[non-ceph]: Global Warming Thread

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I know the science. I've been reading about climate change for years. One of the best books out there is by Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers, which I highly recommend. My point is that even for those who choose to not believe that there is a problem, it makes a lot more sense to assume that the 97% are right. It can only help, and unlike your jumping off a cliff thing, can do absolutely no harm. Even if you don't believe, most of the carbon reducing suggestions will help the bottom line of families and individuals anyway, so you aren't doing anything that doesn't have another useful purpose too. If you want to get into this in a much bigger way there are quite a few things to do that will mean a major investment up front, and those are probably for the more dedicated among us. When we bought our Prius in 2003 we weren't doing it because of the gasoline prices, although it's pretty nice getting 52 miles to the gallon, we bought it because of the reduced emissions. The upfront price wasn't as high as we thought it would be either, because we got a very nice federal tax rebate and didn't have to pay any state sales tax. When we moved and replaced our major appliances we bought the most energy efficient large appliances we could find, and although they cost more initially, since we tend to keep appliances for a long time (on average 20 years) the pay off will come over the years. I'm hoping to replace the windows in the next couple of years, and am looking into a solar water heater. In the meantime, all light bulbs that burn out get replaced by compact fluorescents. That helps cut cooling costs too, because incandescents and halogens put out a lot of heat, which you obviously don't want in southern Arizona.
Taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint simply makes sense.
 

DHyslop

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Its not just economical, it can be said there's a spiritual benefit to not getting caught up in conspicuous consumption. That's not to say it isn't fun to have nice toys now and then, but I just can't wrap my mind around the folks who buy a new $50,000 caddy every couple years. On the other hand I've met people who's Prius' was just as much to show off than to slow carbon emissions :smile:. I'm glad this kind of technology is going mainstream, even GM--the industry's own dinosaur--say they're serious about producing their new plug-in concept as soon as the battery tech matures. Honda and DaimlerChrysler are offering diesels again in the US, and VW is replacing their perennial 1.8 TDI with a newer, cleaner diesel.

Given these changes are about economics and not conservationism or karma, but its encouraging given that many predicted we'd need $100/barrel oil before seeing real changes like this.

My wife and I have been putting in compact flourescents, too. Again, all economics aside they're just better light bulbs. The light coming out of our neighbors' windows is a sickly orange. Ours is a warm daylight!
 

monty

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caveat emptor: I'm opinionated, so although this is intended to be civil, it's also intended to represent my opinion without pulling punches. Feel free to punch back if it bugs you, and I don't mean any of it personally, and feel free to let me know if I should come across as crossing the line.

DHyslop;87038 said:
To be fair, experts can be wrong. Many modern astronomers have no problem buying into string theory hook, line and sinker despite the fact that its completely untestable. If 97% of scientists jumped off a cliff, would you, too? :smile:

My point is that the reason we get an education is so that we ourselves can be prepared to research and evaluate these concepts on our own without having to rely blindly on experts, who can be as petty as the rest of us. In this instance, the literature is pretty dense and it does take a lot of patience for someone from outside the field to get through it. But, once you have that basic understanding of how this science is done its pretty clear that climate change isn't smoke and mirrors and is very well supported with hard science.

Dan

Except, surprisingly to all the smarmy theorists, String theory may be testable after all! I am greatly amused, and I'll be laughing whether it turns out to be right or wrong, just like I'm amused at all the people who said "it's physically impossible to make a blue LED."

Re: Orbital forcing: my vague understanding is that there are some open questions as to why the frequency of ice ages changed from following 2 different periods (41kY and 100kY) at some point, although high-order effects can be fudged to match either frequency (and probably a host of others, given how hard anything more complicated than a 3-body problem gets when you start taking these effects into account) this guy's solar cycles thing also matches the different frequencies, too. From talking to Hallucigenia, who's actually taking a current class on this stuff, I get the impression that it's pretty darned complicated, but there is a lot of useful data, so we have a lot of insights, but also there are so many variables that it's not something that's "cut and dried," either. My point, though, was intended to be that it it seems like a dichotomy is that the climate change advocates apply spin by overstating how much of the situation is understood with a high degree of precision, but they don't misrepresent the big picture that's emerging, while the climate change deniers tend to extrapolate using dubious logic like "if it's not 100% explainable, then we can be justified in denying that the big picture exists because we can find some nit-picky detail counterexample and then say that that invalidates the whole big picture and we know nothing."

