Energy

I am no better than George Will. And it sucks.

by John Harvin

“If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas,” supposedly said Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, first woman governor of Texas, in opposing the teaching of foreign languages in Texas schools.  In fact, the college-educated Ferguson probably didn’t say it. But the misquote endures because it captures pretty well one particular segment of the American population – those who are almost always against learning and science, particularly when that science is “inconvenient.”

Whether it’s evolution or landing on the moon or daylight savings time or climate change, there is always a group of people who are just plain agin’ it. It’s a lot of fun for those of us with a smattering of education to make fun of these rubes – at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, you can have your picture taken riding a saddled triceratops. But there are also anti-scientists who aren’t rubes and should know better, like George Will, who has jumped on the climate-change denial bandwagon.

97% percent of scientists around the world believe that climate change is occurring and is at least partially caused by man. According to Wikipedia, every single scientific organization worldwide of any standing has taken the same position.

As for the other 3%, it’s understandable why those who design SUVs and drill for petroleum should be reluctant to admit that global warming is occurring. My client Michael, who retired from Philip-Morris after thirty plus years, only recently acknowledged that smoking might play a role in lung disease.  But why are George Will and my friend Chris, a CEO educated at Oxford and Harvard Business School, climate-change denialists? With George, I assume it is just simple cynical expediency. I’ve done enough big-time public speaking to know the only way to get paid is to tell the audience what it wants to hear and there are audiences for this stuff. George and Rush Limbaugh have mortgages and prescription bills just like the rest of us. (In kind, not in degree.)

With Chris it’s a mystery why he cares so much, but he has invested countless hours cherry picking the data to “prove” that global warming is a data blip.  Is it simply pro-growth reflex?

Who knows? Not that it really matters. Whether George and Chris buy into it or not, overwhelming scientific evidence suggests anyone who asserts man-made climate change is not occurring is either A) a fool or B) completely blinded by self-interest.

The problem is this: I do believe in the climate change science. That takes me out of Category A, thank goodness. But I am pretty sure I am still a climate-change denialist. I am just in Category B.

Don’t get me wrong. At our house, we meticulously sort every bit of garbage for recycling. We compost. I ride public transportation to work.  We have instructed the architect for our new home to install solar panels and a geo-thermal heat pump. Our new refrigerator has the highest energy rating possible. We bought a first-generation hybrid car. We support climate change legislation like the Waxman bill (HR 2998, such as it is).

But the inconvenient truth is we also have three vehicles, including a rather large Audi that my eco-friendly wife drives. We have two houses and are building another (for two people.) We have a television on every floor of both houses, including three flat panels, each of which soaks up as much energy as a refrigerator. We fly to Barbados in the summer and Tahoe in the winter.

In other words, sorting our garbage to reduce our carbon footprint is like pissing into a hurricane. At best, it is naïve and ridiculous tokenism. At worst, it is just a cynical as George Will’s denialism. When Al Gore justifies his massive mansion and fleet of cars by saying he purchases green energy and carbon offsets, that is pure sophistry.

Here’s the bottom line. If reducing global warming depends on reducing carbon emissions, the planet is screwed. Consuming the same amount more efficiently, i.e. driving a hybrid car, is just fiddling around the edges. It’s like obese people who drink diet soda with their fried chicken. In fact, carbon intensity will probably increase going forward, not decrease.   For example, the computer you’re reading this blog on.  That takes energy. In Japan, the hot new items are electric toilets with stool analyzers, heaters and music players in them. That takes energy.  Organic food means fewer chemicals, but often requires far more tillage. That takes energy. Most of the new and wonderful things we routinely incorporate into our lives take more energy than what they replaced.

Is it possible to substitute non-carbon emitting energy sources for those that emit carbon? Yes, but a colleague of mine who is in the business of building windfarms claims that best case, alternative energy will replace 10% of carbon-sourced energy.  Assume the best case: we are able to find enough efficiencies and alternative energy sources to hold steady. It’s not at all clear that holding steady is enough. Reducing carbon emissions per capita would mean consuming less food, less electronics, less transportation.   And that’s just not very likely.

George may be anti-science, but if I believe washing out milk bottles makes up for driving an eight-cylinder Audi to the store to buy milk, I am anti-arithmetic.  My grandkids will be screwed just as badly by my good intentions as by his Know-Nothing-ism. (Note to George. I know the Know-Nothings were really an anti-Catholic party. I’m making a point here, dude.)

