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350

Filed under: — gavin @ 27 October 2009

I was quoted by Andrew Revkin in the New York Times on Sunday in a piece about the 350.org International Day of Climate Action (involving events in 181 countries). The relevant bit is:

Gavin A. Schmidt, a climate scientist who works with Dr. Hansen and manages a popular blog on climate science, realclimate.org, said those promoting 350 or debating the number might be missing the point.
“The situation is analogous to people trying to embark on a cross-country road trip to California but they’ve started off heading to Maine instead,” Dr. Schmidt said. “But instead of working out ways to turn around, they have decided to argue about where they are going to park when they get to L.A.”
“If you ask a scientist how much more CO2 do you think we should add to the atmosphere, the answer is going to be none.”

I’ve been told that some readers may have misinterpreted the quote as a criticism of the 350.org campaign itself. This was not the intent and in fact my metaphor wouldn’t have made sense in that context at all. Instead, it was a criticism of people who are expending effort arguing about whether 350 is precisely the right number for a long term target, or whether it should be somewhat higher or lower. Since we aren’t currently headed anywhere near 350 ppmv (in fact we are at 388 ppmv CO2 and increasing by about 2 ppmv/yr), we need to urgently think of ways the situation can turn around. Tapping into the creativity and enthusiasm shown by the 350.org campaigners will certainly be part of that process.

We discussed some of the thinking behind this ‘Target CO2‘ when Jim Hansen and colleagues’ paper first came out, where I think we made it clear that picking a specific CO2 target to avoid ‘dangerous’ climate change is an inexact science at best. The comments by Robert Brulle and Ray Pierrehumbert at DotEarth and James Hrynyshyn also highlight some of that complexity. And I think the suggestions by ‘Paulina‘ for how a tweaked article might have been clearer are very apropos.

However, as the final line in my NYT quote should make clear, personally I think the scientific case not increasing CO2 any further is very strong. Since the planet has not caught up with current levels of concentrations emissions (and thus will continue to change), picking an ultimate target that is less than today’s level is therefore wise. Of course, how we get there is much trickier than knowing where it is we should be going, but having a map of the destination is useful. As we discussed in the ‘trillionth ton‘ posting a couple of months back, how we get there also makes a difference.

In my original email to Andy Revkin, I had actually appended a line:

If you ask a scientist how much more CO2 do you think we should add to the atmosphere, the answer is going to be none.

All the rest is economics.

(and technology, and sociology, and psychology and politics etc.) but the point is that working out how we get there from here is the real challenge and the more people who are aware and involved in developing those solutions the better.


214 Responses to “350”

  1. 101
    CM says:

    Chip (#90), the same IPCC chapter projects that even a 1-2ºC rise will negatively impact food production in low-latitude countries, and total world food production potential will decrease if temperatures rise by more than 3º — and that is taking into account the positive effect of CO2 fertilization.

  2. 102
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Chip, it’s hard to believe that incremental crop yield increases can offset the catastrophic mega-fires that seem to accompany sudden excursions in the global carbon budget.

  3. 103
    Richard says:

    I believe that no matter how collosal something is,if we just work together and set our minds to it. we could accomplish it!

    [Response: Channeling Mickey Rooney there? - gavin]

  4. 104

    Lies aimed at school kids: this page, part of National Weather Service’s JetStream – Online School for Weather claims

    In 1997, NASA reported global temperature measurements of the Earth’s lower atmosphere obtained from satellites revealed no definitive warming trend over the past two decades. In fact, the trend appeared to be a decrease in actual temperature. In 2007, NASA data showed that one-half of the ten warmest years occurred in the 1930′s with 1934 (tied with 2006) as the warmest years on record. (NASA data October 23, 2007 from http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.D.txt)

    If you go to the data linked, it’s only for “Contiguous 48 U.S. Surface Air Temperature Anomaly”, which we know has not warmed that much. However it’s totally false to claim that that data represents “the Earth’s lower atmosphere”. I doubt even that the data they present is from satellites. It looks suspiciously similar to this data set which, as far as I know, is based on surface measurements. Possibly the version they have up is before one of the corrections that’s been reported.

    Anyway all round this is pretty dodgy: false claims about the provenance of the data, and of what it represents. And why link to a copy of the data when the original is (a) publicly available and (b) subject to correction?

    What’s happening? Have deniers infiltrated NWS or NOAA?

    [Response: This is quite bad. I will investigate... - gavin]

  5. 105
    L . David Cooke says:

    RE: 93

    Hey Mark Cunnington,

    Regarding your comment: “get rid of your natural gas furnace and put in a heat pump which uses electricity. This is a bit more expensive than a gas furnace but the benefit is that you produce no carbon emissions. The extra electricity required could be balanced by the solar panels on your roof.”

    I’m a bit concerned with this notion, the NG resource is a lower Carbon to BTU resource and offers a higher efficiency (nearly 45%) by direct local conversion of the heat of combustion. This is less of an issue then 70% of the current power grid resource using the conversion of 100% Carbon powered systems with a fuel content source to end use efficiency of less then 10%.

    As to the powering of the heat pump and the resistive heat-strip (used for air temperatures below roughly 38 Deg. F.), there in lies to crux of the issue regarding solar power, Peak Demand! For the average 1500sq’ home you are likely using between 10 and 15kw for about 20 min/hour for normal outdoor temperatures below 40 Deg. F down to about 28 Deg. F. Going further you may be running at about 40 min/hour for outdoor temperatures for ranging between 8 and 28 Deg. F., providing you are using the normal specified home insulation (as specified after 1992) for your region.

