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Unforced Variations: Feb 2015

Filed under: — group @ 7 February 2015

This month’s open thread.

534 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Feb 2015”

  1. 101
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    BPL#77,

    “But the way to get total emissions down surely involves lowering the fraction as part of the solution. We don’t want the fraction to go up, or even stay the same. I agree that endless energy production growth is neither achievable nor desirable, but cutting the total is only part of the solution, just as cutting the FF fraction is.”

    One more time. The fraction is irrelevant. From the biosphere’s perspective, all that matters is reducing the FF trajectory, including those non-FF usage carbon emissions triggered as part of the positive feedback (e.g., methane from thawing of the tundra and from heating of the hydrates on the Siberian shelves). The fraction will result from how the FF reduction is accomplished. It could be essentially unity, and would still be acceptable if it reflected hard demand reduction. Keep your eye on the ball, which is the absolute amount of GHG going into the atmosphere.

  2. 102

    #95, 98, 99–Yep, me too, to all of the above.

  3. 103
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Barton Paul Levenson says, “BPL: No. The slower we emit, the more time we have to stop emitting altogether.”

    Killian replies, “Says who?”

    Says physics. Try learning some.

  4. 104
  5. 105
    steve Fish says:

    Jasper is baiting us with a straw man argument. What he is not doing is arguing about the value of various renewable energy technologies and strategies, which often causes problems on this forum. Instead, Jasper’s primary underlying argument is that the lack of a major societal shift away from fossil energy predicts that nothing will be done in the future. I am not willing to debate this contention and neither should you all because it is off topic and a straw man argument because nobody can predict future societal behavior. Politicians can’t, economists can’t, sociologists can’t, and Jasper can’t. It may go as he says but big societal changes have happened in the past, so a shift from fossil energy could proceed at varying intermediate rates, or the shift might happen abruptly and quickly. Arguing this question is just plain dumb and his trolling it here is an example of doomer climate denial.

    Steve

  6. 106
    Chris Dudley says:

    If you miss your usual browser tools in the pop-up, opening the pop-up link in a new tab gives you text search.

  7. 107
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Steve#105,

    “Jasper is baiting us with a straw man argument.”

    In other words, you are not able to respond to the two points I raised in #60, so you label them with the dismissive term of straw man. You obviously cannot point to any meaningful FF reduction so far, mainly because there has been none. What’s worse, you are not able to identify what the strategic analysts call Early Warning Indicators of future FF reduction, so you dismiss it with the phrase “nobody can predict future societal behavior.” Hogwash! The major governmental and industrial predictive organizations are all in agreement that FF use will rise a significant amount for the forseeable future, based on developing countries wanting to achieve first world status, and first world countries wanting to improve as well. Non-FF sources will increase faster on a percentage basis, but FF will increase significantly in absolute terms. I find it interesting that people on this blog will quote the ‘97% of climate scientists support AGW’ statistic, to bolster the argument that we should listen to the experts, yet they refuse to accept the future projections of the government and industrial organizations who do this sort of projection full time with massive experts and resources. It’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen, and nobody here, or on any other blog, has come up with any ideas on how to alter the situation.

    [Response: Well, you might not like them or think them practical, but lots of people have come up with lots of ideas to alter the situation. I suggest that rather than insisting that these don’t exist, you actually get specific about something. Otherwise your comments will (if they haven’t already) start to get a little tedious. – gavin]

  8. 108
    Wonderer says:

    @105/Fish; As it seems to be possible to predict climate response to (rising) CO2 concentrations, might it be possible to predict the velocity/inertia of societies response (capability in time) to a slow but continuos moving exponentiential threat?

  9. 109
    Killian says:

    #67 SecularAnimist says:
    12 Feb 2015 at 11:39 AM

    Killian wrote: “Geo-engineering = mitigation = OT”

    Ray Ladbury replied: “Geoengineering actually has a lot of interesting science associated with it …”

    I think the distinction is that geoengineering has a lot of interesting climate science associated with it.”

    As Jasper pointed out, and I have said for several years, you cannot separate the two. Soil biology IS climate science, e.g., or shall I tell the Arctic-centered scientists to stop studying methanogenesis?

    Get real, dude.

    “the maintainers and moderators of this site have no particular expertise in the technology and economics of “decarbonizing” the electricity supply, and that is not what this site is about.”

    That’s a great reason for them to be exposed. As Jasper also pointed out, accurate soil biology, again as an e.g., would improve models. Regenertive farming affects the atmosphere. It *is* climate science.

    Your problem, and that of many here, is one of the Ivory Tower. If it’s not in a lab or not pure tech, screw it. This is irrational, dangerous, foolish at this point.

    These are all one huge system. (No, I do not think the planet is “alive.”) Soil, farming, forestation, energy production…. it is all climate science.

    “On the other hand, “geoengineering” as that term is commonly used refers to ways of deliberately manipulating the Earth’s climate system, for example by deliberately altering the content of the Earth’s atmosphere, the Earth’s albedo, etc. in order to offset anthropogenic warming. So climate science is very relevant to that sort of geoengineering, and geoengineering seems an appropriate topic for this site.”

    See above. This is a distinction with no difference. You think reforesting the Amazon is not geo-engineering? You think putting yards-deep, richly organic soils back in the Plains is not geo-engineering?

    Bias is what that is.

    #68 Jasper said, “We need to focus on problem-solving, and address mitigation in the larger context of climate science.”