Gulp. I am a climate-change denialist, just like Chris. And George. And Rush.

God help me.

_________________

John Harvin is the pseudonym of a prominent business executive and writer. He has traveled and worked in forty countries.

John has written for numerous national and international magazines and journals, and written and had published five books, including one non-fiction bestseller and two novels. (He’s actually written nine books, but that’s a different story.) He writes because it is the only way he can sort through the maelstrom of crap careening around inside his skull and figure out what he really thinks about anything.

When not working or writing, you can find him having dinner with his long-suffering wife, walking the dog, training for triathlons, skiing, ultra-cycling, scuba diving, motorcycle riding, hiking, working on his farm, worrying about his two grown children or yelling at the Cubs on TV. (Open your eyes, Alfonso. It’s a baseball, not a piñata!)

36 replies »

  1. Well, I agree with all you said, and I am just as guilty.I have begun to take some comfort in the simple knowledge that, when we have made the world impossible for humans to survive in, at least those bastards at Goldman-Sachs will go down with us. Screw with my retirement, will you? Then take that!

  2. I’ve been in scientific circles long enough to always doubt the consensus when the data so subject to interpretation. Take nearly any topic and follow the literature over time — you will see complete reversals of consensus over and over again. If our current climate debate had been cast in the 1970s the same organizations and many of the same people would have been warning about global cooling snuffing us out.

    That said, I’m all for being a good steward of the earth. Urban sprawl has slowed in the current economic crisis but it will be back. Whether fossil fuels are heating the earth or not, we have many reasons to reduce our use of the things, both economic and political.

    If we really want to make a positive impact we need to park the cars, leave the cities, and raise just enough food to feed our families. This will take about 18 hours a day without farm equipment and we can expect to be hungry. We will need to use most of the farm land in the US to feed ourselves, and the other 2 billions souls we now feed overseas will be out of luck.

    Recycling is at best a push — aluminum is the only material that actually pays the cost of its recycling, the rest would be cheaper to bury. Did you know that 60% of the volume of land fills is suburban lawn clippings and fallen leaves? We could reduce the load massively just by using mulching mowers and planting evergreens.

    My suspicion is that this is a created crisis to justify cap and trade. Some powerful parties are in place to make trillions over the next 20 years. I’m looking for ways to invest with them, but at the same time we’re cutting down — the geothermal goes in the first week of August. I’d love to drill a gas well but my wife won’t let me. Maybe a windmill, a BIG ONE. Yeah. Even when global warming is no longer talked about a huge windmill would be COOL.

  3. Some people are just contrarians. They argue for the sake of argument. They are consitutionally incapable of simply agreeing. With anything. I think this explains much of the denialist fever going around. Pick your subject: climate change, Libruls, abstinence only sex ed, creationism, gay rights, etc. Some people will argue with anything.

  4. We will consume drastically less electricity and still dramatically increase high-tech industries thanks to the wonderous properties of new materials and processes currently referred to as “nano-technology,” (like graphene.) Electricity will overtake the use of coal, oil, and gas, to the point of complete replacement (although that will take at least a century). Even in the manufacturing of plastics and industrial chemicals – that often use petroleum derivatives as feed stocks – will be shifted over to bioengineered algae, cellulose, and other renewable resources. So if you’re not reading MIT Tech Review, Science Daily, Physorg, E4 Engineering, et. al. on a weekly (if not daily) basis, then how could you possibly know what lies around the corner?

    Put it this way, were you aware in the 1990’s that the descendants of batteries used in the emerging laptop computer would be used to power hybrid and fully electric vehicles (like Prius and the Tesla)? I’m guessing that the answer is “No.” So what exists today that escapes your notice that will transform society?

  5. You’re right. All of the new, shiny gadgets we buy, all of our creature comforts (e.g., electric blankets), even the food we eat takes energy to produce, ship, and operate/consume. The current thinking around reducing carbon is not likely to change things much.

    What I find alarming about your article is that you end with a “so sue me” attitude rather than reaching the conclusion that bigger action is necessary. It should be possible to radically affect mankind’s impact on the planet for the better, but to make that happen is going to take people banding together, not just to take shorter showers, but to push and prod our political system to make big changes to resistant systems.

