free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 344. POINTLESS "SOLUTIONS" FOR GLOBAL WARMING

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

344. POINTLESS "SOLUTIONS" FOR GLOBAL WARMING

A few days ago, noted climate alarmist James Hansen sent an open letter to the Prime Minister of Australia, asking him to phase out coal generation, and stop coal mining and exports:

Due to the dominant role of coal, solution to global warming must include phase-out of coal except for uses where the CO2 is captured and sequestered. Failing that, we cannot avoid large climate change, because a substantial fraction of the emitted CO2 will stay in the air more than 1000 years.

Yet there are plans for continuing mining of coal, export of coal, and construction of new coal-fired power plants around the world, including in Australia, plants that would have a lifetime of half a century or more. Your leadership in halting these plans could seed a transition that is needed to solve the global warming problem.

This got me wondering about the cost-benefit analysis for such a proposal. Clearly Australia would incur significant costs by implementing Hansen's program: loss of income from coal sales, loss of sunk costs in infrastructure, increased electricity prices, potential loss of grid stability due to failure to invest in alternatives (like South Africa, or Pakistan) etc.

But let's leave costs aside. The interesting part is the benefits of Hansen's program.

Out of curiosity, I asked some people over at The Oil Drum to quantify the benefits of Hansen's plan -- in terms of its likely effects on objective variables, such as:

1) Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere
2) Global temperatures
3) Sea levels
4) Species counts
5) Fresh water supplies
6) Severe weather events...

Oddly enough, no one had any scientific information whatsoever on the likely effects of *reducing* carbon emissions. In fact, a number of people bristled at me for having the gall to even ask for numbers. Jason Bradford said my question was "absurd"... "not to be answered seriously".

So in ClimateLand, I guess it works like this:

CLIMATE GURUS: Here's the plan for addressing global warming.
ORDINARY JOE: Okay. If we implement the plan, what effect will it have on the temperature?
CLIMATE GURUS: Are you joking? What a stupid question.

Anyway, I had to take matters into my own hands, and here's the bottom line, straight from the usual leading-scientist consensus and a Stanford U. climatology kahuna:
In fact, the world's leading scientists agree that it's already too late to halt global warming entirely. "We can't prevent some damage," says Stephen Schneider, co-director of the Center for Environmental Science and Policy at Stanford University. Even if we were to magically end CO2 emissions tomorrow, the gases that we've already unleashed will continue to raise temperatures for another 150 years. "That's unpreventable," Schneider says.Source
There you go... The planet's gonna fry for the next 150 years no matter what we do. Hansen's plan isn't a "solution" to anything. It will have no measurable effect on any of the following things:

1) Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere
2) Global temperatures
3) Sea levels
4) Species counts
5) Fresh water supplies
6) Severe weather events...

So why bother? It's like religious ablutions, or praying, or something. Why go to all this trouble and expense to do something that has no causal impact on any of the specific things people are worrying about? In a world where there are real problems that money can solve, why should money be wasted on something that solves no problems at all? Would you pay for an operation if it was really expensive, and wouldn't materially affect your symptoms for 150 years? Would you buy expensive pills that started working after you died? If we shut down all fossil fuel burning tomorrow, will we see any noticeable benefits in our lifetimes?
by JD

39 Comments:

At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 5:59:00 AM PDT, Blogger JD said...

If you comment, please enter a screen-name with the Name/URL option. You don't have to register or sign in, or anything. It's easier to talk if we don't have multiple anons.
Thank you!
JD

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 6:07:00 AM PDT, Blogger David Grenier said...

I'm assuming that this is a belated April Fools joke. Because this is the exact logic you've bashed when used by Doomers ("The sky is gonna fall anyway, so I'm gonna drive the biggest SUV I can while I still can!").

Especially given how keen you are on Nuclear and the jobs that will be generated switching our grid to both Nuclear and renewables, I can't believe you actually believe this anti-conservation nonsense.

The only problem is the post is dated April 2nd.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 8:06:00 AM PDT, Blogger BHUVAN CHAND JUYAL said...

Nice blog about global warming. I have also a blog on effects of global warming.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 8:13:00 AM PDT, Blogger Fred Hapgood said...

It's certainly a fair question. One possible answer is that a transition away from hydrocarbons has to happen sooner or later; that transition will take a very long time; so we might as well get started now, even if for the wrong reason.

