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Forced variations: Apr 2020

Filed under: — group @ 1 April 2020

Open thread for climate solutions.

669 Responses to “Forced variations: Apr 2020”

  1. 651
    David B. Benson says:

    MartinJB @646 — Yes, many of the power reporters have had difficulty with units of energy. Some still do.

    Also, I assure that the price of flow batteries will drop still further, maybe to 60% of current prices.

  2. 652

    I believe I made a math error in the above.  Fission of 1 ton of actinide produces roughly 3 GW-years of heat, not TW-years.

  3. 653
    Ray Ladbury says:

    So, were cyanobacteria “godlike” when they destroyed their own ecosystem? How about yeast in a bottle? Every species alters its ecosystem in some fashion. That we have gone further and been more successful on a very temporary basis doesn’t make us “special”. We’ll go the same route as the cyanobacteria and a new ecosystem will coalesce around the survivors.

  4. 654
    nigelj says:

    Kevin McKinney @643, I have no real argument with your comments. But my point should have been self evident. When I said socialism failed, Im naturally using the dictionary definition of socialism, so a society that is entirely or almost entirely based on communal ownership of the means of production, like the old USSR or China under Mao, or Cuba until recently. Clearly those societies failed overall, notwithstanding they did have some obvious good features, such as health care system in Cuba.

    Societies that come close to socialism in its pure form like modern Venezuela are also a disaster area and only have themselves to blame.

    The examples you quote of modern China, NZ, canada, scandinavia are all “mixed economies” that combine a bit of socialism and capitalism. They work well because they have found an optimal, practical balance that works, the best of both worlds. Im a fan of this model.

    China likes to say its still a socialist country, but its redefining the term for its own political purposes. It combines socialism and capitalism.

    Part of the reason the soviet union failed was because it was a dictatorship, but a large part of the failure was because of the socialist communal ownership system. The trouble is communally owned or shared property tends to be abused and systems stagnate. This is what happened in the Soviet Union and China under Mao. The small number of privately owned farms, sometimes operating on the black market were far more productive and better cared for than the collective farms. Theres history of all this easily googled.

    As I said elsewhere, communal ownership seems to work for certain things like publicly owned healthcare, maybe because doctors and nurses are particularly devoted to their jobs. But communal ownership didnt work terribly well when applied to industry and farming in the Soviet Union and China, according to histories I’ve read. And no doubt you have read.

  5. 655
    nigelj says:

    Killian @640

    “Deal with the issue raised (talking to KM). What’s the carbon footprint and resource footprint for 9 billion Europeans? And who’s gonna pay for those lifestyles?”

    Killian, those European lifestyles are paid for with the hard work and modern thinking of western europeans. They sometimes get resources from poor countries but only because they trade something in return.

    There is nothing stopping poor countries developing renewable energy if they want. They just need to work hard and modernise like western countries have. Studies like Jacobson show the earth has enough resources at least for a moderate level of development.

    Please stop blaming wealthy western economies for the laziness, corruption and backwards systems in many third world countries. Stop expecting wealthy western countries to just give half their wealth to everyone else. Everyone else will bleed the western world dry and squander that wealth and will not share it anyway, in the main.

    IMHO there’s a good case for charity and government level tax payer funded international aid for poor countries if its carefully tied to actual projects. And we need to treat such countries far more fairly. But you are stuck in some sort of adolescent idealism.

  6. 656
    nigelj says:

    Killian @641

    “I contend that solar and wind power could be sustainable, providing we recycle the resource[s], but, unfortunately, some of them are not currently recyclable and the infrastructure to do that does not exist. They are not now, and are never likely to be, fully sustainable as currently built.”

    Sure I agree renewables at large scale, eg wind farms, aren’t highly sustainable as currently built, in many cases anyway. But obviously that has the potential to change. Just because renewables are not all being recycled now doesn’t mean they can’t or wont be. Obviously the technology is still relatively recent, and things take time to develop. BPL already showed you a link showing major progress with the recycling of renewables. And only a fool worries about achieving perfect recycling of every last gram of material.