    I offer the following links as food for thought:

    http://www.alternet.org/story/141260/
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/13/manchester-report-climate-change1
    http://www.esquire.com/features/new-solutions-to-global-warming-0809

  6. Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and Bush et al can tank the world’s economy and you think you can convince me that I have to worry about my carbon footprint while trying to figure out how a retired couple can get by on less than $25,000 a year while renting? Save yourself some energy. Try pissing into the wind instead. At least that way you’ll get your legs warm.

  7. May I offer up a defense of the energy policies of “toilet heaven”, Japan? Japanese houses are small, and rooms are only heated when they are occupied, for most of the day, the single largest “living” or “family” room. Toilet rooms are not heated at all, but a recent innovation is to heat the seat for comfort. Also, because of strong antipathy to having “clean” and “dirty” activities occur in the same place, the commode is usually in a small closet-sized area by itself. However, the Japanese are aware of the same “employees must wash hands,” etc., ethic, as the rest of the industrialized world. How to resolve the difficulty of providing for cleanliness in a dirty place is to give the toilet a bidet feature. As for sounds, Japanese ladies do not like to be overheard, so it has been the custom for the most modest to flush continually during use of the facility; a noise generator would reduce this wasteful habit.

  8. This was not a well thought out post. You are not a climate change denier…..you are just admitting there is nothing we can do about it if we are to leave our civilizations mostly intact.

    Also, there is nothing wrong or weird about trying to be a good steward and trying NOT to leave huge messes or wantonly waste resources. I think you are behaving like most of us caring and thinking people.

    I was wasting my time, thinking you had a solution at the end of your article.
    My solution is most of humanity dying. Sorry, for everyone. But that is the only thing that will get the earth back on it’s rightful track.

  9. > Gulp. I am a climate-change denialist…

    It sounds more like you’re a hypocrite – as most of us are. Adjusting your lifestyle to match your understanding of how you *should* live is not a one-time process. It’s a series of incremental changes – and there are clearly plenty left for you – e.g. ditch the big Audi.

    P.S. Al Gore buys what power he needs (he generates a lot himself from solar and geothermal) from *renewable* sources, not offsets.

  10. Hi guys

    I am relatively new to blogging. One of my objectives in doing so was to garner thought provoking reactions, so I very much appreciate you taking time to weigh in.

    For the record, I actually am a bit more tech-savvy than my post indicates. I was trained as an engineer, started my career building large scale environmental models for the EPA, and have written and spoken quite a bit on cutting edge technologies like nanotech. I do agree with the point that we will certainly develop technology that will mitigate or postpone the problems created by our addiction to energy. However, the problem is I think we will find more ways to use energy faster. I continually see examples of things that don’t need power, but have them (like screwdrivers, electronic billboards, auto-flushing urinals, etc.) The reason is that we have managed to make energy so cheap that we find ways to use it. An early power industry exec promised to make electricity “too cheap to meter.” We’re there. When you go to Starbucks, the coffee and the Wifi access cost, but the plug is free. (Even petro fuels, in deflated dollar terms, are dirt cheap.) Accordingly, we will just keep finding ways to use more and more and more of it, and energy production is inexorably tied to carbon emissions.

    The alternative, as Cal said, is to move to the woods and forage for roots and berries, and I do not think we will do that.

    By the way, I am scathing to those who argue that climate change isn’t real but slightly sympathetic to those who argue the crisis is overblown. After all, there is a long tradition of the media crying wolf to problems which human ingenuity then solves (Y2K, acid rain.) However, this time I just think the problem is too real, too big, and the trade-off too painful.

    And thanks for the suggestion to go piss on myself, although we scuba divers prefer the term “warming the wetsuit.”

    JH

    • John – in an even larger sense, we have this ages-old history of technological utopianism that seems to leave us constantly surprised at how much more development is needed. The Internet was going to solve every problem we ever had. Cable was going to solve every problem we ever had. Radio was going to solve every problem we ever had. Electricity was going to solve every problem we ever had. Railroads were going to solve every problem we ever had. And so on.

      This is a good bit of what I did my dissertation on, actually, and the phenomenon arises from a particular strain of Judeo-Christian theology, believe it or not. That same strain has as its founding principle the repeated “have dominion over” ideology in Genesis 1 – the natural order is a resource to be exploited. And by jingies, we HAVE done that.

      This is all way too complex for a few paragraphs, but you’d be safe betting that nano will create the need for more instead of eliminating the need for what we already use.

      Great post.

  11. We have instructed the architect for our new home to install solar panels and a geo-thermal heat pump. Our new refrigerator has the highest energy rating possible. We bought a first-generation hybrid car.