If Hallucigenia sees this, please chime in and let me know if I'm representing what you taught me accurately enough, since some of the references you sent were pretty tough going.

Re: reducing carbon footprints and things, although I do random assorted things like CF bulbs and Prius driving, I also think a lot of people to "feel good" things that have very little impact, and then decide "I'm doing my part." Or, on the flip side, a lot of things that one could do don't make economic sense on a personal scale, and don't make much difference. Although I recently found out that there are now special CF bulbs that work with dimmers, a year or so I couldn't find any, so I looked at LED bulbs for our lights that are on dimmers. Since our chandelier takes 7 bulbs, we were looking at spending more than $150 on LED bulbs for the thing, which would probably end up taking many years to pay back the win over incandescents.

But the main thing that frustrates me about taking specific measures is that people tend to apply "think globally, act locally" to the point where they don't "think globally, act globally, and address the significant contributors." Although the gas efficiency of your Prius vs your Expedition may be significant, or whether you use CF or incandescent bulbs, consider that how much air travel you do, how much concrete is cured to build buildings to support you, how many products you buy that are produced far away and shipped, and all sorts of other things may turn out to be a larger contribution. And yet people rationalize not actually looking at those numbers by saying "oh, I use CF bulbs in my whole house." And on a more extreme level, I would think that people can do more good by investing in alternative energy development or lobbying to not let short-sighted energy moguls make national energy strategy policy than any of these "personal lifestyle" goals; I'd rather see someone drive a hummer and develop usable fusion power than ride their bicycle everywhere and spend their time doing organic subsistence farming. Of course, if the fusion developer drove a Prius instead it wouldn't bother me any, but the relative impact of the two things is disproportionate... not meaning to be curmudgeon, but it irritates me when people get all holier-than-thou about making lifestyle changes that are a drop in the bucket. Not that I'm clear on how best to approach high-impact solutions, either, and not that I don't do the drop in the bucket things a bit, but I avoid pretending that the little things are good enough to do anything more than encourage mindfulness, and I don't get all stoic about it (we didn't get rid of our mustangs when we got the prius, for example, we just put most of our miles on the prius these days.)
 

DHyslop

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monty;87047 said:
caveat emptor: I'm opinionated, so although this is intended to be civil, it's also intended to represent my opinion without pulling punches. Feel free to punch back if it bugs you, and I don't mean any of it personally, and feel free to let me know if I should come across as crossing the line.

Monty, there's nothing in the post at all that I take offense at!


Except, surprisingly to all the smarmy theorists, String theory may be testable after all! I am greatly amused, and I'll be laughing whether it turns out to be right or wrong, just like I'm amused at all the people who said "it's physically impossible to make a blue LED."

This is fair, it may very well end up being completely testable. Be that as it may, it is still somewhat disturbing to me how people in the field have latched onto it. This isn't endemic to astronomers and I can think of similar untestable-but-still-good-ideas in the geosciences that some researchers have come to worship as canon.

Re: Orbital forcing: I'm a couple years rusty from when I had all the FFT, etc, down my throat, but its been my impression the 41/100ky issues really aren't that big in the scheme of things, especially given the complexity of the climate system. Its pretty shocking, given that complexity, that you can corelate the composite forcing curve with geologic history at all! An analogy might be questioning natural selection because paleontologists are still arguing over the phylogenetic position of a particular tyrannosaurid. I would be interested to hear Hallucigenia chime in, though.

But the main thing that frustrates me about taking specific measures is that people tend to apply "think globally, act locally" to the point where they don't "think globally, act globally, and address the significant contributors." Although the gas efficiency of your Prius vs your Expedition may be significant, or whether you use CF or incandescent bulbs, consider that how much air travel you do, how much concrete is cured to build buildings to support you, how many products you buy that are produced far away and shipped, and all sorts of other things may turn out to be a larger contribution. And yet people rationalize not actually looking at those numbers by saying "oh, I use CF bulbs in my whole house." And on a more extreme level, I would think that people can do more good by investing in alternative energy development or lobbying to not let short-sighted energy moguls make national energy strategy policy than any of these "personal lifestyle" goals; I'd rather see someone drive a hummer and develop usable fusion power than ride their bicycle everywhere and spend their time doing organic subsistence farming. Of course, if the fusion developer drove a Prius instead it wouldn't bother me any, but the relative impact of the two things is disproportionate... not meaning to be curmudgeon, but it irritates me when people get all holier-than-thou about making lifestyle changes that are a drop in the bucket. Not that I'm clear on how best to approach high-impact solutions, either, and not that I don't do the drop in the bucket things a bit, but I avoid pretending that the little things are good enough to do anything more than encourage mindfulness, and I don't get all stoic about it (we didn't get rid of our mustangs when we got the prius, for example, we just put most of our miles on the prius these days.)