    That would suggest a range of between 3.5 and 5kw hours demand just for heat. Most homes average 3.6kw for their total energy demand sans heat, so add another 3.5 to 5kw hours and you are running close to 7 to 9kw hours at the end use point. Using 200 Watt solar panels this would equate to roughly 35 to 45 panels (at roughly $25K to $35K just for the panels). If each panel is roughly 1.5 meters then you are talking about 475 to 625sq’ on a south facing roof surface. And all of that only being supplied for roughly 6-8 hours/day. (You would need 3 times that capacity to supply energy for 24 hours of direct use and 4 times that or 12 times the capacity if you use a 40% efficient storage system, (42% conversion to storage and 95% conversion from storage). Hence, the requirement of a power grid that can provide a low carbon 24 hour base load. Or sans a combination solar and nuclear solution this equates to nearly 70-90kw of energy demand from the high carbon resource.

    Personally, at this time I kind of like a residential NG generator/furnace in combination with solar PV/water heating peaking system. However, if you have a better practical suggestion I’m game…

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

  6. 106
    Brian Dodge says:

    If “CO2 has been impoverished for the past 20 million years or more”, why does my lawn grow better when I put 20-10-10 (N-P-K; no extra CO2) fertilizer on it? Is Leibig’s law of the minimum just a myth?

  7. 107
    Steve Fish says:

    Richard & Gavin(~#103, 29 October 2009 @ 6:48 PM}:

    Busby Berkeley’s 1939 “Babes in Arms” (Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland). “We have a barn, let’s put on a show!”

    Would it only be so.

    Steve

  8. 108
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Good article. Whether 350 is higher or lower than what needed..there is consensus amongst scientists that 350 is in the minimum safe level. But what is the safe level for CH4 (1+ GTonne under the arctic regions)and N20 and CO and micro particulate soot matter? We need another figure to include all greehouse gasses (CO2e); otherwise there are going to be countless people who will feel they have been deceived by the 350 hoopla whereas the true ‘target’ figure (CO2e) will in actuality be considerably harder to acheive. As Jim Hansen keep hammering on..we have to lock the remaining coal and oil in the ground and fast track feasible alternative energy systems for industy and our increasing populus..that is the ONLY way it’s going to be achieved.
    Logically I fear we have missed the boat but as they say miracles happen.so lets hope!

    [Response: I wouldn't say there was a 'consensus' on 350 as a specific 'safe' level - as discussed above that is an inexact number. But we are really talking about CO2-eq here (since that is what climate is responding to). Thus decreases in CH4 or N2O or CFCs or black carbon would all contribute to bring things back down. - gavin]

  9. 109
    tharanga says:

    Gail, 98: Be careful with that line. You can talk to people about the more classically recognised pollutants from hydrocarbon use – NOx, SOx, VOCs, mercury, and whatever else, but we’re continually getting better on those fronts, anyway. I don’t think it’s a very compelling argument for getting off hydrocarbons. And besides, I know biofuels aren’t very popular at the moment, but done well, they can play a role, and they also present some of these issues.

    Mark Cunningham, 93: If we really wanted to, we could do all manner of things, but it would cost us. You are being rather optimistic when you say we don’t need any more technical developments. Batteries have quite some ways to go before they’d be commercially competitive with internal combustion. You admit solar isn’t there yet, but are counting on the costs there to continue downwards. You know, there are a lot of people working on a lot of different ideas; maybe there’ll be an unexpected breakthrough, but I’ll take that as a bonus, not as something I’m counting on.

  10. 110
    Shelama says:

    Question, somewhat off topic and probably answered in depth elsewhere (such as…duhhh…Climatology 101?):…

    When I look at the Vostok ice core graph, it seems that in the Holocene we are 1000s of years past a peak and a point where a new glacial period of sharply declining temperatures should have begun. At least if the pattern of the preceding regular cycles would have naturally repeated (governed primarily by the Milankovitch cycles?).

    Is it at least possible that CO2 and AGW will at some point be at least partially balanced out by what would be a cooling Milankovitch trend? What accounts for the failure of a “normal” onset of a glacial cooling right after the peak at the beginning of the Holocene? And it’s continuing delay? Human activity?

    [Response: Ruddiman has suggested this, though this is far from being universally accepted. If you look back further there were longer interglacial periods when the eccentricity was small (like today & 400,000 years ago). -gavin]

  11. 111
    Chris S says:

    Chip #90: I must admit I’m a little disappointed. You have been presented with three studies from this year (2009) that show that CO2 ‘fertilisation’ is not as positive an effect as you claim and in defence of your claim you present the IPCC AR4 report.

    I’ll quote directly from the section of the report you refer to [5.4.1.1]:

    “Importantly, plant physiologists and modellers alike recognise that the effects of elevated CO2 measured in experimental settings and implemented in models may overestimate actual field- and farm-level responses, due to many limiting factors such as pests, weeds, competition for resources, soil, water and air quality, etc., which are neither well understood at large scales, nor well implemented in leading models.”

