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Bert22306
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Poseurs vs doers
Bert22306   11/13/2013 8:08:27 PM
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Junko, another provocative article.

Let me say, I fundamentally disagree with Anne Leonard. Engineers are people who are paid to make things work. They are not paid for flowery prose, pretense at virtue, or make-believe solutions whose primary purpose is to make us appear virtuous to others. Therefore, naturally, when we (well, I) see people who advocate that type of behavior, it makes me cringe.

There is no question in my mind that the reponsibility for behaving responsibly, wrt to the environment, goes to individuals first. The only thing public policy does, in this regard, is to take away people's options. It forces people to behave in a way that they otherwise wouldn't. But unfortunately, because so many regulators are politically-motivated and technically illiterate, their public policies often backfire. Making matters worse, rather than better.

So, contrary to what Ms Leonard says, I advocate education. Educate the public on environmental matters, so you don't have to rely on politicians to do the thinking for you. Educate the bean counters to make them understand that more efficient designs are worth some extra R&D dollars. If you take this approach, instead of letting ourselves be guided by political sloganeering (aka public policy), that's when improvements will be real.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
junko.yoshida   11/14/2013 12:07:00 PM
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Ah, good to hear from you, Bert. I see your point about the fundamental responsibility -- in regards to energy conservation -- belongs to an individual.

I wouldn't disagree with that.

But by reducing the energy conservation issue to an individual do-gooder behavior, i do worry that we might be missing a bigger picture.

The energy issue is so fundamental that it demands a smarter policy, and as a society. people need to participate in forming that policy.  

It's one thing to scold the government for meddling with individuals' lives and choices. But it's entirely another -- a society with no credible energy policy will end up making everyone wasting his time and resources on stuff that may not have any impact, after all, in actually conserving energy. 

Bert22306
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
Bert22306   11/14/2013 3:24:23 PM
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Sure, Junko, but 6 billion individual do-gooders would make a huge difference. I think the most important thing is to educate people about responsible behavior, so they not only behave that way themselves, but also demand it from those they do business with. As opposed to learning how to articulate nice-sounding rhetoric or demand that others take the responsibility for what we're too lazy or stupid to do ourselves.

I totally agree that individuals, just like governments, can squander resources on pointless causes, if there's no education process. One example would be sequestration and burying of man-made CO2. This is a ridiculous waste of time and treasure, which seems designed to make people feel like "they are doing something," even if it makes no sense. There's way too much of this "scientists say ..." stuff going on, as if we are genetically incapable of grasping these concepts and must just "believe." Sounds like some religious cult.

jmoore852
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
jmoore852   11/15/2013 10:51:39 PM
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@Junko Yoshida;

Thanks for posting this topic.

"It's one thing to scold the government for meddling with individuals' lives and choices. But it's entirely another -- a society with no credible energy policy will end up making everyone wasting his time and resources on stuff that may not have any impact, after all, in actually conserving energy. "

The problem with this view is that billions of people, by necessity, will be outside of that society. India, and even China, face huge obstacles trying to keep their poor from using energy in ways that swamp any policy the developed world can enact. Likewise, even in the developed world, the pain point of policies is hit long before substantial CO2 impact.


The US actually hit its Kyoto goals, even though it isn't a signatory to the treaty. There are two reasons we did so - neither forseeable by energy policy makers:
  1. Frac'ing (really, information processing driven drilling) that has replaced a lot of coal and oii usage with natural gas
  2. The poor state of the economy, which has reduced aggregate energy demand

These should provide a clear lesson to those who wish to use the coercive power of government to make energy policy: you are not as wise as you think - you are likely to do more harm than good.

This lesson will not come as a surprise to those who are influenced by the ideas of Von Mises.

BTW... Thanks for your blog post on this difficult subject.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
Caleb Kraft   11/29/2013 9:38:29 AM
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itneresting observations about why we hit our goals. I'd love to see more on that.

proprietor352
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
proprietor352   11/15/2013 6:47:13 AM
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Bert you have done an excellent job of stating an open-minded, engineering-based, scientific, declaration of the situation. Keep up the good work.

"Dogooder-ness" is the basic assertion of liberalism, but in the self guided attempt to assuage the guilt felt, by doing all of these small things in an attempt to fight the great injustice they feel in their heart, they try to expunge themselves from something that they are afraid to look at. Themselves. Personal responsibility to understand what is truly morally wrong with them and why they actually feel this weight of guilt. It is like an alcoholic's attempt to deaden the pain by drinking more, thereby creating more of their own problem.

Collectivism is the new direction? No it is the old one, see how that worked out in Babel, National Socialist Party, USSR, China, North Korea, etc. Some had apparent economic success, but at what cost. Morality, the affront to their very souls. We are each individually responsible for our own failings and what we allow those who we follow to do, by our choice to follow them.

Junko, I remember the piece you wrote on the woman engineer in China, you have personally seen what the constraints of collectivism do to the human soul, please consider this and understand that a morally constrained free society is far more desirable. IF we would truly allow ourselves to drop our pretenses and look at the world from a position of truly trying to understand the bigger picture, we will come to a much different conclusion.

Anyone who would like to have such an open mind and learn more about these types of views would be greatly enlightened by going to this website and spending some time listening to the debates at almost all major universities by this man, a fellow at Oxford University.

 Please don't make a snap judgment upon arrival at the site, be scientific and at least listen to at least five Q&A sessions before making up your mind. You will not be disappointed in his ability to logically reason the dilemma.

www.rzim.org

 

 

 

jmoore852
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
jmoore852   11/15/2013 10:02:39 PM
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@David Ashton - Thanks for your careful response.

One problem I have with this debate is that, while engineers must be rigorous in our work, too often we attribute the same rigor to those, such as climate scientists, who are working in fields different from ours. Unfortunately, climatology, whether paleo or prospective (model based) is not at all rigorous when the results are generalize to climate policy.

Also, I doubt we would accept anecdotal information in our fields that we accept in others. For example,  the latest big typhoon is probably not the result of "something going on." It is not the strongest tropical cyclone, or even typhoon, in history - Australia was hit by a stronger one a couple of centuries ago. The latest was just another very strong one. As you say about climatology - "the most inexact science." Well, close (psychology is worse). Every bit of the "extreme weather" anecdotes are unsupported by evidence, whether it is Hurrance Katrina, Storm Sandy, this latest typhoon, increasing tornadoes, or whatever. There is no evidence for this currently, and the forecasts are based on weak models (see below).

Once we accord those in other disciplines an inappropriate degree of respect for their rigor, we are then easily fooled by the pronouncements of those in the field with an axe to grind.

I have spent a lot of time on this, as meteorology is a sideline of mine, and I know a bunch of climatologists. The more I look into it, the more I realize how hard the field is, the more I respect those toiling to discern signals from the data and models, and the less I respect those (climatologists) making sweeping pronouncements about extreme weather or forecasted future global mean temperatures.

Here are a few facts:

 
  1.  The climate is not changing unusually fast (if by that we mean global mean temperature). What little we can glean from paleoclimatic data shows that. It also shows that a similar rate of rapid temperature increase happened early in the 1900s, and at a number of other times.
  2. CO2 concentration is increasing more rapidly than at any time we know of. There may have been discrete events like supervolcanoes that were even more abrupt, by they are irrelevant. The CO2 increase is caused by human technology.
  3. The only widely accepted relationship between CO2 concentration and global temperature is logarithmic. A doubling of CO2 produces a ~1.2C temperature rise. All other projections, lower or higher, require feedback (negative or positive) and that feedback is not well understood nor very measurable. Almost every paper published on the topic is based on models (see below). Also, be aware that all serious climate *skeptics* accept the 1.2C/doubling physics - contrary to what you may have read. That 1.2C is based on a one dimensional radiative balance model.
  4. A very few climate scientists are irresponsibly spreading unsupportable alarmist propaganda, and also are deeply invested intellectually, financially and publicly in those arguments. This leads to a lot of FUD in the area, which is unfortunate. Many climate scientists keep their heads down - preferring research to controversy. Others, including some I know, are quietly skeptics but fear to say or publish anything skeptical due to the hysteria about the subject.

    Also, the research funding, at least in the US, almost always goes to those who support the climate change hypothesis. The funding bias is so bad that people in unrelated fields tie "climate change" to their research because of it. I found over half a dozen papers tying climate change to prospective effects on surfing, of all things!
  5. There has been no detectable increase in extreme weather. Do *not* be fooled by statements by propagandists. One area where I am active - US tornadoes - provides an ironic example of this. Research severe storms meteorologists of my acquaintance, who are rabid gloom-and-doom "warmists," recently reacted angrily to the assertion that tornadoes were becoming more common and more violent due to global warming - it was rather amusing to see. Tornadoes have are not increasing in intensity or frequency (other than a secular trend due to better detection and reporting). The trend in tornadoes probably has nothing to do with CO2. There is no trend in tropical cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, and whatever you down-under folks call them).
  6. Climate models are at the heart of the debate - especially since the paleoclimatic case for CO2->catastrophic-warming has fallen apart. These models are very complex. They start with the models (GCM's) we use in meteorology for weather forecasting (sometimes even the same Fortran code), modify them to guarantee long term stability (which may or may not damage their accuracy), and then tie them to other models such as biological models and (most importantly) ocean models. BTW... meteorological GCM's are rarely useful for forecasts even 10 days in the future, even with ensemble forecasting.

    Contrary to what one might think, climate models are far from being the rigorous physics-based finite element models engineers use so effectively. The GCM's are finite element based, but because the atmosphere is chaotic, and the earth's surface is not smooth, and supercomputer capacity is finite, they cannot make the elements (grid boxes) small enough for physics to be dominant. Hence most of the work on the models, and most of the code, is in "parameterization" - which is an attempt to account for sub-grid-scale processes through other, non-finite-element models. Parameterization can range from a simple adjustment for topography to complex and subtle attempts to forecast chaotic events such as convective storms. Hence the assertion that climate models are physics based is misleading - they are higly dependent on heuristics.