I'm with you 100% here. Doing the small things is good, but what we really need is a progressive energy policy at the national and even global levels. I'm a supporter of nuclear power because even if we have a Chernobyl every 30 years I think the planet would be a better place in a century than if we keep burning coal the way we do today. (!)
 

monty

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DHyslop;87048 said:
Monty, there's nothing in the post at all that I take offense at!

I pretty much figured you were thick-skinned enough to not worry, but I wasn't sure if I was too harsh on the prius-driving CF-lightbulb-using crowd, despite being one of them...(although see earlier comment about mustangs... and no, I don't have any "my other car is a Prius" stickers, although I'm tempted to put a "my other cars are Mustangs, nyah nyah" sticker on the Prius, but I don't think Andrea would let me)

Oh, yeah, by the way, all you Prius-driving hippies, we have a mad scientist friend who can upgrade your Prius batteries and software to get > 100mpg, and also let you plug it in. Of course, you have to be willing to void your warranty. And pay him more money than you're likely to save. But you can be Prius-er than your Prius-driving
neighbors! (Of course, we haven't had him do ours yet, but he did convince some major company to hire him to do their 30-car fleet, so I guess he's got the technical issues worked out fairly well.)

I'm with you 100% here. Doing the small things is good, but what we really need is a progressive energy policy at the national and even global levels. I'm a supporter of nuclear power because even if we have a Chernobyl every 30 years I think the planet would be a better place in a century than if we keep burning coal the way we do today. (!)

Yeah, I'm with you on the nuclear power... because of the dangers, it needs to be over-designed for safety to avoid problems, but I don't consider that a showstopper requirement. And that's another one where spin-science often dominates real science, unfortunately... For example, it's not obvious to me why people think it's worse to have a boxcar with spent fuel rods go through their town than, say, a tank car of chlorine that will kill them instead of just requiring a bit of cleanup. Or, for that matter, having a coal-burning power plant anywhere near their town. On the other hand, my roommate went off to get an MS in "Nuclear Engineering," and after seeing how incompetent some of his peers were, decided he was much more reluctant to live anywhere near a nuclear power plant, so it sounds like there's still a lot of work to do in making sure that bad engineering and bad practices are avoided. But that's a technological and social problem to be solved; banning it entirely instead of solving the problems seems to me to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
 

DHyslop

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I'd be afraid to death of voiding the warranty on a Prius--We're the kind of people who keep a car until its 20 years old, and I'm not sure how the 1st-gen hybrid technology will age. A diesel Jetta gets similar mileage and is more my style.

The politics of where to put nuclear waste is the biggest hurdle in the uS. Yucca Mountain is just a terrible idea--you might as well jam barrels of the stuff into the San Andreas Fault or the cauldera of Mount St. Helens. Yet burying it in a benign, impermeable place like the Bonneville salt flats can't be done because there's too much political clout in Utah.

France generates most of their power from nuclear plants, and I've often wondered what they do with the waste.
 

pipsquek

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I would love to see fusion power in my lifetime, but I don't give it a great chance. Despite the amount of money being spent on it, there is a HA-UGE knowledge gap.

Other than that, I see only two things that will have a massive impact on the way that we live as a species. One is still nuclear war. Lots of scary stuff and scary people that don't think past their childrens' lifetime, which is how we got into this mess in the first place. The other is pandemic, which could be bird flu or something out of left field.

I think though that out of the two, I would prefer pandemic if I had my choice of evils. Both take a large percentage of the population out of the gene pool, but a pandemic would at least give us some advantage in the future, being that a substantial part of our DNA comes from viruses.

Other than that, the number of people in the world, the rate that it is climbing, and the relative speed that we can reverse the negative impacts of our technology all add up to some crappy times ahead.

