that it wasn’t a prediction would have gone a long way to allay some of the worst coverage.

For an example of how this can work, the Solanki et al paper on solar sunspot reconstructions had a specific statement that their results did not contradict ideas of strong greenhouse warming in recent decades, neatly heading off simplistic (and erroneous) interpretations of their paper. On the other hand, much of the poor reporting related to the ‘methane from plants’ story could have been avoided if the authors had been more upfront in their release that their work was not related to greenhouse gas changes and had no significant implications for reforestation credits under Kyoto!

In summary, I would emphasise that the scientists and the actual papers discussed here and in the BBC documentary were not ‘alarmist’, however there is a clear danger that when these results get translated into media reports (and headlines) that scientifically unsupportable claims can be made. Scientists and the press professionals they work with, need to be very clear that, for the field as a whole, the widest possible coverage for any one paper should not be the only aim of a press release.

All publicity is not good publicity.


258 Responses to “How not to write a press release”

  1. 151
    ocean says:

    Re: Jim Edwards: What can I say, that was an awesome explanation and suggestion. THANK YOU. I know I sound like my teenage students. Their language rubs off on me, though I still can’t figure out what “I know, right..” means. But I digress. Your post is exceptionally helpful to me. I will try it out with my summer students :).

  2. 152
    teacher ocean says:

    Wow, thanks to Raypierre again for additional comments. I think Hank Roberts had suggested an infrared camera earlier in this thread. I shall print out this thread and try all this stuff this summer [except the voyage out to space _not that I don’t want to :)] and keep you guys posted on the progress.. Though, if the moderators would let me, I would like to change my handle to “teacher ocean.” Thanks Jim Edwards for the suggestion :)

  3. 153
    James says:

    A little OT but,
    I have a question, I hear some folks talking about using greener energy to reduce C02, lifestyle changes etc.etc. What energy would that be? Hydro fundamentally changes land usage, and has a potential to release more methane. Wind, while great, would not do migratory flocks of birds that well. And on top of that if we went to wind power in wholesale fashion, has anyone modeled (If it is even possible) the effects of that much energy extraction from the atmosphere? Tidal Power is not that great for the ocean life in the vicinity of the generator. Nuclear Power while viable has a very nasty logistics tail and health hazard with waste products. Geothermal is a possibility but is not readily available everywhere on the planet. (And again what would happen to earth with that much energy extraction.) Solar again is a possiblity but the issues of placement, land use, effieciency of the cells and energy storage (For a rainy day!) are dealt with properly. (Lead acid batteries aint gonna do it.) I repeat what is viable? All methods have pros and cons? How would lifestyle changes be affected? Drive a hybrid? Don’t make me laugh, those cars (At least in their current iteration) cost more oil energy units than they will ever save! Run on ethanol/biodiesel? Those emit CO2. (They do reduce dependence on oil. Well at least ethanol does.) Ride a bus or train? What if there is no train to ride. (Where I live this is true, out in the boonies.) Stop airtravel as it is very expensive energy expenditure? Stop using computers? Well obviously none of us here are doing that and computers are one of the most polluting things to have! What can we realisticly do as a population to reduce energy expenditure? I am an electrical engineer by education and training, and as such I am used to asking and providing practical answers to life’s problems. I work in digital and telecommuncations, specificlly Internet backbone architecture, so I help make forums like this possible. (I know that networks are definitly not “green”!) Thus, my quandry is not so much about GW and how we may or may not be accelerating it. I am asking how we can practicly go about doing something about it? I also happen to agree with GWB about kyoto, why should we have to limit our economy to try to limit C02 when some of the most polluting countries don’t have to. The net affect on the earth is zero and it doesn’t care if the C02 or pollution is Chinese, European, Indian, or American. Also what is the fundamental difference to sign up to Kyoto and not meet your targets? What difference have you made? None. Maybe this has been addressed but I have not found it? In any case I am asking “What practical thing can we do about it without enormous sacrifice that no country’s population will be willing to accept?”

    James

    [Response: OK readers, you know the answers to most of these questions. Please have a go at helping James out. There’s really no need for him to despair. I’ll contribute my two bits to the effort: (1) You are misinformed about biodiesel. The CO2 released by burning biomass came from the atmosphere, and so is a net wash. There is an issue about how much energy it takes to raise and process the crops. For ethanol there is in deed a big question here, but the DOE study on biodiesel claims that you get 3.5 units of biodiesel energy out for each unit of fossil fuel energy you put in; with better technology and crops, it can ge better. Some Cornell researchers dispute this number, but it’s not at all clear they are right. (2) I do agree about the massive environmental impact of hydropower. Having see what some big dams have done to Swedish Lappland, for example, I feel like trading some of those hydropower projects for nuclear energy might have been a net plus for the environment. –raypierre]

  4. 154
    pete best says:

    Re #153, A recent report tells us that Ethanol from corn/sugar cane is good but not good enough, however Ethanol from biomass is a very good idea and could provide >20% of the USA’s liquid fuel.

    http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/000/700/715/ethanol.pdf

    It all sounds very promising but bear in mind that it can only mitigate Gasoline/Petrol nd not replace it. Still it is carbon neutral.

  5. 155
    teacher ocean says:

    I think the type of alternative energy source would depend on the country and its natural resources. Like in countries that get A LOT of sunshine like Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia solar energy could be the best. They have all this expansive desert “wasteland” no one can live on, so solar cells wouldn’t be too “ugly” and one can make huge panels.

    This may sound flippant, but I don’t mean to be. I am asking a genuine question out of ignorance: how are computers one of the most polluting things we have?

    Ok one more country/culture specific thing: in general, Americans use fossil fuels too much compared to most Europeans. It is culturally acceptable, expected even, to share rides and/or ride trains and bicycles in Europe. And most European cities have very organized and expansive public transportation systems.

    Also nuclear power becomes a serious environmental issue only in case of accidents or blatant disregard for waste removal procedures. Of the ones you listed I would say it is the cleanest alternative energy source.

    I’m not a big dam or windmill fan either.

  6. 156
    James says:

    Ray pierre, thank you for that bit about bio diesel. A had not seen the latest energy studies for it. The last I had read, you did not get out as much as you put in, and in any case we would still have fossil fuels as the prime energy source. (At least for now.)