But I take your point. I don't believe for a minute that it is impossible to clean the atmosphere of its resident CO2 in less than 150 yrs, should the society choose to do that, and that technology would almost certainly be cheaper than a planet-wide conversation to sustainables. However, as noted, there is more than one reason to drop hydrocarbons.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 8:33:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Drew said...

I don't know jack about carbon capture and sequestering carbon, but would that have the capacity to bring levels down in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost?

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 9:16:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Bob Wallace said...

"We can't prevent some damage,"

Seems like you missed the qualifier - "some".

You've got an untreatable infection on your big toe.

Do your amputate that toe, thus saving your leg and eventually your life?

What if destroying the infected toe decreased the probability of your great grandchildren catching the infection?

Or so you decide that since the toe can't be saved you do nothing?

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 12:15:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jd, I've long followed your blog, and long found it greatly useful... but this post is just stupid. Seriously, is this an April Fools joke?

Please, before you post again, read the IPCC fourth assessment reports. I'll help you out with links:

http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/wg1-report.html
http://www.ipcc-wg2.org/
http://www.ipcc-wg3.org/

Had you actually read what the scientific community has to say on the subject, you'd discover that yes, the world will continue to warm no matter what, but it warms *much faster and longer* if we continue to emit CO2 at our current rate, and *even faster and even longer* if the rate continues to rise.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 12:37:00 PM PDT, Blogger John Markos O'Neill said...

On this Open the Future post, Jamais Cascio shows several graphs of different atmospheric carbon dioxide peaks, based on different scenarios about what fuels we might use in the future.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 12:38:00 PM PDT, Blogger bc said...

JD, good to see you tackling GW, especially as your thoughts coincide with mine!

There is a great deal of hysteria about GW, reminiscent of Y2K. Oddly, chief cheerleader Hansen co-authored a paper showing that if you take a realistic assessment of fossil fuel reserves most of the projections by the IPCC are impossible. However, Hansen as lowered the "safe limit" of CO2 to much lower than the IPCC.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of science. I am fairly convinced that AGW will lead to loss of most of Antarctic ice - but it will take centuries. And there lies the tricky problem with CO2 emissions, only the youngest now living will see any real impacts.

I think you are absolutely right, "banning" coal plants is pretty much gesture politics. A recent report showed that population and wealth are the two main causes of increasing carbon footprint.

To be honest, I think scientists especially in the US have gotten quite fed up with being downtrodden and are enjoying having a bit of influence. Unfortunately this leads to bad science, and while I don't think any GW deniers come close to making a counter argument, some climate scientists are going way over the boundaries of what can be confidently predicted.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 12:48:00 PM PDT, Blogger John Markos O'Neill said...

Elaborating further on my previous comment, the Open the Future graphs come from Hansen himself, along with his colleague his colleague Pushker A. Kharecha. The argument is that at atmospheric CO2 levels above 450ppm, the climate will reach a "tipping point into unrecoverable disaster" (Cascio). Hansen projects that if we rely on coal as our primary fuel in the 21st century, we'll go beyond the 450ppm level.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 12:53:00 PM PDT, Blogger bc said...

Had you actually read what the scientific community has to say on the subject, you'd discover that yes, the world will continue to warm no matter what, but it warms *much faster and longer* if we continue to emit CO2 at our current rate, and *even faster and even longer* if the rate continues to rise.

Actually I have read it, and what you say is not true. Because of the long time CO2 stays in the atmosphere and the long lag time of the climate response, what matters is the total forcing, i.e. total volume of carbon we emit. It does not matter whether we burn it all in 1 year, or spread of 150 years.

The Earth naturally scrubs about 0.0001 ppm per year of CO2; our emissions cause about +2ppm/year. Hansen says we need to cut emissions by 120% to stay below a safe level - yes, we need negative emissions. There is just no way that is going to happen. The sensible approach is to use the resources we have to enable a transition. Turning off and sitting in the dark doesn't help us achieve that, even if it gives you a warm feeling about saving polar bears.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 1:03:00 PM PDT, Blogger bc said...

"tipping point into unrecoverable disaster"

You see, that's exactly where science turns into hyperbole. Clearly, it's not an "unrecoverable disaster", because the Earth has been in that state before. It would take the Earth around 3 million years to get rid of the CO2. That sounds a lot to us, but it's an eye blink for Earth.

As to whether it will be a disaster for human civilisation, we don't know, because there is no precedent. It's going to shake things up, that's for sure. A worse threat to civilisation would be an ice age, and it is just possible that humans have inadvertently postponed the next ice age for a good while.

Anyway, if that asteroid hits in 2036 we'll have a real problem to deal with.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 4:36:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Tyler August said...