Here's a little something that I have thought about. How much energy does the interet and it's peripheral attachments use? Does changing lightbulbs even come close to the amount we gooble up every day checking email?? Not to mention the activities involved in producing the hardware.

In case you didn't notice, I'm on the side of the fence that says we are screwing things up.
 

monty

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pipsquek;87056 said:
Here's a little something that I have thought about. How much energy does the interet and it's peripheral attachments use? Does changing lightbulbs even come close to the amount we gooble up every day checking email?? Not to mention the activities involved in producing the hardware.

I read something the other day about some company that wants to make more power-friendly networking hardware, but I tend to think it's silly. A very powerful computer takes less power than a few light bulbs, and most networking hardware is pretty frugal. Of course, the air conditioning for where the server is can be pretty significant.

I'm inclined to believe that existence of the internet saves power in the big picture, since it enables people to communicate without traveling, so between teleconferencing, telecommuting, and being able to download things that otherwise had to be trucked around (movies, music, books) it cuts down somewhat on the massive energy use of travel and transportation. Of course, now I order stuff online that some UPS truck has to drop off at my door, but that's not so much less efficient than the trucks that used to deliver it to local stores. Certainly, if I can work from home, the energy cost of my networking for the day is far less than 5% of the cost it would take for me to commute 10-20 miles to and from work.

Also, heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, and lights take far, far more energy than electronic components, so there are a lot of "daily life" items that are vastly more energy intensive than any computer equipment. But I think the travel savings are the most extreme-- the amount of electricity used in electric and hybrid cars is huge... we don't tend to think of how much energy there is in a tank of gas, but I know that Tesla Motors recommends people get a second whole-house power line to support charging one of their electric cars overnight... So if you can save on transportation, you're effectively saving as much power as the full power capacity of your house, at least to a first approximation.
 

DHyslop

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pipsquek;87056 said:
Other than that, the number of people in the world, the rate that it is climbing, and the relative speed that we can reverse the negative impacts of our technology all add up to some crappy times ahead..

Oh, that's nothing:

In the US of A we live in $300,000 homes, drive $50,000 cars and have a two hundred billion dollar trade deficit with China. But most of our college graduates can't divide 56 by 7 without a calculator. Something has to give!
 
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Ok guys, I certainly didn't mean that doing the "drop in the bucket thing" was enough. I'm a firm believer in lobbying, and I suspect there have been times when my congress person's aides have thought that I'm a real pain in the butt! We do need a comprehensive energy policy, and we need to invest heavily in wind and solar. Local initiatives such as what San Francisco is trying to do could be tried all over the country, or variations of it.. Tax rebates or other incentives to go solar in places like this (Az) would make a lot of sense. 2 way metering could help people make the switch because you wouldn't have to invest in a full solar array, you could do what you could afford, see the results yourself, but also contribute to the power on the grid.
Nuclear could be a solution, but not until more of the kinks are worked out of it. I lived near a nuke plant in Md, and knew a lot of the engineers. There were a lot of problems that a lot of people weren't aware of because they never made the papers. One of the biggest problems, other than the ubiquitous personnel problems, like guards growing (and using) pot on the grounds, engineers asleep in the ops center, etc, was the uneven and unpredictable materials degradation. Some things degraded much faster than they should have in one reactor, but behaved as expected in the other. I was part of the real time monitoring of the plant, and reported to the state radiation guy...one guy... I didn't see too many leaks, but there were some, and the people in the state office wouldn't have known about them if the monitors hadn't reported them. None of them were significant, but there were no monitors across the bay, and because of the prevailing winds they were more likely to see them than I was. Another problem is that the foxes are guarding the hen house. The NRC commissioners all come from the nuke industry...it's a revolving door. When Yankee Rowe was closed due to the embrittled reactor the chief commissioner said " We have to find a way to make it easier for these old plants to pass inspection." Not "We have to find a way to make these old plants safer." Personally, I think that showed what his agenda was.
Nafta has been a big contributer to the co2 problem too. With no requirements that basic safety and environmental standards be met a lot of US companies went over the border to Mexico and built plants that spew massive quantities of particulates and noxious gases into the air. In Big Bend National Park there used to be 60 mile visibility. Now it's down to just a few miles. Nafta must be renegotiated or abrogated
 

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