    Frankly, I’m agog this conversation hasn’t been shut down. Either the guys are distracted or they’re finally hearing this. God knows I’ve been saying it for years here.

    Here’s some excellent climate science:

    “Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term “regenerative organic agriculture.”

    These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect”

    Now, who wants to try to claim that using the Earth System to draw down 100% of current emissions should not be in climate models? Isn’t that equal to NOT adding at least 2.5ppm per year to the atmosphere, minimum? It’s the semi-mythical “…end all emissions today.”

    While electric vehicles are a complete mirage that buys us no time whatsoever, this is a *solution* that at minimum stops increasing emissions in its tracks and really does buy us time. Not a lot, imo, because things are more advanced than most think, even with all the recent papers basically echoing what I’ve said to you all for years (Mann’s 2C by 2036, e.g.), but if rates of change can be at least stalled so that the rate stays stable for a while, then, yes, that’s a real assist, potentially.

    How is this not climate science?

    There is literally nothing but the desire and will to do so keeping us from turning all gardening and farming to regenerative systems. It is simple, simple, simple. Five years is doable. Ten years far more time than is necessary. No more GHG increases in five to ten years? How insane NOT to be modeling that in order to get people to see it can be done!

    This is climate science, whether your Ivory Tower allows you to see that or not.

  10. 110
    Killian says:

    #77 Barton Paul Levenson says, “Jaynes-san, you are correct that total emissions matter as well as the fraction. Quite true. But the way to get total emissions down surely involves lowering the fraction as part of the solution. We don’t want the fraction to go up, or even stay the same.”

    All correct. We all agree. The point is changing to EV’s or hybrids affects these numbers trivially, while the resource consumption and psychological effect of “Oh! Look at me and how much I’ve done! Your turn!” are massive. All the while, even EVs currently measure as a 25% improvement in the best case scenario. This is trivial in the grand scheme of things, particualrly when other approaches (regenerative farming/gardening) can sequester 100% of all emissions, period, and can’t even be discussed.

    This is… odd.

    Cars, of any kind, are problems, not solutions.

    #96 Barton Paul Levenson mislead thusly, “BPL: No. The slower we emit, the more time we have to stop emitting altogether.

    K: Says who? That’s some poor risk assessment, right there.

    BPL: Says me, pal. I’m the most alarmist of the alarmist, and my own research tells me that the time of social collapse depends critically on the rate at which emissions grow. The slower they grow, the more time we have. If you dispute that, then show your work.”

    If I had disputed that, perhaps I would, but I didn’t:

    Me, same post you referenced, “So, no, mileage doesn’t matter. It makes no significant impact long-term, yet allows the transition off of cars to go on and on and on…. heck, who is talking about no cars at all? Almost nobody.”

  11. 111
    Killian says:

    #97 Kevin McKinney says, “Killian said:

    KM “The problem with that, of course, is that if (in E.M. Forster’s phrase) ‘the machine stops’, then enormous numbers of people just die. As they say, “not on!””

    K “Nobody is talking about the sort of cliff-like end to any processes you imply.”

    “Well, it truly seems to me that that ‘cliff-like end’ is just what *you* are demanding.”

    I demand nothing. Nature determines, I design, I follow. This is not a trivial distinction.

    “So perhaps you may wish to reconsider your ‘messaging”

    The problem is not my messaging, it’s not being allowed to go in-deoth on these issues here. You want a plan for world salvation in previously OT posts where just trying not to get your posts round filed was a primary goal?

    “spend less time misinterpreting me, and more time trying to say clearly just what it is that you think.”

    I thin aforestation, reforestation, localization, regenerative farming/gardening are pretty clear.

    “I’ve read, with interest and admiration, many of your past points about trees and sustainable ag and all that. I’m all for that. But I don’t recall seeing anything that let me know with any clarity, just how those things would stop fossil fuel emissions in the near term”

    Addressed above.

    “In the meantime, as you say, time is short if not ‘out.’ And what I see decreasing FF emissions now is renewables.”

    Renewables aren’t renewable, so building out a massive, unsustainable energy framework is just plain silly. That’s exceedingly poor planning. All the more so when, e.g., in the U.S. we already get more than 10% of our power from wind, solar and hydro. Given the Perfect Storm is a *consumption* problem that has created the climate disruption and resource depletion issues, how about we take the doctor’s advice and just stop doing that? Save those resources for later rather than wasting them on a mirage of sustainability.

    “I’ve tried to articulate just why that is, only to be, er, poorly received–with accusations from Jasper, and with logical circles from you.”

    No circles, you are, as you said, just not getting it.

    “Don’t believe that last? Well, as one example, I pointed out that I wasn’t talking about ‘sustainability’ per se. You said, essentially, I should have been”

    I think I said you were and didn’t realize it.

    “…without you ever engaging in the narrower question that I was addressing, which was the IMO erroneous assertion that ‘clean energy’ somehow requires the ‘continued use’ of FF. Trivially true, if by that you mean in the short term, but ultimately false.”

    Your assertion is false. All “renewables” currently use FFs in their cradle-to-grave processes. In fact, in pretty much the whole process. Show me a single turbine or panel that doesn’t include parts requiring FFs to manufacture in some way or other.

    I have tried and cannot imagine a truly sustainable wind generator. Perhaps if you could get all but the copper and magnets out of the windmill, like all wood, e.g., then maybe. But that is the thinking we need to be engaging in. At this time, it’s all a massive lie: They are not sustainable. Period. This is prima facie and I’m frankly tired of the debate here since all of you eventually admit this is true, then employ a huge, “…but…”

    One does not design a civilization on what *might* be achieved at some unknown horizon point. One designs on what is, and hopes for what might be. And when that opportunity for sustainable abundance comes, go for it. Until then, employ strong risk assessment and apply the Precautionary Principle.