"If we shut down all fossil fuel burning tomorrow, will we see any benefits within our lifetimes?"

I'll first answer this question without recourse to Global Warming. If stopped burning coal tomorrow, we would:
(a) Eliminate the number one source of Mercury pollution. (and other heavy metals)
(b) Eliminate the (current) number one source of radioactive contaminants -- Between 10,000 and 15 000 tonnes of Thorium per year; over 5000 tonnes of Uranium.
(c) Drastically improve air quality.
The Nanticoke coal plant in Ontario, for example, emits more smog than 3.3 million cars.
(d) Cut down on one of the main sources of acid rain, which causes millions of dollars of damages to irreplaceable historical landmarks annually and obliterates inland fisheries.
I could go on. But I think you get the idea. Coal is the fuel of the 19th Century; it has no place in the 21st. We should, quite frankly, know better. Global warming or no global warming.

But we do have to consider global warming.
Have you ever heard of Pascal's Wager? We can apply something similar to this scenario. If Al Gore and IPAC's Climate Change scenarios are correct, to do nothing will cost estimated trillions in damages. If they are incorrect, we still have to deal with the kilotonnes of thorium spit into our atmosphere from coal plants each year.
If these scenarios are true, and we do act to mitigate climate change, we can prevent estimated millions of climate-related deaths, and save many billions of dollars. If they are not correct, and we act, we have still reduced the emissions of lingering pollutants drastically, improving air quality and all that--and while we may spend billions on this, the economy may actually gain as a whole from the growth of the alternate energy industry.
The smart bet is to act, because we have relatively little to lose, in comparison.

As for "In our lifetimes" -- I have a three year-old-niece who has recently learned to hit a man where it hurts. Not to get overly hostile, JD, but I think comments like that earn her the right to.
We need to learn to be good ancestors.

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 5:09:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By Omnitir (it won't let me log in...);

The biggest threat to civilization is anything that slows technological progress. Stopping or even lowering carbon emissions is pointless if all we can do is sit in the dark as we wait for nature to cull the population.

We need to keep advancing exponentially to have a hope of solving the myriad of threats we face, and maintaining economic reason is an important part of that progress. If that means more environmental damage before we learn how to clean up our home, then so be it. That's far better then giving up on ever cleaning up our home and just settling with the way it is now.
-Omni

 
At Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 9:57:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bc: That's pretty brazen to lie about what the IPCC says, given that I *provided the links above*. The warming if all emission stops is 0.6C over the next century. The warming in the more realistic scenarios ranges from 1.8C to 3.4C (WG2, Ch. 2, Box 2.3). I.e., 3 to 5 1/2 times as much temperature rise.

JD's claim is, quite simply, complete nonsense and in flat contradiction with current science. No, the author's proposal of suddenly stopping all coal production and exports wasn't realistic, and was a pretty dumb idea. But it's simply wrong that changing our emissions won't have a major impact on the planet's climate over the next century.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 2:29:00 AM PDT, Anonymous David Wallace said...

JD, people need some form of hysteria to stay sane. You are trying to eliminate too many forms of hysteria! How could you? Take away our hysteria and what do we have left?

You leave us in a hopeless situation and forcing us to think. We cannot allow that.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 4:47:00 AM PDT, Blogger JD said...

I can't believe you actually believe this anti-conservation nonsense.

david, I'm just as strongly pro-conservation as I always have been because conservation has immediate, measurable benefits to the person who practices it. It saves money. I'm having trouble with the idea of a "solution" which costs mucho money, and yet has virtually non-existent effects on the problem to be solved.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't conserve coal. I think there's lots of good reasons to conserve coal because it's useful stuff. Ideally we'd switch entirely over to nuclear and renewables, and save coal and other low-grade hydrocarbons for feedstock. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen, and it may be more cost-effective to go with geoengineering instead of half-measures which have miniscule impact on the temperature.

Above all, I want to publicly meditate on the shocking fact that the temperature will keep rising for the next 150 years even in the most deluded optimistic scenario where everyone stops burning all fossil fuels tomorrow. The public needs to be educated on that.

Consider two scientists. A is a believer who thinks global warming is primarily due to human activity. B is a skeptic who thinks the earth is warming all by itself.

Now, let's do a thought experiment. We shut down all fossil fuel burning, forever, starting tomorrow. What will happen?

A will tell you that the temperature will continue to rise for the next 150 years.

B will tell you that the temperature will continue to rise for the next 150 years.