    As evidenced by the studies quoted in #54 & #87 further work is suggesting that CO2 effects are less beneficial than models & controlled environment (glasshouse) studies were suggesting. Again I’ll draw your attention to the Journal of Experimental Botany’s special issue, this time to Whitmore, A.P. & Whalley, W.R. Physical effects of soil drying on roots and crop growth (available here: http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/60/10/2845 ) and also Gregory et al. Integrating pests and pathogens into the climate change/food security debate (see here: http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/60/10/2827 ) for further illustration of the complexity of the problem over & above the simplistic “CO2 is good for plants”

    Moreover, as CM points out in #101 “the same IPCC chapter projects that even a 1-2ºC rise will negatively impact food production in low-latitude countries, and total world food production potential will decrease if temperatures rise by more than 3º — and that is taking into account the positive effect of CO2 fertilization.”

    In fact it is in the paragraph directly above the one you quote in #90: I’ll quote it here in case you missed it:

    “While moderate warming benefits crop and pasture yields in mid- to high-latitude regions, even slight warming decreases yields in seasonally dry and low-latitude regions (medium confidence).
    The preponderance of evidence from models suggests that moderate local increases in temperature (to 3ºC) can have small beneficial impacts on major rain-fed crops (maize, wheat, rice) and pastures in mid- to high-latitude regions, but even slight warming in seasonally dry and tropical regions reduces yield. Further warming has increasingly negative impacts in all regions [5.4.2 and see Figure 5.2]. These results, on the whole, project the potential for global food production to increase with increases in local average temperature over a range of 1 to 3ºC, but above this
    range to decrease [5.4, 5.6]. Furthermore, modelling studies that include extremes in addition to changes in mean climate show lower crop yields than for changes in means alone, strengthening similar TAR conclusions [5.4.1]. A change in frequency of extreme events is likely to disproportionately impact small-holder farmers and artisan fishers [5.4.7].”

    I had expected better from a scientist who ostensibly “knows what he is talking about”.

  12. 112
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I had expected better from a scientist who ostensibly “knows ….”

    He may know, but not say; he works for a business selling “advocacy science” — which advocacy; to do “advocacy science” means being subtly foolish.

    In advocacy, the idea is to try to give _just_ the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another, _not_all_ of the information helpful for others to judge the value of your contribution.

  13. 113
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Q110 Shelema. That’s true to a small point but the timelines are vastly different. Cyclical natural variations in the global climate happen at a considerably slower rate than anthropenically induced change. If the industrial revolution and the fossil fuel mania had occurred some thousands of years back we would probably be long gone by now.

  14. 114
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 105

    Hey All,

    Sorry, I tripped over my calculations again, the statement:

    “(You would need 3 times that capacity to supply energy for 24 hours of direct use and 4 times that or 12 times the capacity if you use a 40% efficient storage system, (42% conversion to storage and 95% conversion from storage).

    Should have read:
    (You would need 3 times that capacity to supply energy for 24 hours of direct use and 2 times that or 6 times the capacity (*est.)if you use a 40% efficient storage system, (42% conversion to storage and 95% conversion from storage)).

    (*est. based on 1.8x=33kwh with total peak demand of 9kw/hr hours at a 95% efficiency conversion and 40% (42%*.95%) of 14 hours provided by a conventional battery storage system resulting in about 33kwh/day total generation for normal summer demand and roughly 65kw for winter.)

    Roughly the average base load demand would run about 1.4kw for summer and 3.2kw in winter, with peaks running up to 3 times the base load (Remembering that an average clothes dryer or oven burner can run up to 3kw when active, while a electric stove burner may run between 1.2 to 3.5kw.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

  15. 115
    Mark says:

    “(Remembering that an average clothes dryer ”

    What’s wrong with using a clothes horse indoors or a washing line outdoors?

    This isn’t innovative thinking, but reduces CO2 load and doesn’t require sourcing more energy from elsewhere.

  16. 116
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 115

    Hey Mark,

    If you notice my intent is to try to discuss things in the content of the current societal practices. Meaning the practical application of matching resources to societal activity. As to the use of either an indoor or outdoor simple evaporation clothes dryer, you have two issues, the first is the time involved and second is the time of day.

    With most western families being made up of working couples there is little time during the day available to “do clothes” during the week. As for the weekend, most people I know prefer to relax/play or have other issues they need to address. Hence, the time-frame to “do the wash” is fairly limited for outdoor drying during the day.

    Then again as you move south the average humidity is so high the evaporation process could take days, with clothes “souring” in the meantime. Up north you would be limited to mainly indoor drying for roughly 7 months of the year. As to the limited “weekend drying time-frame” outdoors that is providing that it does not rain.

    A curious question, how do you dry your clothes now…? Also, you do realize if you only baked during the winter (and used a rock/brick lined oven…) you could use the heat generated to help warm the interior of the home and hence, reduce carbon emissions that way… Does that mean if your birthday is in the late Spring, Summer and early Fall you will have to wait until winter to celebrate with cake?

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

  17. 117
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 116

    Hey All and Mark,

    Of course there is the possibility of utilizing a coil on the backside of Solar panels to heat a indoor “drying room” where you have solar heated metal plates surrounding drying racks… Of course that is not really a new approach. (Most Pre-Industrialized societies would call this the basement or “smoke house” used to preserve foods by drying.) The issue is you would now need to add roughly a 60sq’ room to dry the clothes of two people for one week. At an average of $135/sq’ this would add $8,100 to the cost of a home min. For a family of 4.4 (2+ 2.4) this would run up to about $16,000 and require about 120sq’… Also, you would still need to run a fan to pump less humid air into the drying room…

    Hmmm…., there you go Mark what a great idea, a Solar Clothes dryer… I have to hand it to ya that is innovative thinking…, though would you not think a $16,000 price tag is a bit steep?