    As I said in a previous comment, if you want to keep your cars – and let’s be honest, this is what all the braying against natural mitigation is about, dreading lifestyle changes – then stop advocating for those and start advocating for localized, regenerative farming and gardening. That can wipe out ALL emissions, thus buying that mythical time nature may or may not have waiting.

    Maybe then you can all hold onto your precious lifestyles a few more decades. Of course, then we’re back to collapse due to resource issues, so… maybe just simplify and get it over with?

  12. 112
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    http://collapseofindustrialcivilization.com/2015/01/15/on-the-supersonic-track-to-extinction/
    ” In 2005, Lee R. Kump and fellow scientists published a paper describing what would become known as the Kump hypothesis, implicating hydrogen sulfide (H2S) as the primary culprit in past mass extinctions. According to OSHA, “a level of H2S gas at or above 100 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health.” Prior to Kump’s study, the working theory had been that some sort of singular, cataclysmic event such as an asteroid strike was to blame for all mass die-offs, but Kump and colleagues proposed that a global warming-induced asphyxiation via hydrogen sulfide gas(H2S) was to blame for snuffing out life under the sea, on the land, and in the air. In past mass extinctions, volcanic eruptions and thawing methane hydrates created greenhouse-gas warmings that culminated in the release of poisonous gas from oxygen-depleted oceans. Humans with their fossil fuel-eating machines are unwittingly producing the same conditions today. The Kump hypothesis (elevated CO2 with lowering O2 levels) is now regarded as the most plausible explanation for the majority of mass extinctions in earth’s history:”

    How credible is the Kump Hypothesis?

  13. 113

    Anyone know of any more recent papers on the multiple climate equilibria idea advanced at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/2010JCLI3580.1 by Ferreira, Marshall, and Rose? If there is evidence, any estimates on rates of transition, either from paleoclimate work or dynamical theory?

  14. 114
  15. 115
    Killian says:

    #100 Chris Dudley said, “Killian (#93),

    Again, you seem very out of touch with what is going on.”

    I cannot respond to this in any way that could be considered polite, so I won’t bother trying: Pull your head out of your butt.

    1. Did I say there were no HSR projects in the US?

    No. What’s wrong with your head?

    2. Does me saying we need to build out “faster than a demon” in any way = there is none happening?

    No. What is wrong with your head?

    3. Does the planning currently in place come within more than a tiny fraction of what is needed to get us out of cars, or equal a rate reflected by “faster than a demon?”

    No. What is wrong with your head?

    This is what happens when you get uppity and personal when over-matched, rather than just discussing what needs discussing.

  16. 116

    “I have tried and cannot imagine a truly sustainable wind generator. Perhaps if you could get all but the copper and magnets out of the windmill, like all wood, e.g., then maybe.”

    Wow. Are you really saying that sustainability requires going back to the Bronze Age (ie., steel is not to be considered ‘sustainable’?)

  17. 117
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jasper Jaynes — 14 Feb 2015 @ 3:24 PM, ~#107

    Your comment stating- “Hogwash! The major governmental and industrial predictive organizations are all in agreement that FF use will rise a significant amount for the forseeable future …” -highlights your troll. All estimates you mention are based on current trends in demand. The shift that is required for anything constructive to be done is in societal attitudes, which cannot be predicted.

    An extreme example of what I am talking about would be if the general public of developed and developing nations suddenly accepted the science and had an “oh shit” moment with a similar effect as that seen at the start of WWII, all those estimates would be out the window. This topic has been addressed on RC in the appropriate context of science communication, but I think that this is only a very small part of the problem. Get real. Talk science. Stop trolling.

    Steve

  18. 118
    Chris Dudley says:

    Killian (#109),

    You write “No more GHG increases in five to ten years? How insane NOT to be modeling that in order to get people to see it can be done!”

    Again you demonstrate being out of touch. Examine Fig. 2. here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0156-z/fulltext.html

    The IPCC has studied a pathway (RCP 3.0) where carbon dioxide emissions start to fall in 2020, in just 5 years. So, this has been modeled. Perhaps you should read their report.

  19. 119
    Hank Roberts says:

    Killian’s quoting from
    http://rodaleinstitute.org/assets/RegenOrgAgricultureAndClimateChange_20140418.pdf
    Citations to sources (familiar to most readers here) are found in the original document.

  20. 120
    Thomas says:

    Claiming that electric vehicles are not part of the solution is disingenuous at best. What we really need to do climatewise is leave much of the potentially extractable oil in the ground unused. Ditto for coal and gas, but they aren’t going to be discussed in this comment. So in order to leave oil in the ground, we have to dramatically reduce the demand for oil, such that the market price of oil is too low to make extraction profitable. (A carbon tax would help here as well). In any case, a largescale conversion away from oil powered transport is what is required to collapse the oil market. Smallish amounts of liquid fuels can be created either from biological sources, but this won’t scale unless at least 80-90% of the liquid fuel powered vehicles are eliminated. Obviously a daunting task. IMO it is a mistake that the electricity for EVs will have the same carbon intensity as current generation. Many countries/states are transitioning towards high (or even 100%) penetration of renewables, and this transition will require decades, as will the transition to very high rates of EV adoption.

