Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

Perhaps the biggest phenomenon from a western view has been the rise of China as a superpower.

Internet services and applications, terrorism and wars in the middle east, oil, global warming politics, are some of the big things as well.

What will 2010 see? Well, my bet is that energy will be a big part of it. Oil is limited and is getting more expensive, coal is not. But coal is bad in the global warming sense. The big coal powers USA, China, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia at least are probably just going to keep burning it and not care what it does to the rest of the world.

During the noughties, CO2 rose from about 365 to 385 ppm. If the decadal rate is constant at 20 ppm per decade, then 600 ppm, a doubling from 1950s levels will require 215 ppm more, or about 110 years. Of course, the decadal emissions rate is probably going to accelerate. Local climate change phenomena will come earlier than things like significant sea level rise but it’s harder to point out that greenhouse gases are responsible for them. A fascinating experiment, this atmosphere alteration.

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Lies, lies, lies

See a dissection…

It seems even the BBC has jumped into the stupidity…

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Jonah Goldberg posts a tired strawman argument in NRO:

Last month, in another study, also released in Science, Oregon State University researchers claimed to settle the debate over what caused and ended the last Ice Age. Increased solar radiation coming from slight changes in the Earth’s rotation, not greenhouse-gas levels, were to blame.

It’s total BS of course, and it has been used to death before. Nobody maintained that CO2 alone ended the ice age – it was a positive feedback (note no link or even some more information about the paper, making it harder to check the original claims).

Here’s an analysis of the basic “but CO2 Lagged” strawman by Coby Beck. Note that it’s from 2006, too. Yet Jonah Goldberg keeps on trotting out this stuff, fakely as news, and people like Rand Simberg keep linking to them. Beware, if you check out the commentary, some really mental stuff going on in there. BBeard and Paul F Dietz are drowned by the ignoramuses. And this is supposed to be a hard nosed space engineer’s blog? Of course, when confronted, he can just say he doesn’t endorse, he just links.

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Technical viewpoint

Reduce Coal Electricity Production as Quickly as Possible.

Practically all other issues like transport fuels are secondary. They are harder and smaller problems. Nevermind taking CO2 from ambient air. Let’s first do the biggest and easiest job. This is looking at the next few decades.

To get rid of coal, do all of the following simultaneously:

  • Do less things that consume electricity
  • Improve energy efficiency
  • Build nuclear plants
  • Build wind plants where applicable
  • Build solar plants where applicable

Regional viewpoint

CO2 production of regions, modified from "Sustainable Energy - without the hot air"CO2 production of regions, modified from “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air

Although the graph above could suggest that North America, Oceania and Europe should be the first to do reductions to keep it more equal per capita, in the current freely moving global economy that is not all clear – in many cases the emissions would just be transferred to other locations.

Legal viewpoint

First a primer on why there exist laws in the first place.

Practically, the only aim of publicly traded corporations is based on producing maximum profit for the shareholders. (Corporations are not good or bad, they are just mechanisms.) People as well choose the least effort with maximum personal benefits. On average, humans are no martyrs.

These are both reasons why there are no anarchistic societies around – societies with rules and laws turned out to be more efficient. When you are not in constant danger of being taken advantage of by anyone (be it a corporation, mob or a person) who wishes to do so, you can spend your energy on actually beneficial work. If there are common decisions that these are the laws (concepts of ownership, murder etc), everyone’s life is easier. This is basically the difference between anarchy and a legal society. Legal societies accept the limiting of freedoms. For example, I do not have the freedom to murder my neighbour or take his car, even if I wanted it, and I view that it is a good thing that this is the same for everyone.

So, stock owned corporations and sufficiently large groups of humans can mostly only steer themselves through laws that affect everyone on the field. If a company CEO strays from maximizing profit, the company will get into a competetive disadvantage and the stock owners either sue him, fire him or move elsewhere. A person doing ethical decisions when most others act unethically is just making a personal sacrifice. It is not generally justified or reasonable to expect a large proportion of people to suddenly voluntarily change their ways to ones with less immediate benefit for themselves, when there are still so many not doing it. Nor is it that likely. Hence education and individual voluntary action are usually inherently very limited means of doing any measurable changes.