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    [Response: You can buy a traditional 'solar dryer' for the price of a piece of string. - gavin]

  18. 118
    dhogaza says:

    You can buy a traditional ‘solar dryer’ for the price of a piece of string.

    If your homeowner’s association hasn’t banned them … otherwise it’s the price of a lawyer with a piece of string :)

    (for those outside the US, there have recently been some well-publicized battles between those unfortunate enough to live in such housing developments who want to dry clothes outside, and their homeowner’s association which bans the practice.)

  19. 119

    (for those outside the US, there have recently been some well-publicized battles between those unfortunate enough to live in such housing developments who want to dry clothes outside, and their homeowner’s association which bans the practice.)

    It’s good to live in Europe again.

  20. 120
    Mark says:

    “otherwise it’s the price of a lawyer with a piece of string :)”

    The string is cheap enough, it’s the hourly rate that’s expensive.

    Who wants to pay 250/Hr to dry your smalls…

  21. 121
    Mark says:

    “If you notice my intent is to try to discuss things in the content of the current societal practices. Meaning the practical application of matching resources to societal activity.”

    But society generally lives with a washing line, no car, poorly treated water, agricultural subsistence living.

    Even in the first world, you have cheap car urban subsistence living.

    A tumble dryer is not a commonly used thing in the UK.

    Demanding that you keep your tumble dryer just because is an example of an entitlement society. Just like in the UK any attempt to curb short-haul flights is attacked because people want to go to Marbella on a package holiday. Oddly enough they complain about foreigners coming here too…

  22. 122

    Chris S. (re: #111),

    I am not contending that the real world shows the level of response that you find in controlled laboratory conditions. The complexities of the real world are far more than can be replicated in a lab. The same situation undoubtedly holds true when trying to assess other real-world responses from laboratory experiments (such as the response to ocean acidification).

    I am contending, however, that atmospheric CO2 enrichment is a net benefit for the general plant life on earth (the response of specific species may vary based on situation).

    We can trade references if you’d like [edit] but I think that overall you’d find many more references showing CO2 benefits to plants than CO2 detriments.

    -Chip

  23. 123
    Mark says:

    “I am contending, however, that atmospheric CO2 enrichment is a net benefit for the general plant life on earth (the response of specific species may vary based on situation).”

    And not being a plant, what does this do for me?

    Why are you demanding we ruin our lives for the sake of some Ivy?

  24. 124
    Hank Roberts says:

    If the advocacy were true, you’d expect someone to be able to point to an excess of greenery and giant sized trees, shrubs, and weeds surrounding known natural sources of excess CO2.

    But you can’t point and arm-wave; choose one — either science (pointing) or advocacy (arm-waving).

    Let’s try pointing, since the arm-waving is well funded already.

    Yellowstone, for example: Look for big spots of greenery around venting.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/56924251@N00/4009243293/in/set-72157622580776590/ Hmmmm.

    Loko for natural experiments at venting excess CO2:
    http://www.ulb.ac.be/sciences/cvl/history.htm
    Any observations of more greenery around those? (Nope)

    Research actually on the subject discussed?
    http://seprl.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publications.htm?SEQ_NO_115=179561 (gasp!)

    “Technical Abstract: Experimental CO2 research with plants and whole ecosystems has made it clear that there is no straightforward relationship between the generally observed stimulation of leaf photosynthetic rates by elevated CO2 concentrations and growth or productivity. The large number of tests with a broad spectrum of species and growth conditions has made it obvious that the extent to which greater availability of carbon to plants will translate into more structural growth depends on nutrient availability, either directly or via soil moisture conditions. The realism of projections derived from experimental works thus depends on the realism of nutrient and water regimes provided during tests. For the vast majority of non-agricultural ecosystems it seems that resources other than CO2 control growth and productivity to such an extent that CO2 concentrations above current levels exert little or no long-term stimulation….”

    You can’t point and armwave at the same time.
    “Advocacy science” is clever foolishness.

  25. 125
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: Dr. Schmidt’s response to 117 and posts 118-121

    Hey All,

    I love it, here we have the perfect example of why the economics will not work to curb carbon demand.

    Current entry level to use a clothes line, $4.00 for a stout rope, 6.00 for a pressure treated pole, 3.00 for two eye screws and 2.50 for a bag of quick-curing concrete. Total entry cost approximately $16.00 Add in the 20 min labor to dig a hole put in the pole, fill the hole with the concrete, fill with water and mix thoroughly. Cover remainder of hole with dirt. Install a eye bolt about 6 feet above the ground. Fix the other eye bolt into the side of your domicile. Tie rope tightly to eye bolt in domicile and wait 48 hours for the concrete to cure. Two days later stretch rope to pole and tighten, then tie off… Not instant; but, fairly easy and low cost and very low maintenance maybe a new $4.00 rope every two years.