    The net of all of this is that these models are highly speculative and have historically done a poor job of forecasting temperature or diagnosing the most critical value in the debate: CO2 forcing sensitivy of global mean temperatures ("climate sensitivity").
  7. The most important factor in radiative balance feedback is clouds. They can provide either positive or negative feedback. Models are not good at forecasting cloud feedback, to the point that not even the sign (postive or negative) of cloud feedback is well understood.
  8. Probably the most critical component of the climate system is the oceans, because they have tens of thousands of times the heat capacity of the atmosphere. Ocean feedback is not even close to being understood - partly because the ocean has multi-decadal cycles for which we don't have good long-term measurements. Also, there are chaotic elements in ocean heat transport. Note that ocean heat transport is a bit weird - unlike the atmosphere, we heat the ocean from the top, which prevents convection from vertically mixing the heat, and the heat conductivity of the ocean isn't nearly enough to move the amount of heat involved (it's something like .25W/m^2).
  9. The global mean surface temperature has not increased in 17 years. No climate models predicted this. Also, the surface temps are no higher now than they were 1000 years ago (some will disagree). This doesn't mean that CO2 emissions aren't causing warming, but it should give pause to those who claim they understand warming or the impact of CO2.


I hope this rather long discussion serves to inform about the dangers of relying on climate predictions. The fact is: we don't know - certainly not as well as any engineer would require before making a professional recommendation.

As far as policy prescriptions go... first, we need to recognize that sane policy prescriptions (if such a thing is possibly) must necessarily be unscientific - they have to take the output of weak scientific processes and include non-scientific variables such as economic and social effects.

---


I disagree with the "we must do something" approach on logical principles.


But, I do think there are things we should, and shouldn't do:

We should continue research in climatology. However, we should cut back on the funding going to climate modeling. The US has spent $150bn on this, and it's too much. More money won't yield better science - in fact, a fair amount less money will yield science that is just fine.

We should continue to develop alternative energy, but not by forcing today's uneconomic energy nostrums (such as photovoltaics) down everyone's throat, but rather being future focused and recognizing that future technological and social conditions cannot be readily predicted. In other words, other than research and spot applications where the benefit is clear, we should wait rather than make large energy changes. Of course, there are plenty of arguments beyond climate for improving fuel economies.

We should reseach climate adaptation. If CO2 causes climate change (and at some level, it must), it is more likely that we will have to adapt to it rather than being able to prevent the emissions. Hence we need to look at technological mitigation (ways to decrease the warming), and at technological adaptation (living with a warmed earth).

Finally, to address your pessimism. Yes, I agree (oh, and I'm a bit older than even you :-). Beyond that, barring unforseen technological innovations, I think it is inhumane to deny the people of developing nations the benefits of increased energy intensity.

But on the positive side, the climate impact of CO2 probably isn't as bad as you think. As to the other scare, ocean acidification, I have no idea.

David Ashton
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
David Ashton   11/16/2013 2:18:22 AM
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@jmoore, many thanks for that.  I suspect you have a bit more research and knowledge behind you than I have, so I'm not going to call you out on any of your points.

We have a well known climate change scientist in Australia who has been ridiculed of late for his earlier dire predictions of drought, in place of which we've had more floods.  One thing I will say for him is that he is willing to say "We just don't know enough" and change his position as new data emerges.  The climate change skeptics don't.

I just have this feeing deep down that the present commentators (I don't like to say doomsayers or alarmists  - I'm talking more about people who present their data saying it's just data and that they can't make predictions from it) are like the canary in the coal mine (an apt analogy :-) and we'd be wise not to ignore them.

 

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
Caleb Kraft   11/29/2013 9:40:52 AM
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It definitely merits research. There's no doubt there. That is the great thing about science, we don't just write things off (or on), we persue and research until we can trace a solid and complete line. Yay science!

BobsView
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
BobsView   11/18/2013 9:47:14 AM
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jmoore852:  Thanks for your detailed and well thought-out explanation.  I can say I pretty much agree with all of it.

Since this post has sort of shifted to "Climate Change", here are my thoughts:

Why is a warmer planet a bad thing?

I realize this is heresy to some, but there are many advantages to having a warmer climate.  For instance:

(1)  Northern states will require less energy to heat their homes. A good thing!

(2)  Less traffic accidents due to icy roads. I've experienced this.

(3)  Longer growing season for farmers.  Could reduce food prices.

(4)  More cloud formation resulting in more rain for farmers increasing food production.

(5)  Longer tourist season at resorts.  I've seen this at the Jersey Shore.  More income for the locals and the retired folks love the shore when the crowds leave (as long as the weather is good).

(6)  More evaporation from the ocean causes more rain which fills rivers and lakes with pure distilled water and displaces polluted water.  Seen this also on the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

There are probably many more good reasons to have a warmer planet, but this gets the idea across. 

There used to be dinosaurs in the arctic, so it's definately not the first time the poles have melted.  The world recovered and became better.  Why is it a problem now?

 

Piyush.Patel
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
Piyush.Patel   11/19/2013 7:56:26 AM
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It is true that there can be several upsides of a warming planet as you mentioned. What is usually missed in these arguments is the speed at which warming is happening and I don't claim this is not debatable but it merits attention. There is very little if any precedent of this speed of warming with 7 billion humans heavily dependent on nature for food, it seems the time we have to adapt to rapid warming is shrinking fast. Adaptation of life over slow climate change is much less painful as it can happen over many many generations and is hardly noticeable but rapid warming is a totally different story. Already the increased droughts and floods (weird weather in general, which though not proven completely linked to climate change, is in line with what is expected of a warming planet) have caused food price spikes (that have allegedly triggered conflicts including Syrian conflict) and if this continues with increasing pace, we are likely to see more stresses in society.

 

Signs are already there of several positive feedacks in action with negative feedbacks much less impactful than positive feedbacks, e.g the methane hydrates are bubbling up from the oceans with increasing intensity, if this sets into motion, it will be game over. Many people argue that warming has stopped from land temps but the heat/Co2 is getting sequestered into the oceans and this may actually be appearing as the hydrates melting, which could bring us dangerously close to runaway climate change. It seems we are playing ponzi accounting to make ourselves feel good. It would be a tragedy that humanity did not respond in time to at least make an attempt to avert this condition.

 

jackOfManyTrades
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
jackOfManyTrades   11/19/2013 7:47:56 AM
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2 of your 9 points are false and easily verified as such, which suggests that you are simply looking for evidence to back up a conclusion you've already drawn:

1 - the climate is changing at an unprecented rate. Comparing the rate now to that in 1900 is meaningless: 1900 is well after the start of the Industrial Revolution; it's like claiming that the Dow Jones isn't high today because it was just as high yesterday.


9 - You do well not to claim that "the climate" hasn't changed in the last 15 years like many do, but you're glossing over the fact that the heat capacity of the lower atmosphere is much lower than that of the oceans and land and as a consequence this signal is noisy. But to claim that "global mean surface temperature has not increased in 17 years", you have to ignore the majority of data that contradicts your conclusion, focusing instead on a minority. You then have to misrepresent that minority by thinking that the spike in 1998 is somehow significant. What you're doing is differentiating a noisy signal and frankly, as an engineer, you should know better.

jmoore852
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
jmoore852   11/19/2013 2:23:42 PM
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You simply assert that the climate is changing at an unprecedented rate. You cite no evidence. 1900 is of course relevant, since if the climate was changing rapidly back then, before the bulk of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, then the claim that the rapid change from 1965-1997 as a result of CO2 emissions is harder to suypport.

The failure of the lower atmosphere's temperature to change over 17 years is important because it falsifies all of the climate models which are used to assert that catastrophic warming is near. If the ocean heat capacity is so important (and it is), then either the models failed to take that into account, or they did take it into account. Either way, they're busted. The data showing the climate pause is the same dataset used by climate alarmists to calibrate their models and to assert that catastrophic warming is just around the corner.

The reason for using 17 years is to give the noise time to integrate out. Leading alarmist climatologists, a few years ago, said that a 15 year trend *in global mean temperature* would be convincing.

Ocean heat content is a better indicator of long term warming. Unfortunately, accurate ocean temperature data (top 2000m) just started to become available - the ARGO sensor array has only been fully deployed for 6 years. Also, without verified models that relate ocean thermal storage to sensible weather events, the impact of that warming is unknown.

jackOfManyTrades
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
jackOfManyTrades   11/20/2013 3:28:11 AM
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"You simply assert that the climate is changing at an unprecedented rate. You cite no evidence"

I note you have written thousands of words on this page stating things that are contrary to mainstream science without (as far as I can see) a single piece of evidence. Yet I say something that agrees with mainstream science and you demand evidence. I haven't got time to google now. But if you're as rigorous as you seem to think you are you'll find it easily.

jmoore852
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
jmoore852   11/20/2013 1:10:15 PM
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I also don't have time to provide sources for everything. The assertion that what I have written is contrary to "mainstream science" is simply not true. *Some* of it is contrary to popular interpretations and advocacy positions, which is very different.


But here's one...


On the evidence that the climate pause iis significant:

 

""Near-zero and even negative trends are common for intervals of a decade or less in the simulations, due to the model's internal climate variability. The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more, suggesting that an observed absence of warming of this duration is needed to create a discrepancy with the expected present-day warming rate.""

 

National Climate Data Center: http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/bams-sotc/climate-assessment-2008-lo-rez.pdf

This was written in 2008, when the climate pause was only 10-11 years old.

jackOfManyTrades
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
jackOfManyTrades   11/20/2013 3:14:47 PM
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<<On the evidence that the climate pause iis significant:>>

What climate pause? If there were a climate pause then your quote would support the idea that the models are broken. But your assumption that there is a climate pause, whilst repeated ad nauseam across the internet, is simply false.