  21. 121
    Chuck Hughes says:

    What I would like is a really good assessment of the next few decades and what we can expect. I’m not into mitigation strategies or geo engineering. I don’t think those methods hold much promise. I am concerned about all the plastic that keeps piling up on land and in the oceans. We have so many serious problems at hand from the acidification of the oceans and mass extinction that I don’t see how we can deal with it all. The best approach would be to tackle the most serious problems first and try to deal with the others as time permits. Arguing back and forth is wasting time. We all have our pet concerns but the question is what should we deal with FIRST?

    I think it starts with the Keeling Curve and trying to change its direction. If we can’t do that nothing else matters. Get that done first and go from there. If we can’t reverse CO2 emissions I don’t think there’s much else to talk about.

  22. 122
    Chris Dudley says:

    Killian (#115),

    If you can’t be polite, don’t write it. Making up quotes is rude too.

    So rail is rolling out much faster than it has in the past. It seems to be going at its technically feasible rate. Are you looking for some demon that is a cousin to Maxwell’s demon, something like Aladdin’s Djinn that can build a palace in a night? You seem to be suffering from magical thinking I think.

  23. 123
    Chris Dudley says:

    Thomas (#119),

    In the US, our method of cutting gasoline consumption is to have the cars get better fuel efficiency. One approach to that is to include EVs, PEHVs and hybrids in the mix. The auto industry, on the ropes, agreed to making our current rate of improvement. They did not go to court to fight improved CAFE standards since they needed a bailout financially. But now they are making money with the improved CAFE standards. So, apparently their fear of making a change was unjustified. Perhaps it is time to point this out and look at steepening the curve since so many of them are now involved in the improved technology and thus have a clearer view of what is possible.

  24. 124
    Chris Dudley says:

    Killian (#111),

    “I have tried and cannot imagine a truly sustainable wind generator. Perhaps if you could get all but the copper and magnets out of the windmill, like all wood, e.g., then maybe.”

    This statement demonstrated why your imagination fails. You are steeped in ignorance. If you don’t object to copper, why would you object to iron and aluminum? All of these are recyclable materials. If you object to petroleum derived polymers, you can hardly call them a fuel, and is seems clear that polymers can be synthesized directly in any case. You seem to be fully taken in by the oil industry hype that they are necessary for many non-fuel products. They aren’t. Read “Cradle to Cradle” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_to_Cradle:_Remaking_the_Way_We_Make_Things Truly, the pages won’t burn your fingers. You don’t have to be frightened.

  25. 125
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Chuck#121,

    “I think it starts with the Keeling Curve and trying to change its direction. If we can’t do that nothing else matters. Get that done first and go from there. If we can’t reverse CO2 emissions I don’t think there’s much else to talk about.”

    Correct. Unfortunately, our efforts to date to change the Keeling Curve (in the desired direction) have been for naught. Any Early Warning Indicators I have examined offer no promise of any relief for the future. If anything, when the positive feedback mechanisms start kicking in seriously (note that I said ‘when’, not ‘if’), the Keeling Curve and/or its total GHG concentration equivalent, will start accelerating upward.

    There has been nothing tangible offered on this blog that convinces me otherwise. Fish et al fantasize this moment of consciousness awakening when the denizens of the planet enthusiastically support WWII measures to radically alter our FF consumption. Such delusional thinking makes religion look like hard science.

    Chuck, we know what to do, but all the indicators point to action in the opposite direction.

  26. 126
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    I’m having a problem with the terminology being used on this site. For a climate science site, the terminology is quite imprecise. For example we use terms like ‘clean’ energy or ‘renewables’. The energy systems being addressed are neither clean nor renewable. A more accurate description would be e.g. solar-fueled fossil-enabled, or wind-fueled fossil-enabled. This terminology would reflect the real-world requirement for fossil fuel in the system component acquisition, implementation, operation, distribution, and maintenance of these alternative energy production systems.

    The way ‘sustainable’ is being used by most posters, with perhaps the exception of Killian and one or two others, borders on the absurd. Most proposals might allow us to survive for a century or two, if we don’t go extinct before that due to uncontrolled temperature rises and their consequences.

  27. 127
    wili says:

    Kevin McKinney @#116 asked: “Are you really saying that sustainability requires going back to the Bronze Age”

    Well, technically pretty much any form of mining is by definition unsustainable. Now that lots of this has already been mined, much of it can be reused more or less indefinitely, afaics, as long as there is enough energy to work with them.

  28. 128
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Feb 2015 @ 10:31 PM, ~#116

    Your comment regarding Kilian’s assertions about the sustainability of wind machines- “Wow. Are you really saying that sustainability requires going back to the Bronze Age (ie., steel is not to be considered ‘sustainable’?)” suggests a similar question about the sustainability of solar PV for electrical energy. If silicon (for PV cells and the envelope) and aluminum (for the envelope and mounting hardware) are not sustainable, I don’t know what is.

    Steve

  29. 129
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Gavin#107,

    ” Well, you might not like them or think them practical, but lots of people have come up with lots of ideas to alter the situation. I suggest that rather than insisting that these don’t exist, you actually get specific about something.”