    Now compare that to a Dryer, price ranges from roughly $300 to over $900 per unit. If the 220 service is not already run you have to pay no less then $250 for labor and nearly the same for wire and outlet. Cut a hole in you domicile and run a exhaust tube to the outdoors roughly another $100.00 for parts and labor. Then it is simply a matter of around 10.40/month to power (in high urban areas). Entry cost between $300 and $1500, minimal maintenance, clean lint filter and brush out exhaust outlet twice a year, and roughly $140.00 to power/year.

    So if we triple the cost of the power to $520/year or even 9 times to 45.00/mth how likely is it to decrease the loss of convenience and time of using a dryer over a clothes line… It is likely Zero!

    This is clearly a case where we need the technically capable people to resolve major issues, to match up technology with the need. As society here in the west moves faster the cost to achieve it increases as does the need for energy to achieve the higher rate of change…

    Any suggestion to the contrary and the obvious push back is the result. If we wish to change society we need to change the technology to match up with the needs and not adjust the needs to the technology…

    For instance the little solar dryer suggestion at $16,000 could that have been done better sure. We could have used the solar heat output to heat a copper heat exchanger and blown outside or even pre-dried air through it and then passed this through to the drum of a standard Gas Dryer.

    With a temperature of nearly 180 Deg. F that would be plenty to to accelerate drying and coupled with dry air flow into the drum provide similar convenience for day time usage and with a resistance or even a gas heating source to provide off hour capability as well. Then if you where to go one more step and ran the exhaust air through an exhaust heat exchanger (It would have to be easy to clean lint out of out the tubes.) You could even trap a portion of the heat in a water bath feeding a Point of Use water heater or water to air heat pump heating system.

    The difference, the later is more complicated solution; but, it would likely be implemented well before the easier and cheaper. Even if you outlawed residential dryers and forced folks to use public dryers there would be an explosion of “Duds and Suds”…, across every corner of the Americas.

    Of course we have not even breached the issue of Dry Cleaners nor about how many professional people actually have their clothes washed and dry cleaned there. (Not to mentioned Steam pressed….) Sorry, I digress…

    The point, as we originally attempted to address, you are unlikely to change needs imposed by modern society. We all have to do a better job of bending technology to meet those needs.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

  26. 126
    Mark Cunnington says:

    Re: 105. Yes, Dave Cooke, you are right that in winter solar panels aren’t going to be sufficient. I was being overly optimistic, partly because there is a long way we could go with this technology right now if we wanted to that would make a huge dent in carbon emissions. But it won’t be sufficient by itself. But in that 20 years maybe we will have increased wind generation to a significant part of the grid, if we make good decisions right now.

    Over the course of a year your solar panels would provide more energy than you use. In winter you are going to be taking more energy from the grid than you produce; in summer the opposite.

    I like the idea of a heat pump / natural gas combo unit so that when it’s really cold you can use natural gas. It’s a good interim solution. Or the government could step in and offer some good incentives to help with the capital costs of installing a geothermal heat pump (they’re throwing around billions right now) which will work with the same efficiency regardless of the outdoor temperature.

    Regarding cost for solar panels, they are coming down really fast. You can follow the trend and estimate when they will reach grid parity.

  27. 127
    Mark says:

    “Re: 105. Yes, Dave Cooke, you are right that in winter solar panels aren’t going to be sufficient.”

    If you tilt them toward the sun it becomes quite a bit more efficient. The problem is that the radiant from the sun is spread over a larger area of earth but contains nearly the same amount of energy, and it’s the thermalisation of that energy that makes the ground warm. So the thinner the energy is spread, the colder the ground.

    Do you have a sloping roof?

  28. 128
    Mark says:

    “Then it is simply a matter of around 10.40/month to power (in high urban areas). Entry cost between $300 and $1500, minimal maintenance, clean lint filter and brush out exhaust outlet twice a year, and roughly $140.00 to power/year.”

    Please tell me how much time you think it takes to hang out the washing and bring it back in?

    NOTE: if you hang washing on a line to dry you often don’t have to iron. How long do you take to iron your clothes?

    “So if we triple the cost of the power to $520/year or even 9 times to 45.00/mth how likely is it to decrease the loss of convenience and time of using a dryer over a clothes line… It is likely Zero!”

    Opportunity cost?

    And again, how much convenience is saved? You have to sort out your washing and iron afterwards. Unlikely you’re taking longer to hang out the washing on the line and take it back in with the occasional starched crease ironed in.

    “This is clearly a case where we need the technically capable people to resolve major issues, to match up technology with the need. ”

    Or we need to think innovatively rather than conservatively and look at the real cost rather than the assumed cost because you’re already doing one thing and therefore discount any effort used in its operation.

    And how is “I have to hang my washing out on a line” a major issue???

  29. 129
    Mark says:

    “Then again as you move south the average humidity is so high the evaporation process could take days, with clothes “souring” in the meantime.”

    I wonder how the managed to survive before the invention of the condensing dryer…

  30. 130
    SecularAnimist says:

    Chip Knappenberger wrote: “I am contending, however, that atmospheric CO2 enrichment is a net benefit for the general plant life on earth …”

    You are simply repeating the same broad, sweeping, vague, unsupported “contention” that you made previously, while continuing to completely ignore the numerous commenters who have referenced scientific studies that show that “contention” to be false, or at best, extremely questionable.