    “What could potentially be sustainable are small, DIY, localized wind generators that use no cement, no fiberglass and things like recycled alternators for generation and metal from junkyards for fan blades, etc.,”

    Small scale renewables (providing much less generation capacity per person) would use less resources so would last more centuries. They are more sustainable but only in the sense of the base materials lasting a longer time. However small scale and reduced electricity use means we change our lifestyles a lot, and this only delays the point where humanity runs out of some resources and are forced back to a simpler lifestyle, perhaps completely without electricity. It does not solve any fundamental problems. And you have repeatedly told us indigionous cultures without electricity have a better lifestyle anyway. So your views are somewhat perplexing.

    “Since we can make buildings passive solar, we actually need very little electricity and can ration any unsustainable power generation for things like health care, R&D labs, etc.”

    Yes, this has more merit for a many reasons including both environmental and lower running costs and prioritising use. However there are a few problems that place some limits around it. We have millions of existing homes that are not passive solar and have decades to a century of life left in them. This is another reason why ‘simplification’ might be a bit slower than Killian would like.

    And building passive solar homes generally costs more than conventional homes due to the need for substantial heat sinks, trombe walls, large areas of glazing, double glazing, high levels of insulation and the like. But I do not wish to put people off. Its DEFINITELY worth considering, just that it might take quite a while to become the norm. It would be great if governments offered people a few incentives to build like this.

    Passive solar also depends an awful lot on the actual local regional and micro climate. In the exact right climate you can make passive solar work incredibly well, but not in really cold cloudy climates because there’s not enough solar gain, so it needs an awful lot of additional heating, and in tropical climates you cant keep that really hot air out much, so still end up needing air conditioning, although this doesn’t use a lot of power or use of materials.

    So I come back to what I said about two years ago. Things like passive solar power and local generation have merit, but are not a quick or easy fix or replacement for centralised renewables at reasonable scale.

  7. 657
    nigelj says:

    Killian @647, says:

    “Socialism has failed time and time again.”

    “Name it. Russia? Not socialism. China? Not socialism. Cuba? Not socialism….Buy the goddamned clue, already.’

    The old USSR and China under Mao were socialist, in the sense that the means of production was mostly community owned (the dictionary version of socialism, which sometimes also uses the terms publicly owned or state owned). Most people call them socialist or communist countries. They didn’t do very well, and the system was abandoned.

    Modern Russia is capitalist with a little bit of socialism added on in terms of public services, and modern China combines capitalism and socialism. Scandinavia combines capitalism and socialism as well (quite a successful model).

    Refer to my response to KM.

  8. 658
    Mal Adapted says:

    Kevin McKinney:

    Oh God, the pride of man
    Broken in the dust again!

    (Hamilton Camp, though the voice in my head singing it is Gordon Lightfoot’s.)

    Yes, Lightfoot’s cover has stayed with me since 1966, when my brother brought home his self-titled first LP. Lightfoot’s ringing baritone still gives me chills – y’all should take a listen at the link. Obligatory earworm warning! OTOH, it’s great for singing in the shower.

    Camp, a devout Christian, presumably was inspired by the Book of Proverbs, which says (KJV):

    Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

    He may also have drawn on the recent horror of H-bombs and ICBMs, as expressions of our overweening pride (slightly rephrased by Lightfoot):

    Those who put their faith in fire, in fire their faith shall be repaid
    Oh God, the pride of man, broken in the dust again

    Regardless of their inspiration, the job of singers and poets is to call out our instinct for unwarranted self-congratulation. They speak to theists and atheists alike. In the latter view it isn’t God’s judgment that may well leave us broken in the dust again, but the all-too-predictable, impersonal consequences of our failure to reckon with externalities. God is an acceptable metaphor, however:

    Turn around, go back down, back the way you came
    Shout a warning to the nations that the sword of God is raised

    Now, that’s what I’m talking about 8^)! But God or no God, the result is the same: lethal daily wet-bulb temperatures (any year now in Babylon) will kill you just as dead as any freakin’ sword.

  9. 659
    nigelj says:

    Zebra @644 says

    “This business about pride or hubris just doesn’t register with me, because they are simply manifestations of monkey-nature; the internal hierarchical ordering of human society that matters to individuals. Nothing to do with “Dominion over nature”; everything to do with Authoritarian psychology. Extractionists like the Kochs care about power and control over other humans, not the resources; that’s just a means to the end.”