    But the inconvenient truth is we also have three vehicles, including a rather large Audi that my eco-friendly wife drives. We have two houses and are building another (for two people.) We have a television on every floor of both houses, including three flat panels, each of which soaks up as much energy as a refrigerator. We fly to Barbados in the summer and Tahoe in the winter.

    Yeah.

    So the other 95% of us who don’t have such fancy lives will figure out a way to live within our already meager but being further reduced means. Seems like you have a long way to go.

  12. Frumpy

    Excellent point. My household’s annual carbon load is about 111 (to/CO2 E per year,) which is indeed twice the national average for a household of two people, e.g., my brother who lives in a doublewide in Texas with his daughter and who has a load of 74. While my personal situation may be a bad illustration of my point, it is less about differences in wealth between individuals and more about the carbon load created by the average lifestyle of technologically sophisticated Western economies. Even if I lived in one house and drove a Prius, I would still be generating five times as much carbon as the average human on the planet. There is almost no way to get around it. If I lived in a tent in the woods, I would still be contributing because of the load created by our shared society (e.g., streetlights.)

    But obviously, the greater the wealth, the higher the consumption. The higher the consumption, the more carbon footprint. You are right.

    JH

  13. Correct, the poor will pay for the sins of the rich, again. George Monbiot has a good piece on this topic over at the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jul/13/climate-change-emissions-uk.

    And on a tangent, John, you say you are knowledgeable in nanotech. Have you seen the latest peer reviewed study by eight scientists on the puzzling discovery of aluminum nanopowders found in some rather infamous dust? The anomalies just keep stacking up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_tf25lx_3o

  14. concrete and steel can not turn to dust simply under their own weight, which they were designed to hold, then produce a high tech material that was developed by the military. nanothermite does NOT exist in nature.

    watch the vids. it is not collapse. there is no pile driver, just a massive cloud of dust. clearly explosions. and bldg 7 fell due to, wait for it, a completely new phenomena, thermal expansion, per nist. all at the speed of free fall. hence, zero resistance from below. curious, no?

    and per the coroner and mayor, there was no plane in shanksville, just a smoking crater, as seen on pics, vids and news reports. rummy said the flt was ‘shot down’ on live tape. the wreckage was found scattered around an 8 mile radius.

    i could go on and on about all the falsities of the official conspiracy theory, but i realize no one wants to believe people (americans) could be so evil, hence complete cog dissonance. don’t believe me, i’m just a civil engineer, see what these people have to say: http://www.patriotsquestion911.com/

    • And there’s no such thing as “shock waves” that pulverize rock, metal, computer cases in offices, and that sort of thing. Next time you look at your office, ask how much of it would be pulverized by a sufficiently powerful shock wave and could turn into metallic dust.

      Sorry, gringo. Not buying it. A conspiracy that large would have given itself away, and no-one has ever come up with a way to convince me of that.

  15. Just a little something to chew on; a vastly different future of electrical storage, transmission, and usage:

    (ScienceDaily – July 15, 2009) In a recent issue of Nature Nanotechnology Letters, N.J. Tao – a researcher at the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University – describes the first direct measurement of a fundamental property of graphene, known as quantum capacitance, using an electrochemical gate method. A better understanding of this crucial variable should prove invaluable to other investigators participating in what amounts to a gold rush of graphene research…

    Graphene is remarkable in terms of thinness and resiliency. A one-atom thick graphene sheet sufficient in size to cover a football field, would weigh less than a gram. It is also the strongest material in nature—roughly 200 times the strength of steel. Most of the excitement however, has to do with the unusual electronic properties of the material…

    Graphene displays outstanding electron transport, permitting electricity to flow rapidly and more or less unimpeded through the material. In fact, electrons have been shown to behave as massless particles similar to photons, zipping across a graphene layer without scattering. This property is critical for many device applications and has prompted speculation that graphene could eventually supplant silicon as the substance of choice for computer chips, offering the prospect of ultrafast computers operating at terahertz speeds, rocketing past current gigahertz chip technology.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090709095420.htm

  16. brian, re: “shock waves” turning my office into metallic dust, i have no idea what you’re talking about. are we talking some sort of high energy star wars weaponry here? gravity acting on building materials can produce no such thing, unless perhaps the building was dropped from space.

    again, the vids clearly show the towers turning to dust *as they fell*. no pile driver existed. why did the 47 core columns (5″ thick steel box columns) just disappear all the way to the ground when there was no mass to even bend them? a shock wave? from what? did that same shock wave bring down wtc7 at 5:20 pm?