Look at some raw data (figure 1 here): 

http://www.aussmc.org/documents/waiting-for-global-cooling.pdf

You can dispute the paper itself all you like – just look at the raw data. In only one of the three datasets is 1998 the hottest year. To draw your conclusion, you need to ignore the other two datasets and then ignore the fact that the signals are noisy – basically you have to differentiate a noisy signal. 

jmoore852
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
jmoore852   11/20/2013 3:30:16 PM
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I'm not going to get into the weeds on this - there are plenty of others doing that.

Yes, some folks argue there is no climate pause. They do so even though the time series that does show a climate pause is one that was used for their alarming pronouncements in the past. At the same time, they changed the name of the threat from "global warming" to "climate change," and the IPCC lowered its lower bound forecast substantially this year."

None of this means there will be no anthropogenic warming. It does show that past forecasts and current ones disagree, which is not surprising in a field where a minimum "climate" interval is considered to be 30 years, and the field is just barely that old.

A meta-lesson is that that the assertions of the climate change alarmists are far from "settled science."

Another meta-lesson is that even scientists (on both sides) can go from science (which is murky in this area) to advocacy.

Another is that scientific truth is not determined by majority vote, and that modern bureaucratic science has perverse incentives which can slow the ultimate convergence towards reality.


Alll of this shows the folly of asserting vast and expensive policy prescriptions based on this weak science. That, and the futility (and folly) of atempting significant change through developed country CO2 emissions reduction, is all I hope to get across in this discourse.

Wnderer
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Re: Poseurs vs doers
Wnderer   11/20/2013 5:14:05 PM
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This is a really good article about the 'climate pause' from The Economist.

 

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions

DrQuine
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Environmental Responsibility and the Thin Edge of the Wedge
DrQuine   11/13/2013 8:13:19 PM
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I'm all in favor of environmentally responsible behaviors large and small. Turning off idling trucks in New York City (as required by law) reduces air pollution and noise pollution. Buying a hybrid car helps test new technologies and deploy solutions (such as "auto-stop" engines at red lights) which can be installed with beneficial effects in conventional vehicles as well. (With my hybrid, I also made back the premium cost several times over in gas savings and brake repair savings.). Finally, small acts of personal responsibility help build an aware mindset and support a culture which embraces the bigger improvements which carry a global impact. 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Environmental Responsibility and the Thin Edge of the Wedge
junko.yoshida   11/14/2013 12:09:44 PM
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DrQuine. I agree. We need to both -- small and big things. 

Turning off trucks in NYC, as you mentioned, is a smart policy. It achieves things that individuals can't do themselves. 

Are there any other "big" stuff we should be asking the society to consider?

DarkMatter0
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Re: Environmental Responsibility and the Thin Edge of the Wedge
DarkMatter0   11/14/2013 1:43:21 PM
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Auto-stop engines are great until they fail to auto-start pulling out into traffic. Personal experience.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Environmental Responsibility and the Thin Edge of the Wedge
Caleb Kraft   11/29/2013 9:43:23 AM
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I've been curious about this. I'd be afraid at every light that I was stuck!

Bert22306
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As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/13/2013 8:20:56 PM
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I doubt anyone says climate change is a hoax, Junko. What many of us do wonder, though, is whether it's caused by humans primarily. And I would think anyone should wonder about that.

When CO2 emissions by humans was touted as the cause, any thinking person's first question should have been, how much of the global CO2 daily emissions is caused by humans? No? Why is that never plainly stated?

So, in the Internet era, information like this is easily available, and from multiple sources. The answer is about 3 percent. So now you wonder, is the ecosystem so unstable that 3 percent additonal CO2 is enough to make it go out of kilter? No engineer would design a machine that is that precarious, I wouldn't think. Imagine designing a bridge that collapses if the cars running over it weigh 3 percent more than when it was first built. Ridiculous, right?

So here we are. I'd sooner see a massive global reforestation campaign, instead of these loonie ideas about burying CO2. At least then, all CO2 would be better controlled, not just the tiny amount created by us. And the planet would look better too!

RogerRM
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Re: As to climate change ...
RogerRM   11/14/2013 2:54:50 PM
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Bert,

You say of CO2 "So, in the Internet era, information like this is easily available, and from multiple sources. The answer is about 3 percent. " That was news to me.  Please provide all the links you have to the sources of that information.

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/14/2013 3:46:45 PM
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"That was news to me.  Please provide all the links you have to the sources of that information"

Roger, did you try to look it up? With a search engine? The information has been available for years and years. It seems like the first question would would ask, no? Given that CO2 is produced literally by every living organism on the planet, as well as other non-organic sources such as volcanos, why isn't it imperative that we first obtain that human contribution number, before just "believing" the mantra as if we're in some religious cult? This is not something that regular people can't hope to grasp. Just now, I looked it up again, and came up with many sources. Here's just one:

http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

The "measure of effectiveness" of politicians is how many votes they get at the next election. Period. They don't need to promote sound policies, they need to promote policies that get them elected or re-elected. In a democracy, it's up to people to educate themselves and refrain from being gullible.

One thing the alarmists like to quote is how much of an increase in CO2 emissions humans have generated, since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Sounds like a scary number. But we're supposed to be engineers here, aren't we? If you pour a glass of water into the ocean, you don't expect a huge change in sea level. If you DOUBLE the amount you pour into the ocean, to two glasses of water, would that be cause for alarm?

RogerRM
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Re: As to climate change ...
RogerRM   11/14/2013 4:17:05 PM
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Thanks for reference.  It demonstates how amazing the current more or less steady state condition of our planet has been for more than thousands of years.  Its an amazing balance, the dynamics of which we understand poorly. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Carbon_Dioxide_400kyr.png  You can't deny CO2 concentrations are increasing.

So we have a system that to oversimplify is like a recirculating fish tank water filtering system in your dining room.  It has maintained a balance for many, many cycles.

Now add 3% of the recirculation rate per hour, and then do it 20 or 100 times over.  Your going to finsh up with a real mess on your dining room floor.

I'm worried for your and my kids and grandkids and the messed up climate that we are going to leave them in. 

 

 

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/14/2013 4:34:55 PM
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If we're to do something about increasing CO2 levels, it had better be something effective, is the main point. Trying to bury what might amount to 0.1 percent of CO2 released to the atmosphere daily is hardly sensible policy. On the other hand, as I suggested previously, reforestation would be.

And too, there may be other gases we are emitting that are far more harmful than the rather benign and natural CO2.

One thing we should all ask ourselves, as engineers who are supposed to understand these things, is whether this CO2 content in the atmosphere is totally open-loop, like your fish tank analogy, or whether it has built-in feedback loops. If the ecosystem is open-loop, then how is it that greenhouse operators know to inject CO2 in the greenhouse, to increase plant growth? If plant growth is enhanced by CO2, why doesn't that hint that just maybe that same mechanism should operate in the larger ecosystem?

I'm all for being prudent. Increasing the effciency of our machines is just plain good policy. Reforestation is also good policy. Can't be harmful, it beautifies the planet again, and it would tackle the whole CO2 regulation mechanism. Assuming of course that CO2 really is the cause of global warming, as opposed to the outcome of global warming. Point it, it would be a benign change with all good side effects.

Jonathan Allen
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Re: As to climate change ...
Jonathan Allen   11/14/2013 10:35:33 PM
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The problem with capturing CO2 with photosynthetic biomass is that most of the carbon is not removed long-term from the atmosphere.  When the plants die and decay or otherwise oxidize the reverse reaction converts the carbohydrates back to CO2 and water.  Only by changing the sustained plant matter can one significantly affect atmospheric CO2 levels. This would involve, for example, increasing or decreasing total forested land. 

jmoore852
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Re: As to climate change ...
jmoore852   11/15/2013 10:42:23 PM
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" It demonstates how amazing the current more or less steady state condition of our planet has been for more than thousands of years.  Its an amazing balance, the dynamics of which we understand poorly."

That the balance has been maintained is perhaps evidence that the climate system has not-well-understood homeostatic mechanisms (thermostat) that may mitigate the impact of CO2 concentration increase. It doesn't "prove" that they exist, but it is suggestive.

RogerRM
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Re: As to climate change ...
RogerRM   11/15/2013 11:11:50 PM
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However atmospheric CO2 concentrations continue rise - so sadly if there are such "homeostatic mechanisms" they are not currently helping us.  Furthermore oceans are becoming more acidic which may eventually endanger the existance of all shellfish and corals.

Meanwhile bushfires occur in Australia's south east in October - far earlier in the spring than ever had occured there, ice caps melt, and a hurricane produces an unheard of 235 mph wind (remember from college physics - force grows with the square of the wind speed). 

Very scary for our kids and grandkids.  And sad that their parents and grandparents shoul be so greedy, selfish and uncaring about the devastating legacy they are leaving.

jmoore852
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Re: As to climate change ...
jmoore852   11/15/2013 11:46:25 PM
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You may be right about ocean acidification - on that, I don't have enough information. I am a bit skeptical, simply because the climate scare mongers have been so assertive on so little evidence, so the same sociological phenomenon may be going on with acidification. Think of my skepticism as the application of a bit of Bayesian logic to the a priori probabilities :-)

 

On climate matters, though, a homeostatic mechanism (if it exists) could counteract a whole lot of CO2 increase. Think of it like negative feedback - probably even non-linear negative feedback.

Ogemaniac
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Re: As to climate change ...
Ogemaniac   11/18/2013 7:30:43 AM
"I am a bit skeptical, simply because the climate scare mongers have been so assertive on so little evidence"

So little evidence, as in several tens of thousands of published papers, dating back nearly 120 years? Pray tell, what would you consider an acceptable amount of evidence?

jmoore852
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Re: As to climate change ...
jmoore852   11/18/2013 1:20:39 PM
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"So little evidence, as in several tens of thousands of published papers, dating back nearly 120 years? Pray tell, what would you consider an acceptable amount of evidence?"