    Ethanol, as good as it may be is not a substitue for oil in uses such as for aviation, and marine applications. It would also not be a good prime mover to generate electric power. I agree it is a start, but it only delays the inevitable. The only issue I see with ethanol is that it depends somewhat on crop growth, and fossil fuels are used heavily to make modern fertilizer.

  7. 157
    Grant says:

    Re: #153

    > I also happen to agree with GWB about kyoto, why should we
    > have to limit our economy to try to limit C02 when some of
    > the most polluting countries don’t have to. The net affect
    > on the earth is zero …

    I disagree that the net effect is zero. As to *why* we should do it … I completely disagree with the whole “why should we do the right thing when others are getting away with doing the wrong thing” idea. Helping the planet so that our children and grandchildren have a better life is a *moral* imperative. Irresponsibility on the part of others is *no excuse* for ducking our responsibility. This whole attitude, I believe, gives real insight into the moral bankruptcy of the Bush administration.

    And, we (by which I mean, the U.S.) are the largest source of CO2 emissions in the world. If we took the lead, setting an example for outstanding moral behavior rather than setting an example of outstanding selfishness, there’d be more pressure on nations like China and India to step up to the plate and do the right thing.

  8. 158
    James says:

    Ocean,

    Pound for Pound/ ounce for ounce, silicon chip fabrication is one of the most expensive processes we have of manufacturing anything. You put more manpower, energy, and materials within the silicon manufactering process than any other process. They do not draw much power by size once they are fabricated but the hard part is making them.

    You are incorrect about nuclear power. Once the spent fuel is removed it is active for long long time. Storage is the main issue with spent fuel, and it is the biggest issue that faces nuclear power today. Theft of that material for weapons manufacture, or the seepage of it into your groundwater would not make your day! Lastly nuclear plants are radioactive for long time as well once they are decommissioned.

    On the country culture thing, Europe’s numbers on C02 production are also a half as much as ours is due to the fact that more of their energy generation is based upon nuclear power.

    You are correct we could erect a lot of solar panels in saudi or desert lands, but how would you transport it to the people who need it? Power lines from the Sahara to Europe? How would you store it for long periods of time? Solar works well for small applications, it is very difficult to scale up the operation however.

  9. 159
    Matt says:

    The real news on the biodiesel front is algae production. The downside of algae biodiesel seems to be NOx emissions, but engineers think this problem is solved with catalytic converters. Otherwise, biodiesel is cleaner than petrodiesel.

    Water is not an issue as algae really doesn’t care too much how brackish the water is. But, algae does need water, lots of it.

    Algea is 30 times more solar efficient than seed crops, and this efficiency is further advanced with genetically engineered algae.

    Algae is very sensitive to rich co2 fertilization, unlike other crops which are limited by other nutrients. Flue gases make ideal environments for algae.

    Algae may have been an important source in the formation of oil deposits. Algae is very rich in oils compared to plant cellulose. Plant cellulose consists of chained sugar carbohydrates and is difficult to breakdown.

    I think Ray is right about biodiesel. Given the current research, oil prices, and state of the art, biodiesel is just about with us. A little google searching and readers might find the topic fascinating.

  10. 160
    Will Gosnold says:

    The geothermal flux through Earth’s surface is about 38 TW and it is largely untapped energy except in a few localities where extraction is economical enough to make its use competitive with other forms of energy.
    The amount of thermal energy stored in the upper 10 km of Earth’s crust is huge and extraction of that energy using enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technology would have no effect on Earth’s thermal field. The heat below the zone from which the energy would be extracted would resupply the energy in a few hundred to a few thousand years after extraction ceased.

    Have a look at http://www.smu.edu/geothermal/Oil&Gas_SMUmeeting.htm for relevant information.

    WG

  11. 161
    Mike Neuman says:

    Ethanol is not really “carbon neutral” (#154). Those benefits are overstated. The carbon emitted by burning ethanol still piles up in the atmosphere, and remains there for decades. It doesn’t get used up by “new” plants immediately. Plants would have probably been growing in those areas before it was decided to use the plants for fuel instead.

    We’d be much better off reducing all forms of fuel burning. The transportation industry, in particular, needs to do a major shift away from burning fuels for locomotion and in the direction of using electricity from solar and wind energy instead.

    But because a shift to electricity (or fuel cells technology) is not going to happen overnight, the government needs to get busy in establishing programs that will bring about massive energy conservation now, to reduce the annual amount of GHG emissions.

    Higher fuel prices are already starting to serve this same purpose, but people would much rather have positive incentives than negative one.

    What I have been advocating for is that the federal government establish programs that provides positive financial incentives for using less energy – by driving less, flying less and conserving energy in the home. People are much more likely to accept the idea if they see that they can earn more annual income by reducing their driving and flying and energy use in the home. More details about this concept can be read downloaded from the following web site:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ConserveNOW/

  12. 162
    Hank Roberts says:

    James, as an electrical engineer — come up with a simple device that will prevent devices from consuming parasitic, wasted power from lots of warm transformers always plugged in!!

    A little box that was a true electronic OFF, for example, that would sit at the wall plug. When the television, media center, etc. has cooled off, nobody’s moved for twenty minutes, and nothing’s being consumed but the 15 watts of power designed to save the homeowner two seconds’ warmup wait when he arrives home eight hours from now — shut off the electricity.

    When the homeowner comes in, and touches the ‘on’ switch, your new box detects that and allows power through again.

    Yes, for some primitive devices the @*$%& clock goes 00:00:00 but I think the total electricity saved from avoiding “always on” needless power is calculated to be astonishingly large.

  13. 163
    James says:

    Grant,
    I believe that we as in the US will soon be eclipsed by China as the number one C02 producer. And how often has the Chinese government really cared what anyone outside of China thinks? When was the last time the Chinese bowed to external pressure? Have you been to China and seen how smoggy it is?
    Your problem is you are confusing morality with reality. Whether or not it is morally right to join Kyoto(Table that for now.) what affect will it have on the world ecology. If it does nothing/very little why do it? If their is a tangible benefit then great. Or for a better analogy, if you did not get paid would you go to work? Upholding morals can be great but you can’t forget the real world when you do so. Also do not overlook your own lifestyle when condeming others. As an American how would you have moral grounds to be condeming America even though you are a part of the problem? (You are an American after all.) What are you doing to fix it? What am I?
    My point is morals can be good but the actions must also have meaning and must also be worthwhile/feasible. Have you ever tried to eat a moral?