I find that very odd.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 5:19:00 AM PDT, Blogger JD said...

Tyler,
Yes, if we shut down coal burning tomorrow, we'd clear up mercury, radioactivity, air pollution and acid rain. However, there would be massive costs and social disintegration due to long-term, pervasive power blackouts in China, the U.S., Australia etc. It's another case of cost/benefit analysis. The coal burning nations have decided that the benefits of electricity outweigh the environmental costs, even when those costs are quite high, as in China. Should the Chinese shut down their entire power grid just to shave a few tenths of a degree off the unstoppable temperature rise of the next 50 years? If the world will continue to warm for 150 years, no matter what we do, then their glacier based fresh water supplies are going to melt away whether they burn coal or not. Which is, again, the point I'm driving at. We need to take a close *quantitative* look at the benefits to be derived from various plans to control carbon emissions. In terms of fresh water from glaciers, China likely has nothing whatsoever to gain from controlling emissions. If they want to conserve the glaciers, it would probably be cheaper to shade them, or cover them with reflective material.

Have you ever heard of Pascal's Wager?

Yes, Pascal is one of my favorite authors, and I have a copy of Pensees right here on my bookshelf. Pascal's Wager is an argument for why we should all believe in God. Do you believe in God?

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 5:59:00 AM PDT, Blogger sw said...

global warming is not about science or about reducing greenhouse gas. the purpose is income redistribution.
you are right scientifc evidence is not present to support even the existence of the proposed ghg problem. it's not suprising that proponents can't define the benefits with any rigor.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 6:02:00 AM PDT, Blogger JD said...

But it's simply wrong that changing our emissions won't have a major impact on the planet's climate over the next century.

Hi anon. Can you sign your screenname at the bottom of your comments for easier reference?

Yes, if you compare the "zero emissions starting tomorrow" plan with the BAU plan, there is a significant impact. But that's a red herring. What we should be comparing is the BAU plan versus the BAU-x plan, where x is the maximum amount of emission control that can be achieved in the realworld while maintaining economic stability. My claim is that the objective benefits of reducing BAU emissions by x will be miniscule -- probably not even objectively measurable. Sure, we could get a major effect by halting all FF burning tomorrow, but that might as well be theology because nothing like that is remotely likely to happen.

I am very interested in the exact figures, and I'll look at your references. Thanks. I'm particularly interested in determining how much the inevitable rise in temperature over the next 150+ years is slowed/attenuated by each additional unit of emission reduction.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 6:37:00 AM PDT, Blogger JD said...

The warming if all emission stops is 0.6C over the next century.

Where exactly did you get that 0.6 figure?

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 6:37:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not get it. You have a question about climate science. Instead of going to well-known gatherings of climate scientists like realclimate.org, you ask some people mainly interested in geology. And their answers now prove exactly what about climate science and the validity of its findings and recommendations?

As a sidenote, the question is about as meaningful as the question "If I go now and get drunk, how fast can I drive without accident?" - nobody can answer that precisely, but nobody would doubt that it would be a bad idea to drrive drunk, and the fact that nobody can answer such a question precisely does not mean anything to anything.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 10:12:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Bob Wallace said...

"A will tell you that the temperature will continue to rise for the next 150 years.

B will tell you that the temperature will continue to rise for the next 150 years."

JD - What do you think about Scientist A's further warning that if we don't change our evil ways we could trigger runaway global warming?

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 10:38:00 AM PDT, Blogger bc said...

What do you think about Scientist A's further warning that if we don't change our evil ways we could trigger runaway global warming?

That would be Lovelock or Hawking, who really are talking nonsense. "Runaway" GW can't happen, and no mainstream climate scientists consider it a possibility.

The worst that can happen is that the Earth returns to conditions of 100 million years ago, which was about 10deg warmer, and life thrived back then.

In fact, we are currently in an Ice Age, which is highly unusual over the history of the Earth. The "normal" state of the Earth is much warmer. If we have broken out of the Ice Age that would be genius, if it weren't dumb luck.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 11:07:00 AM PDT, Blogger bc said...

bc: That's pretty brazen to lie about what the IPCC says, given that I *provided the links above*. The

Sorry, I don't see where I contradict the IPCC. I get my data from IPCC or papers by Hansen.

The IPCC say if we stop emitting CO2, we limit the change. If we emit more, we get more change. I said "it depends on the total volume we emit". Same thing.

I looked up your reference and it doesn't show a contradiction, are you sure you got the right ref?

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 1:27:00 PM PDT, Blogger JaaJoe said...