You confuse activity with evidence. In an environment where the government funds $20bn/year of research, you are guaranteed to get a whole lot of papers. Evidence does not come from counts of papers or even counts of science. Go look up how science is supposed to work, next time.

 

Ogemaniac
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Re: As to climate change ...
Ogemaniac   11/15/2013 2:17:17 AM
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"Given that CO2 is produced literally by every living organism on the planet, as well as other non-organic sources such as volcanos, why isn't it imperative that we first obtain that human contribution number"

We already have that. The build up of CO2 is known to be from fossil sources because plants absorb less C13 than C12 given their ratio in the atmosphere. Thus, fossil fuels also have a lower C13/C12 ratio than the atmosphere, and when burned, should cause the atmospheric ratio to drop in turn. Indeed, this is a well known and well measured phenomenon, and is close agreement with theory. We are responsible for essentially all the excess CO2 building up in both the atmosphere and oceans. This is not in dispute by anyone who knows anything about the topic.

As one great scientist put it, we are responsible for somewhere between 80 and 120% of the observed warning. Uncertainty cuts both ways, my friend.

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/15/2013 9:04:14 PM
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"We already have that. The build up of CO2 is known to be from fossil sources because plants absorb less C13 than C12 given their ratio in the atmosphere. Thus, fossil fuels also have a lower C13/C12 ratio than the atmosphere, and when burned, should cause the atmospheric ratio to drop in turn."

Partial explanations seem designed for dramatic effect.

You're saying that the C13/C12 ratio in the atmosphere is dropping, slightly, which indicates that man-made CO2 is the largest contributor of **rising** CO2 levels. What the unwashed interpret, from the now prevalent partial information, is that humans cause MOST of the CO2 output. Good recipe for global hysteria. "Most of the increase" is not the same as "most of the quantity." Like my previous example, if you go from adding one glass of water to the ocean, to two glasses of water, or even 10, you still wouldn't expect a big change in sea level. And yet, you could make that sound dramatic. He's adding 10 times more water to the ocean than he did yesterday!

So, today humans are dumping just about 3.1 percent of the total daily CO2 into the ecosystem. You can verify this.

Although that C13/C12 ratio explanation, to prove the additional CO2 levels are man-made, isn't without its detractors, it doesn't contradict my point. The daily human contribution is very very small compared with the daily total from natural causes, and reforestation in large scale would regulate that increased CO2 volume. Reforestation wouldn't care who made that CO2. The trees would grab it regardless, and in fact, would preferentially extract the C12 isotope. Since humans caused most of the deforestation, that seems like a slam-dunk first measure to me! Every tree you knock down has to balanced by a new tree planted. Or more than one.

We know that there's a big pent-up demand for luxuries in the two by far most populated countries on the planet: India and China. Roughly 1 of every 3 people on earth is from those two countries. So obviously, demand for fuels is going to grow too. It makes a whole lot more sense to see to it that the extra CO2 emissions will regulate themselves, I mean through photosynthesis, than it does to pretend we're going to stop people from buying the same luxuries we have, or that we can sequester and bury all of the human-generated CO2, or even that if the developed countries drop their CO2 emissions by some small amount, that would solve the bigger problem.

Ogemaniac
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Re: As to climate change ...
Ogemaniac   11/16/2013 8:05:41 PM
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Your analogy is not correct. Imagine a bathtub into which a 97 ml of water leaks every day, but from which 97 ml also evaporates. Now I start adding 3 ml of deuterium-spiked water each day, what happens?

1: The water level starts increasing by 3 ml per day

2: The deuterium level also starts rising in a predicable manner

Does it make any sense to claim that I am not responsible for 100% of the increase in this case? That appears to be what you are saying, but you are ignoring the fact that in the unperturbed state, we were in an equalibrium (at least on human time scales).

CO2 levels are rising, and they are rising virtually entirely (and perhaps even more than entirely) because of human activity, mostly fossil fuel use. This is not really a debatable point.

As for reforestation,

1: We are doing the reverse

2: It's impact would be limited and slow

It's not a bad thing per se, but it can only be a small portion of the solution even we got about to actuallly doing it

 

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/17/2013 7:00:10 PM
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"Imagine a bathtub into which a 97 ml of water leaks every day, but from which 97 ml also evaporates. Now I start adding 3 ml of deuterium-spiked water each day, what happens?"

But again, you are assuming an open loop system. Why? As I said previously, we already know that greenhouse operators pump CO2 into their greenhouses, to stimulate plant growth. This hints right away at the fact that the photosynthesis process is not open loop, and that it can use more CO2 than what is available out in the open, at LEAST for certain types of plants.

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/00-077.htm

So, rising CO2 levels should stimulate plant growth, which in turn works to counter the rise in CO2. This is called negative feedback.

Even if the average joe doesn't spend his entire career fussing over self-regulating systems, EEs typically do. So we should not feel obliged to just buy into the simplistic, first order assumptions, IMHO. At least, look on it with some level of skepticism, just because it sounds so simplistic.

"As for reforestation,

"1: We are doing the reverse

"2: It's impact would be limited and slow"

Well, (1) isn't that EXACTLY why we should be doing something about reforestation? (2) It's not at all slow. Matter of fact, paper mills treat trees as a harvest. They plant as much as they use. If paper companies can do this, why not do the same thing on a grander scale?

Planting trees is totally benign. It makes sense, it's obviously a good idea (because we know for damn sure that we have been the biggest offenders at deforesting), and it's not one of those pointless "feel good" exercises in futility. You got China and India coming on line here, in the next decades. Sorry, but these ideas of CO2 sequestratiuon sound preposterous to me. And increasing fuel economy, even though it makes perfectly good sense and SHOULD be promoted heavily, is going going to be enough to compensate for the new demand.

Ogemaniac
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Re: As to climate change ...
Ogemaniac   11/19/2013 4:10:02 AM
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"But again, you are assuming an open loop system. Why? As I said previously, we already know that greenhouse operators pump CO2 into their greenhouses, to stimulate plant growth. This hints right away at the fact that the photosynthesis process is not open loop, and that it can use more CO2 than what is available out in the open, at LEAST for certain types of plants."

Your problem is the numbers. There are something like 560 billion tons of living carbon biomass. We are emitting just under 10 billion tons per year. Even if CO2 fertilization trumps desertification, a few percent swing either way in the earth's biomass only offsets a couple year's worth of emissions. Then what?

Also, it is not if CO2 fertilization is not understood and incorporated into climate models. Like anything, however, it has diminishing returns, and at higher temperatures, almost certainly gets trumped by the water and heat stress that lead to desertification.

Your reforestation idea suffers from the sample problem. Maybe we can offset 5-10 year's worth of emissions, in theory. In practice, we are heading the wrong way entirely and adding to our problems via deforestation. Changing this would actually be harder than shutting off the coal plants, which are the primary problem. You say planting trees is "benign", but it costs money and diverts that land from other uses.

 

 

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/19/2013 6:09:42 PM
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"There are something like 560 billion tons of living carbon biomass. We are emitting just under 10 billion tons per year. Even if CO2 fertilization trumps desertification, a few percent swing either way in the earth's biomass only offsets a couple year's worth of emissions."

Let's get the numbers right. Several sources available online seem to agree that the annual quantity of CO2 going through the ecosystem is 750 GT. And that what humans contribute to that annual quantity is around 3 percent, 3.1 percent or so. This is annual emissions, not total mass. Let's not mix apples and oranges.

This is the crux of the matter: Why do CO2 levels continue to rise in spite of the fact that plant growth SHOULD be increasing, with CO2 concentrations greater than what is in the atmosphere now? That's the only valid question here. That web site I posted previously

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/00-077.htm

shows that faster plant growth is stimulated in greenhouses from *much* higher levels of CO2 that what we have in the atmosphere now (some plants more than others). Yes, there's a level where CO2 no longer stimulates faster growth, but we aren't even close to that yet.

Some say heat stress, some say lack of rain, no one really knows. Which is why some think that CO2 levels are rising BECAUSE OF warming.

Some claim that the C13/C12 isotope ratio "proves" that all the increase in CO2 is generated by us. And there are detractors for that idea too, having to do with how this ratio is measured:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/01/28/spencer-pt2-more-co2-peculiarities-the-c13c12-isotope-ratio/

The bottom line is that the arguments made by doomsdayers always end up being based on the assumption that the ecosystem is open loop, and that it was in "unstable equilibrium" before the Industrial Revolution. I'm using the technical definition of unstable equilibrium, where any slight perturbation causes the equilibirum to be broken. I find that so simplistic that it automatically turns me off. Every time.

Some people seem to enjoy wringing their hands in despair, and thinking that this mere act makes them appear virtuous. Instead, I'd like to propose that if we did some massive reforestation, only good would come of that. For instance, it may restore rain in now-arrid areas. Can't hurt, at any rate, given that we know for sure WE are the ones who cut down the trees. And it would certainly increase the amount of photosynthesis possible. So if we are close to the edge, it would move us away from the edge. AND I'm saying, combine that with increased efficiency, nuclear power, no excuses for obese SUVs and trucks, which has the added benefit of calling our the hypocrites, plus whatever small contribution you might get from wind and solar.

Once again, a full 1/3 of the population of earth is buying up cars and electrical appliances at prodigious rates. Aside from wringing our hands in despair and feeling good about it, what "policies" should we be pushing for?

Ogemaniac
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Re: As to climate change ...
Ogemaniac   11/22/2013 8:13:37 PM
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"Let's get the numbers right. Several sources available online seem to agree that the annual quantity of CO2 going through the ecosystem is 750 GT. And that what humans contribute to that annual quantity is around 3 percent, 3.1 percent or so. This is annual emissions, not total mass. Let's not mix apples and oranges."