  14. 164
    James says:

    Hank that is wishful thinking!
    How would my new box detect you pressing the on button if it did not in turn use power? Telepathy or body language?
    What you are talking about is standby power wastage, and it is very significant loss. But you can’t have it both ways, technology helps you (ie having a remote control)but it requires energy. No energy equals no technology or technological assistance. If you are worried about standby power buy a power strip with an on/off rocker switch, or throw the breaker to your house main when you leave! Nothing needs to be invented, existing technology just needs to be used, and as individuals this would probably be the easiest thing we could do!(I would invent your “box” but some “switch” guy thought of it first!)

    James

    James

  15. 165
    Almuth Ernsting says:

    Re 153 – Raypierre’s comments:

    I am interested to hear some positive thoughts about biodiesel. I have spent some time recently reading about biofuels, for a biofuel discussion paper I wrote for an organisation I am involved in (see http://www.campaigncc.org/ – attached under ‘Activists Portal – Biofuel Paper’). There is no doubt some potential for vastly more efficient biofuels, which are not yet commercially available. The information I could find on US bioethanol is not encouraging – according to a recent University of Berkley study (see here Source: http://rael.berkeley.edu/EBAMM/FarrellEthanolScience012706.pdf ), US bioethanol has 13% less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel or petrol, because of the energy intensive refining process, the energy input to farming, and fertilizer production and use. There would be no positive balance at all unless all bioethanol by-products were counted as feed-stock replacement, and nobody knows if that is happening, let alone 100%. The European biodiesel balance is slightly better, it seems, although a lot of the studies ignore N20 amd CO2 emissions from soil as fertilizer is applied. The most concerning issue, however, is that tropical biofuels have an inherent competitive advantage over those grown in Europe and most of the US. This is because you can get far more energy from crops grown in the tropics, on the same size of land, and for the same inputs (biodiesel from algae would be different, but is only at the R&D stage). Indonesia and Malaysia have already condemned millions of hectares of rainforest to destruction in order to produce biofuel from palm oil for Europe and other markets. Brazil is about to export biodiesel made from soya – and soya is the largest single cause for Amazon destruction at present. The CO2 emissions from further Amazon destruction and more rainforest and peat swamp destruction in south-east Asia could be absolutely massive – satellites have linked palm oil plantation owners to 75% of the massive annual peat fires on Borneo, which emit vast quantities of CO2. And IPCC data suggest that N2O releases are far higher where nitrogen-fertilizer is applied to tropical soil compared to temperate soil – yet I am not aware of any full assessment of all emissions, including from soils, for any of the rapidly expanding tropical biofuel crops.

    I am very worried indeed about biofuels, unless we had mandatory certification based on good studies of life-cycle greenhouse gas assessments.!

  16. 166
    Mark A. York says:

    I unplug my trailer when I leave town or the state, but that won’t work on a more temporary basis. Not if you want your phone to work while you’re out. Kyoto continues to be a straw man because of China, Australia and the US. Until these top three sign on it’s moot.

  17. 167
    Hank Roberts says:

    James — no need to reply to this, you asked for ideas. What I suggest isn’t trivial nor impossible, though, just FYI a quick Google gave this magnitude:
    “At least 11 % of the electricity consumed in German households and offices is used by temporarily unused equipment running in stand-by mode.”

    I’ve seen similar figures for the USA. Many devices now exist that run at 10% power all the time and don’t even have a true electrical “off” switch to kill that “feature.”

    I know it’s possible to detect human presence with little rechargeable-battery devices (motion, infrared, sound, capacitance). Combined sensors are becoming cheap. Low power devices can switch high power circuits. So what I suggest isn’t impossible, in fact it’s done all the time, albeit not to save energy. Could it be?

    Just a thought. In our house we went and bought metal-box power strips to shut off anything built to stay “always on” — no big deal. But many people don’t do that.

  18. 168
    Mike Neuman says:

    Comments on Andy Revkin’s latest piece (ref. #62, #76, #94).

    ——-
    Global warming’s PR problem
    By Andrew C. Revkin The New York Times

    SUNDAY, APRIL 23, 2006
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/04/23/news/warm.php

    Excerpts:

    Global warming has the feel of breaking news these days.

    Polar bears are drowning; an American city is underwater; ice sheets are crumblingâ?¦..

    Between the poles of real-time catastrophe and nonevent lies the prevailing scientific view: Without big changes in emissions rates, global warming from the buildup of greenhouse gases is likely to lead to substantial, and largely irreversible, transformations of climate, ecosystems and coastlines later this century.

    … few scientists agree with the idea that the recent spate of potent hurricanes, European heat waves, African drought and other weather extremes are, in essence, our fault. There is more than enough natural variability in nature to mask a direct connection, they say….

    While scientists say they lack firm evidence connecting recent weather to the human influence on climate, campaigners still push the notion….
    ————

    This is a misleading article by Revkin, who seems to be arguing that global warming deserves only the “feel” of being a breaking news story today, and no more. His article contributes to the erroneous conclusion that global warming is still some far off problem, a problem that won’t happen until much later in the century. He buys into the global warming skeptics’ ridicules conclusions that all the weather-related devastation of late (Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and record number of more stronger storms in 2005), Europe’s deadly heat wave of 2003, Africa’s drought, record high global land and sea temperatures, polar ice and mountain glaciers melting …) is no more than natural variability.

    Incidentally, Revkin’s conclusions are in direct conflict with what Greg Holland, a division director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said at yesterday’s American Meteorological Society’s 27th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology in Monterey, California on Monday (April 24): that the wind and warmer water conditions that fuel storms that form in the Caribbean are “increasingly due to greenhouse gases. There seems to be no other conclusion you can logically draw.”