Have any of you guys hear what the New Jersey Nets are doing to in the fight against global warming? Not only are there games now carbon-neutral, but they traded Jason Kidd to the Dallas Maveriks for the a “better environment” also. Julianne Waldron explained to the media that Kidd was giving off to much Carbon dioxide. “Jason Kidd always hustles when he is on the basketball court, and we all admire that greatly. But all of that running up and down the court, pushing the team out on fastbreaks, expending extra energy just to make a few extra points and possibly win a game, caused all of the players to breathe a great deal more heavily and thereby expel extra amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, and we all know that is bad for the environment. We made the difficult decision to trade Kidd in order to save the planet.” Check out this article I found on it Environmental Activism is the Key to the Current Success of the New Jersey Nets

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 7:24:00 PM PDT, Blogger ScubaSteve said...

It's worth pointing out that nobody will give a crap about reducing emissions when they find out energy disruptions are a reality. If gas costs so much it's not worth driving to work, if airline tickets prices are so high you can't fly on vacation, or your power goes off twice a week for 12 hours, energy availability and prices will be the only thing people want to "fix".

It's coming - not a die off, but a sizable standard of living reduction and a bunch of pissed off Americans. If you hand them a flyer about global warming they'll burn it for fuel.

They'll be in no mood to hear about further sacrifices when they're already paying through the nose. And any notion that you can painlessly replace fossil fuels, and maintain our current level of energy use is insane.

My guess - by 2020 we'll be burning so much coal it will make your head spin.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 8:57:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Bob Wallace said...

"The worst that can happen is that the Earth returns to conditions of 100 million years ago, which was about 10deg warmer, and life thrived back then."

I find myself a bit concerned about the amount of methane that might be released via the thawing of the permafrost.

Life of some sort might exist after that event, but I doubt it would be life as we know it.

Wiki provides us this little description of what likely happened last time the cork was pulled from the methane bottle....

"The Permian–Triassic (P–Tr) extinction event, informally known as the Great Dying, was an extinction event that occurred 251.4 million years ago, forming the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods. It was the Earth's most severe extinction event, with up to 96 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct. Because approximately 25 percent of species survived the event, the recovery of life on earth took significantly longer than after other extinction events.

This event has been described as the "mother of all mass extinctions"."

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 9:03:00 PM PDT, Blogger Ben said...

Say I have smoked for five years. My doctor tells me that my five years have already damaged my health, and that I should quit immediately. By your argument I have already done the damage so there is no point in trying to stop. That is, of course, ridiculous.

The main issue with global climate change is that it is a big leap into the unknown. As the world heats up it will have major consequences on a lot of ecosystems that we barely understand, as well as the living environments of millions of people (mostly poor) worldwide.

Should we take this leap just so some fatass who isn't me can drive his SUV around, or so china can make more cheap aluminium trays for another fatass to throw out after one use?

Maybe it wouldn't kill us to put the brakes on a bit, slow down, and work out what the real consequences of our lifestyle choices will be. If that means not selling as much coal for a while(and I am Australian, so I'll be affected as much as anybody) I am all for it, after all, if it turns out that Hansen (did you mention that he is a NASA scientist?) is wrong, then we can always dig up the coal tomorrow, it's not going anywhere.

 
At Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 11:07:00 PM PDT, Blogger Felix said...

We need to burn every last ton of coal and oil on Earth. CO2 levels are almost too low for plants and have been dropping for eons. A little drop in CO2 levels kills them.

 
At Friday, April 4, 2008 at 12:32:00 AM PDT, Blogger Alan Roberta said...

Scientists in the U.K. have reported evidence that further refutes one theory of global climate change.

In the heated debate over global warming, there is an opposing idea, called the cosmic ray theory, which contends that climate change is simply caused by cosmic rays coming from the sun.

 
At Friday, April 4, 2008 at 8:01:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Bob Wallace said...

"In the heated debate over global warming, there is an opposing idea, called the cosmic ray theory, which contends that climate change is simply caused by cosmic rays coming from the sun."

The science isn't settled. There are multiple factors that could be causing what we are observing. It could be greenhouse gases, cosmic rays, or soot particles causing the melting we're seeing at the polar extremes and high altitudes.

It could be a combination of all three.

We can do something about two of the three. The consequences are potentially so serious that it seems foolish to sit by and wait for the big unifying paper.

Additionally we know that we've got serious pollution problems that are damaging public health, serious flow of wealth to petroleum rich countries, and the serious problem of declining oil supply while demand increases.