Your 750 GT and my 560 GT figure are different concepts. 750 GT "passes through" the 560 GT of living biomass each year.


My point is that even if biomass increases as a result of AGW, and assuming we didn't negate this via land use changes, it would only be a chance of at most a few tens of GT. Since we are emitting around 10GT a year and growing, at best this change could only offset a few year's worth of emissions. It is simply impossible for your mechanism to save us, and it is unlikely to even help us, precisely because in practice we are losing biomass, not gaining it. Reversing that would be every bit as disruptive and costly as shutting down the coal plants, which is what we should really be doing.

I have no idea why you have this idea that anyone assumes "closed loop". Any serious climate model includes the effects you are citing. They are just small.

 

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/22/2013 9:27:55 PM
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"Your 750 GT and my 560 GT figure are different concepts. 750 GT "passes through" the 560 GT of living biomass each year."

Agreed. Since we are focusing only on CO2, the comparison has to be how much CO2 the ecosystem processes each day (or year, or whatever), vs how much CO2 humans add to this daily or annual total that must be processed. We are talking about CO2 sequestration RATES, not quantities at equilibrium.

"My point is that even if biomass increases as a result of AGW, and assuming we didn't negate this via land use changes, it would only be a chance of at most a few tens of GT."

Based on what? The equilibrium point for atmospheric CO2 is likely to change with different average temps, I have found articles that describe that CO2 content varies over geological ages, and how much CO2 sequestration different types of plants provide. Also, how much CO2 is emitted from decaying plants. So there's not a lot of doubt that ambient temps will affect the equilibrium level. It's kind of self evident, right?

"Since we are emitting around 10GT a year and growing, at best this change could only offset a few year's worth of emissions."

I don't understand this point t all. To repeat both parts of my argument. If you have a mechanism that processes 740 GT per year, say, and then you feed it 750 GT per year (or whatever small added increase), unless that mechanism is open loop, it will compensate for the extra. We ALREADY KNOW that plant growth is stimulated with extra CO2, over the amtospheric content. So to buy into this notion that the CO2 sequestration mechanism is open loop, and can't process even 1 more GT of CO2 per year, doesn't make a lot of sense. (My bet is that even real 'climate scientists' don't believe this, but the clueless press uses that as a simplistic argument for gullible readers.)

Second part. Now on the other hand, assume that deforestation has been so severe that the ecosystem is truly unable to process an extra 10 or 20 GT CO2 per year, for whatever reasons (heat stress, lack of rain). Then add enough vegetation to sequester that extra 3 percent of CO2. Reforestation will change rainfall patterns too, in addition to adding CO2 sequestering plants. And of course, there's no reason to stop at 3 percent, even assuming you can be so precise in these matters. 3 percent is a tiny figure. Adding vegetation in the form of forests can only make the ecosystem that much more self regulating. It won't stop at just an extra 3 percent of sequestration capacity.

Don't forget that the doomsdayers are saying that ever since the start of the Industrial Revolution, things have been going to hell in a handbasket. You're now saying, even if we can compensate for 3 percent, what about when it gets to 6 percent. But that's not even been the discussion.

"I have no idea why you have this idea that anyone assumes 'closed loop'. Any serious climate model includes the effects you are citing. They are just small."

Wow, they must REALLY be small, if the small extra CO2 emissions, especially at the start of the Industrial Revolution, have been enough to throw the system out of whack. Remember, these rising CO2 levels, supposedly caused by humans, have been going on for 200 years, they claim. How much extra CO2 were we talking about, when this man-made catastrophe started? We're at 3 percent now. Must have been 0.003 percent, when the claims of human causes were supposedly already measurable?

There is a lot of CONJECTURE going on in climate science, and the real scientists say so. These aren't scientifically repeatable experiments, as in physics. Nor is there any reason why we should assume ourselves incapable of making any sense of this. We don't need to "just believe" in the simplistic general interest press explanations, any more than we should "just believe" in "creation science."

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/22/2013 9:36:55 PM
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"My point is that even if biomass increases as a result of AGW, and assuming we didn't negate this via land use changes, it would only be a chance of at most a few tens of GT."

Oh, sorry, on re-reading, I thought you were talking about CO2 mass as a result of global warming. Now I see you were talking about vegetation mass.

But still, exactly how much extra CO2 sequestration the vegetation out there today can handle is not obvious to me, but the doomsdayers are saying, essentially, NONE. (That's BEFORE any reforestation effort.)

jackOfManyTrades
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Re: As to climate change ...
jackOfManyTrades   11/19/2013 6:14:44 AM
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"Even if the average joe doesn't spend his entire career fussing over self-regulating systems, EEs typically do."

Bert, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has risen streadily by 1/3 over the last 150 years or so (from 0.03% to 0.04%). This alledged self-regulating system must have a very long time constant (far longer than the life of your average plant), because so far no regulation has occured.

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/19/2013 7:24:02 PM
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Jackofmanytrades, note that CO2 isn't even the most plentiful or most effective greenhouse gas out there. Turns out, I'm sure you already knew this, that water vapor is. Water vapor content of course would be expected to rise with warming temperatures, but you'll note even NOAA, while it does repeat the orthodoxy, isn't prepared to come to any strong conclusions on some of these other gases:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/greenhouse-gases.php

Check out the methane segment, for example, which they said was also man-caused.

This site shows the different greehouse gases and the human contribution:

http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

So in fact, if we assume that CO2 is all there is to worry about, and that deforestation has somehow brought us too close to the edge of natural CO2 sequestration capabilitiers of the ecosystem, then a massive reforestation effort would help. It's that extra 3 percent, some would want us to believe, that we need to re-sequester annually. If that's the case, it doesn't sound beyond the reach of reforestation. (And if not, trees are nice to have anyway.)

This site also raises questions about the orthodoxy:

http://www.climatechangedispatch.com/home/9105-climate-change-paradox-current-co2-levels-are-not-of-anthropogenic-origins

Also, thankfully, there's supposed to be a lot more sea ice forming this year than in the past 5 years.

One article about Antarctic sea ice (and it claims Arctic sea ice isn't recovering):

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2013/09/23/antarctic-sea-ice-hit-35-year-record-high-saturday/

And another very recent article that Arctic sea ice IS recovering:

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Bottom line: instead of feeling good just because we can sound negative, I say we plant more trees (and encourage people to ditch their trucks and obese SUVs by attacking them where it hurts: in their wallet).

jackOfManyTrades
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Re: As to climate change ...
jackOfManyTrades   11/20/2013 3:36:32 AM
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Thanks for a detailed reply, Bert (with links! :-). I haven't got time to read it now, but I agree with your point about tax: we tax the living daylights out of fuel here in the UK and as a consequence our cars are more efficient than those in the US tend to be - and so it doesn't actually cost us any more to drive a mile. My car seats 7 and does 57mpg (though at the moment it reads 54.5mpg, because I have been using it to do field trials and consequently driving in an unusual manner  :-).

jackOfManyTrades
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Re: As to climate change ...
jackOfManyTrades   11/20/2013 3:45:09 PM
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Bert, 

My specific point was that, as CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has risen by 1/3 in the past couple of centuries, the feedback mechanism you allege either has not kicked in or must have a very long time constant. You have no addressed this point, but instead have raised a load of other points instead. This seems to be a common tactic. 

To address you points:

reticence, qualification etc by scientists is a good thing. It is a good thing that they are far less sure of themselves than denialists. 

we must not conflate the fact that we rely on the greenhouse affect to raise the temperature of our planet sufficiently to support life (an effect to which water contributes significantly) with the fact that our emissions of CO2 are adding to this raising the temperature still further. You also need to bear in mind that the atmosphere is saturated with water so if water has any part to play at all, it is to make temperatures rise even faster (because the atmosphere will be able to hold more water as its temperature rises).

 humans emit about 100x the amount of CO2 that volcanic activity emits, so the volcano link is nonsense (and of course volcanically emitted CO2 is part of the natural carbon-cycle; mankind's emissions are extra).

if figure two of your last link doesn't show that artic sea ice is reducing, I'm a Dutchman.

Bert22306
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Re: As to climate change ...
Bert22306   11/20/2013 8:28:36 PM
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"My specific point was that, as CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has risen by 1/3 in the past couple of centuries, the feedback mechanism you allege either has not kicked in or must have a very long time constant. You have no addressed this point, but instead have raised a load of other points instead."

Is this point significant? One article I read claims that rapid rise in CO2 levels during the peak warm periods is normal, but would not show up in ice core records. And one of the articles I posted addresses that point too, calling it more of a coincidence than a cause and effect.

"if figure two of your last link doesn't show that artic sea ice is reducing, I'm a Dutchman."

How so? Figure 2 clearly shows that the extent of Arctic ice in 2013 (blue-green) is closest to the 1981-2010 average than any other year except maybe 2008. Keep in mind that the recent prediction was that Arctic sea ice would be gone by 2013. And Antarctic sea ice growing bit by bit, for the past 35 years. I'm not about to say that "climate change" is a hoax, but that doesn't mean I have to buy the new orthodoxy like an acolyte, either.

"humans emit about 100x the amount of CO2 that volcanic activity emits, so the volcano link is nonsense (and of course volcanically emitted CO2 is part of the natural carbon-cycle; mankind's emissions are extra)."

So what, even if this is true? The intent in citing such a statistic APPEARS to be that human contributions swamp all others. I certainly never claimed that volcanoes were the, or a, major source of CO2, just one of the *many* natural sources. And at the same time, no one denies that natural sources of CO2 outweigh human CO2 emissions by a huge amount. This is not even being debated. Human contribution, over a given time period, is just above 3 percent of the total.

"we must not conflate the fact that we rely on the greenhouse affect to raise the temperature of our planet sufficiently to support life (an effect to which water contributes significantly) with the fact that our emissions of CO2 are adding to this raising the temperature still further."