    Holland said that the tropical storm anomalies in the 1940s and 1950s can be explained by natural variability, but that the increasingly higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere began to change the regular patterns of hurricane development in the Caribbean in the 1970s, and that by the early 1990s, the changes in the atmospheric began affecting the storm numbers and intensities.

    “What we’re seeing right now in global climate temperature is a signature of climate change,” said Holland. “The large bulk of the scientific community say what we are seeing now is linked directly to greenhouse gases.”

    Revkin only adds to the misinformation by reporting on the conclusions of federal agency researchers (those who remain in their jobs) who support the administration’s position on global warming.

    I was not surprised by Revkin’s acceptance of the remaining (still employed) Bush administration’s scientist’s opinion, that there is insufficient basis to ascertain if global warming is the reason we are seeming more of these increasingly costly and life-threatening hazards of nature, or if maybe it’s just normal climate variation in the system.

    The reason I say that is that Revkin apparently didn’t find reason enough to report on the Bush administration’s firing of my brother, after I had sent him the documentation that accompanied NOAA’s removal of my brother from the National Weather Service for his 2003 press release documenting the effects of early snowmelt and spring flooding on Midwest flood prone areas, unquestionably due to anthropogenic global warming.
    See here

    [Response: I think you are mischaracterising Revkin’s views. There is a difference between being able to assign a formal attribution for changes in weather statistics as a function of cliamte change, and saying that every bit of unusual weather is caused by climate change. The former is a difficult thing to do, the latter a very easy thing to say. – gavin]

  19. 169
    Joel Shore says:

    Re #153:

    (1) What is your source for claiming that hybrids cost more energy than they save? The energy needed to run a car is much larger than the energy needed to produce one and it is not even clear that a hybrid will require much more energy to produce (yes, it has an electric motor and some nickel-metal hydride batteries but it has a smaller energy too). So, I doubt your claim is true.

    (2) I don’t understand the logic of saying, “I don’t see what technology will save us, so therefore the only solution is to let everyone continue to use the atmosphere as a free sewer for greenhouse gases.” I am a big believer in the idea that if you start making people pay the costs of the greenhouse gases they pump into the atmosphere, the market will develop the technologies to minimize (or sequester) those emissions. That, to my mind, is probably the more important purpose of something like Kyoto (imperfect though it may be), rather than the achieving specific emissions targets in the 2008-2112 time period.

  20. 170
    Ian Forrester says:

    Re biodiesel: biodiesel sounds promising but there appear to be a couple of problems. There are two crops that are being investigated for really large scale production, soy beans and palm oil. On the surface, soy looks like an ideal candidate since it is a legume and thus should not require chemically fixed nitrogen. Unfortunately, most of the soybeans now grown are “roundup ready” and the high levels of roundup sprayed on the crop greatly diminishes the amount of bacterial nitrogen fixation. Another crop being studied is palm oil. Vast tracts of forests in Indonesia are being burned to make way for plam oil plantations. This is not very kind to local environments.

    The best biofuel is still ethanol from corn but it has to be part of an integrated production facility which should include the following steps: cattle feed lot, feed all waste (distiller’s dried solids) to the cattle, convert the cattle waste to methane to supply part of the energy source for the distillation, burn the dry crop waste to provide the remainder of the energy, irrigate the crops with the effluent from the methane digestor. An integrated plant should be economical from both an energy and fiscal point of view.

  21. 171
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #170: Locally the chosen crop for biodiesel is going to be canola, that is, rapeseed. The state gvnmt is going to help with $$ to build a processing plant. The local farmers, of course, helped to provide political support for this for two reasons: (1) They really need another cash crop as the current ones have rather depressed prices. (2) Diesel fuel is a big part of their production costs.

  22. 172
    Gar Lipow says:

    If you want a short perspective on renewables, I have a post up on the MaxSpeak blog, run by an economist acquaintence of mine.

    http://maxspeak.org/mt/archives/002157.html#more

  23. 173
    James says:

    Regarding #153
    Compare a toyota prius to a toyota corolla.
    The prius is twice as complex to make. As such it requires more energy units to design, fabricate jigs for parts, and manufacture and test. Once deployed the car gets 52MPG best case, against 38MPG best case for the corolla. (However the corrola gets closer to best case than the prius as the prius depends on “city” driving to get close to 52. And I have several friends who have them and they hardly get over 42MPG.) Every so many thousands of miles the car needs a new battery pack, it is more work to maintain, etc.etc. Each of those activities over the life of the car costs energy. (Man hours are energy too, after all you have to pay, clothe, feed, and transport the technician who fixes it.) I never said that a hybrid is less of an impact than an SUV, but between similar car types the first iterations of hybrids are a net wash as far as energy expenditure over the life of the vehicles. No source, just common sense.
    Regarding the second bit of your post. If you are such a big believer in paying the cost, what are you doing to use less energy? I am not saying let’s have fun and party, what I am saying is that a blue sky solution to hour energy needs will not work.(Obviously) Our energy production has to be based upon sources that are scalable, (No cottage industry power schemes) and simply workable. I have already expressed doubts in wind,hydro,tidal and solar, they all have undesirable qualities. I hate hearing people say we must do this or that to reduce C02, but they don’t list a feasible alternative to it, what is the point? Some folks even have to the gall to get on everyone else’s case about GW when they are not doing anything about it themselves. Sure you may drive a hybrid, but what about that house where you keep the AC set at 70 degrees in high summer. How are you helping again?
    Someone in here said that given the right market signals the engineers and scientests will respond. (Raypierre I believe.) As one of those engineers I am telling you, we (As in the entire world.) have built our entire society upon fossil fuel based energy. Here and there we have found small niche solutions, but nothing that scales up as required. (Only Nuclear, but nuclear has a long logistics tail due to the life of spent fuel and the issues with creating that fuel in the first place.) Somebody here mentioned hydrogen, and fuel cell based approaches for cars. Not yet good enough I am afraid. The energy storage density in these solutions is much less than fossil fuels and with what energy source do you manufacture the H2?
    I say we should reduce emissions in an economically feasible way now, just becuase it makes sense. Any other way and the world’s population will not accept the sacrifice that drastic measures will require. (I don’t know if I would, would you?) Just like we should not try to pollute the same water we drink from, it just makes sense.