    and the govt theory says nothing about a “shock wave”. it was a “pancake collapse”. i.e. progressive failure caused by the top floors crushing those below. and get this – their own computer simulations show the core columns still standing, as they would have if the lightweight floor systems sheared from the columns.

    then look at the photos showing the columns were sheared at a nice neat 45 degree angle (typical in controlled demo to get the building ‘walking’), with molten metal dripping down the sides. clearly cut by something. shock wave, or nanothermite? which is more plausible?

    as far as the cover up, i don’t know how they pulled it off either. but i have seen a LOT of damning footage of that day, eyewitness reports http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n593Hth8h9M etc. that were completely deep-sixed on 9/12. just as was wtc7. and the missing plane in shanksville. and the disappeared black boxes (all 4). and that the bushes and bin ladens are very cozy and have deep biz ties. and that bush sr. met with bin laden’s brother on 9.10.01. and that the cia created the taliban whose evil stepchild is al qaeda (aka ‘the database’, see: zbig). and that u.s. companies/govt routinely arm, fund, and train right wing terrorists and dictators in the southern hemisphere (school of the americas). and that wtc was bought from NYC port auth. for the first time in early 2001 by a very sophisticated re developer (silverstein), even though the buildings always operated in an ocean of red ink and needed billions in retro work for asbestos removal, and then he made billions on the insurance claim. and the fact that marvin bush was a principal in the company (securacom) that had the contract for wtc security until 9/10/01! seems newsworthy, no? how did they cover all that up? i don’t know, but they certainly did.

    another bizarre ‘fact’: the off. story says the plane that hit the pentagon was ‘vaporized’ on impact. as was its black box (yet another first). yet they identified *all but five of the crash victims thru dna and dental records*. got that? aluminum, steel and titanium vaporized. dna survived. huh?!? there were no bodies removed from the site, so where exactly was said dna found? and where are all those tapes from the cameras that were trained on the pentagon that day. apparently vaporized as well.

    this all sounds too bizarre to believe. are these all just ‘coincidences’? maybe i’m making it all up. check for yourself.

    read pnac’s rebuilding america’s defenses written in 1999. the entire war on terror is outlined there, as is knocking off saddam hussein, as well as building up of the arms industry to cold war levels, as well as taking control of mideast oil, as well as ‘total spectrum dominance’, as well as a need for ‘a new pearl harbor’ to kick it all off. then check out operation northwoods that was declassified in 2002. motive, means, intent. qui bono?

    many people in the cia, military, aviation, flight control, FD, and sciences agree that the OS just does not add up – at all. read their statements at the ‘patriots question’ link and see if you find any of these people credible, or any of thier questions valid.

    ok, wrong forum. this space belongs to S&R (sorry guys). that’s all the arguing i’m going to do. only you can convince yourself of anything, bryan. i’m convinced that gravity cannot bring down rigid structures at the rate of 11 floors per second, and simultaneously turn them to dust. you don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to realize that that is a physical impossibility.

  17. Once cap and trade is irrevocably in place, we will hear a lot less about climate change. The hype will have served its purpose, and the next topic will surface. Climate change has been going on for 4 billion years and will likely continue for several billion more. The geologic record is thick with titanic climate changes. Not long ago where I am sitting was 5000 feet under a glacier. Let me look out the window — nope, no glacier. Dang that climate change.

    We could take all of the fossil fuel from all of the oil and coal fields and burn them today, right now — whoosh — and the CO2 output wouldn’t be a pimple on the butt of a Toba class event or even be noticed while the Siberian Traps were erupting.

    The cap and traders are appealing to our inner need to feel like we are contributing members of the world, giving up for the common good so we can feel good about ourselves and each other. Waste is never good, we should constantly think about what we do and how we do it. But we are kidding ourselves if we think we are saving the world by sorting garbage or being ‘nice citizens’ by submitting to cap and trade. As long as we never look behind the curtain we can feel good about higher prices and blunted economic growth. Over the decades the cap and traders will make trillions, and we will pay trillions while we ride buses and sort garbage. Oh boy, can’t wait.

  18. brian sez: “Cal – if you’re going to try to talk about climate disruption, please do at least a little research.”

    talk about pot calling kettle black. brian knows as much physics as the average 10 year old, yet goes on to theorize about “shock waves” and thinks gravity can turn common office matls into nanothermite!

    do at least a little research, indeed.