I made no such arguments, though. My main argument is that all of the doomsday hand wringing hinges on the assumption that CO2 was previously in unstable equilibrium. All it took was a small amount of additional human contribution to upset the applecart. That's my main objection. Perhaps this sounds likely to those unschooled in the design of stable systems, but this sort of simplistic assumption SHOULD make engineers wonder. No? And furthermore, I suggest that a massive effort at reforestation would accommodate that extra 3 percent of CO2, IF it's true that our human contribution drove the previous garden of eden state over the edge.

jackOfManyTrades
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Re: As to climate change ...
jackOfManyTrades   11/21/2013 9:06:27 AM
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Bert,

I afraid I haven't got the time to consider every argument. The claim that rises in CO2 are more "coincidence than a cause and effect" is a standard denialist argument. It's all good to be skeptical, but it's validity you could easily verify yourself with a bit of googling (it's wrong, of course*). Previous hot periods were caused by changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun; this lead to the oceans releasing CO2, which lead to the earth heating up even faster. Consequently, CO2 lagged temperature. This time, the initial effect is not a change in the earth's orbit, but the rapid and massive increase in CO2 in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. So, previously is was a chicken-and-egg situation; this time the egg definitely came first.

*I say "of course" because the idea that we as engineers can find fault in another person's field is as absurd as a climate scientist being able to find fault in ours.

David Ashton
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Climate change is.....
David Ashton   11/13/2013 8:52:45 PM
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@Bert... "I doubt anyone says climate change is a hoax, Junko"

Here in Australia we have a Prime Minister who thinks Climate change is crap....does that count?

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: Climate change is.....
Sheetal.Pandey   11/14/2013 1:12:47 AM
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Its the need of today's generation and for the survival of coming generations that we start adapting or becoming green in day today activities. It holds good for both the developed nations and developing nations. For developing nations its on critical path as they dont have system to handle waste getting generated. Whether its ewaste, solid or wet waste or climate related. Engineers can make a lot of difference as they always are more analytical and result oriented. I remember a saying from a small child who told this is her speech in United Nations "If not "You" then "Who", If not "Now" then "When", If not "Here" then "WHere"". 

Its our environment and we have to proetect it for us and coming generations.

David Ashton
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Re: Climate change is.....
David Ashton   11/14/2013 2:03:06 AM
@Sheetal - our current government has its usual breathtaking arrogance on climate change and green energy, but even the last govenment (which did at least introduce a price on carbon), was still content to sell tons of coal to China and others.  The current government wants to expand the coal sales AND develop new ports and shipping routes in our Great Barrier Reef national marine park.  Apparently littering the GBR with dredge spill is more important than preserving it for future generations.  Some things are more important than money, but not to our politicians.....

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: Climate change is.....
Sheetal.Pandey   11/14/2013 7:42:38 AM
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@David, so true and well said. Politicians and policy makers forgets that we all are humans and environment affects everyone in a similiar way, for some it might be immediate and for others, I mean these politicians it might take few more years. The pathetic part is that they try to win mileage or have hidden agendas even in the environment related stuff. Sometimes I feel engineers (the real techie guys) should enter politics, will politics change them as a person or they would change the way political system work.... 

ScRamjet
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Re: Climate change is.....
ScRamjet   12/2/2013 9:10:08 AM
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Now that is a seriuos shame.

I come from a well forested part of the US Where Coal is a major Power source. Colorado has the best and worst of the counrty. Both in Physical and political structures.

Point: Several Counties recently tried to Separate into another state !

Will that Happen? Very Very Unlikely, but it should yank the politicians back to reality for a while. Those politicians in the Cities regulate as if the entire State was a city while the Vast majority of it is Rural and Agricultural.

So I feel your pain.

With Hope for the Future:

Russell 

ScRamjet
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Re: Climate change is.....
ScRamjet   12/2/2013 9:03:51 AM
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Good for you, Here in the USA it is a crap shoot.

Crusty1
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Energy is nevery cheap
Crusty1   11/14/2013 9:16:42 AM
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@Junko Yodhida: Thank you for a though provoking editorial.

I have had 70 years of survival so far. Probably I have not been as green to the planet as I would have liked, especially where consumption of energy is concerned. I have during this time been a farmer, medical technician and a technician in engineering and electronics.

In all this time I have been painfully aware of the energy I use, mainly because I often do not make enough potential to buy energy from the work I do.

Energy sources that are too cheap will be squandered (time, effort or money), one could almost state this as a natural law.

The problem is that modern domesticated man takes the right to cheap easily available energy as a god given requirement. Governments to stay in power have to make sure energy to squander is cheap. This means that governments actually have less money availble to invest in reducing energy use.

At the biological level, cellular energy harvesting and useage has become well managed with efficiencies that are staggering when compared to a coal power station or even a solar electric panel. Interestingly the cellular time line to reach this level of efficiency is billions of years, and no influnce other than natural selection (no politics or government projects).

So can humanity ramp up it's technology fast enough to stop natural selection from removing them, as an experiment, because they ran out of energy?

 

 

 

zeeglen
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Re: Energy is nevery cheap
zeeglen   11/14/2013 10:10:45 AM
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@Crusty1

In all this time I have been painfully aware of the energy I use, mainly because I often do not make enough potential to buy energy from the work I do.

Here's a dumb idea/food for thought:

Years ago one sometimes heard of a parent who connected the family TV to a generator powered by a bicycle pedal arrangement.  The idea was if the kids wanted to watch TV they had to work at it, thus avoiding becoming couch potatoes.

Many health-conscious people belong to exercise gyms/clubs and pay good money to run on treadmills etc.  Their energy gets converted into heat and wasted.  Would it be feasible to connect these exercise machines to the power grid to harness the energy produced by exercising humans instead of wasting it?  Then membership could be free - just provide the energy that the health club can sell to the power grid.  And thus avoid becoming a couch potato without having to pay for it ...

Probably humans could not produce enough energy to make this profitable, but afaik nobody has ever crunched these numbers.

antedeluvian
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Re: Energy is nevery cheap
antedeluvian   11/14/2013 10:31:16 AM
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zeeglen

Many health-conscious people belong to exercise gyms/clubs and pay good money to run on treadmills etc.  Their energy gets converted into heat and wasted. 

Some of the elliptical trainers and bikes at my gym are self powered. They only need to power the display and sometimes the pressure on the friction pad. I wonder if they could ever produce enough power to offset the cost of creating the grid and powering the lights and treadmills. It would be interesting to see.

Crusty1
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Re: Energy is nevery cheap
Crusty1   11/14/2013 11:13:09 AM
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@Zeeglen : If the health club has a swimming pool at least try dumping any low grade energy generated into the pools water.

It's the technology for harvesting energy after it's first iniial use that keeps my mind occupied. Like technology for feeding braking power back into traction power, this has been a hard won technique but we are now seeing this arrive in cars. The problem is that it takes time for the technology to transfers from rail to road tractor and then car and it only gains momentum when fuel prices get high enough to drive the concept.

Reducing heat on underground transport systems is a very significant problem especially as each person transported radiates approx 200 Watts, on a packed tube train thats an awfull lot of Watts and at the moment it just gets sucked out by giant fans which also consumes power.

Harveting low grade power for reuse is an ultimate goal, but using less at source must always be the engineers and technicians mantra.

Caleb Kraft
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between two worlds
Caleb Kraft   11/14/2013 9:25:57 AM
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This is always a tough argument going on in my head. I'm a bit stuck between two worlds.

I absolutely love gadgets and gizmos. I love the technology involved in all of these completely unnecessary things around us. I get giddy thinking about new fancy displays for video games and toys that do fun little tricks. Heck, my JOB has been to share my excitement and to make pointless but fun things (in the past).

 

On the other hand, I see this massive waste that is being encouraged and fed throughout the entire world. We don't need any of this stuff that I love. We are arguably destroying the planet around us for amusements and distractions.  It is impossible to ballance these two opposing views in my mind so I typically just keep my mouth shut and carry on.

David Ashton
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Re: between two worlds
David Ashton   11/15/2013 3:44:38 AM
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@Caleb, I think your gadgets and gizmos are the least of our problems.  Until we develop our gadgets and gizmos enough to store energy that we produce by unreliable but clean means - solar, wind, etc - so that we can depend on it 24/7, we'll continue burning coal and oil and pumping crud into the atmosphere and seas.

Energy storage, and efficiency of clean energy sources,  are our biggest problems, and unless we solve them fast I, like other posters here, think mankind will come to an unpleasant fate, or a sticky end.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: between two worlds
Caleb Kraft   11/29/2013 9:46:41 AM
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I hate to be the one to say the horrible thing, but also, if we (humans) don't stop having so many babies so quickly we'll be in trouble too.

I don't really want to think about what that entails, but there's only so many resources on the planet.

David Ashton
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Re: between two worlds
David Ashton   11/29/2013 4:52:52 PM
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@Caleb, that's a whole new can of worms.     And not one that Mankind is going to solve easily, thanks to its inability to make global decisions.     China's "one child" policy did result in some horror stories and heartbreak, but it is at least partly responsible for China's emergence as an economic powerhouse.  Other countries (and perhaps religions too, dare I say) should take note.

betajet
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Re: between two worlds
betajet   11/29/2013 5:49:46 PM
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Earth has limited resources, and many believe that humans have been stealing from the future for a long time now.  Unfortunately,  humans' capacities for self-indulgence and self-delusion do not appear to be limited :-)

JMO/YMMV

Bert22306
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Re: between two worlds
Bert22306   11/29/2013 6:41:42 PM
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http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN

You need about 2.2 births per mom to achieve population stability. Take a look at what countries have birth rates way above that, and then correlate that with economic opportunity.

Women busy with careers will want fewer babies. And in addition to that, a safety net for old age also creates less of a need for multiple offspring.

It's complicated. However creating economic opportunity seems to solve the population explosion problem every time. I'm not sure what constitues the chicken and the egg, though.