  24. 174
    James says:

    Re 167.

    Again you are attempting to fix the problem of standby power loss with a device that consumes power! Sure it is less power, maybe even an order of magnitude (that is being VERY generous.), but it does not eliminate the problem by any means. Even if it is a little battery it still takes power. I build devices like this for a living, and yes smaller currents/voltages can switch larger ones, but even in the off position silicon switches consume power, when they switch they consume power,when they are one they consume power, (Silicon leakage ring a bell?) the control circuity consumes power. If you use eletromechanicl switches they consume even more power to switch as you have to energize an electromagnet to do so. All you are doing is taking the remote-control circuitry out of the TV and placing it on a power strip! Not very novel idea there. I agree that standby power wastes a lot of energy, so throw the breaker to your house when you leave.

  25. 175
    Paul Duignan says:

    The discussion in #168 is very interesting. Gavin, you might like to have a careful think as to whether you actually want to say Revkin’s view is right. I think that the way you summarised the situation in your comment on #168 is absolutely correct. But the quote from Revkin given in #168 says something very different and illustrates a common error in reasoning which often appears in discussions of climate change and weather events.

    Looking at the Revkin quote, first we should note that he is attributing this view to scientists rather than himself so it is important that scientists be clear whether or not they support what Revkin is saying. Revkin says:

    … few scientists agree with the idea that the recent spate of potent hurricanes, European heat waves, African drought and other weather extremes are, in essence, our fault. There is more than enough natural variability in nature to mask a direct connection, they say…

    Revkin is confusing 1) actual causality in the physical world (whether weather events are “essentially our fault”) and 2) our ability to attribute whether or not individual weather events are our fault. These are two different concepts. Revkin has assumed that because it is difficult to prove causality (concept 2) this establishes that there is no causality in the real world (concept 1) and that extreme weather events are not our fault. This is a simple mistake in reasoning. The inability to prove whether something has occurred in reality does not establish that it has not occurred.

    Looking at it in this way we are left with a statement along the lines that “Few scientists agree with the idea that individual [extreme weather events] can be absolutely proved as being caused by us. Climate science says that extreme weather events are likely to increase because of climate change. Extreme weather events are increasing.”

    Or if you really want to be blunt about it. “There is general evidence to suggest that climate change will cause more extreme weather events and few scientists agree with the idea that it can be proved that individual [extreme weather events] are not being caused by us.”

  26. 176
    James says:

    Re 176.

    I don’t quite buy what you are saying. I agree with Gavin here.
    It is quite easy to claim anything. If GW is/was causing more hurricanes, then why the lull of hurrincanes in the 70’s and 80’s?
    I can claim the GW is causing more hurricanes. I can also claim that I won the Nobel Prize, but until I show you the prize have I won it?

  27. 177
    Paul Duignan says:

    James (comment #177) I agree with you that I would be making a very academic point if no climate scientists were suggesting a general connection between hurricanes (and other extreme weather events and climate change). But they are (for instance see todayâ��s story on CNN outlining Greg Holland’s argument that there is a connection: http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science/04/25/global.warming.hurricanes.reut/index.html. So to my mind this issue does not fall into the category of it being an arbitrary claim about causality without any basis or in your words it being a case where it is “quite easy to claim anything”.

    If climate change does in fact cause an increase in hurricanes then in the early stages of this manifesting we would see exactly what we may be seeing now – a true causal connection being “masked” (in Revkin’s words) by normal variability. Today on CNN Greg Holland is claiming to have “unmasked” it. The fact that it has not been unmasked to your or my satisfaction prior to now says nothing about whether or not the causality is already operating. Often in high risk situations you don’t have time to wait until the causality is fully unmasked. Where you identify a trend (even though still within the limits of natural variability) in the direction of suspected causality, it is entirely rational to take precautionary steps on the basis of an assumed causality and then review your position when the situation clarifies. Otherwise you doom yourself to having left it too late to act simply on the basis that there is natural variability in an outcome you are interested in. All I am arguing for in my comment (#176) is that the actual logical position about causality and proof of causality be stated accurately (I don’t think that Revkin did this, while I do think that Gavin did) so that stakeholders can make their own decisions about what action they think they should take now to manage the potential risk.

    Regarding the Nobel Prize, I’d actually accept that you had won it the moment I saw it reported on CNN rather than having to actually get you to show it to me. But the difference between the Nobel Prize and hurricanes is that it is a one off event and not subject to natural variation in the same way as hurricanes are. A better analogy would be if prior to winning the Nobel Prize you had between 1 to 3 job offers a month. Some social scientists present an argument that there is reason to believe that winning the Nobel Prize is likely to influence the likelihood of universities making job offers to you (although they say that in the case of any one particular job offer they will not be able to absolutely prove this). So far in the three weeks since winning the prize you have had 3 job offers. Would you insist that there’s absolutely no reason to believe that that at least some of the three universities offering you jobs in the last month have been influenced by the fact of your wining the Nobel Prize?

  28. 178

    James said, in part: You are incorrect about nuclear power. Once the spent fuel is removed it is active for long long time. Storage is the main issue with spent fuel, and it is the biggest issue that faces nuclear power today. Theft of that material for weapons manufacture, or the seepage of it into your groundwater would not make your day! Lastly nuclear plants are radioactive for long time as well once they are decommissioned.

    and it seems that the United States’ representative democracy is no more capable at arriving at a sensible compromise solution for the siting of nuclear waste than it is when siting offshore wind farms. see here for some details. indeed, the biggest obstacle to nuclear power is not at all technology or means of storing nuclear waste, it’s that no politician wants to support siting a storing facility in their state, no matter where it is. in short, we’ve lost any sense of a commons. (additional reference here)

  29. 179
    Eli Rabett says:

    James point about hybrids is extremely hand wavy. And no James, it is not obvious that the energy cost of the Prius is greater than that of the Corrola. Got anything numeric on that or it just a WAGNER? )Wild assed guess, no explanation necessary(

  30. 180
    Mark A. York says:

    According to Kerry Emanuel of MIT while overall cycone activity hasn’t increased, (includes the Pacific) North Atlantic Hurricane activity has and because of heating of the water via global warming.

    http://wind.mit.edu/~emanuel/anthro2.htm

    Sounds right to me.