  31. 131
    Steve Fish says:

    Mark (#129, 30 October 2009 @ 1:55 PM):

    Although I found Dave Cooke’s cost analysis fascinating, I agree with you about clothes lines. We find our pulley line between the deck and a redwood tree to be more convenient than a dryer, and we prefer the texture and odor of the clothes. It just takes a small change in attitude to make small, personal contributions to 350 (or whatever number).

    I am working on a wood powered dryer for the winter rainy period.

    Steve

  32. 132
    SecularAnimist says:

    L. David Cooke’s argument seems to amount to:

    If a tiny minority (perhaps 5 percent) of the Earth’s human population cannot continue to enjoy the lifestyle of profligately wasteful energy use to which they have become accustomed during a tiny fraction (perhaps 5 decades) of the time that human civilization has existed, that’s unacceptable.

    Perhaps he would like to explain the non-negotiable, absolute necessity of destroying the Earth’s biosphere so that a tiny minority can operate coal-fueled clothes dryers to the tens of millions of people around the world who have no access to electricity at all, for whom a simple solar-powered electric lantern, radio and/or cell phone represents a revolutionary improvement in well-being.

  33. 133
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Chris: I am contending, however, that atmospheric CO2 enrichment is a net benefit for the general plant life on earth.

    The imminent destruction of entire forests by CO2 “enrichment-driven” megafires is the first counterexample that comes to mind.

    [Response: Followed by pine bark beetles. Increased summer drought. Biodiversity loss in alpine regions etc. etc. - gavin]

  34. 134
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 128-131 san 130

    Hey Mark and Steve,

    Mark,

    Lets try your questions first, the time to hang and collect clothing is not the issue. (drying time and environmental variables are) Ironing, not much, as we purchase as much wash and ware as possible to reduce the need. (Having specified and gotten permission to change from Dress Shirt and Tie to Polo shirts along with a change from Dress pants to Khaki’s or Casual slacks have been a boon, both in energy and wardrobe budget reductions and maintenance.)

    Opportunity Cost is not unlike the issue as discussed by Dr. Schmidt elsewhere recently. There is sufficient society imposed demand, requirements, needs that opportunity cost may provide an initial reduction in the range of 5%; however, the demand hardens up very fast.

    Hence, to make a strong inroad you would have to make it an economic burden for the average person to continue to pursue the undesired technology. This means in most cases raising the price over 400% to the point that it invades the former budgeted amount by over 5% and there is no chance of it’s return to former levels.

    As long as there is a cost appropriate option provided you may see some change, generally what it will do is place more demand for pay increases to cover the cost rather then forcing a change in the technology. Thus not only have you not accomplished the goal you have now spurred on inflation.

    As to your final, “how is hanging wash a issue”, clearly you do not live a life in which 9/10 of your waking time is focusing on events outside of the home. This would suggest that you and Steve may indeed have similar circumstances. It is unlikely you live in a downtown metropolis or urban region, also you likely do not do the laundry. If you ask your partner if they would prefer a clothing dryer as opposed to a clothing line I think you would be surprised about the response.

    As to living in the south and drying of clothes, simply put, prior to air conditioning you wore very little clothing. Pre-AC many used cloth diapers and the amount of daily wash would be sufficient to stress many a young home maker. Add in the the time to hang the clothes, monitor the weather and do the next load while ironing the Sunday bests was a full time chore. Clearly the indications are you have not had a lot of experience growing up or raising a family under similar conditions.

    Steve,

    You are making many of us jealous, to have the opportunity to make a decent living (enough to afford a computer apparently) and get a great education while living in the country with Red Wood trees and chirping birds and raccoons and squirrels and an occasional black bear lumbering down the near by river snagging Salmon out of the cool flowing stream as you sit in your shaded home content and munching on home made/grown (fresh) goodies is great. However, not many have the ability to enjoy similar experiences due to the nature of their profession or region of the country.

    I take it you cannot put up a Wind Turbine and are probably shaded by the Red Wood tree such that you cannot take advantage of Solar panels. Now that nearby river with a couple of vertical cross axis water turbines may allow you access a few kw, if only you had access rights…

    Just curious, if you are in Northern California say near Redding, CA and likely up near the lava fields how do you handle the cold and snow when you have to put out the wash? Granted you can stand on the top stoop and wind out the line and bring it back in; but, how many sheets have you had torn up when they froze and the wind started whipping while you were busy trying to get the wood stove going, so you could warm your hands after you have finished scrubbing out your Long Johns on the wash board…? By the way do you use a chain saw or a two man cross cut saw? I take it you likely burn a lot of wood, on average, how many trees are you planting to replace either the trees you cut down or are cut down for you?

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

  35. 135
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Dr. Inferno is in da Depot: SuperDuperFreakonomics.

    Global warming – Solved.

    I recently discovered a book which finally puts manmade global warming to bed in a coffin and then nails the lid firmly shut. It’s called SuperFreakonomics and it’s written by Top Men who are bravely attempting to solve the world’s problems through the medium of selling books. My worldview was immediately challenged by the image of an exploding apple on the cover. Most people would never expect an apple to actually explode like that. In many ways this book has all the qualities of Blog Science. It’s almost like a blog written on paper with comments disabled.

  36. 136
    Hank Roberts says:

    > how many sheets have you had torn up when they froze
    > and the wind started whipping

    You’ve quite a fantasy going, Mr. Cooke.
    Damp cotton gets _brittle_ below freezing on your planet??

