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Thoughts on global warming - Journal of Omnifarious

Mar. 25th, 2007

01:38 pm - Thoughts on global warming

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In Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth he presents a very compelling graph showing a correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2 levels. The only problem of course is the direction of cause and effect. Do higher temperatures typically cause CO2 levels to rise, or is it higher CO2 levels causing temperature to rise? Or maybe it's a positive feedback loop.

And since the correlation is so clear, the fact we don't know the cause and effect relationship for sure is one of the major points of people who think that human caused global warming is a myth. But I think this is a very silly point. In some sense it isn't because they're right, but in another sense it is because it doesn't matter that much if they're right or not.

It doesn't matter because we don't have enough evidence to really make a clear and incontrovertible case one way or the other, and we only have one Earth. Personally I do not want to run an experiment on the global climate to test the theories. I want to adopt a conservative approach that leads to our climate being OK in the long run whichever theory prevails. And that approach requires that we reduce the levels of atmospheric CO2 in case the pessimistic theory is the right one.

Besides, reducing atmospheric CO2 levels is just good economic sense in the long run anyway. Overall we need to have an economy that recycles everything except for energy. That's called being sustainable. It's quite clear now that any of the various resource using parts of our economy can easily run the planet out of whatever resource it uses in pretty short order if steps aren't taken to make sure that there is a cycle by which the resources are re-created from the waste.

Right now, burning fossil fuels is not such a cycle. The ecosystem has a means by which atmospheric CO2 gets recycled back into living things. It's a robust cycle that has handled many ups and downs. But right now we are very clearly overloading it quite severely. Atmospheric CO2 levels are skyrocketing. This is just not sustainable. The cycle needs to be closed.

Current Mood: [mood icon] contemplative

Comments:

From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 25th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)

Temperature DOES cause CO2

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Actually, the data is pretty overwhelming that Temperature DOES cause CO2. Its happened thousands of times before in the Earths history, and I'm not aware of anyone on either side of the debate who disagrees.

The only question is whether or not CO2 also causes Temperature. The theory behind it makes perfect sense (from a physics point of view), but if so, this is the first time in measurable earth history CO2 got to play the role of cause.

As far as your plan to take a conservative approach to climate change, a sustainable economy as you've defined it would require the average American to reduce direct and indirect energy consumption by over 90% (arguably 98%). You could add back in whatever net energy you generate from solar cells and the like (typical solar cells require five years or more of operation before they pay back the energy cost of creating them in the first place). But your food, shelter, transportation and material goods would all have to be radically reworked.

If you're ready to cut yourself off from the grid, I commend you for having the courage to act on your convictions. But I have an important question:

"Are you planing on forcing those of use who disagree with you to radically alter our lives as well?"
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From:omnifarious
Date:March 25th, 2007 09:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Temperature DOES cause CO2

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As far as your plan to take a conservative approach to climate change, a sustainable economy as you've defined it would require the average American to reduce direct and indirect energy consumption by over 90% (arguably 98%). You could add back in whatever net energy you generate from solar cells and the like (typical solar cells require five years or more of operation before they pay back the energy cost of creating them in the first place). But your food, shelter, transportation and material goods would all have to be radically reworked.

I love this scare tactic being used. It's stupid and wrong. There are plenty of sustainable sources. There are even some non-sustainable sources that I'd be willing to contemplate using such as nuclear.

Actually, sustainable is a bit of a misnomer, since no energy source is sustainable because of the laws of thermodynamics. What I mean is that the energy should come from a source that has a nearly inexhaustible supply by current standards while not overloading any cycles of re-use like the current environmental carbon cycle. Tides, waves, wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear all fall into this category. Some uses of solar, such as putting solar panels in space and beaming the power to Earth result in an interesting waste heat problem that I think we'll eventually have to do something about though.

You basically posit no effective change in how things are done. No use of any kind of carbon sequestration technology to help the natural cycle along, and no shift away from fossil fuel based energy sources, then pop up the 90->98% scare number. That's just plain disingenuous. Nobody is talking about that seriously except for people like you who want to scare people.

Reduction of energy usage will certainly be a part of any plan. That just makes good sense too. There are many ways of reducing energy usage without impacting productivity in the least. And doing so will result in a net gain of productivity as the money being spent on energy goes to fund other things.

For example using flourescent or LED based light instead of incandescent can save a LOT of energy, and you don't get any less light. The up-front cost is a little higher, but you save a ton more than that in reduced energy bills.

IMHO, the conservative approach is good for everybody, and will ultimately result in a higher standard of living, not a lower one.

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From:omnifarious' OpenID account [omnifarious.org]
Date:March 25th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Temperature DOES cause CO2

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The only question is whether or not CO2 also causes Temperature. The theory behind it makes perfect sense (from a physics point of view), but if so, this is the first time in measurable earth history CO2 got to play the role of cause.

Also, this is overstating how uncertain this is. As I understand it, there is strong evidence that the Earth competely froze over once or twice, and the thing that brought the Earth out of the deep-freeze was CO2 from volcanic eruptions. And once even a tiny spot melted, the Earth quickly shifted to being a hothouse as the aldebo went from really high to very low quite suddenly, fed by a positive feedback loop of melting ice.

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From:redhotswing
Date:March 28th, 2007 10:12 pm (UTC)

Re: Temperature DOES cause CO2

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So because we can't live up to the perfect solution, we shouldn't try at all?
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From:mattmolto
Date:March 27th, 2007 03:47 am (UTC)
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We are all doomed.
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