  31. 181
    Paul Duignan says:

    Regarding Mark’s comment (#181) presumably referring to mine and James’ (#176-178) I was just being sloppy in my wording when I said “an increase in hurricanes”. I mistakenly implied that someone is claiming that hurricanes are increasing in frequency. Whereas as I understand it, some climate scientists like Kerry Emanuel are arguing that they are increasing in intensity but not frequency.

  32. 182
    Joel Shore says:

    Re #174: I agree with Eli. Waving your hands and saying “it’s common sense” does not an argument make with respect to hybrids. Some of your facts are also questionable. First off, the Prius has only a little less interior room than a Camry, so it should probably be compared to something in between a Corolla and Camry. Second, the battery packs are expected to last about 150,000 miles or more…which will be the life of the car for many people. Thirdly, it is not that hard to get around 50-53 mpg in the Prius when the climate isn’t too cold; the cold Rochester winters (and short times of most commutes around here) do lower the mileage a fair bit, although my lifetime mileage after 2 years is ~46-47 mpg. [And, by the way, in practice I find that the Prius highway mileage is just about as good as the city mileage if you keep your highway speeds around 60 or so. Once you start getting up around 70-75, it begins to drop off more significantly.] Fourth, the Prius does not need much, if any, more maintenance than any other car; Sure, there are some extra things like an electric motor but so far those have proven quite reliable. And, wear-and-tear on the engine and on the brakes are reduced somewhat.

    I agree with you that it is necessary to think about all one’s actions with regard to energy…and, yes, it is silly to keep the A/C set at 70degrees. (I don’t even have A/C in my apartment.)

    As for your arguments about how we have built our society on fossil fuel based energy: Well, that is the whole point. When you don’t send the market the right signals (i.e., by allowing the costs of fossil fuel energy to be externalized) then you don’t magically get the other technologies that could compete with it if those costs were internalized but can’t when they’re not. [And, you also get a lot of waste of energy…One of the biggest sources of energy is what Amory Lovins calls negawatts…i.e., energy saved due to efficiency improvements.]

  33. 183
    Mark Zimmerman says:

    Toyato has announced a hybrid for 2008 that will get 113 mpg, using lithium batteries. It will be introduced to the European market in 2008.

    http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/news/66260/prius_hits_113mpg.html

    I drive a VW diesel bettle, rarely going over 60 mph, and it gets 55 mpg. A diesel hybrid with lithium batteries would totally kick ass.

  34. 184
    Grant says:

    Re: #163

    I believe that we as in the US will soon be eclipsed by China as the number one C02 producer. And how often has the Chinese government really cared what anyone outside of China thinks? When was the last time the Chinese bowed to external pressure? Have you been to China and seen how smoggy it is?

    I still maintain that what China chooses to do or not do, is irrelevant to the proposition that securing a better world for future generations is a moral imperative. I’m assuming that you agree; correct me if I’m wrong.

    And, even if we assume that China’s only motivation is greed and self-interest, they don’t operate in a vacuum. They depend for their prosperity on foreign markets, and do respond to pressure when they see it as in their economic interest.

    Whether or not it is morally right to join Kyoto(Table that for now.) what affect will it have on the world ecology. If it does nothing/very little why do it?

    I strongly disagree that reducing CO2 emissions by the U.S. and other willing nations will have no impact. Study of the SRES scenarios indicates that future temperature change and sea-level rise will be less, the less CO2 we put into the atmosphere now, even within the limits of practical possibility. And, it’s basic physics: more CO2 means more warming. We’ve already witnessed impact due to the warming of about 1 deg.C since pre-industrial times; every bit of further warming exacerbates the problem. And since impacts are likely to depend on temperature in a nonlinear way, the difference between 3 deg. and 4 deg. warming could make a huge difference in quality of life.

    Also do not overlook your own lifestyle when condeming others. As an American how would you have moral grounds to be condeming America even though you are a part of the problem?

    First of all, this is an ad hominem attack. Second, criticizing one’s country when it’s on the wrong moral path is one of the highest acts of patriotism.

    [Response: China and India do not overwhelm the first world emissions, so what the developed world does definitely has an impact. Further, people shouldn’t dump on China so much — they have made modest efforts with som success at reducing GHG emissions, and have explicitly put it in their five year plan to do more. That’s more than the US has done. Right now the CO2 per unit GDP is so much higher in China than the US that they can grow their economy significantly without increasing emissions, just by approaching US (let alone European) CURRENT levels of efficiency. Tech transfer will help that, as will new technology developed in the West in response to Kyoto and things like it. The one legitimate concern in all this is the possibility that energy intensive industry would simply move from Europe to China in response to Kyoto. There’s no clear evidence that this will really happen — China is more interested in the higher profit margin stuff — but a better treaty, like the next one coming up, ought to deal with the issue. –raypierre]

  35. 185
    Dave Frame says:

    The interesting thing to me is that this story (the Vadon and Cox BBC show with the adversarial title “Battle for Influence”) began as two successive programmes stripped away the context we tried to build around the Stainforth results. First, there was a documentary, hosted by Ian Stewart, in which I was asked about our results and the coverage (specifically the godawful Metro article). In the interview he mentioned the 11 degrees bit and we chatted for a while about how that was a very long term figure (such a climate sensitivity would require a very long time to come into equilibrium) and how we gave no odds at all of that being the case. As Raypierre said, the point was that physics alone didn’t rule out high S. I thought Ian did a pretty good job, but was a bit worried that the press release was being treated as though it were a standalone document, when that isn’t how the press coverage over Stainforth et al worked (we had a big press conference and spent a lot of time on phones over the ensuing days).

    After that show aired, Vadon & Cox interviewed me (though they gave me a false idea of what they wanted to talk about, and refused to release the tape of that interview to us). They banged on about the Stainforth et al press release, and were completely uninterested in hearing anything about how hard we tried to give context to the results. They then read/emailed the press release (or bits of it, in some cases) to scientists, who objected. This removed the press release even further from the wider context. The fact that a year and a bit after the press release Myles and Fiona Fox can get quite a few journalists who were present to say that they remember that we did provide a context for the results suggests to me that we were actually pretty successful in avoiding alarmism. Only two journalists actually wrote alarmist articles, and one of these (at least) had a long conversation with Sylvia Knight in which Sylvia told her (the Metro journo) exactly what was wrong with the story. The journalist went ahead with the article anyway. [I believe, though am not sure, that something similar happened with the AP guy.]