Victor Lorenzo
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Re: between two worlds
Victor Lorenzo   12/1/2013 2:04:45 PM
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"Women busy with careers will want fewer babies".

In my oppinion that holds true only for a limited part of the world's women population, unfortunately the vast majority of them are subjected to other factors like education (lack of) or religion with stronger impact on that.

Wnderer
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Pointing at the problem doesn't make your solution any less stupid.
Wnderer   11/14/2013 11:29:43 AM
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I went to the Arrow Power Seminar this summer and they had a keynote speaker from some goverment project involving energy. The first thing he suggested doing was going to flat monthly energy bills, so you would pay the same amount no matter how much energy you use per month. This would help poor people who live paycheck to paycheck who have trouble with air-conditioning and heating bills. Well this is a social program pretending to be about energy.

Then he starts talking about smart dishwashers. Your dishwasher doesn't start right away. It checks the weather report sees it will get windy later tonight and waits for the windmills to start and the price of energy to go down. First, why do I care if I'm paying a flat rate? Second how much of our energy use can be postponed? He didn't have any other examples besides the dishwasher. Businesses can't run without energy on demand. And the government is building this guy four smart houses to 'test' this idea. This isn't testing like a scientist. This is building a case like an attorney.

I don't believe the guy in Greenland with ice cores is lying to me, but the politicos who want taxes, revenue and more government programs are at the very least exploiting the issue. Economic realities and technical innovations are reducing carbon emissions in the western world. All those little things we are doing to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint are adding up.  The people who say it is not enough have an agenda.

David Ashton
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Re: Pointing at the problem doesn't make your solution any less stupid.
David Ashton   11/15/2013 3:00:23 AM
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@Wnderer... " but the politicos who want taxes, revenue and more government programs are at the very least exploiting the issue."

Well said.  Our last government put a tax on carbon (the prime minister who did said before the election that she wouldn't, which caused her endless problems) but they also carried on exporting tons of coal - of course without charging the buyers a carbon tax on it.

Any action on this has got to be global to have any effect at all.  And getting global action will be nearly impossible (since when has mankind agreed on anything?).

I heard today that the acidification of seawater has increased more and faster than at any time known in the past (and that's the sort of thing they can get from ice cores).  There are new consequences being found every day, and our children (though fortunately I don't have any) and their children are going to be the ones with the real problems.

antiquus
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The comments so far prove your point
antiquus   11/14/2013 3:32:29 PM
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The fact that the comments have moved on to "peddle-powered TV sets" proves exactly what you are saying.  The bigger picture is that by recycling plastic here in the U.S., we have created the world's most toxic mess in the villages and homes of many chinese and indonesian people.  The drive to recycle has created thousands of small business opportunities that ultimately polute their local environment beyond reasonable hope of restoration.  Closing these businesses actually makes the matter worse, because the demand for recycling continues to cause new businesses to open elsewhere, and spreads the polution even further.  Taking the liberal american viewpoint that putting that plastic water bottle into the blue barrel is my responsibility does not even scratch the surface of the technical problem involved in safely eliminating that plastic from our world.

Jonathan Allen
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Not so green electric cars
Jonathan Allen   11/14/2013 10:28:50 PM
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An electric vehicle that gets charged from a coal  plant is actually a Coal-Fired Steam Car. 

sixscrews
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GIzmos and gadgets vs. big problems
sixscrews   11/15/2013 2:42:10 AM
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We are much attracted to the 'gizmo' solution to a problem - when presented with the problem of excess C02 emissions people are glad to buy a hybrid, contribute to wind power and make symbolic (and sometimes substantive) moves toward reducing energy use.


However, the gizmo is not the answer - we can't invent our way out of too many people living in an unstable ecosystem that we know very little about.


As engineers we did a good job in the 19th century inventing an industrial system that moved goods vast distances with unheard-of efficiency - but it was owned by a very small group of people who used it to their own benefit. This brought about some of the reforms of the early 20th century - anti-trust legislation, for one (now, sadly, abandoned in favor 'efficiency' so we have three {count them - THREE} airlines controlling 90% of the air travel in the US).
But we did an every better job inventing steel armaments, machine guns, long range artillery, steel battleships, warplanes, poison gas, data systems to ensure the call-up of all able-bodied men in time of war, etc.

The result was the first world war - 10-20 million casualties fighting over a battle line a few miles deep - the centennial anniversary is next year and the consequences are still with us.

This was followed by an 'adjustment' with the rise of totalitarian dictatorships and the inevitable second world war. We are still dealing with this - a totalitarian 'capitalism' in the Chinese Empire, dysfunctional rump states with the capability of disrupting the world (Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Syria the current Russian Empire).

There is that old engineer joke about the guy who tells the French why their guillotine doesn't work - and they use it on him - but it's not funny.

We, as a group of educated people, should be able to understand the consequences of our acts - but they are diffuse, indeterminate and can be used in so many different ways.

My favorite example relates to the efficiency of electric motors - they consume about 60% of the electric energy produced in the US and have an aggregate efficiency of about 60%. If that efficiency were to be increased by 10% to 66% the resulting savings would swamp the savings from all the 'gizmos' we are so happy to buy - but where is the drive to make these millions of motors more efficient? We can't drive them around with a 'Hybrid' label on the rear for all following us to read; we can't put a sticker on our house saying 'all the motors in my house are 10% more efficient than yours (nyah-nyah)' - there is no marketing appeal and no money payback here, just an ant-like slow progression toward a goal. There is no money to be made in proclaiming Proverbs 6:6 'Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise:'

As humans, with human drives and responses, engineers cannot escape the common fate of fools - too little put to what is important and too much put to what provides a show for our fellow-fools.

I am very pessimistic about the fate of our civilization - the long term consequence is our treasured photos blowing in the wind across desolate farmland and ever more efficient political systems dependent on surveillance fighting each other to the death over a scrap of nothing.

wb/ss

 

jmoore852
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Re: GIzmos and gadgets vs. big problems
jmoore852   11/15/2013 1:47:25 PM
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I have become increasing annoyed over the years as engineering publications such as EE Times have blindly jumped on the global warming, err... climate change bandwagon, and other popular "green" causes.

We get all the environmental cheerleading we need from "news" sources - finding it in engineering journals is just wrong. Also, as someone who has paid a lot of attention to the climate debate - modeling and paleoclimatology - I'm hardly convinced of the CO2 mantra.

I suspect most engineers who look closely at the issue would agree that, while increased CO2 emissions indeed "bend the curve" of temperature upwards, the science behind the quantitative projections is very weak, and corruption of the scientific method has reduced its validity even more.

As a conservationist, I have no problem with folks who want to be "virtuous" in their approach to the environment. I have a big problem with people trying to force that same behavior onto me, and finding "professional" publications in that camp is especially galling.

An even more disturbing trend is the cheer leading for "green energy" when, by any quantitative policy analysis, forcing its usage not only is usually economically damaging, but   also futile in the face of the understandable desire of the billions of poor people in the world to increase their standard of living by increasing their energy intensity. As long as the BRIC countries are rapidly increasing their CO2 footprint, hair shirt measures in the West will simply not make any difference, other than in economic damage.

What is unfortunate, in the engineering community, is a failure to look at the "big picture" - e.g. examining the real, quantitative impacts of policy actions, rather than just jumping on the "feel good" bandwagon.

Finally, there's nothing wrong with improving energy efficienty, battery technology and other green technology - as long as it is *economically* justified. The free market is very good at the information processing for selecting good investment goals.

As evidenced by the engineering media, engineers are far from the "cool" and "objective" on these issues - which is hardly surprising since we, too, are human.

David Ashton
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Re: GIzmos and gadgets vs. big problems
David Ashton   11/15/2013 6:37:44 PM
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@jmoore..... you sound like an Australian liberal politician.   "I'm not conviced by the science, and it's gonna cost us a bunch and not save the world, so let's forget about it...."    All of which are at least partially true.

The science is about the most inexact science there is, due to the sheer size and volume of data needed to do any decent modelling.  But the vast majority of the science pretty well confirms that the climate is changing faster than any time in history, and that's not just recorded history - there is data from yonks ago through ice cores, tree rings, etc.   There is perhaps not such a degree of confirmation that we've caused it.  But since the rise of technological man has only occurred recently, at the same time as the climate has suddenly started changing very fast, with no other measureable reason, it's very difficult to find any other cause.  Climate has changed fast in the past, usually due to known causes like volcanic eruptions and the like, but the data for that is understandably sketchy as well.  So in many ways we're flying almost blind.

It's gonna cost us a bunch.   We've bought all our wonderful technology at the cost of the environment, burning huge quantities of coal that took ages to form in the space of a few hundred years, a tiny fraction of the time it took to form.  Not to mention pumping all sorts of other crud into the atmoshere (freon etc).  We DO know that the atmosphere is a finely balanced system, so we can't expect all this to have no effect.

And countries like China, India and most of the third  world countries ARE rapidly increasing their CO2 footprint as  you say.   And yes, it's true, if the developing countries reduce their emissions by even 50%, the effect on the total world emissions will be negligible.  So there's no point in us doing anything, right?

Recent extreme climate events (take the typhoon in the Philippines as an example) are becoming more frequent.  We can't establich an exact cause-effect relationship here, but SOMETHING must be causing it.   and it does not like it's just a one-off glitch.  Our lifetimes are a mere blink of an eye in geologic timescales, so if we ARE causing these problems and don't stop causing them, it's only our children's children who will be really affected.  

If the mainstream science is to be believed, and the evidence is building all the time, the world is not going to be in a good place in a few generations' time.  And we have the technology to find new ways of doing things.  Put all that together and I think it is criminal to sit on our hands.  Can we afford to take that chance in the face of ever mounting evidence?   I think not.