    Obviously, reams of ‘ideas’ have been proposed. Most of them remind me of the age-old question: if a tree falls in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The requirements for true sustainability, or anything close to sustainability that would save us from extinction, as e.g. Killian has demonstrated, require sufficiently radical changes in lifestyle that very few would accept. Further, nobody has demonstrated to me that the solar-fueled fossil-enabled or wind-fueled fossil-enabled technologies (mistakenly called clean or renewable energies) can ramp down carbon emissions fast enough to save us from extinction. The credible analyses I have seen on this topic suggest otherwise. Even so, I see very little interest in a large scale of implementing even these dead-end non-sustainable technologies. Do you believe the majorities that have elected Abbott, Harper, Putin, and all-of-the-above Obama into office have any interest in rapid implementation of these misnamed renewables? So, replace ‘ideas’ in my original post with ‘ideas that a large number of people would be willing to implement and would save us from extinction’.

  30. 130
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chuck (#121),

    The two responses to climate change are mitigation and adaptation. Pure mitigation would turn the Keeling Curve as you propose by cutting emissions and then use sequestration of carbon dioxide to bring the concentration in the atmosphere to a safe level. Pure adaptation would continue BAU while doing what we can to get out of the way of the consequences. In terms of Climate Intervention, intentional carbon sequestration counts as mitigation while messing with aerosols is like the Imperial English adaptation of using a parasol in the tropics. It is a mad dog mimicking adaptation thing.

    Thus, what you are really interested in are the early phases of strong mitigation.

  31. 131
    Meow says:

    GISTEMP released 1/2015 GAT today: 0.75 — 2nd largest January anomaly in the record (1/2007 hit 0.93). http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata_v3/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt .

  32. 132

    K, I don’t know, and don’t care, why you hate cars. Your idee fixe that getting rid of cars is necessary to fixing the climate is not true. Yes, mass transit is more efficient. No, getting rid of all cars is not a prerequisite for saving the day. Brazil is, right now, running 100 million cars on sugar cane ethanol. Electric cars can help, too. They are perfectly sustainable if they use non-fossil-fuel electricity. Making steel can be done without fossil fuels, too–I speak as someone who worked at a US Steel plant (Edgar Thomson Works, Braddock PA) for four years. it requires energy, but the energy doesn’t have to come from fossil fuels, or even from fuel.

    JJ, as I said earlier, human emissions are carbon intensity f times total energy production Σ. You can cut emissions by lowering f, lowering Σ, or lowering both. You seem to be contending that it is impossible, or useless, to lower f. I don’t think anyone will, or should, agree with you.

  33. 133
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    BPL#132,

    “You seem to be contending that it is impossible, or useless, to lower f.”

    I don’t contend that at all, nor have I said it. Obviously, it can be done. I contend its value is irrelevant. The value will depend on the approach taken to reduce FF consumption, if in fact we ever decide to reduce FF consumption. But, the fraction is not the goal; the absolute value is the goal.

  34. 134
    Hank Roberts says:

    > mining is by definition unsustainable

    Asteroids abound; we need to learn to steer them; steering them into a capture path follows.

    The dinosaurs had a “sustainable” lifestyle — no copper, no steel, no electricity, no cars. If they had computers, they were entirely made out of wood and none of them survived in the fossil record.

    The dinosaurs, unfortunately for them, didn’t have climate models, nor a space program.

    Without satellites, what would _we_ know, now?

    Life is full of little surprises. Many of them lead to death.

  35. 135
    Wonderer says:

    #126/Jasper Jaynes
    This site is NOT about ‘renewables’ or ‘clean energy’ or ANYTHING in THAT direction – it’s about CLIMATE SCIENCE!
    Even if you claim perspectives worth considering, more and and more the intution grows that You’re trolling. – X-cuse me please (and pls stop that disturbance).
    From my POV, the word ‘sustainable’ on this side reflects to _Stop Using Fossil Fuels_.

  36. 136
    Killian says:

    #116 Kevin McKinney says,”
    “I have tried and cannot imagine a truly sustainable wind generator. Perhaps if you could get all but the copper and magnets out of the windmill, like all wood, e.g., then maybe.”

    Wow. Are you really saying that sustainability requires going back to the Bronze Age (ie., steel is not to be considered ‘sustainable’?)”

    Sure. It’s right there in post #INeverSaidThat.

    Have we not been over the very high recyclability of steel and other metals? Steel is not the issue. The recycling of steel and building the recycling factories for steel, etc., is the issue. What *your* simplified community uses or doesn’t use will depend completely upon your resource analysis.

    My guess is there’s more than enough steel in the world to meet all our needs in a simplified world, given we can recycle it sustainably. Given how little in the way of metals and such we would need in a sustainable world, I’m not real worried about it.

    No more straw men, please.

    #118 Chris Dudley says, “I’m an E2 English Language Learner. Not really. I just have that same level of language skills, so I insult people to make up for it… or out of ignorance. Whatever…”

    Killian (#109),

    You write “No more GHG increases in five to ten years?

    Again you demonstrate being out of touch.

    First of all, I wasn’t out of touch the first time. I rebutted your first insult.

    “The IPCC has studied a pathway (RCP 3.0) where carbon dioxide emissions start to fall in 2020, in just 5 years. So, this has been modeled. Perhaps you should read their report.”

    Note the bolded word. Whereas *I* said, “No more GHG increases in five to ten years?” See, that’s an absolute stop, not the beginning of slowing.

    I taught English communication for eleven years. Happy to help you with your comprehension issues. Your tendency to be rude? Well…

    # 119 Hank Roberts says, “Killian’s quoting from
    http://rodaleinstitute.org/assets/RegenOrgAgricultureAndClimateChange_20140418.pdf
    Citations to sources (familiar to most readers here) are found in the original document.”