    Basically, we tried to talk to anyone who wanted to write an article about that paper. We had limited input into the press release, which is necessarily short, and tried as hard as we could to provide additional context beyond both the paper and the press release so that people wouldn’t make the kind of mistakes that Metro made. Vadon & Cox, on the other hand, went to great lengths to concentrate exculsively on one or two sentences in the press release. This stripping away of context is a fairly common piece of journalistic dodginess, but it was particularly irritating given that the team (esp Myles and Dave Stainforth) had actually tried really hard to embed the results in a reasonable sort of context.

    It’s true that we could have done things better/differently (chief among them would be not to have done the Vadon/Cox interview). And as I said to Ian Stewart, along the way we’ve probably learned a thing or two about writing press releases. But it’s kind of alarming how an 18 month old press release can take on its own mutant life, reanimated by BBC hacks whose entire body of relevant scientific information has been gleaned from the blogosphere (including the not uncontentious climateaudit.org, which they approvingly cited).

    In one sense, this is actually quite a positive development: instead of squaring off Myles or Gavin against (say) Fred Singer, journos of the adversarial sort are trying to square Myles off against Gavin (say). These arguments are about the tails of a distribution – say 10% (max) of the distribution for S – we pretty much all agree about the first 90% of it. Though this ought to be a welcome development, it does worry me a bit that these sorts of programmes (and web discussions!) might serve to exaggerate the level of disagreement (or the perception of the level of disagreement) among the scientific community. Learning how to deal with that, as well as dealing with the media and general public, might be a whole new challenge.

    Dave

    [Response: Dave, Thanks for your thoughts. For the benefits of any readers who have made it down this far, I should stress that the degree of disagreement between Myles and I on the substance of this issue is extremely small. -gavin]

  36. 186
    Eli Rabett says:

    With respect to 181, if global warming increases sea surface temperatures which contribute to an intensification of tropical cyclones, then storms with winds below hurricane intensity will more frequently attain hurricane status (~100 kph winds). Thus the frequency of hurricanes will increase. The frequency of tropical cyclones may not.

    [Response: The issue is whether this would be a detectable effect. Changes near the tail are large for a small shift in the mean. Changes near the middle of the distribution are much smaller. -gavin]

  37. 187
    JAC says:

    We can argue among ourselves regarding amelioration or adaptation or as to whether one alternative is more efficient than the other till we are blue in our collective faces. The real issue is population. Until we address this one, we are rearranging the deck chairs.

  38. 188
    Steven T. Corneliussen says:

    “Global Heating”? In a letter in today’s New York Times responding to the Revkin article, a New York advertising executive advises switching from the phrase _global warming_ to the phrase _global heating_. He says that GW doesn’t sound threatening enough, and that GH is “no less accurate, but sounds more distressing and might help focus attention.” If scientists were to decide to buy this idea, they would be joining the category of people who look for sound bites — a category that many in science have good reason to abhor. Nevertheless, if scientists were to judge that a suggestion like that one has merit for more clearly conveying physical reality to the rest of society, I’d hope they’d switch to the suggested phrase despite their natural, and in some ways admirable, distaste for the way the extra-scientific marketplace of ideas actually works. The truth is more important than scientists’ self-image.

  39. 189
    lisa brooks says:

    All this talk about saving energy, cutting CO2 emissions, etc. has made me curious.

    I drive a 1995 Ford Contour and it has 65,000 (original) miles on it. I commute 3 miles each way to work (our sidewalk system stinks and I’m afraid to walk or bike, I do not have bus service so, drive I must). But that’s not the curious part (I hope).

    I was wondering what others out there use to commute and the distances that are required. Does anyone telecommute? How many of you are hybrid drivers? Dedicated bicyclists?

    Do any of you use alternative power sources in your homes (solar, geothermal heating, wind power)?

  40. 190

    Re #154 and windmill damage to birds. I am an environmentalist, I want wildlife to be protected. But, and I say this with all due consideration, SCREW the birds! We can come up with some kind of cage or something around the blades to protect the birds. But the windmills killing birds does far less damage to the environment than a comparably sized (in terms of power output) coal or nuclear power plant. Yes, all methods of generating energy have bad side effects. But they don’t have EQUALLY BAD side effects. I’d rather have the windmills, dead birds and all. Doing without power generation is not in the cards for any sane modern society.

  41. 191
    Grant says:

    Re: #189

    Senator Barbara Boxer (California) has suggested replacing the moniker “global warming” with “climate crisis.” General Wesley Clark has worked hard to emphasize that global warming isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s a national security issue. Both strategies are designed to emphasize that the problem is far more threatening than the phrase “global warming” alone implies.

    Re: #190

    I telecommute. It saves a *lot* of energy and a lot of time — and I prefer working near my own kitchen! I lived in Boston for 15 years, and took public transportation everywhere.

    Of course (as James has pointed out) that option isn’t available to everyone. I think this underscores the value of government investing heavily in improving public transportation.

  42. 192
    Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Pat – re 94 –

    I would observe that science has thus far failed to inform society effectively of the catastrophic climatic destabilization that its conduct is making more likely.

    That failure is not for want of endeavour or funding, but rather to my mind is a matter of method and of language.

    In terms of method, the negative hypothesis of a BAU doubling of CO2 had to be the starting point, but once this was proven (if not by IPCC 1, then to the extent of last year’s joint statement by the world’s 11 leading National Science Academies) there was surely a need to provide projections based on a positive hypothesis of cogent action being instigated, as the means of defining for society just what those cogent actions consist of.

    The policy framework of the requisite Treaty of the Atmospheric Commons is known as Contraction & Convergence, (C&C) and has been widely endorsed over the last 16 years. (See http://www.gci.org.uk ).

    No other coherent proposal of the requisite framework has arisen and survived diplomatic ‘peer-review’ in that period.