If you know anything about investing for retirement you know that the important thing is to get some money in play early in your career. The growth of money over time is a wonderful thing.

The possible catastrophe of a runaway temperature rise is easiest dealt with early in the game rather than at the last possible moment.

Getting a bit less CO2 into our atmosphere couldn't hurt.

 
At Friday, April 4, 2008 at 2:10:00 PM PDT, Anonymous akihockey said...

I think an important issue to mention here is that right now the CO2 we emit is being absorbed, to a certain extent, by the Earth, by oceans and other carbon sinks. The problem is that there is a limit as to how much they can absorb. When they reach that limit, it doesn't matter if we emit less CO2 through a reduction plan; CO2 will collect in the atmosphere at a much greater pace, since we're still putting it out but it's not being absorbed. Add other effects, like methane escaping from permafrost, and the shrinking of the poles (more sunlight absorbed by oceans, warmer oceans, faster pole-melt), and things could get serious very quickly.

 
At Friday, April 4, 2008 at 2:14:00 PM PDT, Anonymous akihockey said...

If CO2 is making the planet warmer, and the more there is in the atmosphere, the warmer it's going to get, then wouldn't reducing the amount we put into the atmosphere slow the speed at which the temperature increases? If we "magically" ceased all Co2 emissions tomorrow it might take 150 years for a beneficial effect to take place...if we maintain or increase our current Co2 level, isn't there a danger that the next 150 years could be significantly worse than if we do nothing?

 
At Saturday, April 5, 2008 at 9:47:00 AM PDT, Blogger bc said...

This event has been described as the "mother of all mass extinctions".

Ok, I'll give you that one. That would definitely be a worse case.

wouldn't reducing the amount we put into the atmosphere slow the speed at which the temperature increases?

Yes it would, but the problem is not building new coal power plants doesn't reduce the amount, only the rate (assuming all the coal will be burnt eventually).

To reduce the amount, we would need to do what Hansen says, bulldoze all current coal plants and only build new plants with carbon-sequestration. That would cost a huge amount of money, and is not likely to happen.

Roger Rapier has blogged on GW, and says whatever your view, people are just not willing to pay for mitigation. Rather than trying to introduce prohibitions that will never be implemented, it more sensible to promote things that are desirable, e.g. wind and solar.

 
At Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 4:09:00 AM PDT, Anonymous moonkoon said...

"Felix said...
We need to burn every last ton of coal and oil on Earth. CO2 levels are almost too low for plants and have been dropping for eons. A little drop in CO2 levels kills them."

Right on, Felix.
I'm not sure about the "every last ton" bit, but it is a good dramatic flourish.
Historically speaking, plants are already half starved.
They "know" how to utilise much more.
Give them more, and they will gobble it up.
Most Dutch greenhouses run about 800ppm.
CO2 is the food of life as far as plants are concerned.
All the so called "plant food" we apply is more the equivalent of a vitamin supplement.
CO2 is like the bread, the rice, the potatoes, of the plant's diet, the staple.
(Lock up your greenhouse for a few days and see what happens, the CO2 will be exhausted in a few hours and it will be all downhill from there.)
Plant life will wither and die around 200ppm but grow weaker long before then.
If, God forbid, we manage to get CO2 down to around 300ppm, billions will die of starvation.
This will not happen peacefully, they will not go quietly, as some apparently hope.
Be careful what you wish for.
The "consensus" is fatal mistake.
CO2 has a microscopic effect on the energy dynamics of the atmosphere but it is vital to plant growth, and that is where we get all our food from.
On the crazy scale, the CO2 sequestration idea rates a ten.
It is not only life limiting, it creates an unnecessary and dangerous risk of sudden escape.

 
At Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 8:57:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Bob Wallace said...

You're confusing 'close to earth' CO2 with 'up in the high sky' CO2.

The stuff that seems to be warming the planet by blocking heat shedding is way, way up higher than plants can reach.

 
At Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 8:48:00 AM PDT, Anonymous DoctorDoom said...

Seems like reducing emissions now would make the problem more tractable. We could combine that with a geoengineering effort and head off the catastrophe.

 
At Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 7:29:00 AM PDT, Blogger Agent Kay O. Sweaver said...

By Omnitir (it won't let me log in...);

The biggest threat to civilization is anything that slows technological progress.


Which is exactly why we need to start looking at things like carbon taxes and legislation for cleaner energy. The status quo being held by industry is holding our civilization back and redirecting our resources towards same old rather than developping newer and better technologies.

 

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