    Yup. I’ve posted that so many times, not sure it needs citing every time. Thank you, cause I simply forgot to link it.

    124 Chris… bmade yet another Straw Man argument.

    Who peed in your wheaties, son?

    125 Jasper Jaynes says, “There has been nothing tangible offered on this blog that convinces me otherwise”

    Well, that’s just not true. Mecahnisms have been shared. Also, the number of people involved in restorative/regenerative ag is growing far faster than even just a few years ago. So, that tipping point may have already been hit, but still be in the early stages.

    #128 Steve Fish says, “If silicon (for PV cells and the envelope) and aluminum (for the envelope and mounting hardware) are not sustainable, I don’t know what is.”

    Correct, you just don’t know. You don’t accept a sane definition of sustainable, so you can’t understand what is being suggested. But first, let’s dispense with this straw man that said any specific materials are unsustainable. I have not. *Technically*, there are losses in any conversion process, so techinically any limited resource is *ultimately* unsustainable over N years.

    But practically, the amount of most highly recyclable materials we have is already sufficient, so the question becomes one of the recycling process. Is that sustainable? Nope. Thus, the metals aren’t, either.

    Whether you are talking about a nut, a bolt, a window, a magnet, a building…. water. No matter what you are talking about, to be sustainable it must meet these criteria:

    * Naturally unlimited (water) or highly recyclable w/ enough material extant already to essentially be unlimited.

    * Rates of use must be within the ability of the planet to provide it, or with our help in speeding up succession BUT via the same principles found in Nature.

    * Able to be cycled indefinitely, i.e. so long as humans exist.

    These seems extreme, but it’s not. It seems that way because few of you are willing to accept a simplified existence. You want your EVs, coffee shops, computers, what have you. Living in a world where virtually every home grows food, power is used almost not at all, buildings require little or no heating, communities own and manage (many/most) resources together, these things freak you out.

    And on and on. You are not beginning with what the planet can provid, you are beginning with what you can conceive of and what you want. Until you shift to a resources, systems-based view of planning, you will continue to flail against these simple realities.

    I love driving. Love the freedom of movement. Enjoy technology. Am rather uncoordinated and limited by having one eye so cannot, literally cannot, saw straight, etc., so physical labor is not always comfortable for me. So a technocopian future would be AWESOME.

    But the planet can’t support it, so…

    #127 wili says, “Well, technically pretty much any form of mining is by definition unsustainable. Now that lots of this has already been mined, much of it can be reused more or less indefinitely, afaics, as long as there is enough energy to work with them.”

    Must always remember the recycling process *also* has to be sustainable. I know of no sustainable way to build a factory at this time. Maybe 3-D printers can help with some of this…. but then how do you make the 3-D printer sustainable…?

    #132 barton paul levenson says, “K, I don’t know, and don’t care, why you hate cars.”

    LOL… yup, I’ve said that, Sir Straw.

    “Your idee fixe that getting rid of cars is necessary to fixing the climate is not true.”

    Yeah, it absolutely is. Cables, wires, glass, chrome, nuts, bolts, rubber, and all the probably thousands of parts in a vehicle… right, they’re all sustainably made. And the factories for all those parts are sustainably made. And the mining/growing/extraction of the raw materials is sustainable in every case.

    And, we can build millions of cars forever and never run out of any of these materials…

    BPL, you are scared of a sustainable future, straight up.

    BPL, your problem is addressed above, and it is mental and emotional: Denial. You won’t accept a rational definition of sustainability, so you can offer no rational discussion on the issue.

    “Brazil is, right now, running 100 million cars on sugar cane ethanol. Electric cars can help, too. They are perfectly sustainable if they use non-fossil-fuel electricity.”

    You have no understanding of “sustainable.”

    “Making steel can be done without fossil fuels”

    Whole lifecycle, ore to consumption? Bull.

  37. 137
    Killian says:

    #135 Wonderer says, “From my POV, the word ‘sustainable’ on this side reflects to _Stop Using Fossil Fuels_.”

    Then I suppose blue = yellow, for it makes as much sense.

  38. 138
    Chris Dudley says:

    #127,

    “Well, technically pretty much any form of mining is by definition unsustainable.”

    This is a misunderstanding of sustainability. All of our refined aluminum, while useful to us, is an absolute gift to future generations. Our iron, copper, beryllium, lithium and titanium as well.

    The kind of mining that is not sustainable is the kind where the mined product is used up. Coal, oil, gas, uranium are all depletable and the use can’t be sustained. But a steel car is just a steel girder in waiting.

    Now, there are mining practices that are not sustainable because they leave so much poison behind, but they don’t, in principle, have to be.

  39. 139
    MartinJB says:

    Killian, in your vision for how the world should be run, are we generating any electricity or using any of the energy systems currently in existence? I just can’t tell from your posts here. Thanks!

  40. 140
    Chris Dudley says:

    BPL (#132),

    “Yes, mass transit is more efficient.”

    This is mostly not the case weighted geographically. Most places where there are some people would not be more efficiently served by mass transit. Routes just would not have the ridership to fill a bus. Driving an empty bus around wastes fuel. There are some locations where new mass transit does make a lot of sense. You can usually tell those by the terrible traffic congestion they experience. High speed rail corridors can be another help when there is existing highway and air traffic they can replace. But mass transit is not a cure all. Once autonomous vehicles are standard, it is likely that ad hoc formations that can beat down air resistance and also cooperatively make traffic flow well will start to be part of the mix. This might be the best next step for improved efficiency.