    What is now required is a projection founded on the hypothesis that C&C is adopted as the efficient & equitable basis of negotiations for a treaty to succeed Kyoto.

    To stay within 2oC of GW, the dates of Contraction (of global GHG outputs to cease adding to airborne concentrations)
    and of Convergence (to international per capita parity of emissions rights) become the twin variables sought.

    In providing such a projection, science would be facilitating the necessary action to forestall the threat it observes.
    Given that the duty of science is not merely of warning, but of triggering an effective response, the provision of this projection can be seen as the neccesary role of concerned scientists.

    With regard to language, informing people and governments of probabilities of single digit global temperature rise has plainly failed to communicate the threat we face. (As was predictable decades ago).

    Again, it has to be observed that science has thus far failed in its aspiration to serve society effectively in this context.

    Correcting this failure is, to my mind, about quantifying the climate impacts’ damages in a scale which plainly does not relate geometrically to average global surface air temperature.

    For global damages to be projected sensibly in that scale, it may be that the UN’s “purchasing power parity” filter should be applied to reflect the local values of threatened infrastructure, livelihoods & lives.

    Given that neither of these two critical issues of method and language have yet been visibly addressed by scientists, I’m forced to ask whether science is, in effect, content with its Business As Usual failures, or whether these options will now be addessed ?

    Regards,

    Lewis

  43. 193
    Don Baccus says:

    James is indeed engaging in handwaving when he says, “The prius is twice as complex to make. As such it requires more energy units to design, fabricate jigs for parts, and manufacture and test.”

    The Prius I was a from the ground-up design effort, but the Prius II was not. Toyota’s goal was to reuse as many parts as possible from another sedan (not the Corolla, sorry, I don’t remember which). This greatly cut the design, tooling, and production costs.

    Regarding birds and wind turbines, modern turbine designs and the use of pre-siting surveys and mortality monitoring while wind farms are being operated has drastically cut the problem.

    Altamont’s the site of the famous “raptor blender” windfarm example. This area’s used by raptors in their daily routine, as they fly from roosting and nesting territories to feeding territories, etc. The original turbines were built on derrick-like structures, which provide perches for perch-hunters like red-tailed hawks. Not good.

    The latest turbines installed in the area kill far, far fewer raptors, and the older, more deadly turbines are being entirely replaced (if they’ve not done so already).

    Trends have been towards larger wind turbines, and modern ones are mounted on tubular columns rather than derrick-like towers, and these both turn out to apparently reduce lethality, as well.

    Monitoring can tell us when lethal striked are most likely. Depending on placement, this might be during migration, or might be during the nesting season. Operating hours can be modified to take such things into account.

  44. 194
    teacher ocean says:

    There is finally some public transportation available where I live, so I use that when I can. But it isn’t just what we as individuals can do, it is what the government can do. If public transportation were more available, most people would take it. If government money were invested into developing alternative energy resources rather than fighting wars for oil in countries where the US doesn’t belong, we would have fewer emmissions to the atmosphere.

    About wind power. I have a lot of affection for birds. I also have a lot of affection for deer but they are the most common road kill from vehicles powered by fossil fuels :). I agree with grant that perhaps we could build fences around windmills and cause less damage to birds. But burning fossil fuels causes birds and other wildlife more damage in the long run.

  45. 195
    Adam says:

    With regard to the discussions of how to reduce CO2 emissions, would it good for RC (or similar) to invite a series of posts from experts in the relevant fields (both pro and con say for each technology or approache)?

    Maybe some discussion from people who have a broader knowledge across the fields of energy – people who have researched this stuff. I know some post in the comments but a set of proper postings or a whole blog dedicated to the subject may help?

    I realise other blogs cover these issues, but as RC is dedicated to the science, I thought one with a similar ideal of focus would be good.

    It might be a good way to help keep moving the discussions on and address what are now becoming, what seems to me, to be the new set of objections (for want of a better term) to AGW – that of “there’s nothing we can do about it”.

    [Response: We focus on the climate science. We tend to avoid policy, or how-to-reduce CO2 type stuff – William]

  46. 196
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Re #168, Mike, I follow this approach. All weird weather since, say 1990, I attribute to GW, unless the scientists can prove at .05 p significance level that it is not due to GW. So, for me, even Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a sign of GW. This wouldn’t stand in a court case (and whom would one sue? All of us?), but that’s the way I think about it, and that’s the way policy people should think.

    When in 1990 (well before AGW reached sci certainty), I heard that more intense & frequent storms may be expected with GW (as well as many other problems), so I started reduce my GHGs then, with the idea of reducing those future harms.

    So now scientists have found (surprising even for me) that GW has been increasing hurricane intensity for decades. So the policy idea is to greatly reduce GHGs so as to reduce future hurricane intensity (& use savings from those reductions to storm-proof buildings). Also it’s the last umph of the hurricane that I considered increased by GW — that umph that breaks levees and flattens houses.

  47. 197
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE solutions, I’m hoping either for a plug-in hybrid or an electric car. EVs are a lot more simple than I.C.E. cars, & cheaper to run & maintain & fix & can run on alt energy. I think they’d be much cheaper to manufacture if done at same level of mass production. Now they have lithium ion batteries that give an EV a 300 miles range, and recharge 80% in 15 minutes (they’re expensive now, but could come down). And who wouldn’t want a snack break after driving 5-6 hours?

    Only problem is car companies are crushing EVs with a vengeance, I think bec the companies are tied into oil. See http://www.dontcrush.com

  48. 198
    Mark A. York says:

    RE: 182,

    Emanuel is saying in frequency too but only in North America.

  49. 199

    Re: 162

    My understanding of the power leakage issue is that it is mostly a wash in climates where indoor heating is used on a regular basis. The waste heat reduces your heating bill. OTOH, I can see that it is a big problem in Texas…

  50. 200
    Joel Shore says:

    To add to what Don Baccus said in #194: Also, as the press release from Toyota on the second-generation Prius explains: “Besides achieving targets in the use and disposal stage, emissions of CO2 and other atmospheric pollutants have been reduced over the entire life cycle of the new Prius, including in the development stage.” (See http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/news/03/0901a.html )


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