And then on to more specifics regarding CO2.

So, justified solutions would be level playing fields where the CO2 emissions have similar prices for everyone. From the people’s point of view, this  could be individual CO2 quotas, or quotas given to nations according to the population size. Or alternatively varying concepts of taxes on personal CO2 production, given back to all people (so the average producer would have zero change from the no-tax situation). From the industry’s point of view, the leveling could be CO2 taxes on products according to the amount of CO2 emitted during production – not related to where it is produced so that the international playing field is level.

For example, in China most people are very poor and produce little CO2 per capita. Does this mean per capita quota laws should be made so that China was able to produce export steel with more inefficient processes generating more CO2, resulting in the shutdown of more efficient steel plants in the west? My opinion is no. Hence, only per capita CO2 emissions regulation does not make that much sense.

I will post more about this in the future, as this post is just a short overview.

Free market viewpoint

Completely centrally led  economies are very inefficient failures. Private industry in many cases is much less corrupt and more motivated and efficient. But only if they have incentive to be. Hence, if there was a price for CO2 emissions, it is conceivable that much more sensible places where they can be reduced could suddenly be found, than with any complex regulations mandating direct methods of reducing CO2 emissions. This is exactly what markets are good at, doing the maximum with minimum cost. There would actually be competition and multiple privately developed solutions for each problem field, and the best and most cost effective would be chosen automatically, with those people who know the best with the hands on experience, and not some politicians.

I see many otherwise free market advocating people saying that there should be no price for CO2, instead the government should do some R&D and then give solutions to the industry. I think that is naive. Why would companies move to less CO2 producing technologies, if there was no cost in producing CO2? How would people in the government even know which R&D programs to do? And these projects would be funded from taxes anyway and thus paid by the consumers and companies. And they would be adopted only if they were otherwise significantly cheaper than the old methods, and probably in most cases they would not be. There probably just is no free lunch, unless someone invents something totally game changing very soon.

The CFC:s are a good example of that. The companies were lobbying against their banning, but when it was evident and imminent, they simply stopped complaining and developed working alternatives.  You get exactly what you order. A significant amount of people don’t even care to treat waste water if there no laws mandating it, which is evidently a bad thing in many places around the world, leaving the people downstream with no clean drinking water.

It is important for governments to do long term basic research and even investments, but if CO2 emissions had a price, it would be profitable for companies to research and invest in less CO2 producing technology themselves.

Take for example nuclear power. If there are CO2 taxes, that makes nuclear power more profitable than coal and it will automatically replace it. Also, somewhat similar for solar power. It is most of the time not wise to mandate very inefficient feelgood solar plants in cloudy areas. That is just theater. (On the other hand, it is sometimes worth supporting industry that is in its infancy and not immediately useful, but has potential in the further future. But feelgood projects are the wrong way.) But if the solar plants are built on profit and cost/benefit mechanisms alone, then they are probably built in more sensible places.

Cap and trade is problematic in many ways. Those who had already upgraded to more efficient industries by the reference year (on which the cap is based on), suffer more as they can’t do cheap cuts anymore. Or the governments can deal the quotas completely arbitrarily, making the playing field between industries very uneven. A CO2 tax might be better in this way. I am no economist or tax expert so other people have probably more intelligent things to say about this.

Who should do what in politics?

Governments should consult the best experts and build together some schemes of putting a price on CO2 emissions, beyond the Kyoto cap and trade, which can be seen as a first draft policy. Lessons should be learned.

Most of the CO2 producers (by tons and by tons per capita, at least, for justice reasons) should be in these schemes. Places like Africa don’t matter, they matter little in the absolute and the relative sense too. Also those with high over time integrated total emissions should be spearheading the effort. The schemes could be designed to also affect those who are selfishly staying outside, for example with added CO2 import taxes when importing from a country that is not in the CO2 tax scheme (or possibly even, but to a lesser amount as it is more problematic, export CO2 benefits, if exporting to a country which does not have the scheme) to keep the products competitive on equal grounds.