    No. The Kochs are not authoritarians. They are libertarians. Big distinction. Read the book “Dark Money”.

    Authoritarians are not just control freaks, they are people that desperately need guidance from leaders preferably populist leaders. Authoritarians are followers by nature even if they also like to control others. Many of Trumps supporters are authoritarians as is Trump himself, although he is a complicated character hard to categorise, and full of amazingly stupid ideas.

    This authoritarianism does not really describe the Koch Brothers. They have no particular obsession with power and control over people per se, or sucking up to populist leaders. Instead they just want personal wealth and freedom from any constraints. They HATE governments, especially big governments, and particularly governments that try to regulate business.

    However good comments apart from that.

  10. 660
    nigelj says:

    I’m a bit nervous about calling humans god like. However humans are clearly very intelligent and imaginative on the whole compared to animals, and also have a wide range of moderately well developed senses where animals tend to be specialists. Humans are talented generalists and multi taskers.

    But we are not fundamentally different to animals. Nobody can show me evidence that animals don’t have some rudimentary form of consciousness and don’t think or feel or have considerable information processing abilities. Ravens are intelligent and able to solve complicated puzzles because like humans they have large brains in proportion to body size.

    It would be great to see how far our human aptitudes could take us, what more things we can discover, questions we can answer, and what problems we can solve, and working at deflecting asteroids and preventing ice ages (although there probably aren’t enough fossil fuels to burn to prevent more than one more ice age Zebra old chap).

    This requires a fairly open society that can move forwards and technology and science that can easily develop further. Collectivist societies and common ownership and technology frozen at some level could be the antithesis of this.

  11. 661

    Mal and IG,

    Thanks, guys.

  12. 662

    E-P 650: vast areas of raptor-chewing, bat-killing whirlygigs, black-rectangle-covered dead zones and clearcuts

    BPL: Straw man much?

  13. 663
    Mal Adapted says:

    Kevin McKinney #643: Nice work. I have nothing to add, except that it seems a number of us vehemently agree with each other 8^D!

  14. 664
    David B. Benson says:

    There is currently some excitement regarding solar PV farms and associated utility-scale batteries, just enough for after hours operations. For details, see
    towards the end.

    There is also battery improvements, see

  15. 665
    nigelj says:

    A distinction should of course be drawn between communism and socialism. The USSR was first and foremost a communist state, that was based on communal ownership combined with an attempt to pay citizens on basis of need and it was a dictatorship, but it had strongly socialist features in terms of communal ownership and so on. Enough to give an indication of the problems of socialism applied at very wide scale.

    There is nothing about the communist system or wide scale socialism that had good environmental outcomes. Quite the reverse. This is a warning for us. Groups of people just don’t self regulate their environmental behaviour adequately, not in communist or capitalist or socialist states. It always seems to need the application of the rule of law and independent environmental agencies like the EPA, although its independence seems missing in action recently.

  16. 666

    n 659: the Koch Brothers. . . HATE governments, especially big governments, and particularly governments that try to regulate business.

    BPL: You do them far too much credit by taking them at their word. They are hypocrites and liars. In Oklahoma they backed a huge increase in instrusive government because it was to put restraints on wind turbines, a direct competitor with their oil business. They have no objection to regulating business when it’s a business they don’t like. As for power and control, read about what happened to native Americans who tried to stand against some of their oil projects. Everything up to and including assassination.

  17. 667
    Killian says:

    The macroeconomics of degrowth: can planned economic contraction be stable?

  18. 668
    David B. Benson says:

    Barton Paul Levenson @662 — Indeed wind turbines do kill bats. The rules should state that wind farms do not operate during bat flying hours, dusk until whenever.

    Raptors quickly learn, the survivors that is, not to attempt to fly in wind farms and a long way down wind. So the field mice are unchecked, ruining the underlying land. I think that the rules ought to require the wind farms in raptor areas not to operate during daylight hours.

  19. 669
    Richard Creager says:

    nigelj @ 660 “However humans are clearly very intelligent and imaginative on the whole compared to animals…” I’m sure you meant OTHER animals. After all, no plants or protists posting here. Too much hubris is this discussion.