    • gringo, do a simple experiment. Put water between your hands and clap them together close to a window or mirror. Look at the size of the droplets. You’ll find droplets as small as your eyes can see. If you do the same experiment with a microscope slide and then look at the slide, you’ll find droplets at all sizes. Some of them, if you could find a microscope with enough magnification, would be nanometer sized, at least until they evaporated.

      Now, if you do what amounts to the same thing with liquefied aluminum and you’ll find nanoparticles of aluminum. The difference is that they won’t evaporate, they’ll solidify and become just one more component of dust.

      Now, look at how many different minerals are found in concrete aggregates, and then look up the composition of those minerals. Notice how many of those minerals have aluminum in them. Pulverize those minerals in large quantities and you’ll find nano-scale aluminum particles.

      Do another experiment, gringo – take a piece of sand or salt and smack it with a hammer. If you look closely, you’ll see that it produces dust. That dust will behave similar to the water droplets – you’ll get particles at all scales. Now what are most electronic integrated circuits packaged in? The ones that aren’t plastic are in alumina and similar aluminum-based ceramics. Resistors are largely manufactured on alumina bases. Capacitors come in three common types, two of which have a significant amount of aluminum in them – ceramic capacitors and aluminum electrolytics (which, not at all coincidentally, are usually flammable and have extremely small aluminum membranes that could easily be pulverized into nanoscale dust).

      And finally, what would you call the air popping out from between your hands? I call it a shock wave, although that might not be the correct technical term. And last I checked, I still feel the pulse of energy on the opposite side of my hand too.

      An interesting note – if you’ve not watched the Demolition Derby episode of Mythbusters (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSVfYwdGSsQ) where they use a rocket sled to destroy a compact car, I highly recommend it. The energy of the collision was roughly 10,000,000 J. The collapse of a single floor of the WTC, just hitting the floor below it, is roughly 10x that amount. If you notice the amount of metal that is reduced to dust in the time-lapse photography, it doesn’t take, as you said in the other post, “Star Wars weaponry” or dropping the building from space to turn plastic, metal, coatings, rock, concrete, into ultrafine dust.

  19. Brian,

    Did I say Toba warmed the earth?

    Major volcanic events are significant sources of CO2, but none have happened since humans have been around. Remember the statistician who drowned in the lake that was on average 2 feet deep? Yearly CO2 output from volcanoes is a misleading number without including the big events. Some argue that the sulfur emissions are more relevant to climate change, and I believe they have a point. Particulates play their role, too, especially in the decades right after an event.

    I disagree — the magnitude of natural processes compared to anthropic influences is terribly relevant, and in fact is the core weakness of the cap and trade advocates position. We can argue ad infinitum, but only time will sort things out. One modest geologic event can and eventually will wipe away any positive impact of our society shutting down completely.

    And natural climate change happens quickly, ice ages end in centuries, droughts can start in a single season.

    But like I say, we have more than enough reasons to move away from oil
    and coal without invoking climate change. And we will all be better off without
    cap and trade except those who will profit from it.

    Ironically, when it comes to the mean temperature of the earth and the changes we’ve seen
    over time, the sun is probably the driver. The last pole to pole glaciation ended 640 million years ago with the close of the Proterozoic Eon, and there had been at least one other event before that. Some studies suggest that the sun is 6-10% warmer now than it was then, but I’ve seen different numbers. Of course this line of thought could all be wiped away with the next published study.

    Way back when I was in school it was generally thought that the earth has steadily cooled from the molten state until the modern ice ages began a few million years ago. Now it seems the surface temps have been all over the place.

    China produces more CO2 than we do besides releasing tons of really nasty toxics into the air, and India is close behind. What should we do with them? I’ve heard some say that if we cap and trade, we will set such a positive example that they will follow. OK. I really doubt it, but it’s a lovely thought.

    • Cal, how is an eruption 75,000 years ago or 500 million years ago relevant to modern climate? Boosting CO2 in the atmosphere by 38% in a geologically short period of time has an impact.

      The question is not whether climate has changed in the past, Cal. The question is “why is climate changing today?” And on that question, the science is abundantly clear – the bulk of the changes are as a result of human emissions of greenhouse gases.

      FWIW, I’m not thrilled with the current cap and trade system myself, as I’ve said here at S&R several times in the last month or two (do a site search on ACES or Waxman-Markey if you want to see those posts). But given the state of the science and the forecasted changes coming from scientists, we’d be foolish not to address CO2 emissions somehow.