Many government R&D projects should be funded, but not too uncritically, as they tend to bloat. Some overly complicated legal barriers, for example with nuclear research and power plant building should be removed (not completely left without oversight of course). Private research and development could be stimulated. Possibly even with things like prizes – though a price on CO2 already would stimulate the industry hugely.

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I don’t see any way out of this slide into idiocracy anymore. Just a few examples.


Texas Education Board

What happens in the USA usually is copied around the world quite soon. Industry funded think tanks and religious fundamentalists have become experts and the media their uncritical dissemination path to the public. Science and scientists have lost. Nobody is interested in their work anymore. It doesn’t inform public opinion things and hence will not shape policy.

Could someone perhaps found a new state where truth would still have value? That’s probably not possible and wouldn’t help anyway, as practically all phenomena are global nowadays. If you stop poisoning the village well, it won’t help as your neighbours will still keep doing it.


Tamino has the analysis on the counterfactual claims.

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It’s could be (and has been) said that he doesn’t follow the consensus – he’s ahead of it. But one has to be careful when making such bold claims of climate as Hansen has. Stoat has analysis.

Now I’m really off. I will return a few days later.

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Very shortly: Anthropogenic global warming is a trouble of the current and coming centuries. Ice ages are slower phenomena happening with thousand and tens of thousands of years time scales.

If there will be an ice age 100,000 years from now, it doesn’t remove the problem of global warming in 100 years.

I do not understand what is so hard to grasp about the above, or how it is somehow controversial or worth faffing about that “the scientists can’t make up their minds, first it’s warming now it’s ice age!”.  And that’s being very kind to all the idiotism that is being spewed around the net on the matter. I don’t have time or interest to link to all that.

Frankly, it makes me doubt some people’s mental abilities, if they are unable to understand such simple ideas despite having been taught them numerous times.

Ask in comments if it has not been absolutely clear.

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Michael Tobis has discussion on sea level rise. Everybody should probably know how the IPCC sea level estimate doesn’t include ice sheet dynamics and thus is open at the top end of the scale.

I remember here in Helsinki a long time city official telling how he organized lectures on global warming around 1989 and drove limitations on zoning on low lands. The reluctant system ended up with zoning suggestions.

Through Rock (c) gravityloss.wordpress.com 2008

Which then were completely ignored since the city and developers made a lot of money from coastal development. I lived for a few years in an area built around 1995 at quite low level, perhaps 2 meters from the average sea level. The actual height maps (everything is mapped to pinpoint accuracy here) are in fact secret!

But many newer buildings are clearly built almost right into the water – There’s one commercial building right next to the technical university, it’s right next to the shore and the cellar is clearly below sea level, separated only by a thin rock neck. They must have built it like a ship. The two newest buildings at the technical university themselves have very low footings and are located in a very low lying area, there’s flooding right next to them every few years when a consistent particular wind direction raises sea level in this part of the Baltic. Low footing means easy access for disabled or elderly people and carriages and transport, but it also has such problems. There was even the water management laboratory building – which ironically had a cellar that flooded almost every year. The laboratory has since been moved elsewhere.

On the other hand, the ground is still rebounding from the ice age here, it’s about 3-5 mm per year in Southern Finland and 9 mm on the midwest coast – perhaps roughly halving the effect of global warming in the south and deflecting it altogether in the midwest (though rivers could well form new lakes inland). You can see old villas having piers reaching to shallow muddy reeds that once were open water. The coasts in Finland are generally very shallow but there is a lot of small scale “bumpiness” in the terrain. Further south like Germany or southern England the ground is actually sinking to balance this rising in the north. The official term for all the shape changes is glacial isostatic adjustment (earlier called postglacial rebound). The largest scale phenomenon is in Canada, but those areas are not populated like in Fennoscandia (Scandinavia + Finland).

But back to the development issues. The zoning and building profiteers are different from the actual people who live there who have to deal with the building tens of years after building. This is another case where responsibility somehow doesn’t transfer – the buyer doesn’t know to demand quality or doesn’t have a way of getting anything back anyway for problems that show up much later.

The system drives for very short term thinking.

Bad development and housing is a huge additional cost for a nation. This doesn’t just mean location, but stuff like insulation or water proofing where you can save a little in initial cost by doing it sloppily but rack up much bigger costs in the long run.

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