  41. 141
    sidd says:

    I strongly agree with Prof. Pierrehumbert that those albedo modification schemes are barking mad. However, I doubt mitigation of any kind can be fruitfully discussed on this forum without dictatorial moderation.

    Nothing wrong with dictatorial moderation per se, but it actually takes a fair degree of time and engagement on the part of the dictators, all of whom have much better things to do.

    Perhaps, instead of specific mitigation techniques, we could talk about RCPs and fossil carbon emission profiles, and the arguments of the alarmists vs the comatose could play out in that arena …

    sidd

  42. 142
    wili says:

    I wrote: “mining is by definition unsustainable”

    To which Hank: “Asteroids abound; we need to learn to steer them; steering them into a capture path follows.”

    My apologies. How could I possibly forget that in our bright Star Trek future, there will be no limits to anything at all anywhere.

    And we, in our brilliant sapience, have earned and deserve this bright future–since we have taken such wonderfully good care of this planet and of all the creatures on it, we are obviously the exactly right species to be trusted with the tender loving care of other planets, asteroid, and other such extraterrestrial orbs and anything that may be on them.

  43. 143
    Chuck Hughes says:

    The dinosaurs had a “sustainable” lifestyle — no copper, no steel, no electricity, no cars. If they had computers, they were entirely made out of wood and none of them survived in the fossil record. ~ Hank Roberts

    Sez you! I happen to have one of the old wooden computers formerly owned by T-Rex. Bought it at a flea market in Mississippi. Apparently you don’t keep up with the Flintstones.

    I tried to answer you earlier and the message disappeared. Must be this computer.

  44. 144
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Wonderer#135,

    “This site is NOT about ‘renewables’ or ‘clean energy’ or ANYTHING in THAT direction – it’s about CLIMATE SCIENCE!”

    If I peruse the 135 posts on this thread (so far), I would estimate perhaps 30-40% could be categorized as related somewhat to climate science, using the most liberal definition of climate science. Perhaps 10% would be related to a hard definition of climate science, where the science is actually discussed.

    Most of the non-climate science articles focus on promotion of misnamed renewables/clean energy. Those posters are never accused of trolling, even though that’s their modus operandi in thread after thread. Posts like mine that question the efficacy of these misnamed mitigation approaches tend to get the label ‘trolling’, mainly from the ‘renewables’ promoters. That’s starting to get old; change your tune!

  45. 145

    K: BPL, you are scared of a sustainable future, straight up.

    BPL: And you reproach others here for being rude? Physician, heal thyself.

    If you can’t stick to the issues, why don’t you take a walk? Nobody cares for your insults.

  46. 146
    wili says:

    CD at #138. Thanks for making my point, though your terminology seems a bit off.

    _Re-use_ of _already-mined_ material, if energy is available to do so, can in some case be reused nearly indefinitely and so could be arguably called sustainable, a point I already made.

    But by definition, the act of mining is unsustainable–it cannot be sustained indefinitely since there is a limited amount of whatever it is you are mining in the ground.

    Why is that so hard to admit? It seems essentially tautological to me.

    But yes, mining of things that you then burn is doubly (or exponentially??) un-sustainable.

    (But Hank has a handy answer for that…mine the stars!…or the planets, or their moons, or asteroids, or whatever we can lay our hands on and despoil, just as we have done so cunningly here on the home planet.)

  47. 147

    #136, Killian–“No more straw men, please.”

    See, this kind of comment is what wastes time and clouds issues. How can a question be a ‘straw man?’ I want to know whether steel is, or is not, to be considered ‘sustainable’ by you, Killian O’Brien. I think it’s an important question because you repeatedly state that *everything* about item X must be sustainable, for that item to be sustainable. But I don’t understand what that means FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE in relation to renewable energy generally, or in the example of wind turbines specifically. And I’d like to understand your thinking, though you don’t make it easy, background in English communication or not. (Too much extraneous verbiage, often rude or mocking, and a tendency toward general principles without sufficient illustration to really form a context with concrete meaning for the reader, IMO.)

    From my perspective, I see little about a wind turbine that is not ‘sustainable’ over timespans of, say, a couple of centuries. Steel comes in because it accounts, by far, for the biggest mass of material involved. As you say, that steel is highly recyclable, and very long-lived. Chris (#138) makes the point that the same is true for the other metals involved in modern turbine designs, from the common, like copper, to the rare, like the neodymium that reduces parasitic electrical load, and it certainly ties in with your point #2: “… enough material extant already to essentially be unlimited.” Information about the composites used in blades is harder to come by, but many of the basic materials could meet the criterion as well (like glass-related materials such as fiberglass, which as noted are essentially sand.) If we succeed in decarbonizing the energy supply, then I think the ‘sustainability’ of wind turbines according to your general criteria would be pretty good. And, of course, those turbines are an important tool for doing just that, and one that, also as noted above, is having a discernible impact in lowering emissions today.

    Clearly, you differ. OK. But questions arise: for instance, you’ve stated above that we should build mass transit with ‘demonic’ speed. I think there could be value in doing that, and have actively worked to support transit where I live. But: what about all the steel involved there? The amounts are massive. What about all the “…Cables, wires, glass, chrome, nuts, bolts, rubber, and all the probably thousands of parts in a [transit] vehicle,” in your words. OK, maybe they are more ‘energy efficient’ than private autos. But wouldn’t they fail the sustainability test you propose, if wind turbines do?