  20. gringo,

    You tell’m! Brian is a victim of getting lost in a list of facts and never developing a gestalt view. Happens all too easily, and I know I’m guilty. Ironically it’s never been easier to follow a topic over
    decades of publication. Very few ‘consensuses’ survive over time, and often the ones that do are often driven by cultural/political/economic agendas until they reach an inflection point. Take cranial size correlated to intelligence applied to racial groups during the 18th and 19th centuries. Carumbua.

    That consensus was destructive and horribly wrong, but it held up for many, many decades.

    Do a little research? Heh. Better to do a lot of research without a preset conclusion.

    Thanks,

    Cal

  21. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m sure George Will still sucks way more than you. This old hippie has done a 180 in the last few years. I’m pretty sure building more nuclear power plants and building them in a hurry is the only way to insure that those flat screens stay fired up.

  22. Brian,

    Our current climate and especially our ecosystem is the sum of all past climate changes, from the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere to the timing of the monsoons. But that wasn’t my point — natural forces dwarf anything Man can do both in magnitude and duration. Clearly we can be a powerful influence, sadly mostly in terms of destroying habitat and depleting species. The overfishing of the North Atlantic Cod has trigged a trophic cascade so that when the fishing was finally stopped, the cod didn’t return. Other species filled their niche. There is no clear way to restore the cod at the moment. What a shame.

    So you don’t like cap and trade either. Good, we can work from there. But from where I sit it’s clear that our leadership is much more concerned with implementing cap and trade than they are in really reducing carbon emissions. Look at the ethanol policy. What a travesty. And both parties are guilty.

    scripto brought up an interesting point. He mentioned nuclear power, so here goes: Japan gets 90 % or so of their power from nukes. Until recently I believed the common line that they have little coal and no oil, so they use nukes to cut imports. OK, sounds fine to there.

    At least part of their reasons came out in a verbal exchange with the Chinese. A Japanese official supposedly told the Chinese that Japan can have 3000 nuclear weapons whenever they want them. Building nukes isn’t hard, but it takes years to make enough fissile material. Japan is using their large number of nuclear power plants as an excuse to keep those materials at hand in quantity. And I think truth be told, France is doing the same thing. Back in the day DeGaulle had warheads aimed at the Soviet Bloc as well as the US and the UK.

    Did you see that they are backing off on the influence of CFCs and upper atmosphere ozone destruction? Seems that CFC concentrations aren’t nearly as connected to ozone levels after all — has more to do with fluctuations in solar radiation. But the jury is still out, and always will be.

    So my point on CO2 levels is this — if the crisis is what we are being told it is, we need to clamp CO2 output today, by force if necessary. Strictly ration gasoline, electricity, nat gas, coal. Industry globally needs to be cut back to essential services only. What carbon resources that are used need to go into food production and distribution, populations that can’t survive the winter without fossil fuels must be relocated to warmer areas. Air conditioning is a thing of the past. We can cut mankind’s CO2 emissions to what we breathe in a matter of months. If there really is a crisis.

    But no — we are told the end is nigh, but we don’t have to give up anything. First we need to believe, and then just do some ceremonial things like recycle, ride the bus now and then, maybe drive a hybrid, and oh yes, implement cap and trade. All will be well if we do that, all will be well.

    If there is a crisis, the people in charge don’t really believe it, because they certainly aren’t acting like they do. Once they have what they want, they will de-fund the supporting research and begin ginning up the next crisis. The academics who want to be funded and published will quickly find ways to prove the new paradigm. And after a while there will be a consensus.

    Too cynical, or not cynical enough? Time will tell.

    • Cal, you seem to be saying something along the lines of “in the final calculation, we’re all dead anyway.” As true as that statement is, it’s also pointless. Knowing that, on the geological timescale, the earth will compensate for our presence and our blip will fade away doesn’t do humanity any good today, tomorrow, next year, or even next century. I’m unwilling to be that fatalistic with regard to the human race and our influence on the planet, and I’d like my children to live in a world where they don’t have to worry about where their next drink of water is coming from (I live in a semi-arid state), where the oceans aren’t so acidic that they’ve pickled nearly everything except jellyfish, and where hundreds of millions of people don’t die for lack of water, food, or dry land. And right now, that’s where the science tells us we’re headed (all right, with a few rhetorical flourishes added), at least for the next few hundred to few thousand years.