I get intensely irritated at governments like mine (Australia) who introduce a carbon tax meant to make it worth our while to find alternative energy sources, all the while exporting more coal than we'll ever use, cheaply, to the really big polluters.  But unlike you (and my present government) I think there is a lot more we can do:
  • Invest more in alternative energy technology, and use it where it's not tooo expensive;
  • work towards reducing our coal exports as much as we can
  • require that imports have been produced using energy efficient means, or using clean energy sources, or else tax them on import at the same rate as our own carbon tax would apply
  • only implement free trade agreements with countries that have at least as much clean energy regulation as we do

These measures will only work if the whole world implements and abides by them.   And here is where I get as pessimistic and negative as you are.    I think the chances of that happening are about as much as me falling pregnant (and I am 57 and male.....)

And please don't take that too personally.  I get the impression we are more or less on the same side, just at different points on that side.

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: GIzmos and gadgets vs. big problems
junko.yoshida   11/15/2013 6:49:30 PM
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@jmoore852, thanks for your comment. I can't agree with you more, when you wrote:

What is unfortunate, in the engineering community, is a failure to look at the "big picture" - e.g. examining the real, quantitative impacts of policy actions, rather than just jumping on the "feel good" bandwagon.


I don't want us to blindly jump on the "feel good" bandwagon, either. That's why I wrote this. Tell us, then, where specifically you feel we lack in "quantitative impacts of policy actions." What policies are you referring to?

jmoore852
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Re: GIzmos and gadgets vs. big problems
jmoore852   11/15/2013 10:23:28 PM
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@unko.yoshida

Thanks for your response...


Here are three areas where I think policy actions are taken without regard to quantitative aspects:


  1. (see comment to David Ashton - a lot of detail there) - We accord too much certainty, and rigor to the pronouncements of climatology. We would not do this professionally - engineers are far more rigorous professionally than climatologists. This is not an attack on climatologists - the area they seek to study defies rigorous results (they may apply significant rigor in achieving non-robust results).
  2. CO2 emissions targets are adopted without taking into account their world wide significance (i.e their quantitative benefit). The result is that vast amounts of resource is misdirected. The quantitative aspect is easy to state and hard to solve: how much resource diversion is appropriate, given that even a significant change in developed world energy usage will only make a tiny dent in the CO2 concentration trajectory? The problem is almost never framed that way, and people end up damaging the economy, and feel good about it, because they don't realize the futility of their efforts.

    I'm not going to redo the quant math, but the number is surprisingly tiny.
  3. Alternative energy projects tend to be shortsighted. The benefits are often grossly over-estimated. At the same time, they fail to take into account the future - blighting the landscape with bird and bat killing wind farms may be unnecessary damage when future technologies may make those investment a waste. It's the future, I can't predict, but for example, perhaps, thorium nuclear reactors.

    I suppose this isn't a quantitative criticism because you can't be quantitative about this - but it's certainly not the way engineers should do things.

 


We have one very clear example of the folly of #3: corn ethanol. We now know that it has appproximately net zero impact on CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, it has displaced a lot of food production, leading to higher food prices and riots in third world countries (e.g. the tortilla riots in Mexico City). As often happens with government mandates, it has taken on a life of its own (entrenched interests), so that even environmentalists are having great trouble undoing it.

I recently retired, which means I've been around through lots of scares and lots of busted technological predictions. It makes me naturally (and correctly, I assert) waey of the nostrums of the moment.

BobsView
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Nothing Changes Unless You Complain!
BobsView   11/15/2013 3:38:51 PM
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Junko,

I am a great fan of your reporting because you are willing to take on the tough issues.  This article is a good example. 

I don't agree that Engineering Publications should stay out of politics.  Engineers generally take a very close look at the science behind the facts and avoid any political hype.  If we, both as engineers and citizens, don't speak up, then who will?  When pseudo-experts make statements that are clearly scientifically wrong, someone needs to make sure the public is not misled.  Who better to do it than engineers and scientists?

I have never thought Hybrids or pure electric cars were practical except for very special applications.  One would be for inner-city use in places like Paris or London.  Until I could get at least 400 miles between fill-ups, it would be a hard sell for me.  And as the facts show, it's hard to justify their use based on reducing CO2 alone.

It would be a far better solution to me to just require a minimum highway mileage of something like 30 MPG for any car or truck.  I see lots of folks in my area using Mega-SUV's to go to the grocery store.  If someone needs a Mega-SUV for their work or business, then I'm OK with that.  But why burn all that gas when a more fuel-efficient vehicle would do the same purpose.

There, that's my opinion.  Now if some politician would only consider it...

 

 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Nothing Changes Unless You Complain!
junko.yoshida   11/15/2013 7:28:54 PM
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@BobsView. Thanks for your kind words.

I agree. "Nothing changes unless you complain!"

I don't know if I got through to our readers, but my point in writing this blog was really about this:

I want to ask you, readers, where you think our current policies have gone wrong or are missing the point (when it comes to energy conservation), and what you hope to propose instead.

Bert22306
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Re: Nothing Changes Unless You Complain!
Bert22306   11/15/2013 9:25:19 PM
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"I want to ask you, readers, where you think our current policies have gone wrong or are missing the point (when it comes to energy conservation), and what you hope to propose instead."

Seems to me that a continued emphasis on improving efficiency of all manner of machinery is a good thing, but I also think it's not going to be the major part of the solution. Rich people will buy that efficient car or refrigerator, and feel all proud of themselves. But the increased demand for energy in the next decades is from people who are really really poor, and have a tiny carbon footprint now. So figure it out, tree huggers. We need more than self-congratulations.

I think the politicians should have placed exactly the same fuel economy mandates on all privately owned vehicles. None of this waffling about obscene SUVs getting a more lenient number. That would curb some of the hypocracy we see daily, even if it doesn't solve the (potential, or even likely) CO2 problem.

But most of all, it really bothers me to see that weather globe on France 24 news, where it shows green and tan expanses of our gorgeous planet. We need to work to get more of that land mass looking green.

Bert22306
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Re: Nothing Changes Unless You Complain!
Bert22306   11/15/2013 9:35:41 PM
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To be clear, I meant "corporate average fuel economy" mandates. Not saying every vehicle has to be the same!

Piyush.Patel
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sustainability
Piyush.Patel   11/16/2013 11:17:41 AM
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I am a practicing EE but I participate in protests and activism around climate change and other issues, sign petitions etc. I don't see a problem with that, it often is in contradiction with what I am doing as an engineer but transformations in society cannot happen without accepting contradictions when we move from the old to a new.

Most engineers haven't raised fundamental questions about sustainability yet. Most engineers today have forgotten the basics of energy, a key but not the only aspect of sustainability. EEs today are obsessed with optimizing in the small (gadgets etc) while missing on the big picture (big energy and materials sustainabilty problems). Public has an overconfidence on technology because of its past success but there needs to be some realism based on fundamental science. There is too much political correctness and system level understanding is lacking. Engineers need to develop a proper understand of modern economic system and biology/ecology, connect the dots and see how their work fits in the society. Following materials are highly recommended:

1. See the video lecture arithmetic, population and energy by Dr Al Bartlett on you-tube.

2. Google "Tom murphy do the math blog", he is a physics professor and every single post there is worth reading, and in particular the conversation with an economist.

3. See the movie growthbusters at growthbusters.org. See also growthbiasbusted dot org.

4. Read the book limits to growth the 30 year update.

 

prabhakar_deosthali
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Re:
prabhakar_deosthali   11/18/2013 1:55:07 AM
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As per the statistics available , only about 25% of the earth surface is land . Out of this only 3% of the land has urban population and about 40% is the agricultural land , the rest being either rocky, desert or wildlife.

Out of this 3% urban land , 90% of the population is concentrated in 10% of this land .

So all the problems of pollution that we are talking about are affecting only this 0.3% of the densely populated earth surface.

So by creating a proper infrastructure , if we are able to make the population spread over the sparsely populated areas of the earth, we can greatly reduce the effects all kinds of environment pollution, in my opinion.

And bringing some of that unpopulated land under cultivation we may be able to feed that ever growing population of 10 billion people

Just a wild thought!

 

David Ashton
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Re:
David Ashton   11/18/2013 2:30:26 AM
Mother nature provided a very efficient system for distributing pollution all over the world.  It's called the atmosphere (and to be entirely correct, the weather that goes with it).    Also the ocean, and the currents in it.

The only way to stop pollution is for us to stop causing it.

Charles.Desassure
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Climate
Charles.Desassure   11/28/2013 10:48:45 PM
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Yes, this is a very good article.  I need more time to gather my thought here... too much that I would like to say.  Hope there will be a follow-up article.  Any time there is an article that relate to the climate and the environment, you are going to get a lot of comments.

AZskibum
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Thank you Junko
AZskibum   11/30/2013 11:33:01 AM
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Thanks Junko for this thought-provoking piece. Having read all the comments, I'd like to also thank the commenters for the very intelligent & spirited discussion.

Of course, the subject of energy is not only about climate change, but also about sustainability, politics, economics & technology (at least those). As engineers, our work touches all of these in one way or another, so although some may say "keep politics out of engineering," what they're really saying is don't talk about it or don't publicly take a political position.

I think that as engineers, we all strive to do our best not only to satisfy our employers and our customers, but that in doing so, we try to make the world a better place -- whether to each of us individually that means working on more efficient automobiles, better batteries, lower power electronics, more capable microprocessors, more intelligent & capable robots, advanced military systems, sustainable alternative energy technologies, nuclear power, or more efficient ways of finding & developing new oil reserves. We can and do have different opinions about whether some of those things do more harm than good, and those opinions necessarily have a political & economic context. But at its core, engineering is a process of continuous improvement, and that keeps me ever hopeful about the future of our profession and its ability to have a positive impact on the planet and all of its inhabitants.

icondig1
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Rookie
World Expo 2020
icondig1   12/2/2013 9:22:28 AM
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Climate of business changing with Dubai winning the World Expo 2020



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