    And how do you propose to power those transit systems? Not trying to do a ‘gotcha’ here; I really would like to know what your idea is on this, and from what you’ve written so far it seems a fairly glaring contradiction. Similarly for the internet, which you’ve stated elsewhere–I think somewhere in this piece, but I may be mistaken about that–you’d want to see retained. How are you going to power it? And what about all those unsustainably-produced components? Especially if we don’t (continue to) decarbonize energy?

    I also have questions about a couple of other aspects. One is the emissions reduction potential of sustainable ag and reforestation. There is no doubt that the Rodale piece that both you and Hank have linked contains encouraging information. But it also acknowledges that the figures are based upon extrapolation of a relatively small number of sites. (Indeed, that’s why Rodale is doing what responsible researchers do, and mounting more projects to learn more about this aspect.) I don’t mean to cast cold water here, but can we really afford to bet everything on this possibility?

    And that’s neglecting the problems of actual implementation. OK, I know that many of the practices do not have large practical barriers. But agriculture as it is is enormous, and a lot of it is controlled by large multinationals. Given that it took a couple of decades to (mostly) educate people on basic practice to avoid getting HIV/AIDS, do you really think that you’re going to do markedly better in spreading the gospel of sustainable ag? Don’t get me wrong; I’ll gladly help. But I don’t see rapid, complete mitigation down this road. (And please don’t tell me that you didn’t say that, if I’ve got it wrong; just tell me straight what you do think.)

    Lastly, let me say straight out one thing that I think: I think that decarbonizing energy is necessary, but not sufficient. That is, if we don’t do so, we’ll have unacceptable losses from climate change and social collapse–loss of life and loss of cultural heritage (which latter for me, at least, is an extremely important component) and so on. I don’t (so far–I’m willing to listen) believe that anything you or the Transition Town folks propose so far is going to avoid such a collapse, because I find the social/technological models proposed to be drastically underdeveloped (so far–though I think the effort is laudable and maybe necessary for the longer term.) So at this point, I think we need to manage the next century. We’re not going to avoid all climate change, we’re not going to avoid significant damage to the planet and to the human community, but I think we can still limit that damage, quite possibly in ways that will avoid complete collapse.

    It’s bit like an emergency medical situation. Right now, we’ve got to stop the bleeding, or we won’t have time to deal with the underlying pathologies.

    Which brings us to the ‘not sufficient’ part. I think just about everybody on this site would agree that there are limits to growth; anything else is mathematically ludicrous. Discerning just what they are is harder. But it has to be done for long-term ‘sustainability’. And the implications will more than likely (IMO) mean that the culture of unlimited abundance be junked, as you demand. So far, I’m not completely convinced by your answers, but I do think that you are posing valuable questions. Hopefully, I am, too.

  48. 148
    Killian says:

    #139 MartinJB says, “Killian, in your vision”

    Let’s be clear, not my vision. That’s now how it works. We work from First Principles, not wishes, wants and delusions. The phrases “design in place” and “Let the space determine design; don’t impose design, let it emerge” should make this clear.

    “for how the world should be run”

    No should. That indicates imposition of design. The design is emerging, as it should, and the parameters have gotten so tight that the solutions are now fairly limited, thus perhaps giving the impression of dogma when, instead, it’s the design choices that remain. When I say things like, “what must be,” this is what I mean. We are very, very constrained in our choices at this point, but as you can see, even here in the comments ar RealClimate, people have a very, very hard time accepting that.

    “are we generating any electricity or using any of the energy systems currently in existence?”

    First, I can’t speak to where you are (in the context of above statements) because I don’t know where that is. Some places can and must stop using much of the energy they have available, other places need some. Effective design is place-based.

    It would be relatively stupid and wasteful to tear down all embedded energy. It takes more resources to build a brand new car than run an old, e.g., so the choice to buy a new car to save the world is rather ironic. I tell everyone to keep their old car and start building a regenerative community where they are so they can have no car at all at some future point. The same applies to the grid. Some aspects of it might be changed as a bridge to sustainability. Perhaps the “smart grid” stuff is worthwhile (I don’t know if it is, just “fer instance”ing here), to help with efficiency while the real goal of getting off all unsustainable power is achieved.

    As I said to someone else, there is no cliff here except in resource consumption. (Though I think we see Nature driving us toward acliff or two.)

    Put simply, if it already exists, make the best (not maximum) use of it you can till it can be replaced or improved, but be very clear on what infrastructure in your location is unsustainable and design/plan for that moment when it will go bye-bye.

    This discussion falls largely under the concept of Appropriate Technology.

    “I just can’t tell from your posts here. Thanks!”

    Hope this helps.

  49. 149
    Killian says:

    [edit – stick to a topic, don’t bicker]

  50. 150
    Chris Dudley says:

    #146,

    “If seven maids with seven mops. Swept it for half a year. Do you suppose,” the Walrus said, “That they could get it clear?”

    So, we mine sand to make solar panels. Is sand so limited that you consider sand mining to be unsustainable? I think your misunderstanding persists. And, as with aluminum, refined silicon is an energy gift to the future since most of the effort is completed and recycling will be very easy.

    What of marble or slate quarries? Gravel pits? Was the stone age unsustainable owing to quarries? Maybe just the obsidian upgrade?

    Was all the iron mining up to now sustainable, but everything after your misunderstanding surfaced unsustainable? Must we limit ourselves to meteorite falls? But wait, that forms the resource of some mines. So those must be sustainable right?