      So yeah, the Earth will shake us and our influence off eventually, but for the moment and immediate future, we’re living in the Anthropocene, and we need to regulate ourselves for the sake of our families and our species.

      As George Carlin once said, “The planet is fine – the people are fucked.” I, for one, generally like the people.

  23. Brian,

    Not at all. It’s just very suspicious what and how we are being fed about climate change and it reeks of manipulation. We know what the end game is, we have an idea who the players are (some of them), and the motive seems to be profit and power.

    Who among us would embrace cap and trade without a crisis? No one, I hope.

    The dancing climate data we are being offered to justify cap and trade is convincing only with proper framing and coddling. And my point is if the crisis is real, if our existence depends on reeling back CO2 levels, then let’s do it. We have the means, just not the will.

    So I am left to conclude that the people that matter know that the crisis is not what it is being sold as, to think otherwise would mean that they are incompetent to the point of malice. At the moment many citizens are paying attention. If enough years go by without devastating climatic tumult, well, the argument crumbles. So they must move cap and trade NOW.

    Cap and trade is the prize here, not saving the earth. The earth may well need saving, but like I say, the people who matter aren’t doing anything that will make a difference. They have to live here, too, so I don’t think they’ll throw the earth into the abyss for a few years of profit. At least I hope not.

    Sadly, even its advocates admit that cap and trade will do little to fix things. At the moment the only thing that will is a lot of nuclear power and much better batteries for decentralized uses like transportation. But not a dang thing is being done toward that end. Nothing beyond lip service.

    See why it’s easy to distrust all of it?

    And I like people, too. Some of my best friends are people. I married a people.

    And I think jellyfish are very sensitive to acidic pH — they will be among the first to go. I know that is true for fresh water jellies. Fascinating creatures, devilishly hard to breed in an aquarium, most species have never been cultured.

    No, we aren’t all dead anyway. We’ll survive despite of the politicians trying to save us.
    Can’t wait to see what the next crisis will be — I’m tired of this one.

  24. Well said, Mr. goes by John Harvin. What it comes down to is a great deal of action designed to soothe the conscience. We tweak our collective behavior around the edges, because serious movement on this issue will take sacrifice (perhaps the dirtiest word in modern America)…though maybe just the sacrifice of a great many unnecessary accouterments that we’ve grown used to.

    And i could give a rat’s ass about the “debate” about the reality of man-made climate change. The fact remains that we will eat, drink and breathe everything that we put into the environment. It boils down to waste. CO2 is a waste product that doubles as the input for the photosynthetic cycle; change is bound to occur when there is more CO2 than the photosynthesizers can process. It is out of balance because we’re releasing a bunch of it that prehistoric plants had previously sequestered while going about their business.

    We don’t have a carbon crises, we have a hydrogen problem. That is, we still haven’t figured out an efficient way to get hydrogen for the purposes of combustion.

    And we have a garbage crises because we’re still operating under a set of initial conditions that held true at the beginning of the industrial revolution when resources were cheap and labor was dear. To which we must add a zeitgeist of disposability, but as i said above…what we dispose comes back around.

    Take a long walk in the woods. You’ll note that what one thing produces as waste is used as an input for something else. That’s where we fail: our waste is just waste. (Though to be fair, Life will find a way to use it on a long enough time line, but we fancy thumbed monkeys probably won’t be around to marvel at it.)

  25. I’m really surprised when at the end of the last ice age (10,000 years ago?) our stone age ancestors didn’t draw the logical conclusion and stop burning fires and inventing the wheel. Seems next time there’s an ice age we can stop worrying about global warming.

  26. France, Japan, et. al. do like the option of being able to ramp up weapon production if necessary, but they have other motivations as oil importing countries to go nuclear. Nuclear is an energy source that does not trace back to the sun as do oil, wind, solar, etc. (although geothermal is from the earth’s own nuclear plant). France ramped up nuclear electrical generating capacity in response to the OPEC embargos in the 1970’s (the U.S. ramped up coal plants). As electric cars get better (and China is working very hard on this), the nuclear plants will provide air conditioning for the office buildings during the day and charge up the cars at night. Then oil importing nations will be able to raise taxes on carbon as there will be an alternative energy source. France & Japan will lead the way, with China not far behind. The U.S. may lag considerably due to the strong coal lobby and fears about nuclear. So there is a solution to throwing all that CO2 into the air, and other countries will get to it.

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