    Here, it works — http://www.google.com/search?q=drying+clothes+below+freezing

  37. 137
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 104 by Phillip Mechanick: Gavin, please let us know the results of your inquiry about this. It is appalling that such a grossly incompetent presentation would be made for school children. Clearly, no one gave this even the most cursory check.

  38. 138
    Gail says:

    Secularanimus, I’m with you about the dryers.

    And tharanga109? If we’re improving the situation with the “other greenhouse gases” how come all the trees are dying? Seriously.

    Today I looked up pictures from the internet of years past that show beautiful fall colors the day before Thanksgiving in my area. Right now MOST of the trees are already bare, and those leaves that remain are brown. links posted on my blog.

  39. 139
    Steve Fish says:

    L. David Cooke (#134, 30 October 2009 @ 5:34 PM)

    Hi David:

    I really did like your analysis. I would have liked to have seen it when I lived on the grid in West Virginia. On the other hand your sarcasm regarding my opulent lifestyle is wasted. I am a retired professor from a small mid Atlantic university (check the pay scale) that carefully saved for retirement. The only place I could afford with some trees and privacy near my home area and kids was in the relatively remote northern California coastal range (near the Anderson Valley). I am off the grid (I use solar), I have no landline phone, no natural gas, no cable or broadcast TV (satellite for internet only), and provide my own water, septic and road maintenance. All I need is a little sun, firewood, and propane to cook, heat water, and for emergency heating. After property and infrastructure costs I am having to build my new home myself. My current cabin is small and efficient enough that it only requires about 1 cord of wood/year, that I cut myself, for heating. The new house will be more efficient. All of my neighbors, rich and poor, live with the same conditions.

    The insight I would like to promote here is that I have undergone a major transition from a standard high energy use lifestyle to a very constricted one, and I have experienced an increase in my quality of life. All it took was a shift in perspective. Having done this, I think that if I had to move back to high humidity summers and winter snow (e.g. for a job), I could now find ways to adapt efficiently. What we all need is some leadership for exchanging our consumer attitudes for more simplicity, an emphasis on community, and some creative new ways for how we can live efficiently. I think that much of the EU is ahead of us on this, but there is way more to do.

    An increase in quality of life.

    Steve

  40. 140
    Marion Delgado says:

    In this particular case I agree Andy Revkin did an overall good job. But this clarification by gavin is a good thing, too.

  41. 141
    Marion Delgado says:

    On the plus side, I think Dave Cook could do a bang-up job ghost-writing UltraSuperFreakonomics.

    I wish the other Dunning-Krugers in the radical economics movement would accept that the above argument re clothes drying was indeed representative – a classic argument for their POV – since it’s so arrogant, yet so obviously full of fail. But they won’t. If you “win” you were mainstream all along, if you “lose” your argument was not sound rational choice or whatever economics, now was it?

  42. 142
    Chris S. says:

    Chip #122: “I am contending, however, that atmospheric CO2 enrichment is a net benefit for the general plant life on earth (the response of specific species may vary based on situation).”

    I refer you back to your comments at #16 & #45 in this thread where you appear to be asserting that added CO2 is beneficial to crops (e.g. “There are plenty of agronomists…who think that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is not a bad thing”). You now seem to have shifted your position to CO2 increase being beneficial to “general plant life” which I’m sure you’d admit is a very different proposition – I’m not sure you’d find (m)any agronomists who would contend that promoting weed growth is a “not a bad thing”.

    So far in this thread we have seen references to rice yield dropping dramatically with increased temperature (#42). Wheat quality declining significantly with increased CO2 (#54) and cassava becoming more toxic with increased CO2 (#54). We have also seen that recent evidence points to lower yield increases than previously predicted from modelling & lab studies (#87, #111) and that yield will likely decline in seasonally dry & tropical areas (#111 – quoting your own link in #90) in even moderate warming. Again, I’d like to see an agronomist claiming that this is “not a bad thing”

    I have to say that I’m intrigued by what was edited out of Chip’s last two posts, both directly after comments about trading links. Though I’m sure that, if the quality of evidence Chip has provided so far is any guide, they won’t bolster his argument as much as he would like.

  43. 143
    Marion Delgado says:

    Also, I am from one of the coldest parts of Alaska, and there you can easily line dry in winter – much of it dries before it freezes, and the rest sublimates. There are certainly cold, constantly rainy places where line drying doesn’t work. To use them as the standard, though, is simply a lie.

    “love it, here we have the perfect example of why the economics will not work to curb carbon demand.”

    Yes, we do, but Dave Cooke does not realize that (a) he’s the example and (b) the reason is, the goal of the economics is to make it not work, so the economics, which is not based on reality, as proper Austrian economics is forbidden to be, can always be twisted, obfuscated, double-talked and cherry-picked into not working. But most of us had already gotten that.

  44. 144

    CK: I am contending, however, that atmospheric CO2 enrichment is a net benefit for the general plant life on earth

    BPL: We know what you’re contending. We’re pointing out that you’re incorrect.

  45. 145
    Mark says:

    I think that maybe Dave Cook is enamored of the “sexy” things that could be done.

    If it isn’t a high-tech geek-laden uber-solution then it’s not sexy and won’t and shouldn’t be done.

  46. 146
    Mark says:

    “Lets try your questions first, the time to hang and collect clothing is not the issue.”

    OK.

    “(drying time and environmental variables are)”

    Why?

    Do you only have two sets of clothing and therefore must wait around in your skivvies like that Levi advert guy while they dry?

    Myself, I have plenty clothes and can afford to sit around in them doing something else while my clothes dry.

    And why is not the time taken waiting for the clothes to dry in the dryer not a problem? You’re spending time and money, and we all know that time is money, so you’re double-paying here.

    “Ironing, not much, as we purchase as much wash and ware as possible to reduce the need.”

    “There is sufficient society imposed demand, requirements, needs that opportunity cost may provide an initial reduction in the range of 5%; however, the demand hardens up very fast.”

    Streamofconcsiousnessbabbling here, please try speaking in english rather than tongues.

    What does this matter? You’ve spend maybe three grand you could have gone on holiday with.

    Or bought a present for your wife.

    “As to your final, “how is hanging wash a issue”, clearly you do not live a life in which 9/10 of your waking time is focusing on events outside of the home”

    So your assertion is that if you spend a lot of time outside you spend even longer hanging out your washing than if you were a white-collar worker in a cube 9-5?

    If not, how does this make a difference?

    “It is unlikely you live in a downtown metropolis or urban region, also you likely do not do the laundry.”

    This is both incorrect and doesn’t follow on from the “9/10ths of your time outdoors”.

    “If you ask your partner if they would prefer a clothing dryer as opposed to a clothing line I think you would be surprised about the response.”

    I’d be asking me, so I wouldn’t be surprised at my partners answer, unless I’m seriously schizophrenic.

    And again, why would a partner want or demand a dryer? Nothing you’ve said says that the time taken is a problem, nor the effort. You’ve just stated that it is so and then assumed that (since there IS unwarranted effort and time spent on a washing line) anyone would say they’d prefer not to use a washing line.

    But if your assertion that a washing line is much more effort is wrong, then your proposition falls over.

    “Add in the the time to hang the clothes, monitor the weather and do the next load while ironing the Sunday bests was a full time chore.”

    Have you ever heard of the Hovis ads? Maybe it’s on youtube. It’s all about the “grim oop north” and how they worked hard and had a hard life but were ‘appy.

    Something from the 1940′s in Britain it harks back to.

    As does the idea of “Sunday best”.

    You still have to load the dryer while doing the next load and ironing (which you don’t have to do if you dry on the line).

    And funnily enough, despite working full time, I get time to do it.

    “Clearly the indications are you have not had a lot of experience growing up or raising a family under similar conditions.”

    I grew up in a poor family. 5 kids, one low-pay blue collar dad. Our holiday was to Brad Haven beach 12 miles away with a hamper of pies and sandwiches. We had a washing machine (twin tub) and that was posh for us.

    So I do have a lot of experience growing up under similar conditions, you arrogant twonk.

    What I *don’t* have experience with is a household where you have so much money to throw away that you’ll spend it on drying your clothes when there’s a perfectly good outside to do it in.

    That level of extravagant spending is not where I grew up, but I suppose you’ve become so used to it you can’t see any other life, can you.

  47. 147
    Mark says:

    PS you say:

    “Lets try your questions first, the time to hang and collect clothing is not the issue.”

    then later on say:

    “Add in the the time to hang the clothes, monitor the weather and do the next load while ironing the Sunday bests was a full time chore.”

    So you say in one breath that the time hanging and collecting is not the issue then assert that the issue is having to hang and collect the clothes.

    Maybe you’re the schizoid.

  48. 148
    Mark says:

    “I am working on a wood powered dryer for the winter rainy period.”

    One word:

    Aspiration.

    Move the air or the clothes if you can. If that means ducting air from the sunny side to the dark side of the house to get a temperature gradient to move the air then see about doing so. If it’s going to be heat driven, use a heat exchanger and duct the warm air around the house and draw cold air from underneath to keep the air recirculating.

    Even if it’s cold, aspiration will dry your clothes.

  49. 149
    Harmen says:

    “350 asap?”
    sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?
    If one has to reduce this to a slogan, there has to be a better one.”

    How about?
    350 quick!!!…
    uuuhm..probably not…:)

    The point is that short term targets are crucial in dealing with climate change….That is why i also endorse the 10:10 campaign..

    Cutting 10 % of emissions in 2010.
    http://www.1010uk.org/

    We need to agree targets for next year rather than for 2020 in Copenhagen.

  50. 150

    Chip #122: every reference I’ve found shows some benefit to plants from more CO_2 but that benefit is not uniform and is offset by other problems like the effects of raised temperature, or reduced nutritional content of plants.

    Here are a few negatives to contemplate:

    reduced defences against predators
    weeds benefit more from elevated CO_2 than food crops
    elevated CO_2 reduces protein levels of food crops
    C4 photosynthesis (typical of warm climate grain-crop grasses) is not aided much by increased CO_2 e.g. maize (corn to Americans)

    This is just a small sampling, and stuff I can get from home without going via my university library. To claim that CO_2 is a largely unmitigated gain is pure ignorance. The studies I’ve found making that claim are pretty old, or written by people with an agenda. There is plenty of evidence that elevated CO_2 is not a sufficiently strong benefit to offset the downsides, even without adding in climate change. Grasses are our single biggest family of food crops, and a substantial fraction of the economically important varieties evolved for relatively low CO_2. Add in climate change and there is really no case for hyping up CO_2.


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